Showing posts with label osr. Show all posts
Showing posts with label osr. Show all posts

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Which Warlock is Which? OSE Edition.

Doesn't quite roll off the tongue like "Which Witch is Which?" does it.

My new Warlock book is out for Old-School Essentials and it is natural to want to know what is in the book.  More to the point do you need this book if you already own my The Warlock for Swords & Wizardry OR The Craft of the Wise: The Pagan Witch Tradition for OSE.

Very valid questions.

Let's go over the Warlocks first.



The classes are the same XP, HP progression wise save for where B/X and S&W differ.
  • There are few overlapping spells, but I wanted to go with new spells for the book.
  • There are few overlapping Invocations, again plenty of new and a couple revised ones here.  For example, both books have an Arcane Blast, the bread-and-butter attack of all warlocks.
  • There are no overlapping Patrons or Pacts. If you play OSE and use this Warlock book, but want a demon pact you can import it from the S&W book with no changes needed.  Same if you play S&W and want a Dragon pact.
  • There are no overlapping lodges.  I wanted to include the Masters of the Invisible College warlocks from S&W for the OSE book, but space ran out.  Instead, I am going to the Masters here at a later date with the text that was going into the book on how you play them with OSE and these Pacts. The Masters also take Cosmic Warlocks.
I wanted both books to complement each other.  I am very keen on people not thinking "hey, I already bought this book two years ago!"

For the two Old-School Essentials books, the biggest potential overlap was the spells.


I mention in the Warlock book that witches can take warlock spells and the other way around.  That is depending on your Referee. There is the subtle notion that the witches of the Pagan Tradition are at odds with warlocks.  Granted this idea works best with the demonic pacts, but it is there for players to use.  This can limit access to spells the others might "steal".

In both books, I also add new spells for Clerics, Druids, Magic-users, and Illusionists.  How they get those spells is of course up to the Referees.

I have made all the spell names and levels available for you to see in this Google Sheet.
Spell names in Red are from the OSE Warlock.  Blue links take you the book the spells appear in.



You can also link to it here:  Old-School Essentials Spells.
This sheet has ALL the Old-School Essentials spells, not just mine.

I guess the question of "why is there any overlap at all?"  Well, some spells are so ubiquitous to witches that not including them would be strange. A good example is Bestow Curse, which interestingly enough is not in these two books.

So here is a break down of all 1,078 spells I have used and 229 monsters.  Again spell names in Red are brand new to the OSE Warlock book. This sheet helps you see the spell overlap.

Witch Books - Google Sheets



My goal is always to give you something new with each book while making it playable.
So any book can be your "first" witch book and it will work AND be 100% compatible with your "second" or "third" book.

I am currently drafting my next book which will be all monsters.  After that, the plan is to do what I am now calling my last witch book, the High Secret Order Tradition.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

New Release: The Warlock for Old-School Essentials

Once again evil witches gather to celebrate Walpurgis Night and good witches celebrate Beltane.

And once again the Warlocks join the festivities.

The Warlock for Old-School Essentials



Mine is the Power!

Power. Humans have always sought it.
Clerics pray for it. Wizards study for it.

Warlocks take it.

Introducing the Warlock class for your Old-School RPGs.

- Four new warlock pacts: Chaos, Cosmic, Death, and Dragon.
- 78 Warlock spells including Cantrips
- 13 new spells for clerics, druids, illusionists, and magic-users each.
- 55 Warlock Invocations, the ultimate expression of their power!
- Magic items and warlock patrons.

Fully compatible with Old-School Essentials and other Basic-Era Games.
Fully compatible with other witch and warlock books from The Other Side.

Requires Old-School Essential Core Rules.

Cover Art by Conner Meek.  Some interior art by Jeff Dee.

POD version on the way.

This book is 100% compatible with The Craft of the Wise: The Pagan Witch Tradition also for Old-School Essentials. In fact it is written so warlocks can use witch spells (up to 5th level) and witches can use warlock spells.   The two groups of classes are also natural antagonists for each other.

This book is also 95%(*) compatible with The Warlock for Swords & Wizardry
Both warlock books feature pacts, invocations, spells, and lodges.  There is some minor overlap (invocations like Arcane Blast, some spells) but otherwise, each book adds to the other.  Expand the warlocks spell list and invocations.






Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Reviews: Conversion Guides to Caldwen

I am still spending a Virtual Vacation in Calidar's beautiful Caldwen.  But you know what every tourist needs?  A tour guide.  Thankfully our thoughtful travel agent Bruce Heard has supplied us with not one, but two new "tour guides" for anyone traveling to Caldwen.

CAL2a Conversion Guide to Caldwen for Vintage Roleplaying and CAL2b Conversion Guide to Caldwen for the OSRIC System.

Both books follow the same format. The only differences are the systems they are being converted too.  The books cover both CAL2 Calidar On Wings of Darkness and CA2 How to Train Your Wizard.  Knowledge of PG2 A Players' Guide to Caldwen and Game Mechanics for the World of Calidar is helpful.  (links are to reviews, not the products themselves.)

