Sunday, January 31, 2010

Books for February and later

So February is usually the darkest, coldest, most dreary month on the calendar.   So it's a perfect time for some new books.  Good for me some of my favorite authors (an some I consider friends) have some new books out.

First up.  What's going on in the land of the dead?  Amber Benson and Calliope Reaper-Jones know.  The second book of the Death's Daughter series, "Cat's Claw" comes out on Feb 23.  I really enjoyed the first one and it is different than the "vampire" fare that is out now.  This book is firmly in the urban-fantasy camp and it's something like "Sex in the City" meets "Dante's Inferno".  A very different mix that I like.  What is really cool you can read this and then get a good feel for the sections in "Ghosts of Albion" Amber worked on.  I have not quite warmed up to Callie yet, but that is only a matter of time.  I like that despite her powers she is not all knowing.  She is still basically a 20-something woman living in the city and that doesn't mean she has all the right answers, or even good ones.

Here is the Amazon link,

Next is a series I have been reading non-stop since I discovered it about this time last year.  The Hollows Series by Kim Harrison.  The star of this series is Rachel Morgan, independent runner, witch, and soon to be target of a witch-hunt.  I first mentioned Rachel and her roommate the living-vampire Ivy, in Play Ivy for Me, and I still want to d more with this world.  The new book, Black Magic Sanction, has Rachel doing what Rachel does best; getting into trouble WAY over her head.  Like Callie, I didn't like Rachel at first.  I thought she was, well, stupid.  She did things all the time that got her into trouble.  But soon I figured out that Rachel isn't stupid.  She is impulsive and being drawn into plots she would rather not have to deal with herself.  Like Calli, Rachel has powers and that doesn't mean she knows what she needs to do with them.  Rachel can be a total flake, but it works for her and now I love this character.  The advantage Rachel has over Callie so far is I am 7 books deep into the Hollow's series now and only 1 in Death's Daughter.  And Rachel has that whole red-headed witch thing going for her. ;)
Black Magic Sanction is also out Feb 23.

The Amazon link,

And last up, a new author, but one I met before I knew she was an author.  Kimberly Pauley (her husband works with my wife) has part two of her YA/Modern Supernatural book, "It Still Sucks to be Me" the ongoing saga of teen-age vampire (maybe) Mina Hamilton.    I don't have much to say here since I am still reading "Sucks to be Me", but I really like what I have read so far.  Kim has a new take on vampires and there is not a sparkly on in the bunch!  Yeah I am a bit beyond the demographic for this, but it is a fun read.
"Still Sucks to be Me" is not out till May.

Amazon link,

Now here is the gamer in me.  Mina, Callie and Rachel are all sitting together in a local coffee shop.  What is each of them drinking?
My guesses:
Mina - hot chocolate, extra whipped cream.
Rachel - coffee, black, in a huge mug with a flaming bunny on it.
Callie - decaf green tea chai with soy milk.

And what happens next to put them all into an adventure.  Ok, Mina is a bit young, so it has to be something that would be good to drag a high school kid into.  Maybe Ivy is there and Mina was sent to learn from her by the head of the vampire council....too much of a stretch?  Yeah maybe.

And why am I thinking of all of these women in terms of Cortex stats?  Seems to work well.

Support these authors.  They are good people and write good stuff.

Friday, January 29, 2010

What Should an OSR Witch Do or Be?

So Eldritch Witchery is on the (far) horizon and it has been getting me thinking.
What should an Old-School Witch do?

One of the strengths of the older games, and maybe something we have gotten away from in newer game design, is trying to do more with less.  The older games had four classes (give or take) and these represented roles of the characters, it was then up to the player to detail and refine those roles and characters.

Lets look at the class "Magic User" for a bit.  Magic User does not automatically mean "Wizard".  It took me a while to get that  (I blame 2nd Ed).  We lost this distinction in later versions of the game and even in popular thought during the "golden age".  But really Magic User should really mean anyone that uses magic, whether you call them Wizard, Wu-Jen, Sorcerer, Illusionist, Mystic, Necromancer or even Witch is up to the player (but not Cleric or Priest...).  For most people this is fine.  Others want more definition to the role.
In Spellcraft & Swordplay we already now have a Necromancer.  One could argue there is a bit of "divine" magic that a Necromancer must channel to do his job.  He is still a "magic user" just a very specific one.  Same was seen in AD&D 1st Ed with the Illusionist, but that was a separate class.  Druid, Ranger, Paladin and Assassin are the same way for their respective roles.  It is is easy to see why it happens and even why it needs to happen.  So accepting there are general roles and then some specific roles where can we go with a concept like a witch?

The witch then, as a class, should be something special.  When I write for Buffy, WitchCraft or even Witch Girls Adventures, the witch is the defacto magic using class, but in a world where magic is largely unknown.  In D&D and it's clones the Wizard is the main class.  The role of the witch then should be to provide that air of mystery and "otherness" that the wizard and other magic-users no longer supply*.
*The caveat here being "in many games", there is nothing saying you can't have mysterious wizards in your game.

When I did the witch for 2nd Ed AD&D, she was basically a type of divine spell caster with access to various arcane spells and occult powers.  In 3rd Ed/d20 I flipped that to make her an arcane spell caster with access to divine spells and occult powers.  The same seems mostly true for all the other d20/3.x witches I have seen over the years.  IF (that's a big if) I were to do a witch for 4th Ed then I would up the occult power angle with access to "divine" and "arcane" powers.

Looking to games like Spellcraft & Swordplay, Basic Fantasy RPG or Labyrinth Lord I think I want to keep the arcane power base, to make her mostly similar to the current "Magic Users" in those games, but continue to shuffle to spell list to offer some differences. Add things like some minor healing spells (at later levels than the Cleric gets them), and certainly increase her ability to make potions and other minor magics.  Someone has to be stocking all those dungeons with potions and Amulets of Protection.  To aid that air of mystery she should have some powers that wizards/magic-users don't have.  Something that when she uses them the other characters need to be thinking "how did she do that?"

One thing I don't want though is class bloat.  That seems too much against the Old-School thought.  I have an edition of D&D with 100s of classes.  Actually I have more than one edition.  But an OSR game should be tight. Add what is needed and no more than that.

So what is a witch in an old-school game?
She is an arcane spell caster. So she learns her magic from other agents, be they familiars sent by powers unknown, the powers themselves or handed down mother to daughter.  She also gains certain divine magics due her ties with the natural world. This puts her at odds with more traditional wizards, who see her as little more than a hedge wizard, and clerics, who see her as a heretic to their beliefs.  Witches also gain a set of occult powers, magical effects she can use like spells, but come without study or practice.  Witches learn in Traditions (how their magic is taught to them) and form Covens, groups of other, like minded witches.

The prime ability for magic-users is Intelligence.  For clerics it is Wisdom.  Witches have been called "the craft of the wise" and I have been using Wisdom as their prime ability for years.  But I think a strong case can be made for Charisma here. This is the section on charisma from Spellcraft & Swordplay:
Charisma is a combination of a character’s personal magnetism, presence, and appearance. The higher the charisma, the more impressive the character is. Whether this manifests as an ominous intimidation or an ethereal beauty is up to the player in question.
If the witch is dealing with other-worldly agents to learn her magic, then only the most successful ones are the ones with the personality to hold their own.  I think charisma then is the way to go here.  Plus if we have three magic using classes now (magic-user, cleric and now witch) then it makes sense that each one uses a different mental stat for their magic workings.  I would say though witches still need a high wisdom in order to be successful.  Of course this leads to the all witches are therefore good looking cliché seen all too often in games and stories.  Not that I have anything at all against a sexy witch (far from it), but Baba Yaga is also a witch and mentioned in the OD&D books.  Obviously then Baba Yaga has a very high charisma, but in the terrifying and intimidation sense, not in the hot witch sense.

Why do witches go on adventures?
In the pulps and related fictions that had an influence on the fathers of role-playing games, witches occurred fairly frequently.  But they were often the means of the quest, not on it.  The heroes went to the the witch, or she was the one sending them on the quest or the reason they were questing.  In games terms that puts them in the NPC category fairly squarely.    A witch though might want to go on adventures for the same reasons that wizards and other magic users do; to learn more magic.  Or maybe she is on a quest of her patron power.  Or she is on a pilgrimage to a sacred site.  In truth any reason why a wizard or cleric would adventure is a good reason for a witch.  And let's not forget the most tried and true reasons, to become a hero or at the very least kill things and take their stuff.

