Showing posts with label unisystem. Show all posts
Showing posts with label unisystem. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 5 Tribute

This is not the Greatest RPG in the World.  This is just a Tribute.


I have gone on record many, many times on how I feel that CJ Carella's WitchCraft is one of the, if not the, greatest RPGs I have ever played.  Yes. Even better than D&D.

I have also gone on record stating that my Ghosts of Albion game is really nothing more than an extended love letter to WitchCraft in Victorian prose.

Really, I would love to see an update to WitchCraft from Eden, but I am not holding my breath for it.

Another tribute is NIGHT SHIFT.

Night Shift is a tribute to the types of games Jason and I have been fond of playing over the years we have known each other.  So there are tributes here to Old-school D&D, to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, to Chill, to Call of Cthulhu and of course to WitchCraft. 


As much as I love Ghosts of Albion and Night Shift they can't take the place that WitchCraft has in my heart.  There are some things that both games can do better than WitchCraft, I did have the advantage of playing many games to add to my experiences, but still, WitchCraft remains.

Maybe one day some designer will write their tribute to Ghosts of Albion or to Night Shift!

And since we are talking tributes.



Which is, of course, a tribute to this, 



Friday, April 17, 2020

PWWO: Calidar, Part 2

A while back I a did a "Plays Well With Others" for Calidar. It's pretty to do, there are a lot of great ideas and it has a system that lends itself well to easy conversion.  After doing a series of reviews I thought another go at another PWWO.

The Reviews
For this PWWO I think I am going to focus mostly on Calidar On Wings of Darkness and related products.  In particular the various magic schools featured in Caldwen.

Given the various conversion guides and the rules presented in the books, mathematical style conversions are less of an issue, the big factor is more how do I replicate the same feel of Calidar in a different game while still preserving what I liked about the original game.

Calidar and "New" D&D


These are the easiest of course.  The level limits for both D&D 5 and Pathfinder are a set 20. So follow along with the rules for 20 levels.  D&D 5 and Pathfinder characters tend to be more powerful than their same-level counterparts in older editions.  Cantrips really boost what a Wizard can do every round even at the lowest levels.  Plus the addition of cantrips can become an interesting element to the wizard school. 1st level wizards/magic-users have a lot more they can do.

Retro-Clones


These conversions are handled by various current products and upcoming products from Calidar.  Plus these mimic the games played by most of the people involved with the Calidar lines.

Calidar and Glantri


Let's address the obvious mix here.  Bruce Heard is fairly well known for his work on the Mystara lines and Glantri in particular.  You can use details from one mage school for the other, they are roughly compatible in style, and it makes either product a little more robust.  You do lose a little of the unique feel of Calidar this way if you set it all in Glantri.  Though what I have been doing is considering setting the caldera on the north pole.  The whole area is hidden away from the rest of the world.  Still playing with this idea.


I am using the "Mystoerth" map for this. I made a globe, and see there is some room up on top. Enough for Calidar?  I have not done the math yet, but it looks right.   I still to play around with it.

That is if my next idea doesn't take over.

Mage: The Sorcerer's Crusade


This idea has grabbed my imagination.  Calidar has a great early Renaissance feel to it.  So somewhere between Dark Ages Mage and Mage the Sorcerer's Crusade is a perfect time.  In this case I would use Calidar as is, but the game system would be White Wolf's Mage.
What I have not decided yet is if the various schools represent Spheres (which means Mages would need to attend to multiple schools) or Traditions (which would make the rivalries more intense).
So everyone in "How to Train Your Wizard" would be part of the Euthatoi.   I think just to have some fun I would keep the Verbena out of it unless I work in the Glantri Wokani.

There is a lot I would love to do with that idea.  D&D backdrop, Calidar setting, Mage/White Wolf rules.  The possibilities are staggering, to be honest.

Conversion though is a bigger issue.  The Calidar system is pretty flexible, but it is level-based to a large degree. Mage uses the White Wolf Storyteller system which is a dice pool system. So the conversion books won't be much help here save to figure out some guidelines.  Still maybe if I can dig up a copy of Monte Cook's d20 World of Darkness it might give me some ideas.

WitchCraft


Nothing specific yet.  But if I can convert Mage I can convert this a lot easier.

Most likely I would combine a lot of these ideas to make the schools in Calidar a little less D&D and little more Scholomance if possible.

Blue Rose AGE


Ah.  Now here is something that would be a lot of fun.
I would need to make some changes to what kinds of magics could be taught at the schools, but AGE is level-based and so should convert well.  Green Ronin already did some of the heavy lifting for me with their converting for Fantasy AGE.

The bottom line is that Calidar gives me a great magic school that I really want to drop anywhere.

Plus it gives a Fantasy-era Breakbills and an excuse to do this:



And any excuse to put more Brakebills into my games is a good one.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Classic Adventures Revisited: B1 In Search of the Unknown

I want to look back at some of my favorite classic adventures both from TSR and others.  I'll give a review, though most everyone knows what is in these adventures by now, I'll also talk about how I have used them in the past and I'll also talk about what other games I have used them with or would like too.  So there is a little bit of Plays Well With Others in this too.

Why do classic adventures? Easy, I love these adventures.  I have written hundreds of my own adventures, some I have even published, but these are the adventures that everyone knows and we all have a history with.

B1 In Search of the Unknown
In Search of the Unknown was not the first adventure ever created, it was not even the first TSR adventure ever created.  It was though one of the very first adventures I ever encountered and one of the first I ever ran.

This is my "go-to" adventure anytime I want to start up a new group or game.  It's a ritual for me, roll up characters and run them through the halls of the lost Castle of Quasqueton. I still have my copy that I bought all those years ago and it was also one of the first PDFs I purchased from WotC. I also have the DriveThruRPG Print on Demand copy and it is very nice.



It is one of those adventures I can run with zero prep time and each time I learn something new or remember something I forgot. This module is simple, easy to use and can be adapted to any campaign world and even any game. It is a perfect module for the Basic game.

