Wednesday, October 14, 2020

What is "Traveller Envy" and why do I have it?

My memory is hazy, but my second RPG was either Traveller or Chill.  I like to say it was Chill since it gives me Horror RPG cred.  But in truth, I think it was Traveller.  No shame in that, I was a huge Sci-fi fan back then, even if I rarely got to play Sci-Fi games.

Who's Number 2? Sadly I can't recall.

While this month is dedicated to nothing but horror, I have been itching to get back into some sci-fi gaming and I have been reflecting a lot on something I call "Traveller Envy."

Growing up in the middle of Illinois had some advantages.  We were is what has been referred to as the RPG or even D&D pipeline.  We were situated between Chicago/Lake Geneva and Carbondale, IL where Tim Kask's (and my) Alma Mater SIU is.  We were also close enough to the University of Illinois.  It is only within the last couple of decades that I have come to learn how good I had it then.  Meaning, we had access to RPG products that most of the country lacked.  Judges Guild was just on the opposite side of Springfield from me.  Pacesetter was far North of us, but soon Mayfair would move into the Chicago burbs.  I regularly ordered games I could not otherwise find from The Dungeon Hobby shop/Mail Order Hobby Shop in Lake Geneva or Games Plus in Mount Prospect.


I would usually go to the AD&D/D&D material first, but it would not be long before I'd hit the other games, in particular Traveller.

D&D was great and had many worlds. Traveller had the whole universe. Literally.  

What struck me the most was not just all the RPG products Traveller had, but all the board games and other related games that all seemed to live inside the same in-game Universe.   I imagined campaigns (which always looked like a cross between Star Trek and Blake's 7) where you could role-play your characters and then turn around and have massive space battles using one of the many Traveller related board games

It was full immersion into a world universe that I just couldn't get with D&D.   Oh sure. I had the Dungeon! board game and I loved (love) it.  But a Dungeon! character is not the same as a D&D character. Even back in those earliest days.

I still love Dungeon!

I thought we might get a little closer in D&D4 with the various Dungeon & Dragon board games. But even they were both too close and too different at the same time.  Also I never really could get into those board games. I picked a couple up to try, but in the end I just ended up cannibalizing them for the minis.  IF and this is a big if, I ever rerun Ravenloft as a campaign I might pull that on in.

This feeling of wanting to expand my universe more with more varieties of games is something I have dubbed "Traveller Envy."

I suppose I could have also called this "Star Fleet Battles Envy" since they do something similar, but that doesn't roll off the tongue as easy.

Now it could be that my Traveller Envy is built on something that doesn't even exist.  The dawn of it was reading over Game Catalogs and maybe seeing stronger connections that were not really there.  I have learned that some of the board games take place in the RPG's "past." Even then if the connection is less than I suspect, it is still strong.

I have wanted to do something like this for a long, long time.  I have some ideas on how to do it and what to do, but I am nowhere near close to figuring it all out.

"Travelling" with the Witches

My goal would be to use some board games (as many as I can) in my War of the Witch Queens campaign.  While my Come Endless Darkness campaign is multi-versal that is not something the characters know until much, much later.  In War of the Witch Queens, they learn this early on.

So it makes sense to give it a multi-versal, multi-media feel.


None of these board games are even remotely compatible with my old-school D&D game.  They are also largely incompatible with each other.  Only Affliction and Witch Hunt work by covering the same historical event. But I have to give it a try.

In one respect at least Cauldron Bubble and Boil has the advantage of featuring my iconic witch Larian in it as the "Arcanist" witch. 


I have talked Wizard's QuestWitch's Caldron, and Witchcraft Ritual Kit before.  Not all of them are going to work. Not all of them will even work well, but I think I owe it to that 13-year-old version of me to at least give it a try.

Maybe I could have picked an easier batch.  Again my BlackStar game could work with StarFleet Battles (any version) and even some Cthulhu related games.  But this is where my love is.  Besides, there is no challenge in climbing hills, only mountains. 

Are there games you look at and think "man, I need to try that in my game"? 

