Thursday, July 11, 2019

Mystic Locales: The Library

This one is for all my librarian friends out there and for all the libraries I have loved.

Mystic Locales: The Library


There is a rumor. 

Naturally, it is whispered since talking aloud is not permitted and many find that they can no longer say the rumor in anything above a whisper.  The rumor is ignored by sages. It is conjectured as a flight of fancy among occult scholars. It is whispered among students, who find the idea terrifying at some level. But the librarians know it is real and true. Moreover, they have all taken a sacred vow to protect the secret and keep it from those who would use this power for evil ends.

Librarians all know that all libraries, everywhere, are connected.

From the first construction of the Library of Alexandria to the Carnegie Libraries of the 20th Century to the largest University Libraries to the small Little Libraries of a local neighborhood to the planet-sized Library of the 51st Century, all are connected. Not just spiritually, but physically as well.  One can wander the stacks of a library and end up in the stacks of another library hundreds of miles away and even dozens of years different.

When people go missing like this often a librarian will find them. A quick check in their own "inter-library loan" memos will discover who the person is and where they belong. The librarian will escort them back to where they need to go under the guise of 'helping them find their book' and send them along the way.  Most often the person in question will have no recollection of this other than the very pleasant and helpful staff.

There are those rare individuals who know how to navigate "The Stacks". The entrance is never the same for each library, and sometimes it can change in the same library.  These special people usually have some things in common. They spend a lot of time at libraries, often just reading or roaming the stacks and shelves looking for interesting and rare books.  They often have a love for books in general; not just in learning, but in the simple joy of reading or holding a book.
The rare ones even know how to move from one library to another as easily as others walk into a room of choice and back.   These special few are usually discovered and offered a job as a librarian where they can learn more ways to other libraries.

New Witch Ritual

Access the Library
Level: Witch Ritual 5
Ritual Requirements: 1 witch, 1 cleric, and 1 magic-user. see text
Range: 10-foot radius centered around a thaumaturgic triangle
Duration: See text
Legends claim that there is a library, The Library, that can be accessed if the intention is one of pure learning.  This library exists in its own extra-dimensional space and it contains the works of all sages, scholars, researchers, and authors as well as works of magic divine, arcane and occult.
To open the door the witch must gather together a magic-user (wizard) and a cleric, all of whom can cast 5th level spells.  It is believed that only by working together in ritual can all access the library.  Once the ritual is cast, usually taking an hour, all three may enter.  Their time spent in the Library is equal to a number of hours equal to their combined levels.  Time outside the library passes normally, but nothing else from the outside world affects them. Only the three that have cast the ritual may enter.
Once inside the ritual participants may look up any information they wish.  This can be used to research any magical question such as new spell creation, magic item creation or learning a new spell.  For every level the participant has they gain a +1 or a +5% where appropriate.
While in the Library the participants will see ghostly figures moving about. These are other patrons who have entered the Library via their own means or by means of a similar ritual.  Patrons cannot interact with each other; no talking or physical contact.  Patrons can only interact with those they entered with. 
Once the spell duration is complete the ritual participants will find themselves back in their thaumaturgic triangle.  A patron may leave at any time, but it will end the ritual.
Material Components: Each participant must bring and leave behind a book, scroll or other forms of printed work to give to the Library.  It need not be original, but an original work will grant the patrons an extra hour of reading/research time.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

OMG: Demihuman Deities, Part 1

Ok a bit of a direction change here for One Man's God.  Normally I look at the myths presented in the 1st Ed AD&D Deities & Demigods, compare them to the myths from the real world and then look to see how some of the monsters can be classified as "D&D Demons", which is not exactly the same as a Judeo-Christian Demon, but I am not ignoring that mythology either.

This series will be different since the myths I am looking at now were all almost all wholesale made up by the creators of the AD&D game as it existed at the time.   So no appeal to real-world myths here is 100% appropriate, though there are some notable exceptions.

When looking over these beings though we are left with the same question as before.
Would this being be better suited as a god or as a demon?

Let's find out.


