Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Of Dreams and Magic. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Of Dreams and Magic. Sort by date Show all posts

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Of Dreams and Magics RPG

Recently a new Kickstarter/Company was brought to my attention and I decided to look into them a bit more.

The games is Of Dreams and Magics RPG and it looks very, very intriguing to me.  The publishing company, ODAM Publishing, also looks good.   I recently spoke with the guys behind ODAM, John and Matt and this is what they had to say.

Tim Brannan/The Other Side:  Let’s start at the beginning,  who are you and what is ODAM Publishing?

Matt: I’m Matt

John: And I’m John, and we are founders of ODAM Publishing.

Matt: ODAM Publishing seeks to make a full line of high-quality RPG products and other tabletop games. Having been lifelong gamers and fans of the hobby in general, we decided to marry our passion with our experience in business in order to provide outstanding games for anyone to enjoy.

TB: How did you get into gaming?

Matt: I’ll always remember picking up the Vampire 3rd Edition book and being fascinated with it. I had a close friend who played Vampire with a group, which John was the storyteller for, and from that moment on I was hooked.

John: I had a friend in school who knew I Ioved to write. One day he just flat out asked me if I had ever heard of a roleplaying game and insisted I’d love the concept if I gave it a shot.  He was correct, and a lifetime of fond memories followed.

TB: What are some of your favorite games? Why?

Matt: As I mentioned, Vampire the Masquerade was a book that I would read over and over again before ever even playing it or knowing what an RPG was. More than anything, I hope that our books will make someone feel the same way I felt when I first saw that book. My other favorite game would have to be Shadowrun, going back to the 3rd edition. It’s my favorite setting - I only wish I had more chances to play it with my regular group, as I think the 3rd edition book was a bit harder to get into. The short Shadowrun stories I did get to tell do remain my favorites to this day, though.

John: Some of my fav’s are AD&D 2nd and 3d editions, white wolfs Vampire the Masquerade, and Star wars by West End Games.  I have a very wide range of tastes so I’d get my fantasy kicks from D&D, my horror from white wolf, and my sci fi from Star Wars.  There were many others along the way but those probably got the most play out of me.

TB: I can certainly relate to those, though I am a bigger Unisystem fan. Now the good stuff.  What is “Of Dreams and Magic?”

John:  It’s an RPG about being a dreamer who can affect our world by carrying the magic of their dreams into reality.  Honestly being an RPG fan is a lot like being a character from “Of Dreams and Magic”.  Every gamer has these great stories and experiences they live through with their playgroup but to the rest of the world its just a dream.  The concept of the game is that an omnipresent force called the Doubt causes people to not believe in “magic” or anything extraordinary.  These few dreamers learn the truth and are forced to face the Doubt, their nightmares, and a host of other antagonists.  Fortunately for them they can summon the power of their favorite dreamself to face their enemies.  Just imagine if you learned that at a moments notice you could really do some of the things your characters could in the many games you’ve played - then you’d have an idea what this game is all about.

TB: You describe ODAM as Modern Fantasy? Elaborate a bit on that.

Matt: Not only does ODAM take place in the here and now in the literal sense, I think it’s a game ABOUT the here and now. A lot of people are facing hard times and dream of a better life, which seems to be out of reach. When I think of someone creating magic, I think of ordinary people who are out there doing things they’ve been told they can’t. While they may not be able to summon a cybernetic handgun to their hand, they’re definitely battling the Doubt.

John: There’s definitely a bit of allegory here.  Of Dreams and Magic is designed to peel back the veil separating a gamer from their game.  The players themselves were always the lynchpin that tied all of their gaming experiences together.  Now we’ve written a game where that player can be one character in the modern world and tie all of his many game experiences together - all within a single system.  The modern fantasy description pertains to that real world character now playing in not only his many dream settings, but then also playing in the real world with what he gained from them.

TB: It sounds a bit similar to Mage, but in a different direction. What is here in ODAM to set it off from other Modern Fantasy games.

John:  Hopefully lots of things!  As I mentioned we created a unique setting where playgroups can tell any kind of story and have all those experiences link back to a single character who dreamed them.  Then they can play a sidelining adventure telling stories about what that dreamer does with those experiences.  People have found it rewarding both emotionally and technically.  In theory a group could have as many campaigns in as many settings as they want without ever truly “starting over” as all of those experiences help build and develop the dreamer character they are tied to.  Additionally we developed a new rule system that allows players to be as detailed or as minimalistic as they like.  We felt if a player asked themselves “I wonder if I could do this” with our game in mind they should always find the answer to be yes - and they won’t have to rewrite the mechanics to do so.

TB: What was the reasoning for going with it’s own system?

Matt: We wanted to use our own system because we wanted all aspects of the game to have their systems built around them, rather than having to mold our ideas to a separate system. We think the rules should serve the setting and actual roleplaying rather than the other way around, and the best way to do that was to design our own rules.

John: I’ve never felt the true greatness of playing rpg’s revolved around their rules.  Nobody thinks back 10 years on the cool rule they used in a favorite story.  Great systems help you tell the stories you are passionate about without making you feel like they are getting in your way or only make sense some of the time.  We recognized all gamers have different tastes when it comes to the complexity of their rules, so we decided to start from scratch and build a system that could please anyone who used it, regardless of what side of the spectrum they came from.  We all know the feeling of a great scene occurring and then staring in wonder at how limiting the rules are when it comes to actually playing it.

TB:  What sort of games/stories do you expect that people will use this for?

Matt: The exciting thing about ODAM, in my mind, is that in time people will be able to use it to tell any kind of story they want. The core story focuses on the modern day, but by traveling through dreams a play group will be able to tell a fantasy session after watching The Hobbit, tell a horror session on Halloween, and then settle into some sci-fi when summer comes back around. All of this while having these separate stories and characters serve each other rather than be disruptive.  More than anything, though, I hope that people will tell stories that inspire them and that make them believe in their own dreams.

John: Any!  That’s one of my favorite parts of what we’ve created.  I’m really excited to hear how people tell their own stories maybe emphasizing the horror of a character’s nightmare, or the action adventure of being in starfighter battle.  I guess I’m as interested in other peoples “dreams” as I am in my own.

TB: What are your future plans for this game?

Matt:  Since a large aspect of the game deals with different genres and blending them together, we’re really excited to eventually produce books that focus on those specific genres. John will be able to share the fantasy world he’s GMed in for decades with the rest of the gaming world, and I’ll be able to display a cyberpunk setting that features my favorite parts of the concept.

John:  The plan is to release supplemental publications to help give gamers more tools to enjoy their stories. Primarily I hope to produce setting books, each embodying a different genre, to give playgroups detailed worlds to be used either as material for their characters dreams, or to be played and enjoyed as completely independant game using the very same rule system.

Matt:  In the short term, we’re focusing on releasing the core rulebook and supplemental material related to it, but in the long term, we really hope to provide books that everyone can enjoy regardless of their favorite genre.

TB: Ok last question and this is for my own benefit. Who is your favorite wizard, witch or magic-user?

Matt: This may come off as a strange answer, but Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans. My first exposure to the character was through my favorite game of all time, Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Father. The game offered up a ton of information about historical voodoo practice in New Orleans, and I was so intrigued by it that I became interested in the subject beyond just the game.

John: Strange as this may sounds, I’d have to choose Willow. The main character of the motion picture bearing the same name holds the title in my mind because his magic powers were so understated.  His genius resided in his determination to do the right thing - whatever the cost.  I have rarely been so amused by a wizard’s personal quest as I have watching Willow learn to believe in himself even if no one else did.


Looking forward to seeing what they do!

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Dragon and the Phoenix: Episode 8

Episode 8: Silent Lucidity

Tara: Wow. Who knew Miss Kitty could quote Shakespeare?
Willow: I am still having trouble getting past “
Who knew Ms. Kitty could talk.”
- Willow and Tara: The Dragon and the Phoenix, Episode 8 "Silent Lucidity"

March 24, 2003. 

