Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Witchcraft Ritual Kit (1974)

I was out getting some driving practice with my sons over the weekend.  They didn't want too so I made them a deal, if they drove we could go to our favorite local game store Games Plus.  So we did and I found something of a little treasure.


This is Avalon Hill's Witchcraft Ritual Kit from 1974!

So imagine this, the year is 1974.  Avalon Hill knows about D&D having passed on previous Gygax penned works.  The biggest movie of the year is The Exorcist and rival Milton Bradley is churning out Ouija boards all day.  What is Avalon Hill to do?  Simple they create a "game" based on Wicca and Witchcraft.

Supposedly authored by "Dr. Brooke Hayward Jennings", who I can find nothing on anywhere, and neither has anyone else, this was one of two of their occult-themed games.  The other was called "Black Magic" and featured a similarily "porny" cover.

Now, all that aside I have been wanting this game forever.  It has been out of print since the mid-70s and finding a good copy is nearly impossible.

I found this sitting in the stacks of out of print wargames. It was labeled as "unpunched" and interior in good condition even if the box had some shelf wear.  I knew, more or less what I was getting here, so despite the high price (I am not going to tell you what I paid for it) I had to get it.

Well.  I am not disappointed.

Let's have a look inside.






That game board is gorgeous! Not so sure about all the pieces, and those game tokens have to go!
I'll likely replace the male and female figures with minis, maybe 72mm ones, and the other items with small 3D printed versions.  Don't know yet, have to read how they are used.


The gamebook is a mix-mash of all sorts of wicca, occult and pagan ideas that lack coherence. It is, however, a fun read.







This is easily the most 70s thing I own.

I could not find any reviews online and none from any pagans or gamers to give me their insight and point of view.

Also, I am not sure what I will do with it yet. Like I said some of the pieces have to go to make it playable in my mind, but that game board.

In line with my "Traveller Envy" I talked about with Wizard's Quest and Witch's Caldron boardgames I really WANT to use this as part of the larger "War of the Witch Queens" campaign. I am just not sure how yet.  I do have other board games to add to it.

Oh, it also been properly pointed out that the TRUE way to express my Board Game Traveller Envy is via Starfleet Battles and my "BlackStar" campaign.  But that is a topic for another day.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Zatannurday: DC All Star Games

Now here is something truly unexpected!

DC Universe wants to get in on the "Critical Role" action and do a live-action unscripted 5-part special with actors playing the 1980s DC Adventures RPG.



Here is the information for DC.
DC UNIVERSE Announces Original Unscripted Gaming Mini-Series
'DC UNIVERSE All Star Games'

Clare Grant, Vanessa Marshall, Sam Witwer and WWE’s Xavier Woods Join Freddie Prinze Jr. For Five-Part Role-Playing Game Adventure Set in The Classic 1980s Game DC HEROES

DC UNIVERSE has announced its first original unscripted gaming mini-series, DC UNIVERSE All Star Games. This new anthology series brings famous DC fans together to play a variety of games in the increasingly popular gaming show genre. Season One features a nostalgic role-playing adventure, The Breakfast League, from Executive Producers Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Sam Witwer. The first episode of the five-part series will premiere exclusively on the DC UNIVERSE digital subscription service on Friday, February 28.

DC HEROES, the famous post-crisis role-playing game, sets the stage for the first season in which Vanessa Marshall, Clare Grant and WWE superstar Xavier Woods also join as players. Set in the same 80s era as when the game was first published, the five participants role-play as a group of high schoolers stuck in Saturday detention. As they improv their way through a variety of situations familiar to fans of beloved movies from that time period, they soon discover their destinies as the world’s greatest super-heroes.

“DC Heroes was the first RPG I ever played as a kid. It was also my introduction to the DC Universe, its Heroes and, most importantly, its rich pool of villains.” said Prinze. “ I had a blast making this series and I hope all of you love it as much as I do.”