Introduction
We start out with the idea that demi-humans and non-human monsters are either Shamans or Witch Doctors.  We see this in action later in the BECMI / Rules Cyclopedia version of the D&D rules.  We are even given a new class, the Wokani, which (depending on which version of Basic you grab) are either witch doctors or witches in their own right.   But I am getting ahead of myself here.

We are also told that some of the creatures in the Monster Manual and Fiend Folio are to be treated as lesser gods.

MONSTER MANUAL
Demon: Demogorgon, Juiblex, Orcus, Yeenoghu
Devil: Asmodeus, Baalzebul, Dispater, Geryon
Dragon: Bahamut, Tiamat

FIEND FOLIO
Demon: Lolth (detailed in D&DG as well)
Elemental Princes of Evil
Slaad: Ssendam, Ygorl

So, if they have a unique personal name then they are essentially lesser gods.  Sort what I am doing here really.

Right off the bat some of these creatures are gods and others are named as demons.  The are some that fall in the in-betweens and those are the ones I want to investigate further.   I am also going to work from my own biases here. I think certain creatures are certain things.  Want to do it differently? Great, do it your way.

Gods Among (Demi)Men
Who in this listing of gods are undisputable gods?
I think the following beings make the list.
Skerrit (Centuars), Moradin (Dwarves),  Corellon Larethian (Elves, and most of the elven gods), the gods of the Giants, Garl Glittergold (Gnomes), Yondalla (Halflings), Gruumsh (Orcs) (but more on him later).  Others are ify.

Side note: I always loved Yondalla. I thought of all the gods of the demi-humans she was perfect. Exactly the kind of goddess the Halflings would have.

Maglubiyet, Hruggek and Gruumsh
In my game world, Goblins are actually a faerie race.  They are often evil, but some are just good enough to be considered Neutral.  For this reason, I see them more as Chaotic.  Hobgoblins in my world are related more to Hobs or more to the point, "Old Hob" aka the Devil.  I consider them goblins with a touch of Devildom about them.  Much in the same way that tieflings are to humans.  Bugbears, on the other hand, are more demonic. Bugbears come from the same root of words that give us boggles, boggleboes, and boogeyman.   I have played around with various ideas of goblin gods for a while.  At first, I went with Maglubiyet, but there is something about him I don't like, or rather, I don't like in this role.  Then I went with the Erlking as Lord of the Goblins and also Jareth as a Faerie Lord king of the Goblins.  I even went with atheist goblins for a while after reading GURPS Goblins.  I think I am more happy with a Jareth/Erlking blend these days.
That leaves me with Maglubiyet, the Lawful Evil god of Hobgoblins who also is a lesser Duke of Hell (his names sounds like a Duke of Hell to be honest) who wars with Gruumsh.  And way over in the Abyss we have the monster Hruggek who is a Chaotic Evil Demon Lord that is the patron of the Bugbears.  His name also sounds more demonic to me.
This leaves both beings relatively the same as they were before.

Gruumsh is a different story.  The one-eyed Gruumsh is obviously a nod, conscious or not, to Sauron.  Also, the orc of Tolkien's world are much more demonic that the orcs of D&D and other modern fantasy.  In The Silmarillion, we learn that orcs were created by the Vala Melkor, later Morgoth.  So there is an idea of divine creation perverted.  Would Melkor be a demon?  He is more closely related to Lucifer is analysis, but that only muddies the waters really.   I also like the idea that orcs were once related to Elves.  Of the two main species in D&D only elves and orcs can mate and produce offspring with humans.  So here is a heresy.

Orcs, and indeed Gruumsh, were all elves.  Gruumsh was Corellon's brother.

Somewhere, somehow, Gruumsh betrayed Corellon (orcs say it was the other way around) and Gruumsh the orc was born.  I just need a good Elvish sounding name to give him before this fall.
Personally, I find this FAR more compelling than the tale of Lolth.
Speaking of which.

Lolth, The What Queen?
Lolth is a lesser goddess. No, wait she is a demon. She was Araushnee, but that doesn't come till later.
I have talked about my issues with drow in the past and how they are really Lawful Evil and not Chaotic Evil.   Plus if I can make a Lawful Evil Goddess Tiamat into a Chaotic Evil I should be able to do the opposite for Lolth.  Which of course means she would not really be a demon anymore.  She is more of devil.  BUT. I like the idea that she is a demon.  Can I make a LE Demon? no. not really.

