Wednesday, November 11, 2020

NIGHT SHIFT: Game Design, GM's Screens and Amazon

Quick one today.  My NIGHT SHIFT Co-designer and the main author, Jason Vey, has been posting about some of the game design choices we made in NIGHT SHIFT and why we wanted to stick with an old-school feel instead of creating a new system.

You can read his thought over on his blog for Elf Lair Games.

Night Shift books

For my part, I agree with Jason.  I have played around with dozens of systems for my two Night Worlds; "Generation HEX" and "Ordinary World." 

Long time readers here will recall a time when Generation HEX was part of my magic-school project which had a lot of homes and even spent some time as a "D&D" world.  The great thing with these rules I can STILL do that.

Ordinary World began as a Cinematic Unisystem idea, morphed over to Mutants & Masterminds, and even spent some time as a BESM 3.0 idea.  I enjoyed all these forms of the setting, but none gave me what I wanted.  So one night during a huge snowstorm where I was stuck in traffic for over 2 and a half hours I came up with a new system for OW.  I thought it was great. I half-jokingly referred to as the Power of Three System since it only had three attributes.  But as I worked on it it became obvious to me at least all I was doing was creating the bastard child of BESM/Tri-Stat and Unisystem.

The points Jason makes in his posts are salient here.  Going back to a well-known system at least for me has solved a number of problems. 

New GMs Screen & Amazon

Jason just released the new GM screen on DriveThruRPG.  Grab these for your Portrait style screens.

NIGHT SHIFT GMs Screens, front

NIGHT SHIFT GMs Screens, back

Also, you can now get hardcover versions of NIGHT SHIFT from Amazon.

You can still get your hardcover and the special edition, numbered, hardcover from the Elf Lair Games store.

Can't wait to share more with you!

NIGHT SHIFT Links

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Current Works In Progress: Basic Bestiary & High Witchcraft

Work has me really busy right now, so I have been slow on getting new material out.  Either in book form or for this blog (except for Halloween).  But I wanted to give an update on what I am working on now.

I recently went through all my research notes, books, and files.  This has been a good thing and something I like to do every so often to keep me grounded in what sort of game I want.  It is far, far too easy in game design to drift away from your core principles into something else.  One example of this power-creep in games, though there are other reasons for power-creep too.  The other is scope-creep and that is when a project gets too unwieldy and becomes much larger than intended. 

Both types have hit my latest two works in progress, so I have been taking a step back to see what I really have.

Basic Bestiary

This is the "Big" project that has my focus now.  The project began with collecting all the monsters from all my witch books, plus all the monsters for Monstrous Mondays, and additional ones I have but have not published.  Once I pull them all together I had over 220 pages with 300 or so monsters with no art (yet).  For me that felt like a "good size" but I got to thinking.  Even if I edit them all and standardize them all, which is no small amount of work, these are all essentially "re-runs" material people have already seen and in some cases paid for.   That didn't feel right to me.  So I started adding more (power and scope creep!) and that is where the issues began.

For starters, I publish most for Basic-era (B/X, BECMI, OSE, LL) and Swords & Wizardry games.  Add in all the other games I post about here I have monsters in six to seven different but still largely compatible systems.  I needed to standardize my monster stat block.  You have seen it's evolution here on my blog. The current and most stable version can be seen in yesterday's Fenodyree.  Essentially a Labyrinth Lord stat block with some other information thrown in that I like to use in my games.   If you go back and look at something like the Wendigo then you can see that there are three different, similar but not the same, stat blocks.   So there is that process now going on.  Some stat blocks like S&W and OSE are great, but far too minimal for me. 

Also since the hardcover of The Craft of the Wise went over so well I decided that the Basic Bestiary needed softcover (Basic) and hardcover (Advanced) options.  Here are the covers as they sit now.  These very likely will change again.

Basic Bestiary cover, version 1 Basic Bestiary cover, version 2

For these covers, I made two changes.  First I switched to Goya's "The Witches' Sabbath" to reflect the feel that this book is mostly witch related monsters.  It also fits better with the quote I use in the Preface, "El sueño de la razón produce monstruos." or "The sleep of reason produces monsters."

I am also going with my own compatibility logos on these since they really have gone beyond one system or the other.  They are still largely "Basic" in nature, but as you can see from my stat blocks they have a little bit of everything in the OGC. 

