Showing posts sorted by relevance for query blight. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query blight. Sort by date Show all posts

Friday, July 21, 2017

Adventures with Venger As'Nas Satanis

Somewhere in the depths of Hell...or the Midwest, hard to tell these days, +Venger Satanis is plugging away putting out material for his own style of Old School gaming.  I thought it might be fun to check in on some of his newest books.

I like Venger's stuff. It is the right amount of nostalgia, old-school charm, sleaze and high production values and often tongue firmly planted in cheek.

Full Disclaimer: Venger sent me copies of His Flesh Becomes My Key, High-Stakes Q'uay-Q'uar, and Stairway of V'dreen for review.  I already had purchased Stairway of V'dreen and I bought Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss a few days ago.

His Flesh Becomes My Key
18 pages, $3.00, PDF
A cool horror/noir murder investigation. While overtly made for The Outer Presence RPG it is mostly crunch free. So it could be used with 1930s Call of Cthulhu, 1970s Chill or even in the 2010s with any game.  Frankly I would like to try it with Witch: Fated Souls or even Majus.  It is that flexible.
Now putting this right out there, this one is less tongue in check sleaze and more gritty urban horror.
I will not spoil the ending, but it is part of what makes this adventure interesting and good to use with nearly any horror game.
Personally, I think it is great fun and would love to try it out under different systems with different groups just to get a different feel each time.  Come to think of it, there is something in the adventure where I COULD run it multiple times, with the same players and characters under different systems.
This adventure is Eldritch Pulp meets the ugly streets of New York or Chicago or San Francisco of modern day.  It is has a nice "old school" vibe to it.  It is H.P. Lovecraft meets Clive Barker.  I hope to see more like this.

High-Stakes Q'uay-Q'uar
18 pages, $5.00, PDF + image file of game
I think most of Venger's adventures revolve around finding a dead body.  That's how this Alpha Blue adventure begins.  I am inordinately fond of Alpha Blue, so a new adventure is always welcome.
The adventure revolves around the game of Q'uay Q'uar.  It is a big deal in this area of space.  There was a Doctor Who episode, "The Wedding of River Song" that features something like this with Chess.  Now imagine that, only with purple and yellow pieces and none other than David "Space" Pumpkins as your host. Then you have an idea what is happening here.
There is alot going here with a lot of characters.  The PCs can compete in the Q'uay Q'uar challenge or they can be observers. There is a smuggling ring to stop (or join up with), a mercenary and a ton of other things to do here.
Included in the adventure is a PDF on how to play Q'uay Q'uar and an image file of a board.
I would be utterly disappointed to hear that Venger does not have his own Q'uay Q'uary game set up to play at home. I did something similar for Ghosts of Albion: Blight with a game of Fidchell. I did make a Fidchell board (well, really a Tafl board).
Like all of Venger's products, this one is heavy on substance and style, and light on crunch.  I could see this played under White StarStarships & Spacemen, or even the new Star Trek game.
I am going to use it in my Star Trek/Cthulhu-mythos mash-up for certain!

Stairway of V'dreen
19 pages, $4.00, PDF
This adventure for Crimson Dragon Slayer (or any OSR/Fantasy game really) starts In media res with the PCs needing to find shelter. Here they meet Doctor Ebzub and his almost completed experiment.  What happens next is ... well ... ok the PCs end up in V'dreen. But is V'dreen is left to some questions.  It feels like some in-between world where PCs encounter the remnants of gods that were, or could be.  V'dreen is a dying world. Not in the Jack Vance sense but in the "it is rotting right before your eyes" sense.  The PCs must either save it or euthanize it.
There is a fair bit of meta to this adventure and a lot more that can be added by any group.  This is the type of adventure that works best with a group that has been playing together a long time, but maybe the first time with these particular characters. The adventure can be played for bizarre laughs or as deadly serious.
Either way it will be a lot of fun.

Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss
14 pages, $3.00, PDF
Have you ever wanted to make your own adventures? Do you want to be like Venger and write them like a fucking boss?  Well, this is the book for you then.  Overtly the book is focused on people writing their own adventures for the first time, but the advice given is so solid that even old veterans like me kind find it useful.  Some of the advice is common sense, but never underestimate the value of stating something plainly.   There are no groundbreaking revelations here, no paradigm shifts and no occult insights. And that is perfectly fine by me.  Adventure writing is not supposed to be Shakespeare, it's supposed to be Poe.  The advice given though is rock solid, and it provides easily repeatable to create fun, entertaining adventures that don't feel like a railroad.
Honestly, I would package this up with his How To Game Master Like a Fucking Boss to give GMs a full toolbox of advice and tricks to help any adventure; whether they wrote it themselves or grab one off the shelf.   Venger really should bundle this with the Character book and call it the "Be A Fucking Boss Bundle".
I have a Trek game coming up. I know what I want to do with it, but I am going to run my ideas through this book and give them a test.  So far all the advice has panned out well and I believe that this will be a better adventure because of it.

Play Your Character Like A Fucking Boss
13 pages, $3.00, PDF
I picked this up based 100% on my reading of Adventure Writing Like A Fucking Boss.  In fact I did not even own this book when I started this review.  This book is great. Plenty of advice on how to play your character to get the most enjoyment out of it.  A lot of this I already do and have done for years.  In fact, I think playing in horror games made me a better player as well as a GM. I see a lot of that advice here too, but with a different focus.
I stand by my idea of the "Be A Fucking Boss Bundle".  Using all this advice will make you a better player and a better GM.

I started this review a couple of days ago, since that time OneBookShelf started their Christmas in July sale.  So ALL these titles are on sale now.  Grab them, now. Make them yours.  Your Players will thank you.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #119

While today's choice is sort of a cheat, it is a very timely one.  I grabbed it because it features one of my favorite covers of all Dragons.  The recent Doctor Who episode "The Eaters of Light" featured a story about the fate of the Ninth Legion of the Imperial Roman army in Scotland.  My first thought was "well, we know it was Kostchtchie!" from Daniel Horne's fantastic cover.

But once I grabbed it I also noticed how it was a really nice companion to my own Green Witch that was published yesterday.  So nice in fact I put the magazine down until today!  I didn't want anything in it unduly influencing me.  Though in re-re-reading it now I can see there were some things there in 1987 that did stick with me over the years, including some more Doctor Who references.
So set your TARDIS back to March 1987, put on U2's With Or Without You, and get ready for This Old Dragon Issue #119.

Letters cover a guy just discovering the Chainmail rules. Interesting to read, to be honest. We forget that in this day and age nearly every shred of information is literally at our fingertips.  I just got another copy of Chainmail for my birthday from my old Jr. High DM.  It is different than the one I had by a couple of pages. I am going to need to investigate that.

The big feature of this issue is the section on Druids.  I can't help but see the "Spinal Tap" Stonehenge every time I see the standing stones and lintel that works as the header for these articles.

That aside this was one of my favorite series. I had by this time already written my first copy of the witch class. It was though lacking in some historical oomph. This series gave me a lot of inspiration on what can be done with the class AND what not to do.  Not in terms of things being bad in these articles (far from it) but in terms of making my witches different from the druids.  In fact I put these articles as "Must Reads" for anyone wanting to play a druid.

