Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Old Loves

I have been blogging here for a while.  Mostly about D&D and related clones, but some other games too.  I was reading over some rule books for games I have not played yet or haven't played in a long while and I was thinking.
I really miss the modern supernatural genre.  I have lost track of all the games I have played over the years since the early days of Chill and Call of Cthulhu. I have lost track of all the books I have read in this genre as well; has to be in the hundreds by now.  But I also enjoy the over the top heroics of D&D and supers games too.

So imagine my surprise when I saw Eden Studios was finally publishing the long, long, long, awaited Beyond Human.



Years, a life time ago it seems, I helped with this book.  I contributed quite a bit to the magic chapter.  The magic system is based on my Ghosts of Albion game, which is based in turn on C.J. Carella's own magic systems in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (another game I worked on) and on the WitchCraft game.

I really would love to get something new for these games going again.   Ideas are plentiful, time really isn't.

One day I'll return to this world.

Monday, February 29, 2016

I Want to Believe

I know I am late (by a week) to the game here, but I just watched the last episode of the new Season 10 of X-Files.  I want to start off by saying how phenomenally pleased I was with the entire season.

Now I was a huge X-Files fan back in the day. This was my favorite show.  I was just moving up to Chicago. Had a new apartment in the heart of the Near West side after living in nothing but small Southern Illinois towns (under 20k people).  I was working on my Ph.D., engaged and X-Files was my Friday night (later Sunday night).  I loved the Myth-arc, the monster of the week episodes and getting on the internet on Monday to talk about it on alt.tv.x-files.  No world had pulled me in so hard since Star Trek or Doctor Who.

Like Trek and Who, X-Files came back.  But I was worried that so much of what had made it awesome was gone.   Clinton wasn't in the White House anymore. The nascent internet is now ubiquitous. The paranoia of the 90s has turned into the .... whatever the hell this is we have now.

I was surprised and very, very pleased how the new X-Files picked right up.
Not only picked up, but made the intervening years part of the larger story.  I was excited to see Mulder and Scully back in action. I loved the subtle changes made to their dynamic and even the addition of Miller and Einstien. I laughed out loud during Mulder's "Shroom" trip and the "blink and you'll miss them" cameo of the Lone Gunmen.  X-Files was back and hitting all the notes in my book.

I'm not a geek. Not at all...

At first I thought 6 episodes were plenty, but very soon I wanted more.  A lot more.
Maybe we will get more, Chris Carter certainly thinks so, but time will tell.

In the meantime I am now wanting to dust off all my Conspiracy X books.


Sunday, February 28, 2016

Mail Call: WITCH Fated Souls

Mail call from yesterday.
I just got my copy of WITCH: Fated Souls by Elizabeth Chaipraditkul.


The book, screen and Tarot Cards look great and can't wait to try it out.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Kickstart Your Weekend: Interview with Debra Hoenig Parizek

Debra Hoenig Parizek is working on bringing here late husband's dream to life, The Everyverse RPG.

I thought I would spend some time with her to talk about the Everyverse RPG.

Tim Brannan/The Other Side:  Let’s start at the beginning,  who are you and what is the Everyverse RPG?
Debra Hoenig Parizek: I am the widow of the author now, production and marketing director for EVERYVERSE RPG. Both the author, Dennis, and I grew up in Iowa and graduated from Coe College in Cedar Rapids, IA. I spent 34 years in IT. Since being laid off in Dec, 2014, I have been working in online marketing. I was nudged to bring EVERYVERSE RPG to market after a long weekend gaming session with friends at the end of last June.

EVERYVERSE RPG is a universal system that may be applied to any setting.

TB: How long did your late husband work on this game?
DHP: At least 10 years

TB: How did you get into gaming?
DHP: I got into gaming because my late husband was a gamer. I believe the first scenarios he and I played were Star Wars based using an early version of what is now EVERYVERSE RPG. Later, I joined his gaming group of college friends. That group started meeting again with the 2nd generation (i.e. sons of 2 members) playing with us old timers.

TB: What are some of your favorite games? Why?
DHP: I've played Cyberpunk and AD&D. To be honest, I've been spoiled by playing EVERYVERSE RPG.

TB: What is one of your favorite features about Everyverse?
DHP: I think using The Attempt to resolve all outcomes. The structure of The Attempt is simple -- what action is performed, applicable character attribute score or skill cascade score, modifiers. That's basically it then roll your 4D10.

TB: What is Everyverse to set it off from other multi-genre games?
DHP: It features 5 methods of character generation, uses the Bell curve (the curve used in real-world IQ measurement) where a score of 100 is average for a population in character attributes and skills scores for more meaningful information at a glance, has skills cascades to describe a skill set from general to more specific and uses a single method, The Attempt, to resolve all outcomes.  Also, it presents tables for conversion from other systems to EVERYVERSE RPG.