The books are 30 pages with full-color covers and color with black & white interior art. Prices at $3.95, but currently $2.95.  You do not need both, but I find it nice for my own system analyses.
Unlike the main Caldwen/Calidar books the art here is sparse, but that is by design since the focus of this book is the stats.  Here Heard make explicit the conversions he discussed in the main books using the Calidar game stats.  Depending on the system book you grab, you get easily familiar stat blocks and guides on how to use the books.  Now obviously the "vintage roleplaying" can be used with any 70s and 80s circa version of the World's Greatest Role-Playing Game. Or as I have called here, any Basic-Era edition.  It is labeled for "Labyrinth Lord" but any game similar enough to Labyrinth Lord can be used (ie. only a Law-Chaos alignment axis, race-as-class), or adapted.  The OSIRC-labeled version can also be used with any Advanced-era version of the game.

One of the main features of these books is the Mage Knight class. I am quite fond of this class so I wanted to try it out.  Now I have choices, a "Basic" or an "Advanced" version.  Now the class has been converted faithfully, so don't expect them to look exactly the same between the Basic and Advanced versions.  There is no description of the powers the Mage Knight has, you still need the Caldwen book for that, but this is expected.

After the Mage Knight, we get into the How to Train Your Wizard material. 

Throughout the book, page references to the sourcebooks are given. 
So the great thing about these books is if you play a particular system then you only need one conversion book.  True, it does mean you need two books, but for me the flexibility more than outweighs this minor issue.  I am a system guy, so I like being able to have multiple versions of the same material to blend between my games.  So yeah for 3 bucks it is totally worth it for me, hell it is worth it for 6 bucks to have both versions. 

There is an obvious logical extension here. CAL2C for Pathfinder and CAL2D for D&D5.

Up next, I try out a Mage Knight.

Friday, March 13, 2020

Happy Friday the 13th! Slashers & Survivors - Slashcan Edition

It's Friday the 13th! You know that is like a holiday around here.

What better way to celebrate than a new game from my friend Justin Issac?

Slashers & Survivors - Slashcan Edition



From DriveThruRPG:

Slashers & Survivors: Slashcan Edition is an ashcan version of the our new slasher rpg. Based on The Blackest of Deaths by Bloat Games, the game allows you to create a nerd, jock, or other slasher staple and see if you can outwit and survive a homicidal maniac or deadly cult. This is not the final version of the game and the pdf will be updated periodically with feedback recieved. There will be a deluxe version of the game coming to Kickstarter later this year with more content.
I grabbed it and it is fun.

It is PayWhatYouWant, but do throw money at it. 



Monday, March 9, 2020

Monstrous Mondays: Acolytes to Initiates

I think if I was hard-pressed into it I could recall all of the monsters from the Moldavy Basic D&D book.  I read that section over and over.  In my pre-adolescent mind, I felt I had to memorize the monsters so I could properly run a D&D game.

"Acolyte, Ape (white), Bandit, Bat, ..."  I didn't try to memorize the order, but it came with the territory.  I would pour over the Monster Manual with the same enthusiasm and likewise the Cook/Marsh Expert book.   But they did not "attach" themselves to my psyche the same way that the Basic book did.  The Monster Manual did so in different ways and the Expert monsters provided me with some of my all-time favorites.

Largely due to something called "The Serial Position Effect" in psychology it was easiest to remember the endpoints; Acolytes and Zombies.  So my earliest games had a lot of these.  Sometimes, oftentimes, in the same encounters. 

I grew rather fond of acolytes to be honest.  Not only did they have more flexibility than veterans (the "monster" type for fighters) but they could be used in a variety of ways.  Devotees on pilgrimages, wandering friars or monks, cultists, and yes, these guys.

With the Craft of the Wise: The Pagan Witch Tradition on the way, why not do the same with witches?

Image by Enrique Meseguer from Pixabay
Initiates
Initiates are 1st level witches on personal quests.  They usually travel in small groups, but larger groups can have higher level witches.  Groups of 4 or more are led by a higher level witch (1d10: 1–4: 2nd level, 5–7: 3rd level, 8–9: 4th level, 10: 5th level).

These witches will typically all be from the same coven and tradition.  For example, a coven of Bandrui witches can be Pagan Witch and/or Green Witch Traditions.

Initiates
(Labyrinth Lord)
No. Enc.: 1d6+1  (2d6+1)
Alignment: Any
Movement: 60' (20')
Armor Class: 9 [10]
Hit Dice: 1* (3 hp)
Attacks: 1 (dagger)
Damage: 1d6
Special: Witch spells
Save: Witch 1
Morale: 8
Hoard Class: IV
XP: 10

Initiates
(Blueholme Journeymanne Rules)
AC: 9 [10]
HD: 1d4
Move: 60
Attacks: 1 (dagger, 1d6), Witch spell
Alignment: Any
Treasure: 0 (3)
XP: 10

Initiate 
(Old-School Essentials)
1st level witches on personal quests.

Armor Class 9 [10]
Hit Dice 1 (5 hp)
Attacks 1 × dagger (1d6) or spell
THAC0 19 [0]
Movement Rate 60’ (20’)
Saves D11 W12 P14 B16 S15 (W1)
Morale 8
Alignment Any
XP for Defeating 10
Number Appearing 1d6+1 (2d6+1)
Treasure Type U
  • Demi-Human witches. Elven NPC witches are known as “Kuruni,” and Dwarven NPC witches are called “Xothia.”
  • Leader. Groups of 4+ are led by a higher level witch (1d10: 1–4: 2nd level, 5–7: 3rd level, 8–9: 4th level, 10: 5th level). Choose or roll the leader’s spells.
  • Person. Considered a “person” for magical effects.
Initiate
(Iron Falcon)
Armor Class 9
Hit Dice 1
No. Attacks 1
Damage 1d6, by weapon
Move 6"
Alignment Any
No. Appearing 2d6+1
% in Lair None
Treasure C

Coming Soon!



