Thursday, August 17, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #83

Have a look at that cover.  1984 was a good year for Chess themed things.  In October we would get the #1 hit, "One Night In Bangkok" from the Album Chess and sung by Murry Head.  In March we got this famous cover of Dragon #83 by  Denis Beauvais.  It is part of the oft mentioned Chess series that stretch to the modern day.  On the radio "Jump" by Van Halen dominates the airwaves. In the theatres we get "Against All Odds", "Police Academy" and "Romancing the Stone" as the big box office hits.  On the shelves "Dragonlance" is starting to appear and we get Issue #83 of This Old Dragon!

Letters cover the usual questions about psionics and where someone can get an article reprint.  Hang tight, you will be able to buy everything on CD-ROM in about 15 years.   There is also a letter on the longest continuous game of D&D at 100 hours.  I think the longest game I ever played was a combo Ravenloft I6/I10 game at 48 hours.

Ads for James Bond and Cities of Hârn.

Michael Lowrey is up first with The many facets of gems. Since a lot of my D&D game play is 70s and 80s fueled I always wanted to use gems as a means of storing magical energy in my games.  I never quite got it the way I wanted it to be honest (still working on it) but this article was a huge help back in the day.  It is also a pretty long article.

Ed Greenwood is back with the Ecology of the Stirge. Is it a bug? Is it a bird?  Going back and rereading these now I admire how well Ed could take even the most banal monster and turn it into something interesting.  While I used to find his "in universe" writing a little twee now I am genuinely amused by it.  I can imagine some Academy in the Forgotten Realms where monster experts debate the finer points of monster biology and killing methods, all safe in their academic halls and ivory towers.

Sign of the times.  The fiction section is not only by Margaret Weis, it is the first Dragonlance story in the pages of Dragon magazine.  Test of the Twins features the twins Caramon and Raistlin.  A lot of ink and pixels have been spilled over the effect on D&D by Dragonlance.  Whatever your point of view on this the Dragonlance era starts here and now with this issue.   The story is a pivotable one in the Dragonlance saga. So much so that I have read it, or versions of it, in other books before I saw it here.

The centerfold is the massive adventure from Roger Moore, the Dancing Hut. This was such a great adventure then that I had to rerun for my kids.  Though I combined it with bits of the 2nd Edition version that came out much later.  This one is a keeper.
Baba Yaga is such a historic figure in D&D it is no surprise there are so many adventures built around her.

Roger Moore follows this up with a simplified unarmed fighting system in How to Finish Fights Faster.  Frankly, I never used it.

There is an ad for my FLGS here, +Games Plus.  This might have been the first time I discovered them to be honest.  I used to order the hard to find stuff from Games Plus because they were the only Illinois game store that knew of that did mail orders. They were about 210 miles away from me at the time, but now they are only 8 miles. So I am very, very pleased to still be going there.

There is a Top Secret article here, but mine was cut out.

There is another ad and a long review of the James Bond 007 game.
I am a HUGE Bond fan.  My first Bond movie was Live and Let Die. It gave me a life long obsession with Bond, Voodoo and Jane Seymour.
Despite this, I have never played a James Bond game.  My loss to be sure.  I'll need to fix that someday.
My first Bond may have been the late great Roger Moore (no relation of course to the above-mentioned RM), the BEST Bond is Daniel Craig.

Ads...an order form for the Mail Order Hobby Shop to get back issues of Dragons.

In the comics section we get a rare celestial conjunction; Wormy, What's New with Phili and Dixie AND Snarf Quest all in one issue.  There is even an entry of Talanalan here.

A great issue really, if for nothing else than for the Baba Yaga adventure.

March 1984 was also a good issue of White Dwarf. Check that out on my White Dwarf Wednesday Issue #51.

Using Baba Yaga in your games
This adventure features Baba Yaga and gives her stats ala Deities and Demigods.  She is a tough one to beat too.   She has 3 attacks, 135 hp, a -1 Charisma which gives her horror like effects.  She fights like a 16HD and has the spell casting ability of a 25th level Magic-User, a 15th level Illusionist and a 14th level Druid.  Crazy.  Oh, and she has some abilities of an assassin too.

There is no doubt that she is one of, if not THE, most powerful witch in the D&D multiverse.  When she is not working with her daughter Iggwilv on Oerth she is off on Golarion dealing with the Winter Witches of Irrisen.  I would not be surprised to discover she has also been to Aglarond and Rashemen. And if she hasn't been there then her Hut has.

No one is better suited for a Basic Witch write-up to be honest.
I will use Roger Moore's stats as a guideline and use the witch rule from my The Witch: A sourcebook for Basic Edition fantasy games.