DMSGuild Witch Project: 5e Sorcerers as Witches

We have done druids, warlocks so let's now have a look on how D&D 5e Sorcerers can be witches. 

Up first might have the longest title yet.

The Witch - A Sorcerous Origin and Character Background Option for 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons

This PDF is seven pages and is PWYW with a suggested payment of $1.17.  Ok, a bit random, especially since the $1.14 makes a little more historical sense. 

The author knows his sorcerers, so that is reflected here. The pdf has background information for your witch characters as well as some other useful tables. The Sorcerous origin reads like a "Natural" or "Born" witch archetype so often used.  It works well here too.

No new spells, but none were expected to be honest. 

This one packs quite a bit into six or so pages of content.


Call of the Wild - The Witch Class and Archetypes for Harnessing Primal Power (5e)

This one a bit larger at 35 pages. It is also PWYW with a suggestion of $2.99. This falls under my $0.10 per page rule of thumb so we are still good.  This book offers a lot of varied content. 

There are different sorts of animal-folk (beast folk, bear folk, cat folk), a full witch class (not a sorcerer build as I was expecting) complete with hexes and curses. There are also three Witchcraft "Practices", the Herbalist, the Pact Maker, and the Soulsplitter.

There are also new class options for all the D&D5 classes. There is a new Sorcerous Origin, the Hagborn, and three new Warlock Patrons/Matrons including Mother Nature.  

Both the Sorcerer and the Warlock could double as a witch.   

What might be fun for this one is choose one of the new races and make a coven of the Witch, Warlock, and Sorceror types here.  

This book also doesn't have any new spells which is a bit of surprise given how much else it has.  


Archetypes for D&D

This seven-page PWYW PDF covers five new archetypes for some D&D 5e classes.  Of interest to me are the Witch archetype for sorcerers and the Witch Hunter archetype for any martial-type class.

The witch gets some new spells (from other classes) and four new powers. If I were to use this with other witch classes I might call it a Witch-kin or a Witch-blooded.

This one also highlights one of my strong dislikes for DMSGuild.  The art on the cover for this comes from the book Four From Cormyr.  I could be mistaken, but I don't think that is in any of the approved art packs I have downloaded.  Some of the author's other titles also feature art that I know is not part of the approved packs.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Unholy (1988)

This one came up while I was doing some reading up on The Devil's Nightmare.  On the surface, it has a lot going for it.  I liked the recently passed Ben Cross as an actor. Nicole Fortier (who never really appeared in anything else before or since) makes for a very attractive Demon. And the story sounds like it has some potential. 

The movie opens with a priest confessing before the altar.  While he prays a nude redhead woman shows up.  She caresses him and then rips out his throat.  

Later, a priest, Father Michael (Ben Cross) arrives to administer the last rites to another murder victim. He is warned that she is coming for him.  Three years later Father Michael is attempting to talk down an attempted suicide when he is pulled out a window and falls 17 floors to the ground.  He wakes up in the hospital with hardly a scratch on him.  Hal Holbrook, playing Archbishop Mosely, decides that Micheal is ready to run his own parish, but there is more to it than that. Michael is getting the church where the priest was murdered three years ago.

We learn from Ned Beaty that not one, but two priests were murdered in the church. One other a year before Father Dennis.   We learn a bit more about the case including meeting Millie (Jill Caroll), a girl Father Dennis tried to save from her job in a local "satanic" themed club.

Father Michael starts seeing some strange happenings and even a dog gets sacrificed on the altar. 

The movie starts to drag at the half-way point, never really going anywhere.  In fact, we don't even learn the demon's name, Desiderius (Latin, "ardent desire"), until about 1 and 20mins into the movie. The final battle doesn't get started until an hour and 25 mins in. 

Nicole Fortier makes for a very fetching demon, even if she never has any lines.  


I also find it a little interesting that I never saw this one when it was out.  I mean this was at the prime of my Horror VHS renting time.  But I was also in college so cash was not a luxury item.  

At this time I also had a red-headed girl-friend and I can assure you that their reported demonic powers are an exaggeration.  But only by a little. 