The Craft of the Wise - The Pagan Witch Tradition for Old-School Essentials

Friday, March 6, 2020

Iron Falcon Handbook of Monsters

I have talked a lot about Basic Fantasy in the past.  It is one of my favorites of the Retro-Clone movement and it in many ways reflects how I played back in the early 80s with a mix of Basic D&D and Advanced D&D.   Something I think that a lot of people did and something that creator Chris Gonnerman was keenly aware of.

A while back I discovered he had done ANOTHER game called Iron Falcon.
Iron Falcon, like Basic Fantasy, is a Basic-era Retro Clone, though more on the side of OD&D than AD&D.  Gonnerman is more explicit about this being a game not of the rules "as they were written" but more "as we played them."

That appeals to me.

You can get Iron Falcon in lots of places.  In particular the dedicated website, Lulu, Amazon and of course DriveThruRPG.   I hope to play around with it some more to see what it is all about, but so far it feels like a nice mix of OD&D feel and Basic D&D play.

But today I want to talk about the Iron Falcon Handbook of Monsters.  Or rather, let's let Chris Gonnerman talk about it and his plans for it.



The Cafepress shop can be found here, https://www.cafepress.com/ironfalcon.

There is a lot of cool merchandise here and like Chris mentions, the difference here between this and a Kickstarter is you get something right away.   I think it is a great idea. I am going to have to grab a t-shirt or two.

So check it out and come back every month to see what is new and different.

I'll try to get some Iron Falcon reviews up soon.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Review: Old-School Essentials

One of the hottest Old School Clones to hit the market recently has been Gavin Norman's Old-School Essentials.  Simply the game is a restatement of the Moldvay Basic and Cook/Marsh Expert Ruleset for Dungeons & Dragons.  It has combined, cleaned up and modularized.

It has also been a HUGE success.  First, there was his already well-received B/X Essentials line, then the crazy-successful Kickstarter which brought in €160,390 (or $175,000).  Now you can find it in your FLGS or for the next week as part of the Bundle of Holding.

Boxed sets are cool.
It really has been a well-deserved success.

For this, I am going to review both the hardcovers and the PDF releases.  But first a word on the physical, hardcover books and boxed set.   Gavin has really set a new bar in the elegance of rule presentations.  The books are clean, crisp and the layout is fantastic.  The hardcovers are solid and the boxed set box is both attractive and sturdy.  My wife even picked it up and commented on how gorgeous it is.

This is the new mark for Old-School gaming. These books, while lighter on the art, are some of the best put together books from any other Old-School/OSR publisher.  This includes LotFP, S&W (so far) and it even edges out Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperboria.  Sorry guys, but this is the new gold standard.



Old-School Essentials
The Old-School Essentials (OSE) is a re-organization of the Basic/Expert rules from 1981.  Thus the Core Rules feature the basic four character classes of Cleric, Fighter, Magic-User, and Theif.  There are also the three "demi-human" classes of Dwarf, Elf, and Halfling.   The rules are divided up into different books both in the PDF and Hardcover versions as well as a combined Rules Tome.

Old-School Essentials: Basic Rules
PDF only, 56 pages.
This free 56-page book covers all the basics of the OSE line. Picking it up you can see the stylistic changes from B/XE to OSE. Also, this book covers just about everything you need to play right now. It includes the four human classes, some rules, some spells, some monsters, and treasure. Enough to give you a taste of what OSE will be like. It has the same modular design as B/XE so finding things is simple, leaving more time for play. There is no interior art in this free version, but that hardly detracts from it.

If you are on the fence about OSE then this is the place to start.  Grab it and you will be up and playing in no time.
My only disappointment about this product is there is no print option!

Old School Essentials: Core Rules
PDF and Hardcover, 80 pages
The Core Rules weighs in at 80 pages and gets to the very heart of the OSE line.  The essential Essentials as it were. It covers Ability scores in general, sequences of play and all the basic rules needed.  Combat is covered separately. Magic also gets a bit of coverage here in general terms and including how spells can be researched and magic items made.
The rules have been "cleaned up" from their obvious predecessors.   The focus is on readability and playability here.   like all of the OSE books every entry of a rule is presented on facing pages.  So you open up the book and everything you need on the subject is right there.  Only rarely will you need to turn the page.
In the original rules, it took a bit of digging to actually figure out how much a character moves.  This was vastly improved in later editions of the game, but here it is very succinctly spelled out. Other rules are equally made clear.
Since the "Basic" and "Expert" rules are combined here there is an economy of word usage here.  As much as I love my Basic and Expert games, sometimes you need to consult both books when a situation comes up.  This book though is more than a handy index, it takes that notion from the B/XE Core Rules and expands it into a much more playable game.
The philosophy of the Core Rules is just that, everything you need to play regardless of the genre.  Included in the boxed set (and an expected purchase) is the Classic Fantasy Genre Rules.  This is what takes the Core Rules and makes it into a "Basic-era Fantasy Game".  So in simpler language, this is Basic D&D.  You do need a set of Genre Rules to be able to use the Core Rules, but there is enough there if you are an aspiring game designer to make up your own. Say Roaring 20s, or Space or Horror.  Anything really.
The book has some really, really great old-school feeling art as well. Just fantastic stuff really.

