Friday, September 9, 2016

Book Sizes

Kind of a late post today.

I was Lulu looking to fill some of the gaps in my OSR/Old-School collection and noticed  a pretty even split between the 6"x9" (or OD&D) and 8.5"x11" (Basic & Advanced) form factors.

In general which size of books do you all prefer?


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Endless Darkness: The Road So Far

This song seems appropriate here...
I have been talking online with a lot of people who are doing the same thing I am; running the Classic Modules from 1st Edition using the new D&D 5 rules.  So I thought I would post a summary and talk about where I am going next.

The Background
The characters all belong to a group known as the Order of the Platinum Dragon.  They are mostly made up of the children of the DragonSlayers (my 3.x game).  They began their adventure like so many others....or so they thought.

Here are the adventures in chronological order (links take you to the blog post where I talk about their game).

T1 Village of Hommlet (forgotten by the characters, played as a flashback)
B1 Into the Unknown
B2 Keep on the Borderlands
L1 The Secret of Bone Hill
X2 Castle Amber
I6 Ravenloft
C2 Ghost Tower of Inverness
A1-5 Slave Lords
C1 The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan
G123, G4 Against the Giants  (where we are now)

Then we do:
D12, 3 Descent into the Depths of the Earth, Vault of the Drow
Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits
(Q2) Queen of Lies
CM2 Death's Ride
H4 Throne of Bloodstone

The adventure began in The Inn of the Welcome Wench (T1). Here they discover the main plot of the "Cult of Chaos", but a battle with Lareth the Beautiful and Bargel left their memories wiped and two of their party missing (the Warlock Croulie and the Pyromancer Cynder).  The remaining party delved into the Castle Quasqueton (B1) and it's dungeons where they discover one of the Chaos Stones.  This leads to a vision/memory of a long ago battle.  They travel to the nearby Keep (B2) where they take on some hirelings, Uno, Duo, Tres, Quatro and their leader Cinco ("played" by Danny Treo) to investigate the Caves of Chaos.  Here they discover a temple dedicated to ancient demon god and more on the Cult of Chaos.

They then traveled to the monastery on Bone Hill (L1) and a group of missing wizards. Again there is a rumor of the Cult of Chaos, but also the involvement of several "Hyena Men".
Following the trail of the Hyena Men, the party is sucked up in a mysterious fog, here they find themselves in a strange land (actually the past) and a strange Castle (X2). More knowledge is gained about the Dawn War and for the first time they hear the phrase "Beware the Endless Darkness".  Here they meet up with the "wizard" (actually a warlock) Skylla.  They travel the mists for a while till they come upon the Villiage of Barovia and the terrifying Castle Ravenloft (I6).   They stop Strahd and his plans to blot out the sun, but not before Skylla is taken away by an army of ghosts.

They meet up with another party and tackle the famed Ghost Tower of Inverness (C2).  They recover the Soul Gem and hear the phrase "Beware the Endless Darkness" again.

Leaving the Ghost Tower they hear rumors once again of the Hyena-Men (Gnolls and Gnoles) and a slaving operation. They have long suspected, but now get confirmation that Gnolls are servants of a Demon Lord (keep in mind my players don't have the wealth of history of D&D we all do). They also find out that the slaves are all being transported elsewhere by human agents.  They discover the Cult of Chaos is also behind this operation and the Drow, long forgotten, are also involved.  
The Order manages to destroy the slaver operation and even convince an Earth Dragon and Red Dragon to reawaken the dormant volcano to destroy the island.  Before leaving the island with rescued slaves the Earth Dragon (an actual dragon) tells them to "beware the coming darkness".

Returning the slaves to the Duchy of Urnst they see the Sun go completely black.

Or maybe this is a better choice
The sun is out and there is a council of the greatest mages (ie their characters from the 3.x game) in Greyhawk.  The plan is worked out to relight Moradin's Forge.  It's light and life giving heat will keep everyone alive till the sun can be put right.  In the meantime the world is besieged by monsters and undead.   The Council of Greyhawk scrys for any remaining sun-related magic items.  Even the Sunsword from Ravenloft is out. The party is sent to a jungle (C1) because an artifact is found there that is related to the sun.    The "artifact" is the dying Mystarian Sun God (Immortal) Ixion, whom the characters knew better as "Cinco".  He and his four brothers were all gods of the sun, they were killed by vampire god Camazotz.   Cinco/Ixion gives the character his heart, Camazotz was not able to get it in time, to use to relight Moradin's Forge.

