Monday, January 31, 2011

Druthers for Basic era FRPGs

Trying out some more Basic monsters. These are conversions of some d20 ones I have done in the past. Depending on which Basic game/retro-clone you use I have listed Armor Class as both descending (start at 9 and go down) and ascending (start at 10 and go up).

Here is one of my faves, the Druther.
You can also find this guy in my book, The Witch.

AC: 2 [17]
Hit Dice: 9d8* (40 hp)
No. of Attacks: 2 Limbs (fists or constructed weapons)
Damage: 2d6 / 2d6
Special: Immune to piercing, water and cold-based attacks. Double damage from fire based attacks.
Movement:: 20 ft.
No. Appearing: 1 (1-3 in lair)
Saves: Fighter 9
Morale: 12
Treasure: None
Alignment:: Neutral
XP: 1,200

A Druther is a type of wood golem that can only be created by a witch. The name comes from an old piece of doggerel often muttered by witches,

“If I really had my druthers,
I’d have my wooden druthers too.”

A “Wooden Druther” is a corrupt form of “wouldn’t I’d rathers”, or something the witch doesn’t want. So the Wooden Druther performs tasks that the witch would rather not do herself.

The druther can understand simple command phrases of about 15 words each. Typically druthers are used for menial labor or to perform a task that the witch can not do or won’t do herself, like killing or scaring an enemy. Often a witch will have a few druthers protecting her home while disguised as trees (Wisdom check at -2 to notice).

A druther cannot communicate at all. Some witches have used woody reeds in the construction of their druthers. When the wind blows across the druther it sounds like a deep bassoon.
Druthers can appear in any form. Usually they are biped and always made of wood. The wood can be carved or a collection of sticks tied together. The appendages need to be attached separately if the druther is to move at all. They can be precisely carved to appear as anything the witch wants, but they typically look like walking bunches of sticks. Legend has it that there was a witch that had such beautifully carved druthers that they were often mistaken for wood nymphs.

Treants, dryads, and wood nymphs view a druther in the same manner a human views the undead or a flesh golem. Most will attempt to destroy them when they can. Some witches and wizards value the wood from an inanimate druther to use to make magical fires.

A druther is mindless in combat. It strikes with its wood fists with almost no regard to what else is going on.
As a construct a Druther is immune to mind-influencing effects, poison, disease, and similar effects. Not subject to critical hits, subdual damage, ability damage, energy drain, or death from massive damage.

Arrows or other piercing items, such as spears or thrust daggers, only do 1 point of damage per hit. Water based attacks have no effect on the druther whatsoever. Fire based attacks always do double damage. Cold based attacks do no damage.

Section 15 Copyright Notice

Open Game License v 1.0a Copyright 2000, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.

System Reference Document Copyright 2003, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.; Authors Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams, Bruce R. Cordell, based on original material by E. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.

Liber Mysterium: The Netbook of Witches and Warlocks is Copyright© 2003, Timothy S. Brannan and the Netbook of Witches Team.

Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game Copyright © 2006-2008. Chris Gonnerman.

Labyrinth LordTM. Copyright © 2007, Daniel Proctor. Author Daniel Proctor.

"Druthers for Basic era FRPGs" Copyright ©2011, Timothy S. Brannan

Art is Copyright ©2001 Daniel Brannan and used here by permission.  Art is not open content.

Tarot Witch of the Black Rose for True20

So I have been doing some Tarot posts of late and playing around again with True20 so this should really be a no brainer.  Plus Tarot #66 is now out, so why not.

Now one would expect that her True20 stats should be somewhat similar to her M&M 2nd Ed stats.  But if I build her by the book she ends up a touch weaker.  These are her "by the book stats".  In comparison to her M&M counterpart, this Tarot lives in a more darkly supernatural world, say like that of most modern supernatural novels like The Dresden Files or even the urban fantasy of Kim Harrison.
As typical I am using the Adept's Handbook and the guide to Horror Role-Playing from the True20 Revised book.

I would see her as something like a member of an Occult Guard or a Witch Knight.  Her armor then would be more traditional and ornate, but I would not change the character one bit.