I think the simple answer here is that Elves, Orcs, and other fae creatures like Goblins don't fit into the Devil-Demon dichotomy very well.   I am inclined to pull them out and let them be their own thing.  Lolth is called the "Demon Queen" but that is more due to her "Fallen" status than anything else.



Despite my stated goal of trying to pull these beings into the likes of demons, I am happy with them being their own thing.

Gnolls and You Know Who
Before I end today's discussion I should point the example that falls right into line with what I am doing.  Gnolls and the Demon Prince Yeenoghu.  Here we have a strong non-human species and they worship a demon as their god. It works. It works well.


Too well.  Why does a weak-ass demon prince (ok relative) like Yeenoghu have humanoid, intelligent worshipers but more powerful ones like Orcus and Demogorgon do not?  I will dig into it next time.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The Other Side, A Look Forward

Trying to organize some thoughts here on what I want to do next on the old Other Side blog, figure you all might want to help me!  Or at least listen to my ramblings.


I am prepping for Gen Con now and trying to get another book done in time for Lughnasadh/Lammas so my posting here is going to be a little sparse.

#RPGaDAY
Dave Chapman will be doing (I think) his annual #RPGaDAY in August.  I am not sure what the questions will be, but I do like to participate.  Plus my Twitter followers have really increased this past year, so that might be nice to share.

The Other Side Rewind
Still plugging away at this! June was my Facebook experiment month, while July had been my month to try some other tools.  I am hoping to kick it off full steam in August or September.  Again, if you are reading here then you won't really notice anything at all.

One Man's God
While this one has been great fun, it was not designed to go on forever.  I am going to do the Celts (part 2) and the Chinese and Japanese, though I admit I know very, very little about these.  I am going to do the Demi-humans and do a special on the Cthulhu and Melibone mythos. But once I am done with those then the series will end save for some special editions.  Though this will lead to my next thing...

The Usual Suspects
I am going to spend some time, maybe a lot of time, going over all the various demon books I own and some I don't yet and talk about how to use them in your games.  I really love demons and demonic lore.  The title of this series "The Usual Suspects" comes not only from the notion that all evil in the worlds can be traced back to the machinations of demons (and devils) but every OGL book on the market today has the same half-dozen or so demons and a similar number of devils in every book; aka The Usual Suspects.  I think this will be fun, to be honest.


This Old Dragon
I still have some left and I want to get back to them.

Class Struggles
I have been too long away from this one. I have started writeups on the Alchemist and the Bard.  Been playing a couple Bard variants to get a good feel for the differences.  Sometimes there are more differences between two different bards than there are between most fighters and rangers!

So. Let's get to it!

Monday, July 8, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Calibans

Sorry for falling off the face of the web last week!  Took a little break from everything and it was nice.  But it's Monday and that means back to work and back to Monstrous Mondays!

Today I have a little beastie that has been in the back of my head ever since I reread The Tempest a few years back.  I am doing this one for the Blueholme Journeymanne Rules since allows any monster species to also be played as a character species choice.

CALIBAN
AC: 7
HD: 2d8
Move: 30
Attacks: 2 claws, 1 bite or 1 weapon
Damage: 1d4 (claw) x2/ 1d6 (bite) or 1d6 (weapon)
XP: 25
Alignment: CE
Treasure: None
Abilities: +1 Wisdom, -2 Charisma
Climb Surfaces +5%, Hear Noise +10%, Hide in Shadows +10%, Move Silently +5%, Read Languages -10%, Read Scrolls -15%, Use Wand -10%

Calibans are creatures twisted by dark witchcraft.  No two calibans appear the same, though a full 20% can pass as an ugly human or orc.  They are humanoid, indeed many are born to human mothers or were human before their curse. They are usually covered in dark hair, scales or something that makes them monstrous. They have a resistance to magic, gaining a +1 on all saves vs any type of magical effect (spells, wands, staves) but they themselves have difficulty with magic.
A caliban share much in common with the Cambion, a creature that is the offspring of a human female and a demon. The caliban, while often demonic looking, is not the offspring of demons, but the victims/result of dark magic.
A caliban can take any class, but suffer a -5% XP penalty if they choose to be a witch and a -10% if they choose to become a magic-user/wizard.  Calibans can become clerics with no penalty since they tend to be devout servants of the gods.  Because of their low aptitude for magic wizards have taken to hiring on a caliban as cheap labor. They get a loyal (through fear) servant and one not likely to steal magic from them.