Do witches belong in D&D?  Well that would depend on your own games I think.  But given all the attempts over the years, from the earliest Dragon magazines to Paizo's latest playtest, I think there is certainly a desire to include her by many.

Here is hoping that Eldritch Witchery lives up to all of that!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Monks come from Blackmoor

I have been re-reading all my old original D&D books lately.  Fun stuff.
But I caught something today that I know I have read before, but now it jelled differently.

The Monk Class was introduced in the Blackmoor supplement.
Monks come from Blackmoor.

Now I am thinking for my Blackmoor, whether I use an OSR game or 4e, will have monks.  Sure it might not fit, but it is certainly an interesting concept.

Of course when most people think monks they think Kwai Chang Caine or Oriental Adventures. What if this sect of Monks were still psychic ascetics who trained their mind and body, not so much for a higher religious purpose, but more like something from the psychic awareness boom/New Age we saw in the 1970's.  So less Caine and more Uri Geller.

Yeah, the more I think about this idea the more I like it.   New Agey, crystal wearing hippie monks with psychic powers come from the "forgotten lands" of Blackmoor.  In the community of Blackmoor they replace the clerics as the spiritual leaders, getting people to work out their problems through peace, love and understanding.  When that doesn't work, they go all Neo on you and bend a spoon on your ass.  I'll look over  the "Mystic" class again in my 4e version of the Blackmoor book and see if there are any parallels that I can make work with this concept.

Blackmoor is quickly becoming my go to place for doing some cool Old School sandbox creating.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Elmore Art for Old School

I am working on Eldritch Witchery for Elf Lair Games and I have the bulk of it written now.  There are some editing issues and I need to tweak a few of the spells and monsters to fit the old school theme a bit better than when I originally wrote them.

But I do have a question to pose to the OSR.  Elmore art, use it or not?

I love the art in the Spellcraft and Swordplay and would love to have something very much like that in EW.  I also am a fan of Larry Elmore and since for as long as I can remember (or at least since 1986) I have wanted to do a witch book with Elmore art.  It's a thing.

I know that the original version of S&S that had Elmore art was criticized and the new art is a lot better, but Elmore and witches have such a close relationship in my mind that I would not be doing myself justice if I didn't include at least one piece.

I know many in the OSR equate the advent of certain artists to be indicative of "the end of the Golden Era" (mini rant here: Yeah like the art in the LBBs was so excellent it could never have been improved on!) Which I have to say is not very fair to the artists in question.

But at the same time I do respect the feelings the OSR has.  After all if it were not for that passion 90% of the old-school/retro-clone games would have never been made and I would not have had the chance to even do this book.

So Old Schoolers, what do you say?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Ghosts of Albion updates. Gen Con and More!

I am pleased to be able to post some positive updates to Ghosts of Albion!

First, news from Eden Studios.
Ok its been a while so here is an update.

Last year I had planned to release a bunch of product - it started off good - projects were moving through the pipeline and all looked well.

Then as I sent two projects to press BEFORE GenCon I was hit with a very serious legal issue that threatened financial ruin for me personally and threatened to take Eden down with me. I can't go into too much detail about it but basically I made the call to cancel the print projects I had in the pipeline to get my deposits back from the printers so that I could have that money set aside to deal with the legal issue. It was a hard decision to make... but I didn't want to hurt my relations with my printers if I was forced to pay those legal issues before we were able to collect from distributors moneys from new releases, that would have also meant not paying freelancers and everyone else. So it was easier to just push everything back and put Eden on a holding pattern (again).

As of last week a ray of hope arrived, no let me word that - a miracle happened with the legal issue. As of March 15th I will be absolved of this issue. At a HUGE financial savings. Which means I can put the money I set aside for lawyers back into the Eden coffers to release Ghosts of Albion and ConX ETs book... and then proceed with the Books of Flesh reprints and new AFMBE material.

At this time Ive begun reworking the Eden website and will hopefully have it go live in a few weeks.

As soon as I can I plan to send Ghosts and ConX back to the printer que.

Also we are planning to have a booth at GenCon this year... with new releases (other than Ghosts and ConX ETs).

Once again I ask you to be patient. I know many of you may have moved on but for those of you who are still here... thanks for all the support.

George Vasilakos Zombielord Eden Studios

This is of course fantastic news!  So we could be seeing a Ghosts of Albion core books in stores soon and at Gen Con.

Speaking of Gen Con, I have three Ghosts of Albion games lined up.
Two sessions of "Obsession" and one of "Dinosauria!".  Details on those when I can.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Ghosts of Albion: The Cailleach Bheur

The Cailleach Bheur

It was her eyes that still haunt me.

She was abnormally tall, at least 8 ft., though that is normal if you consider her species. She was ghastly thin, weighing maybe 12 or 13 stone at the most. Her skin was a dark blue, like that of a bruise. It left the impression of having been dyed in woad for countless nights. She appeared as many of her kind; hideous countenance, with her face and body a little too sharp and too many angles. Her hair was a chaotic nest of wiry and frozen strands. Her clothing, what little remained, was a tattered rag reminiscent of a peasant’s garb of a bygone age. She stood her ground holding her staff. If she were affected by the cold then we could certainly not see it. She spoke with a voice of ice cracking tree limbs.

“Begone Protectors. These are my lands to vanguard.”
She glared at us with those bright blue, all too human, eyes.
- From the Journal of Tamara Swift

Known as the Crow of Winter, The Cailleach Bheur is deadly hag. She appears only after Samhain/All Hallow’s Eve and stays till Beltane eve. While as evil as other hags, Cailleach Bheur is more interested in eating sheep and deer than children. In Ireland and Scotland she is the personification of Winter. During the summer months Cailleach Bheur turns to stone and is indistinguishable from the other standing stones of the area.

The Cailleach Bheur was cursed into her existence back in a time before writing came to Scotland. One tale, disturbing as it sounds, describes the Cailleach as the ancient Protector of Alba, maybe even a faerie queen or goddess.

The Cailleach Bheur as a human witch
In her previous life Cailleach Bheur was a lone protector of animals and a follower of the Great Goddess. One night he fell asleep by a well. The well overflowed with the thaw and she nearly drown. She invoked powerful magics to move the water away, but in the process created Loch Awe (in Scotland) and drowning several villagers and cattle. As repentance she is to walk the snowy earth till she can feel the mid-summer sun on her face, something that can’t ever happen since she is cursed to be stone from Beltane to Samhain.

The Cailleach Bheur still protects her lands as she did before, ignoring humans unless they tread on her domain, then she kills them with glee by freezing them solid. She blames humans for her current state.

The Cailleach Bheur is believed to be at least 4000 years old.

Staff of Winter: Possibly a remnant of her former life the Cailleach Bheur carries a magical staff. The Staff of Winter is made up of holly and gorse branches intertwined to form a 7’ long staff of solid wood. It acts as a magical focus tool providing the Cailleach Bheur +2 magic to all magic related rolls and checks.

Anyone in possession of this staff can command Cailleach Bheur to leave the area by holding the staff and saying “Bì falbh buitseach!” (begone (get out) witch!). Both Cailleach Bheur and her staff will disappear after the command is uttered. This would require research into Cailleach Bheur specifically (occultism with 5 SLs) or local lore (occultism with 7 SLs).

Unisystem / Ghosts of Albion
Name: The Cailleach Bheur
Motivation: To keep winter alive, protect the local animals
Creature Type: Faerie
Attributes: Str 6, Dex 6, Con 5, Int 4, Per 3, Will 6
Ability Scores: Muscle 18, Combat 19, Brains 14
Life Points: 75
Drama Points: 2-4
Special Abilities: Attractiveness –4, Increased Life Points, Faerie, Magic 5 (+2 from staff)

Name Score Damage Notes
Bite 21 27 Must grapple first; no defence action
Claw 19 19 Two attacks per Turn
Grapple 21 — Resisted by dodge

Spellcasting 19 Varies By spell
Deflect 19 — Magic defence action; deflects spells 45º
Hold 18 — Magic defence action; delays spell
Lesser Sensing18 — Notice magical effects, nature, or possession
Volley 13 — Magic defence action; returns spell to caster
Dispel 16 — Magic defence action; dispels spell

The Cailleach Bheur as a human witch

The Cailleach Bheur by Andrew Paciorek

The Cailleach Bheur
Rank: 14 (Focused)
Physical Competence: +10
Mental Competence: +4
Health: 10 dice (20 pips)
Signature Skills: Fisticuffs +6; Survival +20; Thaumaturgy +5 (+2 from staff)
Talents: Ageless; Fear; Huge; Immunity (Cold); Incapacitating Attack (Freeze victims)
Combat: Claws and bite (16 dice)
Damage: Claw (5 dice) Bite (3 dice)

Savage Worlds / Rippers / Gaslight
The Cailleach Bheur
Attributes: Agility d10, Smarts d10, Spirit d10 Strength d12 Vigor d8
Skills: Fighting d8, Intimidation d8, Knowledge (Nature) d10, Notice d6, Persuasion d12, Taunt d8
Charisma: –4; Pace: 5; Parry: 5; Toughness: 6
Special Abilities:
* Arcane Background (Magic): barrier (wall of ice), blast (cold wind), deflection (winds), fly (ride the winds), obscure (create snow storm) (50 Power Points)
* Claws: Str+2
* Curse: Like a hag, the Cilleach can curse one enemy within sight each round. The target must make a Spirit roll or be Shaken.
* Fear: Anyone seeing the Cailleach must make a Guts roll at -1.