Switching from Fuseli to Goya also was an outward sign of another issue.   I had WAY too many demons.  Not just demons, but devils and all sorts of fiends.  I also had my own demonic families of Baalserph, Lilim, Eodemons, Calabim, and Shedim.  I mean you can't do as much reading, researching, and writing about witches like I do and not collect some demons.    There really was only one solution.

Split them into two books. 

This actually works well since in my discussions with people there are decidedly two camps. The ones that use demons in basic-era games and those who don't.   This gives both groups buying options.

Basic Bestiary II, Basic coverBasic Bestiary II, Advanced cover

Regardless of whether you buy the "Basic" softcover or the "Advanced" hardcover, the material inside will be the same.  The Basic Bestiary I will be heavy on undead, vampires, fey, hags, and other witch-related monsters.   The Basic Bestiary II will cover demons, devils, and all sorts of fiends.

Right now there is no projected publication dates.  BUT I want to get BBI out and follow up with BBII maybe three or six months later.

Between those two I will also publish my "Last Witch Book,"  The High Secret Order Witchcraft book.


Going back to Rosetti for this one, a perennial favorite of mine.  The piece is "Astarte Syriaca" which harkens back to the first witch coven I ever wrote, the Coven of Astártē Queen of Heaven.

All three books (five covers) will be under my "Basic-Era Compatible" banner to indicate greater compatibility with each other and my desire to use what I consider the best or best of all the systems along with my own additions. Compatibility is key, but innovation is the driving goal here. 

The weakest link right now is The Secret Order book.  I have a ton of material and none of it put together the way I want yet.

Personally, I am really excited about all of these. 

Monday, November 9, 2020

Monstrous Mondays: Fenodyree

Working through some notes for my two current projects; The High Witchcraft Tradition and the Basic Bestiary.  One of the things is to move around some content.  Items, mostly monsters, that I had considered for the High Witchcraft book are now moving over to the Basic Bestiary.  Some notes I had written for witches, in general, are also moving over the Basic Bestiary. This one of those.

There are a lot of Celtic creatures in mythology and many have similar-sounding names and others have different names in different locales.  The Fenodyree from the Ilse of Man might be the same creature as the Brownie or the Woodwose. Or it might not.  

fenodyree
Fenodyree

Small Fey
Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment:
Neutral [Chaotic Neutral]
Movement: 60' (20') [6"]
Armor Class: 6 [13]
Hit Dice: 1d8* (5 hp)
Attacks: 1 harvest scythe
Damage: 1d6
Special: double damaged by cold iron, invisibility, teleport
Size: Small
Save: Elf 1
Morale: 6 
Treasure Hoard Class:
None
XP: 23

The Fenodyree are small fey that at first appear to be some sort of fur brown creature. They are very hairy small man-like creatures that appear like a brownie, woodwose, or even a small satyr.  Their long brown hair covers their entire body.  If they are wearing clothes, no one has been able to tell.

Like many solitary faeries, the fenodyree are very shy around humans, or anyone larger than a halfling. They are on decent terms with gnomes but do not make a habit of socializing with them.

The fenodyree lives to mow.  They love nothing more than to be able to use their miniature harvest scythe and cut grass, wheat, barley, or any grain ready to harvest.  Often they will harvest all the grain of a family in need, especially widows with young children. Like many fey, an offering should be left out for them. Fenodyree are fond of whiskey and rye. Also like most fey, they will disappear if spotted. If by turning invisible or by teleporting away.  They can use either power at will or once per day respectively.

They prefer never to attack but will do so to protect their lives. They will teleport away at the first sign of trouble. 

Friday, November 6, 2020

Kickstart Your Weekend: Dark Places & Demogorgons 5e

Ok, now this one has my attention!

Dark Places & Demogorgons 5e

Dark Places and Demogorgons for 5e
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jiangshi/dark-places-and-demogorgons-5e?ref=theotherside

Spend ANY time here and you know that I love Dark Places & Demogorgons.

This seems like a perfect match for anyone that is a fan of D&D really.
Go to the page, read up and then back it.  It is going to be great!