Behind the Monster
Calibans are obviously taken from Shakespeare's The Tempest.  Caliban is the monstrous son of the witch Sycorax. He is various described, but almost always as being half-human, half-monster.

An additional source for Calibans is the movie Clash of the Titans which features the character of Calibos.  He was a human that was cursed to be a monster.  Interesting to me is that his mother, Thetis, was played by Dame Maggie Smith (one of my all-time favorite actresses) who also played the most badass witch Minerva McGonagall. 

The 3rd Edition of Ravenloft from Sword and Sorcery Studios/Arthaus, now Onyx Path, featured a race called Calibans.  These calibans were no more than reskinned Half-Orcs in truth. 

Monday, July 1, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Mystical Companions (5e)

Over the weekend I was thinking about my Magic School game and what I want to add to it.  One thing became instantly obvious to me was I needed to have familiars. Nearly every 5e game I have run the players have wanted pets, animal companions and familiars.   Thankfully for me, I already own the perfect book.


The Troll Lord's Mystical Companions is the update to their fantastic Book of Familiars.   It comes in two flavors, A Castles & Crusades version, and a D&D 5th Edition version.   I have both in digital and PDF formats, but today I am going to focus solely on the 5th Edition version.  Yes, they are in fact different enough that two separate reviews are really needed.

I was always going to use this book in my Magic School games, whether that game used an Old-School ruleset (like Castles & Crusades or BECMI D&D) or (now) D&D 5th Edition.  I think that highly of it.

Mystical Companions for 5th Edition Role Playing
208 pages. Full-color covers and interior art. PDF and Hardcover.
For this review, I am reading primarily from the digital PDF version, but it applies to the hardcover as well.  I purchased both the 5e and C&C versions at Gary Con and received my PDFs via Kickstarter.
Spend any time reading my blog or reviews and one thing is obvious. I love my spellcasters and familiars.  I have often felt the rules for familiars are quite under-developed in many games and familiars, or animal companions of any sort, are often an under-utilized or a forgotten aspect of the game and lives of the characters.
So far every 5th Edition game I have run the players have wanted an animal companion of some sort.  While the rules in the game are fine enough, there is plenty of room for improvement.  Thankfully, the Troll Lords believe the same thing.
I have mentioned that this book is an update and replacement to their Book of Familiars, it is, and it is more than that.

A quick look over the table of contents reveals that we are getting an animal companion for every class.  I feel that this appropriate and looking forward to reading the details.
Now before I go on I do want to point out that unlike some third-party books this one is NOT "plug and play".  You must make plans to add these animal companions from the start.  In one game I tried to tack on these rules in an on-going game and ran into some issues.  In another game, I used this from the start and everything went much more smoothly.  I guess think about it as getting a real-life pet.  You are going to do a little work and thought beforehand.  Once I did this THEN adding these to an ongoing game was much easier.  This is NOT like adding a new spell or magic item to your game, this is a new, but highly compatible sub-system.

Chapter 1: Introduction
Here the purpose of the book is laid out and how the authors made certain decisions on how to incorporate this new material into the game.  There is a section here that bares repeating since I have heard this complaint online.
A WORD OF EXPLANATION: This book requires that you have access to the three core rulebooks for the 5th edition rules, or at very least to the Basic Rules document that is freely available online. Throughout this book, we have used the terms ‘CK,’ and “Castle Keeper” to indicate the game master or person running the game, and ‘player character’ or ‘PC’ to refer to the characters created for the game. In addition, when you see terms like, “Game Master’s Guide” or “5th Edition Monster Tome,” these refer to the Core Rulebooks for the 5th Edition fantasy rules set.
So if you see "CK" or "Castle Keeper" in this book, it's not shoddy editing, but a design choice.  Hey, they like CK better than GM.  And since they can't say DM then CK is just as good as anything else.
There are rules to what an OGL publisher can and can't say, so I can't fault them here.