Tarot Witch of the Black Rose

Adept 6 / Warrior 3

STR: 0 INT: +1
DEX: +2 WIS: +1
CON: +1 CHA: +3

Initiative: +2
Defense: +8
Base Attack bonus: +6  (Melee +8, Ranged +8)

Saving Throws
Toughness: +4
Fortitude: +3
Reflex: +5
Will: +8

Virtue: Compassionate
Vice: Impulsive
Calling (Blue Rose): Justice
Reputation: +3

Bluff +5, Climb -3 (armor), Concentration +8, Craft (Blacksmith) +3, Diplomacy +4, Disguise +3, Handle Animal +4, Intimidate +4, Jump -2, Knowledge (history) +5, Knowledge (Occult/Supernatural) +10,  Knowledge (theology and philosophy) +10,  Medicine +5, Notice +6, Perform (Ritual) +6, Research +6,  Search +6, Sense Motive +5, Sleight of Hand +3, Survival +5

The Talent, Imbue Item, Connected, Weapon Training (Sword), Armor Training (light), Attack Focus (Sword), Iron Will

Object Reading, Wind Walk, Heart Reading,  Elemental Blast, Elemental Resistance, Plane Shift, Ward

Languages: Latin, English
Equipment: Sword of the Goddess, Armor

Conviction: 7

Starts out as an Adept and then picks up some levels in Warrior to cover her training.
Adept powers are based on Charisma.
Philosophy: Witchcraft.

So this Tarot is physically weaker than her M&M counterpart, but still rather powerful for the world she would be in.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


Various updates to some hanging threads.

New Game Group
The Northlands Game group met over pizza.  We are going to be playing Pathfinder as I expected, which is good.  We are using variations of of our former Pathfinder characters (so yes, starting at 1st level AGAIN).  I am going to be playing Oisín, a Cavalier (not a Paladin).  All the characters are half-brothers; Dad got around a lot.  I need to read up on the Cavalier some more and decide what cause he takes up as his own.

Gen Con Updates
I will be going to Gen Con this year.  So far I think I am only going to run three games.  Dinosauria! (one for adults and one for younger people) and a revised Obsession. Obsession was a HUGE success in my mind, but every group wanted to kill the wrong guy from the start, which is fine, but not at all what I wanted to see happen, so the adventure is the same, the first Act will be slightly changed.  So if you played Obsession before, this will not be different enough to play again.  I do want to run a kids game, there are more families coming to Gen Con than ever before and I want to support that.

Sci-Fi game
I think the issue with me not finding a good sci-fi game is I tend to link Sci-Fi more to properties (Star Wars, Star Trek) more than I do Horror or Fantasy.  The closest thing I ever got was Star Frontiers.  I think, given what I am mostly likely to do with a Sci-Fi game, is stick with d20 3.x.  There are plenty of good sci-fi games that use d20, including some of my faves Star Wars and Star Frontiers (sort of d20-there are SF elements in d20 future).  I am going to have to give it a try sometime to see how it all works out.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Zatannurday: First submission!

Welcome back to Zatannurday everyone.  I am pleased to show off my new logo/graphic for the occasion.

I might make it a touch smaller, but I wanted to show it off too.

Zatannurday was barely s few hours old when I got my first submission!

Here is some original art by Eric Stettmeier aka Bubbashelby of the Toyriffic blog (where you can enjoy Harley Qwensday).  Look for his cool Zatanna post today too.

You can find the original here, and a post on the DC Justice League Unlimited Zatanna here,

Thanks so much for helping Zatannurday grow!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Season of the Witch: Episode 3

Episode 3: Strange Sort of Homecoming

Late Summer 2004
Willow & Tara go to Tara's home town in Alabama to attend the funeral of Robert Maclay, Tara's father. While there they discover more about Robert's past and how it is connected to Willow and Tara's future.

The girls return to Tara's hometown where they stay with her brother Donny, his new wife Leah and their new baby Megan (named after Tara's mother). Though without knowing Leah has set the girls up in seperate rooms as if they were "just friends". One of the themes of this episode was actually confronting the issues of homophobia as opposed to dancing around the issues. This was at the request of my player/testers who felt that the show never did a very good job of this.

