Showing posts with label rpg. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rpg. Show all posts

Friday, October 27, 2017

Seven Best Horror RPGs

I wanted to get this out in time for Halloween weekend gaming.

This is based on a conversation I was having on Facebook where we all discussing the "Seven Best".  I had a number of people ask me what I felt were the Seven Best Horror RPGs.

For this I immediately thought I am not going to include any horror RPG I have either written or worked on, but as it turns out that is a non-issue since my top seven are all ones done by others.  If this was a Top 10 then we might have other problems!


So without further ado, here they are my Seven Top Horror RPGs, arranged by year and one honorable mention.

Seven Horror RPGs
There is a chill in the air, gloomy clouds in the sky and leaves are all turning.  It is October and it's the time of the season for horror games.  I have been playing horror games for as long I have been playing RPGs.  Even my fantasy and sci-fi RPGs take on a slightly darker tinge to them.  So with Halloween just around the corner I wanted to talk about my Seven Favorite Horror RPGs.

Call of Cthulhu (1981)
Call of Cthulhu might not be the exact first horror RPG, but it was one of the first and the most influential. It was certainly the first horror game that most of us have played or knew about.  It perfectly blended the mythos stories of H.P. Lovecraft with RPG mechanics. Out of the gate the game did exactly what it was supposed to do, which is why the changes in the first six editions are relatively minor.
Call of Cthulhu was monster hunting, but it was so much more than that.  “Monster hunting” covers D&D pretty well but there the similarities end.  In CoC you had to investigate, you had to research and then maybe, just maybe, you found the clue you needed.  If there was magic you used it only in the direst of circumstances and even then your victory or your sanity was never assured.  For many in the 80s, CoC was their first introduction to the weird and alien worlds of the Cthulhu Mythos. Stories from 30-50 years prior were now in vogue again and influenced a generation of gamers and game designers.
The Basic Roleplay System from CoC also powered other games namely Stormbringer (1981), Superworld (1983) and RuneQuest (1978, 1980).

Chill (1984, 1992, 2015)
Chill has the distinction of being the second RPG I ever played (Dungeons & Dragons was first).  Chill is a horror game in the vein of the Saturday night creature feature monster movies, or monster hunting TV shows of the 80s to today.  Here our heroes are brave (mostly) but are expected to push back the dark for just another day.  Chill First Edition came out of Wisconsin and Chill Second Edition came from the Chicago suburbs, so it had a strong Midwest flavor to it that drew me in immediately.
Like Call of Cthulhu’s investigators the characters of Chill are normal humans caught up in an abnormal world.  There are monsters and they need to stop them.  Not always because they are the best at what they do, but because they are the only ones that can. Unlike CoC, the characters of Chill are expected to survive, more or less.  Call of Cthulhu has investigators, Chill has heroes. The definition is subtle in play, but you can feel it.
Chill introduced me to the idea of a meta-plot in RPGs. That there was more going on than just what your characters did. There was this worldwide organization, S.A.V.E., and they helped with the beasties and things that went bump in the night. As the books came out the S.A.V.E. plot expanded.   But we ignored this for the most part with 1st Ed.  In 2nd ed and later 3rd Edition, this became more of a central feature of the game.

Vampire: The Masquerade (1991)
Very, very few games have changed the business as much as Vampire.  Up to this point, you fought the monsters.  With Vampire you became the monster and the battle was with yourself.
Vampire asks the question, what would you do to stay alive? What price is your humanity to just exist for one more long night?  There is personal horror here along with existential horror.    There are also other horrors. Things worse than you, things less human than you are.
The mechanics of the Vampire game, later the Storyteller System, were nothing new; a dice pool with successes and botches, but combined with the story and the effects it became the system of choice for many in the 1990s.  In fact it captured the fear and horror of the 90s so well that it can be better compared to the fear and horror seen in Dracula at the turn of the prior century (1890s).  Though Vampire owes its largest debt to Anne Rice and embraced (pardon the pun) by those who grew up on “Interview with a Vampire” and “The Vampire Lestat”.
For better or for worse Vampire changed not only how we view games but how they were also marketed and sold.

Kult (1993)
Kult asks the question “What is reality?” and the answers are not ones that normal people want to hear.  Characters can come from all walks of life and persuasion and the background can be any large modern city.  But that is where most games stay, Kult goes beyond that and characters (and players) discover that reality is an illusion and the real reality is a battleground of supernatural forces vying for control.
If WitchCraft posits that “All Things are True”, Kult’s point of view is “Nothing is true”.  In many ways, it presaged the ideas from the movies “That Dark City” and “The Matrix”.  There are supernatural creatures that control various areas of human action and interaction behind the scene and some humans know about these creatures, Archons and Death Angels, and follow them in cults. The characters do what they can to discover these forces or keep them at bay.
The game had a great concept in Mental Balance that was the first real challenger I felt to Call of Cthulhu's Sanity score in terms of gauging the mental health of the characters involved. More out of balance you are the stranger you become even to the point of not being altogether human yourself anymore.
With Kult, the horror is also of an existentialist variety, but in that way, only the Scandinavian seem to do well. If Call of Cthulhu is Lovecraft and Chill a Saturday Night Monster Movie then Kult is Søren Kierkegaard.