Dawn’s emergent psychic powers traps the cast in her nightmare.
More than a week later and things have cooled down, a but only a little. At least everyone is agreeing to watch a movie together. It’s a Japanese-monster horror film and Xander has to remind Buffy that it is not a training video. Dawn begins to emerge as a powerful telepath and psychic, but not before she traps the cast and herself in the Dreamlands. The Cast must work through there own subconscious issues before they can escape. Willow and Tara’s issues with each other (loss and power), Buffy and Spike’s issues (trust and obsession) and Anya and Xander’s (fears of commitment and rejection). Dawn is dealing with the issues of constantly worried that she nothing more than Buffy’s shadow or even less. All the while Glory taunts her in her dreams.
Story Arc elements: Dawn focused, but also focused on the interplay of the cast.
Game Design elements: Non-magic psychic powers, rules for play in the Dreamlands, Bast for Cinematic games. Introduce Miss Kitty Fantastico II as a Bast. Have the Vampire Chicas come back to town. While the Cast is “sleeping” Dawn’s friend is killed and Faith dies in the hospital.

Notes and Comments:
Given that I was going to college in the 80’s and 90’s I am allowed to name one adventure ever my entire life after a Queensrÿche song. This is it.  I am also allowed to do one "dream" episode.  This is also it.

Ok. So. I killed Faith here.

Of course I have her appear in Buffy’s dreams and up the bi-sexual attraction she has for her. Mind you YEARS before it ever showed up in any comic. But I was careful not to repeat the cliché of a girl showing interest in another girl and have end her up dead (see “The Celluloid Closet” and the "Evil/Dead Lesbian Cliché"). I have Dawn watching all of this in her dreams, but unable to hear anything. She is taunted in her dream by Glory (really just the manifestation of her own fear) with the fact that she is no more real than Kara was and it is only a matter of time before Willow screws up something and undoes the magic holding her together.
I’ll be honest here, I liked Dawn. I always did. So she gets a chance here to shine (figuratively and literally) in the next few episodes.  We had built up her power slowly over the course of the season and this was the episode we let it cut loose.
This episode was very interpersonal. Very little in the way of combat. Most of the creature in the dream lands were Bast (which you have seen some of those in the past here). For the others I used some creatures that later would go on to be in Ghosts of Albion.  I used my old copy of Call of Cthulhu for ideas, but we never really ran into any mythos creatures other than seeing them in background or "through the veil of other dreams".

For the confrontations in the dreams, the cast were paired of (though I was still having trouble getting and keeping a regular Anya player) to deal with their issues.   For Willow and Tara's case, Willow agreed to basically "re-learn" magic from Tara.  If this had been earlier in the season then I would have dropped her back down to Sorcery/Magic 0 and work back up. But we didn't have that benefit.  Plus the next episode I needed a magically potent, if wounded, Willow.  Tara forgave Willow for her dabbling in "dark magics" and agreed that learning magic together would be the best for them both.

The cast finds out Faith died while they were sleeping.  I have a cut scene at the end where a coroner played by Zach Galifianakis performs Faith’s autopsy while Angel waits. Thought it was appropriate if morbid.

The cover of this does not quite represent the agnst of the episode, but my mandate was Willow and Tara on every cover and this was the one I liked the best.

Next up: The New Marvel Girl

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Kersy, The Witch Queen of Alphatia, Mystara (BECMI)

I knew my month of BECMI reviews and deep dives was going to be educational, but while I had hoped, I did not expect to find a new Witch Queen.  But there she was, in Module M1 Into the Maelstrom

In the module, we are introduced to a nascent Immortal, Kersy.  She is using her human guise as a 30th level Magic-user and she is the ruler of the Island of Turkeys.  If you are thinking she sounds a lot like Circe and her Island of Pigs then you are correct.  But.  Doing some deeper research into Kersy gives me a stanger tale.   Over at the Vaults of Pandius, they have expanded on her background a bit more. 

She is described as the distillation of Koryis' own unwanted thoughts, urges, and feelings.  
Koryis is the Immortal Patron of Peace.  While he was on his epic quest he sought to purge himself of evil in impure thoughts. He was successful and that "impurity" manifested itself as Kersy.

At least that is what his mythology says. 

We learn from M1 that she is a "beautiful maiden" and a "30th level magic-user." But other details are scant. From the Vaults of Pandius we learn that she is beautiful with long raven black hair and amber-colored eyes.  She is the Patroness of Witchcraft and Charms.  Certainly, she is more than just some cast of skin of evil.

She is also described as having "milky-white skin" (boring!) but I have been looking for an excuse to use Vanessa Williams as a witch since 1997.  Today is that day.

Kersy and Koryis

We first meet both of these immortals in M1 Into the Maelstrom.  It is obvious they have a connection from the start.  

Kersy (Vanessa Williams) and her "brother" Koryis (Armand Assante)

Back when I was an undergrad in psychology I read a lot of Freud and Jung. It wasn't required, I was (still am) a Cognitive Psychologist. But I felt it was important to my overall education to know my subject's history.    While I like Freud, I find his theories to be outdated and outmoded.  Jung on the other hand felt more like philosophy than psychology at times.  I have credited his "Man and His Symbols" as one of my most important "Appendix N" books.  

What is the importance of that here?  Kersy is Koryis' "dark anima" in Jungian psychology.  The description of Koryis' quest to rid himself of these dark, impure impulses sounds exactly like a quest to confront his Anima; who is Kersy.

Now if this is what happened then according to Jung Koyris is now forever incomplete.  Reading over the history on VoP it would seem that Kersy knows this. If we extend this to other Jungian archetypes then Kersy fits one perfectly. The Witch.  She is powerful, connected to the Earth, and a source of wisdom.  Koyris in his quest to rid himself of Kersy only weakened himself and gave his power away.

Kersy as a Witch

You knew I was going to come to this.  Kersy is not just described as a witch, she is listed on VoP as having the portfolio of Witchcraft and Charm. she is also described as being unique among immortals. She prefers to use her own magic for example.  She also seems to have become an immortal at the same time Koryis did due to their link.  So she hides from other Immortals, not having a Patron of her own, and lives in a cave on an Island filled with turkeys.
That's all rather disappointing.
Even a 30th level magic-user can do better than living in a cave somewhere.  So taking a page from my own games I say Kersy went on her own quest of Immortality and she got it, as a Witch Queen.

In this version soon after her "birth" Kersy, granted great power, but no learning on how such power should be wielded and let's just say poor impulse control, soon overpowers her jailers and sets her sights on the known world.  She travels much as her history suggests and in particular in Old Alphatia.  She studies magic everywhere and learns her magic does not come from the study of dusty tomes, she gets her magic from somewhere else. 
In the intervening centuries she learns much about who and what she is.  The divide between her and Koryis grew.  She still desires him and wants to make him hers. Maybe this is some desire to reunite their torn assunder soul or a darker desire to possess him in a way that was his desire but now forsaken and left with her desires.

Kersy, Witch Queen of Alphatia
31st level Witch, Eclectic Tradition
Female, Chaotic (Chaotic Neutral)

Strength 12
Intelligence 25
Wisdom 18
Dexterity 17
Constitution 19
Charisma 25

Saving Throws (Base)
Death Ray/Poison 2
Magic Wands 2
Paralysis, Polymorph 2 
Dragon Breath 4
Rods, Staffs, Spells 3

+5 to all saves via Ring of Protection
+3 for Wisdom

Hit Points: 87
AC: -8
(leather armor +5, Bracers of Protection +3, Cord of Protection +2, Ring of Protection +3, Dex 17 -2)

Base THAC0: 8
(I know, THAC0 was not used in Basic D&D. You know what this means)

Occult Powers
Lesser: Familiar (Familiar Spirit)
Minor: Speak to Animals
Medial: Drawing Down the Moon
Greater: Witch's Blessing
Major: Polymorph Other
Superior: Longevity

Cantrips (8): Arcane Mark, Clean, Daze, Guiding Star, Mote of Light, Object Reading, Open, Summon Vermin
1st (9+3): Allure, Analgesia, Bar the Way, Bewitch I, Burning Hands, Call Spirits of the Land, Charm Person, Comprehend Languages, Eldritch Fire, Glamour, Mend Minor Wounds, Pace Without Trace
2nd (8+3): Alter Self, Beckon, Bewitch II, Blight of Loneliness, Burning Gaze, Continual Flame, Detect Charm, ESP, Evil Eye, Haunting Mists, Mind Obscure
3rd (8+3): Astral Sense, Bestow Curse, Bewitch III, Calm Animals, Clairsentience, Control Winds, Danger Sense, Expand Senses, Lethe's Curse, Toad Mind, Twisting the Heartstrings III
4th (8+4): Analyze Magic, Ball Lightning, Bewitch IV, Cauldron of Rage, Confusion, Divination, Forest of Deception, Instant Karma, Masque, Polymorph Others, Remove Curse, Threshold 
5th (7+4): Adoration, Bewitch V, Break Enchantment, Commune with Nature, Decimate, Enslave, Maelstrom, Nightmare, Sending, Song of Night, Ward of Magic
6th (7+3): Analyze Dweomer, Animate Shadows, Bewitch VI, Bones of Earth, Cackle of the Winter Crone, Cloak of Dreams, Greater Scry, Heroes' Feast, Mislead, Smitten
7th (6+1): Adoring Crowd, Astral Spell, Bewitch VII, Breath of the Goddess, Irresistible Dance, Mass Polymorph, Veneration
8th (6): Adoration (Overwhelming), Bewitch VIII, Demand, Eye of the Storm, Mists of Ecstasy, Storm of Vengeance

