Friday, July 8, 2016

Friday Night Videos: Happy Birthday Jon!

Wednesday, July 6 is the birthday of one of my oldest friends Jon "Flat Black" Cook.
Growing up Jon's birthday always meant that going over to his place and playing D&D until sunrise.  Great times really.

Since I have not posted one of these in a while I wanted to do this one for him.  Plus Jon always had a great collection of music.  He got me into Rush and Iron Maiden. He was the one that threw a copy of Iron Maiden's "Number of the Beast" at me and told me to listen to it and don't come back till I knew all about Eddie.
Metal, D&D and summer's hanging out with Jon were what made the early 80s for me.
Also this is more like Friday Afternoon Videos since I want to tag him on Facebook with this.

I'll admit it. During the height of the "Satanic Panic" Jon and I would do whatever we could to make matters worse. Playing D&D and listening to Iron Maiden was the norm. Thankfully for us we had parents that were neither impressed with two teens nor stupid.




I am not really sure who introduced me to Pink Floyd first. Jon or my late brother Mike.  I am inclined to give Mike the credit because Mike was really cool like that and that is how I want to remember it.  But Jon certainly introduced "Not Now John" from Pink Floyd's "The Final Cut" to me.  I am in the minority here, but I rather enjoy the bleakness of this album. People say The Wall is depressing. That's a cake-walk compared to Roger Water's soul-bearing requiem for the post-war dream.
Fuck all that.  This is just a great song.




One of these days...I need to do a FNV dedicated to Pink Floyd.
One of these days I am going to dance with the grim reaper...or cut you into little pieces...never was sure hat he was saying here.




It is no doubt that Jon introduced me to Rush.  To this day I equate Rush and D&D so tightly largely due to these summers.  This was the first song I can remember him playing while we gamed.




Another group Jon played a lot of and I associate with gaming to this day is Blue Öyster Cult.  Veteran of the Psychic Wars from "Fire of Unknown Origin" might be the most D&D song ever written.



It wasn't all metal. David Bowie's "Let's Dance" was a BIG hit around this time.




Even years later as I was getting ready to go away to college Jon still had something new for me.  With his typical "you need to listen to this now" attitude he popped in a tape (yeah tape) of this new band he discovered; Guns and Roses.

No association with gaming here.  Just Jon once again being Jon and finding out about music when no one else in our little midwest town had never even heard of these guys.



So Happy Birthday JR!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

New Art

I love art. One of the skills I wish I had was the ability to draw or paint.
Sadly, I don't. But that is ok. I know lots of people that do.

Avionetca is one of those people. She does FANTASTIC character art.
So when she had a slot open in her commission schedule I had to jump.  So here is my iconic witch Larina, Avionetca-style.


Full character sheet.

http://avionetca.deviantart.com/art/WebWarlock-Larina-the-Witch-620193449
I am inordinately pleased with this.

When her commissions open up again I might get her to do Larina's daughter Taryn.
I love this character and I never get tired of seeing her brought to life.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Class Struggles/Plays Well With Others: The Vile Witch

Mazes & Perils is the newest game on the OSR scene.   I covered the game in a "Class Struggles" back in May.  Then I focused on the new(er) magic using classes in the game.  There was a promise then that there would be more classes.
Given the Holmesian origins of this game the newest class is, appropriately, a witch.

The Vile Witch is the newest class for Mazes & Perils from +Vincent Florio, +Brian Fitzpatrick and +Sal Valente 
Before I talk about the class I want to give a shout out to cover artist +Jacob Blackmon. He is the one responsible for my new header above.

The Vile Witch is a 14 page book (cover, 2 pages of OGL, 1 page of ads, 1 title page for 9 pages of content) dedicated to the new vile witch spell caster. This is a character that revels in what others throw away.  It immediately reminded me of the Junk Lady in the movie Labyrinth AND Maja the witch from Adventure Time; she is the witch that buys Marceline's teddy bear Hambo for its memories.  The idea is that there is power in memories and power in items that have been associated with others.  It's a powerful archetype really and one with a LOT of potential.
But because the witch is so often mired in the refuse of others her appearance and form suffers.