Thursday, November 5, 2020

Plays Well With Others: Kids Games, Dark Places & Demogorgons

Last week I talked about an Other Side perennial favorite, Dark Places & Demogorgons and using it as a central feature of a generational game. Today I want expand on that idea a little more.  While this is a "Plays Well With Others" and I normally use that to talk about how the subject be used in conjunction with a lot of other, maybe unrelated, games.  Today I am going to focus exclusively on Dark Places & Demogorgons and NIGHT SHIFT: Veterans of the Supernatural Wars, but there is no reason why the same logic could not apply to say Kids on Bikes/Brooms and other modern supernatural games like Dark Streets & Darker Secrets.

Reminder: Dark Places & Demogorgons 5e is having a Kickstarter RIGHT NOW to update DP&D to the 5th edition of D&D.  Go. Pledge now and come back here. 

Playing Kids' Games

Dark Places & Demogorgns (DP&D) is fantastic. Full Stop. But, I should say a little more than that, and I have and I will. I have even dedicated other PWWO to their Cryptid Manual.

DP&D is a "Stranger Things" like game of playing kids in the 80s, early and mid-80s in particular, when the audience for this game was the age at the time their characters would be.  It is a great game that captures a time that many remember as simpler (though I also remember trying to get "online" with a 300 baud (bps) modem...nothing simple about that!) time. 

That is the main focus of the game, playing kids and 80s kids in particular.  But that is not all it can do.  It is a great game of "mild" supernatural terror.  A lot less than Call of Cthulhu, or even Chill, but greater than say Scooby-doo or Ghostbusters. For me, it is exactly the sort of shenanigans I wish I could have gotten in to.  You know, but minus all the death. 

But let's say for example you don't play DP&D (and why not?) you play something like NIGHT SHIFT that deals with more adult matters? Not R or X rated mind you or even bills and jobs, just people over 18.  What can a game like DP&D do for you?

DP&D is such a delight. It really is. I am very fond of this game and I still enjoy playing it.  On the surface it looks like DP&D and NIGHT SHIFT could be used to tell the same sorts of stories, and that is true to a degree, but that really underplays what makes both games special.  

NIGHT SHIFT covers adults in a very dangerous supernatural modern world.

Dark Places & Demogorgons covers kids in a very dangerous supernatural world of the 1980s.

Getting the Characters to Play Well With Others

It seems to be an unpopular topic among old-schoolers, but new gamers love this stuff. They want to know about their character's backstory, what they did when they were younger.  Even down to things like what their favorite foods are, who was their childhood crush, and more.  Personally, I think it is fun as hell and I love that these newer players have so much excitement for their characters and games.

But how can an old guy like me do that and still stay true to my own roots?

Easy.  Take my characters and play them as kids.  There are a few ways to make this work.

The Flashback

This is the technique used in the Stephen King movie "It" and a couple of times on Supernatural. 

Take your NIGHT SHIFT characters and re-do them as DP&D characters.  Something I mentioned before, and it is true here as well, do not try to make a one to one correspondence between the classes. Think about yourself, what you were, and what you were doing when you were 13 vs. now.  I would not be the same "class" at all.  In fact, this is part of the fun.  What was your character back then that made them who they are now?  Were the actions of the DP&D game what made your character into who they are now?  OR, and I will admit this is a favorite, was the event so traumatic that your adult character forgot it so you have to replay it as a kid.

The forgotten flashback is a good way to build some background and then they can get XP or perk once they remember.  So in a NIGHT SHIFT based game, I'd give a character some perk from DP&D related to their "kid" class.  Nothing to unbalance the game, but certainly something to add to each character. Making them something a little "more" than they were before.

Lifespan Development

Another great option is to start as a kid in DP&D and progress to the logical end (18) and then pick up as an adult, maybe a couple of years later even, in NIGHT SHIFT.

Again, there is not a good one to one class correspondence between the games and nor would I want there to be.  A Jock (DP&D) might end up as a Veteran (NS) or even as a Chosen One (NS).  In truth, I would give any DP&D kid character some "free" levels in Survivor but allow them to keep some of the perks of their original DP&D class.  So Goths still see ghosts, Karate Kids still kick ass, and so on.  

This is the option for people that want a rich backstory for their characters, but don't want to write it, they want to live it.

Age Regression

There are also a few ways to do this one. In Star Trek: The Next Generation there was a great episode "Rascals" where Picard, Ensing Ro, Keiko O'Brein, and Guinan were transformed into pre-teens due to a "transporter accident".  Their bodies were de-aged, but their minds were the same. 