There is a great scene at the very end of what can only be described as Clerical Turning.  It works here. 

Make no mistake. This is not an Oscar-caliber movie and Ben Cross acts circles around everyone else.  But it is a fun little romp.  Ben Cross would right after this star as Barnabas Collins in the NBC mini-series remake of Dark Shadows. I have been meaning to rewatch it someday.

Watched: 23
New: 15

NIGHT SHIFT Content.
Ben Cross' Father Michael makes a great Theosophist/Chosen One multiclass in Night Shift.   I might have an older, now semi-retired, Father Michaels show up in a game one day, playing the role that Trevor Howard as Father Silva played in this movie.  I also just learned that this was the last movie that Trevor Howard was in. 

I am also thinking that a Cinematic Horror New Orleans. This movie, Cat People, maybe even the Interview with a Vampire and The Vampire Lestat among others. 




DMSGuild Witch Project: 5e Warlocks as Witches

Yesterday I reviewed some DMSGuild Druid circles that would work as witches.  Today I am going to look at some Warlock Pacts that would work as witches. 

For many a witch is a distaff warlock, but as you can imagine that has never really worked for me.  That is not to say you can't do it. I am currently playing a very witchy warlock. In fact the whole point of the character is to see if I can get a witch-like experience of the Rules As Written warlock.   



For these reviews, I am still following my rules


Warlock Patron: The Witch

This PDF is one page (cover not included in the download).  It is a PWYW with a suggested price of $1.00.  

While it is called the Warlock Patron The Witch, I am not seeing much to differentiate it from other warlocks. Nor anything about it that is particularly witchy.  I was hoping for warlocks that make pacts with ancient witches and Witch Queens like Baba Yaga, or even Tasha/Iggwilv.  So some neat ideas here and there, but not pulled together well enough for me. 

Which is too bad, the cover art had a lot of promise.


Warlock Patron- Hala

Hala was the Goddess of Witches for Ravenloft.  She was introduced in the late 2nd Edition days along with the Ravenloft Witch. 

This PDF is three pages (1 cover, 1.5 content) and sells for PWYW, suggested $0.50. 

In this case the warlocks do choose Hala as their patron and we get a Warlock pact that is very, very similar to what we saw in 2nd Ed Ravenloft, Van Richten's Monster Hunter Compendium Vol. 3. It works so well in fact that this could be the model for other witchy-type warlocks.  

Easily worth the $0.50.

Gingerbread Witch

This one is a neat idea.  A Warlock with a special kind of patron to become a Gingerbread Witch, ala the witch from "Hanzel and Gretel."
This PDF is a straight sale of $0.75 and you get three pages of class features to the Warlock. There is also a Gingerbread familiar which is a nice touch.  Though I am less impressed with the art; the author uses the Gingerbread man from the movie "Shrek."  This is doubly disappointing given the number of public domain images that could have been used or artists out there that would have done art for this. 
While the idea has some merit I don't see a lot of people playing this as a class option long term.


Lastly, I have one that covers Warlocks, Druids, Sorcerers and Wizards all as witches.

A Witch with Options- Witch Character Options

This 9 page PDF is PWYW with a suggestion of $2.00.  It covers four different subclass archetypes that can be used as the witch.  

There is Druid: Circle of the Coven, which draws on the natural powers associated with the Fey.  Sorcerer: Witch Stigma, which is a sorcerer with faerie blood, or witch blood if you prefer. Warlock: Haggardly Pact which is a pact with hags and finally the Wizard Arcane Tradition: Coven, which is similar to the witch kit found in AD&D 2nd ed or the witch subclass for wizards in D&D 4e.

Each one is like viewing the witch through the lens of the stated class. Each one also provides something unique, but also each one is an incomplete picture.  I think what might be fun is to have a coven of five witches, each one represented by a subclass here and one more as a Witch class. OR create a witchy subclass for the cleric.

That would be fun to try. 

Monday, October 12, 2020

October Horror Movie Challenge: Underwater (2020)

Underwater (2020)

I was looking for a change of pace tonight and this one showed up as recommended.  Sure. Why not.