CJ Carella's WitchCraft (1999)
WitchCraft is, hands down, my favorite game.  Period.  Picking up a copy of this book back in 1999 was just like picking up a copy of the Monster Manual in 1979.  Everything I ever wanted in a game was right there. Everything.
WitchCraft had such a profound effect on my gaming that I can draw a rather clean line between what came before and what came after it.
The central idea behind WitchCraft is the same as most other Modern Supernatural Horror games.  The world is like ours, but there are dark secrets, magic is real, monsters are real. You know the drill.  But WitchCraft is different.  There is a Reckoning coming, everyone feels it, but no one knows what it is.  Characters then take on the roles of various magic using humans, supernaturals or even mundane humans and they fight the threats.  Another conceit of the game (and one I use a lot) is that supernatural occurrences are greater now than ever before.  Something's coming.
You can play the same sort of games you played in Call of Cthulhu or Chill as well as Vampire.  WitchCraft assumed that all supernatural views of the world were equally likely. So vampires could rub elbows, metaphysically speaking, with elder horrors from beyond. Your characters can be there to stop them, study them or join them as the case may be.

Little Fears (2001)
When was the last time you were really, really afraid? Most people would say childhood.  Little Fears is exactly about that.  Little Fears is a game of childhood fears.  The monsters are real, they hide in your closet and under your bed. The scary old lady down the street really is a hag. But don’t worry. You are protected by Belief and items that seem mundane or meaningless to grownups can help you.   Little Fears is based on a simple system, as befitting its nature of school children fighting monsters adults can’t see. 
Little Fears also has the notoriety of being one of three RPGs one of my FLGS will not sell in the open.  You can order it, but they don’t stock it.  I don’t agree, but I respect their choice.
While it is a game about children, it is not a game for children.  The subject matter of abuse and death can be a bit much for some adults, let alone kids.  It is also one of the most effective horror RPGs I own.

Sorcerer (2002)
If Vampire is all about what will you do to remain human, Ron Edward’s Sorcerer is all about what price will you do for power?  Created at the height of the creative output of The Forge, indeed the first RPG from and starting the independent RPG movement from The Forge. 
Like Vampire your character struggles with their Humanity. But where Vampire can be described as the Beast Within, Sorcerer is the Beast Without or in this case a personal Demon.  You make a pact with a Demon for power and the more power you need, use or take causes you to lose your humanity and become more and more enthralled to the demon.  The game can do a lot of different types of play, but it is all centered around this central idea.

And one more.

Special Mention: WITCH Fated Souls (2016)
I know I am only doing Seven games, but WITCH Fated Souls by Elizabeth Chaipraditkul combines a lot of what made all these other games so much fun.  You have the struggle with power vs. humanity vs. damnation you see in Vampire and Sorcerer. The hidden world of Little Fears, Chill, and Kult and the power struggle between faction you can see in WitchCraft and again in Vampire.   All against a background that is as unique as Call of Cthulhu and Kult.
I picked up this game last year and have not done enough with it yet.

All these games are great and many have won numerous awards over the years.  They have been enough that they cover most aspects of horror.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

We could live forever, and suffer: Laura and Carmilla for Monsterhearts

Carmilla week continues.  The movie is out tonight or tomorrow (depending on where you are) and I wanted to save this system for today.

+Avery Alder's Monsterhearts has been one of those games I that I have wanted to review and play some more ever since I first encountered the First Edition all the way back when I was introduced to it at Gen Con.

The system is an easy one, based on the Apocalypse World Engine, something else I have wanted to delve into further.   The base mechanic is simple; 2d6 + whatever mods (depending on the game), get higher than 10 for a success, or a 7-9 for something weird.

Monsterhearts is a game on what it like to play teenage monsters.  Monsters as metaphors for teenage life and feeling a little outside the norm.  I think it is something everyone can relate too I think.
While I'll get a proper review up soon the game is tailor-made for Carmilla really.

Even the game's lack of a combat mechanic works well with the very combat free scenes of the Carmilla web series.  In fact, nearly everything in this game is perfect for a Carmilla-like game. Just need a skin for the downloaded consciousness of JP 3.0 (though a Ghost might work well).

Laura and Carmilla for Monsterhearts
For these builds I used Monsterhearts 2.  I have a book of Monsterhearts 1 (and PDFs of both).  The system differences are minor. There some differences. Most of these are detailed here.  Both versions of the game are on sale now.

Given the rules where Mortals develop their characters last, I'll switch it up and do Carmilla first.

Carmilla Karnstein
Skin: Vampire
Look: Drop dead sexy.
Backstory: Mysterious stranger (Gain a Sting on Everyone)

Stats
Hot 2, Cold 1, Volatile -1, Dark -1

Darkest Self
People are your playthings.
No one messes with my Creampuff Laura!

Sex Move
Lost all Strings on Laura

Vampire Moves
Cold as Ice
Marked for the Hunt
Inescapable

Laura Hollis
Skin: The Mortal
Look: Tiny and mighty
Backstory:  Intrepid Journalism Student

Stats
Hot 2, Cold -1, Volatile -1, Dark 1

Darkest Self
Only I can figure this out, no one else can help and only I can defeat the monsters.
(borrowed from the Chosen)

Sex Move
You bring out the Darkest Self in Carmilla when you are not around.

Mortal Moves
True Love (Carmilla)
Down the Rabbit Hole
Mess With Me, Mess With Her

Oh this will be fun!
I gave them both one more move as an advancement.  I think that is fine.  In fact I could have given them more.  I think these should work well for Season 2.

Given all the skins I want to play a game where the cast is made up of characters from Carmilla, Buffy, and HƎX.  I can get some vamps, some witches, a chosen, a ghost, an infernal, and who knows what else.

Links

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Witches Trine and Witch: Fated Souls

Witches Trine #2 is out!