Baba Yaga, Witch Queen
36th level Queen of Witches, Daughter of Baba Yaga Tradition (She is the Tradition founder.)
Female, Chaotic (Nuetral Evil)

Strength 20 (+3 / +8)
Intelligence 25
Wisdom 23
Dexterity 18 (+3)
Constitution 21 (+6_
Charisma -1* (Baba Yaga uses her negative CHA the way other witches use positive. So +5)

Saving Throws
Death Ray/Poison 3
Magic Wands 3
Paralysis, Polymorph 3
Dragon Breath 3
Rods, Staffs, Spells 3
+5 to all saves via Ring of Protection
+ for Wisdom

Hit Points:
AC: -10
(Grandmother's Shawl +5, Bracers of Defense +3, Ring of Protection +5, Dex 18 -3)

THAC0: 4
(I know, THAC0 was not used in Basic D&D. You know what this means)

Occult Powers
Lesser: Familiar (crow)
Minor: Kitchen Witchery
Medial: Detect Bloodline
Greater: Curse
Major: Shape Change
Superior: Longevity

Spell Immunities
Baba Yaga is immune to the following spells:
Cause fear, charm person, command, friends, hypnotism, forget, hold person, ray of enfeeblement, scare, beguiling, bewitch, domination, fear, charm monster, confusion, emotion, fumble, suggestion, telempathic projection, chaos, feeblemind, hold monster, magic jar, mass domination, quest, geas, mass suggestion, rulership, antipathy/sympathy, finger of death, mass charm, Otto's irresistable dance and any spell created by one of her "Daughters" (for example Tasha's Hideous Uncontrollable Laughter).

Other Powers
Arcane Diversity: Baba Yaga may learn other arcane spells (Wizard, Necromancer, Illusionist). She can replace 1 Ritual spell per spell level with an arcane spell she has learned.  These spells must be learned like other magic-users and recorded in her Book of Shadows.

Spells
Cantrips (8): Alarm Ward, Arcane Mark, Chill, Daze, Ghost Sound, Inflict Minor Wounds, Object Reading, Summon Vermin
1st (9+4): Bad Luck, Black Fire, Cause Fear, Charm Person, Chill Touch, Darkness, Endure Elements, Fey Sight, Ghostly Slashing, Glamour, Minor Fighting Prowess, Protection from Spirits, Silver Tongue
2nd (9+3): Agony, Biting Blade, Discord, Enthrall, ESP, Evil Eye, Ghost Touch, Hold Person, Invisibility, Mind Obscure, Phantasmal Spirit, Spell Missile
3rd (9+3): Astral Sense, Bestow Curse, Circle of Respite, Dispel Magic, Feral Spirit, Ghost Ward, Lethe's Curse, Lifeblood, Magic Circle Against Undead, Toad Mind, Witch Wail, Witch Writing
4th (9+3): Abomination, Analyze Magic, Arcane Eye, Charm Monster, Divination, Ethereal Projection, Intangible Cloak of Shadows, Phantom Lacerations, Speak with Dead, Spiritual Dagger, Tears of the Banshee, Withering Touch
5th (9+2): Baleful Polymorph, Blade Dance, Death Curse, Dreadful Bloodletting, Endless Sleep, Greater Command, Hold Monster, Magic Jar, Nightmare, Teleport, Waves of Fatigue
6th (9+1): Anchoring Rite, Anti-magic Shell, Break the Spirit, Death Blade, Eye Bite, Ethereal Banishment, Mass Agony, Mislead, True Seeing, Dismissal (Ritual)
7th (9): Call the Restless Soul, Death Aura, Draw Forth the Soul, Greater Arcane Eye, Greater Blindness, Foresight, Insanity, Wave of Mutilation, Gate (Ritual)
8th (9): Antipathy/Sympathy, Astral Projection, Destroy Life, Greater Mislead, Mystic Barrier, Pit, Trap the Soul, Ensnarement (Ritual), Imprisonment (Ritual)

Magic Items
Grandmother's Shawl (Greatest), Broom of Animated Attack, Baba Yaga's Hut, Baba Yaga's mortar and pestle.

To make her closer to the version presented here in Dragon #83 I could give her the Mind Bar from +Richard LeBlanc's Basic Psionics Handbook.

Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Death to the Reptile God!

The "Treasure Hunters" group of the Second Campaign defeated the vile reptile god (in reality a Naga). They also freed many of the villagers charmed by the naga.


We very nearly had three character deaths when the Naga charmed the gnome rogue ("Erky Timbers") and proceeded to attack the ranger and warlock.  The wizard (near the ring) was badly burned by the flaming sphere spell.

Everyone though managed to survive thanks to every healing potion they had on them.

Up next?
"Rumors of a magnificent city and foul, horrid rituals! Riches and wonders - or death!"
The Treasure Hunters follow some more leads to the fabled Forbidden City!

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: Web of Wind (Silverglass #2)

We are back to the world of Nyctasia r'n Edonaris brenn Rhostshyl and Corson brenn Torisk.  Our leading ladies are still on the run from...pretty much everyone when they discover a thief with treasure riddle.  Not a map, but a riddle leading to the treasure of the ancient Cymvelan Circle.  This order of monks and mystics were destroyed when the locals believed they were practicing black magic.   Nyctasia wants to learn what secrets they had, Corson wants gold.
The book unfolds at a much slower pace than did the "running for their lives" tale of Silverglass.
In fact the pace slows WAY down. The heroes spend the vast majority of their time at the Edonaris estate and vineyard. These are distant cousins of Nyctasia, so they are not as haughty as their urban relatives and most importantly they are not trying to have Nyc or Corson killed.
Here the pieces of the riddle are unwound and their secrets found.
The treasure is not a secret cache of gold and treasure, but rather a collection of ancient books.  Nyc though notices one of the dusty, web covered books is recently missing and maybe the extinct Cymvelan Circle is not so extinct after all.

The book is a fun read and the mystery, even if slow, was a compelling one.