Magic Items
Alrune Statues, Bracers of Protection, Brooch of Shielding, Calming Tea, Cauldron of Plenty, Cloak of Night, Cord of Protection, Earings of Timeless Beauty,  Friendship Tea, Ring of Protection, Wand of Spell Storing

Kersy is something of a unique witch, so I made her an Eclectic Tradition Witch.  She is also a solitary witch so you will notice and no "ritual" spells.   
I also opted to raise her to 31st level from 30th to give her a bump in her power.
As an Eclectic, I was able to grab spells and occult powers from a variety of sources.  While a case could be made that she is a Classical witch or even with bits of the Mara thrown in, I felt Eclectic was the best choice. 

Books and Resources Used

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Ghosts of Albion: Ur-hag

She came to me in a dream.  

I could tell by her voice that she was of regal bearing and intelligence, but at first I could not see her.  I was looking out over a darkend grey and cold plain.  In the far distance I saw mountains; mountains I know I had never beheld before with mortal eyes yet no less real.  In the sky above flew beasts, for that was the only world for them.  They appeared as mad paintings of Hieronymus Bosch, a mass of flying, winged semi-human creatures.  Their appearance was as women, save shamefully unclothed, though it was difficult to see this from the filth that covered them.  The smell was worse than any charnel house I could recall; the decay of death, the reek of excrement and the sour odour of unwashed sweaty bodies.   Their hair was wild. Their teeth were long, yellowed and many were broken.  This is how I knew I was still in the dream. Such details would have escaped me given their distance. In truth, I wanted to be no closer to these hideous creatures.  Their eyes burned red like coals of hellfire.

I watched as they flew and they attacked and ate other beasts in sky.  They were aware of me and my companion, but made no move towards us.

"What are they?" I asked and I turned to meet my unseen companion.  To my shock she appeared as they did, save she was not a filthy degenerate creature, but a woman of regal bearing. She had the same clawed hands, the same large bat-like wings and most horribly the same eyes.

"They are Ur-hags." she had said.  "They are my sisters."

- From the Journal of Tamara Swift.


The Urhags are found in two basic varieties, the Degenerate and the far less common Noble.

The Degenerate Ur-hag appears to be a hideously ugly humanoid woman. She appears naked, but covered in filth, with long clawed fingers, wild hair and inhumanly long feet and toes. What is the most curious feature of the ur-hag are her large bat-like wings.  One is immediately reminded of a harpy; which scholars also claim are an offspring of this creature.  The ur-hag does not speak, but only screams and shrieks.  The ur-hag can attack with a claw/claw/bite routine which is their most typical attack.  They are also surrounded by a horrible stench. Characters within 10' of the Ur-hag must make a Constitution test at at least 2 Success Levels or suffer a -2 on all attacks against the creature.
The ur-hag may also cast spells as a witch with Magic 2.  Spells that attack and due damage are preferred over all others.
Ur-hags are immune to all cold-based effects and are immune to cold and cold based spells. Dengerate ur-hags are carnivorous and their preferred  source of meat is humanoid flesh.  They are able to enter the dreams of people sleeping in their territories; usually within 300 yards.  Through this special attack the ur-hag will Charm a sleeping male into breeding with them. Once complete the ur-hag will then wake thee male to kill and eat him.  They prefer to wake their victims because they enjoy hear the sounds of their screams.  Within 3 months the ur-hag will lay a leathery egg in which a juvenile ur-hag will emerge. The new ur-hag will not expect any care or succor from her mother; in fact the mother is just as likely to eat her offspring as she did her offspring's father.

Unisystem / Ghosts of Albion
Name: Ur-hag (degenerate)
Motivation: cause chaos, despair and feed on mortals
Creature Type: Faerie
Attributes: Str 5, Dex 6, Con 5, Int 4, Per 3, Will 6
Ability Scores: Muscle 16, Combat 19, Brains 14
Life Points: 66
Drama Points: 2
Special Abilities: Attractiveness –5, Increased Life Points, Faerie, Innate Magic

Name Score Damage Notes
Bite 21 24 Must grapple first; no defence action
Claw 19 16 Two attacks per Turn
Grapple 21 — Resisted by dodge

Spellcasting 16 Varies By spell
Deflect 16 — Magic defence action; deflects spells 45º
Lesser Sensing 15 — Notice magical effects, nature, or possession

Noble Ur-Hag

The Noble ur-hag is a different creature, though no less evil.  Like the degenerate ur-hag, the noble appears to be a winged woman with long taloned hands and feet.  Noble ur-hags also have horns growing from their heads that often causes them to be mistaken for some sort succubus or other demonic creature.  While not demonic, the noble ur-hag is still quite evil.  While the degenerate ur-hag is hideous and covered in filth, the noble ur-hag is regal, attractive and clothed in only the fines wares. Her features are sharp and possibly indicate a relationship to the fae that other, more common hags, share.   The noble ur-hag can be harmed by iron in the same fashion that fae are; iron weapons cause +2 damage and +1 to hit.
The noble ur-hags can cast spells as a witch of Magic level 4.
While the degenerate ur-hag is indiscriminate about her choice of mating partners, the noble ur-hag prefers only the finest quality human males.  Also noble ur-hags do not always eat the men the lay with.  Some preferring to return to the same male time and time again as instinct drives them to reproduce.

Noble Ur-hags use the same stats as do the Degenerate Ur-Hags save they have Attractiveness +1 and Magic 4.  The Noble Ur-Hag also has the following magical manoeuvres.

Name Score Damage Notes
Spellcasting 17 Varies By spell
Deflect 17 — Magic defence action; deflects spells 45º
Lesser Sensing 16 — Notice magical effects, nature, or possession
Hold 16 — Magic defence action; delays spell
Volley 11 — Magic defence action; returns spell to caster
Dispel 14 — Magic defence action; dispels spell

Additionally the Noble Ur-Hag can choose demonic or fae powers.  Many posses Glamour and Grand Glamour.  A Noble Ur-Hag is capable of interacting in society, however her mannerisms will seem a bit aloof and more prone to violence than that of mankind.  The Degenerate Ur-Hag, even if glamoured by another, cannon interact in even the roughest society.

There is no known spell to summon these creatures and they only live in the shadowy borderlands where Dream, Shadow and Faerie are known to intersect.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Anime RPGs: BESM 3.0

I was eagerly anticipating the release of BESM (Big Eyes, Small Mouth) 3rd Edition. Of course, by the time it was ready Guardians of Order had gone belly up and the rules were now being released by Arthaus/White Wolf. My anticipation was tinged a little with stress. What had happened to the game I had just recently become very fond of and what was going to happen now? And of course, would I be able to convert Willow and Tara to the new version given how much fun I had with BESM 2nd Ed Revised?

Well, many of my fears were put to rest, only to be replaced by new ones (and a couple that just never seemed to go away).  I'll detail those all below.

Briefly here are my comments on the system and the book.

The book is very attractive and one of the most colorful RPGs I have seen in a long time. It reminds me of Mutants and Masterminds in terms of color. It is a thick tome, and now sized to fit well on my shelf. The Niko Geyer artwork is great and really captures the feel of the game well. On the other hand I have seen all this artwork before, maybe not in color, but certainly in other editions of this book. Now I understand that money was very tight at GoO and the art is great, so I am willing to cut them some slack here.
The text though also has the same problems. There is text in here that I am now reading for the 5th or 6th time over (BESM 2.0, BESM d20, SAS, SASd20, Tri-Stat core). Some of this text still has the same problems as it always did (Dynamic Powers in particular).