I have been following this comic since I first saw it at Gen Con and I am really enjoying the story and where it might be going.  It is the tale of three immortal (or at least long lived) witches.  Though that is being tested since one of the witches was killed in the preview (that's not a spoiler).

Now things seem to be moving against them and the plot is really kicking into high gear.
Kris Lippert and all the folks at +Movierockets Entertainment is really building an interesting world here and one I am having a lot of fun with.

I can't but help to think how well I could model this world with +Elizabeth Chaipraditkul's WITCH: Fated Souls RPG.   Given what I have read so far I think Olivia would make a good Lich (though she doesn't look like one); Eva would make for a great Druid with healing ability; and Victoria is practically a "textbook" (or core book) Djinn.



I need to spend some more time with both worlds and truly appreciate them for what they are.  Both are so much fun.

Witches Trine #2 is out now. Witches Trine #1 and Preview Edition are also still available.
WITCH: Fated Souls is out AND on sale now thanks to DriveThruRPG's Halloween Sale.

For less than 10 bucks you can have a new RPG and three comics full of ideas. Not a bad Halloween gift for yourself I say!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

What are RPGs Worth?

Been a lot of talk about this on the old internet lately.

http://www.enworld.org/forum/content.php?3410-Why-We-Need-To-Pay-What-Games-Are-Worth-Not-What-We-Think-They-Should-Cost#.VzH7TnErKVM
http://www.tenkarstavern.com/2016/05/what-are-games-worth-follow-up-to-chris.html
https://plus.google.com/+GregChristopher /posts/4ScbaXYPFnv
http://trollsmyth.blogspot.com/2016/05/whats-it-worth-to-ya.html (edited to add)
http://therpgpundit.blogspot.com/2016/05/incompetent-game-writers-demanding-we.html

Some advocating more expensive books and/or better pay for the work they do.  Others saying let the market decide what something needs to be charged and/or paid.

I guess to me the issue is really what is an RPG worth to me.

I am very fortunate. I get to write RPGs, the stuff I want and I get to be choosy about it.  I have a day job that I am really good at and pays me well.  I can afford to buy the things I want and even get the occasional luxury item.  So my personal calculus for what I will pay is different than yours or someone doing much better than me.

The questions are "What should RPGs cost?" and "What are RPGs worth?".  The logical extension of these questions are what should a professional game designer be paid?

These are two VERY different questions.

Let's look at the breakdown of price (money), cost (money and time among other things) and value or worth.

I bought the AD&D 1st edition hardcovers back in the 1980s.  Money was tight for me then. Even a $15 or $20 book represented a significant number of hours of me working at the time.  So their value started out as higher than their price might indicate.  The worth of those books to me is incalculable. Not just the time I spent with friends playing, or reading them over and over, but the things I do now with my own kids.

I bought the 3rd Edition hardcovers when they first came out.  I keep the receipts as bookmarks so I know when I got them and how much I paid;  9/11/2000 (interesting date) and I spent $18.00 plus tax (in Cook County Ill that is about 9%).  These books cost far more to produce. The cost was a bout the same to me, but the amount of work this total represented 20 years later to buy them was far less.  Also, their worth to me is still great since this was the system I taught my kids how to play.

So value and worth is not something I can easily quantify.  Does Skip Williams deserve to be paid more or less than Gary Gygax did?

I have had the pleasure to work on some truly wonderful games.  I spent hundreds of hours doing research for Ghosts of Albion. Not just on the primary material, but on the Victorian time, names, economics, how long it took to load a gun, world leaders, countries, disputes. Hell I spent an entire day doing nothing but looking up the most popular names of 1838 and 1839!  Should it have been more expensive to make than say Army of Darkness? A game with the same rule system?

I am going to say no.

Why?  Well lots of reasons really. Army of Darkness, the movie, is more popular than the Ghosts of Albion books. There is a certain gamer-cool vibe to Army of Darkness too.  Plus Victorian games, as popular as they are, are still a small niche inside the RPG community.
I spent that time in research because it was what I chose to do. I wanted to give you a better game.  I wanted to give you the best Victorian game I make and the best Cinematic Unisystem game I could make.  In both cases I feel like I did my best.  Hey it's 8+ years since publication and I still get people telling me how much they love Ghosts.

To someone else the value of Ghosts vs. Army is the same.  The cost certainly is for the consumer.  I am privy to many of the behind the scenes costs for both books, so I am not going to get into the issue of which one was more expensive to make.

I also spent hundreds of hours working on The Witch. The typing, the layout and the research alone goes back decades. I also bought a bunch of art for it and bought advertising on my own dime. I sell it for $5.00.  I bet I could have charged $10, but 5 felt better to me.  If I were to be paid let's say minimum wage on the work I did, well...I'd likely never see that money based on sales alone.

But that is not why I do it.

There is a quote that is often attributed to Kevin Siembieda's ex-wife Maryann, "If you want to make a small fortune in the gaming industry you need to start with a large fortune and work your way down."

There is a sad truth in that.

I am not saying we couldn't or even shouldn't pay game designers more.
But they will be paid what the market allows for.

There is a price that a book will sell at, but my knowledge of micro- and macro-economics is not MBA level so I have no idea what that is.  We have thousands of games, hundreds of professional and amateur designers out there, and unfettered access to all.  This new golden age of access to RPGs has a price.

We just don't know what that price should be.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Greatest Pen and Paper RPGs

I know it's silly, not at all accurate, not really an indication of anything really.
But it is fun.

Rank your favorite RPG!