The adventure is a great case of both teaching tool for learning DMs (we were all new to this once) and DIY Dungeon.  Some areas are detailed, but many are not, leaving room for the neophyte DM to record what monsters and treasure were in each room.  There are also a plethora of cliche spawning Dungeon tropes, that were just getting started here.  Magic mouths, one-way secret doors, a mysterious creator of the dungeon, or in this case, two, and strange magical artifacts.

This adventure was the perfect learning tool for me at the time since my own version of D&D was a mix of Holmes Basic and the AD&D Monster Manual.   This "Basic" introductory module was released before the Basic game, but it moves elegantly between Basic and Advanced that begs you to mix and match your rules systems.  Author Mike Carr even gives some guidelines on how to use this adventure with AD&D.


Note how the using this adventure with AD&D is absent from the later printings.


The module is pretty typical for the time. 32 pages of b/w art and text. Detached cover with blue maps printed on the inside of the cover. The first 6 pages are dedicated to running the adventure and how to run this one in particular.

I have used this adventure to start every new campaign I have ever run in D&D, regardless of the edition.  The dungeon crawl here is so primal that it calls out to you. A true In Search of the Unknown indeed.   The one thing I never did, however, was to investigate more about who Rogahn and Zelligar were and why they left their lair of Castle Quasquenton.

One thing that B1 did give me, in a roundabout way, was my very first witch NPC Marissia.  She is in the lower parts of Quasquenton and she is attempting to summon the spirit of her master Zelligar and her father Rogahn.




The adventure has stood the test of time and it is a great combination of flexible dungeon design.  Nearly anything can be put into this adventure to raise or lower the difficulty as needed.

DriveThruRPG and DMSGuild offer this as both a PDF and Print On Demand.






B1 Legacy of the Unknown
This adventure is billed as a "sequel" from Pacesetter Games & Simulations.  It furthers the mystery of Rogahn and Zelligar and what they were doing.  There is a druid in this adventure named "Melissia" which I thought was very fun and worked as some sort of relative (daughter may be) of my own "Marissia", a witch NPC I always included in my own runnings of B1 In Search of the Unknown.

You can get this adventure from DriveThruRPG (PDF only) or from Pacesetter's own store (Print and PDF). While overtly designed for AD&D1/OSRIC, it would be a great fit for Pacesetter's own BX RPG.  In fact, it might fit better.

Other Games / Plays Well With Others

Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition
The simplicity of B1 has made it an enduring adventure for over 40 years.  I have used it with every version of D&D I have ever played. But if you want everything at your fingertips for easy conversions I do recommend the Classic Modules Today conversion of B1 In Search of the Unknown.
Goodman Games also offers their Original Adventures Reincarnated, with B1 and it's various printings going into their Into the Borderlands Hardcover. It features the original printings of the original module as a complete 5th edition update.
There is also a set of maps that can be printed out or used with virtual tabletops.

B1 and Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea
Like many old-school adventures, one merely needs to turn up the horror aspect to give it a good run in Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.  Though there is not much that needs to be done to change it.  There is a feeling that Rogahn and Zelligar were messing with the forces of chaos a little more than they should have been.  Make that Chaos now with a capital "C" and we are getting the adventure closer to what we might see in AS&SH.  The one thing that always struck me about Quasquenton is that it is all underground.  It's not a castle, not really, but a warren.  Eric Fabiaschi suggests that the complex had been built by one of the older Lovecraftian races and the adventurers Rogahn and Zelligar only found it later.  It seems to fit for me.
Also given that B1 is an odd admixture of proto-Basic D&D, OD&D, and AD&D, the feel is perfect for AS&SH.


B1 and Blue Rose
In this mix, the chaos elements run the other direction so to speak.  Here Rogahn and Zelligar stumble upon an element of Shadow while constructing their castle/lair.   Maybe it has something to do with what I call the "Chaos Stone", Room 45/XLV "Cavern of the Mystical Stone".  This is obviously some artifact of Shadow and it either drone Rogahn and Zelligar mad, killed them or caused them to kill each other, or destroyed them outright.  Maybe all the above.
When converting ANY D&D adventure to Blue Rose I take some points from Fantasy Age where I can. In particular the monsters.  Typically in Blue Rose, you would not see this concentration of monsters in one place, the Chaos Stone/Mystical Stone is drawing them near.   As Envoys of the Sovereign, it would the character's jobs to find out what is going on and how to stop it.   I would give more background to Rogahn and Zelligar and stat up Marrissia a little more.
While this is a good "first-level" adventure in D&D, the implication of Shadow here makes this a much more dangerous enterprise.

Step with care here Envoys. More than your life is at stake.


B1 and Army of Darkness
One of my favorite mixes, but not my top favorite (more on that one next time).  Army of Darkness allows for all sorts of crazy adventures.  For the same reasons that B1 works for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, it works for this.  So imagine this, you have a party of Primative Screwheads, they are out in the woods. It starts to rain.  They find an entrance to a cave and boom, suddenly it is horror movie shenanigans. Monsters chasing you, weird-ass artifacts and cultists who are somehow still alive from the Middle Ages.  Have at least one archeologist to talk about how insane this all is and then go monster hunting and maybe, just maybe stop the forces of Chaos from ruling the world.  Use Dungeons & Zombies as your guide to covert D&D to Cinematic Unisystem.



Saturday, August 17, 2019

#RPGaDAY2019: One

Today's topic is One.

Every so often the topic comes up of what RPG would you choose if you could only choose one.

If I over-think it, it becomes hard. There are so many great RPGs out there.  So many that I love and have loved playing.  But if I could only choose one, forever, then the choice becomes clear and easy.

CJ Carella's WitchCraft RPG.


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.  Granted a lot was going on in 1999/2000 both gaming-wise and personal that may have added to this effect, it was an effect all the same.