I do like what is new. The analysis of anime, maps of Japan and Tokyo, and the overview of Shôjo anime. The section about the anime multiverse is also rather fun and full of ideas that can be used for any game. Especially as a way to run those pesky crossover sessions.

The new game mechanics are now a Roll-over; 2d6 vs. Target Number. Makes it very much in feel with Unisystem. No Success levels as such, but a very loose difficulty class system similar to many d20 based games. It was reading over these rules in fact that help re-tool my dice mechanic for Unisystem that I have come to call The Chicago Way .
But otherwise, it is still mostly the same BESM. We still have our 3 Stats, Body, Mind and Soul. Still have attributes, defects, and skills. There are different scalings for the game depending on how you want to play it.
Like M&M the powers are all effects based. So if you wanted to make a Pyro Girl, for example, its not a matter of choosing levels in pyrokenesis, but choosing a particular power and have it act like it. This could be Elemental Control (Fire), Power Flux- Fire or something else.

That gets me to a big issue. Magic.

Magic has always been an issue in BESM. There are basically three magical powers. The first is the easiest. Pick a power and call it magical. No big deal really.

The second is Power Flux, which used to be called magic. The idea here is pay for this at 15 points per level and you get 4 points per level to buy any other power temporarily. For that loss of 11 points per level you gain flexibility. So every power in the book then becomes a spell that your magic using character can use. So lets take the power Invisibility as an example.  The power says you become invisible, it does not say how or why.  Since its results or effect based then the Invisibility power can come from magic, be a spell cast by Power Flux, or be a cloaking device of a super-science item. Power Flux does not just have to be magic, it can psi powers, super-science, or just about anything else. For people starting out in BESM I say go with Power Flux. This is what I usually do for starting games and my Teen Witch below uses Power Flux.

Then there is Dynamic Power. Dynamic Power used to be Dynamic Sorcery, but the name change didnt help clear anything up. It is bought like Power Flux (including some of the exact same text copied and pasted in). Now the idea here is to be able to replicate all those kewl powerz you see in anime that the characters just seem to think of and they get. The really weird stuff. The trouble is the power as written is ripe for abuse and it is not very clear. Turning to BESM d20 you can get an idea of what it can do there, but none of that is here. So there is no telling what a person with 3 levels in this can do say differently from what someone with 3 levels in Power Flux do.

The BESM d20 version has Dynamic Sorcery (its equivalent) casting D&D type spells with restrictions on how many, which ones and how often. But nothing like that here. IF I am going to use Dynamic Powers I am going to have to figure out a way to convert over the magic in BESM d20 Advanced Magic for some guidelines.

The designer, Mark MacKinnon, says a lot about this power in and outside of the book. Things like this power is balanced if you know how to use it and It's a mature role-playing tool for mature role-players. If you don't "get it" when you read the description, then it's not for you. Well Mark, you seem like a good guy and I do really like BESM but I am calling BULLSHIT on that one. I have been playing for 30+ years, writing games and playtesting new games non-stop since the mid 1990s. Players, mature or not, still like guidelines, thats why they are called core rules. I don't want to kick you since you have left this biz but please, don't insult my intelligence.

I do understand it, and frankly, its not really my bag. I have some witches I use it with and others I use Power Flux with. In the end, I am finding I still like my own systems better. I appreciate the desire to tell a good story or to give GMs their freedom, but sometimes even the best GMs need a guide.

Though I should not *have* to do this I am going to take my cues on proper leveling from BESM d20 Advanced Magic. There Dynamic Sorcery goes to 10, to make life easier I am going to limit it to 5 levels in BESM 3.0 (level 6 is the realm of Gods). This will correspond to 1 BESM 3.0 level equaling 2 BESM d20 levels. Not perfect, but it is a guideline. Similarly Ill say 1 BESM 3.0 level of Dynamic Powers is roughly equal to having 2 levels of Magic/Sorcery. Its not perfect, but it works well enough.
Still though, I am unhappy with this power as written. Its a cool idea, but not as it is now. Ill revisit this when I do the BESM d20 conversions.

More Mechanics
The rest is very familiar. The main feature of the system is still the Tri-Stat, or Body, Mind and Soul. All skills, attributes and defects as well combat roles are made with these three in mind. They range up to 12, but cannot go over. A quick and dirty conversion from Unisystem would be to add two Unisystem Attributes to get one Tri-Stat stat, so as an example take Strength + Dexterity to get Body.

Unisystem = Tri-Stat
Strength + Dexterity = Body
Intelligence + Perception = Mind
Constitution + Willpower = Soul

Attributes and Skills convert pretty much as is. BESM 3.0s new mechanic is such that the chances of success for a character is about the same as their Unisystem counter-part. Many of the Attributes are nearly the same as Unisystem with minor name differences; Tough vs. Hard to Kill for example.

BESM 3 Skills are now part of Attributes, but otherwise mostly unchanged. Skill Levels range 1 to 6, with 0 as unskilled or unable to use this skill and 5 representing the human maximum in most cases. Unisystem has a lot more Drawbacks for characters than BESM has Defects.

Basically, if I wanted to run an Anime-based game in Unisystem, I would start with the rules that seem to be the closest (WitchCraft RPG, Army of Darkness, Ghosts of Albion) and then add in BESM 3 material as needed.

Teen Witch
Here is a way to get a Unisystem-like witch into your BESM game. Use this template to start out your character. It uses Power Flux as I mentioned above and I went with a more anime-feel to it.

You were living a fairly normal crazy teen-age life. Worrying about school, boys, clothes, boys, popularity and boys. That is till one day you discovered your grandmothers Book of Shadows hidden away and since then nothing has ever been the same. You see ghosts, your cat now talks to you (and gives you advice!) and what worse now all these people are after you; rival witches, government agents that cant apparently tell the difference between you and a vampire, oh and not to mention you have a midterm in a couple of weeks!
College? You just want to make it to the prom!

Value Points Stat
+1 +10 Soul Stat or Mind Stat (choose one to work with Magic)

Value Points Attribute
+1 +2 Companion (Familiar, 120 points) OR
Divine Relationship (Spirit)
+1 +2 Energy Bonus (+5 Energy Points)
+1 +1 Features: Attractive (cute)
+1 +18 Item Book of Shadows restriction:
Unwieldy, easily lost, cannot learn new spells without it -2
+2 +26 Power Flux Magic (8 Flux Points)
restriction: Activation (lesser) -1, restriction: Depletes (lesser) -1,
restriction: Spells must be learned (moderate) -2)
+1 +2 Sixth Sense (One Aspect)
+2 +4 Skill: Occult (+6 points in Modern Occult Horror)
+1 +2 Super Senses (Magical) (uses same
Stat chosen above)
+1 +8 Telekinesis (Any)

Points Defect
-1 Marked (witchs mark)
-2 Nemesis (Usually a rival witch or investigator)
-2 Skeleton in the Closet (Magical family/history)

Total: 60 Points

Book of Shadows (40 points worth, 20 CPs, -2)
Common Spells (spells use same stat as chosen above)
Value Points Attribute
+4 +8 Environmental Control
+1 +8 Flight
+2 +6 Force Field
+2 +8 Healing
+4 +8 Illusion
+1 +2 Telepathy (minor)

Notes on the Template
The Teen Witch chooses one Stat, typically Soul or Mind, and uses it as the basis for all of her magical powers. All Spells in her Book of Shadows will use this Stat instead of the Stat listed. Eg, a Teen Witch that uses Soul as her Stat will use Soul and not Mind when using Telepathy as a spell. Her Super Senses also use the same Stat, but Game Masters can rule that Telekinesis can remain as it is.

For this I choose to use Power Flux as I had with my BESM 2r builds.  I wanted to see how it fared.  I dod like how it works.  Power Flux is "magic" and the powers bought are "spells".  So somewhere in between Ghosts of Albion and WitchCraft RPGs.  I tried out Dynamic Powers too, but more on that later.

Paths of Improvement
To advance the Teen Witch can improve her stat of choice, add more points to her Power Flux Magic (to increase her power), her Energy Points, or to her Item Book of Shadows (to represent more spells learned). Other choices are picking up both a Companion Familiar and Divine Relationship Spirit of Grandmother/Mother or increasing her Occult skills.