The Greatest Pen and Paper RPGs

Vote for your favorites. Add something that isn't on the list.
Oh and if possible, spare a vote for Ghosts of Albion! ;) Thanks.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Winding your way down on Baker Street

Mail Call today!

Look what I got.



+Bryce Whitacre's Victorian RPG Baker Street is out to backers of the Kickstarter.
It looks great and I can't wait to try it out.

Hope to have a review up soon!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Magic Girls Monday

A couple of products came up on my radar. Since I had some credits burning a hole in my pocket over at RPGNow I figured I'd pick them up.

These games are all of the "magical girl" type in one way or another. So if you like stories like W.I.T.C.H., Sailor Moon, or even Steven Universe then these are good choices.  The systems under the hood is different in each case, but there are some familiar names here.

Star Sailors: The Magical Girl Supplement for White Star RPG
Oh, this one is a fun.  This little book (11 pages, including cover and OGL) is packed full of great material.  Basically this presents a Magical Girl class, the Star Sailors.  Each level the Star Sailor gains a "Heart Power" of a different color. Very cool.  They also get a "Starlight Blast" that is blasted out of her "Star Sailor Starlight Wand".  I know this all sounds silly, but trust me, this is exactly the sort of thing you would see in a Magical Girl show or book.  I also love how each power has a catchphrase.  I would totally make my players say these to activate each attack.
The powers are described, with effects. Also some background on the Starlight Entity.  The sailors also can have mascots, aka pets.
There is also a great monster/big bad for the sailors to fight, the appropriately named "Gloom".
While the book is overtly for White Star it includes some ideas for Modern Times and S&W.
Really, really fun.  The art also really fun and appropriate.
Don't like Magical Girls?  You could, with minor tweaking, turn this into a Green Lantern like organization.

Witch Girls Magical Minutia: Crossover
This book for Witch Girls Adventures previews a bit of the rules we will see in WGA 2.0 and the upcoming super hero games from Channel M. WE are introduced to Nemsis Earth, an Earth populated by superheroes and some differences in history.  Chapter 1 covers the details of this new Earth and it's features, both magical and tech.
The book is presented from the point of view of a Witch Girl travelling across the dimensions.
There are plenty of new equipment for Witch Girl stars and even a new heritage (Half-Metahuman).
Chapter 3 covers Channel M's new "Youthquake" team of superpowered teens.
The general feel of this "Crisis on Two Earths" and honestly I really like that. I wish I had had this back when I was working on Season 3 of my Willow & Tara game where I crossed over to a super powered Earth that resembled the Earth int he DC universe.  While reading this I was also wishing I had an Icons version of this.  Same ideas, characters and text, but Icons as the rules.  They would mesh together rather nice I think.
If you are a fan of supers and Witch Girls Adventures then this is a good buy.
One issue. I hate to bring this up, really. I love Malcolm's work but he should really hire a good proofreader and editor to help clean up his work.  That leaves him to focus on the big ideas and let others do the editorial work.

Sparks of Light
At 110 pages this is the largest of the books I have picked today. No surprise, this is a complete system-sort of.
Sparks is a light hearted game of Magical Girls. I uses the Fate system, but it can be used as a guide for any magical girl game regardless of system.
I think the most important thing about this book is how do the characters relate to each other and too the NPCs.  This is the key feature of any magical girl story whether or not it is Sailor Moon, W.I.T.C.H., Cardcaptor Sakura or even Charmed.  It is the relationships that define the character.  Take someone like Tuxedo Mask from Sailor Moon, he is (let's be honest) useless. But he does have relationships to the rest of the cast and that makes for drama.  Would it make for a good game? No, maybe not, but consider Angel in the first season of Buffy. He was basically Tuxedo Mask.
I also really liked the Hope Points mechanic.  Magic Girls rarely see last death or injury (Sailor Uranus and Sailor Neptune not withstanding), so hit points don't really make a lot of sense.  Plus the Darkness is not about killing really. It's about snuffing out the light or hope of the heroes.
In this respect it might make it a better game for little kids.  Don't get me wrong, I have played D&D with grade-schoolers and they are a vicious, blood thirsty lot. But they don't have to be.
If you like Fate then is a good game to try out, especially given the price.
If you like Magical Girls then this is a must buy (even if some of this is covered in other books as well).

Personally I think Sparks of Life makes for a great addition to Star Sailors.  Get both books and use them together. Star Sailors for the basic game and ideas and then Sparks of Life to expand on them.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Kick Start Your weekend!

End of Quarter, new one start on Monday.  Busy as hell today.

Here is a Kickstarter you should check out.

Of Dreams and Magic
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/887885342/of-dreams-and-magic

I think they have something cool here and worth checking out.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Ten Favorite RPG Products of All Time

This started over at Dyvers blog and has now spread to others:
http://dyverscampaign.blogspot.com/2014/03/my-ten-favorite-rpg-products-of-all-time.html
http://realmsofchirak.blogspot.com/2014/03/death-bats-top-ten-favorite-rpg-books.html
http://ongoingcampaign.blogspot.com/2014/03/top-10-gaming-products.html

Not sure if this is a thing yet or not.  And many of us have answered these questions in some form or another over the years I am sure.  But it is still fun to read and do.

In no particular order and sometimes the entries are representative of a larger collection.

