Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: Huntress

"I don't need a killer. I need a Hunter."
- The Faerie Queen to Kaede

A fairy-tale retold.  Warring Fae Queens. A world plunged into an endless, lightless winter.  Two powerful (even if they don't know it yet) female leads. Romance. Betrayal. World changing events? It's like author Malinda Lo was reading my Christmas list!
But seriously.  Huntress is a prequel to Lo's fantastic Ash, a retelling of the Cinderella story.  In this case we learn of the history of the King's Huntress and how she came to be.  Though Kaede is not the Huntress of Ash, not is she a Huntress yet, but it is no spoiler that she will be.  If she survives this tale first.

The story focuses on two 17 year girls, Kaede and Taisin.  Both are in the academy of sages. Kaede is from a well to do family, her father is the Chancellor to the King. She is not a great student and really has no magical talent to speak of.  She is good at throwing knives and picks up the bow through out this tale.  Her father wants to marry her off to a Lord in the south to strengthen ties, but Kaede, who prefers other girls, wants nothing to do with that.  In truth, she wouldn't want it if her father offered to marry her off to a noble Lady either.  Taisin, on the other hand, is from a poorer family, but she already has the Sight and is capable of other magics. It is Taisin's vision and an invitation from the Faerie Queen that bring them together and place them on the road north to Taninli, City of the Sidhe.
The world is currently into its third year of a seemingly endless winter; or rather the summers are poor, there is no light and things are getting worse.
Kaede, Taisin along with the Prince and some his guards must brave to road to the Faerie Queen's land to find out what is going on and how to stop it.
We also must learn what Taisin's visions of Kaede mean and if there is anything she can do to change them.

Like I said, this book is overflowing with the things I love.  Long time readers here will immediately see the parallels between this story and my own "Come Endless Darkness" campaign here.  There are lots of really, really good ideas for my games from this book.
Are their witches? Of course there are!  One could consider Taisin a witch.  That label certainly fits her better than "Wizard" or "Oracle".  There are also named Green Witches in the form of Mona later in the book.  Also, Ash tells us of a Green Witch that cast spells to protect the Huntress.  If this is a prequel to Ash, then how do we know that the Green Witch so mentioned wasn't Taisin herself?

If I extend the concept a bit further the idea of a Huntress is similar enough to my Witch Guardians in practice, if not form.  Malinda Lo is drawing on some deep mythological concepts here and breathing new life into them. It's one of the reasons I could not put this book down.
In fact, I could not but help think back to the otherwise dreadful "Snow White and the Huntsman" and wonder how a "Snow White and the Huntress" would fare in Ms. Lo's more than capable hands.

Using this Story in a Game
Without giving too much away the line of Huntresses starts here.  The Huntress would be charged with protecting the lands between the human and sidhe worlds.

2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
2017 Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
Books Read so far: 6
Level: Maiden
Witches in this book: Taisin, Mona and the Faerie Queens.
Are they Good Witches or Bad Witches: Everyone does good as they see it, even if it doesn't look that way to others.
Best RPG to Emulate it: Any form of D&D will do. Must have a good witch class and a Feywild.
Use in WotWQ: So many ideas. First and foremost there is the obvious ideas for "Come Endless Darkness", the effects on the people and the land.  For War of the Witch Queens there is the answer of why my Witch Queens would want to involve mortals in their affairs.  Easy, they can't act directly against each other.

Personally, I would be shocked if Kaede didn't make a guest appearance in my games someday.  In Pathfinder she would easily be dual classed witch/ranger.  She started out as a witch (or maybe a cleric, oracle or something) and then became a Ranger.
In Blue Rose she would start out as an Adept and then move on to Warrior/Expert.
In fact, I think she might have to appear with an army of Sidhe warriors just in time to save the characters from undead before they get into Death's Ride.  If I do 5e, then she would have the Sage background, one or two levels of wizard (with limited spell choice) and maybe 13 levels of Ranger.  OR this would give me a good excuse to try out an Oath of the Ancients Paladin or the new Hexblade Warlock for 5e.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Powers of Darkness and the Dracula Myth

I do not consider myself a Dracula scholar. I have a number of rare Dracula related texts, read many more and pretty much seen every movie or stage play featuring the eponymous vampire count. My last (as in last ever) acting performance was as, appropriately enough, Dr. Seward in the Hamilton Deane play.  I try to reread the book every three or fours years or so.
I also once had a great conversation with a former Black Panther turned Educational reformist oh how horror in general, and Dracula in particular, was great insight on what people's fears are at the time.  We discussed how things he was doing and feeling as a young revolutionary in the 60s was being written about in the fiction of the time.  Great stuff.  Wish I had taken better notes.