In honor of post #114 of my blog I put up the cover from Dragon Magazine #114 by David Martin, called "Spirit of the Night".  This issue featured the witch NPC class and the first time I ever saw the class.  From October 1986. Caused quite a stir back then I recall.

The other picture is the Cailleach Bheur by Andrew Paciorek at

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Gamers for Haiti

OneBookShelf (RPGNow and DriveThruRPG) are donating money to support relief efforts in Haiti, in particular Doctors without Borders. Now I have always admired Doctors without Borders and their mission.  I have also always admired how the gamer community when asked will step right up and give all they can.

The link to donate is here:

As of this morning gamers had helped raise a little over $47,000 dollars.  That is up from the $35,000 when I bought mine last night.

So for my $20 donation I got the following (and I could have gotten more):

17 Archer Feats
17 Bard Spells
17 Magic Shields
17 Monk Feats
17 Rogue Feats
Adventurer Essentials: Holy Water
API Demon Codex: Lochs
API Demon Pack 01
Apocalypse Prevention, Inc.
API Worldwide: Canada
Ápocrypha - Myths of the World
BASH! Basic Action Super Heroes (New and Improved)
Beast Hunters RPG
Behind the Monsters: Skeleton
Best of The Rifter
Bits of Darkness: Dungeons
Bits of Magicka: Pocket Items
Blood Games II
Blood of the Innocent: A Savage Worlds mission set in the jungles of Evil
Book of Races
C&C Arms and Armor
C&C Shadows of the Halfling Hall
Castlemourn Campaign Setting
Chronica Feudalis
Class options volume II: Paladins Prevail!
Classic Spycraft: Shadowforce Archer Worldbook
Classic Spycraft: Spycraft Espionage Handbook
Colonial Gothic: Secrets
COPPER DRAGON: Basic Dungeons 1
Counter Collection 4th Edition Paragon 1
Creatures of the Wastelands: A Menagerie of Mutants and Mutations (Revised Edition)
Damnation Decade
Diana: Warrior Princess
Divine Homelands
Divine Quests
Dork Covenant
DRAGONSHIRE: City Interiors
Fantastic Maps: The Dragon's Lair
Fantasy Firearms
Fantasy Women Clipart JPEG 7
For the Love of Dungeons
Full Light, Full Steam
Hollow Earth Expedition Earth Drill
Interface Zero: Modern20 edition
Karma Roleplaying System Core Rules Book
Kiddy counters
Kids, Castles & Caves
Kobold Quarterly 11
Labyrinths & Lycanthropes
Lady's Rock
Liber Sodalitas: The Dream Healers (Pathfinder edition)
London Fires module A101 for Fellowship of the White Star
MADS Role Playing Game
MARS: Savage Worlds Edition
No Dignity in Death: The Three Brides
Open Game Table - The Anthology of Roleplaying Game Blogs, Vol. 1
Pimp My Paladin
Privateers and Pirates
QAGS Second Edition
Roma Imperious
Rugged Adventures
S.C.A.R.E. Vol. 2-Viesca Melin Aella
Seven Leagues roleplaying game of Faerie
Slivers of Dawn
Spirit of the Season
Summerland Revised and Expanded Edition
Tales of Wyn D'mere Role Playing Game!
The Book of The Dead
The Fate of Inglemia - Superlink Edition
The Kerberos Club
The Lunar Scrolls
The Otherworld
Three Sixteen
Thrilling Tales 2nd Edition (Savage Worlds)
Trail of Cthulhu Player's Guide
Turris Lemurum : Tower of Ghosts
Unorthodox Sorcerers
Valherjar: The Chosen Slain Core Rulebook
Vampire Castle
Wyrd of Questhaven (PFRPG)
WorldWorksGames / Wormhole
WorldWorksGames / UrbanMayhem: Streets of Mayhem
[PFRPG] The Book of Arcane Magic
[Savage Worlds] Strike Force 7 - Savaged!
WorldWorksGames / DungeonLinX: Dragon God

Retail worth, a little more than $660.00.

Not bad for a great cause like "Doctors without Borders".

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Gen Con 2010: What games should I run?

I am behind in getting my games ready for Gen Con this year, but WAY ahead of where I was last year.

I am going to run three Ghosts of Albion games. But I have some questions.

When is the best time YOU like to play a game at Gen Con?
I had a couple of 7:00pm games and they were good, but one was under attended. I think it was more to do with the fact that I got it in so late than the time of day.

Next Question: What Games should I run?
I am going to be running games of Ghosts of Albion.

Here is the one I know I am going to run:

Ghosts of Albion: Obsession
There is trouble at the Plough Street Theatre. The Times reports that authorities have found the strangled body of prominent actress and performer, Miriam White. However Miss White has herself commented to The Times that she is in fact alive and well and has been seen not only on stage, but having lunch with her manager just outside the theatre. You are requested by James V. Harold, esq., owner of the Plough Street Theatre to discreetly investigate this matter.

Then here are my other choices:

Ghosts of Albion: Dinosauria!
New Year's Eve, 1853.
You are cordially invited to a special and most unique diner party.  You will be the guests of Richard Owen as he unveils the most exciting scientific discovery of our time.  You will behold Owen's incredible Dinosauria!


Ghosts of Albion: Wilderness
Based on a story by Christopher Golden and Amber Benson
No everyone is motivated by progress. When lumberjacks and mill workers begin to go missing and some turn up dead by mysterious means, then it is up to the Protectors of Albion to find the cause and put it to an end.

Both Dinosauria and Wilderness need a little more work.  But I am going to submit Obsession later today.

Let me know what you want to see!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Ghosts of Albion: Child Spirits

Child Spirits

It was nestled in the crook of an old oak tree, wrapped in filthy rags that barely covered its naked flesh. Its mewling caught my attention first, as I thought it was some animal injured and taking refuge from the cold. When I saw it was child my heart broke. It was dead. Of that there was never a doubt, but yet it clutched its tattered blanket and whimpered in tiny voice. "Please" was all it said. "Please, milady. Please help me."
- From The Journal of Tamara Swift

We learned that the creature was called a Navky or an Utburd by the local immigrant population. Never had I seen such sorrow in Tamara, nor have I seen such rage in her when we learned the poor babe had been left out to die. The land itself reacted in violent fits to her mood. I fear to speculate what would have happened the woman who had murdered the child had I not been there to calm Tamara. After we had laid the spirit to rest Tamara sequestered herself to her rooms for three days, weeping.
- Additional comments by William Swift

Rarely is there a tragedy as the death of a child. To have such innocence lost long before its time or to have so much potential snuffed out like a candle stands as the strongest example that the world is a cold, uncaring place. The sad truth though is that hundreds of children die in the streets of London all the time. Plague, sickness, the elements or starving to death are not uncommon, but the tragedy remains.

When a child is murdered, then no clearer of example of true evil could be found.

That is why the ghosts of children are both horrifying and pitiful creatures. If a child dies before its time there is a chance that it can come back as a ghost. In addition to the types of ghosts described in the Ghosts of Albion Core Book children can also return as a Navky or an Utburd. Both types of ghosts are more common to Eastern Europe, but as England takes its rightful place as ruler of the world, other cultures will come to England.

While it is often difficult to discern one from the other by looks alone and even people from different countries call them by different names, some assumptions can be made.

A Navky results when a child dies before they are baptized. They radiate fear and sorrow from their inability to move on. An Utburd is much worse. When a child is killed by his own mother the restless spirit can come back to exact their vengeance. Both have their own forms of Unique Kill.

