Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Class Struggles: The Wizard, Part 2 The Wizard Class

Last week we discussed the Magic-User and his cousin the Wizard.  One thing seems certain, the Magic-User is a bit overpriced in terms of XP.  Also, and I am not the only one as we will see, the wizard lacks some powers he really should have.

One of the things I liked (back then) when 2nd Edition came out was that the Magic-User was now properly called a Wizard.  Again, the nuance of magic-user was lost on me but obviously it was also lost on the design team.
The wizard, as he for evermore will be known, is really not that different from the magic-user mechanically speaking.  Some spells are rearranged but that is about it.  The true difference comes when you choose a speciality school or apply a kit, like the many found in The Complete Wizard's Handbook.  Here the wizard gets a few more spells at starting level from their speciality school and the kit can provide them with some powers.   Though the cantrips as 0-level spells that the Unearthed Arcan gave us are now gone.

Yesterday I reviewed The Principalities of Glantri book and it's school of magic. What stood out for me was things that your wizards can now do if they go to a premier school like Hogwarts The Great School of Magic.  The Seven Crafts provide a bit of extra kick for magic-user characters.  Personally I think they could use something at 1st level as well.

Since I covered the basic (and really Basic) Magic-User last week, I want to jump into some of the clones and near clones now.

Spellcraft & Swordplay is a near clone that models Original D&D and it's Chainmail roots much closer than Swords & Wizardry does.  It does take some liberties though.   One is the Wizard and the wizard class elite paths, Warlocks and Necromancers.  In S&S wizards can Read Magic at 1st level.  We are also given more detail on how to create magic items.  An Elite Path like the Necromancer or Warlock also get other powers.

Fantastic Heroes & Witchery also has a wizard class, as well as a wise man and a warlock.  Additionally, it also has 666 spells split up into gray, white and black magic.  The wizard here does not differ much from the standard magic-user, but the number of spells included is not insignificant.

Adventurer Conqueror King System gives us a similar looking Wizard, the advantage here are the skills/proficiencies that all classes get.  Going back to last week this is similar to the skill checks I give wizards when identifying magic.

Magical Theorems & Dark Pacts also has a wizard class. Many in fact.  The wizard is still a Magic-User clone, but there are plenty of other wizard types in this book that the case for experimentation is made here.

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. Ah now this is what I was looking for.  Each of the books so far has done a little here and little there, but the Magician in AS&SH is waht I have really been looking for.  Right away he gets a familiar, the ability to read magic and scribe a scroll. At 7th level he learns som alchemy.  The subclasses, Illusionist, Necromancer, Pyromancer and Witch all get similar powers.

Moving out from clone-land and into old-school land proper there is The Arcanum.  I keep coming back to this book because it keeps on delivering.  There are a lot of magic-user like classes, Alchemist, Astrologer, Charlatan (more of a thief), Enchanter, Mage, Magician, Necromancer, Savant, Sorcerer, Thaumaturge, and Witch.   There is, of course, a Wizard as well.  What they all have in common and share with some other books is the ability to read magic at first level.
These classes all also get new powers at every odd level.  Some are just redefining things the wizard could always do; write scrolls, make potions and magic items.  This just defines them a little better.  Interestingly this book also allows the wizard to choose a weapon.  The book also has plenty of spells to choose from.

It should be noted that these problems are solved by 3rd Edition and beyond.  Both the shared XP values across all classes and more features for the Wizards has made all the above points moot really.

My recommendations for the wizard are:
  • Cantrips
  • Read Magic/Identify magic as a skill at 1st level.  Can be a simple Int check.  A bonus equal to level with a penalty equal to spell level.
  • Find Familiar as a ritual, but not a spell.
  • Signature Spells. A spell that can be cast twice or three times per day with one memorization.
  • Some powers at 5th, 10th, 15th and 20th level.  Signature Spell can be one of these.
I would group powers along something like Arcane Traditions like I do for the Witch and like D&D5 does, save I would call them something else.  Schools maybe.  I already use "Philosophies" in Ghosts of Albion so I would not want to use that here.  Schools are good since I can go beyond "enchantment" or "necromancy" and into things like "Miskatonic Grad" or "Apprenticed under Mordenkainen", that sort of thing.

I would run this wizard through the various class creation kits I mentioned last week, but especially the one out of the ACKS Player's Companion to check the numbers.  Might be worth looking into deeper.