In the third season of Charmed the episode "Once Upon a Time" did it the other way around; the cast stayed in their own adult bodies but their minds were like children.  They needed to do this because only children can see fairies.   In this case, it was a spell and this also makes it more useful for your NIGHT SHIFT game.  Your character stays the same, but not your mental attributes are DP&D.

Alternate Reality

Finally, one I have been using a lot lately is an alternate reality/timeline.  In this one the characters are children.  It's not necessarily the same character, but certainly the same character in a different situation. 

Case in point I run a "Sunny Valley, OH" game is an alternate version of my Buffy RPG.  Same characters (mostly) but the differences are the characters are all younger than they were in the show/RPG, they are set in the ironically names Sunny Valley, Ohio instead of Sunnydale, CA, and it is set in DP&D's proper 1980s instead of the late 1990s/early 2000s.

Pulling it Together: The Characters

One of my better examples and I have a few, would be my versions of Willow and Tara for both NIGHT SHIFT (my "The Dragon and the Phoenix" timeline) and DP&D (my "Sunny Valley, OH" timeline).

This split allows me to different things, have different sorts of adventures, tell different sorts of stories. 


Can I do this all in one system? Of course. Especially for a game like NIGHT SHIFT.  BUT changing the system allows me to do two things. It allows me to give the different times/ages a different feel via the system.  Do I feel the same way now as I did in the 1980s? No. Do I do things the same way? No.  The mechanics are a good way to reflect it. 

It also allows me to force the players to feel the experience as being different.  ESPECIALLY if it is a game that is similar but slightly different. Like NIGHT SHIFT and DP&D are.  Combat is largely the same for example, but saves are different. Skills are different.  This difference helps mimic the feel of being younger and not always knowing what to do or how to do it. 

I have always said a "rising tide raises all ships."  Other designers/games are not my competitors, they are my colleagues. Playing games from other designers gives me new insights into my own games. 

For more details and examples I am providing some links below to other posts.

And don't forget the Kickstarter!

Dark Places & Demogorgons

Sunny Valley, OH

NIGHT SHIFT Veterans of the Supernatural Wars





Wednesday, November 4, 2020

One Man's God: Finish Mythos

Suomi Neito the Maiden of Finland
"Suomi Neito" the Maiden of Finland.
She is in the shape of Finland.

Seems like a good day to talk about fallen gods and demons.  We are also getting into mythos I know less and less about. So let's begin our tour in a country I have always liked, Finland.

I don't think it is too much to say that the myths and characters presented in the Deities & Demigods for Finland are largely, if not exclusively taken from the Finish national epic, The Kalevala.  I have a copy of the audio-book I had been meaning to listen to before this, but since I no longer drive to work it has been taking a bit longer to get through my backlist.   I have had some exposure to the myths in comparative mythology books and of course, every D&D gamers knows that Gary Gygax was also a big fan of these stories.

The Mythos of the Finish people are maybe some of the most relatable to long time D&D players since so much of them have been adopted into D&D proper.  Goddess Loviatar and Mielikki have been adopted wholesale into the Forgotten Realms campaign and remained unchanged from the D&DG counterparts. Mordenkainen sounds like he could have been a traveling companion to Vainamoinen and Lemminkainen.  Let's also not forget the Louhi, the Witch Queen of Pohjola is also an alternate name/guise for Tasha/Iggwilv.  

It is hard to say if the Finish Mythos have a more D&D feel to them because of how they are presented in the D&DG OR is because so much of D&D has strands of Finish/Kalevala DNA in it.  Those ties only got deeper as the development of D&D from the early 70s to the 80s went on.  So it would then reason that any Finish "demons" would convert over to AD&D demons fairly well.  

Except there is one little problem.

There are no monsters listed in the D&DG Finish mythos that could even be considered demonic, with maybe one exception.  The mythos are filled with Gods, but they are more background to the stories of the heroes.  The Kalevala is a Heroic epic.  So it has more akin with the stories of Gilgamesh and Heracles than it does with say the neighboring Norse myths which tend to be more about the exploits of the Gods.

So let's look at what we have and expand it out.

Page from the D&DG featuring Louhi, Loviatar and Mielikki
Louhi, Loviatar and Mielikki
Loviatar/Louhi
There is not a single male D&D player aged 40 and up that doesn't know Loviatar from the D&DG. Expand that outward and there isn't a single Forgotten Realms player of any age that doesn't know Loviatar.  She is the beautiful, cold, and strikingly topless, Goddess of Pain.  She is the intersection of D&D Dungeon Masters and S&M Dungeon Masters. she has been sexed up and everyone knows her.