This one turned out to be rather fun to be honest.  Not great, but not bad either.  Kristen Stewart was actually pretty good in it. It was pretty much like every other deep-sea monster movie; man ventures to places where he is not supposed to go, sea monsters attack. 

This one had both "humanoid" sea creatures and a great big mother-like, kaiju creature.  It would not be a stretch to think of her as Mother Hydra from the Dagon myths.  Or even Cthulhu.
There are Cthulhu symbols drawn on the various maps, so there is that.
The director has even said the creature is supposed to be Cthulhu himself, but I think Dagon or Hydra works better.

This only reminds me I need to do a Lovecraft Filmfest one month.

Don't go to this movie looking for great insights or deep plotting.  But if you like sea monsters then this is a fun romp.

It does have T.J. Miller (Deadpool) and Jessica Henwick (Game of Thrones, Iron Fist) in it as well. So those are pluses.

Watched: 22
New: 14


NIGHT SHIFT and BlackStar Content:  A few notes.

A giant underwater creature is a little harder to pull off in a Night Shift or Old-School game.  But I am still thinking about my cross-generational game.  Maybe there is a London 1968 chapter, an Earth or Mars 2087 chapter (or even Enceladus which could be a vast Ocean), in any case, what is found here in 2087 on an under-water drilling base is a human, or near human, skeleton.  Then this leads to the mission in the 23rd century.  All horror.

So many good ideas really.

Monstrous Monday: Monsters of the Basque

“El sueño de la razon produce monstruos” - Francisco Goya

The sleep of reason produces monsters. Or in my case right now the lack of sleep produces monsters.


Yesterday I watched The Baztán Trilogy and it featured, or least talked about, three monsters from the Basque region of Spain. 

While I have seen variations of these creatures from other myths and regions, this was the first time I had seen them under these names. So let's give them a bit love.

Basajaun
Large Monstrous Humanoid
Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1d4)
Alignment: Neutral [Neutral Good]
Movement: 120' (40') [12"]
Armor Class: 4 [15]
Hit Dice: 5d8+10* (32 hp)
Attacks: 2 fist slam
Damage: 1d6+3, 1d6+3
Special: Stay hidden 95%.
Size: Large
Save: Monster 5
Morale: 6 (6)
Treasure Hoard Class: None
XP: 525

The Basajaun is a type of large wild man of the forests similar in many respects to the Sasquatch and Yeti.  It also has commonalities with the Wood Wose due to it's more benign and protective nature. They are tall (9') humanoids covered in course black and brown hair. 

The name Basajaun means "Lord of the Woods". The plural is basajaunak and the female of the species is a basander.  They are suspected of building megaliths with their immense strength and keep flocks of sheep.  They are a shy and reclusive species, speaking only their own language, although a few know the local languages.  They are averse to fighting but will protect their lands if necessary. 

They can avoid being spotted 95% of the time. Often they are just confused for a large bear.  They can be recognized though by the whistling they do to communicate with others of it's kind.


By Luistxo eta Marije
originally posted to Flickr as
Izenaduba-Olentzeroren etxea
CC BY-SA 2.0

Tartalo
Large Fiendish Humanoid
Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic [Chaotic Evil]
Movement: 120' (40') [12"]
Armor Class: 2 [17]
Hit Dice: 6d8+12* (32 hp)
Attacks: 2 fist slam or by weapon
Damage: 1d6+4, 1d6+4 or 1d10
Special: Magic required to hit, evil eye
Size: Large
Save: Monster 6
Morale: 6 (6)
Treasure Hoard Class: See below
XP: 660

The tartalo is another large creature found in the Basque region of Northern Spain. It appears as a cyclops or as a one-eyed ogre. It has a fiendish glint in it's one large eye.  Many scholars of the occult believe they are connected to demons, either by birth or by actions.

The tartalo lives alone in caves. They are 10' tall and only speak in simple grunts. They do seem to be intelligent, it is just speech is beyond them. Only males have ever been spotted leading scholars to conclude they seek out young maidens as their "wives."  