Buffy in BESM?
Well believe it or not, but Buffy owes a lot to the likes of Salior Moon and other Magical Girl or Shôjo anime. Buffy, Faith, Willow and Tara (even Anya and Cordelia) could all be considered magical girls with Xander as the comic relief guy and Angel as the mysterious stranger; its practically anime cliché. These stories are typified by a young girl, normally high school age, which gains or learns of her magical powers. Other girls often join her and they battle evil monsters, evil wizards (almost always older and male), demons and things from somewhere else. Common themes include friendship and the power of love and saving the world. Stop me if you have heard this all before.

Witches and magic I have discussed, vampires, werewolves and all sorts of monsters are more than adequately covered. Can you do a Slayer?

Sure. Why not.

Since BESM is effects based, we can use this to our advantage by describing what happens to a girl when she gets called: Increased strength and speed, increased health, quick healing, sense vampires, prophetic dreams, boatloads of enemies. Unisystem does a fantastic job of capturing this I think. But any game that can feature vampires should be able to feature their hunters. Again, we are going to have to look at the effects here.

Vampire Slayer Template
You are the One, the one girl born to rid the world of vampires, demons and other supernatural threats. You are the Vampire Slayer.

When you are called you get the perks, the increased strength, speed, stamina, fast healing and like Neo you now know Kung-fu. Of course this all comes with a price. You have a stuffy old guy watching you, and not in a creepy way, but in a you better train or you are dead way. Plus every vamp in town now wants to kill you to make a name for himself.
You have the talent, the skills, and damn, these new boots were made for kicking ass!

Vampire Slayer Template

Value Points Stat
+2 +20 Body Stat
+1 +10 Soul Stat

Value Points Attribute
+2 +20 Attack Combat Mastery
+6 +12 Combat Technique (Brutal, Critical Strike, Hard Bodied, Lethal Blow, Lightning Reflexes, Precise Aim [Stake through the Heart])
+1 +2 Heightened Awareness
+1 +10 Defense Combat Mastery
+1 +3 Melee Attack
+2 +8 Massive Damage (Vampires; Demons)
+1 +10 Regeneration (5 health points per round)
+2 +4 Sixth Sense (Vampires, Prophetic Dreams)
+1 +8 Superstrength (+1 damage)
+5 +10 Tough (+25 health points)

Points Defect
-3 Nemesis (vampires, demons and others supernatural bad guys)
-2 Skeleton in the Closet (Slayers have secrets)
-2 Unique Defect, Obligation: kill vampires

Total: 110 Points

Obviously not a point for point conversion, but a very serviceable for a typical Modern Occult powered game.

NOW BIG CAVET here. I can run a Cine unisystem game in my sleep these days, I am still getting used to BESM. I'd wagger that you could speed up things in BESM once you know it all better, but I still think Cine Unisystem is the fastest combat system around. BESM combat reminds me a lot of Classic Unisystem combat, very deadly.

What strikes me though here is how well the fit is between the BESM system and what you might want to do with a "Buffy-style" game. It's not going to be everybody's taste I know, but it is fun and one of the better conversions (in terms of how much the end product captures the feel of the original) I have done.

The BESM guys tell me that this build is a combat machine and may in fact be closer to Buffy in Season 3, not at the start of her game.

Now to do this proper I'll need to read over the combat sections in BESM some more to understand how the Slayer would work. Basically run "holo-deck" simulations. I put the characters in a variety of situations and simulate the combat in Excel.

Now one thing to consider is this. The Eden Slayer is 15 points, as is the Vampire (with a soul, Witchcraft or GoA). Their abilities parallel each other.

BESM's Vampire is 110 points. So is the Slayer. I'd like to move some things around, but I would like to keep this parsimony between the two templates if I can. To me that is worth more than a slightly over-spent character.

Of course one could very easily point out that BESM's vampires are more powerful than Buffy's, and they would be a 20 Point vampire in Unisystem. So doing the math the Slayer in relative strength should be about 80 BESM Points. Does that make sense?  If the 110 point slayer is closer to 3rd Season, then the 80 point  Slayer should be closer to 1st Season.  15 points per season to upgrade then?

About those points. Sure it seems a lot, but I typically* run a 300 point BESM game, gives me the same feel as my Unisystem game. So 110 points off the bat doesnt seem like too much to me. Figure in Unisystem a Slayer spends 75% to 100% of her Quality points on just being a Slayer. So to me it feels the same.

*Typically is a misnomer. I have only run a handful of games, none of any length, but my builds are always aimed at 300 points.

New Unisystem Quality
So now we have seen what BESM gains from Unisystem. What can Unisystem get from BESM? Well quite a bit it seems. Let not even get into Mecha, Giant Robots or Kaiju, lets look at things that could sneak into a Unisystem game unnoticed till its too late!

Cat Girls
Ah Cat Girls. Why do they fascinate us so? Or is that just me? Anyway, with Bast running around, talking cats and other general weird stuff, why not a Cat Girl. We can do this one the opposite of the Slayer, take a BESM Template and reverse engineer it as a Unisystem Quality. I am going expect this to come out around 15 points, but that is only based on guess work. Lets see.

Nekojin (Cat Girl)
15-Point Quality
Prerequisite: Can only be taken at Character Creation
You are a Nekojin, commonly known as a Cat Girl. Some people see you as a demon type, others think you are more like a werewolf, but you know the truth: You have no idea what you are! But you do know that you are not evil (well, most of the time), and you are sure you are not a mindless killing machine (unless cans of tuna count) and the only thing you torment is this toy mouse one of your human friends gave you.
Despite your ears, tail, fur and cat slit eyes, people find you cute. Must be that you still look like a kitten.

* +3 to Dexterity and +1 to Constitution. These bonuses can raise the your Attributes above the human maximum of six. (+4) Dexterity can max out at 9. Other attributes can also go over the human max to 7.
* You get one level of Attractiveness and one level of Acute Senses (Low light vision) and one level of Acute Senses (Hearing). (+5)
* Fast Reaction Time, Situational Awareness. (+4)
* +2 to Acrobatics and Kung-fu (cat-fu?) skills. (+4)
* Natural Weapon (Claws) Strength x 2 damage (+2)
But these perks come at a price, you are not exactly human remember.
* Supernatural Form: Not Human. Sorry Kitty, you dont look human. A big hat and head to toe covering might hide that, but why would a cutie like you hide all that? -2
* Mental Problem: Easily Distracted. Must make a Willpower doubled roll to avoid being distracted by the things that distract cats (string, mice,) -1
* Mental Problem: Mild Cruelty -1

15 points. Not bad. Its a tad high for White Hats, but Heroes can use them and in a Cine Unisystem game they will end up being combat characters.

I like BESM.  I wish more people did too.  Despite it's flaws (and it still has them) it is a great little game.  I like what it can offer other games too.  There are a lot of mechanics I have adopted over to unisystem, some fluff as well.  There are some great ideas on how to run a multiverse game that I think should be essential in an GM's guide for a "universal" game.
The biggest tragedy of BESM 3.0 is it's wasted potential.  ArtHaus/White Wolf go it on the death of GoO and promptly did nothing with it.  I get it in a way. BESM is not their product, not their line and really not in the same genre of their games.  But I think it would have been great if someone had picked it up and expanded it some.  Mark and GoO had some great ideas for the future of BESM 3 and it is sad that these will never come to pass.  The loss of GoO and BESM is more than the loss of one small company and their game in the industry; it was the lost of something very unique.

I want to spend some more time with BESM this week and look into their heirs apparent to the Best Anime RPG title.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Black Rose, Replies

It's reader participation day at The Other Side.  Here are some replies to my "Black Rose" posts.

Rhonin84 said...

The land that the Queen rules over is the last bastion of light besieged on all sides by the encroaching darkness, all of her allies are gone defeated in the wars to stave off the darkness.

Her dreams at night are haunted by a figure that is intoxicating and terrifying, this Dark Lord wants her for his queen, it's a dream that she has had for some time and the fortune tellers tell her that she has lived this before....

Just a thought with some imagery for you to chew on!

Greg: I agree. Aldea is the last bastion of light in an otherwise dark world.  But more importantly to the plot it is something for the characters to fight for, as opposed to fighting against the darkness.  Of course I like the idea of the Dark Lord haunting her dreams.  It can easily be anyone, but the best choice is obviously Strahd.

seaofstarsrpg said...

Very interesting, sounds like a good match.

Though I think I would make dark dreams and nightmare a constant sub-theme in this campaign

Agreed.  In order to do this well there would need to be a slow build up of darkness. Punctuated by increasingly dark dreams and nightmares.  There is so much that can be done with this.

