Sunday, February 28, 2010

Pathfinder, Keep on the Borderlands and witches

So Saturday we started what we call "the kids game", this is our D&D game that includes me, my two sons (6 and 11), my regular DM and his sons (10, 10 and 5).
We started out as a 4e game and it went rather well.  This weekend though we switched over to Pathfinder.

And it was awesome.

It is not really saying much, but Pathfinder is closer to old school D&D than D&D 4 is.  We entered the goblin cave and had four encounters with goblins and "the big guy", an ogre helping them out.  It was a blast.  Our group consisted of a human witch (me), a human dragon-blooded sorcerer, a dwarf cleric, a half-elf ranger, a human ranger, and a human thief.   We figure that we need to make some tweaks, the sorcerer needs some different spells and I think my witch needs a cure light wounds spell to help out the cleric some.

So Greg (my DM) and I figured that under 4th Ed the characters would have been killed with these encounters.

We are going to keep going with 4th Ed in our "Big Kids" group.  So I am going to get a chance to do both games.

I like 4e, I do.  It is fun and the material for it is top notch.  But Pathfinder is a lot of fun too and those books are really nice.  Picked up the monster book for it.  If Pathfinder had something like DDI I would be all over that too.

So where do I stand with my "D&D" games?

I am running a 3.x (mostly 3.0) game with my two boys.  I am playing in a Pathfinder game and a D&D 4 game.  And it looks like I might be running another 4e game here soon.

For doing all my old school stuff, well it looks like we are going to be doing that as part of Pathfinder and doing something different for 4e.

All in all it sounds like a win all around for me and everyone else.

Now on to my witch.
She has a cantrip, Daze, that she kept using in combat.  Worked out nice really.  Was able to keep a goblin distracted (and the Ogre once) pretty much every round.  Not getting hit goes a long way to help keep the party alive.  Found a scroll of "cure light wounds", since I have that spell on my list I could read it and use it.  So game-wise a nice mix of witchy offensive power with some good defensive buffs of a divine nature.  I totally under-used my familiar however, but that is the same as my last 4e game, so those are even.
Comparing her to her 4e counterpart, Daze was my "bread and butter" spell where "Arcane Blast" is in 4e.  Arcane Blast has the advantage of causing some damage.  And my 4e warlock has those teleports which are very nice.  Both characters had the about the same feel in terms of hitpoints for the foes they were up against and I compensated the same way; I hid behind tougher characters and fired off spells from a distance.

The Pathfinder witch uses Intelligence though as her main stat.  I am not buying that.
Warlocks use Charisma and I can see that and see it for the witch.  In the end though I still think that it would be best for the witch to use Wisdom as her main stat for spell casting.  In this respect the Pathfinder does come up short.

So in my judging for combat playability, Pathfinder Witch vs. 4e Warlock, it's a draw.
In terms of spell casting mechanics, the Pathfinder has more "witchy" spells, but the warlock spells do fit that concept well and work well in the game.  So in the end I am giving the nod to 4e.

Looking forward to the new Pathfinder book that has the witch in it.  Is there still time to have switch the spellcasting stat to Wisdom?  Anyone know if we are going to see some witch prestige classes?

Saturday, February 27, 2010


Played Pathfinder today.

Loved it.

WE now have a new family game for are larger group.  Love my witch.

More later.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Mirror, Mirror

So tomorrow I play my first Pathfinder game.
I am playing it with the kids, so it is not the same group as my 4e game.

But I am going to play the same character.

This of course will raise a cry from my GM saying "but you always play the same character".  This is true, to a degree.  Most often I am "playtesting" the same character and I hold it as my constant amid a sea of variables.  In this case I am not playtesting, but I am testing something, or somethings.

First I want to know exactly how this two versions of D&D differ from each other.  There are factions on both sides claiming that "Game X" is "Teh one true way!!"  I feel rather that they are two different interpretations of the same thing (that will get me comments).  But the only way I am going to get that is to play the same (or very similar) characters.  But which character to choose.

IF I were paying attention and planned this out I might have chosen a Paladin or Cleric.  Both have had rather large changes to them over the years and it would be a nice bit a symmetry to my first D&D character, who was a cleric and then I played his son, a paladin, as my first AD&D character.  
But in truth I wanted to play my witch.

I have written a lot about witches over the years and with me through all of that has been one character.  I use her in all my playtest and I have been using her a lot lately.  Plus both games offer, for the first time, a witchy-like character as a published choice and not something I have had to make up on my own.