10. AD&D Monster Manual
The first RPG product I ever held or read.  It grabbed my attention in such a profound way that it is still, 35 years later, to fully quantify.  It fueled a life-time of fun and adventure.
Special Mention: AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide.
Nearly it's equal in effect but a superior book.  It just didn't get to my hands first.
Read more at: 1st Ed, D&D


9. Moldvay D&D Basic Set
A lot of people talk about "the Red Box". My Red Box was magenta and had Erol Otis on the cover.  For me this was the start of what became "my" D&D. Not someone else's game, but my own. I got my first set of dice in the box. I read and reread that book at least hundred times.
Special Mention: Cook/Marsh D&D Expert Set
Again, it might even superior to the Basic box just for everything it added.  But Basic comes first.
Read more at: D&D, Basic



8. Chill
Chill. I have talked about Chill so much and with good reason. This is the mid-west, monster fighting, "bumping back the things that go bump in the night", game where average Joes and Janes can stand against the darkness and walk away at the end.   While I have a special place in my heart for the Mayfair version, it is the 1st edition Pacesetter version that I think back too.
Special Mention: Chill Vampires
If I can only ever have one vampire hunting book then let it be this one.
Read more at: Chill, Vampires



7. Mage the Sorcerer's Crusade
"The Old Ways are Lost".  I love the the Renaissance; the idea of the world waking up out of darkness and ignorance to bring science and learning to all.  Ok. It didn't happen like that, but it can in a game and this if the best of the lot.  Plus it is old school magic versus new world science.  It takes what is great about Mage and makes so much more cooler.
Special Mention: Vampire the Masquerade
You can't have the Sorcerer's Crusade without Mage and you can't have Mage without Vampire the Masquerade.  VtM changed gaming in the 90s and it's effects can still seen today even far beyond gaming.
Read more at:  World of Darkness



6. Ravenloft Boxed Set
I loved the Ravenloft Module I6.  The boxed set Realms of Terror was just the thing I needed for my 2nd Ed games.  I loved horror, vampires, witches and this seemed like the perfect mix for me.  In fact I played so much Ravenloft that it is difficult for me to tease it apart from 2e.  They are the same for me really.
Special Mention:  Ravenloft Masque of the Red Death
What is the only way to improve Ravenloft?  Stick it on 19th century Earth and throw Dracula at the players.  There are many places where this game doesn't work, but I loved it all the same.
Read more at: Ravenloft, Victorian




5. Nightmares of Mine
This handy little guide is everything you need to run every sort of horror game. Straight up horror, survival horror, personal horror, comedy horror. You name it, this book covers it. It is small, but not cheap.
Special Mention: GURPS Horror
I have often complained that GURPS, as a game, has no soul, but the supplements can't be beat.  GURPS Horror is one of my favorites. Like Nightmares of Mine it covers how to play a number of different types of horror games.
Read more at: Horror




4. Call of Cthulhu
THE horror game.  I have always enjoyed the works of Lovecraft and in many ways CoC is not just the first horror game but also the first RPG based on a property.  The system itself, the Basic-Roleplaying System, also gave such fun games as RuneQuest and Elric/Stormbringer.
Special Mention: Cthulhu by Gaslight
As much as I love the cosmic horror of Lovecraft, Gothic horror is one of my first loves.  This is a great mix of both.
Read more at: Call of Cthulhu, BRP, Lovecraft



3. Role-Aids Witches
How could I not put this one up?  I have always rather liked Mayfair and their Role-Aids books.  The quality varies with some being quite bad.  But this one is great.  I had already been working on my own witch for a number of years when this one came out, but seeing it on the shelves made me happy. I knew I was working on something that at least one company liked.  Witches didn't invent the idea of Traditions, but it did help define it a little bit better.  Though I am still not a fan of the Deryni Witch.  Partly because I didn't think their concept worked as a witch and mostly because I had just left an OD&D game where we played Deryni as a race.  But in any case this is still one of my favorite third-part supplements to D&D.
Special Mention: Dragon #114
Most gamers of my generation remember this as the witch issue.  There is a lot to like about it, but what keeps this one around for me is the witch class.
Read more at: Witch



2. Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea
I have gone on and on (and on) about my love of this game. To me it really is the pinnacle of what the OSR could do.  Plus it has such a great feel to it and honestly it combines every that has been on this list so far.  D&D, horror soaked lands, monsters and things from beyond. All in a red box!
Special Mention: Basic Fantasy
Basic Fantasy to me represents the best DIY spirit of OSR and the community. It also happens to be a gret set of rules and is almost exactly how we played our Basic/Advanced D&D mashups back in the 80s.
Read more at: AS&SH, OSR, Basic


1.  C.J. Carella's WitchCraft
There has only been one game ever that has come close to displacing D&D in my heart and that is C.J. Carella's WitchCraft.  For me this game has everything I wanted in a modern game with a great back story, fantastic art and a magic system that really is second to none.
Special Mention: Ghosts of Albion
I know. Totally cheesy mentioning your own game, but it is true. Ghosts of Albion is not only my favorite Victorian game, but also my 256 page love letter to WitchCraft. 
Read more at: Witch, Unisystem, Ghosts of Albion

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space Limited Edition Hardcover Edition (PDF)

The PDF version of Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space Limited Edition Hardcover Edition is now up at DriveThruRPG.



If you have either of the 11th or 10th Doctor version of this game then you have most of the rules and text, though some things look like the are a bit clearer (or I am rereading them for 10th time).  This is one full document as opposed to the multiple PDFs of the "boxed sets".  It also updates the text to reflect the last bits of the Matt Smith seasons and the Day of the Doctor 50th Anniversary special.  So stats for the War Doctor and updated Zygons.

