Thursday, October 21, 2021

This Old Dragon: Issue #43

Dragon Magazine #43
It's October and that means horror here at the Other Side. It also used to mean horror in the pages of Dragon Magazine.  While the horror-themed issues would not start in earnest until the mid- and late-80s, this little gem of an issue was released in November of 1980.  

Let's put this all into context.  Holmes Basic was the D&D people were going to now to get started. AD&D was about to hit its highest levels of popularity.  The famous Moldvay Basic set was still a year away from publication.  Personally, I had just learned of the Monster Manual a year before and had gotten my hands on a shared copy of Holmes Basic that had been making the rounds.  I can vividly recall riding my bike to the burned-down Burger King in my neighborhood thinking it would make a great dungeon.  Ok. I was 11.  I wonder how things might have been different if I had gotten ahold of this issue before Dragon #114 (for reasons that will be obvious)?

But let's start at the beginning and that is November 1980. Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" is the #1 song on the radio.  The Awakening is the number one movie and on the stands is issue #43 of This Old Dragon.

One of the real joys of reading any old magazine, and reading Dragon in particular, is seeing all the old ads.  

Ral Partha
Ral Partha, a huge favorite, is up with some of their boxed board games. Here we see one that would vex me for years, Witch's Cauldron.  I mention it more below, but here is the start of what would become my "Traveller Envy."

A couple of things I noticed right away.  One, I tried reading "The Dragon Rumbles" a couple of times and I still am not sure what it was trying to tell me.  Maybe it's because I am tired.  The second one of the featured artists in this issue is Ed Greenwood.  He really was doing it all.

The grinning hag cover art was done by Ray Cioni, a Chicago artist and we are told there are more color pages in this issue of Dragon than any other.  This includes the witch art from Alan Burton and pages of Wormy and Jasmie from Tramp and Darlene respectively.

Out on a Limb covers the questions of the time. Where can I get a copy of Issue 39? Do Angels have psionics? It is continued later in the magazine. Breaking up longer articles was more common then.

Our main feature is Brewing Up A New NPC: The Witch.  This is an update to the witch found in issue #20. Though the presentation is better here.  There is a lot here to unpack.  This article is written by Bill Muhlhausen, revised and edited by Kim Mohan and Tom Moldvay.  The witch here is very similar to the one found in Dragon #114.  Again, we get Low Order Witches limited to 16th level and High Order Witches limited to 22nd level.  I wondered if this was related to the 22 level cap found in the Greyhawk supplement.  The class reads through much like that of #114 and I am hard-pressed to find the exact differences. The article covers several pages.  I have had a fairly poor photocopy for years in my research binder. It was a thrill to finally read it again, this time with color, on the Dragon Magazine CD-ROM.  Now I have a print copy.

The Witch

 The true gem for me is The Real Witch: A Mixture of Fact and Fantasy by Tom Moldvay.  This article covers what a witch could be in D&D.  It is only half a page but is punching way above its weight class and I reconsult it often.  With Holmes' "promise" of a witch class and Tom Moldavy Basic about to rock my world in just one year's time, I have often (and I mean all the time) wondered what a Basic witch might be like as penned by Holmes or Moldvay.   I have mine, but they are my witches, not theirs. Especially a couple of scholars like them.

Jake Jaquet is next with the Convetions 1980 report.  It was a pretty good year for cons.   Speaking of which Dave Cook reports from Gen Con XIII with Survival tips for the Slave Pits.  And a report on the winning Dungeon Master of the tournament play, in  He's the top Dungeon Mentzer with none other than a very young-looking Frank Mentzer.

Sage Advice covers some AD&D questions that really are new.  A brief article on D&D in Germany from a West German player.  West German, I have not had to write that in a while. 

There is a six-page questionnaire/survey to determine how good of a DM you have.  It is more of a self-guide to help the players figure out what their DM is or can do for them.  It is a tool for discussion, not actually dissimilar to the RPG Consent list.  The difference lies in who should have the supposed power in this structure.  

Len Lakofka is up with his Leomund's Tiny Hut discussing Action in the Meele Round. It is always nice to go back to these and read not just what the official interpretation of the rules are/were but what were the areas where they were ambiguous.  41 years and 4 other editions later we lose track of these things.