Why Are my Magic-Users not like Mages?
Spend any time in any other game but D&D, especially one that uses a lot of magic, and somethings just don't make sense.  Except as that special branch of logic known as D&D logic.  Being first D&D gets away with a lot. Invariably someone will ask though why can't D&D magic be more like the magic in World of Darkness, namely Mage.

The difference, of course, is one of scope. While the D&D wizard might become a "master of reality" the Awakened of Mage are of a different sort. The assumptions of the worlds are too different.   Maybe a WoD style Mage could be something the D&D Wizard could aspire to be, I still would not take a Mage with me into a dungeon or try to identify a scroll or potentially magic sword.
So I don't try to make my Wizards into Mages.  I keep the Vancian magic intact.  If I want to play a Mage, I will pick up Mage.   But really, playing both games will give you a better understanding of things your wizard/mage can do in either game.

Hopefully your wizards are more like this:




Than this:



Though that Keep at 3:30 looks familiar.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Review: GAZ3 The Principalities of Glantri

Still spending a lot of time thinking about witches, wizards, schools of magic and witch queens.  So naturally my thoughts turn to +Bruce Heard's masterpiece, GAZ3 The Principalities of Glantri.
I have mentioned Glantri here a few times. It was the homeland for my characters back in my D&D/AD&D days.  I built up the country from the small bits of information from D&D Expert Set, Isle of Dread and Castle Amber.  It was not till much later I discovered the Gazetteer series and picked up Glantri that I discovered how really interesting and fun the place was.

GAZ3 The Principalities of Glantri
The pdf is 102 pages (the original book was 96 pages, a detached cover and large map of the country and Glantri City).  The PDF is a good quality scan and retains all the information found in the print book.   The cover art was done by the fantastic Clyde Caldwell.  While this book is a D&D "Basic" book, there is so much here of use that it can really be used with any D&D system.  This book really set the stage for all the other Gazetteers to follow.
The first part, Welcome to Glantri, gives a very brief overview of what the country is and what this book sets out to do.
Up next is the History of Glantri. I spent hours and hours reading this over and over.   I won't go into great detail, but linking Glantri to ancient Blackmoor was wonderful in my mind. Mostly because I loved the link but also I had done something similar for my own games.  What follows next is a time line from 3000 BC, The Rain of Fire* (Before Crowning of the first Emperor of Thyatis)  to 1000 AC (today) and even on to 1200 AC.  *I always wondered if the Rain of Fire that destroyed Blackmoor was related or even just the same spell that destroyed the Suel in the Greyhawk world.
Geography of Glantri is next.  Like much of Mystara, Glantri is a mix of all sorts of races and people, but Glantri also has it's fair share of "monsters" those will be detailed later.  Glantri's climate is also touched upon, making it one of the colder lands.
The is followed by The Glantrian Economy. I really enjoyed this section because it really breathes life into the people that live here.  Each of the Principalities is detailed here for the first time.  A quick read and one immediately recognizes analogues to Scotland, Italy, France, and even Transylvania. Glantri is very cosmopolitan.  We move into the Grand Army of Glantri and Politics and Rivalries of Glantri.  Glantri is the place to play out political intrigue where everyone is mage of some sort or has one on retainer.  Like the Economy section, this section breathes more life into the people of the land, in this case all the great houses.   I will admit once again that the interior art by Stephan Fabian links this to Ravenloft in my mind.  Not only are there humans here, but vampires, werewolves and liches ruling.  We will get to witches in a bit.
Guilds and Brotherhoods are also one of the more important features of this book and life in Glantri.  There are so many here that characters could each belong to many and none overlap.  Some are complimentary to each other and others at cross purposes.  Really good fodder for role-playing.
Glantri City by Night details what happens to the 39,000+ residents when the sun goes down. The book is like a what we now call Modern Supernatural.  So all sorts of "monsters" come out and mingle with everyday people.  It says "by Night" but really this an overview of the city itself and all it's sections.  It reminds me of a travel guide to London I once read, so I am rather fond of this section.
Living in Glantri City details life in the city including the laws, who is in charge, magic use and various holy/high days. There is no religion in Glantri, but there is a state philosophy. Of course it is tied in with magic.
The Great School of Magic.  Outside of Hogwarts or Professor Xavier's school has a school been so rich detailed. Though there is enough here to make me want more, a lot more.  This is followed by Creating Spells and Magical Items and The Secret of the Radiance. The source of Glantri's magical power.
Nest we get into The Seven Secret Crafts of Glantri.   If you only buy this book for this section then you will be well rewarded.  Think of these as schools or even colleges of magic. Each one ads something special to the Magic-User class, almost like a Prestige Class or Paragon class feature.  They include, Alchemy, Dragon magic, Elemental magic, Illusion, Necromancy, Rune magic, and of course, Witchcraft.
We wrap up with Adventures in Glantri.

