Friday, May 23, 2014

PWWO: The Basic Illusionist

Time for another edition of Plays Well With Others.

The one thing you can say about the entire OSR Gestalt that despite it all there is still a sense of community and of giving back.  Case in point, The Basic Illusionist.

The Basic Illusionist is the brain-child of +Nathan Irving and was first seen during the S&W Appreciation Day Blog Hop.

Go to his blog now and grab a copy.  Oh. Did I mention it was 100% free?

Before I delve into the book itself. Lets take a moment to look at this cover.
Seriously. That is a cool ass cover. I am not sure what made Nathan Irving choose this piece ("Beauty and the Beast" by Edmund Dulac) but I love it.  The title works in seemlessly, like they were meant for each other.  The woman in foreground is no longer the "beauty" but she is now an Illusionist.

Ok.  So the book is overtly for Swords & Wizardry, but there isn't anything here keeping you from using any Original of Basic inspired system.  I know it works out well in Labyrinth Lord and Basic D&D and it really should work well in ACKS, Spellcraft & Swordplay or any other system.  Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea might be a trick, but they have an Illusionist class already (more on that later).

Getting into the book now we have 34 pages (with cover) on the Illusionist class. The book starts off with a helpful FAQ.  Personally I think Nathan should also put that FAQ on his blog as a page so every knows why they should get this.  The Illusionist class itself is in S&W format, but the only thing keeping you from using this in any other Basic or Advanced Era game is a table of Saving Throws.  Copy over what ever the Wizard or Magic-user is using in your game of choice and give them -1 bonus to saves when it comes to illusions.
The Illusionist gets a power or feature every odd level, but nothing that is game breaking when compared to the wizard.  The Illusionist trades flexibility for focus in their magical arsenal. There is even an Illusionist variant class called the Mountebank.  Which is more of a con-artist.  Not sure how it compares to other classes of the same name.

One of the best features of the book is a guideline on illusionist magic and how to play with illusions.  Great even if you never play the class.

What follows next is over 150 Illusionist spells.  Many we have seen before and come from the SRD.  That is not a bad thing. Having all these spells in one place and edited to work with the class is a major undertaking.  I for one am glad to see them here.  Spells are alphabetical instead of sorted by level.
A list of conditions ported over from the SRD is also included. I like that personally.  We all love how the older games and the clones play, but in our zeal we tend to forget that 3.x and later games did in fact have some good innovations and ideas; this is one of them.

We end with a couple of monsters and a two page OGL statement.

Really, this is a fantastic piece of work and really should be the "go to" document if you ever want to play an illusionist.

Playing Well With Others
The design of the Illusionist class (and the book) is such that adding it to any game should really be a breeze.  Adventurers enter a new land and discover a new brand of wizard.  Compared to other custom wizards out there the illusionist is more powerful than his counterpart in 1st Ed. AD&D.  This is not power creep in my opinion, I think Nathan has has actually fixed the classic Illusionist and brought it more in line with the Wizard.

Magical Theorems & Dark Pacts
+Dyson Logos' Magical Theorems & Dark Pacts is an excellent book for playing all sorts of wizard types.  That is oddly enough except Illusionists.  This however is not issue; The Basic Illusionist fits in quite nicely here.  The Enchanter from MT&DP would have some spells that might be good for the Illusionist as well.

Theorems & Thaumaturgy
Another great free product. Theorems & Thaumaturgy comes to us from +Gavin Norman and introduced his Vivmancer class.  Vivimancers and Illusionists are about as different as one can get really.  But Theorems & Thaumaturgy does have some things that the Basic Illusionist can use.  For starters there some more Illusionist spells in T&T that the Basic Illusionist could use.  Both books make the assumption that Illusionists should have access to 8th and 9th level spells.  If you are going to play a Basic Illusionist then it is worth your time and effort to get a copy of Theorem & Thaumaturgy.
Nathan, I would talk to Gavin and see if you can use his spells if you ever expand your Illusionist book. Maybe toss over some elementalist spells his way if you have them.

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea
+Jeff Talanian's fantastic Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea also has an Illusionist class. Like all the classes in the book it is limited to 12th level.  I had a quick glance over the spell lists last night and there wasn't anything that jumped out at me; the spells are drawn from similar sources.  There is is information though that owners of either could use. Obviously the Basic Illusionist cover many more spells but more importantly it has the guidelines for covering how illusions in the game work.

The Witch
Of course I want to mention my own book. Witches and Illusionists share the ability to cast various figments and charms/mind affecting spells.  I would say that in any game that has both classes that Illusionists should be limited to charm spells up to 5th level and witches any type of figments up to 5th level.  Illusionists then get all (or most) of the Illusion spells and witches get all the curses.