We get some more color with the Dragon's Bestiary.  Not only color but Erol Otus art at that.  One of the "monsters" is an Amazon.  This is not the first time we get a witch and amazon connection. There is art in the OD&D books of a "Beautiful Witch" and an Amazon together.   It is one of the reasons I like to include Amazons in my witch books.  Both for the Cult of Diana and the duality of magical and martial qualities.   

Dragon's Bestiary

I didn't find the other two monsters, the Tolwar and the Lythlyx to be as interesting. Though I did find the Ed Greenwood art credit. He created the text and art for the Lythlyx.

Philip Meyers discusses illusions in Now you see it . . .but is it really there?.  I wonder that if Dragon #43 had been my first Dragon about witches and not #114, would my witches today have more illusion spells?

Ad for the 1981 Days of the Dragon calendar. If you can find one it will work for 2026 as well. 

For our big center-piece is a Traveller adventure called Canard from Roberto Camino. I have read through it a couple of times and it looks fun. I might need to use this Summer of 2022 when I plan my big outing for Traveller.   

Speaking of Traveller.  The reviews section is next and Roberto Camino is back reviewing the latest Traveller product Azhanti High Lightning in Azhanti: Almost too Creative.   This is likely the start of my Traveller Envy.  This was popular among the "older kids" that played Traveller a lot and it just looked so cool to me. It's a game all by itself AND it is a supplement to the main Traveller RPG.    

Douglas P. Bachmann reviews SPI's DragonQuest.  While he is not a fan of the ad copy hyperbole, he does make me want to try out this game even more.  Though we are warned that with the supplements then planned that DragonQuest could end up costing you $94 to #98 to play. A very expensive game!

A reminder of our forebears is next from Bryan Beecher in the next in his series of Squad Leader articles, #5: The Fall of Sevastopol. This one deals with a battle between the Russians and Germans in the late Spring of 1942. The DM I would meet the very next year was WAY into Squad Leader and tried to get me to play a few times.  He drifted away from RPGs eventually and even deeper into Wargames and Reenacting.  Not my bag, but I could see how he enjoyed them.  This was the DM that ran me through the Slave Lords series years ago. 

An opinion piece is up from Larry DiTillio.  The same that worked on He-Man and She-Ra as well as the Masks of Nyarlathotep.  The article, Apples, Oranges, Role-playing, and Morality, replies an article (in Dragon #39) by Douglas P. Bachmann on morality in fantasy. This article works on the premise that Mr. Bachmann did not truly understand the game worlds and the responsibility of DMing.  It's hard to evaluate this response without reading the first, but there are some interesting takeaways. There is room in AD&D (and other RPGs) for both DiTillio's world and Bachmann's.  As AD&D  game progresses with a good DM there will be other solutions to deal with problems other than with "the sword" (Witchlight is a good modern example).

Hate Orcs? You'll Love this Campaign by Roger Moore details his ideas for an all dwarven game in AD&D.  Now this might strike newer players as odd' not because of the all dwarf nature, but because back then in AD&D dwarves had class limits making it a different sort of challenge.  For example there were no Dwarven wizards.  While I like the newer versions of the game and can choose any class, I personally still find Dwarven wizards a little odd.  BUT that is not the point of Moore's article. His point is how to make it work in spite of the rule of rule limitations. 

Out on a Limb continues. We get a letter from an "E. Gary Gygax" from Lake Geneva, WI. He addresses an article from Dragon #40 about buffing up undead. This Gary guy seems to know a thing or two.

The Electric Eye covers Four From Space on Tape by Mark Herro. What we have are four different space-themed computer games on one cassette tape. I am not going to be all "well..back in my day computer programs were on cassette tape and you had the CLOAD them before you could play..."  No instead I want to reflect on two things.  First. Wow, have we come a long way!  These game were designed for the TRS-80 Level II Basic on a 16k computer.  16k! As of right now this post is 8.5k and takes up 12K of disc space.  One of my new hardware projects here at home is rebuilding a TRS-80 Color Computer 2 (with a HUGE 64k).  Let's pause a moment and be impressed by how far technology has come since the 80s.   The second point is, wow, companies really were fairly open about their copyright infringement back then.  This cassette has four games, Ultra Trek (Star Trek), Romulan (also Star Trek), Star Wars (what it says), and Star Lanes which was an outer space stock market.