The class has a lot of interesting features and powers in addition to some new spells and familiars.  Vile Witches are limited to 9th level. I think I see why, but I would try them to 10th or 12th like the other spell casting classes. Though she does have more powers (familiars and "vile blood") as well as a quicker spell advancement.
The book has both "vile familiars" and "common familiars". Common familiars can be used by any spell casting class, the vile ones are for the vile witch.  The rules are simple, as befitting the M&P game, and easy to use.  If you want familiar rules then this is a good choice to be honest even if you never use the class itself.
The book also contains 19 new vile witch spells.  While these spells could be used with any other magic using class, they are very specific to the vile witch and really give her a lot of flavor and color.

For just under $2 there is a lot of material here. It is a very different sort of witch and I like that. I am certain that this class will make for some great NPCs and hopefully some really great PCs as well.

Class Struggles
What I kept thinking while reading it was that a Vile Witch dedicated to the Goddess, Tlazolteotl would be a good idea. She could even be "good" or Lawfully aligned. Something like a "Sin Eater".
Her job is to make good things happen by "eating" the bad things.
Only a thought, but it would be how I'd play the class.
Unlike other classes I have talked about under the Class Struggles banner I can't really think of a similar class.  Maybe

Plays Well with Others
Mazes & Perils is firmly rooted in the "Basic" era style gaming and Holmes in particular.  That being true it works really, really well with my own Basic Era Witch class and many others.

If I were to convert this to my own book I might call them a "Sin Eater Tradition" for Lawful witches or "Vile Witch Tradition" for Neutral and Chaotic ones.

For Occult Powers I might try this;

Lesser: Vile Familiar
Minor: Toxic Blood
Medial: Greater Glamour
Greater: Curse
Major: Shape Change
Superior: Vile Apotheosis

Have to work out all the details of these, but the idea is that exposure to all this...stuff...changes the vile witch is both physical and supernatural ways.

Here are some spells from my book that you can use with the Vile Witch.

Sickly
Level: Witch 1
Range: Touch
Duration: 1 minute per level
This spell causes the target creature to suffer from poor health.
Witches must succeed at a touch attack to strike the target. Subjects who fail their saving throw suffer a –1d6 penalty to Constitution, with an additional –1 per two caster levels (maximum additional penalty of –5). The subject’s Constitution score cannot be reduced below 1.
Material Components: A dried up dandelion.

Sour Stomach
Level: Witch 1
Range: One Target (within 25’ + 5’ per 2 levels)
Duration: 2 hours per level
This spell causes the target to have a nervous stomach, thus experiencing severe digestion, discomfort and cramping upon the engagement of any event that’s moderately stressful or exciting.
So terrible is this form of indigestion that the target must succeed a Poison saving throw, find a means to relieve their situation within 4 to 7 rounds (1d4+3) or have an “accident” that results in potential embarrassment and potential discomfort. The triggering event of such inconvenience could be most anything, from running into an encounter to finding treasure of mysterious properties to even meeting some stranger along the road. Each worthy event during the full duration of the compulsive enchantment can cause another potential outbreak of discomfort, thus requiring another save.
Material Components: A bit of soured milk.

Vertigo
Level: Witch 1
Range: 1 subject
Duration: 1 round per level
This minor hex causes the target creature to have a feeling of vertigo. The subject will feel that they are falling and their footing is unsure. Dizzied creatures suffer a -4 to their dexterity score and any to hit rolls.
Material Components: The witch makes a spinning motion with her finger.

Defoliate
Level: Witch 2
Range: 25’ + 5’ per 2 levels
Duration: Instantaneous
With this spell, the witch instantly slays all minor vegetation (weeds, flowers, small bushes, etc.) in a 20-ft.-radius. If a creature with the plant type is targeted, it takes 1d8 points of damage per caster level (max. 5d8). Creatures that are not plants are unaffected by this spell.
Material components: The witch picks a flower and pulls off the petals while chanting the words to this spell.

Nausea
Level: Witch 2
Range: 25’ + 5’ per 2 levels
Duration: 1 round per level
Subjects of this spell become sick and queasy, feeling as though they are about to vomit. This condition renders subjects unable to attack, cast spells, concentrate on spells or do anything else requiring attention. They may only make a single move or move equivalent action each round.
Material Components: A drop of animal fat that has gone rancid.

