Friday, June 12, 2009

Ghosts of Albion at GenCon Indy

Ghosts of Albion: Blight and Obsession

My games have been accepted for GenCon Indy and I will soon give you all dates and times for the Ghosts of Albion games I will be running. I am running "Blight" and "Obsession". I ran Blight at GenCon last year to a couple of small crowds and it went great. So if you played it last year, then this the same adventure. Obsession is one I ran at a mini-Unisystem con I did in Chicago a couple of years ago. I ran that for one group.
Blight is good if you love Irish myth. Obsession is a bit more adult in themes.

More details when I have them myself.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Hybrid Class Playtest and Character Concept II

Yesterday I posted my brief idea on a using the new hybrid rules in order to get a particular character concept. The idea I think was sound, but as it turns out I didn't need to go through that much effort.

The character in question is "Heather" a character from 1st Edition that was a multiclassed Bard/Wizard with some Ranger thrown in for good measure. Her magic I imagined was always due to her voice, she sang her spells in other words. Not such a new idea now, but back in the 1st Ed days that was new stuff! So today I took break and worked her up as a 4th level, 4th Edition Bard. I used "Arcane Power" and gave her the Virtue of Prescience. This fits since I always viewed her as mildly psionic as well. Fourth Edition Bards have spells, even their basic attacks are called spells. The Arcane Power book provides a lot of new ranged attacks, so that sort of covers the Ranger-like abilities I wanted get. The Bard skills allow me to give her some of the skills like her 1st counter-part had. The Ritual Caster feat from the Bard is really nice and helps fill in some holes in concept and the Half-elf dilettante power allowed to take Eldritch Blast from the Warlock as an Encounter Power. Comparing her two sheets, the 4th Ed one from today and the 1st Ed one from 1986 I can draw parallels between the two. To me they do look like the same character, just different ways of expressing her.


I think I am going to save my hybrid Bard/Warlock for my gnome, Jassic Winterhaven. This might be better since I wanted to do up a gnome bard and a gnome warlock and my regular DM won't allow hybrids yet and he hates gnomes. Heather on the other hand is ready to go!

So in the end a Bard, with the Euphonic Bow Paragon Path, was all I needed. It will be interesting to see how she plays compared to her orginal version.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Hybrid Class Playtest and Character Concept

One of the things I have been doing in 4e is re-stating up older, 1st Ed, characters of mine to see how well they translate into the new system.
Among the first was one of my first ever characters, a human paladin. There are differences between the 1st Ed version and the 4th Ed version, but all in all I can see far more similarities than differences. Plus since my concept of him was more cleric than paladin it is possible that the 4e version is a much better fit. My witch on the other hand was a different story. I still don't quite have her right. I have generated half-a-dozen characters of her for 4E in the last year or so and none are really close.

Normally I would create a witch class like I did for 2nd Edition and 3rd Edition, but I really didn't want to do that this time. I have mostly settled on a Fey Pact Warlock with some add-ons from Arcane Power. She is not perfect yet, but really, really close. Again, to me it has been more about character concept than anything else. The Warlock seems to work the best, so far. Now before you think "well 4e just can't do it" I will point out that at this point in 3.0 Ed the same character had been a Sorcerer and that was not a good fit at all. At least with 4E I have sorta found an out-of-the-box solution.

But I still have one other character that I have wanted to re-build. Heather.

Heather owns the distinction of being the last 1st Ed character I ever made. Well, the last while I was playing 1st Ed and the last before 2nd Ed came out. She is a half-elf Bard/Wizard/Ranger house ruled to all hell. He character concept is that of a wandering bard that uses magic and song to defeat evil. The 2nd Ed Bard, while easier to use, lost all of what made the Bard cool. The 3rd Ed Bard came close again and with 3rd Ed's multitasking it was really easy to make her IF I figured that she had all the powers I wanted her to start with at 11th level or something. Now 4th Ed originally disappointed me here with the multiclassing rules. Great for most of my multiclassing needs, completely horrible with regards to how I wanted to do Heather. That is till I got the new Hybrid Class Playtest rules from my DM.

The Hybrid rules allow me to do something I used to do all the time in my D&D games, have a character start out as one thing but then later become something else. The Hybrid rules do allow that. So I know Heather is going to be a Bard/Something, but what? Well in 1st ed she was mixed with a Ranger and Wizard. In D&D4 I can get the things I liked about the 1st Ed Ranger in feats and skills (tracking, preferred enemy) so I think my Hybrid here will be Bard and something Arcane. Going to concept Heather originally learned her magic from her mother and the rest on her own. So Wizard, Warlock or Sorcerer. Sorcerer and Warlock complement the Bard's spells much nicer than the Wizard does, though Sorcerer still takes a hit. I am not enamored with the Sorcerer. It has some neat tricks, but nothing in the way of concept I like. The Cosmic and Dragon ones are cool, but if I build those it will be as something/someone else.