Directed by Jon Lee Brody and produced by Telepictures, “DC UNIVERSE All Star Games” is the first unscripted addition to DC UNIVERSE’s expanding original programming slate which includes “DCYou Unscripted” and “DC Daily.” New episodes will go live exclusively on DC UNIVERSE every Friday after the series premiere on February 28.

For more information on DC UNIVERSE and “DCU All Star Games” please visit dcuniverse.com and follow DC UNIVERSE on Facebook and Twitter.




This could be a lot of fun.

Join Freddie Prinze Jr (Buffy's Husband), Clare Grant (Oz's wife), Sam Witwer (multiple DC shows), and more. I am looking forward to this!


Friday, February 14, 2020

Origins of the Witch: Early Research Edition

One question I constantly get is "why witches?" To which I usually reply, "why not witches?"
I have talked here about how it has been a subject that I have been fascinated with since even before my D&D days.

Well, a few things have gone on this week to make me want to look back at why I am interested and to try to capture some of the initial excitement.

First up was, of course, my coverage of the classic adventure B1 In Search of the Unknown, and what I started calling my First Witch Marissia. Not a lot of information there, but still a lot of fun while going back to look over my history.

I also talked about the first time I started putting a visual image to my iconic witch Larina from Dragon Magazine #65 from September 1982.  I am sure to talk more about her in this series in the future.

Another interesting bit is a new series of posts on the illusionist from Jonathan Becker over at B/X Blackrazor

He talks about the spell color spray (one I am including in my Pagan Witch book) and how it is kind of a wreck.   But that was not what got me thinking today. It was his inclusion of some Bill Willingham art from the module D1-2 Descent into the Depths of the Earth.  Here it is:


That Illusionist was the art I used for another one of my early witches, Cara Niemand (German for "nobody" since her last name was supposed to be a secret). She was a witch I tried to build using just the PHB "by the book".  I didn't like how she turned out, but she was a great character all the same.

Part of what is really extended navel-gazing under the guise of *serious research* is my work on the Basic-Era witch books I have been doing lately, with the Pagan Witch due out soon.

Last night though I got a HUGE piece of my pre-D&D witch past back. 
For years I could not remember the name of this author who had written a lot of children's books about monsters, ufos and all sorts of stuff.  Well, thanks to my sister I finally remembered.  Daniel Cohen.  Yesterday I got a few of his books in the mail.


Not all the books, but these were the big ones.


That Hodag! (from "Monsters")  Seriously I have been dying to put him into a game since forever.



From the witch book. Look at all that great woodcut art!  If you ever wanted to know why I have so much of these woodcuts in my books, well it started here.   I have one more of his books on the way, but after that the re-writes start.

My plan is to go over all these old books and my old notes from the time and make sure my Pagan Witch book is something that would have been on my shelves then.   Yeah, these are "kids books" but the point is not to provide you with Ph.D.-level work (I can do that if you like) but instead capture that feel of the early 80s by reading the same books I did then and in the late 70s.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Mail Call: Return to the Unknown

Mail call last night!  These were waiting for me when I got home.


In particular, I am happy to get a copy of B1 Legacy of the Unknown, the spiritual sequel to B1 In Search of the Unknown.


The module is pretty big at 68 pages and works great as a sequel to the original B1.

It is also a GREAT fit for Pacesetter's own B/X RPG rules.



Can't wait to run it.

Links



Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Kytarra Bane, the Witch Queen and Mixing Books

I am often asked if one witch book can be used with another or with a game I didn't overtly design it for.  Say for example using The Warlock with Basic-era D&D, or The Amazon Witch Tradition with AD&D or S&W.   Well, the short answer is YES!


My goals for every book are simple. Make it a fun class. Make it compatible with every other book. Make it so the someone can pick one up and play it.   Any book I have can be and will be, someone's first book in the series.  So I want maximum playability.

So what can you do to mix them?  Well like I said I spend a lot of time trying to make it easy and avoid any potential issues.  In all things your GM has the say (and you or they can also always ask me) but here is an example.