 Ka-Blog! said...

I'm not that familiar with Blue Rose (I was more intrigued with the True 20 aspect), but I understood the romance influence on it.

I am a fan of Ravenloft, but was always stymied by:
- what the PCs do during the day time (sleep, I suppose); and
- isn't it monotonous to know that the big bad is someone you can't defeat (because he's a dark lord) and you live on his land?

The merging of the two gives some space for PCs to retreat and recuperate, and allows greater contrast when PCs must fight the dark lord on his own turf..
Yes.  Though in most cases I do not want them to fight the Dark Lord of the land, instead maybe figure out how to undermine their power.   In some cases I would want them to "free" the land's Dark Lord, to find out what is the source of the evil and stop it.  Thus freeing the lord to go on to whatever afterlife awaits them while their lands slowly dissolve back into the mists.  I want this to be more of a thinking game than a fighting one.  Not that there won't be fighting. There will.  The big issues are going to need a different tactic.
Like Rhonin said above, Aldea would be a "safe haven" for the PCs, but the mists might not always let them return.

 P. S. Mangus said...

This is a very cool idea. Personally, I never gave Blue Rose a proper chance. In hindsight I should have taken a harder look at the system, and over looked the problems I had with the background of the game. Ravenloft has always been a favorite of mine. I especially liked Masque of the Red Death, and felt it was a stroke of genius when it came out. Of course I could never get anyone to actually play it. Looking back at it now, MotRD was ahead of its time.

I never had the problems others did with Blue Rose.  I always felt it was like a dreamscape setting.  Yes there was this too-good-to-be-true kingdom with modern sensibilities and an extremely accepting culture.  But everything around them was dark and sinister.  They thing is that is a perfect backdrop for a Ravenloft game.  I am not wanting to do "Grim Dark Blue Rose", I am keeping pretty much everything in Blue Rose intact and I want characters to explore interpersonal relationships.  I want loves and loss and love again.  I think that this is an important part of what makes Blue Rose a good game.  Ravenloft though gives me something else and something that is not wholly incompatible with Blue Rose.  The Dreamscape is still there, but now it is tainted, a blacker on the edges.  This is done to make "Blue Rose" parts of the game shine even more.
The fictional tradition behind Blue Rose is struggling to discover yourself in the world and your own inner strength.  The tradition behind Black Rose would be struggling to discover yourself in the world, beset by horrors, and your own inner strength to defeat them.

BlUsKrEEm said...

I'm very impressed with how well thought out the setting / rules for this idea are. I would play or run this in a heart beat (if my player would give it a chance that is.) Thanks for sharing.
Thanks,  It is something I have been thinking about pretty much ever since I picked up Blue Rose years ago.  I never liked the feel of the d20 mechanics for Modern games, and True 20 seemed to be a better fit.  Likewise I was not thrilled with the d20 Ravenloft, though I did enjoy both Ravenloft and D&D 3 a lot.  True 20 (and Unisystem for that matter) seemed to be a better fit for the kinds of things I wanted to do in Ravenloft.  Same with Blue Rose.

Thaumiel Nerub said...

Idea is good. I personally think, that Blue Rose is way too cheesy for me. Adding a bit "black" to the palette would suit me well. You could concider also characters. They must aswell melt in the world. Otherwise it's just this background story where heroes do their job. Character's must also represent this "Black Rose" theme. Character's aren't necessarily those knights in shining armors or they even could be, but in every character there must be something tragic. Sounds a bit emo, but well, goth is that. Dark secrets, revenge, lust, depression.
I think that usually in fantasy games character's biggest goal is to "win" the plot GM gives for players like killing the evil dude or something. But even if in this Black Rose setting there is that "big evil", I think you could get more out of it, if there is also personal problems within characters. Some might be touched by darkness what is infecting him slowly and he is hiding it realising, he would be Shadowspawn soon (no cure, or it wouldn't be tragic). Knight who was not betrayed but was betrayer himself. Wizard who is eager for power, and knows the best mojo is in evil magic.
They all are heroes, they save the world, but in the same time they are tragic characters and the line between good and evil is thin.
Again, I liked Blue Rose from the start, but I do see why others didn't.
You are correct about the characters.  But I think instead of darkness, the characters need to harbor that self-doubt and humility that is often absent from characters.  Yes it does tend to skew things towards Emo, but I am not trying to play a game full of self-doubts and dark personal secrets.  Characters should be more fully flushed out than a "barbarian, and I hit things".   For example a member of the Royal Guard trying to live up to her father's expectations.  Or a witch, pretending to be something else so she is not discovered practicing "foul" magics, even though she is Light aligned.

I think the take away from all of this is players in a Black Rose game would need to spend quite a bit of time thinking about who their characters are, what are their hopes and fears, and then ask the important question of "when the Queen calls on you to fight the darkness how will you respond?"

The other half of this though is also finding players that would want to play this style of game.  My kids are too young really to do this now and my semi-regular group might not find this all that interesting.  Plus we get a full amount of horror RPGing in with our Ghosts of Albion games.

Maybe I should try it as a one-shot someday.  Or use it as a prototype for some other games I have in mind.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Class Struggles: Mara Witch Tradition

Witch by ivangod
Today's Class Struggles is going to be a total cheat.  After two weeks of psychic classes, I have read a bunch of psychic and occult material which, of course, gets me thinking about witches.  Since I spent a lot of time yesterday with Wee Jas and to a much smaller degree Hecate, I wanted to talk about the witches of Wee Jas as influenced by the witches of Hecate I have used in the past.

The Mara Witch Tradition

The Mara is a witch tradition that is very, very old.  They share more than just a little relationship with Night Hags, which some scholars believe may have been some of the first Mara Witches.
The Mara understand, maybe more so than most, the life is a constant struggle not against death, but towards it.  This struggle of competing forces is what the Mara seek out. Life and Death in a constant struggle to the inevitable end.

Role: These witches most often serve gods or goddesses of Death, Transition, Change or even Destruction.  There tend to be two basic archetypes of Mara detailed below, the chaotic Mara and the lawful Mara.

Joining this Tradition: To join this tradition the witch must realize that life if nothing but a transitory period between oblivions.  Even if there is life after death in the form of reincarnation the witch is not aware of it on this plane now.So the witch chooses not to be apart of this charade anymore and embrace the death in all of us.

Leaving this Tradition: Typically the witch has such conviction that the only way out is her death.

Occult Powers: The occult powers of the Mara are derived by the struggle of life and death.  There is magic in both life and in death.  There is magic and power in the transition.  While evil Mara are often accused (and rightly so) of killing newborn babies, good Mara also are there to wish children pleasant dreams and act as guardians.

Least, 1st Level: Familiar. The Mara witch gains a familiar.  The familiar is often a floating skull, a ghost or some other omen of death made real (a banshee, a barghest, a black dog). The witch can communicate with this familiar regardless of the form it takes.

Lesser, 7th Level: Dream Invasion. Once per day, the Mara Witch can invade the dreams, the so-called deaths of every day, of others.  She can use this invasion to gather information, learn about various targets or even drain the victim's on life force for herself.  She can drain a total of 1 point of Constitution per night for three nights (3 points total).  This draining she can add to her own pool of hitpoints. Each point of Constitution grants her 3 hp over and above what she normally has.  After the third day, she forfeits her ill-gained health and her victim will recover at the rate of 1 con point per week.

Minor, 13th Level: Nightmare Shape. Once per day, the Mara witch can polymorph herself into any type of undead creature and back. The creature in question must be of comparable size. The witch gains the powers of the creature and retains her ability to cast spells, but she also suffers from that creature’s associated weaknesses. She retains her own hit points and level.  If she is "turned" by a cleric then she is forced back into her "human" form and can not switch back till the next new moon.

Once the mara witch reaches this level, she gains the undead's intolerance of silver. Any silvered weapon will do an additional 1d6 points of damage to the witch if touched, similar in the way Holy Water damages undead. Unless a weapon is specifically listed as being silvered iron, then assume it is not.  The witch is vulnerable to silver in any form she takes.

Greater, 19th Level: Witch’s Curse. The witch can place a powerful Curse on one creature once per day. The curse can be of any sort, but will usually bestow a -4 to all to hit rolls and -2 to any saving throw rolls. Witch curses are quite powerful and require the use of two (2) remove curse spells to be fully removed.