So is it safe to say I am a fan who knows what scholarship is out there and I have read some of it.

So imagine my joy when I discover that there was/is another translation of Dracula out there.  One that was created nearly around the same time as the original, but with enough distance to be something new and old at the same time.

Over at Literary Hub they discussed the Icelandic translation of Dracula known as Makt Myrkranna, or the Powers of Darkness.

The book originally includes a forward by Bram Stoker, but it takes a number of interesting turns from Stoker's text.  The author, Valdimar Ásmundsson, includes mentions of the Ripper muders and a tantalizing preface that eludes that all the events in this book are true.
To the best of my belief, there is no doubt whatsoever that the events related here really took place, however unbelievable and incomprehensible they may appear in light of common experience.

[. . .]

I emphasize again that the mysterious tragedy described here is completely true as far as the events as such are concerned, although in certain points, of course, I have reached a different conclusion than the people involved. But the events as such are irrefutable, and so many people are aware of them that they will not be denied.
This is a long-held conceit in many post-Stoker works on Dracula.  We can't say it started here, it started with Stoker's novel itself, but there is something very seductive about this.

Scholars have long been under the belief that the Ásmundsson translation was merely a translation and an abridgment of Stoker's novel.  

Hans de Roos, the author of both the LitHub article and new re-translation, gives us some interesting insights to this lost translation, which ends up being more than expected.  There are the expected name changes; Johnathon is now Thomas, Mina is Wilma and Lucy is Lucia, but there is more to it that just that.

Mina/Wilma now accompanies Harker to Transylvania. Renfield is gone. And Dracula himself plays a much larger role.  That is one of the biggest things people who have not read Dracula don't know; how little Dracula is actually in the book.  It also seems that there are more sections that seem to be drawn from Stoker's own notes and incomplete manuscripts.  

Flipping through this book that is at the same time familiar and new*.
*Side Note:  I call situations like this a "Modula 2" moment. Back in college, I was a pretty proficient Pascal programmer. I later picked up other languages like C, C++ and Modula 2.  Modula 2 is so like and yet unlike Pascal it is like learning the same thing over again from an entirely new perspective.  If I ever mention Modula 2 here, this is what I mean. 

While I can't wait to jump feet first into this tale, it has gotten me more excited for my modern supernatural/supers game with Dracula as my big bad.

I am not anywhere close to getting this adventure together; either what the characters will do or what Dracula wants to do. I don't even have a system picked yet.

Maybe after this book, I'll have all that figured out.

Dracula-based Products I have Reviewed in the Past


And some I need to review



Saturday, February 11, 2017

Zatannurday: Alexandra Daddario as Zatanna

Oh how I missed you Zatannurday!
My good friend +Justin Isaac over at Halls of the Nephilim is always looking out for me.

Yesterday he clued me in on this latest bit of Zatanna Photoshop by BossLogic Inc.
It features the fantastic Alexandra Daddario as Zatanna.


I have often said she would make a fantastic Zee.  She has the look, is really the right age, and she has the acting chops too.

I am also not the only one.

Here is another one from SavageComics over at DeviantArt.


One day I'll get a Zatanna movie.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

New Spell: Forget Me Knot

The witches of the Aiséiligh tradition have a few spells they are well known for. Typically these spells deal with protection or often an offensive spell designed to harm the witch's enemies or those who attack the witch first.  This spell, ironically enough, is usually forgotten about.

The spell is believed to be the root of the practice of tying a string around your finger to remember something important.  For the witch, this practice is part of a spell.

Forget Me Knot
Level: Witch 1
Range: 1 person
Duration: special, see below
The witch casts this spell and can remember anything said to her or anything she reads roughly equal to a page of information; 600-800 words. She commits the spell by tying a bit of string into a knot. She can then keep the knot safe for any amount of time. If she wants to recall the information perfectly she merely unties the knot. This spell can be used to deliver information to another of the witch's choice, but it cannot be used to remember spells or scrolls. If the knot is destroyed the information is lost.
Material Components: A bit of normal string, thread or yarn the witch can tie into a knot. The thread disappears when it is untied and the memories released.

The Witch: Aiséiligh Tradition for Swords & Wizardry is on sale now with all profits going to the ACLU.  This spell is one of the 70+ spells in the book.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

New Releases Tuesday: I9 Day of Al'Akbar

One of my favorite old-school adventures has finally made it to PDF at OneBookShelf.

I9 Day of Al'Akbar.


Gotta love that 80's hair.

Of course, back then we always called it "Day of Admiral Ackbar".