Carl Sargent is up first with Underestimating Druids (is a bad practice). It's a look into the strengths of the class and giving them their due. Several tips and bits of advice are given for using the Druid in and out of the dungeon setting, but most telling (and also the most interesting to me) was a break-down of the XP per level and the amount of spell-power all the AD&D1 spell-casting classes had.  The Druid comes out looking the best. Plus let's be honest, Flame Strike is a MUCH cooler spell than Fireball.

Up next is an article covering the Druid in his role as a healer. We are warned that  John Warren's "Is There a Doctor In the Forest?" is unofficial material.  It is also closer to what we think we know about druids in real life; that they were the healers of their society. There is a ton of great ideas here for herbal and natural healing in AD&D. Unofficial or not there is a lot great rules here.  The crunch is the same level as AD&D, so more than I want for an OSR or even a 5e game, but worth looking into the next time I play AD&D1 proper.

On cue another ad for the Time-Life Enchanted World books!

Next up is an article I had re-read a lot back in the Summer of 1987. From by William Volkart and Robin Jenkins we get On Becoming The Great Druid.  It dealt with that little remembered now artifact of the Druid class that at higher levels you needed to defeat the druid whose level you wanted to take.   I have to admit that at the time I was not fond of the idea, though now I see as a great plot and role-playing device.  I was trying to come up with a way to add this all to my then current game.  I never really did to be honest since I figured I needed to come up with my world-wide Druid religion.  Of course, nothing in the history of the Druids supports the idea that would or even could do this (I was also reading some Margaret Murry, so I am excusing myself) but I got fixated on the idea I needed to figure out their complete religious structure first.  I made some head-way and a lot of that was actually added to my Witch class with the "Court of Witches".  I just replaced Great Druid with Witch Queen.  The Grand Coven of the Earth Mother in The Green Witch also comes from those notes way back then.

Rick Reid is up and has Cantrips for Druids - Naturally. Makes me REALLY glad I kept this to the side while working on the Green Witch and that I didn't put cantrips in that book. They will appear in the "The White Witch" later this summer.

Ah. Now here is an old friend. Ed Greenwood (who's early Dragon writing I am really enjoying again) has the Beastmaster NPC class.  It is such an overkill class.  Hell, I would not be surprised to discover that Drizzt didn't start out as a beastmaster. Though to be 100% fair it is described as an NPC only class...yup. Just like the witch was. ;)
I talked about a lot of Beastmaster classes in an early version of Class Struggles. At that time I had forgotten all about this one though in re-reading it now I see that my DM's homebrew Beastmaster was based on this one.

While not a part of the official Druid feature, Calle Lindstrand has the write up for The Uldra a new character race.  The article is the type of "anything worth doing is worth doing to excess" type that I really love. We get a new race, a monster entry, and some gods. The Uldra themselves seem to be a cross between a gnome and a dwarf.  I really hope that wherever Calle Lindstrand is that Uldras as written here are still part of their game. There is too much, well, love here to ignore.  Uldras would later go on to be upgraded to a full offical D&D race.

It is also one of the reasons while I like to include a new race in a book overtly about a class. The Green Witch, for example, has another take on Gnomes for Swords & Wizardry.

Ed is back with Ecology of the Korred.  Given that it follows right behind the article on the Uldra I often conflated the two into one race. Not really fair to either to be honest.  My then DM really enjoyed this article and it was the inspiration to the only "Dance off in D&D" I have ever done.  I later stole his idea and had another Dance Off in Ghosts of Albion: Blight. Only this time it was against the Sidhe.  This article also gives us a new god.

Dragon's Bestiary features some sylvan monsters for your game. Again, not exactly part of the Druid feature, but close enough that it fits really well.

We get some fairly interesting creatures too. The Wild Halflings are great and I think I detect a bit of what would later develop in Dark Sun.  The Luposphinx is a winged wolf/lion hybrid that doesn't seem out of place at all. The Leshy is based on some older fairy tales. There is another take on the Wendigo (none have every truly been "right" as far as I am concerned). The Wood Giant, which has since been promoted to the ranks of "official D&D monster". There is a Wood Golem here too. A bit about that. This wood golem never really stuck a cord with me. It was neat and all, but wood? Through flaming oil at it.  It was not till I read the Doctor Who story Lungbarrow and their "Drudges" that gave me the idea for something new.  I remember reading a story about an old witch that used to always say "If I'd had my druthers, I have my wooden druthers too."  The Wooden Druther became my new Wood Golem.  Wood Golems have also been promoted, but they will always take a back seat to my Druthers.

Not bad. Half the magazine and all of it quality or really, really fun materials.

In fact, if I had stopped here, 50 some odd pages in (minus ads) I would have considered it money well spent.  I suppose it is also no surprise then that I like to include a lot of these same things in my own books; a class, races, alternate classes, monsters, and spells.  1987 was a turning point year for me really.

Charles Olsen is back with an article about NPCs; Henchmen and Hirelings. Five pages of material that looks liek it should work with any version of the game.

Jeff Grub has Dinner With Elminster.  The article is a bit silly to be honest but I tend to forget that 1987 was the year of the Forgotten Realms. While everyone else was falling in love with that my years-long game was about to hit its final Act.   How long does it take to roleplay a massive war? Two years, give or take.

Let's see what's left here... Some fiction...

Some Sage Advice...

The Gamma World article has some cryptic alliances in Politics Amid the Rubble. Just another reminder to me that I REALLY need to a Gamma World game going again some day.

The Marvel-Phile (actually in this issue!) has Psylocke in her pink outfit.  Just as an FYI Oliva Munn, the future movie Psylocke is only 6-years old at the publication of this issue.

TSR Previews covers the new and hot items of April and May 1987.  Make sure you get your copy of the Lazer TagTM rules. I did!

In May we get the first of GAZ series for Mystara and the Known World, GAZ1 The Grand Duchy of Karameikos.

Lots of Cons advertised and some small ads. Finally, we get Snarf Quest and Wormy.
Little did I know that Trampier and I would be heading to the same town to live more or less around the same time.

Really a great issue.

I see the seeds of ideas here that later germinated in games I played then and later in college and now in the stuff, I put up here.

What are your memories of this issue?

Want to know what I was saying about White Dwarf magazine during the same month? Check out my White Dwarf Wednesday for issue #87.

The Green Witch is now out!

Pick up a copy today for Swords & Wizardry.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Review: Army of Darkness RPG

I don't know...something about today reminded me that there is fun to be had is fighting mindless hordes of things that are dead inside.  Wait, I think I mean Deadites.  Deadites. Zombies. Alt-Right Douchebags. Same things really.

This is an older review but never posted here.

Army of Darkness RPG

Disclaimer: I have been a freelancer for Eden studios for years and have worked on a lot of their books. I have been an author or co-author on some and a playtester on many. But in this case, I had nothing to do with “Army of Darkness” other than purchase the book like everyone else.

Time to kick some Ash.

If nothing else the Army of Darkness RPG from Eden Studios (AoD RPG) will give your game group hours of puns like these or spontaneously shooting off quotes from the movie, if they don’t already do that now.

The AoD RPG is the latest offering from Eden using the Cinematic Unisystem rules. Cinematic Unisystem is a stripped down to basics rule set to foster fast play in a cinematic style game. That is not to say the rules are non-existent, just non-obtrusive. Cinematic Unisystem plays similar to its big brother Classic Unisystem, which powers such games as All Flesh Must Be Eaten, WitchCraft and Armageddon. If you want to use this game with those, no problem, not only is it very easy, but there is a great Appendix in the back to handle the details. AoD shares Cinematic Unisystem with Eden’s Origin’s winning Angel RPG, Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG and Ghosts of Albion RPG. Here taking characters from one game to next is easy and no conversions are needed. In fact one could conceivably play one game consisting of all four game books in one big, really bad world.