Old-School Essentials Classic Fantasy: Genre Rules
PDF and Hardcover, 48 pages
These are the rules to allow you to play in any sort of "Basic Fantasy" style game.  Here get our character classes of Cleric, Fighter, Magic-User, and Theif and The three "demi-human" classes of Dwarf, Elf, and Halfling.  If you are familiar with the Basic/Expert games of 1981 then this is home territory for you.  Human classes are limited to 14th level and demi-humans vary.
In addition to the classes (half the book more or less) we go into Equipment, mounts, hirelings and building strongholds.  So yes, everything that concerns players from level 1 to level 14 or retirement.
This is one of the three required books by the players.  The others are the Core Rules and then also Cleric and Magic-User spells (if they are playing one of those classes).
Like all the books in this series the layout is crisp, clean and a model of efficient use of words. From a User Experience point of view it is an absolute gem.
The art is likewise fantastic with full color spreads throughout the book.



Old-School Essentials Classic Fantasy: Cleric and Magic-User Spells
PDF and Hardcover, 48 pages
Cleric and Magic-User Spells would have been my favorite book if OSE had come out in the 80s.  Right now it also has my favorite cover from the entire series. Seriously, I love it. It just oozes eldritch weirdness.
The book itself has 48 pages and covers all the Cleric and Magic-User/Elf spells in the game.
All the usual suspects are here.  Cleric spells go to level 5 and magic-user spells go to level 6, just as expected from the B/X sources. Again, when making my recent Cleric I used this book.
The modularity again is a huge boon for this book and game.  Adding a new class, like the Druid or Illusionists? Add a new book easy!  In fact, we see that is exactly what was done.  Expandability is the key here.

Old-School Essentials Classic Fantasy: Monsters
PDF and Hardcover, 80 pages
Ah, now this is a book I would have loved back in 81.  Also coming in at 80 pages this book is about monsters and nothing else.
Stat blocks are concise and there is none of the bloat in the descriptions that appear in later editions (ok to be fair that bloat was demanded by players).   The book is fantastic with my only reservation in I wish it had been illustrated more.  But even that is fine because the illustration we get are fantastic and very reminiscent of the old school monster books.
There are also NPC encounter tables and monsters listed by HD.  The utility of this book is top-notch.
I can easily see a "Monsters 2" and "Monsters 3" sometime in the future for this line.

Old-School Essentials Classic Fantasy: Treasures
PDF and Hardcover, 48 pages
Some games merge their Monsters and Treasures books and I can see the logic of that.  These are separate books and after using them for a while I like the separated.  Just like having a Monsters 2 or 3 books, more treasures can also be introduced.
This covers all the expected treasures and includes one of MY favorite things from early D&D, sentient swords.   The same clear and concise layout here as in all the books. Quite a treat really.
That cover might be my second favorite in all the series.

That covers the "Core Boxed Set."



You can pick them all up in PDF at DriveThru or from Necrotic Gnome's website. OR get a physical box from your FLGS or again Necrotic Gnome's website.



Old-School Essentials Classic Fantasy: Rules Tome
PDF and Hardcover, 296 pages
If you are a fan of the old "Rule Cyclopedia" version of the BECMI rules then this is going to be a treat for you.  The Rules Tome combines all of the "Core" and "Classic Fantasy" rules into one large and gorgeous tome.  There are three different cover versions.  I have the foil JShields version, the Andrew Walter is the standard version and in many ways, I like it better!  It is the same art on the Box Set, so I am happy to have both.  This book includes:

  • Core Rules: Rules for character creation and advancement, adventuring in dungeons, the wilderness, and at sea, magic and combat.
  • Classic Fantasy: Genre Rules: Seven classic classes (cleric, dwarf, elf, fighter, halfling, magic-user, thief), complete lists of weapons and adventuring gear, extensive lists of vehicles, mounts, and vessels, mercenaries and specialists for hire, rules for stronghold construction.
  • Classic Fantasy: Cleric and Magic-User Spells: The complete set of 34 cleric spells (from 1st to 5th level) and 72 magic-user spells (from 1st to 6th level), for use by players or cleric, elf, and magic-user characters.
  • Classic Fantasy: Monsters: A selection of over 200 classic monsters to challenge adventurers of all levels.
  • Classic Fantasy: Treasures: A hoard of over 150 wondrous magic items.

So everything you need for a full fantasy game.
Should you get this one or the individual books?  That is up to you.  The combined volume is obviously cheaper.   But all are enjoyable.
I have a Rules Tome for me, a set of books for the table and a couple extra players' books (Core Rules and Genre Rules).



Old-School Essentials Classic Fantasy Referee's Screen
PDF only, 10 pages.
The one thing that B/X lacked was a proper GM's screen.  Yes, BECMI had one, but not B/X.  Well OSE has you covered, or screened as it were.
This product has 10 pages (1 cover, 1 OGL page and 8 pages of screen) for standard 8-panel, landscape orientation screens.  Purchase the PDF and print them out.  Easy.
The cover art is Peter Mullen's core art. So there are ways to get all the cover art...covered I guess.

All of these combine into a fantastic Old-School experience for those of us that grew up on B/X and for those that didn't.  It is just a really fantastic game.



But what if your tastes run to the Advanced end of the 80s RPG experiences?
Well OSE has not forgotten about you! The modularity of this rule expression pays off here when you can easily add on new rules, classes, and spells.