The Gazetteer series were works of art and none more so than the Glantri book.

I mentioned before that this book would work fine with other versions of D&D.  Looking deeper into the Seven Secret Crafts of Glantri, one could EASILY replace the Arcane Tradition feature of the 5th Edition Wizard and replace those powers with the craft powers.  The 5e wizard gets 4 Arcane tradition powers/features and the Basic craft wizards get 5. They work out to about the same levels too.

So if you have not picked this up, do so. I highly recommend it.

I also recommend Bruce Heard's latest Calidar kickstarter Beyond the Skies.
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ambreville/calidar-beyond-the-skies

Calidar is a load of fun and this promises to be great.

Monday, December 7, 2015

DCC and 0-Level Characters

Busy day today.  I have Eighteen research design videos to edit.

But I thought I would throw out something I am playing with for my next campaign, either my "Second Campaign" or my War of the Witch Queens one.

I want to use the funnel idea from Dungeon Crawl Classics to figure out which characters will go through the adventures.  I would run them through an 0-level adventure and then allow them to choose their classes.

Could be a lot of fun.

What are your experiences with this?

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Zatannurday: Justice League Movie

In case you have been living in a bunker in Mojave, here is the trailer for the newest movie in the DC Cinematic Universe.

I think it looks great.  First up the sneak peek.



I am going to say....dream sequence or Bruce worrying about a future where Superman has gone rogue, but not something that actually happens.

Now the trailer.  There is more than just a little bit of fan service in this.


So I am going to call it. Ben Affleck is going to rock as Batman.  He already seems to have Bruce Wayne down and his voice is not Christian Bale's gargling with battery acid and gravel voice.

But seriously.  Let's take a moment and marvel how FREAKING AWESOME Gal Gadot is looking as Wonder Woman.   I am even enjoying Jesse Eisenberg as Lex.  I LOVE Bruce's reaction when he says "Lex"...he has nothing but contempt for him.

And....Doomsday.

Yeah.

Is it 2016 yet?

Friday, December 4, 2015

Friday Night Videos: Conceptual Continuity

Welcome to the Friday Night Videos salute to Frank Zappa.

Earlier today I posted some people and things from Frank Zappa's Conceptual Continuity.

Here are the songs and videos that inspired them.
Note: Not all of these are part of Zappa's actual Conceptual Continuity, but they are good for this.

My python boot's too tight.  "Stinkfoot" appears on the 1974 FZ album Apostrophe ('), which is now usually sold as a combo CD with Over-Nite Sensation.   Stinkfoot is very much part of the Conceptual Continuity. I also think it might have been the first Zappa song I ever heard.  I am sure that my brother Mike was the one that introduced me to it.




One the same album St. Alphonzo and Father O'Blivion can be heard on "St. Alphonzo's Pancake Breakfast" and "Father O'Blivion" respectively.    Funny thing, the next song on that side "Cosmik Debris" was one of "inspirations" for the Aquarian Tradition of Witchcraft.






Speaking of the Aquarians.  Over-Nite Sensation from 1973 introduced us to The Short Forest in "Camarillo Brillo" a tale of a magic mama that could throw a mean tarot.    I decided that the woman in Camarillo Brillo was the same as the Witch of The Short Forrest and likely Dinah-Moe Humm from the same album.  Camarillo Brillo, by the way is not the witch's name, it describes her hair.




The idea of her sister drowning comes from Zappa's 1982 album Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch.  This is the album that gave the world "Valley Girl".




"Goblin Girl", is not really a goblin, but gobbling or gobbl'en.  What she is gobbling...well you listen and decide.  But it is one of the best songs on the completely fantastic You Are What You Is from 1981.  For me she looks like Gren Razortooth from YAFGC.