Dragonmirth is next with the comics. In our color section, we get Finieous Fingers, a Wormy, and Jasmine.  The art in Jasmine is so different from anything else here. This is of course thanks to artist, cartographer, and under-sung hero of the World of Greyhawk, Darlene. I think Jasmine was too "adult" for the target audiences of Dragon at the time. Not "Adult" as in nudity (we have a bare ass on page 70, six pages before this) but in content. The art is fantastic, but the story doesn't pull you in, at least not unless you were there in the start.  Sadly Jasmine was cut for space, but I would like to do a retrospective on it someday.

Jasmine by Darlene

Really one of the great issues for me and it captures a time, for me at least, where there truly was no end of the possibilities in sight. 

Minus Issue #5 (but represented my Best Of Vol 1) I have all the published Dragon Magazine Witches.

Dragon Witches


October Horror Movie Challenge: 5ive Girls (2006)

5ive Girls (2006)
I am not going into this one with very high hopes.  It deals with demons, witches, and Ron Perlman.  

5ive Girls (2006)

The movie begins with Ron Perlman as Father Drake.  He is the teacher of a Catholic girl's school, St. Marks.  One of his students, Elizabeth, is drawing a scene from the Bible where Jesus casts out the Legions of demons (is Legion the number or the name? Sunday school was a long ass time ago).  Anyway, while Drake is talking to some students, Elizabeth starts to hear voices.  Soon the door slams shut and she begins hearing the voices of demons.  Drake finally gets into the room, but Elizabeth is gone, leaving only blood.

Five years later, the school reopens with just only five students and recovering drunk Father Drake.  The newest girl, Alex, is a witch with TK and can hear voices coming from nowhere. She also sees Elizabeth walking around the halls.  The other girls also experience strange happenings.  Leah passes through a filing cabinet.  Cecilia is blind but has second sight. Connie is a Wiccan.  Not sure what Mara does other than being a pain in the ass.  No, actually her power is healing by touch. 

Former student and current head Mistress, Miss Anna Pearce played by Amy Lalonde, also can see Elizabeth.  She tells her she is trying to help her.

We get typical Catholic School Girl shenanigans. Spanking with a ruler, girls sneaking off to smoke, breaking into the third floor.  While there they find a pentagram in a magic circle. At the same time, Miss Pearce is casting a diabolic spell to try and free Elizabeth with the other five girls as the sacrifices. 

Elizabeth, or a demon, is summoned and lands in Connie, but Mara is able to heal her.   Alex discovers a book belonging to Elizabeth. 

The next day a possessed Connie tries to kill Leah and then vomits a bunch of demons into her.  The girls realize right away that Leah is possessed. Leah confronts Father Drake and he tries to exorcise her, but she stabs him with the crucifixes instead.  We learn that Miss Pierce is Elizabeth's sister. 

Legion jumps from girl to girl, killing them along the way. 

The ending is kind of neat with the demon made of blood. But otherwise fairly derivative and predictable. 

About the cover. In this movie when you get possessed your eyes don't go all black, but all white.

--

Ok, I think I need to create a category of movie, Daughters of the Craft.  These are movies made after 1996 with teen witches, usually four, sometimes five. One should be good and one should be evil, or at least misunderstood. The filmmakers obviously loved the Craft and thought that was the movie they wanted to make.  I'll go back and see which ones fit it. 


2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 36
First Time Views: 23


Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The NPCs of "The Wild Beyond The Witchlight"

Skylla, my ex
While "The Wild Beyond The Witchlight" has a lot going for it the reason, well one of the reasons, I really wanted it was because we were getting some official D&D 5th Edition stats to some classic NPCs, in particular, Skylla and Kelek two "iconic" characters that I am using in my War of the Witch Queens campaign. So I want to look at these old friends and maybe a couple of new ones too.  I'll leave poor old Thaco alone with his pipe and bitterness today.  Plus it is October and Horror month, so I really just want to talk about my favorites, the bad guys.

Who Are These Characters?

