Showing posts with label research. Show all posts
Showing posts with label research. Show all posts

Friday, February 14, 2020

Origins of the Witch: Early Research Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Importance of the *Correct* Research

I have been fairly quiet here I know.  Not by choice, but I have some projects I want to get done and get out to you all.   Today is the tale of woe of one such project.

A few weeks back I had this GREAT idea. No, it really it was. It was a game that I really wanted to play and write.  I am going into a lot of detail about here now because the game will not happen now, or at least not in it's current draft. 

See I did my research.  I have a Ph.D. (two in fact, but I am ABD) so research is something I know well and love. And I did do my research.  I looked into economic issues of the time to try to get a good idea of a monetary system.  I reread news items that I thought would give me better insight.  I also put together a must-read list of fiction and a must watch list of movies that fit the genre.
I even prototyped some characters.

What I *DIDN'T* do was see if this game already existed.
Which, as you can guess, it does.

What really sucks is that this game is also really, really good.  They went with a different vibe than I was going for, but what they did is fantastic.

Well.  Shit.

So now I have notes, drafts and a cool name.  Some friends suggested I go ahead and make it, but I don't want to field questions of "Hey have you seen BLANK?" or "How is this not a copy of BLANK?" 

So the ideas will go into ... well, I don't know yet really.

After talking with my kids I think I have some ideas for this stuff, but the focus will have to change.  So goodbye economic data. Book lists will need to be revised. I think the movies are fine though.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

I might never be clean (mentally) again....

So for the last couple of days I have been doing some world-building research for a couple of projects.  All was well and good till this last round.   I fell into a "Flat Earth" rabbit hole.

Now don't get me wrong. I love reading a good crazy conspiracy theory as much as next guy and I find pseudo-science to be comical.  But this...this just made me weep for humanity.

Honestly. I have said "What the fuck is this?" so many times today that I think I have used up my lifetime quota.

So I need something to clear out my brain. Like a good documentary...or a horror movie. Something to get the stupid out.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Witchcraft Documentaries

A few documentaries up on Youtube.

The Witches
This one is narrated by Leonard Nimoy.   There are some factual errors, but nothing major.

Salem Witch Trials
This one is from the History Channel.

This one covers some similar ground in terms of the Salem Witch trails.

Witchcraft and Magic

Professor Wrightson's Early Modern England: Politics, Religion, and Society under the Tudors and Stuarts (HIST 251) from Open Yale Courses.

Just a few I have had playing in the background while working on other things.

Edited to add:  This one was found by +Joseph Bloch.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Pathfinder Witch

Gearing up for a Pathfinder game where I am playing a Witch.  Really looking forward to it.  For this game the group is pulling from the Pathfinder SRD. It's a great resource and full of all the Pathfinder material you need to play.  I have been spending some quality time with it lately.


Plus I have been working on this recently,
Though I am not ready for a big announcement yet.

Here are some links of various Pathfinder Witch posts I have made on my blog and some OGC from the Pathfinder SRD.

Pathfinder SRD
Alternate 3rd party classes and Prestige Classes
My Posts On Witches and Pathfinder

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Witch Appendix N

I have used many books in researching this class and all of it's related topics. Here are some of those books that I have found most helpful. I have used these books to get more at the witch of myth and history, rather than the modern witch of today.

Keep in mind that these books have nothing to do with RPGs, they are books of belief. Witchcraft is a real religion and people take their religious beliefs seriously and personally.

These books have been helpful for a variety of reasons. If for nothing else to get me to think about witches differently than other game authors have.

Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology by Russell Hope Robbins 
This book has been long out of print, and I got mine at a used book store, but it is the indespensible work on witches, the witch craze and demonology. The book takes a very pro-witch point of view as it frankly discusses the murder of women, children and even men in the name of god. Not to be missed, this book has been THE source for most of my writings. Several editions are out there, mine is the 1959 edition. I have seen them on Ebay as well.