With the world now on life-support, the Council sends groups of adventures all over the world to find out what is going on.  The Order of the Platinum Dragon is sent to investigate raids made by some giants...

They know they are fighting against the clock.  Moradin's Forge is a powerful artifact that the gods used to create life, but once it is lit any one can use it. Undead are swarming all over. New monsters and monstrosities are everywhere and the Priests of the Sun gods are powerless.

Chaos, it seems, is winning.

What happens next is now up to my players and their characters.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

In Search of... the Holmes Witch

Very recently this image popped up again. This time on Tumblr.



Which started a conversation on the existence, or lack thereof, of the Holmes Witch.
The witch, as speculated then, would have been a sub-class of the Magic-User.
But where did this come from?

Well research into the original Holmes manuscript over at Zenopus Archives, gives some backing to long-held idea that the witch was something added later on in editing.


Gygax himself weighs in on this here, again thanks to Zenopus Archives.
"That mention slipped by me, and all I can assume was that either Eric was planning to force such a class upon me, or else someone editing the work thought it a good joke to play. I never had a PC class of that sort in mind for the game." (Enworld forum post archived at greyhawkonline)

In truth there never really was a "Holmes Witch".  There are "Holmesian-like Witches" to be sure (I classify my own witch class as more "Moldvay"), but nothing he ever wrote himself.

Other discussions
- Recent Google+ discussion that prompted this post
- An older OD&D Boards Discussion
Um, I was promised Witches?
- Holmes Rules: The Witch

Semi-Related
- Tom Moldvay on Witches

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Review: The Wicked Cauldron

Troll Lords has been putting out some quality products since the 3.x/d20 boom days.  This includes not only their own "house" system, Castles and Crusades but also some 3.x material back in the day.
Well now they are dipping their toes into 5th edition and I could not more pleased.

This past Gen Con I picked up their 5th edition version of their adventure A3 The Wicked Cauldron. I already had the C&C version and I wanted to see how they compared.  Especially since D&D 5 really has a lot of ideas that C&C started with.


The Castles & Crusades version is 24 pages and designed for 3-5 characters of 3rd to 4th level.
The Dungeons & Dragons 5e version is 40 pages (larger font) and for 3-5 characters of 3rd to 5th level.

I am reviewing the print and pdf versions.

The premise is a fairly simple one.  There is a ruined ziggurat in the Barren Woods that is the home to many foul things. It also has a long and evil history and currently is home to one of the fabled Witch Queens.  The PCs must investigate and stop her.

The adventure itself is particularly original, but that doesn't make it less fun.  There is a good balance of overland and dungeon exploring, plenty of new monsters to fight, a threat of an ancient evil.  Given that this module is coded "A3" should give you an indication it is part of a larger series, and it is.  It can be played as part of Troll Lords "A" series that began with "Assault on Blacktooth Ridge" and "Slag Heap" and continues in other Airhde products and adventures.  But it can also be played as a stand-alone adventure.
The adventure is very reminiscent of the old Basic adventures of the early 80s, especially B2 and B4.  In fact, it is almost a perfect mix of these two classic adventures.  So in the nostalgia department, it gets a perfect score from me.

My biggest issue with the PDFs and the Print versions are the maps are fairly small.  I can redo them on my own and larger, but having something I can print out or read easier would be nice.

The 5th edition conversion is good and really, C&C is so close to D&D5 as to almost make the conversion unnecessary, but still I did enjoy looking through both to find the subtle differences.  The most interesting changes were to the Witch Queen herself.

The Witch Queen, Neb–Eprethat, is the central figure in this adventure and stopping her is the main goal.  In the C&C version, she is a Lawful Evil 5th level human cleric/wizard.  In the D&D 5 version, she is a Chaotic Evil 6th level human cleric.   In both cases, she could be better served as a witch.

There is no D&D5 witch class (yet) and I am not ready to publically reveal my C&C witch class.  But I can give her a try in my Basic-era Witch.  Though given that she supposedly worships and honors the "Horned One" she could be a D&D5 Warlock too.  In fact a warlock (as per D&D5) makes a lot of sense.