Back in 1999, I was really burned out on D&D.   I was working on my own Witch netbook and reading a bunch of different games when someone, I forget where, must have been the old RAVENLOFT-L that TSR/WotC used to run, told me I really need to check out WitchCraft.  At first, I balked.  I had tried Vampire a couple years ago and found I didn't like it (and I was very much out of my vampire phase then), but I was coming home from work and my FLGS was on the way, so I popped in and picked up a copy.  This must have been the early spring of 2000.

I can recall sitting in my office reading this book over and over. Everything was so new again, so different.  This was the world I had been trying, in vain, to create for D&D but never could.  The characters in this book were also all witches, something that pleased me to no end, it was more than just that.  Plus look at that fantastic cover art by George Vasilakos. That is one of my most favorite, is not my favorite, cover for a gamebook. I have it hanging in my game room now.

WitchCraft uses what is now called the "Classic" Unisystem system.  So there are 6 basic attributes, some secondary attributes (derived), skills and qualities and drawbacks.  Skills and attributes can be mixed and matched to suit a particular need.

WitchCraft uses a Point-Buy Metaphysics magic system, unlike Ghosts of Albion's levels of magic and spells system.  Think of each magical effect as a skill that must be learned and you have to learn easier skills before the harder ones first.    In D&D, for example, it is possible to learn Fireball and never have learned Produce Flame.  In WitchCraft you could not do that.  WitchCraft though is not about throwing around "vulgar magics".  WitchCraft is a survival game where the Gifted protect humanity from all sorts of nasty things, from forgotten Pagan gods, to demons, fallen angels and the Mad Gods; Cthulhoid like horrors from beyond.  WitchCraft takes nearly everything from horror and puts all together and makes it work.

The Eden Studios version was the Second Edition, I was later to find out.  The first one was from Myrmidon Press. I managed to find a copy of that one too and it was like reading the same book, from an alternate universe.  I prefer the Eden Edition far more for a number of reasons, but I am still happy to have both editions.

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.  (dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria).

It is most often compared to World of Darkness, but there are things WitchCraft does that I just like better.  Unlike (old) Mage there is no war between the (good) Mages and the (evil) Technocracy.  There is a war certainly, but nothing so cut and dry.  Unlike new Mage, there are rarely clean divisions between the factions.  Yes, yes Mage players, I am being overly simple, but that is the point, on the simple levels new Mage dives everything into 5 because that is how the designers want it.  There are factions (Associations) and there are different metaphysics for each, but also overlap, and sometimes no clear and defined lines are to be found or given.  It feels very organic.

In my opinion, C. J. Carella may be one of the best game designers out there.  WitchCraft is a magnum opus that few achieve.  I took that game and I ran with it.  For 2000 - 2003 it was my game of choice above and beyond anything.  The Buffy RPG, built on the Cinematic Unisystem took over until I wrote Ghosts of Albion, which also use the Cinematic Unisystem.  I mix and match the systems as I need, but WitchCraft is still my favorite.

WitchCraft, in fact, is what got me into professional game design.

Back in the Spring/Summer of 2001, I started up a new game.  I had just purchased the WitchCraft RPG book about 16 months prior and I was looking for something new.  That something came to me in the guise of Willow and Tara.  I had been watching Buffy for a bit and I really enjoyed the character of Willow.  When she got together with fellow witch Tara I thought they were perfect.  I had become very involved in the online Willow/Tara fandom so I created a game, focusing on just them.

The game would focus on just these two, no one else from the show (which I would soon become an ex-fan of, but that is a different story).  Plus it gave me something to try out in a modern setting, something I have not done since my days with the Chill RPG.

The trickiest part of developing game stats of any fictional character that belongs to someone else is knowing how to strike a balance between the game's rules and the fictional portrayal. A lot of "artistic" license needs to be used in order to get a good fit. For example, how do you determine what some one's strength is when there is little to no on-screen evidence? What spells would the girls have?

In the end, I decided to play it a little loose, but I love where their stats ended up.  In many ways, this is who Willow and Tara are to me, not the characters on TV or comics, but the ones that were my characters since that day back in May 2001 that I decided they needed their own chance to shine.

After this, I went on to work on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG.  It should be no surprise then that the Willow and Tara stats that appear there are not that much different than my own.  I can be quite vocal in playtests.  That got me the chance to write the Ghosts of Albion RPG. This also allowed me to meet, work with and remain friends with Christopher Golden and Amber Benson.

WitchCraft paved the way for so many other games for me, not just in terms of playing but in writing.  If it were not for WitchCraft then we would not have had Buffy, Angel or Army of Darkness.  Conspiracy X would have remained in its original system. There would be no Terra Primate or All Flesh Must Be Eaten and certainly, there would be no Ghosts of Albion.  The game means that much to me.

But you don't have to take my word for it, Eden Studios will let you have it, sans some art, for free.
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product_info.php?products_id=692&it=1&affiliate_id=10748

Download it.  If you have never played anything else other than D&D then you OWE it yourself to try this game out.

My thing is I wish it was more popular than it is.  I love the game. If I was told I could only play one game for the rest of my life then WitchCraft would be it.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

#RPGaDAY2019: Engage

Today's topic is Engage.

How do you engage your players?


When I am running a new game with new people I will often drop them into the middle of combat.  This is a trick I learned when I was writing and promoting Ghosts of Albion.   To get the players used to the new system I would put them into a situation where they didn't need to worry about character, they could get a handle on the rules fast and combat in Ghosts is easy.

In other games, I try to focus on the strengths of the game. For example, Mage (either one) is less about reality-warping magic and more the people that have this power.  So here I want to get the players to think about what makes their characters do what they want.  In D&D similarily, why do these characters what to leave the comforts of home and go out on an adventure?  In Call of Cthulhu what makes the characters want to investigate these horrors they know will likely get them killed?

Engagement is the key. Getting people to the table is part of the task, but keeping them there is the difficult part. Keeping them coming back for more, that's the work of a master.




Tuesday, February 19, 2019

TBBYANR: The Wasted Lands

Whoa. A Best Blog You Are Not Reading post? 
Yes!  This is a feature I wanted to bring back for 2019 to give a shout out to some lesser know, lesser read blogs or at least ones people may not talk about much.