Hybrid classes in a sense split the classes in two and then allow you to combine them. Simple enough. Most often you get something that is not quite equal to a dedicated role character, but for a concept I am totally willing to take a performance hit. A Hybrid Bard/Warlock is a combination Arcane Leader/Striker. Since Heather in concept always had a high Charisma (and will here too) this makes her good for being the party face. Both classes have the same key and secondary abilities: CHA, CON and INT. She takes a hit on armor for her warlock half and weapons. Both classes use wands as an implement and both have similar saves. HP at 1st are the same, per level is the same and there are similar skills. The full Bard has more healing surges than that of the Warlock, so they are rounded down. I now need to take a feat to get a class-specific Hybrid talents options. So, in the end, I have a Warlock basically, with Skill Versatility and a per Encounter Majestic Word. On balance not a bad trade. Now for the Hybrid Talent feat, I make take it to gain the Warlock's Fey Pact Boon, it fits the concept well enough, but that seems so little for a feat. Plus I like to think of her as a Bard with some warlock training. So Words of Friendship or Majestic Word are worth the price of the feat. So put all her points into CHA followed by INT, and then either DEX or STR, if I am staying true to the concept then DEX for her bow. Make her Half-Elf and take an At-Will Wizard power as her Dilettante power, most likely Magic Missile, though there is not much to set it apart, fluff wise, from Eldritch Blast. Thunderwave might be better.

Now hybrid characters are verboten in my regular 4E game, so I am going to have to run her in one of my Family Game night games. I'll have to see how she fares. The great thing is that a lot of what I took Ranger for in earlier rules I can get with Warlock now. But only time and gaming will tell me if this is a better way than to do a Bard Multiclassed Warlock. But concept-wise it fits.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Mystoerth: Hyborea / Hyperborea

One of the common links on my Mystoerth world is Hyborea / Hyperborea. Both seem to be about the same thing, that is a pastiche of "the cold lands to the north". Given the roots of D&D in pulp fantasy it seems odd not to have one. With my world the question then is not so much of why to have it, but where to put it?

Mystara's Hyborea is on the continent of Brun far to the north in what would be the Arctic Circle, a rough analogy to Earth would Alaska. Oerth's Hyperborea is also firmly in the Arctic circle, some 30 degree south of the north pole, west of the Dramidj Ocean, north of the Sea of Hyerpborea. Not really an overlap, but close enough for me. On the Mystoerth Map, what would have been Oerth's Hyperborea is now the Empire of Alphatia and the Island of Dawn. So my solution is to go with the Mystara placement of it. Works and helps me fill in that area some.

Now what to do with it? Ah, that is the reason for the post.

Over at Jason Vey's The Wasted Land Blog he has been working on his Hyperborea. Now I respect Jason's opinion when it comes to Old School, anything remotely Conan or Howard related, so if he has something to say about it I listen. Plus he has really cool ideas. I'll import the White Orcs from Mystara to use in place of his orcs. I like the idea of Hyborean Halflings/ Hobbits. This might even help me solve the "problem" of hobbits vs. Halflings and why both hemispheres of my world are populated with the same sorts of creatures. The hobbits of my western world (Mystara) are the Tolkienesque hobbits that like to sit around, be fat and not really adventure. Hyborean hobbits are hardier and more prone to pick up a weapon. The Halflings of the eastern world (Oerth) are more adventure prone and are more like the Halflings of 3e/4e.

Adding Hyborea gives me license to add all sorts of other weirdness. And that is always good.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Supernatural RPG

Well I have the new Supernatural PDF and I have some thoughts.

- It looks nice! If the printed version is half as nice as the PDF then this will be a damn attractive book. It looks like a "hunters notebook", loved the scribbled notes and pictures "taped" in. In fact it is an order of magnitude greater than their previous best works. Yes BSG and Serenity are nice looking books. This one blows them away.

- Nice introduction. I know exactly what this book is supposed to be about and what I am going to do with it. It lays out the antagonists and the "theatre" very, very nicely.

- As deep and as profound as my love is for the Cine Unisystem modern horror games, Supernatural reminds us that there is more the US than the west coast. But to be fair, this is more to do with the respective source materials rather than the games themselves.

- "Supernatural" fills the hole in my RPG life that was once filled with "Chill". Normal (mostly) people going up against the … well supernatural. This isn't Buffy or Angel where it is difficult to tell who the bad guys are, or even Charmed where both sides had the same firepower. This is closer to Call of Cthulhu. I'll say it now. Supernatural is a better "Hunter" RPG than either "Hunter: The Reckoning" or "Hunter: The Vigil".