Long before the use of the term Iconic Characters to refer to reoccurring D&D characters in publication, there were names like Warduke, Strongheart, Ringlerun, and Kelek.  They appeared in the AD&D toy line from LJN and in other media including coloring books, stickers, adventures, and sometimes even the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon.   It is also one of the reasons why I have to laugh when people today will see a stuffed Owlbear and complain that "WotC is selling out and ruining D&D."  They must have forgotten the Official Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Yoyo or Sunglasses.

Of all of these characters, there were a few standouts who got extra attention.  Ringlerun, the Good Wizard would be the cover boy for the Jeff Easley recover of the AD&D Player's Handook, although many at the time did not see the connection.  Kelek and Warduke would go on to get a guest spot on the D&D cartoon.  Warduke in particular would go on to be a minor celebrity in D&D iconic circles, getting 1st Ed (well...Basic really), 3rd Ed, and now 5th Ed Ed stats.

LJN D&D Toys

We would get all their official D&D Basic and Expert set stats, not AD&D, in the product AC1 The Shady Dragon Inn.  This was sort of a Rogues Gallery for BECMI D&D. You can read my review of it here

What I would like to do here today is compare these characters from the Wild Beyond the Witchlight to their Shady Dragon Inn and Quest for the Heartstone counterparts. 

Bad guys

The League of Malevolence

Heroes are great, but give me a "good" villain any day of the week.  Here are five iconic D&D villains. I will compare them to their D&D Basic versions to see what has changed and what has stayed the same.

Kelek

First up is the leader of the League of Malevolence, our Legion of Doom for D&D.  All these characters are Chaotic Evil which tracks well to their original alignments of Chaotic.  

In Basic D&D Kelek was an "Evil Sorcerer" of course at this time a "Sorcerer" was the level title for a 7th level Magic-user.  In 5e his class has become a Sorcerer.  This actually make a lot of sense and I approve of this change.  His stats are pretty much the same from edition to edition with the exception of his Charisma which goes from 7 to 17.  Charisma is the "prime" stat for sorcerers. Here he is described as a sociopath. That tracks with how I have seen him in the past

Part of this adventure is searching for a lost Unicorn horn. Well that was more or less the plot of the only D&D Cartoon to feature Kelek.  If nothing else I am saying he is still after unicorn horns. 

Skylla

Ah. My beloved Skylla.  I was the most excited and the most worried to see what the Wizard's dev team was going to do to you.  I have to say I am not disappointed. In Quest of the Heartstone, she is listed as a 6th level Warlock. Again, this time "Warlock" meaning 6th level magic-user. I do note that the TSR team avoided calling her a "Witch" at the time. Likely due to the Satanic Panic (but Warlock is fine?).  Like her former boss Kelek, the level title is translated to Class here and she is a 6th level Warlock. It fits well if you ask me

Skylla's stats are mostly the same with some tweaks to improve what she needs to be a Warlock.  Though the best changes are in her background.  For starters, her patron is not a demon (like I did) but rather with Baba Yaga (like...I did).  Additionally they tackle the Skylla/Charmay art issue head-on as sometimes Skylla goes by the name Charmay.  It's different than what I do with her, but it works out fine in my mind.

For the record, they got Skylla as close to a "witch: as D&D 5e's rules will currently allow.  I think they did a great job with her.  Kelek too.

Warduke

I do have to ask. Why does everyone like this guy so much? I never quite got it, but hey someone out there is looking at my nearly 30 posts about Skylla and scratching their head. 

That all being said, Warduke here is fairly impressive. I think the fans will be happy.  His stats are all the same in both versions.  His Dread Helm in Basic gave him Infravision to 60'.  The D&D 5e version only makes his eyes glow red.  Well, as I have said many times, I have a pencil.

Zarak

The half-orc Assassin was just an odd dude in Basic D&D that didn't have half-orcs as monsters, let alone as a character race, nor did it have assassins.  Yet there he is on page 18 of my Quest for the Heartstone. In D&D 5 he also has some strangeness. He is a full orc here BUT he is a short one to fit the AD&D/D&D Basic orcs.  Though he is still a Chaotic Evil Assassin.  His Dexterity gets a buff in 5e, but he loses his "boomerang" dagger!

Zargash

The evil cleric is back.  He is 7th level, so that makes him an evil Bishop. Zargash is still Chaotic Evil and he worships Orcus. Stats are tweaked a bit, but otherwise he is largely the same.