Here the other sub-systems are described.
Advantages.  Advantages are Feats. They are gained the same way and used, mostly, in the same way.  The difference in wording here (at least for me) helps differentiate the "feats" from this book from all the other feats you can get in the Core rules or other publishers.  In play, this has been a boon since I know immediately that an Advantage on a sheet means something from this book and not another book on my shelf. 
Paths. Time has been kind to Troll Lords here.  When this book first came out in 2017 not a lot of 3P publishers were doing paths yet and there was some confusion about what these were.  Now everyone has a new path (read: sub-class, kit, path, option) for the 12 core classes.   These CAN slot right into a game like anything else from any 3PP.
Tricks. Things your animal companion can do.
Rituals. How you can get your animal companion.  I mean there has to be some magic right?
New Familiars and Animals.  Kinda what it says on the tin to be honest.

Animal Companion vs. Familiar.  While rules in the book cover book and treat them somewhat interchangeably an Animal Companion is more like a loyal pet or friend.  A Familiar is a creature summoned to work with the PC.  Animal Companions are free willed, familiars are not.

Chapter 1 also covers the basics of familiars. A point. A familiar/Animal companion "character" sheet would be GREAT here, but there isn't one.  Ah well, can have everything I guess.

The list of Advantages (again, these are just like Feats) are presented.  There are more here and some might complain about giving up a Feat or Ability advancement for a Familiar, but these are all quite balanced in my experience.  You give up one "power" (feat, advancement) for another.   Quite implicit in 5th Edition's design really.  Not only that it is actually quite elegant once you use it.

The best part about this?  You can take the Summon Familiar Advantage/Feat multiple times (Wizards get it for free at first level) so you can have multiple familiars.  I don't do multiple familiars often, but when I do, I really want to do it.  Though my son runs a game with this book and he describes the group of PCs and their companions as a "traveling zoo".   One girl even has a sheep as an animal companion.  Why? No idea. But this book supports it.

Another great piece of advice from Chapter 1 bears repeating (coping) here.
Give yourself a visual reminder of your familiar’s presence. Write “REMEMBER THE FAMILIAR” to a Post-It note and stick it to the table in front of you. Or make it a point to buy and use a miniature for your familiar.
Good advice. I am a fan of the Wardlings minis from WizKids.


or getting a custom mini with a familiar from Hero Forge.


Chapters 2 through 13 all work in a similar fashion.
Each core class is covered with attention given to special Animal Companions, Familiars or Mounts as appropriate.  Different animals are discussed and a new Path is given that focuses on having an animal companion.

For example, the Barbarian (the last class you might think needs a familiar) has the Nature Fetish Path and the Horseman Path (Dothraki anyone?) The Barbarian chapter is quite good really in that it really shows that animals really do need to be a bigger part of a barbarians' (and all characters) lives.   Reading this chapter has made me want to play a barbarian for the first time EVER since they became an option to me in 1985-1986 or so.  No content just to talk about familiars and paths, the barbarian chapter also covers special mounts.

The other chapters are as equally robust.  There are sections on the Paladin's mount and Ranger's companions but also familiars for rogues and clerics and others that you might not think need animal companions.  I particularly like the Rogue's path, the Shadow Pact.  How's that work?  Well, Rogues can take creatures of shadow as familiars!  Tell me that is not cool.

As expected the familiars of the Sorcerer, Warlock and Wizard are ALL very, very different from each other and really reflect what the classes do now.  Back in the 3e days Wizards and Sorcerer wre 100% interchangeable in terms of role.  The differences were largely fluff.  Since 4e this is less true and now in 5e they are very different sorts of classes.  In 4e Sorcerers and Warlocks filled similar roles.  Again in 5e they are very different. This book reflects the new 5e differences.
Naturally there can be overlap.  The chapter on Wizards talks about how the Wizard rituals can be used by sorcerers for example. 