Rough parallels can be drawn between Cinematic games and Classic one. Buffy is built like a cinematic version of WitchCraft, Angel invokes the same feel as Armageddon, and likewise AoD takes on a lot of it’s feel from it’s older brother All Flesh Must Be Eaten.

If you like the movie Army of Darkness (or any of the Evil Dead movies) or any of Eden’s other games then you should pick this up. If you are not sure if the AoD RPG is for you then let’s get into the details.

Chapter 1 is the introduction with some Army of Darkness style fiction added in. It’s nice, but you will only read it once in your life. The rest of the chapter is pretty straight forward and reads exactly like every other Chapter 1 in any Eden book. This is both good and bad. Bad in the fact I have now bought this chapter at least 10 times now. It’s good because it also means that I can pick up any of those books and know immediately what to expect. There is a new part here though, one on the cosmology of the game. It’s not bad, but I am not sure if I will use it or not. Like most roleplayers I have a varied and complex mythos surrounding my games where the machinations of powerful beings 5,000 years ago shape my world today. Then again this is supposed to fast and loose and for crying out loud the movie depicted England with a desert, so heck with all that, what I really want to do is stomp on some deadites. I don’t care if they were sent by “The Old Ones”, Satan or Santa.

Chapter 2 is the meat for the normal gamer; how to create characters and give them some cool stuff. Again, some of this is ported right over from “Angel”, but that is not really that bad since it is really the best stuff with more added. Plus I want my games to be compatible, so I do want my “white hats” and my “mundanes” to be able to hang with the “primitive screw heads” and not bicker over which version of “Hard to Kill” to buy. There are some new qualities and a lot of new drawbacks to choose from. Plus the focus shifts from the magically empowered supernaturals of Buffy/Angel to the regular guys and gals doing what’s right of Army of Darkness. If you enjoy playing “normal” characters then this is the book for you. The skills are unchanged from Angel/Buffy in keeping with the Cinematic scope, but they are a little more defined. Let’s face it, Ash did more with his car in two hours than Buffy/Angel did in 12 collective seasons, so a little more attention is paid to what you can do. The archetypes are great and if you are familiar with the archetypes from Buffy or Angel you will recognize the style and art here. In general the archetypes reflect the focus of the game, normal guy or gal, way weird circumstances. I found them a tad hard to read with the colored background, but that could be my PDF. Loved the archaeolbogist (though her portrait has Appearance of at least +2 even if she doesn’t in the sheet) loved the Zorro guy, gunslinger, night stalker dude, and the roller baller. Adding the game designer might have been a little too cheesy, but hey I don’t blame them one bit and for this game it works. It also includes the original cast, but Ash is the main guy. For anyone that has ever wanted to know “who would win in a fight, Ash or ____?” well here is where you can find the answers.

Chapter 3 is also the same as many of Eden’s chapter 3s. It has the rules. Since the rules are not significantly modified from other games, some can skip this all together. But if you do you will be missing some good bits. First off Eden has learned from Buffy and Angel and this chapter is laid out a lot clearer. There is also the whole new set of rules covering land vehicles; a really nice addition to the Cinematic game universe.

Chapter 4 is really nice. Every Eden book has it’s true gem, the one thing that makes that book worthwhile. WitchCraft has it’s magic system, Angel has it’s demon creation rules, and Army of Darkness has it’s Battle System. This is mass combat system for Cinematic Unisystem but on reading it, it would certainly work for any Unisystem game. It keeping with the cinematic tone the rules are fast and free flowing, but like all of Cinematic Unisystem they are designed to maximize the fun and playability.

Chapter 5 is the information for the Directors out there. Not too different, and in this case that is not the best thing. I was reading it over and the whole time I keep feeling I was reading a chapter out of Buffy or Angel, with the talk of “episodes” and “Seasons”. Yes, "episode" is still a fine name and great workable game mechanic. But “Army of Darkness” is not a TV show, it is a movie. I would have liked to see how to set up a big epic battle or mimic the feel of a movie with some plot elements compressed. Like Ash said to Shelia “first you want to kill me now you want to kiss me”, things like love have to happen pretty fast, faster than TV. So what I would have liked then is to see the sidebar on “Other Ways to Do It” expanded into a full chapter with “The TV Show” set up as just one option. Granted, for those Directors planning huge AoD/Buffy/AFMBE/WitchCraft epic crossover campaigns, this chapter works to your advantage.

Chapter 6 sets up the who, what and where elements. All needed for this game where being sucked into a portal and waking up in England in the Middle Ages is normal. It is nice the see that one other movie is Eden’s most watched list outside of Army of Darkness and that is The Holy Grail. Or at least that is how I felt after reading this chapter because I sure as hell can run that Holy Grail RPG now with this book. It is a bit odd that some characters, Arthur in particular, got a full character sheet in Chapter 2 and a quick sheet here as well. Reason? Don’t know, see the disclaimer above. But I do know that it was spaced used that could have been dedicated to something else. No big. Moving on. I have to admit the title “Graveyard…of the Dead” made me laugh. The creatures are neat and there are a lot of ideas here for an AoD game or even adding them to your Buffy/Angel game. OR better yet expand these little nasties with the Angel demon creation rules.

Chapter 7, coughWorlds of Darknesscough is actually really cool. It is your typical “here's how you set up adventures”, but the examples given are more fleshed out that some other entire game worlds. There is an ancient Sumerian style adventure where you need to prevent the writing of the Necronomicon (you have to love any game that refers to Ereshkigal as a Goth Chick); a pulp-era stop the Nazi’s from getting occult artifacts adventure and future setting hinted at in the Director’s Cut of Army of Darkness. All are complete with more really cool monsters and vehicle rules.

Chapter 8 is a full blown adventure, I won’t talk about it too much here so as not to ruin it for potential players.

There is an Appendix of Unisystem conversion notes if you want to switch between this and Classic Unisystem. I nice detailed list on Character Creation, all the tables from the text including a comprehensive list of qualities and drawbacks from the book. Tables and charts for combat and weapons. The book ends with a solid index (the weakest part of ‘Angel’, not repeated here) and a nice character sheet. Sure you can use your “Buffy” sheet or even the Buffy or Angel character Journals, but this is a nice clean sheet. Since I have the PDF I printed one out on a B&W laser printer and it looked great.

What's Good: Overall the book is fantastic, a completely playable game based on Eden’s Origins award winning Cinematic Unisystem rules (Angel, Best New RPG 2003). Plus it captures the feel and the fun of the original movie quite well.

What's Bad: I have to admit I got tired of the informal tone of the book, but that could be just me. And let’s be honest, it is a perfect choice to go with the movie.

What's Missing: No magic rules. But they do acknowledge this and there wasn’t really any magic in movie that wasn’t used “off stage” or by the minions of evil. Want magic in your AoD game? Buy a copy “The Magic Box Sourcebook” for the Buffy RPG or get a copy of Ghosts of Albion.

UPDATED: Since I have written this review I have used AoD in a lot of my Cinematic Unisystem games. In particular for an army of undead fighting the Protectors of Éire in Ghosts of Albion: Blight.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Friday Night Videos: Happy Birthday Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner

Today marks the 64th birthday of Gordon Matthew Thomas Sumner, better known to the world as Sting.

