Monday, September 7, 2020

Monstrous Monday: Galley Beggar

My thoughts are still on Halloween.  So time to bring back another monster from my younger days.

Galley Beggar

Medium Undead (Incorporeal)
Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (0)
Alignment: Chaotic (Chaotic Neutral, Chaotic Evil)
Movement: 120' (40') [12"] (Limited to 100' from bones)
Armor Class: NA [NA]
Hit Dice: 1d8 (1 hp)
Attacks: 1 scream
Damage: NA (see below)
Special: Can't be hit by physical weapons (Mundane or Magical); immune to charm, hold, and sleep spells.
Size: Medium
Save: Monster 1
Morale: 12
Treasure Hoard Class: See Below
XP: 5 (50 if bones destroyed)

The Galley Beggar, also known as a Bull Beggar, is a type of ghost found in crypts, dungeons, and even old cellars.  They appear as a thin, skeletal looking ghoul in the poor light of dungeons, but are semi-transparent.  They are incorporeal (ghost-like) and are immune to physical attacks of any sort and any mind-affecting magics.

The Galley Beggar has only one attack, a scream that causes fear (as per the spell) in all who hear it.  Everyone with 100 feet of the screaming monster must make a Save vs. Spells or come under the effects of the fear.  Creatures greater than 6 HD are immune.  A favorite trick of the Galley Beggar is to pull it's own head off of its body and then scream.

The only ways to defeat a Galley Beggar are with Clerical Turning, they will turn as Skeletons (1 HD) or via any magic like Bless, Remove Curse, Dispell Magic, or similar enchantments.  If the bones of the Galley Beggar are found and destroyed (with fire or given a proper burial) then the creature is also destroyed. 

It is believed that the Galley Beggar is formed when a novice spell caster is killed on an adventure and their bodies are not returned for burial.  The Galley Begger will not form until the body has decayed to bones.

Friday, September 4, 2020

Mail Call: The Hero's Journey 2nd Edition

Got a nice little mail call last week.

Going to have to see how this one plays!

Kickstart Your Weekend: Abracadabra: A Guide to Becoming a Magical Games Master

Well, this one looks like it will be fun!

Abracadabra: A Guide to Becoming a Magical Games Master

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/thegrinningfrog/abracadabra-rpg?ref=theotherside

Described as "an art book that educates. Something to flick through for inspiration, guidance and assistance."  This book combines the author's areas of expertise of RPGs, training coach and graphic designer into one whole.

The art is very attractive and this looks like a "coffee-table" or what we like to call a "luxury book" though it has more value than just looking good.

I was pleased that the author mentioned Michael Shea's "The Lazy Dungeon Master" as the go-to guide for learning how to run your games better.  This book looks like it is not competing with that and would either supplement or complement Shea's books.

The art in this looks fantastic and there are hardcover and PDF options for the book.

At the current rates, £22 is about $29.20 US (PDF).  £32 is $42.22 US (Hardcover) and the combined bundle is £42, or $55.42, not factoring in any shipping.

Considering what you are getting those prices sound good.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Featured Artist: Wylie Beckert

I am not going to lie. I am really excited about the new Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything.  One of the things about this book that really grabbed my attention was the cover art of the special edition version of the book.


Dragon+ has a featured article on her now, so please check that out to learn more.


I love her artistic style.  Kind of dream-like.







I'd love to see her do Elric of Melniboné some day.

She is also currently auctioning off the underdrawing for Tasha's Cauldron.
https://www.facebook.com/wylie.beckert/posts/10108311523986137

Please check out her links and especially her Patreon and website.

Links

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Review & Class Struggles: BX Options: Class Builder

Over the Summer Erin D. Smale released his BX Options: Class Builder book as a guide to how to build custom classes for the B/X, Basic-era, style games.  Of course, I had to grab it. I love making new classes and anything that involves a little number crunching is great in my opinion.  

Though I will admit I was at the same time worried that this would just be a rehash of the formulas used in Dragon Magazine #109.  Well, I am happy to report it is not, and there is more to this book than just that.  In fact, the author even points out in the book the original system.   My back-of-the-napkin calculations tell me that for levels 1-14 they both should give you the same numbers.  But more on that in a bit.

I am going to break this up into a normal review and then follow with a Class Struggles.

Review BX Options: Class Builder

The BX Options: Class Builder was released originally has a special edition print version via The Welsh Piper's website over the early part of Summer 2020.  The book later came to DriveThruRPG in a 2nd Editon mid Summer 2020. I will be covering the DriveThruRPG version only today.

The PDF is 82 pages, full-color art covers, with black, white, and blue color inside.  The interior art is all b/w from various stock art publishers from DriveThruRPG.  The advantage of this is the style of the book is very likely to fit into all the other books you might have in your collection.

The book is broken down into two larger sections. First is the class builder itself and the calculations for it. Second is a collection of Classes and Sub-classes for B/X D&D and clones, with the math worked out.  There are also a few Appendicies.