In Pathfinder she is a witch, using the new witch class from their playtest.  Now I have a 3.x witch class and it is different than what Pathfinder has.    But I think it will work out well enough.

In D&D 4 she is a Fey-Pact Warlock.  Not a perfect fit mind you, but it is working out well enough too, for different reasons.

I am working making their skills similar to each other, taking similar spells, powers and feats.  Since these are all being driven from a central character concept this is really not that big of deal.  See, I can do high-level "role-playing" and the rules are only a manifestation of how my concept appears.

So if I am judging these games on how well they fit a concept I guess I could start now.
I am not ready to get into a lot of detail yet (no time today), but here are the basics.
- Pathfinder witch:  Has the mystery and background concept to fit the character well.
- D&D 4 warlock: Fey pact is a bit of a stretch really, but none of the other pacts are any better.  The powers though of the warlock are a better fit in some cases.  Maybe I need a new pact to make this work, but that violates the "rules" and making up for this (create nothing new).

So concept-wise the initial round goes to Pathfinder with only a slight lead, but D&D4 is rather close.
If I add some of the stuff from the newer books such as backgrounds then it is very, very close.  The biggest flaw in D&D4 is the Fey Pact is not what I wanted exactly.

Tomorrow is the true test.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Returning to the Keep

Playing a Pathfinder game this weekend and I am pretty psyched about it.

Even more psyched now that I know we are going to the Keep on the Borderlands!
I guess it has filled up with monsters again.

"Bree-Yark" is goblin for "I surrender" right?

Should be a blast.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Gods, Demigods and Heroes

I have been thinking about Gods and the like in my games for some time now.  Now that I am going to be playing Pathfinder as well as 4e I thought I would look into some gods for my Mystoerth world.

Now Mystara didn't have gods, but Greyhawk does and so do all the other worlds I am using here.
A few I know I am going to use and where they all fit.

Ancient beings of great power.  The next generation after the Titans and Primordials.  Gods differ from humans and the others in many respects.  Gods can have Aspects and Avatars, which are semi-independent versions of themselves that can interact in the world.  Demons and Devils can have Aspects too, but generally only one at a time and for them it is more like Astral Projection.
Gods also have the power of creation.  They created their specific races, or the lands, or even the world.

Bahmut and Tiamat -Bahmut (and his Dragonlance cousin Paladine) has become the god of Lawful Good paladins since the 3.0 days.  This is only reinforced in 4.0.  Plus he is a very D&;D god, with ties back to the first Monster Manual and featured in the Dragonlance sagas.

Tiamat is a given for the same reasons, but she was also a god in myth in her own right.  Though given that in Babylonian myth she was the god of Chaos, I would change her alignment from LE to CE and put her in the Abyss.  In fact the Abyss is there there because she was tossed into it.

 Sehanine / Selûne / Shar - Three aspects of the same moon goddess. Represent the Maiden, Mother and Crone aspects of the Triple Goddess. Neutral.

Wee Jas - Goddess of Magic and Death. The Witch Queen.  Worshiped by the Suel. Mix in bits of Hecate, Cardea, Isis and Mystra to her.  Her student was Ioun.  LN.

Bast Egyptian - Goddess of Cats and the hunt. CG
Blibdoolpoolp (Greyhawk) - Goddess of the Kuo-toa and other deep see nasties. Maybe a daughter of Dagon and consort of Demogorgon (ick). CE
Camazotz (Aztec) - the Bat God, I like having him as the god Vampires too, great rivalry exists between him and Orcus. Camazorz doesn't control vampires, but some vampires and vampire cult pay him homage. CE
Celestian (Greyhawk)-  God of the stars.  Have to include him. Neutral
Corellon - God of Elves.
Gruumsh - God of Orcs. Neutral Evil.
Istus (Greyhawk) - Goddess of Fate. Neutral
Lovitar (Realms/Finnish) - Everyone needs a crazy S&M chick.
Set - God of Evil.
Surtur - Fire Giants and Thrym - Frost Giants, both from Norse myth, but folded into the D&D myths.
Vaprak, the Destroyer - God of Trolls and Ogres. Though I have considered having this just be an aspect of Demogorgon.

I plan to use Earth myths when I can.  For example my Desert Elves worship elven versions of the Egyptian Pantheon.  Isis is an elf, but Set is human since according to these elves humans are the greatest evils in the world.