Growing up (and still now) I was a HUGE fan of the Police.  In fact my first folder I kept my character sheets in had the symbols from Ghost in the Machine scribbled on them.

When Synchronicity came out it was such a shift in my thinking that I can barley quantify it.  From this I read Jung, which would lead to degrees in psychology (undergrad and graduate). I read Lolita (thanks to "Don't Stand So Close to Me") which lead me to read other literary greats.
(Seriously. Read Lolita. It's dark, messed up, and brilliant.)
When I got married the song playing "for me" was Sting's "Fields of Gold".

So yeah. I am a fan.
Plus he went to St Cuthbert's Grammar School, so how could I *not* associate him with D&D?

But there are a lot of good songs I associate with gaming.

Back when I was working on the Buffy RPG we were working on a series of linked adventures about a Djinn.  The first few appeared the core books and my adventure "The Dark Druid" was supposed to be Episode 1.  It never quite came together for the reasons these things don't but I wrote a lot for it.  Some of those adventures later became part of "The Dragon and the Phoenix" and "Season of the Witch".

"Desert Rose" from Mercury Falling was one of many songs I listened to then to get me in the mood.  This video represents that crossover.  In both the Djinn arc and Season of the Witch the characters have to find their answers in the desert in the adventure Desert Rose.  Plus I love the bits from Algerian Raï singer Cheb Mami.  Sounds so cool.   Plus is that the same driver from the Duran Duran video "The Chauffeur"? (no I know it's not...but I imprinted in the 80s).

Often with me music will inspire some idea, plot or character.  Sting's "Shape of my Heart" from Ten Summoner's Tales is not his most upbeat song.  I remember listening to it and thinking of a man who was a gambler decided to deal with fate. He became the instrument of fate, loosing his eyes in the process and everyone he loved.  He knows that the fortunes he deals for others are just as much about him and one day he will find what he lost.  That character became The Dealer and he can be found in Halfway.

The Soul Cages might be Stings best sounding album from a audiophile perspective, though I also like the vinyl version of Dream of the Blue Turtles.  It is also (naturally) a dark album.  Lots to do with death and transitions and how fathers die and sons become fathers in turn.  Nothing lays the pathos bare better than the song of the same name, "The Soul Cages".  I always considered this a "Ravenloft" album.

What do Zenyatta Mondatta, Dream of the Blue Turtles and Bring on the Night all have in common?  All have a slightly different version of Sting's own "Shadows in the Rain".  The later, jazzy versions don't share the darker edge of the 1980 Police version, but all are still good.  This song also was the inspiration for a rather pivotal episode in both the Buffy Djinn arc and later in the Dragon and the Phoenix.

Anytime I want to get in the mood for some Celtic-themed gaming you can do worse than listening to the Chieftains.  The Chieftains and Sting together is something rather special.  Having them sing "Mo Ghile Mear" is fantastic.  I swear I can hear Éire herself singing.

Speaking of hearing Éire.   Going back to Ghost in the Machine for a bit, the Police's "Invisible Sun" has haunted me for years.  I have wanted to use the imagery from this song for years.  It was one of the many influences on my Ghosts of Albion adventure Blight.  It is a main part of my current D&D 5 game, Come Endless Darkness.   I like the Ghost version best, but here is an extremely gratuitous version with Sting and Bono.  No one chews up a stage like Bono.

Happy Birthday Sting!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Class Struggles: The Dark Druid

I am have a great time here planning out my "War of the Witch Queens" adventures.  My 5th Ed game is running like a well oiled machine and there is nothing I need to plan for it for many more months (I need a high level adventure to cap it off).

This week I finally got a copy of an adventure I have been wanting forever; Dark Druids by Robert J. Kuntz.  It is a real treat and worth the wait and money I paid for it.

I had been researching Irish myths and legends and read about how Liath, Bodhmall, and Finn defeated an enemy known as the Dark Druid. It was quite a fascinating tale and I loved the idea of an evil druid.
I want to talk today about the Dark Druid class, but first a little background.
Many years ago I wrote an adventure for the Buffy RPG called The Dark Druid. Actually it was the first ever published Buffy adventure.   The adventure was a Willow and Tara focused adventure dealing with their past lives, Liath and Bodhmall, Finn MacCool and the Dark Druid "Fer Dorich".

The idea was compelling enough that Irish author Brian O'Sullivan took the same characters and same myths and put his own spin on them in his books the Fionn MacCumhail series.   Like I did he has Liath and Bodhmall as lovers and he even has a Dark Druid, a "Tainted One".  I bring this up because HIS Dark Druid is much cooler than mine.  Mine is simply evil.  His is a perversion of nature.  In gamer circles we might want to describe this in terms of undeath or even Cthulhoid like nastiness.   O'Sullivan is better than that.  His Tainted One radiates a level of "wrongness" that it is noticed my Ban-drui Bodhmall from miles away and even puts fear into the legendarily fearless Liath.
(BTW get his books. They are great!)

Back to my Dark Druid for a bit. The adventure was designed to be a modern tale (thus the Buffy) system.  Part 2 took place in Victorian times as Ghosts of Albion: Blight.  The main enemy was an unnamed necromancer that is imprisoned in a faerie ring.  In publishing it was the necromancer, Lord of Dragons from Ghosts of Albion: Embers.  In my personal games it was the same Dark Druid.
Part 3 was supposed to take place back in Mythic Éire and deal with Liath, Bodhmall, and Finn defeating the Dark Druid for the first time.  Three parts separated by time.   Part 3 was going to be called "All Souls Night" (after the Loreena McKennitt song).   It would have been for *D&D-ish and included the new classes the Dark Druid and the Green Knight.  I did write bits of of it for 3.0 and the Dark Druid and Green Knight live on as Prestige Classes (but I am not going to talk about those today).
I was going to release it, but now I don't have too.
Brian Young gave us the wonderful Codex Celtarum and the adventure Night of the Spirits for Castles & Crusades.  Night of the Spirits does pretty EVERYTHING I wanted to do with All Souls Night.  It even has a Dark Druid.

Dark Druids is a similar adventure. I am not reviewing the adventure yet, but I do want to talk about the class it offers; The Dark Druid.

The class is like the Druid of AD&D source; only this time OSRIC.  It can be any evil alignment or Chaotic Neutral.  This has some logic to it.  The book includes the Dark Druid class and two different sects of Dark Druids.  Dark Druids eschew hierarchies  so there are no "high priests" but many that might claim that title. There are "Dread Hierophants", but that really can be more about power than actual religious hierarchies.   Advancement wise they are like Druids. The only thing I didn't care for was that the Dark Druids are controlled by a demon.  I would think that they are controlled by something older and more evil.  An Eodemon or Urdemon or even some other horror from beyond; something outside of reality.  The book also comes with 42 new spells.  I did not see an OGL statement with any of this.
Given all this The Dark Druid would also make for a great class in Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.

I would avoid giving the Dark Druid too many necromantic spells. Sure he can have some, but that is not their role.  Some of the vivimancer spells from the Complete Vivimancer are a good choice.  Obviously there are some good witch spells as well.

There is a lot of potential for a class concept like this.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The 30 Greatest D&D Adventures of All Time

Been kinda of obsessed with lists lately.  But this one does have a point for me.  A while back (2004 in fact) the Pazio run of Dungeon Magazine listed their top 30 adventures of all time.