It is an extremely attractive book (256 full color pages).  If you are new to this game then this is the place to start. If you are new to Doctor Who, well then I would say grab the Tenth or Eleventh Doctor version of the rules.  All the same rules, but less emphasis on the the show's own history.   Though there are the story/adventure seeds for all 12 doctors and that is very nice.

I plan on picking this one up in hardback as soon as I can to be honest.  That's how much I enjoy this game.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Across The Sea of Years

A dual stated adventure across Time and Space for.... well that is what I don't know yet.

I have always toyed with the idea of running a game at a con, say like Gen Con where I have multiple days, where it is the same group of characters, or their reincarnations or their children, across time and different systems.   My systems of choice would be Unisystem and some flavor of D&D.  Likely Basic.

I have done similar ideas in Season of the Witch, where I took in ideas from different games to get a different feel.  Generation HEX was conceived as using a different system each game, but that never worked out.

This idea though is two plan a game that takes place in the past, present and maybe future.  Each game is seperate unto itself, but builds a bigger story.

One idea I had was a adventure named "Synchronicity" where characters from Ghosts of Albion meet up with their counterparts from Buffy.  But that is only one, albeit long, game. Plus the system for Ghosts and Buffy is the same.

Another game I have played before is Blight for Ghosts of Albion.  It takes place in 1847 and is an unofficial sequel to my Dark Druid for Buffy (that takes place in an alternate 2001). There is a third adventure in the mix, All Souls Night, which was always designed to go with my Eire game.
I would retool Blight just a bit.  But the Dark Druid is designed for new characters, so the big bad introduced is not all that big and bad.  It works though if I run them in something like a past life regression.

The other idea I had was an adventure around the rise and fall of Elizabeth Bathory.
D&D for when she was alive and you have to stop her (though to be 100% fair, an adventure like that screams LotFP), Ghosts of Albion when she is prowling the streets of Victorian London, and something else (Call of Cthulhu maybe) for later.

I have also over the years toyed with the idea of Doctor Who, Star Frontiers, and Alternity (yeah I have been thinking about this one for a while) for the future.  I think the idea came to me when I wanted to run a hunt Jack the Ripper and I thought back to the old Star Trek episode "A Wolf in the Fold" and to the movie "Time After Time".  Jack the Ripper is still an interesting idea. A time traveling serial killer/entity could make a fun opponent.

Lots of ideas really, but nothing has really jelled yet for me.  Once I have the right story idea and roll for the characters then the system will be easier to decide on.

Anyone done anything like this before?  What did you do and what did you use?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Zatannurday: Superbabes

Been talking about Superbabes all week.  Since I have done Batwoman and Wonder Woman I should also do my other favorite DC Superbabe.

Like with Tarot, Willow and Tara, Zatanna has most of her points in Magic.  Though at Zee's level she gets to be really powerful.

Character: Zatanna Zatara
Age: unknown, older than she looks
Apparent Age: early 30s
Origin: Supernatural Pupil (50cp)
50 CPs

Primary Stats
Muscles: 12 Muscles Damage: +1  Max Press: 200 
Health: 14   Regen, Combat: - Regen, At rest: 1pp/5rds  HTK/Day: 2d6
Moves: 16  Bonus to hit: +1 Movement: 6" Hittability: 6 Initiative Bonus: 1
Brains: 26  Mental Attack Bonus: +3 Mental Hittability: 9
Will: 26  Regen Rate: 2pp/1rds HTK Regen/Day: 2d6
Personality: 101 ("enchanting")
Looks: 52
494 CPs

Secondary Stats
PP: 247
HTK: 114
Fame: 19
Bimbo Points: 1
XP:
Level: 24
CPs:  12 more to spend

Powers
Magic Spells
- Blast 5d6 (60cp)
- Costume Change (40cp)
- Flight 3 (24cp)
- Force Field 20 (120cp)
- Illusions (300cp)
- Misc spells (200cp)
Move things Without Touching Them 200cp
Read Minds (listen & talk) 30cp
Super Senses
- See Magic 20 cp
Visions of Elsewhere 40cp
1034 CPs

Gizmos
Wand (Focus) 10cp
Hat (40 cp to Psi Invulnerability) 10cp
20 CPs

Skills
Acrobatics 20cp
Animal Handler 20cp
Disguise 20cp
Catwalk 20cp
Contacts (Criminal) 20cp
Contacts (Supernatural) 20cp
Languages (English, Egyptian, Greek, Latin, Backwards Talk) 40cp
Occultist 50 cp
Stealth & Concealment 30cp
240 CPs

Character Description
Height: 5'7"
Weight: 137 lbs
Hair: Black
Eyes: Blue
Skin: Caucasian

At 24th level Zee packs a punch.  Most of her points went into powers as expected.  The issue here is Zee's magic is so flexible she can in theory do just about anything.  This is not a new issue, she has the same problem in most games, but here it begins to stand out.  She is full 15 levels more than Willow and Tara and only outclasses them in raw magical talent.

I based these stats on these stats:



Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Damn. There goes *that* idea!

So I am reading Christopher Hitchen's Arguably and I had the great idea for new RPG.

It was going to to be a game where all the characters are investigative reporters of various types.  The idea then you work for a paper, tabloid, news service or blog and investigate.  Their could be supernatural elements (if the "Editor" chooses) or the stories could be played straight.

I'd use something like Fate since it really fits this idea well.  Plus that would give me mechanics for bribery and addictions of various types (or as Hitch might say, Bribery, Boozing and Buggery).

While most of the fiction I read is supernatural in flavor, most of the non-fiction I read deals with news items and the journalists that uncover it.  I just I was just as much impacted by The Hobbit as I was by All the President's Men.