The layout of the book is very, very clean, and easy to read.  The PDF is bookmarked and the table of contents is hyperlinked.

After the Introduction, we get right into the builder itself.  There is a single page of explanatory notes (that is all that is needed) and then a worksheet (a plus for the PDFs!).  


After this, there are descriptions of basic abilities (armor, weapons, prime requisites), special abilities (thief abilities, spells, powers), restrictions and "Locked" abilities.  All with associated XP costs.

These numbers are then added up.  The Base XP is then plugged into one of the four base classes (Cleric, Fighter, Magic-user, Theif) for experience levels 1 to 14 (B/X standard).

Simple really.  And that is only the first dozen pages.

The rest of the book is dedicated to "rebuilding" each of the four base human classes and the three demi-human classes.  All seven also include various sub-classes.    For example, the Cleric is built first and the numbers match those found in most clones and the original sources.  Class variants cover new variant classes that add, change and/or remove abilities from the Base class.  In the case of the cleric different types of Gods they can worship are covered.  These are designed not to differ too wildly from the base class.  

After the Base class and Variant classes the Sub-classes, with calculations and full XP tables, are covered.  Again in the case of the cleric there is a Crusader (more combat, less spells) and a Shaman.

This is repeated for the Dwarf (Elder), Elf (Archon), Fighter (Barbarian, Beast-talker, Beserker) , Halfling (Warden), Magic-User (Necromancer, Sorcerer), and Thief (Assassin, Bard, Scout) classes. 

This covers the bulk of the book (some 50 or more pages) and really is a value-add in my opinion.  Some of those classes we have seen in other sources, but others are new or have new ideas.  The Necromancer for example can create golems.  Great if you think that the golems have the spirits of the dead in them or created Frankenstein-style.

Since this system is aimed at B/X level play, the obvious clone to support it is Old-School Essentials.  It is not an "Old-School Essentials Compatible" product as in with a logo, but acknowledgments to OSE are made.  So it would be fair really to compare the overlap of classes between this and OSE-Advanced.

The overlap is where you expect it to be, what I call the common Advanced classes (minus a couple); the Assassin, the Barbarian, and the Bard. There are some "near" overlaps as well. 

The OSE Assassin compares well to the BXO-CB Assassin.  Their XP values do differ, but not significantly so. BXO-CB Assassins have more HP. Both classes have the same skills. 
The Barbarians compare well enough with the BXO-CB Barbarian having more HP again.
Bards have the most differences.  BXO-CB Bards have more XP per level, less HP, and fewer overall spells.   I don't consider any of this to be "game-breaking" or even "game-stretching", just different flavors of the class.  Rename one "Bard" a "Skald" and there you go. 

Shamans are a little bit like Druids and Crusaders are bit like Paladins, but different enough to provide some nice flavor to the game.

The Appendicies cover a number of topics like adding various thief abilities, a break down of the core seven B/X classes, skills, equipment, spell failure, home terrain, animal special abilities and abilities for higher-level characters.

The book is very high quality and has a lot of utility for all sorts of B/X uses.  Working through the numbers it works great for levels 1-14.  If you extend it to level 20 this would affect the numbers for spell casters.  For example, Magic-users in BX/OSE gain spells to level 6, for a 2,400 XP addition.  If you take this to level 20 Magic-users gain up to 9th level spells, this would be 3,600 XP added to the base.  GRANTED this book does not claim to support above level 14, or more to the point, spell levels beyond level 6.

Class Struggles

How does this work in the real world? Or more to the point can it work with classes I have worked on.


Printing out the sheet, which is great thanks to the PDF, I worked out what my own Witch Classes would end up.  Now please keep in mind I am going to do some things beyond the scope of this book so any issues I might encounter are not due to the Class Builder but more likely my use of it.

I already mentioned there are differences in the Bard class. The author even points out that these differences are really expected and that is OK because it will vary on how each group decides to use a particular class.  So with that now as a given, going deeper into this and expecting some variation is fine.

I went through the math on this for my witch class.  I will not go into the details here because I created a Google Sheet you can see for yourself.  Note you will need the Class Builder book to know what these numbers actually mean.  I am going to talk about the cases that vary.




Long time readers might recall I did something similar using the Dragon #109 system a while back.  In fact the spreadsheet is the same with the Dragon #109/Thoul's Paradise test on the first tab and the BXO:CB test on the second tab.

If the Thoul's Test tab is displayed, click on the next tab arrow to go to the Class Builder Test tab.


The "Thoul's Test" goes back to a couple of posts made by Thoul's Paradise that I discussed: 
So a couple issues right away.  Witches cast arcane spells, but they are not quite the same as those a Magic-user can use, there are more divine spells really.  Especially for the Pagan Witch.  
What I opted to do was make the "Witchcraft" spells worth 200xp to 300xp per level. A nice split between what the Divine (100xp) and Arcane (400xp) spellcasters have.

The witch also has Occult Powers. These are spell-like abilities. Since they can be used more often I gave them a cost of 250xp each.  Though 300xp per would have been fine too.