The "author", J.F. Rivkin, is actually two different people. One wrote the first two books and the other wrote the last two.  I am not sure who J.F. Rivkin is and I have still not found out any information about a real identity either.

The book is out of print and there are no digital or audio versions I have found.  They pop up every so often at Half-Price books.

2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
2017 Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
Books Read so far: 18
Level: Crone
Witches in this book: Nyctasia is very much a witch
Are they Good Witches or Bad Witches: Nyc does a better job at being good in this book.
Best RPG to Emulate it: For this book I have been trying the characters out in the AGE version of Blue Rose.  Despite the Sword and Sorcerery tropes, there is a strong vibe of  Romantic Fantasy here as both Corson and Nyc look for a place to belong.
Use in WotWQ: Likely, but since I am using them as characters in the Blue Rose game I am currently playing their involvement might only be as a cameo.

I have the sheets for the characters but need to get to work.  So here is a cheat.

I made Corson a warrior. Easy call.  Given her propensity to be an adventurer and never settling down I thought "Swashbuckler" was a good choice.  She also has Arcane Potential, and in particular The Sight.  This covers her feeling of unease around magic.  She doesn't see it as much as feel it.



Nyctasia is an adept, but what kind?  I gave her Bard to cover a wide a variety of her skills but she doesn't have the Performance pre-req.  I am using her Cultural Lore in place of that.  I could have gone with a sage as well, but this fits concept wise a little better.


I might give them a try in D&D 5 or Basic D&D next.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Monstrous Monday: The Olitiau

The Olitiau are giant bats. Large enough and strong enough to serve as a steed for those that know how to summon them. Most often witches, fey, and goblinoids.
Orcs will sometimes use the larger and more monstrous varieties as steeds in battle. These are often called "Orc War bats".

Olitiau (Monstrous Riding Bat) 
Basic-era stats
No. Enc.: 1d12 (4d6)
Alignment: Neutral (Chaos)
Movement: 180' (60')
            Fly: 360' (120')
Armor Class: 5
Hit Dice: 5
Attacks: 1 (bite) or Sonic shriek
Damage: 1d8 or see below
Save: F4
Morale: 10
Hoard Class: None
XP: 135

Olitiau are giant bats. Found in deep, dark caves these creatures can be used as steeds for those that know the secrets of summoning them or for subterranean races that speak their language.
Like Giant Bats (qv) these creatures can also be vampiric, though the percentage is much higher, 45%.  The bite of an Olitiau will not cause a living creature to rise as a vampire though.
The Olitiau have a bite attack and sonic shriek.  They can use one or the other once per round.  The sonic shriek is a cone 5' at it's base (mouth) and extends 120' long and 40' wide.  Creatures caught in this area take 1d6 points of damage and must save vs. Paralyzation or be stunned (unable to attack) for 1 round.  The Olitiau can extend this range to 360' long and 120' wide, but only creatures of less than 1 HD are affected then.
Olitiau do not fare well in sunlight and are at a -2 on all attacks.  They are unaffected by darkness of any sort including magical darkness.


Summon Olitiau
Level: Druid 2, Wizard 2, Witch /Warlock 2
Duration: 24 hours
Range: 60 miles
By means of this spell, the caster can summon one* Olitiau to serve it for 24 hours.  The olitiau must be treated well and given its body weight in fresh meat to eat.  The olitiau will operate as the steed for the caster and even attack whomever the caster directs it to attack.   Most often the olitiau are summoned as steeds and can carry 300lbs of weight.
The olitiau can only be summoned at night or underground where it is dark.
At higher levels the caster can summon more Olitiau.
At 7th level the caster may summon two, at 9th 3 may be summoned and so on for every other level to a maximum of 8 olitiau at level 19.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #103

1985 was an interesting year for D&D.  It saw the publication of Unearthed Arcana and Oriental Adventures.  "Deities and Demigods" had been renamed to "Legends and Lore".  60 Minutes did their hatchet job on D&D.  We were deep in what many have called the "Hickman Revolution" and indeed the third Dragonlance novel, last of the first trilogy was published.   1985 gave us a little peek at what 2nd Edition AD&D would have been like and it would see the departure of Gary from TSR.  A lot of this can be seen in November 1985 and in issue #103 of This Old Dragon!

While there is a loose theme here, the real theme of this issue is a glimpse into the future.
But first, let's start with the cover.  My copy is missing the cover so I had to pop in the old CD-ROM to see it.  It's a cool blue dragon that reminds me of earlier covers. I don't remember it at all really.

The Letters section covers the old "Photocopying service" Dragon used to offer.  Anyone take advantage of that?
Also starting next year (1986) Dragon will be $3.50 an issue.

Gary is up in one of the biggest "What If" scenarios we have all talked about.  That is "What if Gary Gygax had designed AD&D 2nd Edition?"  We will never really know, but there are some tantalizing bits in this month's From the Sorceror's Scroll. The Future of the Game talks about how now that UA and Oriental Adventures are now out the game should evolve to a 2nd Edition.  He planned out the publication order to include the new Monster Manual, Player's Handbook, DM's Guide and a new Legends and Lore (a name he very much opposed).  It should be noted that here Gary also says that a 3rd and 4th editions (or more) are not only inevitable but also desirable as the AD&D game is "vital. It grows and it changes". He said there is no likelihood that the AD&D rules will ever be set in stone.    BTW, if you want to get an idea of what AD&D 2nd Edition as-written-by Gary Gygax *could* have looked like check out +Joseph Bloch's Adventures Dark & Deep. He spent a lot of time researching and this article was the genesis of that.