Or do they?

In the Kalevala Loviatar is the blind daughter of Tuoni/Tuonetar.  The part about the cold wind blowing is spot on, but she is also the mother of the Nine Diseases.  Back in my AD&D witch playtests (late 80s) I had a witch of Loviatar who specialized in disease spells. So I do recall reading that much then in this comparative mythology book. 

There is also some conjecture that in the earliest tales Loviatar and Louhi were the same characters. Called Louhi in some areas and Loviatar in others. Though I think you would have trouble telling a Forgotten Realms fan that their Maiden of Pain is an ancient wrinkled crone. 

At one point I wanted to stat out the nine sons (or in my mind, eight sons and one daughter) of Loviatar as demon-like monsters.  But I never got it to come together in a way I liked.  I may try again after reading the Kalevala. 

If Loviatar went in one direction, Louhi went in the opposite.   Loviatar might be more popular with the D&D crowd, but it is Louhi who is more well known.  A lot can be said about Louhi and maybe one day I'll devote some more time to her. We do know that she was the model/alternate name for Tasha/Iggwilv. Which brings up an interesting idea. We know she has a son and she is the main antagonist of the Kalevala, though she also sometimes helps the heroes.  

Side note: I am sorry, the whole time writing this I keep hearing "Bring me the Sampo!" from the 1959 movie "The Sampo" or better known here in the US and to MST3k fans as "The Day the Earth Froze."  It has been my tradition to watch an MST3k movie while decorating for Christmas ever since I first saw this one. 

I do find one thing about the whole Louhi/Iggwilv connection interesting.  You have a Finish girl (Louhi) essentially kidnapped and raised by a Russian witch, Baba Yaga.  Allegorical of the Russian occupation of Finland from 1809 to 1917? Maybe.  OH! here is an idea.  The PCs need something from Iggwilv's past BUT her past is in Russia and Finland during the Victorian era.  Would give me a chance to play some Ghosts of Albion.  It would work well since the "Suomi Neito" or the Maiden of Finland is a concept similar to "Britannia" or "Éire / Ériu" and what the Protectors are. 

In the D&DG Louhi has 45 total levels of spell casting, she is certainly a very powerful character. She stole the sun and the moon for example. 

Edvard Isto The Attack
Edvard Isto "The Attack" 
The eagle of Russia attacks the Maiden of Finland.
Again her shape is the shape of the country.

Hiisi and Lempo
The closest thing we have to a demon is Hiisi the God of Evil.  I say closest, but the entry in the D&DG does not lend itself to being a demon.  Sure he is Chaotic Evil, but he seems to be more human or at least a giant. 

When doing my research I found that much like "The Devil" and "devils" Hiisi is both the name of a god of evil, evil beings in general and the place name where these beings are found.

We know from the D&DG that no evil creature can cause Hiisi damage.  Could it be that these evil creatures are his?   The plural of hiisi is hiidet. It usually translates to "malicious creature " or even demon.

Hiidet
FREQUENCY:  Very Rare
NO.  APPEARING:  1 (1-3)
ARMOR CLASS: 5
MOVE:  12"/24"
HIT DICE:  10+30 (60 hp)
%  IN  LAIR:  95%
TREASURE  TYPE:  Nil, Special
NO.  OF  ATTACKS:  2 fists or 1 weapon
DAMAGE/ATTACK:  2d6 x2 or 2d8
SPECIAL  ATTACKS:  None
SPECIAL  DEFENSES:  +1 or better weapon to hit, hide 90%, Immune to cold and fire
MAGIC  RESISTANCE:  10%
INTELLIGENCE:  Animal (savage)
ALIGNMENT:  Chaotic  Evil
SIZE:  L  (12' to 18' tall)
PSIONIC ABILITY:  Nil

Hiidet are often confused with hill giants, ogres, and trolls.  Each one is unique in that it takes on the coloration and form best suited to its chosen lair.  A Hiidet of the stoney mountains will appear to made of stone with moss-like hair.  One living in the forests will have brownish or greenish skin and leaf-like hair.  This camouflage is part of their demonic heritage and is set once they find a lair to settle in.  It does not change though as they move around.  It does confer a 90% chance that they will remain unseen in their lairs. 