The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft by Rosemary Ellen Guiley
It would be unfair to compare this book to the work above it, because this book is very good. More a modern spin, it still deals with a variety of topics that are of interest to the witch or occult scholar. I used this book a lot when writing Eldritch Witchery. This book also has the advantage of being much newer and still available. All around a good mix of topics, witch myth is mixed in with modern Wicca, making difficult for the unlearned to know what is what. But for those who know a bosom from a common broom, then you will enjoy this book. If you have your own Bosom, then you might even find this book a little simple, but I found things there I did not know about, so I enjoyed it!

The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism by Raymond Buckland
Another encyclopedia  This one though covers less but goes deeper on it's topics.  I like Buckland's writing style more than some of the others listed here.  Gave me a lot of insight on various witch traditions.

Encyclopedia of Wicca & Witchcraft by Raven Grimassi
Another encyclopedia of all things witchy. This one focuses on more modern practices, has a very large list of contacts, email and websites. Some overlap with Guiley's book. If you are interested in the nature of the religion of witches today, then this is your book. Or at least it is a good place to start.

Covencraft : Witchcraft for Three or More by Amber K
A nice a well written book for witches and lay-people (cowans) to understand what a coven is and does. This is not a primer to witches, witchcraft or wicca, this book assumes you know what you need to know and works on what you may not know. It is concise and intelligent and a good read, even for non-witches. Maybe especially for non-witches, so that others can finally learn what witches do. From Llewellyn Publications.

Witchcraft, Sorcery and Superstition by Jules Michelet, A. R. Allinson (Translator)
A good book that deals with the wicth craze of the middle ages. Discussion range from early "faerie stories" to pagan religions, to the church sanctioned murder of thousands. Sometime muddled, the book has a few rare gems. Plus it delves into the socilogy of fear, why these people did what they did. Gets as far as the Salem witch trials. Very little to do with modern witchcraft.

Cassell Dictionary of Witchcraft by David Pickering
Another in a series of encyclopedia/dictionaries about witchcraft. A very good beginners guide.

Witches by Erica Jong
More of a coffee table book than an indepth treatsie on witches or witchcraft. Heavy on the feminist side, but not man-bashing (it is an Eric "Fear of Flying" Jong book) it is visually stunning. An oversized book, so if you look for it in the library you might have to check the oversized selves. My local library cut out some of the more risque pages. So I bought my own copy.

The Modern Witch's Spellbook, Book II by Sarah Lyddon Morrison
I read this, along with Book I, years ago, towards the first drafts of my witch class. It has spells that can supposedly really cast. Never tried. But it is a good insight on how some witches view or can view magic. A picture of me reading this over the top of my glasses (Thomas Dolby style, there THAT's long ago it was!) made my High School newspaper!.

Man and His Symbols by Carl Gustav Jung
I alway's liked Jung. His psychoanalytic theory always sat better with me than Freud's. This book deals with many of the archetypes we deal thing at an uncounscious level, the witch is one of many type of female, or anima, archetypes. Jung is one of the greatest thinkers of the modern era, and this is one of his masterpieces (along with Synchronicity).

Drawing Down the Moon : Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshipers, and Other Pagans in America Today by Margot Adler
This is the book on modern pagan practices. Since it deals with a real world religion i only used it as inspiration to the Witches Netbook I wrote. But if you want to know what is going on in the world of paganism today, then this is your first stop. It is very telling for the foresightedness of this book when you consider that it was first published in 1979!

To Ride a Silver Broomstick : New Generation Witchcraft by Silver Ravenwolf
Similar in nature to Adler's book above, this book deal with modern wicca and witchcraft. Ravenwolf is very much a witchcraft supporter and her point of view shows through in this book, for good and ill. A good place to start and then return to when you know a little more.  Generally speaking I am not a huge fan of Silver Ravenwolf, but at the same time I am not really her target audience, so my opinion should be taken with a grain of salt.
She has similar fare in her other books, To Stir a Magick Cauldron and To Light a Sacred Flame.