Kim Mohan is up with updates for Unearthed Arcana.
We had a rule in our games, that if it was in the books it was law, even if the rule was obviously "off".  We did it this way to avoid rule-lawyering arguments over intent.  Plus the book was an impartial party. It didn't change based on the situation at hand. So I can't recall if we used any of this errata or not.

There are many reasons why people don't play gnomes.  I think this is one of the biggest ones.  All About Krynn's Gnomes from Roger Moore details the "Tinker" gnomes of Krynn.  Of course, this is also why my brother, who is now an engineer, only played gnomes.   I have to admit I REALLY disliked the Tinker Gnome idea and I hated the execution of the idea. An entire race prone to failure and explosions? You know what we call that right? Extinct.  Honestly, it was not till 3e that I could even look at gnomes again and really not till 4e that they became something I'd consider having a character for.

Like Dogs? Stephen Inniss seems to with a collection of 12 domestic breeds in A Dozen Domestic Dogs.  My favorite bits are on the armor for fighting dogs.

The Role of Books covers a few books I am not at all familiar with. Though there is one, "Dragonlance, Dragons of Spring Dawning" that everyone knows. One, "The Song of Mavin Manyshaped" by Sheri S. Tepper sounds interesting.

An ad for Palladium's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness is next.  Long before there was a cartoon there was this game. Talk about striking when the iron is hot!

Stephen Inniss is back.  He had submitted an article on centaurs at the same time another author, Kelly Adams has submitted an article on centaurs.  The resulting article, The Centaur Papers, is a combination of these two works.   They fit together nicely (deft editing) and produce a long article, but what must be considered to be the Master's Thesis on Centaurs in D&D.  At 11 pages it is no small article.   Every so often I run into someone that is really, really into some concept in the game.  I remember back in the 90s stumbling upon a website dedicated to the Bariaur race, others for different things. This article reminds me of that.  Just detail on detail.  If you are into centaurs at all then this is your "must read" article.

Our centerfold is a collection of errata and corrections for Unearthed Arcana.

TSR Previews lets us know that Oriental Adventures and Saga of Old City are on the way.  This is followed by TSR Profiles of Gary Gygax himself.



The Wages of Stress is the fiction bit for this issue. It takes place in the fantastic future world of 2007 when everyone is connected by computer.   Ok, not to be too glib about it there is a bit about how everyone's health can be monitored remotely.

The Ares section is next.

A Traveller article on the planet Tarus is up first.  Of Nobbles and Men by Paul Vernon.  He had some great White Dwarf articles around this time as well.

The Saurians is the article I used the most from this issue.  A race (with subraces) for Star Frontiers I mixed them in with the Sea Devils and the Silurians from Doctor Who to make a race of "Saurials" that I used in many sci-fi games and then later used again in D&D.   Plus it was easy to add in bits of UFOlogy to this with their Reptoids.

Roger E. Moore has a review of the Gen Con 18 designer's forum on Supers RPG in A Super-Powered Seminar.   A brief history of supers games is discussed here and what the future mught hold.

The Marvel-Phile covers three heroes I know nothing about; Armadillo, Count Nefaria and Hyperion.

Ads...Convention Calendar...Wormy and Snarf Quest.
Dragonmirth gets in a dig at 60 Minutes.



Issue #103 was not a bad issue, just not a memorable one for me. Some memorable articles and a tantalizing article on AD&D 2nd Ed.  

Curious about what White Dwarf was doing at the same time? Check out my White Dwarf Wednesday for issue #71.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Star Trek RPG Operations Manual

I am working on my limited run Trek game to start in October.  I have decided on my base system(s).  I am going with my "Black Star" idea with Starships & Spacemen as my main set of rules and adding in "Basic Era" ideas when and where I can.   Nothing against White Star, and I will use it as well, I just want something closer to Trek than to Star Wars.
I also want to use material from the Basic Psionics book.

Here is what I have so far.


Since I am using this ship I wanted to honor it's genesis. So there is a mix, at least in the first adventure of Trek and Galaxy Quest.  At least for the first act.  THEN it becomes Trek. Or rather Trek if "Where No One Has Gone Before" was replaced by "Event Horizon".
Afterall it is good enough for Jason Issacs.


The Klatuu Nebula Shipyards is not only a nod to Galaxy Quest, is also a nod to "When the Earth Stood Still" and even a side nod to "Army of Darkness".  Commander Taggart is now Commodore Taggart.  Since I need a high-level Starfleet officer to get things moving.

The "pilot" episode deals with Taggert and his band of Thermian engineers having been given 22 derelict Ambassador class ships to retro-fit with the new Triberyllium Warp-13 drive.  Many of the ships have failed and one has gone missing with all hands (trying not to be too Babylon 5 here) so now this ship, The Protector, is ready to go and Taggart has taken over command.  There is one other ship that is functional, The Mystic (another nod to it's genesis).

Here are the books (so far).


The Core Rules.


The Lovecraftian Terror.


Mostly for the Mutants.


And Apes...in SPAAACE!  Because why not.

While I have most of these in POD and Dead Tree retail versions, I wanted to print them out so I can scribble in my notes and make the changes I want.   Make them all more "Trek".

