Saturday, March 11, 2017

Zatannurday: Zatanna by Paul Dini

Not often I get to talk about a new Zatanna specific release in the DC world, but this week had one.

Collected from Paul Dini's run of Zatanna.  A run that many of us fans consider the definitive run.

Out this week.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Kickstart Your Weekend: Awesome Returns and More Passion!

It's the weekend folks!  Or very nearly anyway.  What does Kickstarter have for us?

+Venger Satanis is back with another Kickstarter of Awesome.

Trinity of Awesome Returns!

Venger is back with, huh, a vengeance to give us more gonzo adventures.
He has hit his target funding but more money means more awesome right?  Well, he has a "blank" stretch goal at $2,000 so it will be interesting to see what people come up with if he hits that.

VS has done a great job with his Kickstarters so far; he delivers what he promises and usually gets things to people before the deadline.  I think I ended up with Alpha Blue 3-4 weeks before the promised date if I remember right.

Bottom line you know what to expect here; gonzo D&D of the Heavy Metal magazine meets Weird Tales variety and it getting done on time.

Couple weeks back I mentioned the Book of Passion from Misfit Studios.

Well, the project has been funded and they are headed to the stretch goals.

They do have a few add-ons already.

From their Facebook page:
Because of your support you've unlocked the 200 backers level which means all $20+ level backers will receive an exclusive Impassioned version of the Talented Bard.
Also we're now less than $500 away from our next big stretch goal! Tell your friends and share this project, because if we can reach our $13,600 goal then that means you'll get SIX additional class options (Anti-paladin, Gunslinger, Magus, Ninja, Samurai, & Vigilante).
There is also a free preview up on DriveThruRPG if you want to check it out.

Personally, I am enjoying the new "Love" oath for Paladins and the material on Agrat bat Mahlat.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #97

Grabbing the next issue on the pile is a very mildewy Dragon #97 from May 1985.  When this was published I would have been slightly older than my youngest son is now.  This issue either pre-dates or was published around the same time as Unearthed Arcana.  There are some letters and Forum comments on his article on demi-humans limits from issue #95.   Personally, I never got the logic behind level limits for demihumans and never used them myself.

Gary is still publishing articles in Dragon at this point, though we know now that it is not going to last.  His article in this issue is about clerics and their gods.  We had a run of articles on playing clerics closer to their gods; it seemed to be a big deal in the pages, but something we, or at least I, always did.  I see now that it was not as universal as I thought.

There is an ad for the Pendragon game.  I so wanted to play this back then but never saw it stores and never knew anyone that was playing it.

Another ad for the "Dragonfire" software for DMs.  I should see if I can find a copy of this somewhere. I was always curious about it. There is a Wikipedia page for it and the manual is here. There are some interviews and other links, but I can't find the software itself.

An interesting article on improvised weapons.  Personally, I wouldn't use this. The article is good and details a lot of weapons like chairs, frames, and other things.  But there are more improvised weapons that can be covered.  I read it then for ideas and I am sure I never used it.  These days I am more likely to use a 1d4+Strength or 1d6+Strength for any weapon.

Ecology of the Gorgon is interesting to me only because it was written by Ed Greenwood and I focus on these things now.  I noticed that the article never mentions a Medusa at all.  As a fan of classical mythology, I always thought it was very odd that a Gorgon was a bull like creature. I am not sure if there was a mythological or literature-based reason for this. That is other than you can get "gored" by a bull.

Speaking of Ed, one of my favorite features is next.  Pages from the Mages is back for round four.  I collected a lot these over the years.  Some of the spells were cool, others were odd.  I loved the idea of spellbooks as treasure and loved making my own unique spellbooks.  Wish I knew where that document got off to.   I know the Pages from the Mages book collected and edited these all so I will have to add that to my list of Realms books to read over.

Game design icon Lew Pulsipher is back with an article on how to deal with captives in The Only Good Captive.

The Ares section covers some Traveller material and some Canadian supers for the Marvel Superhero game.

The trouble with nostalgia is there is the desire to look at everything old as being good. This is a case in point of how this is not the case at all.  Not that this is a bad issue. It's not. It's also not full of any insights or secrets into playing the game we all enjoy.
While I am sure that there are people that will read the improvised weapons articles and shout for joy that it is the exact thing they have been looking for, others (like me) will find it overkill.
I found more interest in the ads.

Want to know what I said about White Dwarf magazine for the same month? Check out White Dwarf Wednesday for issue #65.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: Silverfall, Stories of the Seven Sisters

Syluné: Hail Witch-Queen of Aglarond!
The Simbul: Hail yourself Witch of Shadowdale. 
Syluné: Others of (our) sisters have vigor, and low contacts across Faerûn, and a love for danger. I have something rarer: patience.
The Simbul: While I have a hunger to kill Red Wizards.