The girls arrive in town. Go to the wake. Tara decides she needs a drink and heads to the local bar. She runs into a guy (Dan) that had a crush on her in high school who never quite understood she was gay. As well as cousin Beth. People in the bar begin to talk and whisper about Tara being back, and with a girlfriend no less.  To bust the tension of the moment my Tara player decides to break into a bit of dirty dancing with Willow to Prince's "Gett Off".  They of course get kicked out of the bar, much to Beth's delight.

During the funeral Tara and Donny get into a fight over the minister Donny chooses to speak. They get into a fight, Tara storms out, Beth comments on "Tara running away again".  Beth mentions that she cast a spell to set everyone against Tara for leaving her behind. Willow punches her.  Willow follows Tara, tells her about Beth's spell.  Discover that Beth did cast a spell, but it had no effect.    Next day things seem to be better, Donny apologizes. Beth has left town. Tara is given her mother's things including her journal that details this entire life she had working with her father as part of a covert ops group to take out supernatural threats.  Donny also gives the girls Robert's car, a blue 1967 Ford Thunderbird.  Tara, now feeling welcomed in her old home decides to head back to her new home.  On the drive back though the ghost of Robert McClay informs them they have work to do.

Notes: This was not an action packed episode, but rather one of interpersonal actions and reactions.  I wanted to delve deeper into Tara's past and her family life, plus fix some of the problems from the show (demons in female side of the family?? WTF?? yeah, I fix that too). Things learned in this episode:  Tara, her mother and grandmother are/were all power witches. Megan was a "Craft Worker" assigned to Robert's unit to aid his group in hunting the supernatural.  Her job was the "Cleaner", or the removal of spirits.  Robert didn't want to work with a witch, but orders are orders.  Now for their group I just used my old 1980's Chill game.  So Bob and Megan were part of S.A.V.E., but something happened back then and they never finished their mission and Bob and Megan left, never to talk about it again.  We also learn that Megan was from Sunnydale.  Donny is not an dick really, just a jerk that listened to his father's anti-demon, anti-witchcraft tirades a little too much.  He is after all Megan's child too, though he does not have any magic.  Beth though does have some magic, though hers never works.  Her role here is smaller than originally planned, but that is fine, she comes back in Web of Lies.

The big deal here of course is Bob, the Ghost.  He needs to lead Willow and Tara through his failed 1976-79 mission in order to find peace.  This mission is also tied to the what the girls are dealing with now and the Awakening.  They also are given Megan's journal which has the cut scenes of the action in the 70's. 

So you are a young gay woman on a road trip with your girl friend in a cool convertible, what else could you want?  That's right the ghost of your ultra-conservative, way strict father hanging around.  That's got comedy gold written all over it!  Too bad that the trip is to discover what supernatural force might be taking over the world soon and may have had an impact on why your mother died and why your dad is such an asshole.

Now about Bob: Bob of course was on the show, but never given that name.  I named him that cause he looks like a Bob to me, plus it was a nod to a friend of mine author Robert Black.  Funny thing is Robert Black goes to the same church as does Steve Rankin who played Mr. Maclay in the episode "Family" (one of the highest rated Buffy episodes). This is my chance to try to redeem the character a bit instead of making him a two-dimensional cliche.  Since he played a number of military types on various shows (including multiple characters on various Star Treks) he is portrayed here as a Marine (he has played Klingons, Romulans and Cardassians, and as the infamous Col. Green, I think he can pull off a Marine too).  He was later convinced to work with SAVE after seeing something really scary.  In 1976, when he meets Megan O'Kelly he is in his late 20's

"Megan" was my Tara player's idea.  Originally she was named Deirdre (I had just read the Irish tale "Deirdre of the Sorrows" and thought that Bob should be much older than his wife), but in the end came to like Megan more.  Deirdre then became her grandmother.  Megan, who I figure was 22 in 1976 when she joined Bob's team was something of a California girl.  Long blonde hair, Led Zeppelin concert tee, and wearing hip hugger bell bottoms.  For Megan think of a young Eliza Roberts (Eric Robert's wife), though she does not make any appearnces here except in photos and flashbacks.
We learn that Bob had been in the military when he was younger, but left for an unknown reason.  He was getting followers and cards from people Tara had never heard of before from all around the globe.  Donny didn't even know them.