Now my PDF collection is complete for my "Second Campaign".

N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God, levels 1-3 (novice)
U1 The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, levels 1-3
U2 Danger at Dunwater, levels 1-4
U3 The Final Enemy, levels 3-5
I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City, levels 4-7
I3 Pharaoh, levels 5-7
I4 Oasis of the White Palm, levels 6-8
I5 Lost Tomb of Martek, levels 7-9
X4 Master of the Desert Nomads, levels 6-9
X5 Temple of Death, levels 6-10
I9 Day of Al'Akbar, level 8-10
Gary Gygax's Necropolis, levels 10+

Each day I think Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea is the best choice for this one.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: Wild Magic by Tamora Pierce

“Never break a promise to an animal. They're like babies—they won't understand.” 
- Daine.

"Wild Magic" is the first book of a quartet of books in the Immortals Series by Tamora Pierce.  The story deals with Veralidaine (aka Daine), a thirteen-year-old girl who just survived a raid on her village that left her family dead and her alone.  We first meet her looking for a job.  We quickly learn that she has a way with animals and is a good shot with a bow.   Her human skills leave a little to be desired and she is carrying a dark secret.
In the world around her, we learn that monsters, the immortals, are coming back after being locked away in the lands of the gods.  She and her new friend/boss Onua encounter "Stormwings", which are like an advanced form of a harpy and giant spiders.
Along the way, we learn that while Daine's mother was a hedge-witch she has no magical "gift" herself, but there is something more that normal with the way she can interact with animals.

Daine grows in her power under tutelage from a university trained mage while she is working as assistant horse-mistress to the Queen's Riders.  Here we learn her magic is the rarest, Wild Magic, and there might not be any limits to what she can do.  We do learn of her dark secret (and it pays off) and we see her grow from a shy child to a strong and capable young woman.

I read this book a long time ago, but I don't think I finished it. Given the time I was in grad school and likely busy reading Vygotsky and Dewey too.  Also, I remember the ending different.  I picked up the Full Cast audio book of this and it was very pleased. It was like a mini performance.  Some reviewers mentioned that keeping track of the character voices was tough, but I found it easy to be honest.  I was not going to pick up the next three books, remembering that this one pretty self-contained, but now I am going to.  I also enjoyed having Pierce as one of the narrators. It is nice to hear the definitive pronunciation of some of the names, even if they were sometimes very different than how I had read them!

Using this Story in a Game
There are very, very few monsters in this story. The ones that are here make a huge impression.  This is something that fantasy game masters should take a cue from, that when you are 1st level EVERY monster needs to be a memorable experience.  The Stormwings, which are essential harpies with metal wings, are a serious threat to 13-year-old Daine.
Also, there is the underlying theme of magic can do wonderful things, but it by itself can't fix your problems.
It's the old adage that when your only tool is a hammer everything starts looking like a nail.

2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
2017 Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
Books Read so far: 5
Level: Initiate
Witches in this book: Daine, but only because her magic is so very different than everyone else's.
Are they Good Witches or Bad Witches: There are clear lines between good and evil here.
Best RPG to Emulate it: Another easy one. This is very clearly Blue Rose.  Daine is an Adept that has taken all the animal related arcana.
Use in WotWQ: There are a lot of great ideas for games as mentioned above.  The idea of a new, or rather really old and forgotten, type of magic is just too good to pass up.  I also like the idea of new and scary monsters coming into or back into the world as a prelude to something terrible happening.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Witch: Aiséiligh Tradition for Swords & Wizardry

Happy Imbolc everyone!

I have been motivated to do something more in the face of what looks like insurmountable odds.  So yesterday while running I came up with an idea to produce something that you all can use and still give me the chance to do some good.

30 hours later I give you

The Witch: Aiséiligh Tradition for Swords & Wizardry Complete



This is my first big foray into the world of Swords & Wizardry.
From the RPGNow page.

Rise up witches!

The world is in peril.  The forces of evil in the guise of law and weal threaten all lands.

The people of good conscious scream out for champions.

The Witches of the Aiséiligh Tradition hear those cries and are charged by the Goddess to be Her hands and Her mortal representatives on this plane.

And the Goddess is angry.

The Witch: Aiséiligh Tradition presents a new witch tradition for use in Swords & Wizardry Complete. Inside you will find:

  • The Aiséiligh witch Tradition
  • The Daughters of the Flame Coven
  • 70+, new to Swords & Wizardry spells including never before published spells.

Compatible with Swords & Wizardry, The Witch and other retro-clones and other old-school games.

 All profits from this book will be donated to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

Spread the word!
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