Today I want to feature a blog that has been around forever, out there doing his own thing.

Jason Vey runs the Wasted Lands blog


Now I have known Jason for years.  We worked at Eden together, worked on the Buffy RPG at the same time.  He playtested my Ghosts of Albion for Eden I playtested his All Flesh Must Be Eaten books for Eden.  I playtested his Spellcraft & Swordplay retro-game and many other games.
So we have been working together for nearly 20 years really.

Among other things Jason also is the author/designer of the Amazing Adventures game from Troll Lords and did a lot of work on various Castles & Crusades projects.  So he has a solid game design reputation and CV.

The Wasted Lands is his deep dive, scholarly work into older editions of D&D, in particular, OD&D and AD&D first edition

He covers a lot of OD&D topics.  In fact I bought my white box OD&D 5th printing off of him because he had an extra.
He covers AD&D First Edition, he is now up to Part 45 of his read through of the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide.
And more recently he did a long series of posts on Psionics in the OD&D and AD&D games.

And today, much closer to our shared roots, he posted stats for the cast of Buffy the Vampire Slayer for OD&D.

Jason is also something a legitimate Robert E. Howard and Conan scholar.

So do yourself a favor and check out his blog. Start with what I have linked above and don't ignore his Star Wars posts.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Plays Well With Others: DP&D Cryptid Manual

There is just over a week to go for the Dark Places & Demogorgons Cryptid Manual and I have been enjoying the hell out of my preview copy.

Back in the late 70s and early 80s I devoured books about cryptids, monsters, and UFOs.  Honestly, when I wasn't reading books about the occult or witches, I was reading this stuff.
I guess that is one of the reasons why this book (and this game) hit such a nerve with me.

Plus I love monster books. Always have.

So naturally, I want to use this book everywhere I can.


First and foremost, the Cryptid Manual is 90% compatible with Swords & Wizardry White Box. There is not a lot of overlap in monsters, so this makes the CM a perfect monster book for S&WWB players.  Also, there are a lot of "new" monsters in S&W for the DP&D player/GM.  Who's to say that an alien life form could resemble an orc or a wyvern.

In fact, this is true for nearly every clone. The clone game provides monsters for DP&P and the Cryptid Manual provides new monsters for your clone of choice.  You just need to justify why they are there.


The tone of The Hero's Journey is different than the other Clones, but with a tiny bit of tinkering the adventure-centric tone of THJ can work with the dark conspiracy tone of DP&D.  I mean really, isn't a Bigfoot just another kind of forest spirit?  I bit like a wilder, but less evil, ogre or troll.



B/X Essentials is an interesting game and one I will delve into more on future posts.  There is essentially a B/X Essentials Monster Manual.  Either or both can be used with both or either game and all fit well.  I think the only overlapping monster is the Medusa, and they are close enough to each other as to be the same creature with local variations.
Both games have a monster Morale score.  I have not done the math to see if these morale scores are 100% compatible, but they feel that way and are based on the same Basic mechanic.
If you like either game then consider picking up the other monster book for even more monsters.




I think the claim that the Cryptid Manual is a good book for any OSR game is a solid one.
I have been wanting to add a Hodag to my games for YEARS.

Now adding this book to an OSR/Clone book is easy. The hard part is figuring out why or how Chupacabras are out running around with the likes of elves and dragons.

Something that might help is looking at other games that cover many of the same creatures and ideas.


Dark Places & Demogorgons holds the same place that is/was occupied by Chill.  I can pretty much take any Chill adventure I developed and re-run under DP&D.  The Chill Monsters book covers a lot of the same ground as the Cryptid Manual.  The advantage of picking up the Monsters book has more information on each creature and a few new ones.  The Cryptid Manual also has a few new creatures for Chill players as well.  For conversions, I would find similar creatures in the books and use that as a template.

Chill's focus is more international and more adult.  BUT a great idea I had was to play a Chill game with some investigators and do a "flashback" adventure of when they were kids using DP&D.  Players of both games should check out the other books for lots of ideas.



The same is true of Eden's Conspiracy X 2.0.

The focus is even more X-Files than Chill is.  There is also a greater focus on Extraterrestrials than in Chill.  Like Chill, there is a feeling that Con X might be the "sequel" of the DP&P game.  Again a fun idea would be to run a Con X game, but pull out DP&D for a "flashback" adventure to when the characters were all children. 

Think about it in terms of the X-Files.  You are playing Fox Mulder as an FBI Agent working on the X-Files (Con X), but the GM wants to go back and try playing Fox as a kid when his sister gets taken by Aliens (DP&D).  It could be a flashback, an alien device that makes him relive it or he is in therapy and his doctor tries memory regression.  There is a ton of different things you can do. 

The systems are not compatible, but I am pretty fluent in both systems and did some of the work already for my Sunny Valley, OH Buffy game.

So, yes the Cryptid Manual is a remarkablly useful and flexible book that I can already use for a dozen or so games, and I plan on doing so.  Hodags! Hodags in every game!!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Plays Wells With Others: Dark Places & Demogorgons and Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Reading over Dark Places & Demogorgons I could not help but make comparisons to another game of strange things going on with high school kids fighting monsters.   Of course, I am talking about the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG.


Both games deal with fighting the unknown, both games deal high school students and both games are steeped in 80s clichés and pop-culture.  Where Buffy attempted to subvert those clichés, Dark Places & Demogorgons embraces them.

I am just throwing this out here, I have a lot of issues with Joss Whedon.  I think he is an asshole.
But I am damn proud of the work I did on the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG.

Reading through the core of DP&D and all the supplements it became very, very obvious what game I need to run.

Welcome to Sunny Valley, OH
"I am certain that whoever named this place Sunny Valley was having a joke on us. The winters are long, cold and dark. It rains in the spring and fall. I think they named the place in the three days of the summer we do get sun.  Not to mention the werewolves, the vampires and oh yeah the Hellmouth just outside of town.  Welcome to Sunny Valley Ohio California girl. Bet you can't wait to leave."
- Alexander "Alex" Harris to Elizabeth "Buffy" Summers.