I was going to call it "Scoop! The RPG of Muckrakers, Tabloids and Yellow Journalism".

Turns out that this game already exists.  Of sorts.
"Scoop! An Investigative Reporter RPG" is talked about here, http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/99471-Scoop-An-Investigative-Reporter-RPG-With-Dinosaurs

Ok. So their's has dinosaurs. My wouldn't.
But it is very, very, very close to the same idea.

Damn.  Plus Machine Age Productions, the company that came up with this game also does some games with Fate.

Hmm.  Not sure what I want to do yet.  The easiest of course is not to do it, but that is not very satisfying.
*IF* I still do it, then at least I need to change the name.

Back to the drawing board I guess.

Friday, July 12, 2013

ShadowRun and the Deep Web / Undernet

I was talking to my wife last night about ShadowRun in hopes I would have a review ready for you all today.

That didn't happen.

Instead she distracted me with something she had found out about the Deep Web.



I still want to get a ShadowRun 5 review up soon.  It is pretty cool.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Heroes & Villains Blogfest: Villains & Vigilanties

Today is the Heroes & Villains Blogfest  hosted by Jackie and Dani.  This is Part 1 of my post for that, Part 2 is later today.
http://danibertrand.blogspot.com/2013/06/heroes-villains-blogfest.html


The idea is to talk about our favorite heroes and villains.  But I do that a lot here.  So I am going to do that today, but I also want to talk about about one of my favorite superhero role-playing games.  It is also the first superhero RPG I ever played.  Villains & Vigilantes.
The current edition is the 2nd edition and you can get the classic version from Fantasy Games Unlimited (the one I played) or the new 2.1 edition from Monkey House Games. They are functionally the same, even with the same text and some art.


V&V was written by Jack Herman and Jeff Dee.  Jeff Dee got his start on D&D doing some of the classic module art and book art for the 1st edition game.   So the game has some obvious D&D roots.
V&V was unique at the time (and still somewhat) in that in the game you play yourself.  You work out with the other players what your strength, endurance, intelligence and the rest are and then you roll randomly on a table of super powers.  It's a very interesting and fun concept that we completely ignored.  Back in the day we liked playing a "multi-verse" so our V&V characters were our D&D characters in a supers universe.  The stats were the mostly the same and both games had levels.  Plus it gave us excuses to have strengths of 50 or more (human max is 18).  I remember it being a very good time.

As typical of many old school games there are lots of random rolls, charts and a fair amount of math involved. I went back recently to make a character and was thrilled to see that Monkey House Games had an Excel character sheet.  The math isn't hard really, but Excel is still faster. Though such things have been around for a long time even with the older edition.

Powers are list by type.  So Power Blast is just a blast of some sort of power. It could be Superman's heat vision, Iron Man's repulsors, or even Zatanna's magical blast.   What is interesting is teh combat matrix of powers vs. defenses and how they interact. Again, the D&D DNA is here since it reminds me of the Psionic Powers Attacks vs Defenses in 1st Ed AD&D.

There is a V&V campaign world as well.  It is loosely defined in the core books, but much greater detail is given in the supplements.  It is also one of the few Supers games I can recall where the characters were working for the government at some level.  The ill-fated City of Heroes RPG was another.

There are a couple of great sections on Being a Superhero and Gamemastering that work great with any supers RPG.

IF you like old school RPGs and want to get into a supers game that feels like those, then this is a great choice.  The price is low and there are plenty of places on the web that support either version of the game with materials, character write-ups and community.

A little later today I'll have a write up of a hero and a villain.

See more posts here:

Friday, May 31, 2013

QotA: Elvyra Queen of Witches

While re-reading Quest of the Ancients I thought a good way to bring one of the few stated up characters back over to D&D via The Witch.   I also it might make for a nice homage if one of Vince Garcia's signature characters lived on with my rules.  Like I mentioned in my review of Quest of the Ancients it was obvious to me that we had read a lot of the same books, watched a lot of the same TV shows and listened to a lot of the same music to get to our respective witches.

Plus Elvyra has a connection to the Daughters of the Flame/followers of Brigit. So she has a "hook" in both games.

Here she is in both sets of stats, Elvyra (pronounced "EL-veer-uh" according to the book) the Queen of Witches.  In Vince Garcia or anyone with a copyright claim wants me to remove this then of course I will.

Elvyra -- Queen of Witches (25th level witch)
Gypsy Elf Li 57 by =Falln-Stock
Quest of the Ancients stats
Armour rating: 0 (-5)
Tactical move: 10' or as applicable in different form
BAR: 17/10/54
Stamina paints: 70
Body points: 13
Stots: St 12; Ag 20: Con 14; IQ 20; Ch 20: Ap 20: Lk 19
Attack 1
Dmg: 1D4+5 (dagger) or by spell
Ethics: I
Size: 6' tall
Special note: Shape change at will; possesses Artifact of Power-the Scarlet Flame: her symbol is a 4-armed spiral, eagle or hummingbird.