Old-School Essentials Advanced Fantasy: Genre Rules
PDF and Hardcover, 56 pages
Like many in the early 80s, I moved from the B/X version of the World's Greatest Game to the Advanced version.  But also like many, I never forgot my "Basic" roots and thought for all it's "Advancements" there was still something special about the Basic game.
Well OSE hears you.  The modular design of OSE makes adding material that is considered "Advanced" to be quite easy.  Granted this is not the first Retro-Clone to do this, but this one does it in such an elegant fashion.
Advanced Fantasy: Genre Rules adds new classes and new races. For new races we get drow, duergar, gnome, half-elf, half-orc, and svirfneblin (yes deep gnomes!)  Also true to the advanced rules this book pulls race and class apart.  In truth this was one of the major benefits of the Advanced game and that is true here as well.  For new classes, we get acrobat, assassin, barbarian, bard, druid, illusionist, knight, paladin, and ranger. There is also rules for multi-classing, something I always want to add to my basic games.  Some additional rules on poison and magic are also included.

Old-School Essentials Advanced Fantasy: Druid and Illusionist Spells
PDF and Hardcover, 48 pages
Much like the Cleric and Magic-User Spells book this one covers Druids and Illusionist spells.  Again the modularity of the game pays off here.  You can play Advanced Genre Druids and Illusionists OR you can just use the Cleric and Magic-User classes respectively and this book to play a Basic Druid and Basic Illusionist and not even buy the Advanced Fantasy Genre Rules book.  It would be better to pick up that book, but the way everything is written you do not have too.
This covers the usual suspects of spells again.  The Basic style presentation is fun and it is like seeing these classes and spells through new eyes.  It really is a testament to the system and the authorship.



These two Advanced books will fit in your Black Box set very easily.
Sadly no room for dice.



I have nothing bad to say about this set or these rules.
If I had ONE wish, and maybe only one, it would be for a spiral or coil bound version to have at my game table to lay flat.  But I suppose I could always print it out and put it into a three-ring binder.
I might just have to do that.


Thursday, February 20, 2020

Class Struggles: The Alchemist

The Love Potion by Evelyn De Morgan
Thought a Class Struggles might in order today.  I have been thinking a lot about the Alchemist lately and thinking that of all the potential classes, this the one Old-School AD&D/D&D talks around the most, but never actually executes. My history with the alchemist goes back to when I was creating a bunch of new classes.  There was the witch (obviously), followed by the necromancer, the "sun priest" and finally the healer.  The alchemist was one that I mentioned in conjunction with all these other classes, but never had much more than an outline of it.

So let's have a look at how the Alchemist has presented to us over the years and what the class has become today.

The Dragon Magazine Alchemist(s)
I want to start here since these are the first alchemists. The ones that even predate the information in the DMG.
To claim there is one alchemist from Dragon Magazine is a bit of a stretch.  While a claim can be made for the Dragon Mag witch class, the alchemist has seen less cohesion.
The first alchemist we see, and one that predates AD&D, is the  "New D&D Character Class: The Alchemist" by Jon Pickens in Issue #2, page 28. This is a solidlyOD&D class.  Here we get 20 levels of the alchemist class which functions as a slightly weaker version of the magic-user.  It can create potions up to 6th level, like spells.  This alchemist though has some special powers to go with it. It can detect and then later neutralize poisons and paralysis. It can identify potions and can prepare various poisons.  The class is playable, but feels limited to a support role in some cases.  The Prime Requisite is Wisdom, though I think Intelligence is a better choice.

A few more years in and we get a combo of classes for Roger and Georgia Moore in Dragon #45, "NPCs For Hire: One who predicts... ...And One Who Seeks the Perfect Mix." This gives us two NPC classes, the Astrologer and the Alchemist. While the Astrologer looks like a lot fun, I want to focus on the alchemist now.  This is a pure NPC; no class levels or XP, no hp, just what they do and how they do it.  There is a bit on hiring an alchemist as well.  The assumption here must be that these are all older professionals likely past their adventuring years.  Fo me I can see both versions working at the same time in the same class.  Pickens' class for adventuring years and the Moores' for after that.

Separate, these classes feel a bit lacking by my standards but are likely fine by others.  Together though they combine rather nicely into a complete whole for me.

In "Recipe For the Alchemist" (Dragon Mag Issue #49), Len Lakofka presents, in very typical Len fashion, a very complete alchemist class.  Like many of his classes, this one is an NPC only and should be considered something of a more useful henchman.  In addition to the powers of detecting and making potions and poisons there are skills on glass blowing and pottery making.  Two useful skills for an alchemist to be sure.
There are XP per levels given, but they add up to be a little bit more than the magic-user if you consider the first couple levels are "apprentice" levels with little more than pottery making and glass blowing skills.   While the class is very complete it is a bit prohibitive as a PC class. I am certain that is by design.

There is a bit of a stretch before we get to another one, but it is worth the wait. "Better Living Through Alchemy" from Tom Armstrong in Dragon #130 has become in my mind the defacto article on alchemy in D&D.  Armstrong gives us not only an alchemist class but also a primer on Alchemy and how it could work in the game.  This is also the only alchemist I have played and 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.
The article reads like a cleaned-up version of all the alchemists we have seen so far and this one also has the benefit of a few more years of play on it. 