Today I want to rebuild a character from Necromancer's Fane of the Witch King.
The character is Kytarra Bane, the "Witch Queen" of the adventure.  In the D&D3/d20 is a half-fiend/half-nymph 4th level druid.  Here nymph and druid levels "stack" in d20 so she ends up something like an 11th level druid.  But I don't want a druid. I want a witch.  So how could I build her using my books?

Well, given that she is half-fiend I am going to opt to make her part of the Mara Tradition.   To handle her handful of druid spells I will also grab some material from the S&W Green Witch book.  Finally, to deal with her half-nymph side I am going to use the multiclassing and use any race rules from the Classical Tradition book.  That book also has a large variety of nymphs to choose from.   Her bonus spells due to high Charisma (from The Mara book) and her Occult powers will help cover her nymph and fiend abilities.

Since I have all the books I can choose from a wider variety of spells for her.  There is some overlap in spells, that can't be helped. All witched get a Curse spell of some sort, but it makes for a nicer variety all the same.  I will also grab some cantrips from my original The Witch for Basic-Era Games book.

Kytarra Bane, The Witch Queen
From Fane of the Witch King
11th Level Witch, Mara Tradition
Half-nymph/Half-demon

Strength: 19
Intelligence: 20
Wisdom: 20
Dexterity: 17
Constitution: 17
Charisma: 20

Saves (unadjusted)
Death Ray or Poison:  9
Magic wand or devices: 10
Paralysis, Polymorph or Turn to Stone: 9
Dragon Breath: 12
Rods, Staffs, and Spells: 11

Hit Points: 52
Alignment: Chaotic (Evil)
AC: -1 (-2 dex, -1 natural, -3 bracers, Death Armor +1)

Occult Powers
Familiar:  Fiendish Dire Tiger
Herb use
Lesser:  Blinding Beauty (as per Blindness spell, once per day)

Spells
Cantrips (6): Black Flame, Chill, Flare, Mend Minor Wounds (x2), Object Reading
First (4+3): Bewitch I, Endure Elements, Fey Step, Häxen Talons, Mend Light Wounds, Obedient Beast, Obscuring Cloud
Second (3+3): Burning Gaze, Burning Hands, Defiling Touch, Fury of the Sun, Produce Flame, Stunning Allure
Third (3+2): Bewitch III, Brave the Flames, Contagion, Continual Fire, Witch Fire
Fourth (2+2): Dispel Magic, Dryad's Door, Elemental Armor, Rain of Spite
Fifth (2): Death Curse, Flame Strike
Sixth (1): Fire Seeds

Magic Items: Bracers (+3), Death Armor

I am pretty pleased with this build. I grabbed unique spells from all my sources listed about and it made for a nice witch. The mixing worked well and I ended up with a character very close to that of the original d20 product.  Since she is not part of an organized coven, or any coven really, I opted NOT to give her any witch Rituals.  That is not a hard and fast rule in the books, but one I use in my own games.

The are more ways to combine the books.  I should have a few more NPC witches coming up.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Choose a Side, Or One Will Be Chosen For You

Because I am not including other screencaps
Years ago, so long I don't remember exactly when or how I was told that "you must choose a side or one will be chosen for you."

I think it was my dad and it was while I was in Boy Scouts (yes. I was a Boy Scout until my Atheism made it difficult) and he meant it a means of choosing good over evil, right over wrong.  The point is that sometimes making the choice is hard and sometimes good or evil is not clear cut or easily defined.

Sometimes though choosing the right side is easy.

Growing up in Central Illinois it was easy to be a fan of Judges Guild. They were "local guys" by the standards of TSR being all the way up in WI and other companies even further.  I remember playing in the City-State of the Invincible Overlord a lot back then and lamenting that we didn't have all the products we wanted for it.   I picked up Witch's Court Marshes and other books and added them happily to my collections.  Even in my D&D/TSR "purity" days, Judges' Guild products got a pass.

I liked Judges Guild.

Yet with the recent posts by current JG owner (and son of the founder) Bob Bledsaw II has changed all of that.   I was not friends with Bob Bledsaw, so I had not seen that this was a pattern of behavior that was one of those "open secrets".