I picked up this book based on recommendations by others.  I asked if there were any books that dealt with the Seven Sisters and The Simbul in particular.  This book was mentioned, but with a caveat that many people didn't like it.
I went into the book with an open mind.  I think I had it better than many becuase I have not really read a lot of Forgotten Realms books yet so I really had nothing to compare it too.  I really enjoyed the idea of the basic structure; seven short stories featuring each sister in an over-arching plot.   It is certainly a good idea, but how was it executed? Well...I'll get to that in a bit.

First up though, who are the Seven Sisters?  Well to people like me who are new to the Realms even I have heard of these women.  They are sisters (in the biological and mystical senses of the word) and daughters of the Goddess of Magic Mystra.  They had a human father and mother as well, but they are Mystra's.  "Chosen" in the book (though there are other Chosen).  They all share some basic traits, they are immortal, immune to some magics, unearthly beautiful (natch) and all have long silver hair.
They are (in order of their stories in the book):

Dove Falconhand, a renowned Knight of Myth Drannor.
Qilué Veladorn, a drow (her parent were human) and high priestess of he good drow goddess Eilistraee.
Laeral Silverhand, the Lady Mage of Waterdeep.
Alustriel, Lady of Silverymoon.
Syluné, Witch of Shadowdale and a ghost.
The Simbul, the Witch-Queen of Aglarond and maybe the most powerful.
Storm Silverhand, Harper, sorceress and Bard of Shadowdale.

One thing is obvious from the start. Greenwood loves these characters. They are very well defined in his mind and each has a unique voice. He makes you want to love them as well.  Sadly that makes some of the issues with the book more pronounced.
The overall story is an interesting one. There is a conspiracy of drow masquerading as humans, slavers, the involvement of various sell-swords, Red Wizards and Priestesses of Shar.  How are all of these various factions related? Why are they working together? What is their aim?
Each story follows a formula. The Sisters discovers the activity of some group with nefarious ends. The Sister goes in magics a-blazin' (more or less) and takes out all the mooks, some other big-badder guy comes in and beats the sister to a bloody pulp (sometimes magically, sometimes physically), she has to tag in the next sister.  Again there is nothing wrong with a formula, and if it is done well it can be a satisfying build up to a conclusion.
Sadly that is not what we get really.  The conclusion never lives up to the build up.  The troubles the sisters have never really justify the eventual revealed plot.

I had some other issues as well.  Each sister has some reason to take off her clothes and move around naked.  Even the ghost.  Granted for some, like Qilué, this is needed.  She is a High Priestess of Eilistraee so it is part of her religion.  Also there is an awful lot of the sisters kissing others "passionately" even people they just met or people they by no logical means should be kissing.  I guess this is all "fan service" really.
There is a bigger issue though.  The Sisters go in to each conflict over-confident and underestimating their enemy.  I get they are super-powerful and there needs be conflict worthy of their skills.  But sometimes they make really dumb choices to get to that point.  Not ones that powerful, intelligent, immortal magic wielding women should make.   Compare their actions to those of another powerful witch Rachel Morgan.  Rachel makes mistakes, but Rachel is in her mid-20s for most of her series and still learning.  The mistakes she make makes in her first books would not be repeated in later books.
They need to act a little more intelligent and a little less "Chaotic Bimbo".

To be fair, everyone told me this was a problem with this book.  I did enjoy it.
I was just hoping for more.

2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
2017 Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
Books Read so far: 8
Level: Maiden
Witches in this book: Certainly The Simbul and Syluné. Maybe even Qilué.  Myra the Dark is described as a cleric, but is very much a witch of Shar.
Are they Good Witches or Bad Witches: Mostly good, Myra is obviously evil.
Best RPG to Emulate it: Again, any edition of D&D would work, but this one is 3rd Edition. It does allow for better multiclassing. Most of the material though is based on the 2nd Edition versions I think.
Use in WotWQ: Hell yes! Like with Spellfire, this book is filled with ideas. I will certainly use these characters in my games. Now that I am playing in the Realms maybe the "Witch Queen" that is killed to start the War of the Witch Queens is The Simbul? I would hate to do that, but it would be a seismic shift in the game.

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Second Campaign has Begun: Enter the Forgotten Realms

Another huge weekend of gaming this past weekend.  My son ran a game Saturday night with his group and on Sunday we started our new Forgotten Realms game.

We were having some old friends over on Sunday, people my wife went to high school with.  These are the people that traded high-tech jobs here in the suburbs to go out to the country and start a sustainable farm.  Not my life, I love my city-born conveniences too much, but they have turned it into something really cool.  Anyway, two of their three kids were coming over plus a friend and playing video games all day was not going to keep their attention.  All the kids expressed an interest in playing so I had about 12 hours to figure out what to do.