Contagion
Level: Witch 3
Range: Touch
Duration: Instantaneous
The subject contracts a disease selected from the table below, which strikes immediately (no incubation period). The subject can save vs. Spells normally, but after that only a remove disease or remove curse (or greater magics) can cure them.
Each disease affects a different ability. Infected creatures cannot attack and move at ¼ their normal movement rate.
Roll d8 Disease Damage
1 Blinding Sickness 1d4 STR
2 Cackle Fever 1d6 WIS
3 Filth fever 1d3 DEX and CON
4 Mindfire 1d4 INT
5 Red Ache 1d6 STR
6 Shakes 1d8 DEX
7 Slimy Doom 1d4 CON
8 Hags curse 1d3 WIS and CON

Blinding Sickness: For every 2 points of STR lost, a new save vs. Paralysis must be made or the target will go permanently blind. Not contagious.
Cackle Fever: Symptoms include high fever, disorientation and frequent bouts of hideous laughter. It’s commonly also known as “the shrieks.” Not contagious.
Filth Fever: An infection commonly gained while around dire rats, were-rats and otyughs. Not contagious.
Mindfire: Victims feel like their mind is on fire. It is as common as a curse in spell books. Not contagious.
Red Ache: Skin turns red, bloated, and warm to the touch. Not contagious.
Shakes: Causes involuntary twitches, tremors and fits. It is contagious to others by touch. Save vs. Paralysis prevents spread.
Slimy Doom: Victim turns into infectious goo from the inside out. It must be cured in a number of days equal to new CON score or victim will permanently loose CON points. It’s highly contagious by touch. Save vs. Paralysis at -2 prevents spread.
Hags Curse: Takes ability damage as listed and the victim becomes infertile or impotent (female or male respectively). Must be cured in a number of days equal to new CON score or become permanent.
Material Components: The witch needs crushed verbena in the blood of a viper and vinegar.

Mind Rash
Level: Witch 3
Range: 25’ + 5’ per 2 levels
Duration: 1 round per level
This spell causes the target to experience horrible itching sensations all over their body. Though not actually inflicted with any real physical ailment, the delusion of itching is so great that the target is unable to perform any action not related to attempting to relieve the persistent suffering. Likewise, the irritation actually causes the target to wound their bodies in the process of trying to relieve the itch. Any sort of thing to scratch and scrape away at the sensations, including stones, weapons, and bits of metal are used. Each round during the duration of the mind rash the target wounds their body for 1 point of damage.
Material Components: A bit of dried poison oak.

Vomit
Level: Witch 4
Range: 25’ + 5’ per 2 levels
Target: 1 Creature
Duration: See below
This spell seizes subjects with sudden spasms of violent regurgitation. Those who fail their saving throw regurgitate helplessly for 1d4 rounds. While vomiting, subjects cannot move more than 5 feet per round and cannot fight or cast spells. For all purposes they are considered staggered. When the spasms end, subjects are overcome with a magical weakness which reduces their Strength by 1d4+1 points. This weakness persists for 1 round per level of the witch.
Material Components: The witch sticks a finger down her own throat.

Gnawing Pain
Level: Witch 5
Range: 25’ + 5’ per levels
Duration: 3 rounds + 1 round per level
Upon casting this spell, any creatures within the spell area must make a saving throw or suffer a gnawing pain that slowly spreads throughout their body.
During the first round the victims will feel a dull pain that causes a cold sweat. Casting any spells during this round requires a concentration skill roll. On the second round this pain becomes a sharp agony and the target is effectively shaken. By the third round the searing pain has reached its maximum intensity and the victim is nauseated. Each round thereafter the victims must make a saving throw or become wracked with convulsions. They are now completely incapacitated and helpless to defend themselves.
The effects of this spell linger in the mind of the victims even after the duration has expired. The targets will feel unnerved for 1d6+1 hours, resulting in a -1 penalty to any Wisdom-based rolls (including magic saves). They will suffer disturbing nightmares during the following 1d4 weeks, making sleeping difficult and reducing the rate of natural healing by one half.
Material Components: A branch of nettles with which the witch swats her bared arms or legs.