Neb–Eprethat - Witch Queen 
Chaotic Human Witch (Malefic Tradition), 6th level
The Witch stats

Strength: 11 Death Ray, Poison 11
Dexterity: 14 Magic Wands 12
Constitution: 12 Paralysis, Polymorph or Turn to Stone 11
Intelligence: 16 Dragon Breath 14
Wisdom: 14 Rods, Staffs, Spells 13
Charisma: 18

Hit Points: 20
Alignment: Chaotic
AC: 1
Dagger +4, Multiattack (allows 2 attacks per round)
To hit AC0: 18

Occult Powers
Familiar: Toad (multiple familiars)

Spells
Cantrips (7): Alarm Ward, Daze, Detect Curse, Object Reading, Open, Spark, Warm
First (3+2): Bewitch I, Cause Fear, Command, Minor Fighting Prowess, Sleep
Second (2+2): Biting Blade, Enthrall, Evil Eye, Hold Person,
Third (2+2): Bestow Curse, Continual Fire, Fly, Ghost Ward


She joins the ranks of the other Witch Queens that I have been gathering.

Can't wait to run this under my War of the Witch Queens campaign.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Kickstart Your Weekend: GURPS

I don't talk much about GURPS here. It's a fine system and there is a ton you can do with it, I guess I just like their supplements better than the actual game.

But this might change my mind.

Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game, Powered by GURPS


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/847271320/dungeon-fantasy-roleplaying-game-powered-by-gurps

While there is nothing 100% new here (from what I can tell) it is put together in a new way to appeal to the D&D crowd.  And appealing it is!

There is certainly a lot to like with this.  If you are a big fan of D&D and never played GURPS before then I suggest you look into this.  If you are GURPS fan then this is also a no-brainer.

But what if you are like me? I played GURPS 2nd and 3rd Editions and would consider myself more of a lapsed GURPS player?  Well, I still think it is good.

I wonder if we could see GURPS Pathfinder in the future?

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Review: Maximum Mayhem Dungeons #2 and #3

+Mark Taormino is like some sort of mad genius.  I love his Maximum Mayhem Dungeons and each one "delivers the goods" in terms of hitting that nostalgia feel.  I reviewed his first offering, The Hanging Coffins of the Vampire Queen, a while back.   Today I want to look at the other two.

The Secret Machines of the Star Spawn
Let's play a game of what if.  What if the Expedition to the Barrier Peaks had been written in the 80s instead of the 70s?  What if there were influences of Star Wars, Buck Rogers, 50s sci-fi movies and just a little dash of 70s Blaxplotation?  You might get something like The Secret Machines of the Star Spawn, but it would not be as good as the module Mark Taormino wrote.
The module follows a similar flow of the other Maximum Mayhem Dungeons; something weird is happening, there are rumors, a long history of strangeness and a thin excuse to go adventuring.
What they PCs will uncover is...well I don't want to spoil it.  It's no shock that this adventure will feature a downed starship and some lasers.  But it doesn't end there.
In truth there is a lot to really, really like about this adventure.  In a different setting the monsters would be scary ass deadly and really, really awesome.  Also there is so many references to pop culture, especially sci-fi and 80s pop culture, that it would be pointless to address them all. The rock band KILL was one of my favorites.
Designed for OSRIC, I played bits and pieces of this using D&D5. Though it would work just as well with AD&D1, Castles & Crusades or any other OGL based clone game.
The one issue I have with it (and very minor)  is that players that didn't grow up in the 70s and 80s would not get all the jokes.   I ran Hanging Coffins for my kids and they loved it, but some of the jokes fell flat on them here. No surprise they have no context for them.  I thought they were hilarious to be honest.  Loved the Pinball Wizard!
If I were to run this again I would either merge it with a little bit of Expedition to the Barrier Peaks and run a huge Star Spawn mega-adventure.  Or I'd run it as is with some disposable characters and guys the grew up in the 80s too.

Villains of the Undercity
Here is another what-if game.  What if the Keep on the Borderlands was destroyed and then humans came in and built a new keep on top of the ruins.  Let's also say the caves of Chaos have been cleared, but not all the monsters were killed.  Where did they go? What did they do?  Now invite the Slave Lords from the A series over.  You would get Villains of the Undercity!
This adventure is an ode and homage to the great dungeon crawls of the day.
While this adventure fits the gonzo style of the other Maximum Mayhem Dungeons this one can also be played straight.  Well...sorta.  There is a crazy Halfling Illusionist Assassin, but that is for the players to figure out.
With this one anyone that has ever been inside a classic dungeon will find something to love.  There are lots of deadly traps, monsters and puzzles to figure out. Of course plenty of treasure too.
This adventure is also the one that I can see fitting into a larger campaign, even with adventures from other publishers.  I was mentally placing it in Greyhawk or even Dolmvay.
Just really a lot of fun.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...