I can no longer support Judges Guild. 

Frog God Games and Bat in the Attic are also cutting ties with BBII/JG and I applaud them for it.  You can see more posts from BBII's Facebook on Rob's site so I do not feel the need to repost them here.

My financial contribution to JG's bottom line is practically non-existent; anything I did buy was on the second-hand market for rare items.  But I was planning on doing a series of posts on  The Dungeoneer and Pegasus magazines and I wanted to review a couple of adventures.  I cannot in good conscience do that now.

Gaming is inclusive. We welcome all and actively seek to bring in others that may not have a place to call their own. That's our DNA, that is who we should be always.  Gaming was there for the disenfranchised teens of the 70s and 80s that were not part of the in-crowds. We are not part of a movement to bring in so many others that want a place to be themselves.

But there is no room for bigots, racists, anti-semites or anyone at all like that.
Hate has no place in my games.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Monstrous Monday: Green Martians for AS&SH

No gaming for me this past weekend.  One game for Connor and two for Liam though, so I was left to my own devices.  Those devices were going over my Mōdiphiüs Star Trek and John Carter of Mars RPGs.  Both use the same 2d20 system, or close enough to make conversions and blending easy.   And Mōdiphiüs is also doing the new Dune RPG.   This has my desire to run an epic Space Opera up into hyperdrive.

BUT.  Let's be honest. There is no good way, thematically, to combine John Carter and Star Trek.  Their Mars' are too different.    The problem is, I love Mars.  Both in terms of fiction and back when I was studying to be an astrophysicist.   Scientific/realistic Mars would be great for a Trek game, especially with all the things going on on Mars in the new Picard series.  But what about my need for fantasy Mars?


I have talked about Clark Ashton Smith's Mars in relationship to BlackStar and my love of the various pulp games for Mars.  So I am not lacking in desire, or material, I just need a home game for it.  So this idea hit me over the weekend.

Why not Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Barsoom?

AS&SH is obviously more Clark Ashton Smith and less Edgar Rice Burroughs, but both are there.  While I enjoy the works of CAS much more, ERB's Barsoom captures my attention much more.  Besides, in a game I can mix and match as I please, especially in a game like AS&SH.

I am not planning, yet, to send any characters to Barsoom, but it makes perfect sense to bring some Martians to Hyperborea.

These Martians are designed for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea (Compleat Second Edition) and heavily based on Warriors of the Red Planet (which you should get if you love everything Mars, like me.)

Martian Princess by Will Nichols
Martian, Green
No. Encountered: 1 (1d3)
Alignment: Neutral
Size: L
Movement: 40
Dexterity: 16
Armour Class: 5
Hit Dice: 4+4 to 6+6
Attack Rate: 4/1 (sword x4 or radium pistol x4)
Damage: 1d8 (×4) or 1d8 (x4)
Saving Throw: 14 to 12
Morale: 12
Experience Points: 400 to  850
Treasure Class:  Nil (see below)

Green Martians are tall, 8' tall, humanoids with green skin and four arms.  The males are bald and have huge tusks. The females are just as tall but appear more human.  Some even have ancestry related to the ancient Red Martians.  Many of the Martians found in Hyperborea are these Green with Red Martian blood to adapt better to the Hyperborean world.
It has been assumed that came here centuries ago and have been able to return to Barsoom.  Those sages in the know claim they are here as advanced scouts prior to a Martian invasion.

Green Martians are a warrior race and adapt to the weapons found in Hyperborea with ease.  Green Chieftans, the Jedaks, also wield radium pistols that fire a bolt of burning radium.  The range is the same as a crossbow.

Martians eschew armor of any kind and rely on their dexterity and natural toughness.  They also do not keep any treasure they find.  The exception are any weapons. They have a 20% chance of having a magical sword, short sword or dagger.  They do not use bows, but will have a 10% of having a magical crossbow.

I like this. Can't wait to give it a go.

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