I have been going through what I call the "Classical Canon" of D&D.  Not just so I have the experience of running them all, but so my kids can also enjoy these great adventures.  I also am looking for what makes a truly great D&D adventure; something that people still talk about years later.

Anyway here is the list with my thoughts.

30. The Ghost Tower of Inverness, 1980 (C2)
This is great one, but an odd one to run with a party in an ongoing campaign.  So I used it in my Doctor Who Adventures in Time and Space playtest and ran it as "The Ghost Tower of Inverness, Illinois".  I used this as the location of the "Ghost Tower" which is actually a malfunctioning Time Beacon.

29. The Assassin’s Knot, 1983 (L2)
Personally I prefer L1, Secret of Bone Hill, but this is a great sequel and I can see why many people like it more than Bone Hill.  Assassin's Knot works well as a murder mystery, but not great if your players are wanting to go in a bust skulls.

28. The Lost City, 1982 (B4)
I played this one in 8th Grade when it was new and had a blast.  I ran it again for my kids a few years back and still had a blast.  There were so many things in it I had forgotten and I spent most of the module smiling to myself in memory.  It is a Moldvay classic really and really has the feel of early 80s Basic D&D.

27. The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, 1981 (U1)
This was one I played back in the day but I have yet to run.  I have it all ready to go with my 3rd Ed. conversion notes.  Of course at the time I thought this was great because I was deep into my Anglophilia and I thought ANYTHING from England was perfect. Given that it was written (in part) by Don Turnbull then it was bound to be good.  If I remember right I played this one after Lost City.  I loved the tenor and mood of the module. It inspired an adventure I wrote in 88 called "Home by the Sea".  Parts of that adventure were then later used in my Ghosts of Albion adventure Blight, which took place in Ireland.  So it all came full circle.

26. City of Skulls, 1993 (WGR6)
This is an odd one. I never played it, never ran it and never really heard anything about it.  This was near the end of my Ravenloft games and very, very close to the time where I took a huge break from D&D.  I will check it out sometime, but doubt if I'll ever run it.

25. Dragons of Despair, 1984 (DL1)
I never played or ran any of the Dragonlance modules.  I enjoyed the books when they came out and I liked the idea that everyone playing was going through it all at the same time.  Hey, maybe someone should revive this for the next D&D Encounters!  I loved the idea and I loved the new design of the modules, but even then it felt a little railroady to me.  Plus I wanted to use my own characters.

24. City of the Spider Queen, 2002
I am not a good judge of this one. I don't like Drizzt. I don't like R.A. Salvatore. I never really cared for the Forgotten Realms till about 4th Edition.  I don't really know anything about this module. I suspect it was added to the list because there was a dearth of "modern" adventures and most of the others were "Greyhawk" related.

23. The Forgotten Temple of Tharzidun, 1982 (WG4)
Now this adventure...This one I can get behind.  I never played this one, but I have run it twice. It's a death dealer and a peak into what might have been coming as a narrative arc if Gygax had been into such things.  This module is one of out first peeks into the horror that is Tharzidun, a god that is part Cthulhu and part Satan in my game.  I am weaving material from this module into my larger campaign.

22. The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, 1982 (S4)
The same is true for this module. I remember buying it as soon as it came out and I begged my DM to run me through it.  I have run it myself twice since, the most recent time with my Dragonslayers group.  This is one of my most favorite modules. It has a vampire, Iggwilv, tons of new demons (many that later became part of the Monster Manual II) and just enough puzzles to keep the players on their toes. Running it this last time was a lot of fun.

21. Dark Tower, 1979 from Judge’s Guild (JG 0088)
While I would argue that this is an obligatory JG entry, this one is actually a lot of fun.  I never played it myself and it is so rare on eBay that it has been cost prohibative.  Thankfully we have PDFs of the Original and of the 3.5 update.

20. Scourge of the Slave Lords, 1986 (A1-4)
Another classic getting the reprint treatment.  I remember playing this one in 8th grade as well.  My DM at the time folded the Lost City into the A series to make a campaign out of them. Also he had a copy of Grimtooth's Traps which made everything deadlier. Or as he said "better".  I still have a thief stuck somewhere in a pit trap.

19. Against the Cult of the Reptile God, 1982 (N1)
I have never played or run this one.   I have though always wanted to use it as a start of a "Second" campaign,  After running the Classical Canon, I would start with a new campaign focusing on reptiles as the enemy.  Work in some modern "Reptoids" and have a go at it.  Maybe someday I will still do this.  But this is a fun adventure to read.

18. The Hidden Shrine of Tamochan, 1980 (C1)
Another great old module I never played, but read many times.  Like N1 I always hoped that I could use this one as part of a second campaign.  Though given some of the elements I would not be amiss using it in my "Come Endless Darkness" campaign.  I already have too many modules/adventures for the 5-7 level range.

17. Ruins of Undermountain, 1991
Ah. This is one that I have always known about but never really bothered with.  It was Forgotten Realms so I never gave it much thought.  Though I always thought this was more of a campaign expansion, ie part of the the whole Underdark deal so I never considered it an adventure.

16. Isle of Dread, 1980 (X1)
Oh the hours I spent pouring over this map.  This was Tom Moldvay's love letter to the pulp era and to such classic horror movies as King Kong. This also included the first full map of the Known World.  I ran it many times as a kid and it was one of the first modules I ran for my son.  He wanted to go an island of monsters, "like in Godzilla".  This did not disappoint him or me.  More so than any other adventure, the Dragonslayers were born here.

15. Castle Amber, 1981 (X2)
Another great. Again Moldvay's pulp horror influences are showing here, in particular his love for the works of Clark Ashton Smith. This time we enter an old house full of crazy characters and plenty of dangers.  This could have come off as a "fun house" dungeon, but something in the presentation is different.  Maybe it is the undertones of horror and dread.   My players in our 5e game are going through this one now. I have dropped the first hints of the "coming darkness" to them here.
This is one of my personal favorites. Certainly part of my top 5.

14. Dead Gods, 1997
Dead Gods is not an adventure I have ever run or been in, but it is one I have used quite a bit.  There are a number of elements in it that I use for my "Rise of Orcus" plot. Especially back in the 4e days and the rise of Orcus adventures.  Honestly there are enough adventures out there that you could build a universe (and edition) spanning mega campaign on nothing more than stopping the machinations of Orcus.  One day I should give that a try.

13. Dwellers of the Forbidden City, 1981 (I1)
This is a great adventure and part of my "Second Campaign" (AGGHHH too many adventures to play!) it is also at the 4th-7th level sweet spot.  This one is a key part of that idea since it introduced the Yuan-ti, a monster I have used repeatedly; often calling them Ophidians.   It has elements that would fit in nicely with my 5th edition group, but I have too many adventures for this level.

12. The Forge of Fury, 2000
So this is our obligatory 3e adventure I think.  I never played it or ran it, thought I have read it.  Personally I think The Sunless Citadel was better and should have been on this list.  It was the first and introduced a generation to Meepo.  Sure he was no Aleena, but you could also say that Aleena was no Meepo!

11. The Gates of Firestorm Peak, 1996
Ugh.  Sorry, but there is a lot about this module I just don't like.  I don't care for the shoehorn plot for starters and I hated the Skills & Powers books. Som much that it threw me off of D&D till 3e came out.  It was "Lovecraftian" and I did like that.  I suspect that is why it is on this list to be honest. Though many of the ideas in this module came into sharper focus during the 3e years.