The Penguin Book of Witches & Warlocks : Tales of Black Magic, Old & New editied by Marvin Kaye

I have enjoyed the anthologies of Marvin Kaye for years. Ghosts, Vampires, Demons & Devils, and now witches. I found this in the library and had to get a copy from Ebay. It is a collection of short stories about witches, warlocks and witchcraft. The quality varies, but gems are true gems.

I will post more soon.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

History of The Witch

The Witch is my latest book of rules to play the Witch character class for a version of the World's Largest and First Fantasy Roleplaying game.

It is not my first book.  Or even my second.  To date this is my third book on witches.

My first was a "netbook" called "The Complete Netbook of Witches and Warlocks" for the 2nd Edition version of the game.  It was totally a fan-driven work and most of it had been written for the 1st Edition version of the rules.  Back then the file on my computer was called "thewitch.doc".

This original "thewitch.doc" was never really meant to be seen by anyone but my gaming group. Indeed, I figured I'd be the only one to ever play a witch character.  I took a Magic-User character I had rolled up with the idea of playing her like a witch and then stopped her MU advancement and started her out as a 1st level witch.  Occult Powers were spells back then and all I had was a list of spells from the Cleric and MU lists that I felt were "witchy".   That document grew to become the "The Complete Witch" and then finally  "The Complete Netbook of Witches and Warlocks".

The CNoWaW was in my mind a great sucsess. I released it between October 28th and October  31st of 1999.  In fact I remember sitting in the hospital room right after my first son was born posting it on a laptop while my wife and new baby slept.  Well that baby turned 13 over this past weekend!  Kinda nice that my newest Witch book  was released 13 years later.

After that in 2002 released  "Liber Mysterium: The Netbook of Witches and Warlocks".  This one was far more polished and I considered a "real" release.  It used the OGL and the d20 logo.  I worked with what was then called the FANCC, or the Fantasy Community Council.  Their goal was to make and release quality netbooks that adhered to the OGL.  Many of the members would later go on to do other things.  I went on to Eden to work a number of their books including WitchCraft, Buffy and Ghosts of Albion.

In the case of all my books I would go back to my ever evolving research notes.  Pictured above and below is just one of maybe 4 binders of information I have collected over the years.  One of the print outs has a date scrawled in red pen (former teacher here!) of March of 1997.  I know I have some materials even older than that. Lots and lots of notes.


In every case and especially when starting a new project I like to go back to my notes.  Revisit old ideas, question why I rejected some and kept others.

The Witch is different from the CNoWnW or LM.  While in each book the witches have "Occult Powers" their mechanisms are different.  Each witch can for example cast "Wave of Mutilation", but how it works is slightly different.  Complete Netbook witches are akin to that  edition's Priests.  Liber witches are more like Wizards.  The witches in The Witch are something new.  Older versions of my witch needed high Wisdom as their primary stat.  Witches in The Witch need a high Charisma.

It is a ritual for me to go back even further when I start a new project to go not just to my notes, but my primary sources.  For the Witch I really wanted that feel of a game supplement from the late 70s early 80s.


So I went back to my books.  I re-read not just game books and the latest retro-clones, I also hit books about witches and witchcraft from the 60s and 70s.  The things the first and second generation of gamers would have read if they were making a witch class.  I watched the old movies like "Rosemary's Baby" and "The Initiation of Sarah".  In fact, look over my lists of movies from the October Challenge of the last couple of years.  That will give you an indication of my "Research".

You can still find my older books online, I don't link them here really for a couple of reasons.  First they were done a LONG time ago and I would like to think my writing has improved significantly since then.  Also, at least in the case of CNoWaW, they are predominantly fan works and written under that assumption.  Those assumptions are not the same that The Witch (well and Liber) was written under.  While I don't explicitly state any compatibility I did do a lot of playtesting to make sure that The Witch works with what ever version of the Basic Era game you are using, be it the original games or the newest Retro-clones.