When child dies without being baptized its spirit can return as a navky (NAHv-kee). This spirit is more common among the Eastern European immigrants to London who have retained their Catholic upbringing. The navky does not harm anyone, at least not intentionally, but does radiate an aura of utter despair around it. The only way to grant the spirit babe rest is to disinter the body and have a Catholic Priest (a rare find in Anglican London) perform a baptism and a last rites. This counts as a Unique Kill and any other means, including exorcisms, will only displace the spirit.

Like all ghosts the navky can only be seen by the magically sensitive.

Name: Navky
Motivation: To seek their final rest
Creature Type: Ghost
Attributes: Str (0), Dex (0), Con (0), Int 1, Per 1, Will 4
Ability Scores: Muscle (NA), Combat (NA), Brains 10

Life Points: (NA)
Drama Points: 1

Special Abilities: Attractiveness 1, Cause Sorrow (like Fear, only Nerves of Steel is not applied), Ghost, Incorporeal, Telekinesis 1, Unique Kill

Name Score Damage Notes
 Telekinesis 8 Varies

The Sorrow caused by the Navky is the same as fear (even using a fear check) but there is no sense of horror or terror, but one of deep, profound saddness. Instead of running away in fright, a character might drop to their knees crying.
The Unique Kill for Navky differs, but most often one needs a preist (or some other religous offical of the same religion as the mother) to bless the child. Once that is done the child-ghost will move on.

Where the navky is pitiful, the utburd (OOT-bird) is reviled, but still not removed from our pity. Like the revenants of Dickens famous tale, the utburd is locked to this realm to perform a task. The task is to get revenge on the mother who killed it.

Its name comes from an old Scandinavian word meaning the child who was carried outside, meaning many were originated from children left out to die from exposure. The utburd appears as it did at the time of death, so if the child was drowned, then it appears to be bloated and water-logged. Its only goal is to get justice on their mother and murderer. So killing the mother is not their goal, but rather to have her arrested and convicted on charges of the murder. The utburd will work through human agents when it can via possession, but once they no longer have use for them they will cast them aside of get them killed in order to move to another body. An exorcism will force them out, but they will only possess another body. When so possessed the person is capable of great feats of strength (add the utburds Willpower to the Strength of the person possessed. There is no corresponding increase in Life Points though.)

Some occult scholars say that the presence of an utburd can be detected by ravens and rooks and they constantly fly around them waiting for the carnage to come. The utburd radiates an aura of fear wherever it goes.

If the mother is killed after the utburd comes back, but before she can be charged with this crime they will go on a killing rampage till the first light of dawn, then their souls are released to the realms of the dead. If the mother is arrested and charged with the crime the utburd will simply and peacefully pass on.

Like all ghosts the utburd can only be seen by the magically sensitive, but its murderer and immediate family can see it as well.

Name: Utburd
Motivation: To get revenge on their murderer
Creature Type: Ghost
Attributes: Str (0), Dex (0), Con (0), Int 2, Per 3, Will 7
Ability Scores: Muscle (NA), Combat (NA), Brains 16

Life Points: (NA)
Drama Points: 1

Special Abilities: Attractiveness 2 (when visible), Cause Fear, Ghost, Incorporeal, Telekinesis 6, Unique Kill

Name Score Damage Notes
Telekinesis 16 Varies

Stats for Savage World / Gaslight / Rippers

Attributes: Agility -, Smarts d4, Spirit d8, Strength -, Vigor -
Skills: Intimidation d8
Charisma: +0, Pace: -; Perry: -; Toughness: -
Special Abilities:
* Aethereal: Only magical attacks can affect Navky, but only it's Unique Kill can actually kill it.
* Sorrow: Navky radiate sorrow, forcing anyone that sees it to make a Guts roll.
*Unique Kill: A Navky can only be put to rest by a priest giving it a blessing.

Attributes: Agility -, Smarts d4, Spirit d12, Strength -, Vigor -
Skills: Intimidation d12
Charisma: +0, Pace: -; Perry: -; Toughness: -
Special Abilities:
* Aethereal: Only magical attacks can affect Utburd, but only it's Unique Kill can actually kill it.
* Fear: The Utburd radiates fear, forcing anyone that sees it to make a Guts roll.
*Unique Kill: An Utburd can only be put to rest once the parent that killed them is brought to justice.

Stats for Victoriana

Rank: 1
Physical Competence: -
Mental Competence: 3
Health: -
Signature Skills: -
Talents: Ageless; Fear (Flee); Rise Again
Combat: Telekinesis at Mental Competence.

Special: Must receive a blessing from a priest of the Aluminat Church to be killed.

Rank: 3
Physical Competence: -
Mental Competence: 5
Health: -
Signature Skills: -
Talents: Ageless; Fear (Flee); Possession (like Demonic Possession, p. 279); Rise Again; Unstoppable
Combat: Telekinesis at Mental Competence.

Special: Must get murderer to justice to be killed.

Note: Both these creatures originally appeared in Apparitions a supplement for the 2ned Edition of the Chill RPG. These are not converted from those, but rather inspired by them (so they dont follow the rules I set out for converting between Chill and Unisystem).

Friday, January 15, 2010

Batgirl and Batwoman

So growing up my first super herione crush had to be Yvonne Craig's Batgirl.  Was it the red hair? The form-fitting purple body suit? Or that fact that she not only was ass-kicking heroine, but also smart as hell?  Maybe it was the motorcycle.  Either way Batgirl always had a place in my heart.

I was in college and remember reading "The Killing Joke", maybe one of the post pivotable comics in DC's history.  The Joker decided up his game and shoots Barbara Gordon, paralyzing her from the waist down.  One can argue the "Women in Refrigerators" angle here (Barbara is reduce to nothing more than a prop to get to Gordon and Batman), but the counterpoint is as Oracle, Barbara may be more powerful than she ever was as Batgirl.

There is a story out there, I guess from Paul Dini (who I am a fan of), about reviving Batgirl with a new red-on-black outfit. But that idea was rejected in favor of keeping Babs as Oracle.  I have to admit, I support that choice.  It keeps Barbara in a place where she can do some serious damage to the criminal element and it gave us a new Batwoman.

The Batwoman

In "52" when Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman were away, other super heroes stepped up to take their places. One, was a figure patrolling the streets of Gotham protecting her from Intergang.

I won't get into too much detail here, but check out her Wikipedia page for more information if you like,  She is also playing a major role in the on-going "Batman R.I.P./Battle for the Cowl" storyline going on currently.
Like the nearly resurrected Batgirl, Batwoman wears a red on black(dark blue?) motif that is similar to both Batman Beyond and a bit like the Alex Ross Batgirl.

The Batwoman "Kate Kane"
"I think she likes you." The Quesion to Rene Montoya

Experienced Heroine
Type: Human
Life Points: 54
Drama Points: 25

Strength 4
Dexterity 6
Constitution 4
Intelligence 4
Perception 5
Willpower 5

Athlete (Kate has a black belt in Karate), Attractiveness +2, Contacts (Criminal) 2, Contacts (Financial) 3,
Hard to Kill, Fast Reaction Time, Nerves of Steel, Pain Resistance, Resources +6, Situational Awareness

Adversary 4 (Intergang, Cult of Crime), Emotional Problems (Fear of Commitment) 1, Mental Problems (Cruelty, minor) 1, Mental Problems (Obsession, stop crime in Gotham) 1, Minority (lesbian, Jewish), Obligation (Gotham) 1, Secret (is the Batwoman, closeted), Tragic Love (Renee, it can never really work between them)

Acrobatics 6
Art 2
Computers 4
Crime 4
Doctor 2
Driving 3
Getting Medieval 5
Gun Fu 3 (mostly CO2 propelled grapples)
Influence 2
Knowledge 5
Kung Fu 7
Languages 2 (English, Spanish)
Mr. Fix-It 3
Notice 6
Occultism 1 (she knows about magic and fought a werewolf)
Science 3
Sports 5

Maneuver; Bonus; Base Damage; Notes
Punch; 13; 8; Bash
- Knock out; 11; ; Bash
- Disarm; 10; na; -
Throw Weapon (Batarangs); 10; varies; bash or slash depending on type
- Catch Weapon; 8; na; -
- Aim (batarang or grapple); 8; na; -
- Grapple Gun; 9; na; -
Kick; 12; 10; bash
- Jump Kick; 10; 15; (add dex+acro SL to damage)
- Double Jump Kick; 9; 15;
Dodge; 13; na; Defense action
Grapple; 15; na;
- Wrestling hold; 11; na; must grapple first
Feint; 11; na; add SLs to next action
Parry; 13; na; Defense action
Wall Flip; 10; na;

Batwoman is like Batman without all the angst. We don't know why she fights crime yet, but she has the tacit approval of Batman (Robin gave her a "real" Batarang).