I decided to take the entire "Buffy Package" and drop it wholesale to the Midwest and set it all in 1984.  There are some changes that need to be made.

In this new setting Elizabeth Anne "Buffy" Summers moved from sunny California to the ironically named Sunny Valley, Ohio.  As a nod to my friend and co-author on many of the Buffy books, Thom Marrion, who was going to do a series of Buffy books set in Cleveland, I wanted to do this in Ohio.  Cleveland is the "big city", but I never detail how far it is.

There is a Hellmouth, but is more indistinct.  No one is sure where it is, but they all know it's there.  There are two high schools, Sunny Valley Prep (the "good" school, where we start) and Sunny Valley Community High (the "bad" school).

Elizabeth Anne "Buffy" Summers
Class: Monster Hunter (vampires)  Level: 5
Alignment: Good
Languages: English, French
Age: 15

Attributes
STR: 18 +3
INT: 12 +0
WIS: 12 +0
DEX: 18 +3
CON: 18 +3
CHA: 16 +2
SUR: 18 +3

AC: 15     HP: 35    Attack Bonus +4 / +7 (vs. vampires)

Courage: 6 (additional +3 vs. vampires)
Critical: 5
Death: 6
Mental: 4
Poison: 5

Background
Mother is rarely at home.
Annoying little sister.

Class Abilities
+3 to hit, track, dmg to Vampires
+1 Toughness

Skills
Outdoorsmanship +4, Paranormal +5, Knowledge (Historical) +2, Brawling, Persuasion +2, Basic Athletics +3, Stealth +2

Possessions
Leather jacket, pants, stakes

Money: $30

This version of Buffy is actually named Elizabeth. She is a former California girl and now lives here with her mom and weird little sister. She is a Slayer, but she has no idea how or why.  There are no Watchers here in Sunny Valley, no Giles.  Elizabeth just knows she is strong, fast and she can sense vampires.
At the end of Series 1 she dies, but only for a little bit.  This gives us Faith Lehanne, a wild girl from Sunny Valley Community High.

Faith Lehanne
Class: Monster Hunter (vampires)  Level: 5
Alignment: Neutral
Languages: English
Age: 14

Attributes
STR: 17 +2
INT: 12 +0
WIS: 10 +0
DEX: 18 +3
CON: 18 +3
CHA: 17 +2
SUR: 18 +3

AC: 15     HP: 32    Attack Bonus +3 / +6 (vs. vampires)

Courage: 5 (additional +2 vs. Vampires)
Critical: 5
Death: 4
Mental: 3
Poison: 4

Background
Parents are dead, lives with Aunt
Dirt poor

Class Abilities
+2 to hit, track, dmg to Vampires
+1 Toughness

Skills
Outdoorsmanship +4, Paranormal +4, Knowledge (local ) +1, Brawling, Intimidation +4, Street Smarts +4, Stealth +2

Possessions
Leather jacket, pants, stakes

Money: $0

Faith shows up in Series 2 from SVCHS where she makes an impression by killing two vamps right away.  She introduces us to her friend Tara, and she and Willow start to spend a lot of time together.



Both Buffy and Faith are built using the Monster Hunter class from DP&D: Player Options & GM Guide.  In truth I could build a "Slayer" class, but I didn't really want to do that.  I wanted to try them out Rules As Written.

In general the cast would be much younger than the TV show.  Anywhere from 2 to 3 years younger. This fits perfectly with DP&D but changes the dynamic a little.   For starters, I would downplay the sexual tension to almost nothing, or at least a slow burn.  A 200+-year-old vampire prey on a 17-year-old sounds bad.  Preying on a 14-15-year-old sounds worse for some reason.  I am also going to give Faith the benefit of the doubt here.   During my Buffy game Season of the Witch, I pointed out that what the show writers had done to her essentially was so contradictory that the character was broken beyond repair.  So what if I took a potential "Bad Girl" and instead gave her a friend.  Maybe someone she saved from some bullies.  Enter Tara.  In this world Faith saved Tara from being picked on because of her poor family and the open secret that she is gay; something that was still very hard to deal with in the 80s.  Both girls help each other out till they meet the cast.

Dawn Summers
Class: Telekinetic  Level: 1
Alignment: Good
Languages: English
Age: 11

Attributes
STR: 10 +0
INT: 12 +0
WIS: 16 +2
DEX: 12 +0
CON: 14 +1
CHA: 12 +0
SUR: 16 +2

AC: 10     HP: 4    Attack Bonus +0

Courage: 3
Critical: 2
Death: 3
Mental: 4
Poison: 2

Background
Mother is rarely at home.

Class Abilities
Telekinesis, Psionic Attack, Psionic Push

Skills
Paranormal +1, Investigation +1, Knowledge (local) +1, Stealth +1, Video Games +1
Psionic Attack +1

Possessions
Bike, Backpack, Journal describing how she used her powers in secret.

Money: $10

In my games, Dawn developed psychic powers.  Maybe not Jean Grey levels, but certainly Carrie ones.  I thought it would be fun if the "Annoying Kid Sister" trope was subverted by making her Powered.  She was built with the optional Psionic classes in the Core Rule book.

I also did Cordelia Chase (basically an archetype "Princess"), Alexander "Alex" Harris (a "Geek" due to his Star Trek obsession), Oz (Metalhead turned Werewolf) and Angel (Teen Heartthrob turned Vampire).

What can DP&D Players get from Buffy?
The Buffy RPG is a great game that focuses a lot on the high school experience and how fighting monsters can be a metaphor for life in High School. Personally, I think EVERY player and GM of DP&D needs to read Chapter 7: Episodes, Seasons and Drama. It is hands down the best chapter written about running anytime of modern supernatural game or a game set around High School age kids.  The mechanics on Drama Points and their use would also be useful.
And of course all the monsters, vampires and demons the book has would be helpful to any DP&D GM.