Major, 25th Level: Dead Zone Mind. The mara witch has become so accustomed to turning into a nearly undead creature and moving closer and closer to death herself that her mind is no longer that of a living breathing person.  She becomes immune to charm and hold spells. Her mind can't not be probed or read via telepathy, ESP or similar powers.

Superior, 31th Level: Kiss of Death. The witch gains a Kiss of Death. When the witch wishes, she
can give a target a Kiss of Death. If the person has 9 or fewer hit die he dies, if he is over 9 hit die he must save vs. death or die. This may not be used in battle, only in a non-combat situations.

Special Benefits and Restrictions: Mara witches can use spells normally reserved for necromancers.  They are though barred from using any spell that could return a person back to life such as Raise Dead, Resurrection or Reincarnate.

Equipment:  Nothing special.

Preferred/Barred Covens: Typically evil covens.  There are usually a Night Hag or two present in their covens as well.

Relationship to the Patron: For chaotic Mara the Patron is usually the Bringer of Death. This is usually a bloodthirsty god or goddess that revels in death and destruction.  Lawful Mara have a Patron that is the Protector or Steward of the Dead.
The greatest Patron of the Mara is an ancient Hag named  Marzanna (in Polish), Morė (in Lithuanian), Morana (in Czech and Slovene), or Morena (in Slovak and Russian). She is an ancient creature associated with Winter and Death, but also the rebirth of the seasons.  Other Mara patrons include Hecate, Lilith, and Wee Jas.  The Aztec Goddess of vice, Tlazolteol, also has many Mara followers.

Source/Views of Magic: Magic comes from the struggle of Life against Death. People live and they die and this creates powerful magic in the world.  While the chaotic Mara might focus on just the death magic, the lawful Mara also know there is magic in life and in the celebration of life.  Especially the celebration of life in the face of certain death.

Archetypes: There are two basic archetypes of Mara.  The "evil" Chaotic Mara. These witches revel in death and destruction.  The more death they are around, whether they cause it or not, grants them power.  The Lawful Mara could be considered "good", but in truth they also see the need for death.  Everything must die to allow new things to live and grow which in turn must die. Neutral Mara, generally speaking, do not exist as there is no middle ground between life and death.

Thanatos and Eros, The Shadow by Stephanie van Rijn

The Mara for Other Witches

For Adventurer Conquer King's Player Companion from +Alexander Macris and +Tavis Allison the witch is limited to 14th level.  The 6 occult powers can be spread out over these levels.  I would remove the Witch's Curse and then evenly spread out the remaining five.

Similar plan for +Jeff Talanian's Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea's witch.  Though in this case I would also remove the option for "Lawful" Mara.  Mara in this world setting are nothing but evil.

For +Joseph Bloch's Adventures Dark & Deep, The Witch the BEST thing is adding spells from his Necromancer class.  Spread out the powers, replacing the ones listed for the Witch.

+Jonathan Becker's Complete B/X Adventurer also has a witch class. His witch lacks outright powers, but has plenty of spells.   So if you want to convert ANY of my witches to one of his make the Occult Powers into Witch Spells only that kind of witch can use.  Here is a quick anf dirty guide.

Basic Witch Occult Power B/X Witch Spell Level
Least, 1st Level 1st level Witch Spell, 1st level witch
Lesser, 7th Level 3rd level Witch Spell, 6th level witch
Minor, 13th Level 5th level Witch Spell, 12th level witch
Greater, 19th Level 7th level Witch Spell, 21st level witch
Major, 25th Level 8th level Witch Spell, 25th level witch
Superior, 31th Level 9th level Witch Spell, 30th level witch

For his 10th level spells you would have to come up with something appropriately cool.
Heck I might grab his 10th level spells for my own witch games!

Becker also spends some time with a Holmes-style witch, but I am not sure these sorts of powers would work for that.

So now regardless of what OSR Witch you use noe you can unleash the Mara on your players!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Kids Stuff: Bogeys, Imaginary Friends and Childhood Terrors

"Fairy tales do not teach children that monsters exist.
Children already know that monsters exist.
Fairy tales teach children that monsters can be defeated."
- Attributed to G.K. Chesterson

Adults are far removed from the dreams of childhood. When we were children we thought, spoke and behaved as children do or so the Book has told us but so has Freud and Piaget. As adults, we are also removed from the fears of childhood. The Thing Under the Bed, the Monster in the Closet, the Beast Outside our Window. We grow up, get older and forget these things.

They do not forget us.

Children are the keepers of an ancient secret; that the monsters of childhood are real.
For a child, there is a certain magic in innocence. They believe with all their hearts that something magical is real. In sort of a converse of WitchCraft's crowd effect, the "innocence effect" can cause spontaneous thaumotogenesis; the creation of something by magic. In children where the Gift, Sorcery or Magic runs strong these imaginative beings can take shape and live. Or maybe they were always there and the children only brought them into our world.

Bogeys are the name given to harmful creatures created by children. They are mischievous and in many ways are very similar to faeries. Bogarts, Buchwans, Bwcha, and Bogeys all share the same semantic roots and the creatures are very similar. Bogeys though are also akin to demons. Some can be as cruel in their mischief as the worst demon lord.

Bogeys have one quality about them that is unique; adults can not see them. Anytime a bogey preys on a child it will scamper away if an adult comes by. The only way fight a bogey is to see it and the only way to see one is through magic. Some magic sensitive can see them (ie The Sight or Greater Sensing), but the best way to see them is through the eyes of a child or to become childlike.

Some occult scholars will blame the strange goings on around children as poltergeists or nascent magical ability. These maybe true. But there are also bogeys, and since most occult scholars are adults and not looking for them, they never see them.

All bogeys differ and can have any combination of abilities, powers, qualities and drawbacks. Even ones that are restricted to a particular group are available to bogeys. All bogeys do have Innate Magic, though some have been able to learn Magic.

Bogeys and BastIn a Classic Unisystem game or a Cinematic game with Bast, an added dimension can be used. Bogeys are the ancient enemies of the Bast. In the earliest days of Egypt's Pharos, the Bogeys entered our world and began to plague the children of Egypt. The High Priest beseeched Ra, the Sun God, to send them a protector to guard over their children. Ra turned to his protector Bast and she sent her minions to Earth.
Bast, regardless of age, always see Bogeys and most will attack them on site. In the war between them, Bast has decimated the ranks of the Bogeys. Though this is not true everywhere. In Ireland, the ancient Celts were superstitious about cats and they killed many Bast. This allowed the bogeys to gain a strong foothold in the lands of the Celts. To this day this is why you see more bogeys in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales than anywhere else in the world.

The Red-Legged Scissor Man
(From The Menagerie Series by Christopher Golden and Thomas Sniegoski)
A particularly nasty bogey is the Red-Legged Scissor Man. Named for the giant pair of scissors he wields as a weapon. He gets the other part of his name from what he does with the scissors. The Scissor Man plagues children, especially ones that others would describe as having emotional problems. He visits them scaring them with his presence and then uses his scissors to cut off their thumbs. He will then hook the thumb onto his belt with dozens more like it causing the blood to run down his naked lower half, staining his legs in blood. He is unnaturally tall and thin, maybe 8 feet tall, but weighing only 95 some pounds. His face is fixed in a clown-like grin displaying sharp yellow teeth. His tiny red eyes dart everywhere as he nervously laughs as he talks.

The Scissor Man was believed to have been defeated in the middle of the 20th Century, but who is to say he will stay that way.

Name: The Red-Legged Scissor Man
Motivation: To frighten and maim children
Creature Type: Bogey
Attributes: Str 2, Dex 4, Con 4, Int 3, Per 5, Will 2
Ability Scores: Muscle 10, Combat 12, Brains 12
Life Points: 34
Drama Points: 1
Special Abilities: Attractiveness -3, Emotional Influence (causes fear)
Name Score Damage Notes
Scissors 12 8 Most often used to chop of thumbs
Deflect 15 - Magic defence action; deflects spells 45º

Imaginary Friends
While Bogeys are harmful to children the same creation process also can produce imaginary friends. Like bogeys, imaginary friends are created by the nascent magical ability of children. And like bogeys, imaginary friends cannot be seen by adults.

There are very few demons that actually pay attention to strife between bogeys and imaginary friends, considering both to be too far insignificant to even merit their notice. But there is one imaginary friend that they do know about and the mere mention of his name fills them with fear and dread.

That name is Buttons.