Hiidet attack with their fists or a weapon. They are immune to the environmental effects of cold and are immune to both fire and cold effects including magic and dragon breath.

Hiidet are something of a cross-species between elementals, giants, and demons.  They are quick to anger and will lash out at anyone invading their lands, but they are also cowards who will avoid attacking large parties.  Their lairs are natural areas such as caves, or holes in the ground that would fit them.  They keep nothing of value, preferring to eat their victim whole.  Every so often though a rare magical item will be found in their lairs (10%). 

Lempo is a similar case.  There was a god (sometimes goddess), Lempo, of love, but of the irrationality of love that causes people to make bad decisions.  Lempo seems similar to the god Pan in many respects including his "demonization" by Christians.  Another character, Paha, is also mentioned. 

Lempo
FREQUENCY:  Very Rare
NO.  APPEARING:  1
ARMOR CLASS: -1 or 9
MOVE:  24"/48"
HIT DICE:  6+6 (42 hp)
%  IN  LAIR:  0%
TREASURE  TYPE:  Nil
NO.  OF  ATTACKS:  NA
DAMAGE/ATTACK:  NA
SPECIAL  ATTACKS:  Cause chaos
SPECIAL  DEFENSES:  +1 or better weapon to hit, invisible
MAGIC  RESISTANCE:  25%
INTELLIGENCE:  Average
ALIGNMENT:  Chaotic  Evil (Chaotic Neutral)
SIZE:  L  (12' to 18' tall)
PSIONIC ABILITY:  Nil

Lempo are nature and fertility spirits that have been corrupted by evil.  Their former function was to ensure fertility and crop growth, they became corrupted and now sow lasciviousness and chaotic behavior.  They cause faithful couples to stray and young people to behave in an erratic manner.

As spirits, they have no physical presence in the world. Though any weapon that can target ethereal creatures can strike them (AC -1).  Likewise they have no physical attacks save their corrupting influence.  The tactic of a lempo is to rest on the roof of a home to cause all inside to come under it's influence. Characters and creatures under 4 HD have no save and act in a chaotic manner.  Creatures 4hd and above are allowed a save vs. spells.

A priest of 4th level and higher can see the lempo, it appears as a humanoid shape (male or female) with a crow's head, feet, and wings.  The priest can "turn" this creature as if it were a wriath.  A result of T means the lempo has fled but is not destroyed.  A result of "D" means the lempo has been forced out of the spirit realm into the physical.  Here it may be attacked with magic weapons (AC 9), but it has no attacks to counter. 

If the lempo has fled or has caused enough damage in one village it will move on to the next one.

Lempo–Hiisi is also a trans-Neptunian trinary object along with Paha. Like many of these planetoids, they are named for creatures and characters from the underground, afterlife, and chthonic gods/creatures. 

Depending on your read, Hiisi, Lempo, and Paha could be three unique characters or one with two lesser cohorts, or the name of all such creatures.  

Finish Maiden
I have mentioned her a few times above, but the personification of Finland is the Finish Maiden.  I am not sure if there is any relation between them and Ukko's Air Maidens from the D&DG, but it does seem like there could be a thread connecting them.

"Suomi Neito" the Maiden of Finland with map of Finland
Finland and her maiden

She joins the others from nearby lands, Lady of the Mountains (Iceland). Ola Nordmann (Norway), Holger the Dane (Denmark), and Mother Svea (Sweden).

My feeling is there is a lot more to these myths and stories and like always the D&DG is just scratching the surface.  Again, this is not a bad thing.  The D&DG is not a textbook on mythology. 

ETA: I am also submitting this as part of November's RPG Blog Carnival.




Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Space Age Slap Jack and the Lords of Faerie

space age slap jack card deck
A few months back I was digging through a bunch of old notes.  We were cleaning up my game room and as typical of me, I took the opportunity to reorganize my accumulated notes. 

One of the things I found was some hand-written notes on various personages from my games.  A couple that had a very strange genesis and how I worked around to get them to where I have them now.  Vague? Yeah. But let me start at the beginning and work my way back up.

Let's go back to Christmas 1982.  I was full-on in my Star Wars fandom.  I had seen Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back a couple of times. I had read everything I could my hands on about Star Wars and I was hungry for more.  Also at this time, I was really getting into D&D. My introduction three years prior and my gift of the Basic and Expert Sets had kept me going for a long, long time.  Anyway Christmas. We would always go to my mom's sister's house for Christmas eve or close to that. Here we would get small gifts.  Nothing huge, my mom had a big family, and getting something for everyone was expensive.