- Cortex. Unisystem and Savage Worlds got freaky one night and nine months later Cortex was born. Now keep in mind this is a good thing for me. I REALLY wanted to like Savage Worlds and just couldn't. I LOVE Unisystem, but (and this might sound a bit heretical) a Unisystem based Supernatural game would not have given us much in the way of new. But here the systems tweaks fight the tone of the game. These are normal humans. The Cortex system work great for that. Plus converting to Savage Worlds or Unisystem is really, really simple. There are more skills here than in Cine Unisystem, less than Classic Unisystem.

- Character sheets look really cool. Again, like something you would see in say John Winchester's journal.

- Good equipment lists. A fair number of monsters. I am not worried about there not being enough. I have 1000s of books on monsters and Cortex is simple enough to move things around.

- "Music to Hunt By" is the best addition to any RPG! ;) There should be room on the character sheet to list important thing like what the hunter's personal play list is.

The only thing it is really missing to make it a perfect modern supernatural horror hunting game is a magic system. BUT, given this is "Supernatural" and more about normal humans, it's fine that it is not there and more of a reflection of my play style than the show.

I am not sure how it compares to other Cortex books in terms of mechanics. It's looks most similar to Demon Hunters and the Cortext Core, but there are changes to reflect the world a bit better (no super science, no flashy magic, lot more gear). Though while Demon Hunters is very tongue and cheek and the Core is very dry, this book is neither.

Who Should Buy This Game?

- Anyone that is a fan of the show

- Anyone that is a fan of Cortext

- Anyone that likes supernatural/modern horror games, but is not interested in playing a vampire, fae, ghost, demon (half or otherwise) or a "chosen one" human. This is a game of normal people doing what they can to stop evil.

Now to get that full on Supernatural / Demon Hunters crossover going.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Mountain Dew Throwback, the Official Drink of the Retro-Clone Movement

Or something like that.

Mountain Dew, the caffeinated beverage of choice for gamers all over the world has "introduced" a new flavor for the summer. "Mountain Dew Throwback" looks like the can did back in the 60s and 70s. It is also made with cane sugar and not High Fructose Corn syrup. The taste seems odd at first, certainly sweeter, but also more citrus. It took a couple of cans, but I am really liking it. Of course it is very serendipitous that the Old School RPG (D&D really) movement is going on at about the same time. So I herby proclaim Mountain Dew Throwback to be the Official Drink of the Retro-Clone / Old School movement. Please conduct yourselves accordingly and only serve Mountain Dew Throwback when playing any Retro-Clone game. ;)

Of course for the rest of the D&D players in the world Dew still has you covered.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Mystoerth, my Old School Campaign World

So I have been threatening this since 1st Edition gave way to 2nd, but I think I finally might be able to pull this off. I was inspired by the new Forgotten Realms smashing Abier into Toril to make a new world that I wanted to bring back a smash up I loved. Plus given all my love for the old-school movement, I think it is time for me to pull out my favorite old-school worlds.


This combines Mystara (the Known World of BECMI/RC D&D) and AD&D's Oerth. This map is based on the work of James Mishler and Chatdemon.

Given this combination I am most likely to run this under my house-rules Basic Fantasy game that melds D&D and AD&D1 together. Though I would write anything generically enough to handle any version of the game.

As you can see it is a good merging of the Mystara Map and the World of Greyhawk Map.

Both worlds have Blackmoor so I can use its destruction as a common element. I get to keep all the well defined areas of both worlds, leaving a bunch of areas to be developed. Both also have a Hyborea which is nice.

In the case of Mystara's "Arypt" and Oerth's "Erypt" I simply combine them to "Ærypt" and use Gary Gygax's "Necrocopolis" from SSS and some of the ideas from his Mythus game.

For the long dead Blackmoor use Blackmoor from all the new Dave Arneson supplements.

There will be a "Graveyard of the Dragons" from the D&D cartoon (one of the few cool episodes) and it serves as my lost Melniboné-like kingdom of a long dead race and the current home of the Dragonborn.

I have also decided that the world is not hollow (Mystara) and it does not sit in the center of it's solar system (Oerth); intellectual conceits on my part. It does have three moons, two of which can be seen and third that is invisible (Celene, Luna and Lilith). I have a spot for Kara-Tur but the descriptions would have to be changed to fit the realities of the maps. Though I have also considered recently to use some Forgotten Realms goddesses, so the moons might end up being named Sehanine, Selûne, and Shar. In fact, I like that a lot. Sehanine actually has a foothold in Greyhawk anyway and Selûne and Shar are very Greyhawk like.