10. Return to the Tomb of Horrors, 1998
You have to admit. This is a total cheat.  I have it, I enjoyed it and I like the idea that the Tomb is something that people can keep going back too (whatever the edition).  As a sequel there is a lot to like. As a stand alone and on it's own merits though it might be passable.

9. White Plume Mountain, 1979 (S2)
I am inordinately fond of the S series of modules.  This one is no different.  It of course makes 0 sense, but works great as an epic D&D adventure. Plus it gave us Wave, Whelm and Blackrazor.

8. Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil, 2001
In many ways I like this one better than the original. I like the idea of returning to the Temple I also like the idea of talking in game about adventures that came before.  Gives me a sense of continuity.   This is one of my favorite 3.x era modules to be honest.

7. The Keep on the Borderlands, 1979 (B1)
What can I honestly say about this one?  The Cave of Chaos were as well traveled as a local Mall in the 1980s.   When I think "Classic Canon" this is the first thing that comes to mind.

6. The Desert of Desolation, 1987 (I3-5)
Another total cheat this "super" module is made up of Pharoah (I3), Oasis of the White Palm (I4) and Lost Tomb of Martek (I5).   Though to be totally fair they are linked together. Another really great set of adventures I would LOVE to play or run (read them many times) but not likely to.  Maybe if I do my "Second Campaign".  There is a lot in these I have used elsewhere though.

5. Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, 1980 (S3)
"You know what AD&D needs?  Freaking laser guns! Lasers and killer robots!"  Seriously. Has there ever been a module to encapsulate everything the late 70s and early 80s was all about more than this one?  It even has a karate instructor robot.  I am going to add in a break-dancing robot that moves to a funky Herbie Hancock beat when I run this next.  Which should be soon. I am going totally gonzo with it too. I am grabbing bits of Gamma World and Metamorphosis Alpha too.   In fact since the characters are higher level than the module requires I am doing a sort of "Return to the Barrier Peaks" spin on it. I am going to add some material from The Illithiad as well.

4. The Temple of Elemental Evil, 1985 (T1-4)
Another of the classic canon. If you didn't start your adventure in the keep, then chances are you started it here.  I have always wanted to run this one and never have.  I have used pieces of it before.
I suppose if I do my "second campaign" I will start with this and change the temple a bit.

3. Tomb of Horrors, 1978 (S1)
We just finished this one and it was every bit the meat grinder it was rumored to be.  I had gone through back in the day, but running it was a completely different experience.  Now I might be branded as a heretic here but it is not really that good of an adventure.  Really it isn't. There are lot things in the adventure that don't make sense except in a D&D world.  That being said it is a rite of passage and everyone should try it at least once under their favorite edition or at least once under 1st ed as Gary intended it to be.

2. Ravenloft, 1983 (I6)
Here we go. This is my favorite module on the list. I just love it; warts and all.  Yeah there are some real leaps in logic in this one and there are plenty of reasons NOT to like it, but I don't care. I think it is great. It's a Hammer Horror film in D&D form right down to the small "Hammer Hamlet" village with terrified peasants.  There are vampires, gypsies, werewolves, really strong zombies, gargoyles. Even a huge pipe organ played by the vampire.  You can almost hear Toccata and Fugue in D minor while running it. I have played through this once and I have ran it three or four times.  I would love to try it sometime under the Ghosts of Albion rules.  I am going to take my 5e group through it when they complete Castle Amber.

1. Queen of Spiders, 1986 (G1-3, D1-3, Q1)
The first AD&D campaign arc.  We talk alot about being "plot free" in our adventures but when it get right down to it we love a good story arc and the GDQ was that.  I am not 100% sure that Q1 lived up the promise of the G and D series, but damn was it fun.
This super module was made up of:

Back in the day EVERYONE was going through this. It was the D&D Encounters of it's time.  The only problem was no one was doing it at exactly the same time or way.  So I know dozens of stories about how these turned out. I have dozens of my own.  Plus that Bill Willingham cover of the Giants is one of the most iconic covers of the age I think.

There you are. The 30 greatest adventures as ranked by Dungeon Magazine.
Do you agree or disagree?  What is missing?

Here are my honorable mentions.

In Search of the Unknown, 1978 (B1)
Every adventure starts somewhere. Mine usually start here.  This is my go to module for a quick a easy sandbox style dungeon crawl.  I have run it half a dozen times or more with new groups and it is always a thrill.

Palace of the Silver Princess, 1981 (B3)
Yes it is a rather silly adventure, but I really enjoy it.  Plus the backstory on it makes it a lot more fun.

Palace of the Vampire Queen, 1976 from WeeWarriors (V2)
The first ever published adventure or "DM's Kit" as it was called then.  What it lacks detail it makes up for in style.  I have ran this one twice now under various systems.  It works with everything to be honest; it is that sandboxy.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Skylla: Adventures Dark & Deep witch

I had planned on doing a Skylla write-up today, but for a different system.  But given that +Joseph Bloch is running a sale this weekend, I think it would be better to use his witch.

I reviewed his witch a while back and I enjoyed it even if there are couple things I didn't like about it. But it is still a fun class and I have enjoyed it.

So here is Skylla using The Darker Paths 2: The Witch and the Adventures Dark and Deep RPG.

CE Female Human
Witch 7

STR: 9
INT: 11
WIS: 15
DEX: 11
CON: 10
CHA: 12* (initial)/5 current

Saving Throws
Paralyzation, Poison, Death: 7
Petrification, Polymorph: 10
Rod, Staff, Wand: 11
Breath Weapon: 13
Spells: 12
+1 to Magical attack saves

Special Abilities (class)
Spell casting
Create Magic Items
Bell, Book & Candle
Brew Poison
Call Familiar (Quasit)
Charisma degradation
Limited to 13th level
Wisdom Bonus Spells (2 1st, 1 2nd)

Secondary Skills

HP: 13
AC: 6 (Bracers)

1st: Charm Person or Mammal, Detect Magic, Infravision, Protection from Good, Witch Shot, Wither
2nd: Blight Field, Command, Magic Broom, Misfortune, Wizard Lock
3rd: Bestow Curse,  Hand of Glory, Magic Missile
4th: Polymorph Self, Sleep
5th: Season of the Witch

Skylla is a good fit for his style of witch i think. I would have to play more to be sure.  Limiting her to 13th level might the fit the narrative I have for her. She would later go on to take more mage classes.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Review and PWWO: The Complete Vivimancer

I recently downloaded The Complete Vivimancer the new book from Necrotic Gnome Productions, the same folks that gave us Theorems & Thaumaturgy.

+Gavin Norman, of the City of Iron blog, gives us a new(ish) class, the Vivimancer.  The book is 88 pages and advertised as Labyrinth Lord compatible with both Basic and Advanced stats (more on that in a bit).
The class was introduced in Theorems & Thaumaturgy.  The basic class is a type of Wizard/Magic-User and detailed on two pages.  The experience per level, saves, spells, and attacks are not too different from the Magic-user normal.
For the Advanced option elves and half-elves can also be vivimancers.  Interestingly enough elves can advance to 11th level and half-elves to 10th.  I would have expected it to be the other way around.

The next substantial chapter is on Spells and Laboratory procedures.
The biggest expense in gold and time for the vivimancer is his laboratory.  The vivimancer according to the rules needs to spend 6 hours per day in his lab.  I wonder how much time this leaves for adventuring, eating and sleeping. Update:  This is only when a magical procedure is underway, so not something the vivimancer does everyday. Upkeep costs is 10 gp per spell level, so about 1980gp per month at 20th level. Not unreasonable really.