TB:  What sort of games/stories do you expect that people will use this for?
DHP: Most recently, it was used by folks who play online to do a supernatural hunters scenario. We have used it to play low-tech, high-tech, Star Wars, Highlander. I believe we will be doing a Harry Potter scenario for a podcast next weekend.

TB: What are your future plans for this game?
DHP: The basic rules are available now and I am prepping a supplement on Paranormality. Then, there is a High-Tech Equipment supplement and a Future History supplement. I also want to expand some adventure scenarios into modules for sale.



TB: And finally where can we find you on the internet?
DHP: my website is http://rpg.parizekdevelopmentllc.com
my facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/Everyverse-RPG-907277846032063/
my kickstarter is https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1945825895/to-realize-a-dream-everyverse-rpg

TB: Ok last question and this is for my own benefit. Who is your favorite wizard, witch or magic-user
DHP: Harry Potter

--

There are a lot of really great things that Debra is giving away for this game.  It would be nice to this game make it.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Witch Game

Jonathan Becker of the excellent B/X Blackrazor posted this to my Class Struggles post yesterday:

Have you considered (or run) a game where witches simply replaced magic-users?

Reading this post and your earlier ones, I'm struck by the idea that the "witch" (which I've written several times myself) may need to be something setting-specific, rather than an archetypal class. So much of the witch...and version (folkloric, historical, literary)...is intimately tied to its particular setting, mainly with regard to culture. Sure, they do magic...but that magic varies from source to source (I know you're an expert on the subject, so you can draw references from tons of sources). Real witchcraft is extremely personal to its practitioners, and in a way that parallels the media depiction of witches: each filmmaker or TV producer or book writer has their own personal interpretation of the abilities of a witch. There's a shit-ton of differences between Bewitched and the film Warlock and those Harry Potter books...and a galaxy of difference between any of those and Baba Yaga!

The real defining thing about witches is their (sub)culture, not their powers. They are outsiders from normal society. They are close-knit (have shared ties) with each other. They're feared and often persecuted (or shunned if too powerful...see Baba Yaga). Even so, they can be helpful to non-witches. They seem to have an appreciation for the natural world, especially animals and plants. Their "natural world" also includes forces that mundane folks see as "supernatural" (whether you're talking about spirits, sympathetic magic, or whatever).

The default setting of most editions of D&D don't really leave room for this culture of the witch. People don't shun and persecute magic-users. Magic-users are prone to secrecy and isolation in order both to guard their power and to prevent every Tom, Dick, and Jenny from banging on their door asking for help with some quest or village plight. The evil ones go crazy and live in dungeons and command legions of orcs and monsters. The helpful ones are out on adventures, fattening their purses, getting in knife fights, and acting as magical artillery. I don't know...for me, there's just nothing "witchy" there (culturally speaking).

To really do witches, you need a specific campaign setting that works with their culture. After that, most any spells or abilities will work (and there's plenty of inspiration to draw from). But without the right setting? I don't see a real place for witches in the D&D game.

Jonathan knows his stuff. He also did a very excellent witch in his Complete B/X Adventurer. He makes a lot of excellent points.

Let me dive in, in detail.
>>Have you considered (or run) a game where witches simply replaced magic-users?

I am currently in one now and have played some in the past. In general the witch is less powerful than a same-level wizard, but has some advantages the wizard doesn't have, such as healing.

>>There's a shit-ton of differences between Bewitched and the film Warlock and those Harry Potter books...and a galaxy of difference between any of those and Baba Yaga!

Oh yes. That is part of the problem, and part of the fun.  I  could find some similar differences in say a thief. Like Robin Hood vs. The Grey Mouser vs. The Stainless Steel Rat and others.  D&D only models a particular type of reality.  I have often said I'd kill to do a Harry Potter game, but damn if I know how I would build Hogwarts in D&D yet.

>>The real defining thing about witches is their (sub)culture, not their powers. They are outsiders from normal society.

There is a ton of good in these two sentences. It also concurs with things I have said in the past, repeating what Tom Moldvay has also said.   One thing to consider is that one man's cleric is another man's cultist.  So often a "witch" really could just be a wizard, cleric or some off-the-wall druid.
It really does give weight to the idea of a "magic-user" class.

>>I don't know...for me, there's just nothing "witchy" there (culturally speaking).

Which I think is why the witch has traditionally been an NPC class.

>>To really do witches, you need a specific campaign setting that works with their culture. After that, most any spells or abilities will work (and there's plenty of inspiration to draw from). But without the right setting? I don't see a real place for witches in the D&D game.

For me though I think this can be handled in right role-playing environment.
Pathfinder does a good job makeing their witch very different from their wizard.  D&D4 had a different take on their witch, but it was still fun.  In both cases there is a lot of "background" to help seperate them from the other spell casters.  I tried to do this with the Traditions.

I see your point that the differences between a witch and wizard are largely cosmetic (my words) or cultural (your words); but even the "wizard" as an archetype has a lot of variety. I mean is Hermoinie a D&D wizard or witch? She is called a "Witch" but her magic seems more "Wizard" to me.