The Alchemist in the DMG and D&D Expert
In between all of those we get some notes on the alchemist from the Dungeon Master himself in the DMG.  Though if anything this only makes me want to have an Alchemist NPC class, or better yet PC class, even more.


While the alchemist is not needed for higher-level magic-users, someone is going to need them.  Plus someone out there is creating all those potions.   If Jonathan Becker's recent deep-dive into the Illusionist class is any indication we could have used a magic-user sub-class of an alchemist more than the illusionist!

The D&D Expert set also has guidelines for an alchemist and maybe the most iconic alchemist art there is in D&D.


For 1000 gp a month you can have an alchemist on hire. Likely less for that sketchy guy above.

So how do we get there?  Well, let's see what the 3rd party publishers have to say.

Bard Games



I have gone on the record many, many times about my love of the books from Bard Games.  Their Compleat Spellcaster is still a favorite and particularly germane to today's discussion is their Compleat Alchemist.


While the Compleat Spellcaster is my favorite for obvious reasons, the Compleat Alchemist seems to be the most popular.  There are two prints from Bard Games, the Arcanum (which combines all three) and then another one from Wizards of the Coast long before their D&D years.

This was one of the most complete (it says so in the title) alchemist classes for some time to come. At 48 pages the book was huge for a single class.  By necessity, the class was written for "any FRPG" so a lot of the language is coded since they did not want to run afoul of TSR. But there is enough information here for you to read between the lines to figure out what to do. 

Some time is given to the art and science of alchemy. This includes the use of special symbols and language to communicate with other alchemists. Prices and rarities of ingredients and equipment.  And even a component sheet to keep track of the alchemist stores.
Potions and Elixers are granted by level as one would expect, only, in this case, it details what the alchemist can do at their class level. Not by let's say potion level (like a spell).

This alchemist really was the gold standard by which all other alchemists were to be judged for years.  Enough so that it appeared in several different books by a few different publishers over the years.  So much so that it still appears in the Arcanum 30th Anniversary Edition from ZiLa Games.

The OGC / OSR Alchemists
Not to be left out modern authors have looked back to the Alchemist and created their own versions using the OGL.

Pathfinder
The evolution of the D&D game to Pathfinder has also given us an evolved alchemist class.  This is presented as a fully playable PC class. It is also so popular that while it was originally a "Base Class" in Pathfinder 1st Editon, it became a Core Class in Pathfinder 2nd Edition and the favored class of Pathfinder goblins.
I rather enjoy this version of the class since it more playable than previous versions of the class.  Good rationale is given as to why an alchemist would want to leave the lab and get out into the field of adventuring.   The class though does tend to be a little too "blasty" for my tastes and it seems that the 2nd Edition version has gone even more in that direction, but it is still a very fun class to play.

There is so much alchemist stuff  (over 300 according to DriveThruRPG) that there is even a product to collect all the OGC extracts into one place, Echelon Reference Series: Alchemist Extracts Compiled.

Pathfinder is not the only place though to find a "new" alchemist.  There are plenty of OSR/Old-school choices out there.  Here are a few I have grabbed over the years. In no particular order.

The Alchemist
Tubby Tabby Press
This is certainly one of the more complete alchemist classes I have seen. At 81 pages it is full of information on all of the class details, equipment, ingredients and everything the alchemist can create by level.  Designed for AD&D it can be ported over to any game. It is based on the Bard Games version.  There is only a small amount of art in this one and no OGL statements.  Despite that this is a very full book and plenty to keep players and GMs busy.

Basic Alchemist
Den Meister Games
This is a smaller product, but it is totally in line with the Basic-era games.  What makes this particular product useful is its flexibility.  Produced for Labyrinth Lord it is a solid B/X feeling class. The cover art even invokes the Erol Otus alchemist art from the D&D Expert book.  The alchemist can build potions, elixirs, and compounds and use them as magic-user spells.  Some examples are given and it has a great old-school feel. In particular, I love the alchemical failure table! 
At six pages it is not big, but it makes each page count. I do wish there more examples of spells though.

Supplement #1: The Alchemist
Vigilance Press
This is another smaller product. Five pages (1 cover, 1.5 OGL, 3.5 content) at $0.99.  It reminds me a bit of the Dragon magazine alchemists; Smaller XP per level needed, but only a few "powers" per level and some levels none at all. Slightly better hp and attacks set this off from other "magic-user" based alchemists.   I do wish this one had more to it than this, but it is a playable class.  If I were to use this one I might try it as a multi-classed Magic-User/Alchemist.  Get the advantages of the magic-user spells and the better hp/attacks of the alchemist.  Designed for OSRIC.

Old School Magic
Vigilance Press
This is an update to The Alchemist also by Vigilance Press. For another buck, you get more classes, another 23 pages and a better-looking layout. A good deal if you ask me.  The alchemist is very much like the one from the previous product.  Like the alchemist supplement, I might do a multi-class with this alchemist. Either as an alchemist-artificer or an alchemist-sage. 
The other classes include the artificer, conjurer, elementalist, hermit, holy man, naturalist, sage and seer.  Plus there are some new spells that I rather like.

The OSR Chymist
Jeremy Reaban
A slightly different version of the alchemist. Jeremy Reaban does some great classes and this one is no exception.  This chymist is closer in nature to the Pathfinder Alchemist but somehow this one feels more like an old-school class and manages to work well.   He includes some new formulae for alchemists/chymists and some sample NPCs.  Also there are tables for whatever old-school games you are playing. Sure conversion is easy, but this makes it all easier. 
It is PWYW, but my advice is to send him a buck or more. It is 16 pages so that is not bad for a dollar.