What can Buffy Players get from DP&D?
The Buffy RPG is a mature game.  Not just in content, but shelf-life.  I know people that are still playing the game 15+ years later.   For me, DP&D has given me a breath of fresh air and has re-energized my Buffy-related experiences.  Hell, this is the first honest to goodness Buffy campaign idea since Season of the Witch and that was more than 12 years ago.
The "Back to Basics" feel of DP&D cannot be ignored or understated.  It really helped me think of this game in a different way.


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Love Will Have Its Sacrifices: Carmilla and Laura for the Buffy RPG

Some pairings just work so well that it feels like the universe clicks into place.
This is one of those times.

Carmilla is a web series based on the Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu short story of the same name.  Like many (MANY) updates to Carmilla, this takes place in modern times.  We have Laura Hollis (played by super cute Elise Bauman) a 19-year-old freshman at Silas University in Styria, Austria.  Laura starts a VLog when here roommate Elizabeth Ann "Betty" Spielsdorf goes missing.  Laura, a journalism student with an over-protective father, decides to investigate and her suspicions fall squarely on her new roommate, Carmilla Karnstein (played wonderfully by Natasha Negovanlis).

Along the way, we meet Lola Perry (Annie Briggs) a German-language student, compulsive neat freak (and former below-average witch) her best friend S. LaFontaine (Kaitlyn Alexander), a non-binary cool science geek biology student, and Danny Lawrence (Sharon Belle) a 6'2" (no really, she is that freaking tall) English lit TA.

The first season, 36 episodes, covers the relationship between Laura and Carmilla as well as the mystery of all the missing girls. The next two seasons (36 episodes each) cover other issues facing the often tormented students of Silas University. Including fighting the Faerie Queen Titania, the Deep One Dagon, oh and getting in the middle of a 3 millennia-old war between Inanna and Ereshkigal.  Fun times.

The writing is witty. It is a geek-filled romp with plenty of nerdy pop cultural references. I wanted to die every time I saw Laura drink out of her TARDIS cup.  And these were not just fan-service nods these were legitimate geek moments.
The acting is great and the chemistry between the two leads is some of the best I have seen in a long, long time. They are in another series together by the same creators but as different characters.  I have to admit I am little hesitant to watch it less I ruin the good juju of them as Carmilla and Laura.

I missed the whole fandom that surrounded this show and that is my loss. The fans, the "Creampuffs", seem like a great community. The creators of the show know what the fans mean to them and it feels like a great relationship.

But that's not why YOU are here, is it?

Carmilla is pretty much in every sense of the term the spiritual successor to Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  So it stands to reason then that the cast should get the Buffy RPG treatment.

I did this once before for Carmilla for the Ghosts of Albion RPG, but these stats will be based more on the characters around Season 2 or so. Plus the GoA stats are based more on the novella than this.

Yeah, I might be a little obsessed.

Carmilla

The young Mircalla Karnstein and Elle in 1872 (great for Ghosts of Albion)


Countess Mircalla Karnstein, aka "Carmilla"
Vampire

"Buckle up, creampuff."

Life Points: 63

Strength 6
Dexterity 6
Constitution 5
Intelligence 3
Perception 3
Willpower 5

Qualities
Age (3) (335 years)
Attractiveness (3)
Cloak of Beasts (Large Cat)
Fast Reaction Time (Vampire)
Hard to Kill 3 (2 from Vampire)
Natural Weapon (Vampire)
Reduced Damage 2 (Vampire)
Regeneration (6 Life Points per hour) (Vampire)
Vampire

Drawbacks
Adversary (2, mother, various vampire hunters)
Bloodlust
Love, Tragic (Elle)
Love (Laura) (2)
Emotional Problems, Emotionally Dependent (victims) (1)
Mental Problems, Covetous (Lechery) (1)
Minority (lesbian) (1)

Useful Information
Initiative +8
Actions 2/1
Observation 1d10+6
Fear +5

Height: 5'3"
Hair: Black
Eyes: Brown

Skills
Acrobatics 3
Art 2
Computers 0
Crime 2
Doctor 0
Driving 1
Gun-Fu 0
Getting Medieval 3
Influence 4
Knowledge 4
Kung Fu 2
Languages 6 (English, French, Latin, German, Romanian, Sumerian)
Mr. Fix-it 1
Notice 3
Occultism 1
Science 1
Sports 1
Wild Card

Combat
Maneuver Bonus  Damage  Notes
Dodge / Parry     +8 - Defense Action                           
Grapple +9 - Defense Action
Bite +7 6 Slash / Stab, needed for blood drain
Punch / claw +8 12 Bash / slash


Laura Hollis
White Hat

"What would Mina Harker do? Get bitten. Mina Harker would totally try and act all alluring to the bloodsucking fiend and totally get bitten. Let's not do that."

Life Points: 26

Strength 2
Dexterity 2
Constitution 2
Intelligence 4
Perception 3
Willpower 3

Qualities
Attractiveness 1
Nerd

Drawbacks
Honorable (1)
Love (Carmilla) (2)
Minority (lesbian) (1)

Height: 5'2"
Hair: Blonde
Eyes: Brown

Skills
Acrobatics 2
Art 2
Computers 3
Crime 2 (Investigative Journalism)
Doctor 1
Driving 1
Gun-Fu 0
Getting Medieval 1
Influence 2
Knowledge 3
Kung Fu 2 (Krav Maga)
Languages 2 (English, German)
Mr. Fix-it 1
Notice 2
Occultism 0
Science 1
Sports 1
Wild Card

Combat
Maneuver Bonus  Damage  Notes
Dodge / Parry     +4 - Defense Action                           
Grapple +5 - Defense Action
Punch  +6 4 Bash

These stats represent our stars around Season 2.  So each one has a bit more points than expected of starting characters.

You can watch all three seasons on the KindaTV YouTube Channel.