You can read more developments notes under the Basic and Witch tags (there are a lot though).

Sunday, October 28, 2012


I have to admit. I really enjoy reading the Retrospectives over at Grognardia.

James usually covers something I know, but every so often something comes up and I am seeing something new.  But in every case I learn something I didn't know before.

Here are some of my favorites:

  • The Book of Marvelous Magic - I was looking for a copy of this at the auction, so this was the right thing at the right time.
  • Authentic Thaumtaurgy -  Issac Bonewits was one of the first people I talked to on the Internet back in the old Bitnet days.  He was kind of a jerk.  But I liked this book.
  • Dragon Dice- precious jewels!
  • The Dying Earth - How I learned to love Vancian magic.
  • Palace of the Vampire Queen - managed to score a copy of this.
  • Alma Mater - this one too. One of the strangest games in my collection.
  • Chill - again my love of Chill knows no bounds.
  • Castle Amber - one of my most favorite adventures.
  • Castle Greyhawk - I also own this one, and yes it is bad.  It is also deadly, maybe one of the deadliest dungeon  crawls to be published by TSR.  Yes. Even more deadly than Tomb of Horrors.  If I remember right CG features at least two elder vampires, three Death Knights, a couple of demon lords and everything but a Kitchen Sink Monster.
  • Ravenloft - Still my favorite adventure ever.
I have used these retrospectives many times as a starting point to do more research for articles on Wikipedia or for my own benefit.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Tiamat on my Mind

Been doing some research on the end game of my kids D&D 3.x game and I have been thinking a lot about Tiamat.  The kids are going to fight her in the end, but I wanted something more than the big five-head dragon of the AD&D Monster Manual, and not exactly like the Takhisis of Dragonlance.

So I hit the "books". (for the Forgotten Realms info)

And inspirational posts:

Well I also hit the real books too.

One thing I recall thinking up years ago was that Tiamat in the old myths was the personification of Chaos.  This idea was reaffirmed with me when I, like many others, dabbled in Chaos Math and Science (it was the 90s, all the cool grad students were doing it).   Tiamat is primordial chaos.   Well what is that in D&D?  Simple, the Abyss.  So I have placed Tiamat in the Abyss, but it is not-quite-the-Abyss.  Her realm is Tehom, the Hebrew word for abyss or deep.  It is also related to the Kabbalah, being one of the Qliphoth.  Tiamat and Tehom also are have etymological relations.

Zak even talks a bit about fighting Tiamat and the mytho-historical Tiamat near the end of his interview over at Penny Red. (1:20:00 or around there).

Tiamat and Lolth
In my games Tiamat and Lolth are strong allies (no, not like this). Mostly because I have effectively had them swap places; Lolth becoming LE and in Hell, Tiamat CE and in the Abyss.  But also because they have similar backstories.  Both were (are) gods. Both were cast out by male Gods to establish some new order.  I can see each seeing something of herself in the other, and not in a self-loathing way (Lolth in my world is full of self-loathing, no pun intended) but rather as solidarity.  Their views are radically different, but their plans for conquest do not conflict really.  So they see each other as an ally.  Not best friends or anything like that, but there is mutual trust built up over centuries.  They are evil, not stupid.   If I were to play this out then I would have an alliance between the Drow and a group of dragons.  Most likely the red dragons, like what the Githyanki do.  I might even revise that a bit and say it was a select group Drow that went to serve Tiamat and she in return had some dragons serve Lolth.  Of course they are spies, but everyone knows this.

Here is an odd entry, attributed to the Demonomicon that Lolth is the offspring of Tiamat and Alrunes, the Queen of Sorcery.   Not quite sure about that one really.  But I have conjectured that Orcus is the offspring of Tiamat.  That would give me a hook too.

Of course I had this evil thought of using  the Scales of War material for the last few adventures.

Just a little late night research.

Anything cool about Tiamat or Lolth I should know?
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