What I Would Want Next
I know. I sound greedy.  Nathan Irving works his butt off on this, puts it together and gives it away for free and I am over here saying "yeah, but do you have any more?"
But my motives are pure.

I would love a print version of this. It would really be awesome.  At 34 pages it is a bit smallish for print, but that is easily fixed.  Add a few more spells (plenty of OGC), some illusion based magic items, a couple more monsters (not a lot) an appendix for using this class in different retro-clones (LL, OSRIC, ACKS) and maybe even stats on adding gnomes as player characters.  Call it "The Complete Illusionist" sell it for a couple of bucks on DriveThru and get a print copy made.  OR Keep it free as a PDF and have print copies up on Lulu.  In any case it would look good on my "OSR" shelf. There is enough OGC out there now to do all of this in fact.  There is enough OGC in the 4 books mentioned above!

Bottom Line:  This is a great book. I loved the awesome art and the fact that it is free. Though I would have gladly paid for it.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

One more Reason to Support my Kickstarter

Say that 256 pages of witchy goodness is not enough?
Ok, how about another 200. For free?

Pledge at $25 or above level and I will throw in a PDF copy of my 2012 "The Witch" for Basic Era/OSR games.

It makes a great companion to my Pathfinder book.

Kickstarter hits 65% in 10 Days!

So my recent Kickstarter for Strange Brew is moving along nicely.
In the first 10 days we have hit 65% of our funding goal.

That is fantastic, but it won't help us hit man of our stretch goals.

So are thinking of adding some more "benefits" for levels.  For example we have the rights now to the old Citizen Games, Way of the Witch book and were are updating that to Pathfinder.
We have a couple of other products ready and a few more nearly ready.

What would you like to see?
Pledge and get a free copy of my Basic Era Witch book?
Something else?

If nothing else or if you are not interested, please consider spreading the word!  Let others know.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

What *is* a Warlock?

I have been thinking and talking a lot about warlocks of late.

More specifically "what is a warlock?"

Research on the word reveals that it is Scottish in origin and was first used in the early 1700s and has a few cognates. So what is a warlock?
A wizard: Well that doesn't help. We have those already in Pathfinder. Ditto for sorcerer and magus.
A male witch: No. That doesn't work so well either. Besides a male witch is a witch unless you want a male witch to be a wizard. But why have a witch at that point?
A spellcaster: No. Half the classes are "Spellcasters" in one way or another.
There is evidence that word shares roots with lēogan and wǣrloga, but those only tell me the roots of the word, not what the word is itself.

And more to the point, what does a warlock mean in my games? What is it's role? What does it do?  This isn't a history or linguistic text I am working, it is a game book, so I have to think about this in terms of what is good for a class and what is good for the players.

Recently I spoke about them on my blog back in April (W is for Warlock), but I have never really sat down to define them in terms of role and powers.  Powers might be important mechanically speaking, but if the class doesn't fill a role in my game then the powers could or should go to someone else.

A while back on my blog I reprinted what Tom Moldvay, author of the D&D Basic set, had to say about witches.  These came from Dragon Magazine #43 which was presenting their version of the Witch class.

According to Moldvay a witch has:  1. The ability to use herbs for healing and magic.  2. The power of fascination, like a super-charm ability.  3. A combination of both Clerical and Magic-User abilities. 4. The ability to practice sympathetic magic.  5. Be worshipers, in secret, of a religion otherwise forbidden in a particular era. 6. Powers based on nature and the cycle of seasons, similar to Druidic* powers.
I added a 7th, the ability to form into covens.

I would like to take these as a basis for the Warlock class, since the witch and warlock are so intertwined historically.

1. The ability to harm using magic.  Warlocks, if anything, are seen as evil.   But players should be able to choose their own alignments for their characters. So an "Evil" act would be to use magic to directly harm.  One thing D&D/Pathfinder is missing is a magical blaster class.  Sure the Wizard and Sorcerer could do this, but it is a side effect of their spell use, not a feature of the class.

2. Combination of Witch, Cleric and Wizard powers. Like the witch the warlock is an arcane spell caster that deals with otherworldly powers. They are a bit cleric, a bit wizard and a lot of something else.  I think this should allow them access to the Witch spells.  This also ties the two classes closer together.

3. Witches have sympathetic magic, warlock have this too but in order to do harm.  This is best exemplified by curses. But warlocks need something more than just that.  Correspondences will be important to warlocks too. Their magic is tied closely to their patron. The rituals they perform to learn and cast their magic also bind them closer and closer to their patron. Their magic needs to be reflected in this.