Missing Evil Characters include, Grimsword (Evil Knight aka Anti-Paladin), Zorgan (Evil Barbarian) and Drex (Evil Warrior) all from Quest for the Heartstone. Fox Fingers (Thief) and Raven (Evil Cleric) from Shaddy Dragon Inn.  In might be fun to make Raven. She is evil (but maybe not totally), and in love with Warduke. She was once friend with Mericon. Who is up in the next batch.

Valor's Call

Our group of good hereos had the real chance of being boring on one hand and overly sanctimonious on the other.  Thankfully were spared the worse.  They are not as interesting as our bad guys, but they are still fun and there are still some tweaks that make them worth reading and using.

Elkhorn

Our Lawful Good dwarf might have been one of the more popular figures right behind Warduke.  His stats are the same in both versions.  I do like how they took an essentially blank canvas and made a dwarf that is not a Flint Fireforge clone or a Dime store Thorin and gave him some goals.  He is a staunch enemy of evil.  If Strongheart is the founder of Valor's call, then Elkhorn is its heart.

Mercion

Ok. She is no Aleena, but Mercion is the cleric of the group. Her stats are tweaked a bit to give her better Strength and a higher level, but the Mercion in 5e is much more interesting.  In what I feel is a real homage to her Basic D&D roots, she does not worship a god but rather an ideal. She believes that truth gives life to artistry and beauty.  It's kind of a cool concept. If I were to use her as an NPC I would make sure she never lies about anything, ever. In fact, the brutal truth is better for her than a sweet lie. 

Molliver

Molliver the good thief was not in the Shady Dragon Inn product but can be found in the Quest for the Heartstone. In Quest no gender is given for Molliver, so in the 5e book their pronouns are "they."  I like it. I like it because a.) it works for the character and b.) it will certainly piss off the ones that need pissing off.

Molliver is also the only Chaotic Good member of the party. A "Lawful" thief does not make much sense really. Stats are largely the same with a buff for Dex. They even have their boots of levitation, handy for a thief.  

Ringlerun

Our Lawful Good Wizard from Basic remains a Lawful Good Wizard in 5e.  Never as interesting as Kelek, Elminster, or Mordenkainen he was on the cover of the Player's Handbook and a popular figure. 

Ringlerun
His arm must be tired

He is still largely a generic wizard. He has kind of a James Randi in his later years look about him.  In my games he is dead; died of old age, but that doesn't really make sense for a wizard I guess.  I have some ideas forming that I might explore later.  Or not. After all he was never very interesting.

Strongheart

If I have one purely AD&D gripe it is that I rarely see anyone playing a paladin a good way.  "Sanctimonious Asshole" is not a Paladin. Neither is "Grim, tortured because there is so much evil in the world" isn't either.   I was worried that Strongheart was going to fall into one of those two camps. Or even worse, weak Sturm Brightblade clone.

Thankfully, that is not what we got. Instead, 5e Strongheart is the kind of paladin who is all about "we should get together to defeat evil because there is so much good in the world to enjoy!" He makes a good leader.  Again his stats are slightly tweaked to give him a better Strength (13 to 15) which, by the way, his D&D Basic stats were not good enough to make him an AD&D Paladin!

He was the character I was prepared to dislike the most (I have played paladins in EVERY version of D&D) and his actually was pretty cool.

It is mentioned that there are more characters in Valor's Call, off doing Good elsewhere.  They do have a solid feel of "The Superfriends" here. Not s big surprise I guess. Potential other members from Quest of the Heartstone include Peralay (Elf Fighter/Mage), Figgen (Halfling Fighter or Fighter/Theif), Deeth (Fighter), Hawkler (a totally NOT the Beastmaster Ranger), Bowmarc (Good "Crusader") and Valkeer, a half-giant warrior.  Of these Valkeer might the most fun to update to 5e.  Of these Peralay also appears in The Shady Dragon Inn.  

Strongheart and Warduke

Other NPCs

There are plenty of other really interesting NPCs in this book.  Many I plan to lift and convert back to D&D Basic for use in my War of the Witch Queens campaign.

Burly the Hobgoblin

Before D&D, a hobgoblin was more a trickster as exemplified by Puck or Robin Goodfellow. In Witchlight we have Burly a Neutral Good Hobgoblin.  Ok, I'll go with that. My favorite bit is he is a hobgoblin who wears a pumpkin on his head.  Now, where have I seen that before?