Season 1



Season 2



Season 3




The movie is out next week!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Plays Well With Others: Blue Rose and Buffy the Vampire Slayer

This June I am on a big Blue Rose kick gearing up for my review of the game.  I felt for this review I should play the game more and kick the tires a bit more.  Today, given that it is Tuesday, I want to talk about another progressive game and how well it works with Blue Rose; the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG.
I am extremely proud of the work I did on Ghosts of Albion. But I never would have gotten to do that work had it not been for the success of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Both the Show and RPG really. Without Buffy, there would have been no Ghosts on the BBC and without the RPG there never would have been a Ghosts of Albion RPG.



These two games share a lot of themes.  Blue Rose is more character-centric than other fantasy games and Buffy is more character-centric than other modern-supernatural games. Though most modern-supernatural games also tend to be more character focused.

Blue Rose and Buffy also share the +John Snead connection.  He worked on the original Blue Rose (and compiled a great list of must-read books of the genre). He and I also both worked on the Buffy Magic Box book.   Speaking of Snead's book recommendations, I reread The Blue Sword recently and I am struck how much of the heroine Harimad-sol reminded me of Buffy in ways. Also, my Queen Jaeliln was more than a little influenced by Buffy and SMG.

With Green Ronin now talking about Modern AGE (MAGE...snerk), I think the time to dust off my Buffy books is right.  As my old friend +Robert Black used to say, "I have a Buffy-shaped hole in my life."

By the Numbers
Normally when doing a Plays Well With Others of different systems I like to look how the stats convert.  I am less interested in that these days and instead more interested in how to convert concepts and ideas.   In this case, it's a "How would the characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer work in Blue Rose?" Though I am not immune to the siren song of numbers.

Blue Rose/AGE has 9 Abilities.  Buffy/Unisystem has 6.  The mappings are pretty logical.
Just take the Unisystem ability and map it onto the AGE ability of the same name; Strength is Strength, Willpower is Willpower and so on.   The three remaining, Accuracy, Communication and Fighting, can be taken from various skills or qualities.  So Fighting is taken from Kung-fu; Communication can be derived from Charisma. Accuracy, depending on where it is used can come from Gun-Fun or Occultism.
Blue Rose/AGE abilities rank from -2 to 4. Buffy/Unisystem attributes go from 1 to 6, with some cases of 0.  Take your Unisystem score and -2.  Not perfect really, but it is really, really close.

Now at this point the numerical conversion stops.  In the Buffy RPG, the eponymous Slayer has Strength 8, Dexterity 9, and Constitution 8.  A straight conversion gives her 6, 7 and 6 respectively.  Not undoable really, but I'd have to bend the rules.  Instead, let's see how close I can get with Rules-As-Written.

I want to do starting characters, but to get her to the power level I want for a starting character I am going start her out at Level 4.  Blue Rose/AGE is fine with this as True20 was.

By the Concepts
What is a Slayer known for?  Killing Vampires naturally.  But in Blue Rose Vampires are not the threat that Darkfiends are.  Indeed, in the RPG and TV show the focus was less on Vampires and more on Demons. Unstable Shadowgates are roughly the same (plot wise) as a Hellmouth.  While magic is common, Sorcery is bad (Sounds like a 4th season episode, "Sorcery Bad!").

A lot of the same themes can be explored as well; family, relationships, sex, sexual identity, friendships and a group coming together.

Mr. (Robert) Maclay: This is insane. You people have no right to interfere with Tara's affairs. We are her blood kin! Who the hell are you?
Buffy: We're family.

So. Who is Buffy Summers in the World of Aldea?  Well, she is the Slayer. The Chosen One. She lives with her mother and sister in a suburban area of Aldis. Here she discovers a Shadowgate linked to the realm of the Darkfiends.  She has been chosen by Maurenna to destroy the darkfiends.

For my own Blue Rose games I have chosen Welsh as the language that represents Aldea, so all the names of my characters will be Welsh or Welsh-inspired.  Buffy Summers becomes Bethan Hâf, she lives with her sister Gwawr.

Bethan Hâf, the Darkfiend Slayer



Name:
Bethan Hâf
Race:
Human (Slayer)
Background:
Aldin
Class: Warrior Level: 4

ABILITY
Score Focus
ACCURACY
3 2
COMMUNICATION
1 Persuasion
CONSTITUTION
3 2
DEXTERITY
3 2
FIGHTING
4 3
INTELLIGENCE
2
PERCEPTION
2
STRENGTH
4 3 Might
WILLPOWER
3

Combat
AR 1
Health 65
Weapon Groups: Brawling, Bludgeoning, Heavy Blades, Light Blades

POWERS, TALENTS, AND SPECIALIZATIONS
Armor Training: Novice
Talents: Quick Reflexes (N), Single Weapon Style (N), Arcane Potential, Visions (N)
Specialization: Slayer of Darkfiends

Persona
Calling: The Sun, Championing the Everyday
Destiny/Fate: Six of Swords, Optimistic/Pessimistic
Goals: To Destroy the Darkfiends invading our home

Relationships
Gwawr (3). She is my little sister and maybe the only one that truly understands me. I will protect her. My wrath on anyone that means her harm.
Helyg (2). She is my best friend, the only one that has shown me kindness. I will save the world only because I have her help.
Brynn (1). She is the love of Helyg and that makes her family.

I like it.  This is a build I could work with.  Note I have not given her a significant other yet. Not sure how I want to work that in just yet. Would like to see where I would take this character first.

Next time lets spend some time with Helyg and Brynn.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Willow & Tara: Armageddon, the End Times

This post has been a long time coming.

Back in 2001 I started a project to stat out two of my favorite witches for every RPG I have ever played.  You can see the fruits of those efforts here.  I printed out hundreds of character sheets, filled them out, even used a few in games.  Deep diving into two characters and seeing how they work across different systems and different worlds. It has been a great time.



One set of sheets I started in 2006 and thought, oh I'll get to these when I run my "Generation HEX" game.  Well...I never got around to those sheets.  I was in the habit putting the date of the game on the top of the sheet. That way I could keep the overall campaign straight in my head.