4. Like witches, warlocks are in league with otherworldly powers for their own benefit.  These are stereotypically demons, devils and lost gods, but they are also Arch Fey Lords and Ladies, areas of magical power, even elementals and primal creatures.  These pacts are a way for the warlock to gain power without having to do all of the learning that wizards do. They also do not have the sorcerer's magical bloodlines, so power for the warlock must be taken where it can.

5. Warlocks, again like wizards and witches, form into groups that aid them. Wizards have their schools, witches have covens, and warlocks have cabals. Where covens are more centers of worship for the witch, a cabal is place for like minded warlocks to share secrets. It is similar to the wizard school in that there is shared learning.

Additionally I would like to see the warlock have some form of corruption happen to them. Their pact ties them body and soul to their patrons.  This should be reflected in the physical presence of the warlock.  The Oracle class has their curse for example and the anti-paladin has their auras.

In the Strange Brew Kickstarter I mention I want the witch to be more than just a distaff wizard.  I also want the warlock to be more than a male, maybe evil, witch.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Blogging A to Z Guest Post: Did I Survive?

This is a Guest Post I am posting today over at the Blogging A to Z Challenge.
IF you are a regular reader here then I do want to hear from you.  What would make the month of April more interesting for you?

Hello everyone. My name is Tim Brannan. I blog over at The Other Side where I primarily talk about games, RPGs and horror.  I am a game author so I use my blog as a platform to talk about my books, but also to share with others in my blogging community to sorts of things I like to write about.

I have been writing material for games nearly as long as I have been playing them.  I started in 1979 and my first "custom class" was a Healer. And....I am not afraid to admit my first new monster I ever wrote up was a "Smurf". Yeah. I was 10.  My first witch class was written sometime between 1985 and 1986.

This was my fourth year of doing the A to Z Challenge on the Other Side. I have also done it one year on my Atheism blog, The Freedom of Nonbelief and another years at Red Sonja She-devil with a Sword, a shared blog dedicated to the comic book character Red Sonja.  Plus I have guest-posted here before on how to use the A to Z challenge in your own writing efforts and the importance of having a theme to your posts.

One would have thought I would have been more prepared this year!

At some point in February I was still planning on doing an A to Z theme on Vampires.  I had started the posts last year when I did Demons. I had an idea for a book about vampires and I thought it would have been a good way to do some research.  It was. Till I shifted midstream.

My newest book is now at Kickstarter to get funding for art and printing.  "Strange Brew: The Ultimate Witch & Warlock" is, well, the most complete guide to playing a witch in the Pathfinder game.  A bit of background.  Back in 2000 the 3rd edition of Dungeons & Dragons hit the shelves with the "Open Gaming Licence" which briefly meant 3rd party authors could make their own books for D&D and not get sued or anything like that.  If you followed the admittedly simple rules of the Open Game Licence then you could do it.  Well I did and in 2003 I released "Liber Mysterium: The Book of Witches & Warlocks".  A friend of mine released a similar book for witched called "Way of the Witch". We liked each other books and we happy.  2013 rolls around and this friend, Christina, decides it is time we mixed our books together with the newest version of the D&D 3rd edition game, Pathfinder (it's not exactly, but close enough).  We added in the Pathfinder witch and some others and decided to kick start it as a project.

So far things are going great!  But my extra writing time was taking a solid hit.  I have 13 years worth and 1,000s of pages of notes and material to go through.

So to save some time I switched over to the A to Z of Witches.

It was a good idea.  Go through notes, post ideas as they come to me.  I only managed to stay about 10 days ahead of schedule and that was no where near enough.  So much for my own advice about theme and planning!

I got a lot of great posts up and in fact have enough for another couple months of solid witch postings.
I got to participate in a "mini-hop" of people doing supernatural creatures during the A to Z as well and that was the best!  I have to give very special thanks to Tasha (Tasha's Thinkings) and Sophie (Sophie's Thoughts and Fumbles) for helping me with the idea and then doing all the heavy lifting afterwards.  THEY, and everyone in the Supernatureal mini-hop, really made this A to Z special for me.

If you look at my May 5th post I state I survived the A to Z challenge.  Survived is the right word. Not beat, not won, but survived.  Yes I posted everyday and still got in some of my other posts. Yes I visited my neighbor blogs, but didn't always comment on them.  Yes the material I wrote will find a home somewhere in Strange Brew.

But, I didn't get to interact with other bloggers as much as I wanted. I didn't visit every blog on the list like I have in years past.  And while I noticed that I was getting a good amount of traffic from the Supernatural A to Z and from the A to Z site itself, my regular readers dropped off.  So in that respect I didn't do as well as I would have liked.

I write about games.  That is who I am and what my readers want.  I tried to keep the topics I posted very relevant to gamers, but also to the non-gamers.  Most people in the world don't care if some beastie has 5 HD or 15 HD, you just want to know how tough it is. To gamers that is a big deal. It's a big deal to me.