Magic Item
Sack of Rats
A cursed item in the general sense, many vile witches have found some use for this. This normal sack appears to all magical detection (except for detect curse) to be a Bag of Holding. Once  a food item though is stored in this bag, its true magic is discovered. Out from the bag will pour thousands of rats that will run in every direction away from the holder of the bag. The bag contains 1,001 rats. A save vs. Paralysis must be made or anyone in 10’ feet of the bag will be unable to move due to all the rats. The rats will bite and all within 10’ of the bag will take 1d6 hit points of damage.

All items are Copyright 2012, 2016 Timothy S. Brannan.  All spells and items are released as Open under the OGL.
The Witch: A New Class for Basic-ear Games, Copyright ©2012, Timothy S. Brannan. Elf Lair Games. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Review: AC4 The Book of Marvelous Magic

"The D&D and AD&D games are actually different games." p.74, The Book of Marvelous Magic.
This was not the first time I had read this, and by 1985 I had moved away from the D&D game to AD&D, it was still interesting to read this.  Back then we freely mixed the two systems without so much as a care.
So it was with some confusion then that when I picked up AC4 The Book of Marvelous Magic that is proudly stated it was for the D&D AND AD&D games.  This was only emphasized more with the very first magic item listed, the Alternate World Gate.  AD&D was treated on the same level as Gamma World, Star Frontiers, and Boot Hill.

Confusion of compatibility issues aside, The Book of Marvelous Magic became one of my favorite and most frustrating D&D accessories.   Favorite because at this time I was serious into working on my witch class for AD&D/D&D and I was looking for guidelines on how magic items should be created.  I didn't find that here, but I did find a lot of inspiration.  Also, there were a lot of magic items in this book that later would become rather important in my own games for the next 2-3 years.
Frustrating because I never could get my gaming groups to embrace this book like I did.  I think it something to do with the punny names of the some of the items.  I now know that this was just something that was going on at the TSR offices back then (see I6 Ravenloft), but it made it difficult to take the book seriously at times.

The authors are listed as Frank Mentzer with Gary Gygax, but I think we all knew at the time that Mentzer did the lions-share of work on this.  The book covers the same span of characters (and same span of publication) of the Mentzer penned Basic, Expert and Companion Rules.  Living in my small town in Illinois I think this might have been the first reference I saw to the Companion ruleset.  Reading this book I am thinking that the Companion rules had just been written and the Master Rules had not. There are no references to the Master Rules and in places, the rules seem to put 36 at the top of the character achievement and in others, it was 26.

So what does this book have?  Well, there are over 500 new (at the time) magic items spanning 76 pages of text. The cover art is from none other than Clyde "I'll have the thigh" Caldwell and really grabbed my attention.  Not like that (though I was 15 at the time) but because she looked like a bad ass witch.


She even has a broom in the corner over there.  How could I NOT buy this book??

The magic items are divided by type, so for example under Armband there are five listed magical Armbands.  When a magic item needs to be listed, such a Bag of Holding, it is listed with a "see D&D Basic Set".  

The book did raise the question in our groups of who was creating all these magic items? That was never fully answered here or really anywhere for a couple more decades.  We opted that most of these were in fact fairly unique items.  So there were not a lot of "Buttons of Blasting" out there, but maybe one or two at best.

There are a few magic items here that I still have not seen in other (future) versions of D&D, so it is worth it just for those. It is also a great insight to the mid 80s D&D, a time when TSR was on top of the world, right before the big shakeup.  Also at the time I enjoyed tthis book, but largely ignored Mentzer's magnum-opus BEMCI D&D.  Reviewing both now as an adult I see I did all these books a large disservice.

What is in these books that gamers of today can use?  Well in truth, LOTS.
Really.  The book might as well say "Compatible with 5th Edition D&D" on the cover.  Hell. Change the trade dress and you could almost republish it as is with little editing.   Yeah remove references to Basic, Expert and Companion. Change some of the spell casting descriptions, but otherwise this is still a gem today as it was 30 years ago.

Time to re-introduce the Collar of Stiffness to my games!

Monday, July 4, 2016

2016 ENnie Nominations are In!

The 2016 ENniesAward Nominations are in!


And it is my pleasure and honor to report that The Other Side is once again nominated for Best Blog!
http://www.ennie-awards.com/blog/2016-ennie-award-nominees-and-spotlight-winners/

I am so excited by this. Really. A chance to be voted on by my peers is a great opportunity.

I am really looking forward to the next month and will do my best to provide content worthy of this.

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