Elvyra appears as a tall elf with flaming red hair, typically attired in blue and white with a red sash but her waist. Upon her head she wears a silver crown over which floats large emerald acting as a device that doubles her 1st-3rd rank spell slots. She thus possesses 40 slots of each of these spell ranks, and 20 slots each of ranks 4th-7th
The flame removed from the temple was later enchanted into her wand focus, creating an Artifact of Power known as the Scarlet Flame. It appears as a wood and silver scepter with a huge ruby set into its tip, containing a burning name within. The wand absorbs all spells directed at the possessor, converting their ranks into potential that regenerates any stat loss, similarly to the Mind Sapphire of Serpen. In addition, the wielder is able to use any fire-based spell at the 35th level of skill at a cost of 1 charge off the wand per spellrank, castable in a single phase.
Elvrya's rarely used melee weapon consists of a BF 5 unicorn horn dagger, which provides the further benefit of making her immune to poison and disease of any sort.
One interesting fact about her relates to her ability to shape change (as per the witch spell) at will. When she remains in a single form, her eyes change color each minute.
The Queen has existed in legend since the dawn of time, and most believe that if she yet lives, she and her followers no longer remain on the Nexus, but instead dwell with their goddess, the Queen of Faerie, within Her enchanted realm. Nevertheless, some have claimed to have encountered the Witch Queen in the midst of isolated sylvan woodlands, and in a rugged area of volcanoes in Naz-Al. It is even been reported that she frequents the Witchwood, a forest in Avalon, but this story is given little credence.
If she is encountered, she will either be accompanied by her familiar, her chief handmaiden or both (20%/30%/50%). Last of all, Elvyra is believed to know lost spells that are vastly more powerful than many used today.

Elvyra - Queen of Witches (25th level witch)
The Witch stats

Strength: 12 Death Ray, Poison 5
Dexterity: 18 Magic Wands 6
Constitution: 14 Paralysis, Polymorph or Turn to Stone 5
Intelligence: 18 Dragon Breath 8
Wisdom: 18 Rods, Staffs, Spells 7
Charisma: 18

Hit Points: 55
Alignment: Neutral
AC: 1 (Bracers of Defense)

Occult Powers (Faerie Tradition)
Familiar: White Dragon Tiger
7th level: Speak to Plants/Animals
13th level: Fae Shape
19th level: Curse
25th level: Shape Change

Spells
Cantrips (7): Alarm Ward, Daze, Detect Curse, Object Reading, Open, Spark, Warm
First (7): Bewitch I, Cause Fear, Command, Faerie Fire, Minor Fighting Prowess, Sleep, Spirit Dart
Second (7): Alter Self, Biting Blade, Blast Sheild, Enthrall, Evil Eye, Hold Person, Phantasmal Spirit
Third (6): Astral Sense, Bestow Curse, Continual Fire, Feral Spirit, Fly, Improved Faerie Fire
Fourth (6): Air Walk, Betwitch IV, Dance Macabre, Neutralize Poison, Spiritual Dagger, Withering Touch
Fifth (5): Anti-Magic Candle, Blade Dance, Dream, Primal Scream, Song of Discord
Sixth (5): Break the Spirit, Control Weather, Find the Path, Moonbow, True Seeing
Seventh (4):  Ball of Sunshine, Breath of the Goddess, Etherealness, Serpent Garden
Eighth (4): Astral Projection, Greater Mislead, Mystic Barrier, Wail of the Banshee

In my games Elvyra didn't steal Brigit's Flame, but rescued it.   There is still a long standing cold war between the Queen of Witches and the Daughters of the Flame covens (the Eula want to forgive her, the Brenna want her to pay for what they still feel is the theft of the flame), though both factions of the coven want a better accounting on how she made the wand the Scarlet Flame.


Oh and if you don't have this song going through your head while reading this then you are not as old school as you think you are.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Obscure Fantasy RPGs Appreciation Day

oie Umu0 PWl3 Ploq
Tomorrow is The Obscure Fantasy RPGs Appreciation Day hosted by Mesmerized by Sirens.

http://mesmerizedbysirens.blogspot.com/2013/05/announcing-obscure-fantasy-rpgs.html

I am just about ready to go myself.

Looking forward to this one.  I love really obscure RPGs.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

What is Obscure? Obscure RPGs.

I'll admit. I consider myself well informed on all sorts of topics related to RPGs.  I get to go to a lot of auctions, talk to people online and spent quite a lot of time editing and researching RPG articles on Wikipedia.
But there is always some game that comes up that surprises me. More to the point it also seems to be a game that has a small, but dedicated following.

That is why I am looking forward to the Obscure RPG Appreciation Day hosted by Mesmerized by Sirens.

oie Umu0 PWl3 Ploq


I was in my game room looking over books.  The deal is the obscure RPG has to be Fantasy. I have a lot of Obscure Horror.  Hmm.

I have an idea of what I want to do, and I think it might even be a good choice for me in particular.

But mostly I am looking forward to see what everyone else is going to do.   So I'd like to see a lot of participants in this for purely selfish reasons.  I want to know what little hidden gems are in your collection that I might not know about.

Monday, April 15, 2013

M is also for Migraine, MRIs, May, Mars and Majus

So what's on my mind lately?  Well. Have a look for yourself.



Yeah that's my brain stuff.  I have had migraines my entire life, recently though (two weeks in fact) they have been turned up to 12.   So we are trying to figure out what is causing them.
My posting will be sporadic   It's hard to think with a constant pain in your head.  Harder when I am taking the drugs to dull the pain.

But that is a cool picture though.   I still remember enough of my psych to id all major parts.  Good news is that my doctor does not expect to see anything "devastating" in his words. But who knows.  The pain sucks.

Anyway...other things are going on.

I am SO woefully behind in reviews that I am going to spend a lot of time in May catching up.

I'd also love to detail a Mars/Barsoom game using OD&D or S&W.  That would be awesome really.
Something like this, Warriors of Mars.

Don't forget that the Majus Kickstarter is still going on.
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1895361773/majus-a-magic-noir-pacesetter-game


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