For starters, I am converting everything to Metric.  Starships are not measured in feet! They are measured in meters!  I am going with the rough 5 feet = 1.5 meters.  So I have to fix all of those first.

Plus I really like the idea of using the the Basic-era system for this.  Star Trek, the shows not so much the RPGs, are usually fast and loose with skills.  Data can do X, Y, and Z well because he is Data.  The characters will be the same way.  So simple ability checks are fine here.

Also, I need to add some Trek RPG material from various editions.  Not sure what yet, but certainly some material from my FASA Trek books.  I'll have to run them off on the copier for this.

I am setting it well past the TNG/DS9/VOY time.  Though I would still like to use these uniforms somehow.   Maybe I could do it 20 years before TNG.  I am not really planning on using many races from TNG.  I'll see what my players want.

The adventures will not really be Trek adventures per se, but more Call of Cthulhu ones.


Right now I am thinking a short run. Maybe five adventures.  A mini-series really.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: A Storm of Witchcraft

"All ministers and learned people knew that witches were real and that they had the power to harm."

A Storm of Witchcraft: The Salem Trials and the American Experience by Emerson W. Baker

This book has been sitting on my must read shelf since the year began. I have read the history of Salem and the Witch trails many times over the years and I still learn something new.  This book is filled to brim with new information.
Many books like to focus on victims, and some even focus on "the afflicted"; those that accused their neighbors of witchcraft.  Professor Baker though goes much farther than that and talks about the judges, the people in power and in particular the two Mathers, Cotton and Increase, the learned ministers at the center of this storm.

The term "A Perfect Storm" gets thrown around a lot, but here it is appropriate.  There was so much going on here that made the witch craze happen here when it was dying out everywhere else.  It really was the last gasp of a dying movement of the Old World in the New World.
It was the start of the end of Pre-American Puritanism.
In this book Salem and 1692 take on a level of cultural impact that the Gunpowder Plot of 1605 did in the United Kingdom.

The book is long, 400+ pages, and full of names. But those names belonged to people and those people left others behind.  So Prof. Baker also delves into the impact these witch trials had on the new experiment that would become America.
This is easily one of those books you can read, do a little more research or reading on the subject elsewhere, and then come back to and learn something new still.
If I have one complaint, and that is way too strong of a word, it is that the last chapter was not long enough.  I would have loved to have learned more about the cultural impact of 1692 on modern culture and how it shaped America.  But that would be a complete other book.

Prof. Baker gives us not only a well researched and well-detailed book, he gives us a book that is easy to read and relate to.  There was so much going on back in 1692 that we can relate to today.

The history of Salem is the history of America. The witch trials of 1692 are also part of America; our darker past that some (like the town of Danvers to a degree) would like to forget.

I also listened to the audio book. After listening to interviews with Prof. Baker I kinda wish he had narrated it himself.

You can find Prof. Emerson W. Baker on the web at his faculty page: http://w3.salemstate.edu/~ebaker/ and on Twitter: https://twitter.com/emersonwbaker

You can also read what he says about last year's "The Witch".
He also did an interview at Ben Franklin's World.

2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
2017 Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
Books Read so far: 17
Level: Crone
Witches in this book: None or dozens.
Are they Good Witches or Bad Witches: 25 innocent people lost their lives in the errors of 1692.
Best RPG to Emulate it: This is the sort of setting one can easily use in Colonial Gothic.  In fact, I would call this book must reading for any CG player.
Use in WotWQ: Salem Villiage, or at least the popular notions of it, is the model I am basing the town of West Haven on.  The relationship between Salem Villiage and Salem Town will be used as a basis for West Haven and East Haven.  Though where Salem Town embraces their past today (and Salem Villiage is now Danvers, MA), it is West Haven that embraces their past.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Back From Vacation

Last week I took the week off.  We were supposed to travel but a variety of circumstances killed that idea, chief among them we thought one of our bunnies, Amy, was pregnant.
Instead, we did a bunch of mini-vacations mostly up to Wisconsin.

I hit up Noble Knight Games and FINALLY re-bought a World of Greyhawk Boxed set.  I now have completely restored my original collection of *D&D books.   



I also picked up that cool looking "The Witchcraft Reader".  Full of classic tales of witches and witchcraft. Yes, that is a naked witch riding a giant bat monster and holding a snake.


We played a lot of Blue Rose and Blue Rose/DragonAge.  It is becoming my oldest son's favorite game and he has even run a few more sessions.

We went to The House on the Rock and Steampunk Invasion at the Bristol Renaissance Faire.

The biggest thing we did though was...Nothing. That's right I took a complete mental vacation. No reading. No writing. Just enjoyed not doing anything for the first time in a very, very long time.

Though my wife and I gave Game of Throne another chance and we binged all 6 and half seasons.
As of this morning, I am all caught up with the rest of you!  I don't think I'll add much to my games because of this, some things are just best to enjoy as-is rather than what they can offer me elsewhere.  Though I would not count out a possible Basic Witch write up for Melisandre.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Monday, July 31, 2017

Monstrous Monday: The Umbral

Regardless of alignment or patron followed there is one philosophical belief that unites all witches. All witches believe in the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. Witches, all witches, are born, live, die and are reborn anew.  The most horrible thing to a witch then is to come back as an undead creature. Forever removed from the cycle of life, death, and rebirth an undead witch is a pitiable creature like no other.