This year (and I don't remember many other gifts we got to be honest) I got something that was very strange to me.  I got a deck of Slap Jack cards.  I thought it was an odd gift really, I was 13 and this was a game for little kids. But this set was different.  At least my Aunt or whoever bought it knew of my love of Star Wars and this was a "Space Age Slap Jack."

Space Age Slap Jack. Cards laid out

While I might have played it as RAW once or twice that Christmas, that is not why I grew to enjoy this set. It was the art and the overall concept.

Jack, The Lord of Aggression was an obvious Dollar Store Darth Vader.  He may have been the "star" but he was also the least interesting.  There were cards named "Interstellar Demon" and "Guardian of the Oathbreakers" and "Orbital Guardians."  The art is not fantastic, but it is very compelling.

But it was the Queen of Goodness that captured my attention.

Queen of Goodness from Space Age Slap Jack

She was a Queen. She had a glowing sword. Not a "lightsaber" a glowing sword. And she looked profoundly sad to me. I wanted to know more about this deck, the story it was trying to tell me. But what was it? It was 1982, there was no Internet, BitNet was still new and no one had access to it. So I did what I always do.  I made a story up.

jack lord of aggression cards

In a way, these cards became an ersatz tarot deck.  I would deal out the cards and whatever came up I created a narrative in my mind.   Jack was what I'd call today a Warlock. He was the great traitor of the Galactic Peace. The Queen was the young ruler of the Galaxy, now in charge after the untimely death of her father the old King.  She ruled, but Jack strove to take it away from her.  In this tale, my Galaxy had both high tech and old magic. If this sounds familiar, then yes I have adopted some of these broad strokes for my BlackStar game.

I don't think I ever wrote any of this down. The material I found was recycling some years later. 

Fast-forward a couple of years. Now I am in my hardcore AD&D phase.  While I had been listening to music my whole life I was actually "listening" to the music instead of just "hearing" it as my late brother Mike would tell me.  One of the albums (tapes really) that also captured my imagination was Led Zeppelin's Four, or IV.   The song "Battle of Evermore" on side A, right before "Stairway to Heaven" grabbed a hold of my imagination with its epic Tolkienesqe imagery. But what really grabbed me more than anything were the haunting vocals of Sandy Denny.  I found the voice of my Queen.

But by this time I had moved my sci-fi fandom and my fantasy fandom further apart. Another little tidbit. While listening to the Battle of Evermore for the first time I misheard the lyrics (as we often did in the 80s).  The lyrics go:

Queen of Light took her bow
And then she turned to go,
The Prince of Peace embraced the gloom
And walked the night alone.

But I heard: Queen of Lies and Prince of Beasts.  These names took over the meta-story of the Queen of Goodness and the Lord of Aggression, but of course, they had changed a little.  The Queen of Lies was the Queen not because of lying, but because of the only lie she ever told, a lie that caused the death of her father (remember she was sad).  The Prince of Beasts, the former Lord of Aggression was also changed into a character that was aggressive, but not due to evil, but because he was protecting the wild spaces he lived. He became more of a Beorn-like character. Their stories are linked. And don't get me started on the Angels of Avalon or the Dragon of Darkness. Though my Orange Dragon from the Pumpkin Spice Witch certainly fits that.

The Queen of Lies and the Pince of Beasts eventually became something akin to faerie lords in my games. Both are sad figures and represent the melancholia of certain heroes in various tales.

The Tale of the Queen of Lies and Prince of Beasts

A long time ago a Faerie King had a beautiful daughter. Her mother had been human and died in childbirth.  The King, being a wise King, did not blame the girl as other monarchs might have, and instead of bemoaning the lack of a son he raise his beautiful, but sad daughter to be ready to rule in his place one day.

The King's lands were beset by all sorts of beasts so much so that his Kingdom and the surrounding lands became known as the Wild.  While the King loved his daughter, his people did not. In their minds, she was the cause of her mother's death and the reason the King would not remarry to have sons.  Over time the King's advisors suggested he marry her to the local Lord who had control over all the wild beasts.  The King saw the wisdom of this and prepared the marriage.  His daughter however did not want to marry the Prince, whom she felt was an uncouth savage, even if he was a Faerie Lord.