Katherine "Kate" Kane on the other hand is the rich heiress of the Kane real estate empire. No one, for now knows her two secrets. That she is Batwoman and lesbian, save for Rene Montoya.

Some links
Another (older) blog post covering some of the same ground.

Adventures in Nerdliness named Yvonne Craig as their #1 Nerd Girl of Note.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Going (Up) to Hell? Cosmology

I was reading a very interesting post by Mike Mearls the other day about dropping the structure of the planes in favor of something more local. Read his post here,

Ok? good.

I think his reasons of course are sound and fit nicely with something I have wanted to do forever. When I first picked up that 1st Ed copy of Deities and Demigods I loved the Planes. It had so many interesting places and so many things to do. I got very attached to the Great Wheel cosmology that I began to evaluate fantasy and later horror on how closely it fit that model. Then I began to get lazy. Not in the sense that would not write, quite the opposite, I would come up with elaborate schemes to make things fit the model or not. Whether it needed to or not. Even in my AD&D Grand Opus Adventure the characters went to Hell to confront the evils that invaded their world there was still the Great Wheel. It worked, then, but now I feel it's limitations. Well along came 3rd Edition and suddenly the planes are mutable, changing and even expected to be different depending on how you look at them; 4E changes this even more.

Mike Mearls mentions in his blog that one of the issues of the planes being "out there" that they lose some of their value. History tells us that demons, devils and other bad things came from under-ground, or beyond that mountain or from across the sea; here there be monsters. Monsters come from "beyond the sky" in Lovecraft related fiction, which is fine for tentacle horrors, but devils at least are concerned with the same things humans are. Devils need to be close. They need to be something the common man, woman and child fears. Not just because they are evil, but because they are nearby.

Mike says move the Abyss to your world, I say move Hell.

Hell in 4e now seems to be a planet floating somewhere in the Astral Sea. This puts it on par with everything else, even Heaven. Now I am not a religious person, but doesn't Hell lose some of what makes it Hell if it just a planet with bad environmental conditions? They describe it as planet some 7,000 miles in diameter with the "layers" lower and lower subterranean continent sized caverns. Like Mearls, I say take all that and shove it inside your world. Drill down a few hundred miles and there is the entry way to Hell. Just like Dante described. What keeps the devils in? Same thing that keeps them there now, gates. Like the roach motel it is, it is easy to get, impossible to get out. Or nearly such. Of course the point between the Underdark and Abyss sharing a nature is sound, I think I can get the same thing with the Nine Hells really. In fact I might even make Lolth more like a devil (she is more devil like than demon like anyway) given her status as former Goddess, cast out and down. Sound familiar? It certainly fits with what Hell is supposed to be better, an underground dungeon for the damned. The Abyss is a maelstrom of evil and chaos, it fits better in the planes.
Of course this is not without issues. First, and the one that concerns multi-versal games the most, is that Hell inside a planet means that for every copy/twin/multiverse that planet is in there is a corresponding Hell. This might be fine really. I don't care for some of the changes made to some of the Arch Dukes in the last few books (3 & 4), but I can write that off as that is just the way things are in that universe. Which is something we all do anyway, I am just making it explicit. Of course the new 4e cosmology also gives us the Shadowfell and the Feywild, which I like, but if they are dark and twisted reflections of our own world then what about the Hell for those worlds? I say that their Hells are ours. That if you drill down in the Shadowfell you end up in the same Hell as if you did it in the Feywild or the campaign world.
Back in the day there was a great series of Dragon articles about the various Arch Dukes and Dukes of Hell. The article began with a bit of fiction about a Paladin (a holy warrior for good) marching on to Hell to defeat evil at the source. This scene works better today than it even did then with Devils now generally evil rather than exclusively "Lawful Evil". And it works better if the Paladin is marching to Hell, not paying a wizard for an Astral Projection spell.

Sure *where* it is physically located might mean little to PCs and DMs with access to magical means of travel, but the world should make sense to normal people too. What is there to fear about a creature, evil and immortal or not, if it takes a great amount of magic to get them here.

Gygax was a reader of Dante, Milton and of Ovid. These authors, as much as anything and maybe more so, shaped what we think of when we think of Hell. "Planet Hell" inside the Earth/World then fits very well with all these writers. More than a plane "out there" somewhere. Which does bring up an interesting point. Here is a quote from Milton's "Paradise Lost",

"Orcus and Ades, and the dreaded name Of Demogorgon."
— John Milton, Paradise Lost II. 966.

So. Lucifer is cast out of Heaven and down into Hell, he meets up with these demons in some…what, ante-chamber of Hell, a place where Chaos rules with Night. Sounds like the Abyss, but where is that again? I have often wanted to merge Hell and they Abyss into one place where demons are the masses of creatures and devil are the upper-class. If I put Hell inside my world (or the Abyss like Mearls) then do I have room for both? Do I need both? Are they the same thing with different names? Then there are other issues I have avoided because of the aforementioned laziness. Tiamat is described in myth as "chaos" and her body is destroyed to make the firmament of the Earth. But then she gets tossed into Hell? Sure, it fits the outcast god model, but Tiamat is chaos. Lilith is also cast out, but she wants order, her own order, but order all the same; at least that is how I read it. Grazzt looks like a Devil, but is a Demon or maybe he is not. And there is the bit from Milton. So what is a world builder to do? And where is this antechamber of Hell were Demogorgon and Orcus act as the Welcome Wagon for Lucifer and the cast out Angels, now Devils? Hell has the River Styx, where the souls of the dead are ferried across, but now the souls of the dead move through the Shadowfell. This makes me want to break out the WitchCraft RPG seprioths and see if I can't make it all work.

Well here is my stab at it. The Antechamber is of course the Underdark. It is hundreds of miles below the surface of the planet. Here in the deepest pit was where the fallen angels were cast. It is here that they meet the demons. There is a great battle, Orcus (then a dark god) is killed only to come back from the dead, Demogorgon has his head cleaved in half (to regrow as two heads) and Ades…well that was the last anyone heard of him. The devils (as they are now known) take the realm once controlled by demons. Once there though the devils discover that Hell is not the home of the demons, it was only the realm they could control this close to the world. The devils seal the opening to the Abyss, place Tiamat there to guard against demonic entry and the devils themselves descend lower into Hell. Physically the Abyss and Hell (and Tarterus and Pluton and Gehenna) are all the same place locked deep within the Earth in a area were the Prime Material, Shadowfell and Feywild all intersect. The nine layers controlled by the Arch Dukes and Devils is known as Hell. Everything else is simply "The Underworld". The conditions are, well Hellish, it is inside a planet afterall, but great and powerful magics keep the denizens alive, though it warps other magic and prevents them from escaping. The areas known as the Abyss are open and there is much fighting, the area known as Hell is gated. It is supposed to be a prison after all.

At the bottom there is a dark chasm who feeds into the elemental chaos. I like the description of the Abyss in the new Manual of the Planes, it makes it sound like a black hole in the Astral.

It needs some work to be sure. Demons, like Demogorgon, Orcus, Pazuzu and others have more interest in human affairs than the mindless hoards of demons because they are more devil like, and thus, more human like. Older demons such as Dagon are more elemental chaos. Even Tiamat now is more demonic than diabolic. This helps explain the Bloodwar a bit better, explains the similarity between demons and devils and why in popular parlance (in the world) they are often confused. It also helps explain why some seem to switch sides every now and then. Or simply put, devils are the cast out immortals of good that betrayed or otherwise became evil. Demons always were evil.

Of course I could keep the Abyss as is in 4th Ed. There are plenty of good reasons to keep it in the elemental chaos in the Astral. Demons are more elemental, more chaotic obviously and more alien. Of "demon" can just be a term to refer to anything that is evil that is not a devil. If I go that route then "Devils" would refer only to the Fallen and things like Ice Devils, Malebranche and the like are demons, just a different kind. After all, Succubi were demons and now they are devils, so it's not like there isn't precedent.
What does removing the demons and devils from the "outer planes" rob us of in D&D? Well, Planescape to a large degree would need to be rethought. To a lesser extent the nature of Tieflings will need to be changed, though maybe not. Typically to get to those outer planes takes characters of some power, so there is the build up to go to their home turf and fight that is now gone; ie. anyone can find the opening to Hell and stumble in.

OR maybe demons come the "Hells" of the Shadowfell and Feywild.

Of course there is one huge advantage of reshaping the planes. I can shape them in a way to work with either my 4th Ed game or my OSR/Basic game or even something like Ghosts of Albion.