The next 65 pages detail spells levels 1 to 9.  Like most Labyrinth Lord compatible products the spells are compatible across a wide variety of products.  You could use these with any old school product wizard, magic-user and yes witch.  Though to do so I think robs the class of some it's charm and power.
The spells are a varied sort.  There are some very useful, some are variations on a theme and others will have limited utility to the adventuring vivimancer.  But all have a lot of style.  If you prefer your games a little more G-rated then this isn't a book for you.  While not as over the top as Carcosa or Lamentations of the Flame Princess, there are a lot of cutting things up and putting them back together.

The chapter on magic items is nice varied lot as well, with attention paid to things the vivimancer needs to perform his craft.

We also get Appendices on Psionic Powers and Mutations.  Both are fine and work but in use I might swap out the same rules in the Labyrinth Lord compatible Mutant Future.

Overall I really liked it.  Like the book said why let Necromancers have all the fun.  There is a lot here that can be used in any game really even if you never use them as a class.  Personally I wonder what a bad guy team of a Vivimancer and Necromancer might produce.   Heck with the Advanced rules, a Vivimancer/Cleric.

There are couple of places where Insanity is mentioned but not a lot of details on how insanity would work in a game.

The art is somewhat sparse, but it is all original and unique to this book (ok maybe 1 or 2 are in T&T).  So that gives it a sum positive in my mind.

The book is 88 pages, as mentioned above, and lists at $10.00 for the PDFs.  Maybe a bit higher $/page ratio, but I'll be honest I am not sure where to price these things. I think $7.50 would have been best, but I am not judging.

I have to admit I was set to like this book.  "The Complete Vivimancer" reminds me of the old Bard Games "The Compleat Spellcaster" and "The Compleat Alchemist".  Not just in terms of title and feel, but in terms of content.  This is the sort of thing I enjoy from the OSR/Old School publishing realms.  I like something I can drop into my games with no issues.  Plug and Play gaming.

I would like to recommend this book.  I particularly recommend it as a change of pace from the evil Necromancer NPC.

There is a lot to love about this book.

Plays Well With Others: The Witch and The Vivimancer

Since The Complete Vivimancer is designed for Labyrinth Lord overtly and Basic Era game in general it should theoretically drop into any Old-School D&D game.  Well as it turns out, it does and it does so rather nicely.  Limit the spell levels to a max of 6 and you have a great new class for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea and one that fits right in really.  It is also a nice compliment to Magical Theorems & Dark Pacts.   It also plays really nice with my own Witch class.

There are several spells that both Witches & Vivimancers can use from their respective books.  These are just my ideas, your GM would have to choose their own and it is possible that Vivimancer author +Gavin Norman might have some different ideas.

Vivimancer Spells for the Witch
First Level: Entangle, Hormone Control
Second Level: Arcane Sight, Insect Messenger, Pair Bonding, Bleeding Wounds (reverse of Staunch Blood Flow)
Third Level: Accelerated Reproduction, Anthropomorphism (perfect witch spell), Paralysis
Fourth Level: Immunity to Disease, Insanity
Fifth Level: Nature's Secrets, Psionic Awakening (for Aquarians only), Transfer Pregnancy (as a Witch Ritual)
Sixth Level: Impregnate
Seventh Level: none
Eighth Level: none
Ninth Level: witches can't cast ninth level spells.

Witch Spells for the Vivimancer
*Cantrips: Analyze Fertility, Daze, Detect Curse, Detect Poison, Detect Pregnancy, Flavor, Freshen, Inflict Minor Wounds, Irritate, Quick Sleeping, Sobriety, Summon Vermin
First Level: Analgesia, Bless Growth, Blight Growth, Block the Seed, Drowsy, Endure Elements, Far Sight, Fey Sight, Sickly, Silver Tongue, Sour Stomach, Vertigo
Second Level: Agony, Broca's Curse of Babel, Delay Poison, Fever, Mind Obscure, Weaken Poison, Youthful
Third Level: Aphasia, Body of Eyes, Clairaudience/Clairvoyance, Lesser Strengthening Rite, Remove Blindness/Deafness, Toad Mind
Fourth Level: Abomination, Confusion, Elemental Armor, Narcolepsy, Neutralize Poison, Polymorph, Vomit, Bount/Strength to the Unborn (Ritual)*
Fifth Level: Baleful Polymorph, Dreadful Bloodletting, Gnawing Pain, Steal Youth, Control Outcome of Birth (Ritual)*
Sixth Level: Evaporate Fluids, False Memory, Mass Agony, Repulsion, Crossbreed (Ritual)
Seventh Level: Insanity**, Magickal Conception (Parthenogenesis),  Wave of Mutilation
Eighth Level: Mind Blank
Ninth Level: There are no 9th level witch spells.

*Ritual spells should be cast by a lone Vivimancer at one level higher.
**(Called Greater Insanity to differentiate it from the 3rd level Vivimancer spell)

In both cases I am just listing the level of the spell as it appears in it's respective book.  Some spells might need to be shifted up or down a level depending on the GM.  Also there is some overlap in the spell effects but the casting and mechanics might be different

New Spell: Magickal Creation (Thaumatogenesis)

This new spell is usuable by either Witches or Vivimancers.

Magickal Creation 
Latin: Thaumatogenesis
Level: Vivimancer 9, Witch 8
Casting Time: 2 hours
Range: Touch

By means of this spell a new life form can be created purely from magic.  Unlike Magickal Conception, which takes exsiting life force and shapes into a new life, Magickal Creation uses only magic.
This spell maybe used to impregnate a female or even a male subject. Typically a female subject is used since is most cases (95% of the time) the impregnated male dies in the birth process.

The casting of this spell takes two hours, during which time the caster must be not interrupted. The casting witch must be able to see the target of the spell, either directly or by scrying.  The target, if willing, gains no saving throw, but an unwilling target if aware of the spell can make a save vs. Spells.  A target unaware of the casting must become aware of the situation before they can save.  Many charlatans play on the paranoid nature of many and sell talismans that protect against this spell.

Since this is using the stuff of magic to produce a life, the spell always works and produces a living life form.  What sort of life form produced is indicated by the table below.

d20 Outcome of birth
1-5 The child is born with only the mother’s traits.
6-10 The child is born with both the traits of the mother and the caster
11-12 The child is born a Chaotic outsider, with both the mothers and casters traits.
13-14 The child is born a Chaotic outsider, with only the mothers traits.
15-16 The child is born a Lawful outsider, with both the mother and casters traits.    
17-18 The child is born a Lawful outsider, with only the mothers traits.
19 The child is born as a half fiend, with only the mothers traits.
20 The child is born as a half-celestial, with only the mothers traits.

Gestation depends on the species of the mother, but time in months is often reduced to time in hours.  So if the mother is human then nine months of pregnancy is reduced to nine hours.  The minimum gestation time in any case is two hours. The Caster may also impregnate themselves in this manner producing a clone.

Material Components
Vivimancer: A tissue sample from either the gestating mother or the caster. The tissue is placed in a vat where it is boiled with Agaric, Basil, Figs and Mandrake root till forming a loose, liquid ooze. This ooze is placed onto the gestating mother (or caster).
Witch: Root Agaric, Basil, Figs and Mandrake root (harvested only by the new moon) are combined into a paste, dried and burned.  An athame and a cup, symbolizing male and female powers to direct the spell are required as the focuses. 