Appendix A: Familiars and Companions. This covers the familiars and "normal" animals in 5e Stat blocks.
Appendix B: New Monsters. New monsters.
Appendix C: New Spells. New spells, as expected.
Likewise, Appendix D: New Magic Items and Artifacts.

Appendix E though is something different.  This covers Dragon Riders.  While many of the same rules are used here as for familiars this takes them to a new place and should be considered optional.
This is the Appendix/Chapter that my son grabbed this book from me for, BUT he opted not use their Dragon Riders but kept the book anyway for everything else.

A Dragon Rider is a Path that can be added to any class, but some have more use for it than others.  If the idea of PC Dragon Riders concerns you, then keep in mind it is being sold as "optional".  And also Dragon Riders of some form or another have been around since the dawn of the game.  If it is something you want, then there is plenty here for you to use.
If I ever ran a Magic School game with this then Dragon Riders would be included.

We end with a robust index and the OGL section.

A note about art. There is not as much in this book as other Troll Lord books, but what is here is from the fabulous Peter Bradley and Jason Walton, who also gives us the cover art.

Your results may vary, but this book has quickly gone from a neat oddity to one of our must-have books for my 5e games. My son uses it in the games he has run so much that I have not seen the book in months since it is now in with all of his books.

Do you need this book?  I say yes, but only if you are adding animals of any sort to your game, be they pets, familiars, mounts, companions or all the way up to Dragon Riders.
This is one of my 3PP books for 5e. One of the best really.

I should also point out that this book is a stretch goal for the Amazing Adventures 5E RPG Kickstarter.  Pledge at the $55 level and you can get a copy of this book.  Which is fantastic if you ask me.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Kickstart Your Weekend: Friendship is Magic Edition

Couple of Kickstarters are ending in the next four days from some friends of mine and I wanted to share.  Both are great and I want to see them both do well.

First up is the sequel to Eric Bloat's wonderful Vigilante City supers game.

SURVIVE THIS!! Vigilante City RPG 2 Book Quickstarter


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ericfrombloatgames/survive-this-vigilante-city-rpg-2-book-quickstarter?ref=theotherside

Vigilante City is such a great game and I feel bad I have not done more with it. If you are familiar with Dark Places & Demogorgons then you know this system.   This time we get books 3 & 4:  SURVIVE THIS!! Vigilante City - Superhero Team-Up! and Into The Sewers.

From the Kickstarter:
SURVIVE THIS!! Vigilante City Book 3: Superhero Team up! Comes with the inclusion of many new classes, goes through the steps of team building while greatly adding to the equipment and vehicles. It shows how to build new superhero headquarters and stock it full of the valuable tech and tools every team needs to be successful. There will be new combat rules to include Team Moves and so much more!

SURVIVE THIS!! Vigilante City Book 4: Into The Sewers takes you underground to maze of tunnels that travelunderthe Metropolitan of Victory City, into the world of subcultures, gangs, Mutants & Anthropomorphs. Into The Sewers will feel like a new setting and greatly expands upon the already robust Mutant and Anthropomorph classes and powers.
It looks like it will be great!
Did I mention there is an all-star team working on this too?  Well, there is!  Check it out.

Next is Jason Vey's Amazing Adventures.

Amazing Adventures 5E RPG


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/676918054/amazing-adventures-5e-rpg?ref=theotherside

I featured Amazing Adventures 5e a while back.  It is also in its last 4 days, so time to get moving.

The book is done, save for the art and layout and I have played it.  It's so much fun.
Since my first post there have been a lot of stretch goals met and more added, and met. The next one is about to be unlocked.

Both games are a lot of fun and worthy of space on your game table.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Mail Call: Bunnies & Burrows

This is my busy time at work, so just a quick drive-by posting today.  Came up from a meeting to find this waiting for me.


Bunnies & Burrows 2nd ed.  So far it looks really great.







The feel is like that of many FGG books.  The art is full color for the most part and the pages are glossy.

It "feels" more like a D&D book than say an old Bunnies & Burrows one, but that is fine.  The game inside feels like the B&B of old.

Hope to get a review up soon.


Simon Bunny approved!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...