Buttons the Bear began just like another childhood toy. He was a handmade stuffed bear given to a now-forgotten child one Christmas morning in the early 1800's. As his child grew older Buttons (and this was not yet his name) was discarded for newer playthings. That is till he ended up as a donation to an orphanage. By this time Buttons had seen a fair amount of use, in particular his glass eyes were gone. The matron of the house, a young Irish nun sewed two buttons on his face for eyes; one green the other red. She gave him to a small child who had nothing and had never received a Christmas present before. It was there that Buttons felt the first tinges of Awakening, the love of this young child stirred up the spark of divinity that is in everything; even in a stuffed bear with mis-matched buttons for eyes.

An orphanage, especially one in what was now the mid-Victorian era, was ripe for all sorts of bogeys. Generally, these were the pestering kind, but every so often something more dangerous would prey on the unfortunates. Buttons (as he was now known) went from merely scaring them off to actively hunting them down at night. For many years Buttons protected the children here and in return he knew he had their love.
Things changed shortly after the Blight. Taking advantage of the suffering and death many demons moved into Ireland, one chose to use the orphanage as a staging area. He would hide in wait, corrupting the adults and torturing the children. It was not though till the demon had fully manifested itself and prepared to kill a child did Buttons attack. Though he was no longer a child's stuffed plaything; instead he had manifested into a towering black bear with razor-sharp claws and a mouthful of teeth. He attacked the demon full on.

The demon, while still very powerful, was only expecting some starving children, not seven feet, 1,200 pounds of fur, claws, and fangs. Within a few seconds the demon was not only on the defense, but nearly ripped to shreds.

On the demon's home plane a portal opened. The demons there were awaiting their Lord's return to bring them the bounty from the orphanage. Instead, the bloodied corpse of their lord was flung through followed by a huge bear with a fire red ruby for one eye and a burning emerald for the other. It let out a deafening roar; a clear warning to the demons. Since that time Buttons has killed no fewer than 17 demon lords and wounded many others. The orphanage suffered no more attacks as long as there was one child holding a tattered old bear with buttons for eyes.

Name: Buttons the Bear (Manifested Form)
Motivation: Protect the Children
Creature Type: Bogey (Imaginary Friend)
Attributes: Str 7, Dex 4, Con 9, Int 2, Per 3, Will 2
Ability Scores: Muscle 20, Combat 18, Brains 12
Life Points: 83
Drama Points: 1
Special Abilities: Bogey (Imaginary Friend), Hard to Kill (3), Manifest
Name Score Damage Notes
Claw (x2) 18 18 Slash/Stab
Bite 16 12 Slash/Stab
- Break Neck 20 28 Bash
Deflect 15 - Magic defense action; deflects spells 45º

Mrs. Cully Mully and her Pink Dog
No one is really sure who, or what, Mrs. Cully Mully is. Was she a human witch that became more imaginary over time. Or an imaginary friend that became more like a real human? No one knows for sure. Mrs. Cully Mully appears to be a woman in her 70's wearing a pinkish frock coat, horned rimmed glasses and carrying a small handbag purse.

She is known to walk the areas between Dream and Reality, between this world and the next one, and between childhood and the end of innocence. Always between worlds, but never in any one world properly. She will say things to make you believe she was once human, like "when I taught kindergarten…" and things to make you think she is imaginary, or at least question her sanity; "…of course the sky was pink then and we had three moons."

She walks the "in-betweens" helping those who are lost, or of need information. In her bag she almost anything the Cast could need, almost. She has no (and no use for) weapons. If the Cast is hungry then she might have their second-favorite sandwich (she is always out of their first favorite) or some magical bauble that may not seem to be useful now but will be priceless later on. She will of course claim she is just walking her dog.

Her dog, who is completely pink, will bark constantly in its small yippish barks. It is only when it stops barking is there reason to fear. That usually means bogeys, spirits or demons are near.

She will try to hastily retreat, pulling the Cast in-tow. IF she has to fight then her true nature (or is it?) is revealed. She has never been known to get into a fight, but in one case an occult scholar (who has since retired to working on a small farm) was lost in the in-betweens when he encountered Mrs. Cully Mully. He described her as pleasant, if seemingly addled. She agreed to walk the man home since it was "on her way" when the object of the scholar's search appeared, the Great Demon Abraxas (so he claimed). Abraxas demanded the scholar's soul and threatened to kill everyone else. Mrs. Cully Mully, he then claimed, walked right up to the demon lord and called him by his true name (also, so the scholar claims) and proceeded to scold him like a schoolboy. She was stern, but never once raised her voice. The demon, angered beyond rage, roared and disappeared in a pillar of flame. She took the man's hand and told him that we're taking a short cut, walked two or three steps and were in front of the man's home. She told him to give up this life, get a real job and find himself a nice quiet girl to marry.

Some say she is a good-natured aspect of the Crone, Goddess of the Witches. Others say she is really the Goddess Ceriweden. And still, others say she is a retired kindergarten teacher out walking her dog.

Mrs. Cully Mully
No Stats. She does not engage in combat. She does have a handbag and small pink, yippy dog.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

OERAD: Spellcraft & Swordplay

Wellcome once again to the annual Original Edition RPG Appreciation Day!

Uh wait... isn't that supposed to be Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day?  Well, yes, but this year Gamers & Grognards, our host, has decided to expand the day to any old-school game that emulates the Original Edition, or (of course) the Original Edition itself.

This year I want to talk about one of my favorite Old-School games, Spellcraft & Swordplay.

Now, just I get this out of the way first.  Jason is a friend of mine and we worked on a lot of Unisystem games together.   Also, I worked on a supplement for S&S called Eldritch Witchery.  That all being said I developed my opinion of this game long before EW ever was thought of.

Spellcraft & Swordplay is not a retro-clone exactly.  It is more of a "near-clone" or as I often think of it as an alternate reality version of OD&D. This game was released in 2011 and it is much closer to the Original Edition feel than S&W.  How?  Well, it uses the original 2d6 means of combat resolution rather than the "alternate" method of the d20.

When D&D was starting out it grew out of the rules in Chainmail.  Using a d20 (twenty-sided die) was the "alternate" combat method that became the norm.  But the original combat method involved 2d6 (two six-sided dice), S&S (among other changes) explores that further.

There are other changes such as saving throws are made against the appropriate ability (which is not too far off to how 5th edition or Castles & Crusades does it). So you can make a Dexterity save to avoid getting hit with something, or a Constitution save to avoid the effects of a poison.

There are no skills, but ability rolls and some characters get bonuses due their classes.

S&S “feels” a lot like the old rules.

The first third of the book is dedicated to character creation. It is roughly analogous to “Men & Magic” and about the same size. We have our introduction that tells why this book is here. There is a section on ability scores and what they can do. There are entries for the four core races (humans, elves, dwarfs, and Halflings), Warriors (not Fighters or Fighting Men), Priests, Wizards, Thieves and Assassins, all the things we remember as kids or have been told about. Some things have been renamed (my OD&D had Clerics and Magic Users and it was not till 2nd Ed that I had Priests and Wizards) some oddly so (Crypto-Linguistics? I am going to need some more levels in Read Languages to figure that out!) but the spirit is there and that was the point.
Classes each have their own advancement tables as in days of old, though the hit point calculations are weird, they are in line with OD&D rules (I just had forgotten how it was done). Though I missed the level names. Spells are a simpler deal. Levels and description, that’s it.

Part 2, Combat and Confrontation is a little more modern than it’s old school counterpart, showing it’s modern sensibilities. It is, in fact, truer to a more modern concept, the Dungeon Master’s Guide. Ability checks, for the most part, replace all skills. Armor Classes though go up instead of down (so 7 is better than 3) and start at 1, not 10.

Part 3, Monsters and Magic is the “Monsters & Treasure” or “Monster Manual” portion. All stats are in a table at the beginning of the chapter, with descriptive text and some pictures following. It does make it awkward to read, but again this is the same as the OD&D books. Monsters are followed by a listing of magic items.

While there some differences from baseline D&D,  S&S is one of those systems that becomes systemless after a while.  The focus is less on rolling dice and more on adventure and role-playing.  For that reason, I find anything written for OD&D, Swords & Wizardry or Basic D&D can be translated and used in a snap.

In fact, as much as I enjoy Swords & Wizardry I find Spellcraft & Swordplay closer to OD&D in terms of gameplay and feel.

Spellcraft & Swordplay Books

Spellcraft & Swordplay Characters

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