That is the fun thing about fantasy cosmology, it can be a mutable as I need it to be.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Why I still enjoy the OSR

I was going through a bunch of my OSR books the other day.  Played around with converting (again!) my Family D&D night over to some unholy version of D&D Rules Cyclopedia and Basic Fantasy Role-Playing, but dropped that idea for some good reasons (if my kids are going to play D&D in other places then I should start them out with the rules that are most popular in their school). I do really like the idea of picking up a "Basic" game sometime.  I figure using the D&DRC and starting everyone out at 5th or 6th level is close to the experience they would have with D&D 4th Ed.

Don't get me wrong. I am really enjoying D&D 4, and yes it is entirely possible to have an "old school experience" with this game.  It is less (to me) about the rules and more about what you do with them.  Yeah I know there are plenty of people out there that will tell how "wrong" that is or I am, but who cares? I am having fun.

I was also reading over my Original Edition D&D books this past weekend.  They are fun to have and one day I will play that version again.   The White Box edition of Swords & Wizardry is getting a lot of noise out in OSR land now and that is cool.  Spellcraft & Swordplay though is still my favorite OSR book and that is not just because I am friends with Jason, but because it really works for me.  I like the "garage band" feel of it.

I hope the OSR does not loose any steam anytime soon.  It has been very cool watching this grow and prosper over the last year or so.  The messages boards and blog posts are still going strong so that is a good sign.  The books also keep going out and that is the best sign of all.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Church of Lolth Ascendant

In the "Anything worth doing is worth doing in excess" category:  Some fluff for the D&D game.

There is a growing cult found among the elves of the world. Whispered in ears and it’s writings forbidden it is yet still gaining strong standing among elves, surface and drow alike, a simple, but heretical belief.

Lolth was betrayed.

The members of the Church of Lolth Ascendant firmly believe that Lolth, the Demon Queen of Spiders and Goddess of the Drow was in fact Araushnee, the Elven Goddess of Fate and Destiny. This is not in dispute. What is disputed however, are the events that lead Araushnee to become Lolth and what happened after.

Araushnee was born the same time as all the Elven Gods in the time just After Dawn. She was the most beautiful of all the Seldarine, her ebon skin glistened in the moonlight and looked like carved wood in the sun. Corellon said she was made out of piece of pure midnight and her hair reflected the light of the stars above. For this he gave her domain over the stars and secrets they keep. They say that the other Gods were jealous of her, but she did not see this, for Araushnee was born with the Sight. She could see the complicated strands of fate, understand the webs they could weave and make predictions.
It was these predictions that lead to her downfall.

Araushnee predicted that the peace of the elves would end in violent wars where elf battled “fearsome beasts” (orcs were not yet created), dwarfs and other elves. She was laughed at, but she knew her predictions were true. When the orcs were created and threatened elf territories the others still did not listen to her.

She saw the future Elf/Orc war and tried to warn Corellon. But he ignored her advice and was too busy dallying with the three goddess Sehanine Moonbow, Hanali Celanil and Aerdrie Faenya.

When the elves finally did respond Araushnee had another vision. She saw Corellon defeat Grummush and destroy the all of the orcs. But genocide was not enough for the victorious and bloodthirsty god. He attacked the dwarves and destroyed them, and then the gnomes, Halflings and finally humans. Araushnee saw a world in which only the Elves would remain and Corellon ruled all as a bloody tyrant. Arushnee loved Corellon, giving him two children, but did not want him to become a monster. She knew she had to stop him.

She turned to Sehanine Moonbow, the Goddess of Artisans, who she felt was a sister (despite her infidelity with her husband), to ask her for guidance. But Sehanine was jealous of Araushnee and her dominion of the night sky and of her place at Corellon’s side. She told Araushnee that the only way to protect the elves was to let the orcs know of their surprise raid. Araushnee agreed and left alone for Grummush’s lair. Sheanine remained behind in Arushnee’s home to wait out the battle.

Araushnee went to Grummush and told him of the surprise attack to happen and the strength of the elven forces. He commanded that she remain with him, she said no that it was her fate to die in the battle in the elvish fortress. This she had seen.

Araushnee returned saddened, but knowing that she had prevented Corellon from becoming an even greater monster than Grummush. She stood in readiness for battle with her kin and her children. She did not even notice that Sehanine was not with them. When the battle began the elvish forces were nearly overwhelmed. While they did fight the orcs back and achieve a victory, it was not the slaughter that Corellon was wanting. Orcs still lived, Grummush, wounded, still lived. Corellon raged, demanding to know who had betrayed them. Araushnee said nothing, still in shock over not dying in battle and wondering if her visions had been wrong. Then Sehanine returned, claiming she had been imprisoned by Araushnee, that she had discovered the Drow Queen’s plans to warn and join with Grummush.

Corellon confronted her asking if these claims were true. She admitted to telling Grummush, and that is all Corellon had heard. He went to strike her down but their son Vhaeraun stood in between them. Corellon struck him down instead. Now Araushnee grew enraged. She had sacrificed everything so that the elves could live and Corellon would remain a just ruler, but she was still the mother of this boy and no one, not even the First of the Seldarine, dared touch him in anger. Using all her own power she attacked her former lover. She knew his every move and was able to counteract his every attack and land her own instead. She would have succeeded in killing him had it not been for the lesser goddesses Sehanine Moonbow, Hanali Celanil and Aerdrie Faenya combining their power into one deity to defeat her.

With Araushnee defeated, broken and beyond everything else, despairing over the path Fate had lead her down. Corellon angered, cursed her, her form and her name. Cast her into the Abyss with her son and condemned all drow. He gave her powers to Sehanine Moonbow. He also cast out Eilistraee even though she had stood with her father.

Lolth, as she was now known, hid herself deep in the Abyss and wept.

The Worshippers of Araushnee

The lay worshipper of Araushnee is typically elven, though her voice finds an ear among half-elves and some humans. Her flock is typically younger than other new cults. It is believed that this is due to the fact that drow, once a feared nearly mythical boogeyman 20 years ago, are now more common of a sight. Even good Drow have been known to exist.

Tenants of Faith

Araushnee, now known as Lolth, was a member of the Elvish pantheon.
• She was unjustly banished and imprisoned in the Abyss.
• She wished for nothing more than to be reunited with her fellow elves. She forgives Corellon and even the goddesses Sehanine Moonbow, Hanali Celanil and Aerdrie Faenya. She wants them to welcome her back.
• The Drow are evil, but their evil is one that began with a lie and has been perpetuated by the Drow matriarchy.
• To achieve Arushnee’s reunification with the Seldarine, elven worshipers must achieve reunification with the Drow.
• Evils done in Lolth’s name are often the work of the evil Drow matriarchy, other demons, or even the Seldraine themselves.

Fourth Edition D&D

Lady of Fate, Banished Goddess, Queen of the Demonweb Pits
Unaligned Greater Goddess

Auaushnee, known to the world as Lolth, sits alone in the Demonweb Pits, the prison constructed for her by her former husband Corellon. She presides over Drow and spiders that mimic her ability to weave the stands of fate. Araushnee never answer summons, but communicates to her true followers in prophetic dreams and omens.

Araushnee does not make many demands on her worshippers, feeling that life is demanding enough. But she does hold all her worshipers to the following:
• Find your own fate and follow it.
• Honor Arsushnee not in words, but in deeds and actions.
• Seek to reunite that which has been sundered.

Worshipers: Drow, Dark and Star Pact Warlocks, Fortune Tellers, Diviners

New Feat: Web of Fate [Divinity]
Prerequisites: Channel Divinity class feature, must worship Araushnee (not Lolth).
Benefit: You can use the power of your deity to use web of fate.

Channel Divinity: Web of Fate Feat Power
The strands of fate play out before you like the silken threads of a spider. You may pluck a strand, altering fate in your favor.
Immediate Interrupt Close burst 10
Trigger: An ally in burst makes an attack roll or skill check
Target: One ally in burst
Effect: The target immediately rerolls the attack roll or skill check he or she just made, but must keep the second result, even if it is worse.
Special: You must take the Web of Fate feat to use this power.

Third Edition D&D 

Lady of Fate, Banished Goddess, Queen of the Demonweb Pits
Intermediate Deity
Symbol: A spider web or a drow woman holding a distaff
Home Plane: Demonweb Pits
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral
Portfolio: Drow, Fate, Chaos, Night, Stars
Worshipers: Drow, the oppressed, fortune tellers, those that seek redemption, witches
Cleric Alignment: CG, CN, CE
Domains: Fate*, Drow, Chaos, Darkness
Favored Weapon: Distaff (staff)

*Found in Complete Warrior

As the former Lady of Fate, Araushhnee was also responsible for the management of the Weave for elves. It is because of her weaving strands of the Weave into the fate of all elves. This is why Elves are the most magical race and it is something that all elves to this day still feel.