There are more, including many alchemists that are parts of larger books like Fantastic WizardryThe Crimson Pandect, and the previously mentioned Arcanum.


Wednesday, February 19, 2020

How to Destroy a Legacy in a Week

I was not going to talk about this today.  I wanted to do a One Man's God today.

But in truth, I can't be silent about this. Last week I talked about Bob Bledsaw II and his racist, anti-Semitic, anti-woman, posts on Facebook.  Some fans of Judges Guild were content to ignore them or try to separate the "art from the artist".

Well, I am here to say that is all bullshit.


If you buy one of my books you are buying a piece of me. You are buying the stories I read, the music I listen too, the movies and TV shows I watch.  When doing research I make choices to read Book A or Book B, Article C or Article D, Documentary E or F.  This goes on and on.  What I choose is based on my interests, my time, and yes, my political leanings.  You don't have a choice in this save for one; to buy or not buy my books.  When writing I have one principle that applies; is this fun to play. If so then I do it.  If I do it right you buy and enjoy it too.

But don't pretend my politics don't enter into it.

Well. Now all the hemming and hawing and handwringing aside, Bob Bledsaw II posted the following unhinged screed on the Judges Guild official Facebook page.  There is no separation now of art and artist.  And to be 100% accurate, BBII did not, as far as I know, create anything for Judges Guild.

You might need to click on this or download it to read the whole thing.  Otherwise, Tenkar over at his eponymous Tavern has been doing a good job of keeping track of this whole clusterfuck.


There is so much wrong with this posting that it would take me several hours to point all the self-contradictory statements, the outright false-hoods and tin-foil hat wearing conspiratorial bullshit and frankly, he is not worth my time.

But there are only two facts that matter to me.
1. This was posted as part of an official release on the Judge's Guild page.
2. It is so full of hate, bigotry and vile thoughts as to be repulsive to any reasonable individual.

Does BBII have to right say what he wants? Yes. So fuck off with the "free speech" bullshit argument.  There is no such thing as consequence-free speech.  He can say what he wants. So can I.

BBII has destroyed any sort of good legacy Judge's Guild had left.

So fuck him. Fuck his ideas. Fuck his company's products.
And if you support him or his ideals then fuck you too.

I am not going to buy any of Judges Guild stuff. If you decide you don't want to buy my stuff.
Good. I don't really want your money here.

I am happy to note there are many in the community, and in the OSR community too, to stand up against this type of behavior.

Here are some videos that address the topic.





There are undoubtedly more and plenty of Twitter and Facebook conversations too.

TL;DR Bob Bledsaw II is a piece of shit and if you support him don't fucking buy my books.
Likely you are too stupid to understand them anyway.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Choose a Side, Or One Will Be Chosen For You

Because I am not including other screencaps
Years ago, so long I don't remember exactly when or how I was told that "you must choose a side or one will be chosen for you."

I think it was my dad and it was while I was in Boy Scouts (yes. I was a Boy Scout until my Atheism made it difficult) and he meant it a means of choosing good over evil, right over wrong.  The point is that sometimes making the choice is hard and sometimes good or evil is not clear cut or easily defined.

Sometimes though choosing the right side is easy.

Growing up in Central Illinois it was easy to be a fan of Judges Guild. They were "local guys" by the standards of TSR being all the way up in WI and other companies even further.  I remember playing in the City-State of the Invincible Overlord a lot back then and lamenting that we didn't have all the products we wanted for it.   I picked up Witch's Court Marshes and other books and added them happily to my collections.  Even in my D&D/TSR "purity" days, Judges' Guild products got a pass.

I liked Judges Guild.

Yet with the recent posts by current JG owner (and son of the founder) Bob Bledsaw II has changed all of that.   I was not friends with Bob Bledsaw, so I had not seen that this was a pattern of behavior that was one of those "open secrets".

I can no longer support Judges Guild. 

Frog God Games and Bat in the Attic are also cutting ties with BBII/JG and I applaud them for it.  You can see more posts from BBII's Facebook on Rob's site so I do not feel the need to repost them here.

My financial contribution to JG's bottom line is practically non-existent; anything I did buy was on the second-hand market for rare items.  But I was planning on doing a series of posts on  The Dungeoneer and Pegasus magazines and I wanted to review a couple of adventures.  I cannot in good conscience do that now.

Gaming is inclusive. We welcome all and actively seek to bring in others that may not have a place to call their own. That's our DNA, that is who we should be always.  Gaming was there for the disenfranchised teens of the 70s and 80s that were not part of the in-crowds. We are not part of a movement to bring in so many others that want a place to be themselves.

But there is no room for bigots, racists, anti-semites or anyone at all like that.
Hate has no place in my games.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Monstrous Monday: Green Martians for AS&SH

No gaming for me this past weekend.  One game for Connor and two for Liam though, so I was left to my own devices.  Those devices were going over my Mōdiphiüs Star Trek and John Carter of Mars RPGs.  Both use the same 2d20 system, or close enough to make conversions and blending easy.   And Mōdiphiüs is also doing the new Dune RPG.   This has my desire to run an epic Space Opera up into hyperdrive.