Her suicidal behavior comes from the same album in the form of "Suicide Chump" and "Jumbo Go Away".






Going all the way back to 1968 we have the classic Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention album We're Only In It For The Money.  One of my favorite songs on this album  is "Absolutely Free" which teaches us that "discorporate means to leave your body."




We go back to Over-Nite Sensation and end with Zomby Woof, which should be self-explanatory.

Conceptual Continuity: The World that Frank Zappa Built

Today is sad day. 22 years ago one of the greatest performers in music died.  Frank Zappa.
ETA: We also just learned that form leader singer of Stone Temple Pilots, Scott Weiland has also died today.


I love Zappa's music after being introduced to it by both a friend and my older brother Mike.  Zappa was a genius and I could spend the next dozen posts talking about him, his music and his contributions.  But instead in a move that might amuse Frank himself I am going for the cheap (but well thought out) gag.

Here are some Zappa inspired items, people, places and things for your game.

Oh I can't explain Conceptual Continuity. It is something that has to be experienced.

Barking Pumpkin
This looks like a normal jack-o-lantern, but once lit it acts an alarm ward. Anyone approaching withing 10' of this pumpkin will cause it to starting barking like a large dog.   Only the command "Sit, Fido, sit." followed by "good dog" will stop it from barking.



Python Boot (magic item)
These boots look like they are made of a skin of a large python.  They give the wearer a +2 on any roll that might involve Charisma (though not magical rolls).  It is assumed that anyone wearing such a boot must be interesting to talk to.

Python Boot, Stinkfoot (cursed)
This cursed version of the Python Boot gives the same powers as a regular python boot.  Though the wearer will not be able to remove them.  Once they try the boot will begin to emit an order like a Stinking Cloud spell.  All Charisma based rolls are now at a -4.

St. Alphonzo (and his Pancake Breakfast)
Saint Alphonzo was one a kindly friar that believed that breakfast was the most important meal of the day.   Special pancakes blessed by the saint keep adventures full and warm till nightfall when consumed in the morning.
St. Alphonzo's is currently run by portly cleric by name of Father O'Blivion, who may or may not be plagued by leprechauns.

Camarillo Brillo by farlo
The Witch of The Short Forest
13th level Witch, Aquarian Tradition, Female (Neutral)

Strength: 10
Dexterity: 14
Constitution: 12
Intelligence: 13
Wisdom: 10
Charisma: 18

Saves
Death Ray or Poison:  9
Magic wand or devices: 10
Paralysis, Polymorph or Turn to Stone: 9
Dragon Breath: 12
Rods, Staffs and Spells: 11

Hit Points: 41
Alignment: Neutral
AC: 5 (Ponch [equal to Leather Armor], Amulet of Protection +2 )

Occult Powers
Familiar:  Snake
Herb use
Lesser: Astromancy
Minor: Moon Blessing

Spells
Cantrips: Chill, Daze, Detect Curse, Object Reading, Open, Sound
First: Cause Fear, Charm Person, Chill Touch, Sickly
Second: Agony, Evil Eye, Levitate, Rose Garden
Third: Bestow Curse, Bewitch III, Dispel Magic
Fourth: Animal Growth, Emotion, Withering Touch
Fifth: Baleful Polymorph, Bull of Heaven
Sixth: Eye Bite, True Seeing
Seventh: Wave of Mutilation

The witch of The Short Forest is notable for many reasons. First are her looks. Her hair is bright red and curled. Her skin is gray-green and all she seems to wear is an old poncho and an amulet.  She is also sometimes seen with her snake.  She will attempt to read your fortune with a deck of old tarot cards.  Or she will try to seduce any male, particularly adventurers but especially Bards (she loves the guys in the band).  If asked she will play a pair of castanets.
She lives in a small two story hut in the valley in the middle of the Short Forest. She will tell you she was born there and that makes her a valley girl.
She had a sister that drowned and doesn't want to talk about it. She will mention many times that she doesn't want to talk about it. (Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch).

She created the Barking Pumpkin and has a many of them outside her home.  She also has a cat (not a familiar) that speaks fluent Chinese (a language she does not know).

The witch's real name is Dinah, but she never answers to that.