Araushnee rarely sends avatars to consult with worshipers preferring to communicate via prophetic dreams and omens. She does this since she feels as living creatures her worshippers need to choose their own fates.

Araushnee’s followers are guided to find their own fates and follow it. There will be signs for those that can read them and these signs will guide you. In the spirit of reunification the followers are encouraged to make whole things that have been broken apart. A typical tactic is a group of pilgrims from one elven community to another will ask for odd jobs to do fixing things. While the male members will work, the females will stay with the others to speak of another who wishes to mend. Fortune tellers and others that deal with reading the fates for a price also work in the Word for Araushnee.

Clergy and Temples
The Clergy of Araushnee tend to be young, spirited and have an absolute sense that what they are saying is in fact correct. They will often quote passages out of the Elven canon describing Araushnee’s betrayal and even produce so called “lost works” of Elven scholars that have been deemed to heretical for inclusion. While such works are in fact quite old what is lost to time is whether they were not included because they were heretical, or simply not true. Where they are open the Cult of Araushnee will preach their message of reunification with their Drow cousins and speak of “mending old wounds” both among the elves and among their gods. They firmly believe that if they can get enough worshippers the Seladrine will have to allow Araushnee’s return.
The lay worshipper of Araushnee is typically elven, though her voice finds an ear among half-elves and some humans. Her flock is typically younger than other new cults. It is believed that this is due to the fact that drow, once a feared nearly mythical boogeyman 20 years ago, are now more common of a sight. Even good Drow have been known to exist.
Temples are usually temporary affairs since the cult is tolerated at best and hunted at worse. A typical worship center for the Cult of Araushnee is outdoors in a woodland area (for elven sensibility) and usually at night (out of respect of the Goddess they revere). It is considered a good omen if there are spider webs found in a potential spot and a great omen if spiders spin their webs during the worship service. A sign that Araushnee is pleased.

Second Edition AD&D

Intermediate Power of the Abyss

PORTFOLIO: Fate, darkness, chaos, spiders, the drow race
ALIASES: Lolth, Lloth (Menzoberranzan and Uluitur), Megwandir, Moander, Zinzerena
DOMAIN NAME: 66th level/Lolth's Web (the Demonweb Pits)
FOES: Deep Duerra, Eilistraee, Ghaunadaur, Gruumsh, Ibrandul (dead), Kiaransaleen, Laduguer, Moander (dead), the Seldarine, Vhaeraun, Blibdoolpoolp, the Blood Queen, Diinkarazan, Diirinka, Great Mother, Gzemnid, Ilsensine, Ilxendren, Laogzed, Maanzecorian (dead), Psilofyr
SYMBOL: Female drow holding a distaff or a spider’s web

Specialty Priests
Fate Spinners

PRIME REQ.: Wisdom
MAJOR SPHERES: All, astral, animal, chaos, combat, divination, guardian, healing, protection, summoning, sun (reversed only)
MINOR SPHERES: Charm, creation, wards
REQ. PROFS: Etiquette, weaving
BONUS PROFS: Animal training (spiders), spellcraft

• Fate Spinners are allowed to and encouraged to multiclass.
• Fate Spinners are immune to all spider venoms.
• Fate Spinners can communicate with spiders of all kinds, and spiders never harm them in any way.
• At 2nd level, Fate Spinners can cast spider climb (as the 1st-level wizard spell) or spidereyes (as the Ist-level wizard spell found in Wizard's Spell Compendium, Volume 3 or the Ist-level priest spell in The Drow of the Underdark) once per day. If spider climb is cast, it does not prevent spell-casting so long as two limbs grip the surface being climbed, and light objects do not stick to the priest's hands and feet. Spidereyes allows the caster to see through the eyes of a single normal or giant arachnid within 60
yards, but it does not grant any control over the arachnid's movements or direction of gaze.
• At 5th level, Fate Spinners can cast dispel magic (as the 3rd-level priest spell) or web (as the 2nd-level wizard spell) twice per day.
• At 7th level, Fate Spinners can cast summon shadow (as the 5thlevel wizard spell) or spider summoning (as the 5th-level priest spell) twice per day.
• At 10th level, Fate Spinners can cast true seeing (as the 5th-level priest spell, but with twice the normal duration) or spiderform (as the 5th-level priest spell) twice per day.
• At 13th level, fate spinners can cast dream (as the 5th-level wizard spell) once per day.

Fate Spinners are allowed the same spells as are the Arachne if they are drow.

Araushnee in the Campaign

Forgotten Realms
Araushnee has the strongest presence in the Forgotten Realms world of Toril. Her cult, while not wide spread, does have some concentration in the more urban centers of the world where ideas can easily be shared and of course high among the elves. In particular the cult has gained a foothold among the students of the University in Silverymoon and on the streets of Waterdeep. In Silverymoon more humans are found among the cult’s members than anywhere else, though elves still outnumber the human cultists. In Waterdeep, Araushnee’s message is whispered from trader to trader and in the shops and in the fortune tellers’ stalls. A small temple(in truth a small shop) is maintained in the Field Ward. The Temple is in good standing with the city having paid all their dues and strictly adhering to all the laws. So despite complaints the city officials have no cause to throw them out.
It is from these two strongholds of faith that the cult has spread. Recently the cult has been spotted in Baldur’s Gate as Elven travelers have left other parts of the world to come here.

With little surprise the stronghold of faith for the worship of Araushnee lies in the City of Greyhawk itself. Once felt to be a minor esoteric cult grown out of the idle speculation of University students the cult has spread to many lands where there are elves. There are however more Drow in the Araushnee cult on Oerth than on Toril. Why this might be is unknown, but plannular scholars suspect it might be due to the lesser presence of other good-aligned Drow gods such as Eilistraee on Oerth.
Due to city laws there are no standing temples to Araushnee in the city and the members of the Oligarchy have spoken out about it.
Arushnee’s cult has taken longer to establish here than in other worlds since the events of the Temple of Elemental Evil are still within living memory.

D20 Modern – (Urban Arcana, Shadow Chasers, Dark*Matter)
The worship of Araushnee is open and widespread. Considered to be a neo-Pagan Goddess that has been “re-discovered” she is celebrated as a symbol of triumph (in particular female triumph) over adversity (in particular male adversity). She is revered both by humans and elves alike. Her popularity has grown since she was used as the “spokesperson” for the phenomenally successful “Lolth Fair – A Celebration of Women in Music” event of the previous decade.

Drow in power are less likely to follow Araushnee than those living in the streets or slums of the modern world. Though she has also found solid ground with the various feminist movements among the elves, they differ is feeling Araushnee should not have beg for forgiveness, but rather it is the other elven gods that should be asking for hers.

Witches of Arashnee

Given her status as a “rejected” or “outsider” goddess, the priesthoods of Araushnee could best be described as witches in the classical sense. They worship a god felt to be evil by all of those around. They could also be described as witches in the modern sense, worshipers of downtrodden and most misunderstood goddess.

1st and 2nd Edition, Complete Netbook of Witches
My suggestion of course would be to use my own “Complete Netbook of Witches and Warlocks”. It is a free netbook that is all over the internet now. Just Google it.

Witches of Arashnee are of an Eclectic or Faerie Tradition. Typically they will belong to a small coven of eight or less, eight being the primary number of significance for Arashnee’s cult.
The Gypsy Elves in this book are also among her worshipers and are one of the primary means for the spread of her cult.
Arashnee’s Witches have the following Occult Powers:
Lesser: Brew Truth Drug
Minor: Acquire Familiar (Spiders and Arachnids only)
Medial: Immune to Supernatural Fear
Greater: Fascination
Superior: Foretell Future

3rd Edition, Liber Mysterium, the Complete Book of Witches and Warlocks
While there are a number of d20 compatible witches on the market, I also suggest using my “Liber Mysterium” book on witches. Again, it is free and can be found with a Google search, most likely that same search that works above.