Pumpkin head

Bugbear. Hobgoblin.  The differences are largely academic.

Likewise, Chucklehead is a goblin with a  head shaped like a taffy apple.

Iggwilv the Witch Queen

Yes! Getting Skylla was one thing, getting a new Iggwilv?  That's just crazy good.

This is Iggwilv after she has left the Abyss and has been hiding out in the Feywild for centuries. Here she is also known as Tasha, Natasha, and Zybilna.  There is an interaction here with Kelek that plays so well into my plans it is hard not to use it all.  There is an interesting Maiden-Mother-Crone aspect of Iggwilv here in the form of Tasha-Zybilna-Iggwilv.

Iggwilv

Now I am perfectly happy with the formerly Chaotic Evil Iggwilv becoming more Chaotic Neutral as time goes on.  What I am not 100% sure about is her desire to abandon all her research on the Abyss and Demons in favor of learning about the Feywild instead.  But...I can live with it.

The Hour Glass Coven

I like them. Very interesting bunch of witches and hags.

The Minis

This is such an interesting group of NPCs it makes sense that there is also an equally interesting group of minis to go with them.  Sadly the supply chain breakdown has pushed many of these minis till 2022.  But I am really looking forward to them.

Kelek
Kelek

Skylla
Skylla

Zyblina
Zyblina


Looking forward to them.

October Horror Movie Challenge: Satan's Baby Doll (1983)

Satan's Baby Doll (1983)
Tonight's movie is a fairly notorious one that dates back to my VHS days.  I always saw this one in the video store, Prestige Video (long since gone), but it was always checked out.  Years later it became harder and harder to find.  I finally scored a copy this year, though a Region 2 DVD only.  Not a problem!  You don't become a European horror aficionado without some tools at your disposal. 

Does the movie live up to all the hype?  Well...let's see shall we?

Satan's Baby Doll (1983)

There are two versions of this movie.  A horror version and a softcore porn version.  For tonight's review, I am more interested in the horror version.

While the movie looks like a demonic story, it's actually a demonic, or more to the point, diabolic witchcraft story.

Marina Hedman plays the recently dead Maria. While waiting for the reading of her will her husband Antonio (Aldo Sambrell), and children Miria (Jaqueline Dupré) and Ignazio (Alfonso Gaita) explore her old estate along with weird nun Sol (Mariangela Giordano).  

The makeup effects of the dead Maria are all over the place. Sometimes she looks like a rotting corpse other times just dead. I am not counting the times she is walking around as a spirit.  This is an 80s movie, but the make-up effects are closer to the mid-70s.

Maria's spirit begins to possess her young, and formerly innocent, daughter Miria into seducing and killing her former husband (father), son (brother), priest, and Sol. So yeah a little squicky. What is it with demonic possession and incest?  

Maria/Miria goes through her whole family, killing them all. The end was not what I expected, but it was fun. 

Let's address the cover. Satan never really appears in the movie and certainly never like that.  Also our femme fatales, Jaqueline Dupré and Marina Hedman are both blondes.  The cover is obviously geared towards the style of covers popular in the heyday of early 80s fantasy.   The alternate cover is not exactly safe for most social media platforms.

Satan's Baby Doll alt cover

Again, this scene never happens in the film.


2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 35
First Time Views: 22

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Thoughts on "The Wild Beyond The Witchlight"

The Wild Beyond The Witchlight
The newest D&D 5e book is now out and so far it is a lot of fun.  I have not had the chance to read through it enough for a full review, but I do have some thoughts on it. 

It's An Adventure, Not A Source Book

Unlike Van Richten's Guide, or any of the other "name" books, this book is designed to be an adventure first and a source guide second.  The guide part comes into play for the setting, the Feywild D&D's version of the lands of Faerie, but that is the situation the adventure finds itself in.  The key piece here is the Carnival.

There are some "crunchy" bits here. But most of them deal with the adventure and its surroundings themselves.