A witch returning as an undead creature is known as an Umbral.

Umbral**
No. Appearing: 1 (1)
Move: 90' (30')
  Flying: 180' (60')
Armor Class: 7 [12]
Hit Dice: 4d8+2 (20hp)
Attack: Wail of Lament
Damage: CHA drain
Save: Witch 4
Morale: 12
Treasure Type: nil
Alignment: Chaotic (some Neutral)
XP: 300 (450 xp if fully destroyed)

An Umbral is a witch that has died and come back to unlife. Typically this is due to some great sadness or sorrow that prevents her from moving on.  The umbral is incorporeal and can only be hit by +1 or better weapons. A weapon of cold iron blessed by a cleric can also be used.
The umbral is locked to the area of their death or some other significant area.  Sages once tell of a Umbral that haunted the grounds her coven stood even though she had been killed many miles away.
The only attack of the umbral is a wail of lament.  All within 120' (240') that hear it must make a save vs. Death or loose 1 point of Cha.  The trauma of such an attack leaves a noticeable mark on the on the physical and emotional well being of the victim.   The Charisma damage can be restored by any magic that restores lost levels.
An umbral that is "killed" returns on the next new moon.  To fully destroy an umbral her mortal remains must be burned. This is why, sages say, so many witches are burned. To prevent their umbrals from haunting them.

Scholars also mention a greater umbral creature, a Shade.
In the same tomes that describe these creatures also describe a ritual to return an undead to life.

The umbral is turned as a spectre.  A turned umbral returns in three days. Destroying an umbral, even by dispelling/disruption still requires the burning of it's mortal remains.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Kickstart Your Weekend: Cauldrons and Gaslight

Two projects that strike at the sweet spots in my heart.  Witches and Victorian Fantasy!

First up is one I should have told you all about weeks ago.

Gaslight Victorian Fantasy 3e for Savage Worlds


Savage Worlds is not my jam, but it is a really good fit for the Gaslight World.  If I were to play Savage Worlds again it would be in the Gaslight World.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/battlefieldpress/gaslight-victorian-fantasy-3e-for-savage-worlds

Next up is a board game about witches, so you know I am in!

Cauldron: Bubble and Boil Board Game


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/magic-circle-games/cauldron-bubble-and-boil-board-game

I have to admit it looks ridiculously fun.  Check out the game play videos and reviews on the KS page.

I hope to have more about both projects in future posts.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #88

August 1984.  I was headed to my Sophomore year in High School.  We joked about "1984" all year.  Yeah, no so damn funny now is it.
"Ghostbusters" and Prince dominate both the Box Office and the Billboard charts. I was getting ready to start a two-year long campaign that would change my game world forever.  Ok, maybe that last one doesn't quite have the World-changing power of Ghostbusters or Purple Rain, but hey it was my world.  So let's sit back, put on "When Doves Cry" and join me for Issue #88 of This Old Dragon.

Dragon issue #88 is the first Dragon I didn't buy.  What's that mean?  Well, I had been buying Dragons now since issue #83 and was pretty set on getting each one. Issue #88 was the first one I didn't get after my first run. It was the first chose not to buy.  Much to my later chagrin when my DM opted to buy it!

I am mixed about this cover.  I think the orcs look cool, but it just doesn't grab me to be honest.
At this point I should state that this copy I have is in near mint condition.  I know it was not part of the boxes I picked up off of Craiglist or even one of my own originals.  This one is a bit of mystery to me as to why it is in such great and complete shape.

Letters section covers a number of "What is Official" type of questions.  I used to worry about such things myself. I used to imagine that D&D Conventions were a bit like the big Boy Scout meetings I had gone too before I left (or was kicked out of) the Boy Scouts (we had serious fundamental philosophical differences).  But no one has ever in any official capacity looked over my shoulder to tell me I was "doing it wrong".  Lots of amateurs sure, but I cheerfully dismissed them.

Len Lakofka is up first with the next part of Gods of the Suel pantheon.  Here we get Syrul, Fortubo, and Wee Jas the unrequited love of my life (circa age 14).  Wee Jas, of course, grabbed my attention like nothing else in this issue. She was a gorgeous goddess of magic known as the Witch Queen?  How in the hell was I supposed to ignore that?  For years I thought this art was a Larry Elmore piece, but it is actually Jeff Butler.  I think the wide eyes are what really sets this piece off. Bella Donna indeed.
She first appeared (I learned almost right after) in the World of Greyhawk boxed set.  All we knew about her then was she was a greater Suel goddess of magic and death.
Lenard Lakofka's article though gave us the most detail really.  That is where the picture on the right is from.
What do we learn about her?  Well at this point she is still a greater goddess of magic and death.  She knows every magic-user spell and all other spells to 5th level (why only 5th??).  She can cast up to 9 spell levels worth of spells each round; so 1 9th level spell or 9 1st level or any combination.  She has 90% magic resistance and a globe of invulnerability that floats around her.
She is attractive (Charisma 20) and always appears so.
If she is anything she is very lawful.  To the point where good and evil are mostly meaningless to her just as long as you are not chaotic.  In fact she pretty much hates anything chaotic except for the chaotic neutral god Norebo; who is her brother (or half-brother) and occasional lover.  Gods. Go figure.
In the letters section in a couple Dragons later it is mentioned that Norebo's entry mentions Wee Jas, but Wee Jas' doesn't.  The editors reply that it is because Wee Jas is loathe to admit it and Norebo could also be bragging.
Also, have a look at her name "Wee Jas" or "Wee" and "Ja" or "Oui Ja".  She is the goddess of the Ouija board as well. Magic. Death and Spirits. Clever Gary.
I really enjoyed the Suel mythos and history. I always wanted to run a game set during the last days of the Suel Empire going right up to the Invoked Devastation and the Rain of Colorless Fire.  In my game of the time my world (Mystara) merged with my DM's world (Oerth).  I figured that there were so many different cultures in such a small space because they were all refugees of the fall of the Suel Empire.