This week was the 20th anniversary of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a milestone I was going to leave unremarked.  But I pulled out those sheets and noticed the date on them.   The game was also one I wanted to revisit this year given ...all sorts of reasons.

The year was 2017 and the game was Armageddon: The End Times.



There are so many reasons that Armageddon is the most perfect choice for Willow and Tara in 2017.

Armageddon is the sequel to the WitchCraft RPG much in the same sense that the Buffy RPG is; just a different evolutionary path. Armageddon features much more powerful characters in a post-apocalyptic world. In fact, there is a lot about the game world of 2017 that we can relate too in the real world of 2017.

I described Armageddon as:
The ultimate expression of the Classic Unisystem game line. Use it as a future for your WitchCraft games, or as source material for WitchCraft and All Flesh Must Be Eaten. Far improved over the poorly edited 1st Edition, this could be C.J. Carella's finest work and that is saying something.
It should then stand to reason that my versions of Willow and Tara should also be represented in their ultimate expression.

Willow & Tara in 2017



Given what I have been doing with the characters for the last few years I would have to say they have been largely retired.  Given the reunion staged by Entertainment Weekly, I would say something pulled them out of retirement.  Maybe a horrible orange monster threatening to take over the world. Or something.

On my sheets, I gave them both 200 extra character points. One of the first things I did was buy off many of their drawbacks. Most of that stuff dealt with youth and being young.  I am also going with the fan-favorite theory that they have two daughters by this time.

I didn't buy up their attributes much save for maybe ones that would be expected to improve due to better diet and exercise.

Willow Rosenberg-Maclay
Wicce Seeker of Knowledge
Gifted Master

Age: 36, Ht: 5'3", Hair: Red, Eyes: Green

Attributes: Str 2 Dex 3 Con 3 Int 5 Per 5 Wil 6
Life Points 36
Endurance 38
Speed 12
Essence 65

Channeling Level: 8

Qualities & Drawbacks: Gifted (+5), Essence Channeling (25), Increased Essence Pool (+20), Adversary (Assorted, 2), Ambidexterity, Anamchara, Attractiveness (+2), Hard to Kill (+2), Honorable (-1), Minority, Lesbian (-1), Nerves of Steel (3), Old Soul (2), Resources (3, wealthy)

Skills: Acrobatics (4), Brawling (3), Bureaucracy (5), Computers (9), Computer Hacking (9), Computer Programming (9), Craft (5), Dodge (6), Electronics (5), Engineering, Robotics (5), Humanities, Psychology (1), Languages (English, French, Greek, Hebrew, Latin, Russian), Magic Theory (5), Instruction (1), Medicine, General (2), Occult Knowledge (9), Research (4), Rituals, Wicce (7), Trance (1).

Powers: Absob Power, Aura of Confidence, Create Ward, Essence Shield, Farsee, Flame, Float, Mindtalk strength and art (7), Mindhands strength and art (5), Lightning Bolt, Mindfire strength (5) art (4), Mindtalk strength and art (5), Physical Shield, Search Person (4)* (8 if that person is Tara, Brianna or Chole), Sending, Soulfire Blast, Visual Illusion.


Tara Rosenberg-Maclay
Wicce Weird One
Gifted Master

Age: 37, Ht: 5'5", Hair: Blonde, Eyes: Blue


Attributes: Str 3 Dex 2 Con 3 Int 5 Per 6 Wil 6
Life Points 36
Endurance 38
Speed 10
Essence 70

Channeling Level: 8

Qualities & Drawbacks: Gifted (+5), Essence Channeling (25), Increased Essence Pool (+20), Artistic Talent (7), Hard to Kill (+1), Honorable (-1), Minority, Lesbian (-1),  Nerves of Steel (3), Old Soul (2), Resources (3, wealthy)

Skills: Cooking (5), Craft, Candle Making (2), Craft, Simple Crafts (4), Humanities, Art History (6), Humanities, Psychology (7), Languages (English, French, Gaelic [Irish], Greek, Japanese, Latin), Magic Bolt (4), Magic Theory (5), Instruction (5), Medicine, General (2), Myth and Legend, Folk Magic (7), Occult Knowledge (9), Research (4), Rituals, Wicce (7), Singing (2), Survival, Urban (2), Trance (2), Dancing (3)

Powers: Blessing of Protection, Create Ward, Essence Sheild, Flame, Float, Influence Emotional State, Lesser Healing (Heal Wounds, Cure Disease), Mindfire strength and art (4), Mindtalk strength and art (5), One with the Land, Perceive True Nature, Physical Shield, Search Person (4)* (8 if that person is Willow, Brianna or Chole), Sending, Touch of Healing*, Visual Illusion

*Tara still retains her healing touch divine powers from when she was brought back from the dead.

Not sure if I spent all my points correctly, but that is fine. I had a lot of fun doing this.

So for me it has been nearly 10 years since I used these characters in these incarnations.
What have they been doing?  Well in the Dragon and the Phoenix/Season of the Witch timeline they moved to Boston, been married for years. Willow owned a software security firm ("RedWitch") that she later sold making millions. Tara has degrees in art history and counseling. She teaches at a school for young magicians and witches (no not Hogwarts). They have two daughters Brianna 12 and Chole 9.

If you want to see a "timeline" of their development then here you go. These are in world-chronological order, not the order I wrote them.

Pre-2000, BESM
2000-1, WitchCraft
2001, d20 Modern
2002, BESM-d20
2003, BESM 3rd Ed
2004, World of Darkness
2005, Chill
2006, Cartoon Action Hour Season 3
2006-7, Doctor Who
2007, Savage Worlds
2007, DC Heroes
2008, Cortext
2008, World of Darkness (new)
2009, Mutants and Masterminds 2nd ed
2010, OVA
2011, Mutants and Masterminds 3rd ed
2012, Marvel Heroic Roleplaying
2013, Superbabes

There are more, but you get the idea here.

This was great. Like meeting up with old friends again and seeing that they are getting along wonderfully. Been wanting to do this for a while now and it did not disapoint.
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