Of course the answer was right in front of me.  I pulled out my adventures for the Second Campaign and looked over some of the material I have been reading about the Forgotten Realms.  I had been thinking for a bit now that the best way to learn about the Realms is to jump in feet first. Sure I can read books, but what I really need to play in it using the books people used then.   After that everything clicked into place.  I was going to start the Second Campaign in the Forgotten Realms!  I know a lot of the adventures in my Second Campaign are very Greyhawk focused, but that is not a big deal really.  Not like I have not swapped out worlds before.  

A quick run to DriveThruRPG for a copy of N5 Under Illefarn and then print it out and I had my ready to go adventure.  I liked the module because A.) it had a bunch of mini-adventures for 1st level characters. B.) It gave them a base of operations in Daggerford. and C.) it was the first published Forgotten Realms labeled adventure so many people got their start right here.

Originally the Second Campaign was going to stick with AD&D1 rules, but since I had three new players I wanted to run something that might know and can easily pick up if they want to play themselves.   So after some debate with my oldest we settled on 5th Edition D&D.

I am going to run it though like an AD&D game. So no tieflings or dragonborn. More gnomes though, never have enough of those.

We ran through the "lizard man" portion of the adventure and it went over great. I have created a new gamers.

The charters will be a revolving cast by necessity; I need to make it flexible for people to be able to come in and out of the game whenever. Or if my kids have friends over and they want me to run something.  Starting in Daggerford gives me a nice locale and is still small enough scale that I don't need to worry about the world at large just yet.

I am going to follow the same basic plot/outline of the Second Campaign and add Realms lore in as it comes up.  Not sure yet how many of the famous characters of the Realms will show up, but that is a decision for a later day.

There are some things I need figure out.
1. What year, by Dale Reckoning, is it?  I started with Under Illefarn which is the beginning of the Realms in 1st Ed AD&D.  I am also using the Sword Coast book above for 5th Ed.  If I remember right there are a few hundred years between the two.  Now this may or may not matter.  But I at least want to get my NPC stories straight.

2. I need some good Spellfire 5th edition stats.  Cynder, who was lost in the Come Endless Darkness game, will show up here.  She is, more so than anyone, a perfect candidate for Spellfire.

3. Is this a different world in the same universe (evidence of that), a different universe OR even jsut the same world in the same universe, just another part of it.  The fact that it is 5th edition leads me to want to make it the same universe at least.

None of these questions need to be figure out today.  But I am going to want a direction to run here soon. That is where my reading will take me.

Here I am. In the Realms.  Just 30 years later than everyone else.
I gotta say, I really enjoying it so far.

Friday, March 3, 2017

"Excuse me, can you repeat that in Olde Arcane?"

On Friday's I have been watching and enjoying more, more the new series on NBC "Emerald City".  It is yet another re-telling of the Wizard of Oz story.  As you can imagine I am a HUGE fan of Mistress West aka The Wicked Witch of the West played by Ana Ularu.

Mistress of the Western Fields, Vessel of Truth and Solace, Wicked Witch of the West
(though one wonders if Fairuza Balk was unavailable)
What I have been really enjoying is the conlang, Inha, the language spoken by all the witches in Oz.
You can read more about that here and check out the website of the creator David J. Peterson who also created Dothraki.

All witches in Oz are born knowing this language. There are for variants (fire-south, wind-east, stone-north, water-west)  but all witches understand it naturally.

I love this idea.  In my own games I never quite took it this far, but I have always played it that all witches can recognize another witch instantly.

This got me thinking about magical languages in RPGs.
In the real world the written word of magic was always held by the scholars and the clergy. So predominantly in Latin.  Most of the books in the Western tradition of magic were in Latin with some other in Arabic and Hebrew.    In D&D the obvious choices for magical languages are Draconic and Elvish.    In my own games, I have used Irish Gaelic as the language of "faerie magic".

Witches though would not have a learned language like these. All their writings, when written at all, would be in their own native languages.  But the idea of a language they are all born knowing is a very, very compelling on to me.
Personally, I like to think that witches have more in common with each other regardless of alignment than say a witch and a wizard of the same alignment.  This could be my biases showing. Very likely it is.  What really unites a people is language.

While in game design terms I could justify a "Witch language", after all Druids and Theives have their own languages, I don't think I will.  If I did I would also give all wizards the draconic language for free.  In fact there is MORE reason to do that. Hmm.  Ok. From now on all Wizards get "Auld High Wyrmish" (can you tell I have been reading a lot of old Dragons lately) for free.  This gives them a chance to speak Draconic.

Now one thing I can justify is giving the Sisters of the Aquarian Order their own language.
They start to train girls at a very young age, they have their own planet and history. A history that goes back thousands of years or more.

Speaking of which.

The Sisters of the Aquarian Order is on sale again for GM's Day.  Pick up a copy and let me know.

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