I love doing the A to Z and I am taking my own advice to heart and starting my 2015 posts this summer.  I am still considering doing vampires. So to make it work there needs to be plenty of material for gamers (what we in the RPG biz call "crunch") and plenty of narrative material enjoyed by everyone else (what we call "fluff").

So what is my plan?

  • Start my post writing early.  Crunch takes longer to write than Fluff. I'll need the time.
  • Keep enough crunch to keep my regular readers happy. Especially if it something new.
  • Keep the fluffy interesting to keep the A to Zers coming back.
  • Visit and interact with more of the bloggers in the A to Z. If I write all my posts this should be easier.
  • I would LOVE to participate in another mini-hop like I did this year. That was awesome.

Looking forward to it!

About the Author 
Timothy S. Brannan is the author of The Other Side blog,
He has worked on a number of games including the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG", and is the author of “The Ghosts of Albion RPG”, “The Witch”, “Eldritch Witchery” and the upcoming “Strange Brew” which is currently in a Kickstarter Campaign. Please stop by and see if this is something you would like to support.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Next Dungeons & Dragons

If you haven't heard yet you soon will.
We now know the dates, prices and cover art of the next edition of Dungeons & Dragons.
No 5th ed. No "Next" (thankfully!). Just "Dungeons & Dragons".

First I like that the edition has been dropped.  This is supposed to be the "Edition to unite all the Editions".
I also like the dragon ampersand a call back to the roots, or at least when D&D was at it's most popular.

Here are the products to get us going.  They are listed on Amazon for pre-order, but I would like to point out that support for these games comes not from Amazon, but from your Local Game Store.  Please buy these locally if you can

Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set
Fantasy Roleplaying Fundamentals

The D&D "Basic" set is first up and this is a fantastic way to get the edition going.  For $20 you can see if you like the rules and game and still get everything you need for levels 1 to 5.   It has a 64 page DMs/Adventure book, a 32 page Player's book and 5 pregens. It even comes with dice.

As a long time fan of the Basic Set(s) I think this is fantastic.

Release Date: July 15, 2014
Page Count: 96
Price: $19.99; C$22.95

D&D Player's Handbook
A Dungeons & Dragons Core Rulebook

Now we are getting into the hard covers proper.  This is a little bit like the late 1970s.  We had the Holmes basic set and then the other hardbacks came out in staggered releases.  Then I think it was more matter of production and bandwidth. Now it is to keep the errata down and make sure each book gets its due.  The PHB is the perfect choice for a second release.
At 320 pages I am expecting quite a lot.  For $50 I should get a lot.  Again, this is not an unexpected price.

Release Date: August 19, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Page Count: 320
Price: $49.95; C$57.00

D&D Monster Manual
A Dungeons & Dragons Core Rulebook

I like this cover a lot. While a red dragon would have been nice, the beholder is also a good choice.
Same page count as the PHB, which I expected.  Same price too.

Release Date: September 17, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Page Count: 320
Price: $49.95; C$57.00

D&D Dungeon Master's Guide
A Dungeons & Dragons Core Rulebook

I have often said that the best book out there on how to run a game (any game) is still the 1st Ed DMG.  I honestly felt that the 3rd Edition DMG was also very good.  So I have high hopes for this one.  Again, the same size and cost as the PHB and MM.

Release Date: November 18, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Page Count: 320
Price: $49.95; C$57.00

All in all I am pretty excited for these.  Right now I have no plans to play it.  My kids still love 1st Ed.  There are some adventures coming out, but they focus on Tiamat and the dragoncult and I did all of that for 3e.  But we are getting new sets of miniatures, so that is something.

Looking forward to that Basic set in two months.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Great Gaming Weekend!

What a great weekend for gaming!

Friday Night I went to my regular 2nd Ed game. We were missing some players so I got to bring along my oldest son.  We got there and more players were missing. So we created some new characters living in the same world with the idea that they could be alternates for anyone that drops into the game or we could even switch from our primary characters to these.  Some hiccups, but all in all a good night and a great bunch of characters.

Sunday Morning I registered for my GenCon games.  I didn't get everything I wanted, but I still got plenty. Going to be playing some Ubiquity and Mage the Ascension for the first time in years.

Sunday Afternoon.  Again, missing characters. This time my youngest son crashed on the couch from his night of playing paintball.  So my oldest wanted to play our 1st Ed game and finish up the Caves of Chaos.  Instead I had him take one of his alternate characters, an assassin, and discover that Mendel the Merchant was part of the Slave trade to and from the Caves.  This will play nicely when they hit the A series later.
Merchant killed, plot discovered.  All in a good day's work.  Now they just need to clear out caves A, B and C and they can move on to the next adventure.