The new editions of D&D (3.x, Pathfinder and 4) have Asmodeus listed as a god.  Now I have no issues with that per se.  I even think the back story of Asmodeus rising to power that started with the Dragon Mag article "Politics of Hell", on through the Blood War stuff and finally his triumph at becoming a Dark God is an interesting one.  But it does't work for me.   See I would rather set Devils up as the alternatives to Gods.  The devils temp mortals away from the "proper" religions to worship them.  Why would a mortal worship a lesser beign like a Devil?  Simple, the devils provide a quick avenue to power.  Gods, even evil ones, require faith and worship and service, the rewards then are given based on that faith.  Devils tell the mortals "hey, why do all that work when you can work with us and get all those benefits now."  Devils also side with mortals against the Gods.  They will remind mortals that the Gods have it easy while they work and toil.  They even try to promote kinship, "hey the Gods cast us out, so we are on your side."  Of course these are all lies, but situated in enough truth that mortals keep falling for them.   Asmodeus then is not a Dark God, but the most power Arch Duke there is and his power is equal to that of a god or goddess.  The Devils will even point out that one of their own rose to such power that is should be possible for everyone to do it.
The devils now have moved beyond the "Blood War" of 2nd ed and are now going to engage in a "Gods War" with the battlefield the mortal realms.  I think a good story for the PCs would be to become part of this "Gods War".  I alluded to it a little in my Buffy adventure, The Dragon and the Phoenix.
Afterall what would be more climatic than all the heroes, each representing their God, on the field of battle against the greatest foe in humanity.    I might drop my "Vs. Orcus" idea for this instead.

The Abyss is the sewer of the multi-cosm.  Everything that gets flushed, thrown out, discarded and forgotten ends up here.  Of courses there were plenty of things here to start with.  Demons are legion.  There are thousands of types, races, and varieties.  Some, like Orcus, are "dead" Gods.  Others, like Demogorogn, used to be Titans.   Others still are cast out gods (not sent to Hell), forgotten powers or even monsters that have become very, very powerful.  There are even ones that were spawned by the Abyss itself.  If the ultimate purpose of the Devils is the destruction of all the Gods, then for Demons it is just destruction.
The Blood War, the war between the Demons and the Devils, was a minor skirmish in the long range plans of the Devils.  In fact prior to the Blood Wars, demons and devils had been on working terms.  The devils would often use demons as grunts in their battles.  This went on for so long that some species of demon were once considered to be devils and visa-versa.   Graz'zt, the Demon lord, had been an Duke of Hell, till he went native.  Succubi are constantly switching allegiances between demons and devils that they are difficult to properly classify.

Demogorgon - Older than the gods.  A Titan that has become more demonlike.  Hates Orcus.  Only worshiped by non-humans and insane cultists.  Just wants to destroy everything. CE.

Jubilex - Demon lord of slimes.  Created from the Abyss itself.  It is as if all the waste and runoff of the Abyss collected into a conscious form.  Deeply, deeply insane.  Wants the entire multcosm covered in acidic slime.

Orcus - Was a god, then demonized, killed, came back as undead, became a demon again.  GEnerally just an angry dude.  Hates undead, but hates them less than he hates everything else.  Wants to become the God of the Dead.  CE.

Primordials and Titans
Like in Greek myths, the Titans were the "parents" of the Gods.   Some gods from other games might end up here.  I prefer to figure these out as I need them.  The Scarred Lands books from Sword and Sorcery Studios were good for this concept as well.  They had a lot of interesting titans.  Theirs though were outright evil, I prefer to have my titans more uncaring about humans.  The world was theirs, now it isn't anymore and they are not happy about it.  Most of the titans are dead, others are imprisoned or converted to demons.

Primordials came even before the Titans and represent raw nature or natural aspects of the world.  Earth, Sky, Night, Death.  These things are hard to personify into human terms so Primordials are not really like the gods or titans at all.  Primordials do not care about worship or humans although some are aware of such actions.  In some cases my "Titans" are what other games "Primordials" are and my Primordials are something different.

Mad Gods
Have to include these. Things like Leviathan, Cthulhu and the rest certainly will have a place in my game.

For me Gods need to be complicated.  The characters live in a world where they can travel to the planes, commune or other wise get "evidence" for their faith.  I think I might make this a bit tougher is some cases and even out right prohibit in others.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

New Releases Tuesday

It's book release day and two of favorite authors have new books out in the modern urban supernatural fantasy section.

 Amber Benson is letting us back into the weird world of Calliope Reaper-Jones in the second book of the Death's Daughter series, "Cat's Claw".

This one promises to be very interesting.  The first book dealt with the disappearance of her father, The Grim Reaper.  In this one Callie needs pay back the debts she amassed doing it.