There is a Non-Combat Solution to the Adventure

I have seen some complaints about this online and the question I have is "why are you complaining?"  I applaud the designers for trying something new.  I have often longed for a good adventure that you can get through without combat and get through on skill and cleverness alone.  Yes, D&D is a combat game and yes the monsters in this book still have stats, hitpoints, and alignments.  So you could very well murder hobo your way through it.   OR you can be more intelligent about it and try to get through it without combat.  I understand though that some gamers are not up to that challenge and might never get there.

The NPCs

I wanted this most of all for the NPCs.  I now have 5e stats for my beloved Skylla along with Kelek, Warduke, and more. I actually want to get into the NPCs in a future post. But I want to start with I am remarkably pleased with how the 5e versions of some classic villains (and let's be honest, the bad guys were always more interesting) turned out.

Bad guys

And then there are the new NPCs and among them is one of my favorites.  Thaco the kid-hating clown.  I began my D&D playing LONG before "THAC0" was a term used except informally.  And I have to say this about Thaco.

Thaco
I think he is fucking hilarious!

Are they poking fun at a certain set of Grognards, many of which are actually younger than I am? Very likely.  But look, if you can't stand a little poke like this then maybe you stay off of the Internet for a while.  I have seen some insane and stupid shit like "oh WotC is making fun of us" and "I won't buy their books."  Well, they might be, get over it, and their marketing data shows that only 5% or so of their sales are to people age 45 or over.  WotC is approaching $1B in sales now.  Not Hasbro. Wizards of the Coast.   

I am going to tell you this now.  WotC does not NEED the old-school gamers anymore. They need to cater to the Grogs and the sooner they drop that bowing in fealty to a group that doesn't even buy their product the sooner they can move on to serving the people that buy their product. 

Our season in the sun is over and that is ok.  

Plays Well With Others

There are some obvious callbacks to older D&D here and that is always fun.  It also makes adding more material a little easier with that hook.

Want to know more about the League of Malevolence or Valor's Call? Simple grab a copy of Quest for the Heartstone and use it as an introduction.  Need an inn to stay at?  Why not The Shady Dragon Inn? I reviewed it a while back and it works fine with 5e, you just need to redo the characters. Well, guess what TWBTW has? Yup.  Again, some more about that in a bit.

Given that this place in the Feywild you could easily add, and I say get a great benefit from, the Tome of Beasts series from Kobold Press. Tome of Beasts and Tome of Beasts II both have a large number of Faerie Lords that would work very well here as well as a fair number of fey creatures.

Tomes of Beasts

If you are like me you also will look at this product and think, yeah it is great and all, but it needs more horror. Say along the lines of "Something Wicked This Way Comes" or "Carnival of Souls" or even "Freaks"

As it turns out the answers are not that far away over in the Demi-plane of Dread.  The AD&D 2nd Ed Ravenloft product Carnival has what you need.  There are many parallels between both traveling carnivals and their relationship to their respective planes.  Sadly, Carnival is not set up as a Print on Demand yet and print copies are super rare.  But the PDF is on sale and the "new" scan is 1000x better than the scan WotC used to give out for free on their website back in the  2000s.

The Wild Beyond the Witchlight has a lot going for it and is something I would love to use. I might even convert it over to an old-school ruleset, say like OSE.

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Noonday Witch (2016)

The Noonday Witch (2016)
I love weird mythological creatures. I love ones that are connected to beliefs about witches.  If I can find a horror movie about one, then all the better! 

The Noonday Witch (2016)

This one is in Czech, which I believe is a first for me.  The language sounds almost lyrical to me.  I am going to have to find some more movies in this so I can hear more. 

The original title was Polednice or Полдень in Russian or, the more familiar to readers here, Południca in Polish.  

Eliska (Anna Geislerová) and her daughter Anetka (Karolína Lipowská) move to her husband's old hometown and buy a farm.  Her husband is not with them and Anetka asks when her dad will be joining them, which gets no response from Eliska other than "soon".  We learn from the locals that it has been very hot lately and many don't even have water. 

Something is obviously up and Eliska does not want to tell Anetka.

The film follows along with the folklore of Lady Midday, but in a modern setting.  I also got a solid Babadook vibe from this.  

As the movie, and the summer goes on the relationship between mother and daughter gets worse. There is steady-state of mounting terror and anxiety in this that really makes you feel for Eliska, even if you can't tell if she is going crazy or things are crazy around her.   This is exemplified by the story that Eliska reads to Anetka every night. It goes from a nice bedtime story to a perfunctory exercise.  