The town the Tara lived in had been her family home for years.  Her father's family had been her for generations.  People talked about how Tara left AND also how Bob had left when he was roughly the same age.  Both came back with a strange new woman from California in their lives (Willow and Megan respectively).  This was the start of building a lot of parallels between Bob/Megan and Willow/Tara.  Each generation did something that the other generation could relate too.

We also learn about Tara's first crush. Tara had been in Jr. High and her crush had been a red-headed high school girl that worked at the "Tastee Freeze" (no, there are no Tastee Freezes in AL). Tara would go there to buy a small vanilia ice cream cone just so she could see her, even if she never actually said anything to her. The girl found out, thought it was cute and began dipping her cone in that strawberry stuff that freezes when it comes in contact with the ice cream. We called them dip-cones. Of course the girl had a boyfriend, which broke Tara's heart, but her taste for red headed women remained. Not sure about the strawberry dip-cones though.

Strange Sort of Homecoming was also the first of the "Road Stories" sub arc.  We had planned this as the first series even before Dragon and the Phoenix.  The 67 Ford Thunderbird was our nod to Thelma and Louise, though we already did that ending in Dragon.

We now had our cast whole.  Willow and Tara, our two witches. Bob the ghost and Cordy the Whitelighter.  It was good that the last two could move in and out at will since the Thunderbird can only seat two.

Next Time: Willow, Tara, Bob and Cordy get caught up in the crossfire of a voodoo war, meet an unlikely ally, and find what maybe the most haunted house in the entire Western Hemisphere in "Under a Cajun Moon".

New Game Group

Tonight will be the first meeting of my new game group.  Well, not so much new and not really mine.
"The Northlands Gaming Group" will be the same members of my "adult" Pathfinder/D&D4 group which is a larger set of my normal Unisystem playtest group.  The DM will be Greg aka Rhonin84.

Tonight is the prep meeting over some Chicago-style pizza.  I am expecting we will be doing more in Greg's own world, which will be a treat.  What I am not sure of yet is which system we will be using.  I have narrowed it down to a few guesses though.

Why?  Well we both play it with our own kids separately now and when we get them together. It would be easy to do and between the two of us we have everything.  Plus we had a good Essentials based game recently that was a lot of fun.
Why not? For exactly the same reasons.
My take: I get to play a lot of D&D4 and with this group we will spend a lot of time in combat.  D&D4 combats do take a long time but there are ways to speed it up.

Why? This is the odds on favorite I think. This is the system that this group started out in.
Why not? These reasons are fewer.  The main reason would be that one of the other systems has something in it that PF does not.
My take:  I like Pathfinder and unless we do it here I am not sure when I'd ever play it.

Why? Greg has been telling me for weeks now how much of a fan he is of OSRIC and S&W.  We both love the new B/X Companion. So there is some traction here.
Why Not? The other players are not as familiar with these games as we are.
My Take: I'd love to play in retro-clone game; if done right.

I think I am going to opt for a Paladin in this group; something against my typical witch or wizard.

Looking forward to the first meeting of the new Northlands Gaming Group!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Reviews: Chill RPG

Reviews: Chill
Did some more reviews the other night.  Woefully behind schedule. So wanted to take a big chunk out of it with ones I really, really like first.

Longtime readers know of my love for Chill, my first true horror RPG.