BUT.  Let's be honest. There is no good way, thematically, to combine John Carter and Star Trek.  Their Mars' are too different.    The problem is, I love Mars.  Both in terms of fiction and back when I was studying to be an astrophysicist.   Scientific/realistic Mars would be great for a Trek game, especially with all the things going on on Mars in the new Picard series.  But what about my need for fantasy Mars?


I have talked about Clark Ashton Smith's Mars in relationship to BlackStar and my love of the various pulp games for Mars.  So I am not lacking in desire, or material, I just need a home game for it.  So this idea hit me over the weekend.

Why not Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Barsoom?

AS&SH is obviously more Clark Ashton Smith and less Edgar Rice Burroughs, but both are there.  While I enjoy the works of CAS much more, ERB's Barsoom captures my attention much more.  Besides, in a game I can mix and match as I please, especially in a game like AS&SH.

I am not planning, yet, to send any characters to Barsoom, but it makes perfect sense to bring some Martians to Hyperborea.

These Martians are designed for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea (Compleat Second Edition) and heavily based on Warriors of the Red Planet (which you should get if you love everything Mars, like me.)

Martian Princess by Will Nichols
Martian, Green
No. Encountered: 1 (1d3)
Alignment: Neutral
Size: L
Movement: 40
Dexterity: 16
Armour Class: 5
Hit Dice: 4+4 to 6+6
Attack Rate: 4/1 (sword x4 or radium pistol x4)
Damage: 1d8 (×4) or 1d8 (x4)
Saving Throw: 14 to 12
Morale: 12
Experience Points: 400 to  850
Treasure Class:  Nil (see below)

Green Martians are tall, 8' tall, humanoids with green skin and four arms.  The males are bald and have huge tusks. The females are just as tall but appear more human.  Some even have ancestry related to the ancient Red Martians.  Many of the Martians found in Hyperborea are these Green with Red Martian blood to adapt better to the Hyperborean world.
It has been assumed that came here centuries ago and have been able to return to Barsoom.  Those sages in the know claim they are here as advanced scouts prior to a Martian invasion.

Green Martians are a warrior race and adapt to the weapons found in Hyperborea with ease.  Green Chieftans, the Jedaks, also wield radium pistols that fire a bolt of burning radium.  The range is the same as a crossbow.

Martians eschew armor of any kind and rely on their dexterity and natural toughness.  They also do not keep any treasure they find.  The exception are any weapons. They have a 20% chance of having a magical sword, short sword or dagger.  They do not use bows, but will have a 10% of having a magical crossbow.

I like this. Can't wait to give it a go.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Monstrous Monday: Lithobolia for OSE

“I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”
― Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

So.  I missed my next deadline for the Pagan Witch for OSE.  I was working on getting things done for Night Shift and my day job has been pretty busy.  But this is fine, it has given me a chance to make it a better book and to review the OSE rules and style guide some more.

The OSE style guide has a short monster stat block template and a long one.  The short one is the one seen in the current OSE books and what I have been posting for a while.
The long one though is more to my liking.  So let's give it a go.



Lithobolia*
Stone-throwing "demons" summoned by witches to plague homes. They are invisible and intangible.

Armour Class 3 [17]
Hit Dice 5 (hp)
Attacks 1 × rock (1d4)
THAC0 15 [4]
Movement Rate 90’ (30’)
Saves D10 W11 P12 B13 S 14 (5)
Morale 10
Alignment Chaotic
XP for Defeating 300
Number Appearing 1d4 (2d10)
Treasure Type None
  • Intangible: Lithobolia are spirits and cannot be seen or hit by anything other than magic.  A Detect Invisible spell will locate them and they take damage from magic and magical weapons.
  • Elemental Spirit: Lithobolia are elemental spirits of the land.  They are not undead but can be turned by a Druid as if they were a cleric of the same level.
  • Immune to charm, hold or sleep spells.
  • Can be dismissed by clerics, druids or witches with Dispel Magic or Dispel Evil spell.  Creature can return after 24 hours.
I like this format better.

So. The Pagan Witch is coming. 2020 is shaping up to be a big year for me publication wise. I have heard from three publishers who have manuscripts of mine saying this is the year they will get them out.  Looking forward to it.

Friday, January 31, 2020

Kickstart Your Weekend: Swords, Wizards and Heroes

A couple of big Kickstarters today.

First up a BIG one.

Swords and Wizardry: Limited and Collectors Edition Box Sets


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/froggodgames/swords-and-wizardry-limited-and-collectors-edition-box-sets?ref=theotherside

This one is going fast.  The early bird options are all gone and all the original stretch goals we met in the first few hours.  I scored a Collector's Box (pictured above) but there are still great options to be had with this.


The Hero's Journey 2e


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/gallantknightgames/the-heros-journey-2e?ref=theotherside

The Hero's Journey 1st edition was a delightful game. It was the perfect antidote for grim-dark murder hobo games that seem to be so popular.  A nice cup of tea vs whatever they sell in the local run-down dive where characters are supposed to meet.

We are in the last few minutes of this one!


Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Favorite Basic Clone? You Tell Me!

I ran this poll over on Facebook, but I wanted to collect some more responses.  Since this is my year of "Back to Basic" I wanted to hear about what you are all playing and enjoying.


So please, answer the survey below and let me know.  This is 100% anonymous and I am not tracking anything but the choices you make.


I believe I have the top choices here, but there is also an "Other".
Note: I am considering Swords & Wizardry its own thing for the purposes of this survey.

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