Section 15: Magickal Creation (Thaumatogenesis) Copyright 2014 Timothy S. Brannan.
All text of this spell is considered Open for terms of the OGL.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Review: Adventures Dark & Deep The Darker Paths

Nearing the end of my delve into Adventures Dark and Deep so here are two older products. In fact I picked them up about a two years ago and reviewed them then.

These two classes appeared under the subtitle "Darker Paths" and they are two favorite classes of mine.

Darker Paths 1: The Necromancer
The Necromancer is the first in a set of alternate classes for the Adventures Dark and Deep RPG.
The Necromancer is one of the more popular "alternate classes" developed for any fantasy RPG.  Almost always an alternate class and never a core one, the necromancer is the ultimate foe in many games or the ultimate PC in others.  But as long as horror and undead are popular in game, then the necromancer is right there with them.
Darker Paths 1: The Necromancer packs a lot of  punch in a small book. At only 24 pages, we get a new class, a "new" race and 75 new spells.  No small feat really. The material is for the Adventures Dark and Deep game, but it certainly can be used with any retro-clone, near-clone or any other game that emulate AD&D 1st ed or Basic D&D.  The art is mixed, but very evocative of the era.  Some new pieces and some public domain works (and it looks like the editor did his research too).
If you like Necromancers and play an older edition of the game, whether an honest older edition or a newer clone, then this is a good choice.

Darker Paths 2: The Witch
I am always a bit hesitant to review other peoples work on witch-related classes since I have products of my own out there. I fear of being too critical or too lax, each to out weigh the other.  In the end I think I just need to review the product as is.  Like DP1: The Necromancer this product is for the "Adventures Dark and Deep" RPG, OR any other near-clone of AD&D.  Also like the first Darker Path book this presents the witch as an evil character class; not the Earth loving priestess of old faiths or even the spiritual seeking witches of modern tales.  This must be recalled when reading the rest of this book.  These witches are more Baba Yaga and not Circe for example.  There is the obligatory disclaimer on Contemporary Witches and how this game is not that. (As an aside, as someone that has written these myself this one does seem more of a disclaimer of "don't email me" rather than a "I am not trying to offend", but that could just be me. EDITED: I did get an email clarification on this and the author was very much in the "I am not trying to offend, but these are different things" camp, which is cool by me.)
Witches in this game are all evil and their main ability is Wisdom.  Their Charisma must start high, but it degrades as the witch rises in level.  Interesting.  I am not sure I like that since it seems here that Charisma is used as an "Appearance" proxy and not as a "Force of Personality" one.  It would make it hard to make a character like Circe, who was evil, attractive and had a lot of force of personality, as a witch in these rules. That is fine, she would have to be something else, but I do want to point it out.
Witches advance to 13th level; so reminiscent of the druid.  She has a nice variety of spells to choose from (more on this) and there are rules for her brewing potions and poisons.   Like other witches of folklore, this witch can also have multiple familiars.  A nice touch in my mind.
The spells are the real gem of this book.  Nearly 50 new spells there are a lot of classics here.  There are spells on Candle Magic (and done differently than my own) and nearly every base is covered (curses, storm summoning, afflicting others).

Like with DP1, the art is a mix of new and public domain art, but all of it is appropriate to the feel of the book.  In the end this is a very good evil witch class.

One thing that is nice about these classes is  they are sub-classes of the Mage and Cleric respectively.  So you multi-class them.'s not in the rules per se but you should be able to.   Of course I have teh perfect test character for this.  My latest acquisition, Light Core Hex!

CE Female Dark Elf
Witch 5 / Necromancer 5

STR: 10
INT: 15
WIS: 18
DEX: 9
CON: 10
CHA: 13

Saving Throws
Paralyzation, Poison, Death: 9
Petrification, Polymorph: 12
Rod, Staff, Wand: 11
Breath Weapon: 15
Spells: 12

Special Abilities (class)
Magic bonus: +6 to magical saves
Spell casting
Create Magic Items
Affect Undead
Bell, Book & Candle
Brew Poison
Call Familiar
Limited to 13th level in Witch
Charisma degradation

Special Abilities (race)
Infravision 120'
Speed 150'
Bonus Spells
Sunlight Vulnerability

HP: 13
AC: 6 (Bracers)

Experience: 38,050 (19,025 each)

Blue Flame, Ghostly Hands, Witch's Mark, Blight Field, Fascinate, Magic Broom, Fear, Hand of Glory, Spit Poison

Chattering Skull, Death Mask, Detect Bones, Ectenic Blast, Eyes of the Dead, Animate Dead

Bonus (race)
Faerie Fire, Dancing Lights, Darkness 5' radius, Detect Magic, Know Alignment, Levitation, Clairvoyance, Detect Lie, Suggestion, Dispel Magic

Bonus (wisdom)
Detect Good, Ears of a Bat, Charm Monster, Misfortune, Magic Missile, Sleep

That's a lot of magic!

I have done Skylander's Hex before for other systems:
This one is by far one of the more powerful!  To get an idea of the rule differences between the systems, have a look at all these versions.

So +Joseph Bloch, if I ever play Adventures Dark & Deep with you at a convention can I use this character?!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Post-Game Day

It was "mini-con" this past weekend at the Brannan household.

Saturday my oldest son played old school Traveller and had some of the crappiest dices rolls in the history of dice.  He was disappointed, but not in the rolls themselves but he was looking forward to playing rather than rolling up characters.

Saturday evening was Ghosts of Albion at EN World Game day.  I didn't have a full roster so I invited him to come along (my youngest had a friend spending the night).  He played William Swift, Protector of Albion. He did a great job.   He thought I had made the character especially for him! Everyone else had a great time and it was great to run Blight one last time.  It dis give me some ideas for new adventures and maybe even a hook to bring my boys into this game.

Sunday was D&D 4: Keep on the Shadowfell with the kid's group.  The group agreed to take out the Kobold lair for the nice price of 100gp each.  The got past the kobold ambush and the kobolds outside the lair, but they have not gone it yet.  The kids did great really.  They are learning to work together more and that is a good thing.  I have a couple of players that want to retrain or swap out some feats.  It is a generally accepted house rule here (and at the games my son and three of the other players play at) that you can make "free" modifications to your character to better suit you, the party or whatever.  My youngest is playing a Bard, he is thinking he wants to add a little bit of warlock to that and maybe rearrange his stats for a better Dex.  My oldest is playing a Paladin multiclassed with Warlord, which works, but he did this thinking we would not have any "Leader" types.  With my youngest now playing a Bard (instead of his usual ranger) and one of the others playing a cleric, he wants to drop the Warlord in favor of Sorcerer, his other favorite class. So the idea is that he had some military training (was Warlord, now it will be more of a background) and during his adventures the stress of combat has awakened the Celestial Dragon blood in his veins and now he can call on Dragon magic. It works.  I still need to talk to the other players too to see if they want to make any alterations.

The kids' 4e Group still doesn't have a name of their own yet.  In the game they are called the Heroes of Winterhaven.  Though in the arc a better name for them would be Death's Champions; though that sounds darker than it is supposed too (they will be making sure that that Death and Life are saved from Orcus).  They have an unknown ally in the form of a mysterious girl named Nera and one of the Arch Dukes of Hell will offer his aid as well. 'Enemy of my Enemy" and all.  Should be a great time!