To many role-players around my age their first introduction to Horror roleplaying was the venerable “Call of Cthulhu”, but not me. Mine was Chill. I had the Pacesetter version (1st Edition), which I remember quite fondly, even if I did not get much of a chance to play.
The Mayfair version (2nd Edition) is of course superior and it is great to see it here. Picking up a copy of the Mayfair version now I get the impression (true or not) that the makers of Kult saw it and thought, “yes this is good, but what if the world was much, much worse?”
I liked Chill also because it had Midwest sensibilities. Pacesetter was from Wisconsin; Mayfair was/is in Niles/Skokie, a suburb of Chicago than is not to far from where I live (and has one of my favorite pizza places). It was while playing Chill that learned that the best horror was horror close to home. I don’t know, or much care really, what Hollywood thinks is horror. How can a place that gets like 350 days of sunshine know what is horror? On the other hand East Coast horror (Lovecraft) has a completely different flavor. It’s almost alien. Chill may have had a global scope, but the horror is home grown. Chill remembers that there is simple horror in the haunted house, or the strange creature from the Unknown. It is not about the bigger-badder-more horror of some games, where every game has to up the ante on the last game.
Chill does look dated by today’s standards, but keep in mind that most of it was written in the early 80’s and updated in the 90’s. A lot of the rules in Chill can be found in one way or another in modern horror games. In fact one gets the feeling of seeing evolution in process when comparing similar rules in Chill and Unisystem or World of Darkness. Successes, Fear Checks, even proto-Drama point usage (of a sorts) are all here. If one is more used to modern games, the Chill versions do seem unwieldy and even a bit primitive, but looking at them the other way, the Chill rules were a landmark for the time. Indeed there are a lot of rules in existence today that we take for granted that were still cutting edge in Chill.
But that is not to say that Chill does not have something to offer the player of today.
If horror is your game, then Chill is worth your time and money.
5 out of 5 Stars.

Chill Companion
A must have if you are playing 2nd Edition/Mayfair Chill, AND a good buy for fans of any horror rpg.
Add more depth to your characters including (and most importantly to me) the use of magic and psionics. Nothing beats Chill and this was one of the best additions to the game.
5 out of 5 Stars.

Horrors of North America
What I loved most about Chill was it was American Horror. Not just New England, or even old England, but the Mid-West, the North and all over the place.
Horrors of North America is one part travel guide, one part monster manual and all parts awesome. Great even if you are not playing Chill as a guide to whats weird and supernatural out there.
5 out of 5 Stars.

Chill: Vampires
Chill Vampires is the standard to which all vampire related supplements to a horror game must be measured. Any game can produce a bunch of stats, some bad fiction and link them together, Chill: Vampires is a Master's Thesis on combating the undead. Not just notes for the would be vampire slayer (and game masters) but also detailed accounts of the most brazen of the undead. Complete with stats, history, motivations and the notes of previous investigators and SAVE agents.
This book is fantastic for any game but essential for a good Chill game. I would recommend it on the basis of the Dracula and Bathory write-ups alone, but there are more and even stranger and deadlier vampires in these pages.
All games before, and many after, dealt with vampires much the same way, little carbon copies of Hollywood Dracula. Sure, some made attempts at doing different things, but most were weak in implementation. But Chill (and to be fair a D&D article in Dragon about a year before) did something that no other game had done before, give us varieties of vampires. So it was not just pack your stake, holy water and crucifix, you had to know what species of vampire you were after. So that stake would be fine against a Common Carpathian and by luck the Macedonian Vampire, but completely useless against an Alpine Vampire. This played well into Chills other evolutionary concept, in game research.
Some of these vampires represented a type or species of vampire. The Common Carpathian, Macedonian and Oriental Vampires are of this kind. Others were most likely unique individuals with a specific vampirism curse, Elizabeth Bathory is a good example, she is most like a Common Carpathian with some things that are unique to her nature in life.
5 out of 5 Stars.

Unknown Providence: SAVE in New England
Part source guide to New England, part historical treatsie and part adventure Unknown Providence covers a lot of ground. Set firmly in the Chill/SAVE meta-plot this book was one of the first of what was to be the new direction in Chill. Sadly it was also one of the last.
The background and history of New England is awesome. Filled with all sorts of facts and ideas to use in any game as well as a cast on NPC, monsters and SAVE agents.
The adventure is less good, though perfectly fine.
4 out of 5 Stars.
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