Witches of Arashnee are of an Eclectic or Faerie Tradition. Typically they will belong to a small coven of eight or less, eight being the primary number of significance for Arashnee’s cult.
Typically the Witches of Arashnee hail from Eclectic or Faerie (Kuruni) traditions, with most witches being human and elf respectively.
They have the following Occult Powers
Minor (7th Level): Fate’s Luck
Medial (13th Level): Dream, as per the 5th level Wizard spell.
Greater (19th Level): Foretell Future


A cool blog post I found about Lolth and Ereshkigal,
That Wikipedia thingy,
Forgotten Realms wiki,
Yet Another Fantasy Gamer Comic, Lolth is a semi-regular,

Thursday, January 7, 2010

More from Outlaw Press

So more Outlaw Press news. You might recal I talked about Outlaw Press and James Shipman stealing art and content from scores of people for his Tunels & Trolls publications. [1] [2] [3]

Well now I have heard from anothee one of the artists.  I have actually spoken to a few of them, many were shocked and saddened that their work had been stolen.  Let's be clear here; if this handful of people is correct then that means he has stolen at least from them. And theft it is. 
This new artist has asked if I can get more of the word out so more artists that have been affected can let their voice be heard, and to help prevent this from happening again.

I am only too happy to help.

-- Begin Included Message --

A small RPG Publisher (Outlaw Press, Inc. run by James L. Shipman II) that exclusively publishes Tunnels &Trolls RPG materials was accused of extensively using and publishing unlicensed art and text for profit by several artist and writers who own the copyright to the art and content in question. Some of the images used by this publisher are work-for-hire art copyrighted by big-name companies like Dreamworks, SKG; Games Workshop; Upper Deck/Blizzard; and Wizards of the Coast.

The discussion about the whole matter of this publisher using unlicensed art started on this thread at RPGNet: (which is now 101 pages long, and has been closed). The thread started when it was brought to the attention of an artist, Kevin Bracey, that he was wrongfully credited with the cover art of a product that had actually been created by Mauricio Herrera and used without permission. Kevin Bracey was, however, the creator of the original cover for the product, which was changed when the work was made available in PDF format by Outlaw Press, Inc.

After repeated unanswered communications sent to the publisher by the growing number of artists who recognized their work as being used without a license, mainly as covers for his products, his Lulu and DriveThruRPG stores were taken down with all the questionable products removed. The products were also removed from his own website for a while, but soon afterward were re-listed without showing the cover art--the most readily recognizable and easily identifiable circumstance of copyright infringement. Moreover, Outlaw Press, Inc. removed their e-mail address from their main site, although the publisher’s actual contact details can still be found here: and here:

After many more unanswered communications to the publisher, some from past contributors requesting the removal of their freely contributed material from his publications (Tori Berquist, Simon Lee Tranter, Ken St. Andre, Gianmatteo Tonci, and M. E. Volmar included) as a result of their outrage and to show solidarity with the affected artists, the matter was still unresolved and being ignored by the publisher who continued to sell--through his own website, Lulu's Amazon Markeplace and Amazon's CreateSpace--products that were no longer just suspect (on a grand scale) of copyright infringement, but whose permission by the contributing artists and writers to sell their materials had been rescinded.

Some artists, prompted by a lack of answer from Shipman, resorted to leaving notes of art theft on the Reviews section of the products listed on And eventually, all but 5 of the roughly 130 listed items were removed from the and Lulu’s Amazon Marketplace stores at the request of the art’s copyright owners who were left no choice but to contact Lulu and directly. Of the 5 remaining products (which can still be found here:, 2 still present covers with verified unlicensed art--“Troll's Blood & Old Delvers: Tunnels & Trolls Anthology” with Jon Hodgson’s art, and “Lizardmen In Red Water Bay: A Tunnels & Trolls Fanpostal Novel“ with Allen Palmer’s art.

So far, the list of artists that have confirmed the use of their unlicensed art featured on the covers of Outlaw Press, Inc. products (without counting the 10+ contributors who have so far rescinded Shipman’s permission to use their materials) is overwhelming and growing (with around 20 or so other artists who are being contacted to confirm if indeed their art has been used without permission). These 30+ artists, some whose 70+ pieces of unlicensed artwork is featured on several of the publisher's products (see PDF file), include:
  • J. P. Targete
  • Sylvain Despretz
  • Simon Dominic
  • Mauricio Herrera                              
  • Jon Hodgson
  • Daniel Horne                                      
  • Michal Ivan
  • John Shannon                                     
  • Bill Corbett
  • Martin McKeown
  • Mats Minnhagen
  • Ursula Vernon
  • Jeff Lee Johnson
  • Henning Janssen
  • Zoltan Boros and Gabor Szikszai
  • Jhoneil Centeno         
  • Johann Valentin Andree         
  • Bera Károly
  • Alan Lathwell
  • Ken Jeremiassen
  • Jan Patrik Kresny
  • Fredrik Rahmqvist
  • David Lightfoot
  • Allen Palmer
  • Alejandro Guitiérrez
  • Daniel Falck
  • Storn A. Cook
  • Norbert Vakulya
  • Thom Scott
  • Darrenn E. Canton
  • Tibor Szendrei
  • Goran Josic
  • Per Eriksson
  • Kory K.                                                
One of the artists, Daniel Falck, wrote about the situation in his own blog:
Others have also written about the matter at:
The publisher was also accused of reprinting and selling without the author's permission a magazine called "Mazes & Minotaurs," which is offered for free on the author’s website. The details of this accusation can be found here:

Moreover, most of the art identified by the artists as used without a license is art featured on the covers of this publisher’s products, meaning that a thorough examination of the interior art used on his publications is yet to be undertaken, and that more artwork could have been used without a license by this publisher and more artists may be in reality affected by his practices.

The requests to remove freely contributed art and content, and the cancellation of the license to publish Tunnels & Trolls materials made by the makers of the Tunnels & Trolls game, Ken St. Andre and Flying Buffalo, Inc., have so far been completely ignored, and nothing close to an apology or explanation has been offered by the publisher to anyone--although he has appeared as Shipy (also his nickname on --Ken St. Andre's Tunnels & Trolls website) here:, (post 162 and 168) mocking the requests and comments about his practices made by the RPG community.

At this point, the publisher claimed that his art was bought from an art broker called David Levine (or David Levin) from the United Kingdom, of whom no record exists anywhere on the Web and to whom Shipman claims to have paid around $2000 for all the art used in his publications. Still, after having been repeatedly informed of his use of unlicensed art, the publisher tried to sell the infringing print products through his own website and made no effort to recall or remove the publications from any of his other still active sales outlets.
Subsequently, after the posts were made by Shipy on the Trollbridge, the publisher's website: announced on its homepage:

“All this month we will be having a X-mas sale. That means most of our T&T prices will be listed for half price or cheaper. So if you are looking to buy something, this month will be the best time to do so.”

And went on to boast about the money he was making off products that still featured all the unlicensed art in question.

“We have lots of new T&T items planned for the coming year (Novels, Solos, T&T Supplements and even a T&T Battle Dice Game Ken St. Andre created). Our sales have continued to grow with the site statics breaking down as such; roughly 3,241 people visit here each day, with 1 in 122 people making a purchase of $50 or more. We are shipping world wide and we continue to expand.”

It is also of note that the publisher sells a magazine called “The Hobbit Hole,” although the word Hobbit and its use is copyrighted to the Tolkien Estate, and highly unlikely to have been licensed to an obscure independent publisher such as Outlaw Press, Inc. and/or James Shipman.

This week, and after having been contacted through e-mail by Shipman (who cited bogus publication rights and falsely claimed owning the copyrights to freely contributed materials whose copyrights were never given to him by the rightful copyright owners), Ken St. Andre terminated James Shipman membership at Trollhalla--St. Andre’s own Tunnels & Trolls fan club--after issuing the following statement:
“Because James Shipman has shown himself to be neither truthful nor courageous nor ethical, I declare that he cannot remain a member of Trollhalla any longer.”

Although the publisher’s website has now been down for a few days, he continues to sell his products on E-Bay under various user names including: jimship1, Hobbit_King, actionseller99 and selling4u2, using the PayPal account.

Still, a storefront for this publisher and most of his products (which still feature the unlicensed art) can be found by following the product links at the Noble Knights game store here:, although Noble Knight has listed the products as no longer in print and are probably just selling old stock.

Not only have the actions by James Shipman been damaging and disrespectful to many, including his contributors and the Tunnels & Trolls community, but his practices have muddied reputations, impacted artists and fans alike, and cast a bad shadow on the whole RPG community and on legitimate independent publishers. This situation needs to be exposed, if only in the hope of helping the affected artists and contributors who have been wronged by Shipman, and the RPG community and independent publishers alike.

-- End --

So yeah, the drama continues.  I am including this more or less as is since it is a good summary of the situation to date and also gives some more information.  This confirms things other artists have told me, so it is nice to have it all in one place.

I hope this all comes to an end soon and the artists get their due.