Anyone wandering into the cave of the tartalo runs the danger of becoming the monster's next meal.  They prefer the taste of young men and women, especially ones that have not been baptized (or dedicated to a god).  Their tactic is to use their "evil eye" to stun (treat as a Hold Person spell) their victims. They will kill and eat any young men and anyone over marriage age.  They will keep the young unmarried women to birth their monstrous sons.  These women when then also be killed and eaten.

The only treasure a tartalo has is a fine wrought golden ring.  The ring is a curse and anyone wearing it will be known to any other tartalo in the region and they will seek the wearer out to kill them. 


Inguma
Small Fiend (Demon)
Frequency: Unique
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic [Chaotic Evil]
Movement: 180' (60') [18"]
Armor Class: 2 [17]
Hit Dice: 12d8+12* (66 hp)
Attacks: 2 claws, nightmares
Damage: 1d4, 1d4 or 1d10
Special: Magic or +2 weapons required to hit, cause fear, nightmares, ability drain
Size: Small*
Save: Monster 12
Morale: 10
Treasure Hoard Class: See below
XP: 1,900

Inguma is a demonic lord of sleep and dreams. He is believed to create incubi and can give his followers riches if they give him his preferred sacrifices, that of baby girls before two years of age.  He commands a small sect of Mara Witches.

Though small, he is a powerful demonic lord.  He can cast Fear and Nightmare three times per night. His physical attacks are weak, but he can gain entrance into the minds of sleepers, save vs. death to avoid. Once there he will invade the dreams and learn all the victim's secrets. Their sleep is disrupted so they can't heal normally nor will spellcaster regain their spells. By the third night of the invasion, the victim begins to lose Constitution points at the rate of 1 per night.  Only an exorcism (cleric) or cleanse (witch) spell will remove the influence of Inguma.  Often Inguma forces his victims into suicide long before they succumb to his draining effects. Each night the victim must make a save vs. death. A failed save means they will kill themselves.

Inguma rarely takes physical form. When he does magic is required to attack him. When he does manifest it is always as what the viewer fears the most.

It is believed that Inguma is the father, or at least the ancestor and patron, of the Tartalo and possibly the Imps of the Perverse. Some incubi revere him as their lord. 

Basque Mara witches see him as their lord and patron and will offer sacrifices to him. He rewards them with riches.

DMSGuild Witch Project: 5e Druids as Witches

Back in the days of AD&D I was really taken by the Druid.  Part of it was my own self-style Anglophilia and Celtophila, but another part was that the class was not only so very, very close to the type of witch I wanted to play, it was also a good example of taking a pre-Middle Ages archetype and making it work in D&D.  As a then fan of the work of Margaret Murray, this appealed to me.   Yes, yes I know that her thesis and premise has been booted from academics. That is fine and the way it should be, but it also works fine in my games.  

So today I thought let's have a look at Druids as Witches in D&D 5.  For the first time since 1st Ed AD&D the Druid is close to the witch archetype again.

I am still following my rules as I mentioned here.

Druidic Circle: Circle of Witchcraft

This pdf is three pages and is a PWYW price, with a suggestion of $1.00.  

There is a cover and a page of legal, so only one page is dedicated to the class.  This witch is a Druid of the Circle of Witchcraft.  The witch gains Ritual Spellcasting, a bonus cantrip, and some powers.  At level 6 there is a Blood Sacrifice option, Speak with Dead at 10th, and an "Occult Power" at 14th level. 

It is interesting, but there is really not a lot here.

3 Archetypes #04 - Druid

This PDF is four pages and costs $1.00. This one offers three druid circles, the Circle of Rebirth, the Circle of Seasons, and the Circle of Witchcraft.  

The Circle of Witchcraft has some interesting features.  You gain a familiar, your wild shape can old become older or younger versions of your self, and you gain some new circle spells.

There are also powers at 6th, 10th and 14th level (like all druid Circles). These are Coven Ward, Evil Eye and Deathly Gaze respectively. 

In general, I like this Circle of Witchcraft better than the first one. I think the first one is good for a Blood Witch like archetype and the second better for the nature priestess, Ban Drui, type.

Both could be used. 

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