Gods will be gods, but characters still have the chance to become Immortals. In some cases an Immortal might be more important to a region than say a God, who might aloof and distant. Immortals still involved themselves in world affairs. So I am totally stealing this from both the BECMI/RC Immortal rules and the Epic level tier from D&D 4.


The last year in Mystara was 1200 AC (Alphatian Calendar) according to the books. The last year in Greyhawk iwas 591 CY (Common Year) according to the books. I used the destruction of Blackmoor as a common element, and I came up with the date of -3000 AC and -3746 CY as the date (no idea how I did that). My present day according to my Excel spreadsheet (which was still in Excel 97 format) is 1661 AC and 915 CY, or about 460 years after the Gazetteers and 324 years after the Greyhawk books. Again, kind of a nod to the new FR book, but I still plan on playing this world with Old School rules.

So what would my world be like? Well here are a bunch ideas I have considered for other games and game worlds in the past. Most of these are random ideas. I'll start with races first and then get into cultures and history later.


Orcs are still brutish, prone to violence and often in the employ of evil overlords, but orcs themselves are more mercenary. I would borrow a lot from Warcraft and Shadowrun, and a LOT from John Wick's Orkwolrd. I would make them more a more proud, tribal race. Orcs are still the ancient enemies of the elves, but because orcs tried to settle in elven lands and the elves attacked them. Orcs are still arrogant and prideful and take the smallest slight or insult as challenge to death. Male Orcs are expected to be warriors, female Orcs are expected to raise children and become the shamans of the tribe. An orc will still mostly like attack first and ask questions later. Most orcs have difficulty learning Common, and are thus often seen as stupid. While an orc is generally no less or no more intelligent than a human, it is their prowess in battle that determines their social rank and not their intellect. To an orc there is nothing greater than glory in battle. To die in battle ensures them a place at Gruumish's side in the orc afterlife. Half-orcs are not the result of orc rapes of human women, orcs are far too proud for that; only orc females are worthy enough to bare orc children. Half-orcs are the result of orcs and humans living with close confine to each other for mutual survival and sometimes the will of an overlord looking for the strength of orcs and the intelligence of humans.


Goblins are small and crafty. While obviously related to orcs they are smaller, a little more cowardly, and fond of human cities. Goblins in the wilderness areas are typically bugbears or hobgoblins. Real goblins want to be where the crime is. Attracted to money, goblins will run all sorts of scams in order to obtain more. They rarely have the talent to run businesses and the concept of a banker or even an account (someone that deals with someone else's money) is an unheard of concept to a goblin. Money is to be kept in an old sock under the bed or better yet, held on the person. Goblins can learn to speak a large number of languages, mostly to deal with other races. Goblins can interbreed with just about anything humanoid, but the offspring is always a goblin. Hobgoblins and Bugbears are larger and more evil, believed to be an ancient goblin/demon or goblin/devil crossbreed.


Yes, I'd like to try out some Dragonborn in my old-school games. They live on a small island ("Fireland" on the old World of Greyhawk maps) that is full of active volcanoes. Think of Iceland, only with dragons. The "Dragon Isle" would be a cross between Iceland, Melniboné and the Graveyeard of the Dragons. Dragonborn are an ancient race that have been inactive for centuries. They would take the place of the "dying race" in my games. Something that elves, dwarves and gnomes have done previously. This is place where it is believed that dragons first entered the world.


Elves are much like they are now. I'll borrow a lot for various editions and have a bunch of different elven races. Right now I plan on using High (Eladrin), Wood, Valley, Grey, Moon, Sun, Desert and Gypsy Elves.


Drow are evil elves in my world, but I want to take them back to the days of G123, D1-2, D3 and Q1 when they were secret evil masterminds. I will incorporate some ideas I have had about "night elves". I am also considering making drow albinos. Drow had been Night Elves/Star Elves before their fall.


Dwarves will have a more prominent role in the world. Much of what is considered "elvish" stereotypical will fall to dwarves. They are the most populace after humans. Dwarven females do have beards and a dwarf woman without a beard is considered to be too young to marry or to be cursed.


What I wanted to do with them has been done in 4E, so I am likely to use them as their appear there.


Going back to the roots and Halflings will be Hobbits.

Mind Flayers

One of my few purely evil races. Mind Flayers came "from beyond the Stars". Their goal is the conquest of all. They have a mad plan to blot out the sun and leave the world in cold darkness.


Another evil race Saurians (lizard men, troglodytes, and the like) battled the Dragonborn back when the world was young. They also seek to rule the world and place all the mammals under their yoke.


Not green and rubbery, but rather like thin ogres. They are for the most part unchanged but are closer to the trolls of Norse myth.