On the night before the wedding, there was a great feast. The daughter though, not being able to stand it any longer, broke hospitality and claimed she was already betrothed to another.  When it was discovered that the girl had done something no other fey in the kingdom could do. She had lied, but no one knew this or suspected it. 

The Prince, insulted waged war on the Kingdom. The war lasted for what felt like forever. Until a fateful day when the Prince was ready to kill the defeated King did his daughter admit her wrongdoing. 

The Prince, realizing his war was built on a falsehood, left the Kingdom and was never seen by it's inhabitants again, though he could be seen roaming the wilder places of the lands.  The princess, shamed, sat by her father's side. He forgave her and within a few nights had died from his wounds.  The girl, being the only one of royal blood, became the Queen.  She has been ajust, if unloved Queen, but her subjects still refer to her as The Queen of Lies.  Her lands are now known as the Kingdom of Rain.

Queen of Lies
Faerie Lady
Frequency: Unique
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Neutral [Lawful Neutral]
Movement: 120' (40') [12"]
Armor Class: -1 [20]
Hit Dice: 14d8+28** (91 hp)
Attacks: Sword or by spell
Damage: 1d8+4 or by spell
Special: Witch spells (13th level), damaged by magic weapons
Size: Medium
Save: Witch 14
Morale: 10
Treasure Hoard Class: NA
XP: 3,250
The Queen of Lies rules the lands known as the Kingdom of Rain. Named so for rain that always seems to be falling or threatening to fall at any moment.   She called the Queen of Lie because it was a lie that put her on the throne when her father died. 

The Queen is a beautiful, but sad and lonely Faerie ruler. She is a fair and just ruler and her people thrive, despite the weather, but they openly dislike her. She has gained the enmity of the Prince of Beasts, lord of the neighboring kingdom, an enmity that has earned her the attention of both the Erlking and the King of Goblins. While she has no interest in either suitor she knows she must choose one faithfully or the curse of rain her kingdom is under will not be lifted.

The Queen possesses her father's great Sword of Light, which provides her protection as well as magical fighting prowess. However, she prefers to use her magic when needed.  The Queen turned to sorcery and witchcraft to be able to lift her Kingdom's curse. She has not but can cast spells as a 13th level Faerie Witch.

Despite her name, the Queen never lies. She is half-human and can lie, but now she chooses not to.

Prince of Beasts
Faerie Lord
Frequency: Unique
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Neutral [Chaotic Neutral]
Movement: 240' (80') [24"]
Armor Class: 2 [17]
Hit Dice: 11d8+33** (83 hp)
Attacks: Fists or by animal type
Damage: 1d8+4 x2 or by animal type
Special: Beast form, damaged only by magic weapons, summon beasts
Size: Large
Save: Monster 11
Morale: 10
Treasure Hoard Class: NA
XP: 3,500

The Prince of Beasts is an odd fey lord in he does not like the company of other faerie lords and ladies, or faeries of any status. Instead, he prefers to spend his time in the wild running with the animals and communing with them.  

The Prince appears as a huge elf lord, standing 8' tall. He is broad and muscular. He is often mistaken for a large human or even a smaller hill giant. He wears simple animal skins though nothing can hide his regal bearing. 

Like all faerie lords he has a personal weapon, a sword, he can use. But the Prince prefers to fight with his bare hands or by transforming into any natural animal.  He can shape-shift into an animal and back 3/per day in the daylight hours.  At night he chooses a shape and sticks with it till the dawn.

He can summon any animal as per the Druid spells, Animal Summoning, they will obey his calls till the death.

The Prince of Beasts is on good terms with the various Animal Lords, but doesn't belong to their numbers. He ignores most of the Faerie Lords when he can.  He has a special enmity with theQueen of Lies, though he would rather avoid her at all costs.  He is also the enemy of the Erlking.  The Goblin King fancies himself as a rival, but the Prince does not take the Goblin King seriously.


NIGHT SHIFT Content

In NIGHT SHIFT the Lords of the Faerie continue into the modern-day.  The Queen of Lies is a real estate developer living in Seatle.  She has plans for the wild areas surrounding the Pacific Northwest.  The Prince of Beasts is a Wildlife conservationist.  Their battles are less about sword and claw and more about permits and lawsuits.  Both though are still powerful in their respective realms.

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