In the end I came up with something pretty close to the numbers I have been using forever and published for close to 20 years.   The differences are so trivial as to be considered error or even "noise."

These are also very, very close to the numbers I got using the Dragon #109 system.   I have not compared it to the system used in ACKS Player's Companion, but my memory of the system and playing with it when it first came out tells me that I should also expect similar numbers.  Especially since the ACKs system and the Class Builder System both use the same BX base and assumptions of 1-14 (or so) levels of play.

Going back to a source the author and I both have used, Breeyark: Building the Perfect Class, I realized that the author of that resource IS the author of this book. The systems are different but are built on similar premises. Also, they should grant the same or very similar results.

The BX Options Class Builder is a very fun book with some great class choices as an added bonus of some worked out classes.   There are no spells offered for the new spell casting classes, but that would have been way beyond the scope of the book anyway.

Review: Path of Horror Cards

I am a sucker for anything to add to my games. Cards. Stange dice to use only special occasions (not required to use like a d7), board games, props.  I know I don't *need* any of those things, but I like them and they are fun.  I'm going to spend some time talking about some of these items and how I am using them in the next couple of months.  

Up first is something I grabbed at the recent Free RPG Day.  

Path of Horror is a Story Path Card collection From Nocturnal Media.  

They retail for $11.99. DriveThruRPG also has them as PDFs you can print or POD for $3.99 and $11.99 respectively.

These cards in particular have a horror theme. 

The Game Master keeps the "Theme" cards and then deals out 2-3 cards to each player. The play can then play their cards at appropriate times.   In the end the Game Master can play the Climax cards.

The theme cards include things like "Lost Cause" or "Hint of Madness."  Other cards are "Remembered Dream" or "Found Item" or "Lurker."  The cards are all numbered, so lower number cards are played before higher ones.   They add a bit of color to your game and a bit more roleplaying and input from the players.  They also require the Game Master to think a little more on their feet than usual since not everything can be planned out.


Currently, my son is using them in his "Curse of Strahd" D&D 5 game and I am planning on using them in my "Ordinary World" for Night Shift and "War of the Witch Queens" for Basic-era D&D. 

There is quite a lot that can be done with these cards and since they rely on player input they can also be reused a lot. 

What attracted me to them originally was the cover of course.  The art reminded me of this card deck I had as a kid.  

Certainly worth giving them a try in your games.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Welcome September! Night Shift and Mages

It's September.  The start of Meteorological Fall; the actual Autumnal Equinox is still three weeks away. But change is in the air and there is a change at the Other Side as well.

I have a new banner up. I am planning to do a lot more with Night Shift in the coming months.  

Night Shift was designed to replace many games in my library, but that doesn't mean I am ready to stop playing or talking about those games yet. 

In fact last night I was reminded about a game I really love and I really should do more with.  

Satyros Phil Brucato had posted about a book he had done and it really reminded me how much I love Mage.  Both Mage: The Ascension and Mage: The Awakening.  Though I lean more towards Mage: The Ascension.   But the post was about his book, Mage Made Easy: Advice from That Damn Mage Guy.

Part of the Storytellers Vault (a bit like DMSGuild, but for White Wolf/Onyx Path games) this book is about...well...Mage, made easy.

Now. Anyone who has ever played any version of Mage is likely to be incredulous about now.  I mean, Mage is many, many, many things. Sometimes too many.  But easy?  No. Easy is never a word used with Mage.  But Phil is the Mage expert.  Mage: The Ascension 20th is close to 700 pages and he wrote the bulk of that.  So if he is telling me that MME is something I can read in 60 pages, well I am going to pay attention.

And I am glad I did.  

While I am conversant in most Mage matters, I do not by any stretch consider myself an expert, or even an advanced player.  I am quite enthusiastic though.  I found Mage Made Easy to be a nice breeze guide of solid advice that did two things right away for me.  First, it made me want to play Mage: The Ascension again and secondly it gave me solid advice that is good for many modern supernatural games. 

The book is very heavily focused on Mage and Mage: The Ascension 20th Anniversary in particular.  

It shows you how to use the vast Mage meta-plot OR discard it altogether (that's me!).  It gives you some fantastic archetypes to try out and even solid advice on Mage's biggest issue, Paradox.

Plus the art, as expected, is fantastic.

While I do say there is good advice for any modern supernatural game, the advice is also very Mage specific.  This means to use this book it helps to have a basic working knowledge of the Mage RPG.  Once you have that then translating this advice to your own game, be it Mage or something else, is pretty easy.  BUT that is going beyond the scope of the book and not the fault of this book if it doesn't work out.  But advice like "start small" or "start with the characters" is ALWAYS good advice.

While the focus is on Mage: The Ascension 20th Anniversary Ed. (Mage20), I found there was good advice here to apply to my particular favorite flavor of the game in Mage The Sorcerers Crusade

Makes me wish I had a Mage game going, to be honest!

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