Well that's it! Thanks for stopping by.  Oh, wait there is more to this issue. Flips page...wow. Look at that! There is more. Huh, never noticed. ;)

There is a lot really. Arn Ashleigh Parker is back with Physics and Falling Damage. Wow this article and the next one, Kinetic Energy is the Key by Steven Winter, lit up the letters and Forum pages for many issues to come.   We even talked about this in school. In the end we all decided that it was not worth the effort. We never read a fantasy story where the hero died in a fall. They died from sword wounds, spells or a dragons' bite.  A d6 every 10 ft. works.  Though if I were to get slightly more scientific then I would say a die type for each size category.  So something Small or smaller uses a d4,  Medium and Large a d6, larger categories go up to d8, d10 and d12. sure they all fall at the same speed (acceleration due to gravity) but their different masses produce different force when hitting the ground.

Ed Greenwood is up with the Ecology of the Rust Monster. Little bastards.


Off the Shelf needs to be recognized this time if for no other reason than their inclusion of a review for William Gibbson's Neuromancer.  We had no idea, even in ominous 1984, that we were getting a glimpse, however fuzzy, of the future. Not just a future in terms of Cyberpunk, but in terms of the future we live in now. At some point Neuromancer is going to read like the Golden Age of Sci-fi looks to us now.

Katharine Kerr is back with more Beyond the Dungeon.  She discusses moving the game the great outdoors.  For me this was covered rather nicely in the D&D Expert set. There is a part of this article that does provide a lot of use and that is the introduction of a simple skill system to the *D&D game.  Actually, it is more of a skill philosophy than full on system. This makes it a good choice for any modern D&D too, since the ideas can be used even when there are skills.  4e did a little of this too.

Some ads including this one for Witch Hunt and the 10th Anniversary box set




Yes, I had Witch Hunt but I never had that 10th Anniversary boxed set.  At the time I figured I didn't need it since I had most of those books.  Now I am kind of kicking myself.  Did anyone have it?
I never see them on eBay or anywhere else for that matter.   You can sure as hell believe that come 2024 I'll whatever WotC slaps a 50th Anniversary label on.

The "centerfold" is the crazy "Elefant Hunt" game by Tom Wham. I played it once I think. I have vague memory of it anyway.



ICE Can Stand the Heat covers books from Iron Crown Enterprise's Rolemaster series, or as we use to call it "Chartmaster".  I kinda liked "Spell Law" but it didn't fit with what I was doing at the time so I never used it.  My loss in some cases I think.

The Ares Section starts of with Gamma World and a timeline of the future in Before the Dark Years. Spoiler. That's us.  According to the timeline 2003 to 2021 is a time of ecological and economic disaster in America and Europe.  It still has the Soviet Union around, but you can't fault them on that.  We used this timeline a lot for our own D&D-mixed-with-Gamma World game.  Re-reading it now I see a lot of ideas I still use.

The Marvel Phile is intact and features Thor, Loki and Ulik leader of the Lost Trolls.  Odd, I don't remember him in the movie.

The Battle of Ebony Eyes is a ready-to-run Star Frontiers: Knight Hawks adventure. Followed by two more Star Frontiers articles.

Ads, comics, another fairly forgettable Talanalan, Worrmy,  and Snarf Quest with the introduction of VR-X9-4-M2 also know as Aveeare.

So. A really fun issue and in surprisingly great shape.

Wanna see what I said about White Dwarf from the same time?  Click here for White Dwarf #56.

Like what I do here? Pick up a copy of my newest book, The Green Witch!


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Green Witch in Print

I mentioned it yesterday, but today I wanted to give the Green Witch its own due.  It is out in print now at DriveThruRPG and RPGNow.


The book follows the same format as does The Warlock and they are 100% compatible with each other with very, very little repeated content (some spells like Bestow Curse are repeated).

In fact the goal for all my witch books is to give you a complete playable class where you don't need any other book I publish.  If do buy one of the other books then you get something that both classes can use.  Witches can use Warlock spells and visa-versa.

Each book features either a different class (Witch, Warlock, Huntsman and Green Knight) or a different witch tradition.  So each book gives you something new.


Not only can you now get the Green Witch in print, you can get it on sale!
OneBookShelf's Christmas in July sale is still going on and I have a lot of books up for sale from various publishers (and various levels of contribution on my part).

The next witch book I have due is the White Witch.  It is going to be Swords & Wizardry White Box focused.

After that, I think it will be The Mara Tradition and then The Winter Witch.

Should be great!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

New in Print: Mail-call Edition

When I get games or game books together; either via a con, or an auction, 2nd hand sale, or whatever I tend to think of them as "linked" products whether they are or not.  This is doubly true when I get a bunch books at the same time in the mail.  Like I did over the last couple of days.