Goblin Girl
Armor Class: 14 (5)
Hit Dice: 1 (6 hp)
No. of Attacks: 1 weapon (dagger)
Damage: 1d6
Movement: 20' Unarmored 30'
No. Appearing: 1
Save As: Fighter: 1
Morale: 8
Treasure Type: R
XP: 12

Goblin Girl is a short, kind of pretty little goblin lass. She isn't evil, per se, but she does tend to get into a lot of mischief.  She is very fond of ale, and for a sip she will help out adventurers.  She is also overly amorous and will adopt a "boyfriend" in the party very early.  She will get upset and even suicidal if affection is not returned.  She won't actually kill herself, but she loves the attention.
She wears a green dress and a black witch hat.  She isn't really a witch, she just likes the hat.  It also covers up her head, which is flat on top.

She is friends with the Witch but has been kicked out of St. Alphonzo's many times for stealing margarine.  She has a boyfriend that is a hobgoblin, but she will claim they "are not serious".

Discorporate (Absolutely Free) (spell)
Level: Witch 5, Wizard 5
Duration: 1 hour + 10 mins per level
Range: Touch

By means of this spell the witch can leave her body and project herself anywhere on the current plane she is inhabiting.  She can not affect objects or people unless they are also astral, ethereal or in spirit form.  She can pass through walls and travel great distances, but she must return to her own body before the duration ends or be lost.
The witchcan bring the astral forms of five other willing creatures, provided all subjects are linked in a circle at the time of the casting. These fellow travelers are dependent upon the caster and must accompany her at all times. If something happens to the caster during the journey, her companions are stranded.
Like the Astral Spell, a physical body is left behind attached by a silver cord.
Material Component: A bit of velvet.

Zomby Woof
Armor Class: 15 (4)
Hit Dice: 4+1 (20 hp)
No. of Attacks: 1 bite
Damage: 2d6
Movement: 20'
No. Appearing: 1d6
Save As: Fighter: 4
Morale: 12
Treasure Type: None
XP: 270

This is a large werewolf zombie stuck in mid-transformation. It is very ungainly and moves slow. It's right foot is larger than the left one and only one paw has claws.
It is a mindless monster that attacks anything in The Short Forest.
A Zomby Woof is turned as a ghoul.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

DIY D&D

One of the great things about the whole self-publish, self-produce, osr movements is the ability to  not only have games we loved in no forms, or books we never had (B/X Companion and Adventures Dark and Deep) but it has allowed us unprecedented access to all sorts of material both new and old.

My fondness for PDFs is pretty well known.  But I love books, first and foremost. Hardcovers especially.  Thankfully I grew up in a town that had a book bindery so I managed to get this done:


It's not great, but it is a hard cover of the old Realms of Horror "super module" of the S series.
The nice thing is it has lasted me nearly 30 years.  So I guess I should not complain.

Today we have Lulu.com and DriveThruRPG/PRGNow (and I assume others) for our PDF or physical book needs.  We just have to provide the digital files.

Since I already was providing the files for the print copies of The Witch and Eldritch Witchery, I thought I would make my own hardcovers as well.


I like the hardcover a lot.  I generally like the hardcover Witch better than the softcover one, but prefer the softcover Eldritch Witchery to the hardcover.

Since I was at I thought why not round out the whole collection.


I am not selling these.  You can still find my old netbooks online somewhere. But these were for my own collections.

You might see where I am going here.

So what am I supposed to do when I have this:


But my Rules Cyclopedia looks like this:


Sad. I know.

Well. I love the RC, but cover never really struck me as being "D&D" enough.  But you know what is D&D enough? Uriah Heep's "Demons & Wizards".  So some scanning. Some work late night when I couldn't sleep and I have this:



I will freely admit I am unsure of the legality of this.  I mean I will never sell it (I have my name in it now anyway).  It looks like if I own the PDF I can print it for my own use. Of course I don't own that cover art.  This would be a "table copy".
That aside I think it looks pretty sweet.


It has been a nice little challenge to put together versions of book I have physical copies and pdfs into something new.

My favorites are this combined Basic and Expert hardcover and a combined World of Greyhawk one.


Again, just my own private use at the game table.  But I think they are pretty nice.

I have done something similar to some print outs I made of the Basic and Expert PDFs, which can see here: I Cut up My B/X books!   I think I am going to have to print out the B/X Companion as well and stuff it into this binder.

Now we just need Wizards of the Coast to start giving us more POD options for classic D&D books.
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