We get warnings from the old neighbor that "She" is back.  One day while playing in a field with other children the church bell rings out non and all the kids hide, except for Anetka at first.

One of the kids shows Anetka the gravesite of her father to prove he wasn't lying and Eliska gets a letter from the insurance company stating that her claim was denied due to no sign of foul play in his death. 

Anna Geislerová and Karolína Lipowská do a really great job here into their descents into their personal hells.  In particular Anna Geislerová in her dual role of both the mother Eliska and the witch Lady Midday.

The ending was a bit anti-climatic, but it could have gone so much worse.  

I am sticking with my original Babadook comparisons.

2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

October 2021
Viewed: 34
First Time Views: 21

Monday, October 18, 2021

Monstrous Monday: Sennentuntschi

This particular creature has been on my list to do for a bit.  I had read about this creature in connection to the succubus many years ago but never could find anything else about it.  Mostly I think due to my inability to remember how it was spelled. 

Thankfully I now have the movie to help me out. 

Sennentuntschi
Sennentuntschi

Medium Construct (demonic) 

Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic [Chaotic Evil]
Movement: 120' (40') [12"]
Armor Class: 9 [10]
Hit Dice: 3d8+3*** (23 hp)
To Hit AC 0: 14 (+5)
Attacks: 1 fist or by weapon
Damage: 1d6+2 or by weapon+2
Special: Charm, illusion, immune to mind-affecting magic, immune to poison and gas, only harmed by fire
Save: Monster 3
Morale: 12 (12)
Treasure Hoard Class: None
XP: 125 (OSE) 170 (LL)

Str: 16 (+2) Dex: 16 (+2) Con: 18 (+3) Int: 14 (+1) Wis: 14 (+1) Cha: 18 (+3)

Sennentuntschi, which is believed to mean "shepherd's wife" or "herdsmen wife," is a type of construct inhabited by a demonic spirit. The creature is created by making a life-sized doll out of clothes, straw, and whatever is on hand and then animated with the demonic spirit. 

The sennentuntschi, once animated, will act as the "wife" of the shepherds who animated her.  She will cook, clean, and even share their bed at night.  She cannot speak but casts a powerful charm and illusion effect on all around her.  The men who created her automatically fail their saving throws. To them and all others who fail, she will appear as a beautiful young woman.  If the save is made, then she will appear as a grotesque collection of rags and straw in a human shape.  Clerics of pure and good intent (Lawful, Lawful Good) gain a +3 bonus to their saving throw against this charm.

The goal of the sennentuntschi is to kill the men that animated her and return to her native plane with their souls. She can't though just kill them outright. The men must first commit an act of violence against her. This can be as simple as one of the men slapping her, though usually, the violence escalates from there.  Each of the men that animated her, typically three, must commit this act. Once that is complete she will seek to kill them or have them kill each other.  As a construct, she is immune to all mind-affecting magic but is vulnerable to fire. Cold, electricity, gas, or poison has no effect on her.

If anyone attacks the sennentuntschi anyone charmed by her will do anything to protect her including killing others.  If the sennentuntschi is destroyed then the charm is broken. It is rumored that if a sennentuntschi is created and no violence is perpetrated against it for the season then the magic holding it together dies and no souls are damned.  This is a very rare occurrence.

Animating a Sennentuntschi:  A sennentuntschi can be animated by a folk magic ritual (0 level Witch spell) known to the shepherds and herdsmen of the mountains. 

Sennentuntschi
Create Sennentuntschi
Witch Ritual Level: 0
Ritual Casters: Three shepherds
Duration: One Season, typically Summer
Range: One Sennentuntschi poppet

The ritual to animate a sennentuntschi is typically handed down from older shepherd to younger in the form of a story about how the first sennentuntschi was animated.  All that is needed is a life-sized poppet to house the sennentuntschi spirit and the three men to summon it.  

Typically this is an older shepherd, a younger one, and a boy; each representing the stages of life for a man. The ritual is then performed, usually with the imbibing of much alcohol, and the spirit is summoned.

Many occult scholars believe that the demonic spirit inhabiting the poppet is akin to the succubus or other Lilim.