Here is what the UPS man left on my door in three different boxes.


That is +Mark Taormino's latest Maximum Mayhem Dungeon #4 Vault of the Dwarven King, fresh from the Kickstarter.  The print proof of my own The Green Witch, which you can now buy in print AND while it is on sale at RPGNow's Christmas in July.   With +Gavin Norman's print copy of Theorems & Thaumaturgy Revised Edition. His PDF is also on sale.

Let's jump in!

First up is the fourth installment of Mark Taormino's Maximum Mayhem Dungeon series.  This time for characters level 4 to 7 it involves investigating a Dwarven mine.  But you know that is not all.

The mine cars and tracks look more like roller coasters and there are monsters breeding down in the mines.  I would say they are unimaginable, but in truth, they are EXACTLY the sort thing we probably imagined at age 13-14 when making our own dungeons.  Mark just has better production values.  Like the others in this series, this is pure nostalgia fueled gonzo fun.   Crazy mines, insane monsters, goblins with chain saws. Yup.  This module has it all, and what it doesn't one of the others in the series does.


OR order them this way to have The Maximum Mayhem CampaignTM for levels 1 to 14!


Makes me want to pull out my Basic and Expert books and do that!

If so then you can bet that I will be including one of Gavin Norman's Vivimancers in the mix.

Theorems & Thaumaturgy Revised Edition has been out for about 7 months and it looks like it is doing well.  That's great because this is completely kick ass little book.


Inside we have three new classes, The Elementalist (specialist in the volatile energies of nature), The Necromancer (master of death and restless spirits), and The Vivimancer (expert of cloning, vat-growth, and bio-sorcery).  All for you Labyrinth Lord or Basic-era game.
If you have the older T&T then Gavin has put up a blog post to explain the differences.


And of course, I will have to include a Witch in the mix.


The Green Witch for Swords & Wizardry follows up my Warlock class.  These are witches that protect the wood.  Are they protecting it from humankind, or are they protecting humankind from it? Maybe both.

Like my other witch books, this presents a new witch Tradition which includes new Occult Powers and Spells.  It also has some new associated classes, the Green Knight (a paladin for witches) and the Huntsman (a pagan-inspired Ranger).


All my recent witch books are for Swords & Wizardry and written not only to be compatible, but also to have very little in the way of overlap.  Obviously, the Experience tables are the same (they are all witches) and some spells are shared by all witches (Bestow Curse is a good example).  I try to make each one worth your while and moeny to buy.



And right now it is on sale. In fact nearly everything for the witch is on sale now.



Monday, July 24, 2017

The Basic Set at 40

Gamers of a Certain Age all know about their first Basic Set.  For some, it was light maroon with a red book.  For many it was a red box with red books.  But some of us had a different experience.  The box was blue(ish) and had a dragon on the cover, the book was blue and it changed gaming forever.



On July 22, 1977 the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set was shown at Origins Game Fair and it changed the face of RPGs.  Prior to this people learned to play from others that had been playing.  The John Eric Holmes edited Basic Set gave brand new players with no prior experience in either RPGs (which really meant D&D) or in wargames.  It gave us the Moldvay Basic set and the  Frank Mentzer Basic set. But more importantly, it opened the world of D&D to others.

Dr. Holmes took on the massive task of collecting what was then OD&D, edited it and reorganized it into a game that made sense to new players.  There is some debate as to whether this was designed as a stand alone game line (which it would become) or as an introduction to Advanced D&D (which it reads like).

A lot of blogs will talk about the history of the Holmes Basic Edition. A great post can be found over at +Wayne Rossi's Semper Initiativus Unum, Basic D&D at 40  and pretty much the entire Zenopus Archive blog by +Zach H.

My experiences with Holmes though are a little different.



My gaming began in 1979, before the Moldvay set, but after Holmes.  I had read the Monster Manual and I had a copy, badly xeroxed, of the Holmes Basic set.   Like many, my "first" D&D was a combination of Basic and Advanced. Still today that is the same experience I look for in D&D.



I will be honest, it took me a while to get the game down.  With Holmes D&D I always felt like there was something I was missing. I only learned later of the "Little Brown Books" and how "Basic" actually came about.  I also did not have a full copy.

I would later get my hands on a copy of Holmes to read in full.  It was an eye opening experience to be sure. I had been playing Moldvay Basic for a while and moving over to AD&D proper.  Holmes felt like a Rosetta Stone to me.  A product that could crossover between these two games.
When I got a hold of a copy of my own much later I would use it for 1st level characters with my adventure of choice, B1 In Search of the Unknown, before moving over to AD&D.

I became a fan of J. Eric Holmes work and even stumbled on vague references for a Witch class!


I had found some alternate evolution of D&D, one where Basic lead to Advanced and not to Expert. Where you played a magic-user in one and a wizard, illusionist or witch in the other.
It should come as no surprise then that my own witch class is heavily influenced by my time playing using the Holmes and Moldvay rule sets.

Re-reading my Holmes set over the weekend made me think about how much fun a box set really is.  The next time I start up an AD&D game, I'll be starting with Holmes.

I also feel the need to mention that along with Holmes the Traveller "Little Black Books" also celebrated 40 years.


Safe journeys to you Free Trader Beowulf. Hope you found help.



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