Heck. In some ways your B/X Witch is more "witchy" than mine!

In any case I like that these points are made.  
I do like the idea of a specific campaign setting that supports a witch.  I suppose in many ways that is my "default" game setting.  But "my D&D" tends to have healthy doses of horror in it as well, so the witch, potentially a person that deals with these elements from beyond, is more of an outsider.

But you have given me some material to consider and I appreciate that.

OD&D Supplement IV: Gods, Demi-gods & Heroes

The "last" OD&D supplement is out this week, Gods, Demi-gods & Heroes.
This was always one of my favorites and I remember it well from the days playing Basic D&D and discovering that there was this "whole other D&D game".

I remember getting my first copy many years ago and thinking it didn't live up to the hype in my head, but years later I really enjoyed that crazy little book.

It has seen better days.
I still find use for this little book and glad to finally have a good copy in PDF.  Even if it doesn't match the version I have above.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Class Struggles: Clerics, Wizards and Witches

This is Zohir Totek. Is she a cleric, wizard or witch?
Ok so stop me if you have heard this one before...
a Cleric, a Wizard and a Witch walk into a dungeon...

ok, you likely haven't heard that one before.  Why? Well there is still some confusion over what roles each of these character classes play.

I mean we all, old-school gamers and new-school, seem to have a good grasp on the concept of what a wizard does, or at least can do.  They cast spells. They are the "smart guys" in the group. So I am not going into detail about them just yet.

Clerics also cast spells.  But they also heal and are better at bashing in skulls and killing undead.  Some old-school blogs in the past have posted things about not needing clerics in games. I believe that Lamentations of the Flame Princess doesn't even have a Cleric class.   I have seen other posts over the years that also attest to this anti-Cleric vibe.    This is not even getting into the divide between clerics, druids, mystics and invokers.   I never quite got this. My first character was a cleric.  For me he was a hunter of the Undead and later demons.  While certainly there is the "party medic" part to the cleric's job, there is the "occult" aspect too.  When you stop fighting orcs and goblins and move to ghouls, vampires and demons then you are going to need/want a cleric in your group.  Yes. Wizards can and should cover some of this as well.

It is fairly well known that the idea behind clerical undead turning  came from Peter Cushing's Van Helsing characters in the various Hammer Dracula films.  Why not extend the metaphor to include the rest of Van Helsing's portfolio.  As a class that puts a high value on Wisdom then the cleric should be a font of knowledge. Sure, this can also be done by the Wizard,  but the cleric's input should not be understated.  For me I guess I look at what is the prime attribute of the any-school Cleric.  Wisdom. Always has been, likely always will be.   Compare this to the equally constant Wizard; Intelligence, always has been, likely always will be too.
For me, if your cleric and wizard are not getting into heated arguments in the game then you are missing out on some good roleplaying experiences.

Matters become more complicated when you through in a witch or a warlock (as I am wont to do). Or even and Oracle (Pathfinder), Druid (any), Invoker (D&D4), and/or a Sorcerer (Post D&D3).  It can quickly become a mess really.

I have talked at great length on what the roles and powers of a witch are or should be:
so I am not going to recount those all here.

In my book The Witch I have an appendix of things you can do with the Magic-User to make it more Wizard like.  I know this goes against the central conceit of the "magic-user" but it is what has worked for me. Yes you can play a by-the-book magic-user and give her "witch" spells.  I have done this for every edition of D&D I have ever played to be honest.  I spend a lot of time and energy on this topic.

So here are some rough guidelines.  These are based on my games really and focused on my own particular flavor of Old-School.  So your mileage will vary.

Clerics (Wisdom, Divine): Max spell level 7, some powers (turning undead, healing magic in other editions), greater combat ability and greater hit points.  Knowledge of outer planes and evil magical monsters.  Worship and follow their gods.  Best healing spells.
See also Mystics, Druids, Healers, Invokers.

Wizards (Intelligence, Arcane): Max spell level 9, not a lot of extra powers (I give them Read Magic for free). Weak combat ability, best at knowledge on monsters.  No special attention is paid to gods.  Best at spell research and magic item creation.  Best damage dealing spells.
See also Sorcerers, Illusionists.

Witch (Charisma, Occult): Max spell level 8, extra powers. Spells are overall weaker than a wizard. Weak combat ability.   Knowledge of supernatural and fey creatures.  Learn spells from patrons via familiars.  Might call them gods, but they are not necessarily so.  Best change of condition/state spells (curses, polymorphs) that may or may not cause direct (HP) damage.
See also Warlocks.

I can see a relationship that goes like this:




Of course, this is overly simple. But I can see other magic using classes here.
I wonder what is in the center?  Any ideas or guesses?

Compare to this RPG Archetypes graphic I saw on facebook, G+ and recently over at Observations of the Fox.

Click for much larger



I love graphics like this.  I could do the next 10-12 Class Struggles on that triangle alone.
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