Here is the Amazon link,

As I mentioned yesterday the next book Hollows Series by Kim Harrison is also out.   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 Amazon link,

Both books are fun reads with interesting and engaging heroines.  I am going to try to get both books today.  I like to support authors when I can during their first week of release.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Taking a new path

So. I had a plan. It was a good plan as far as these things go. That is till my regular DM decided to do something unexpected.

We have a few games going, I have one with my kids (3.x), he has one with his (4.0), we have one together with some friends (4.0) and one with both families (4.0).   I was going to finish out my game with my boys and start up a 4.0 game with them to go through all the classic modules.

That is till last night.  Turns out that my DM now wants to use Pathfinder.

Now don't get me wrong, I like Pathfinder, it is a nice book and really a good looking game.  I also happen to think that there is some life left in the D&D 3.x game too.  But this does mess up my master plan. ;)

We were talking today about what adventures he wants to do with this group (him, his three boys, me and my two) and it was very, very similar to my plan I had for 4th Ed.

Last night I was less than thrilled about "going back" to 3.x, but today I am actually quite excited about it.

I have been on Paizo's website and there is a ton of fun stuff there. And the Pathfinder stuff is compatible with all my other 3.x stuff.   Plus I am going to get to play their witch (which is not exactly like mine for 3.x, but close enough).  So this could be very fun to be honest.  I can still use all my 4.0 stuff with my boys, I just might need a new plan on adventures.

So it looks like I'll be playing D&D 4.0 AND Pathfinder/D&D 3.65 (or something like that).
Anyone else playing Pathfinder? Any tips or advice?

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Magic in Cortex, Savage Worlds and Witch Girls Adventures

This is part two of my deep delve into the magic systems of some of the games I like, in particular Cortex, Unisystem and Savage Worlds.

So. I am currently re-doing the magic system for an RPG and trying not to plagiarize myself from other games and it has me thinking.

Why don't Savage Worlds or Cortex have better magic systems?

I'll be 100% honest here, I am not a huge fan of Savage Worlds, but I do see the attraction and why it is a good game. So it is likely that there is something out there and I just haven't found it yet. I do however own every Cortex book there is (and I love the Supernatural RPG) and I usually left feeling a little underwhelmed when it comes to magic. This seems a touch odd really, given the people that worked on it and games that have come out for it. Ok, to be fair, none of the games are trying to be the next Mage or WitchCraftRPG.

Reading over both games I am struck with many of the similarities (yes there are lots of differences too, but I want to talk about them in general) they share. No surprise really. Both are products of post-d20 game design and both take the best aspects (in their author's opinions) of games that came before. Both attempt to fill the same need that GURPS, True 20 or Unisystem fills for others. Maybe that is why I am not all "ZOMG THIS IS TEH BEST GAEM EVAR!!!!" about them. Yeah they are really, really good. But they are missing something critical for me. A good magic system.

Now Savage Worlds presents a system that is designed to be used with Magic, Psionics, Mad/Weird Science or Supers. It does work and it has a nice streamlined design that I do like. In fact it really is the first game where I felt Mad Science was a great option (I disliked it in both Mage and Buffy). Cortex is more of toolkit approach in the core where the author actively supports you building a system on your own. Why thank you Jamie! I think I might just have to do that. ;)

I have made attempts over the last year to port the Ghosts of Albion magic system over to varying degrees of success (and failure). The process is simple really. Pick an attribute (typically a mental one), add an Edge (SW: such as "Arcane Background") or Asset (Cortex), combined with a skill (Savage Worlds suggests "Spellcasting" or "faith") and compare that to some target number, usually modified by the spell difficulty. Not really that hard. The system out of the box for Savage Worlds is most similar in concept to WitchCraft, where Arcane Background functions as The Gift. Then this allows you to buy more powers (Edges) that are used as spells. In Ghosts of Albion spells are not Edges, Assets or Qualities, they are things you can buy or acquire, typically via the Occult Library Quality. This frees up those character creation points, but makes for very specific effects. "Fireball" does just that, but a "Fire Manipulation" power can be at low levels effecting a normal flame or a fireball at higher ones. Arcane books then in this system then become more how-to-guides and training rather than recipes for spells. Good for WitchCraft RPG and Witch Girls Adventures, bad for Charmed, Buffy and Ghosts of Albion.

So I have to take a different approach.

So should "Spells" be Powers? Yes. I think that much is clear. Given the point economies of both systems spending a ton of points on individual effect spells will take forever. Of course that is if I am doing something like Charmed. If I stick with something like Supernatural then maybe that is fine.

There needs to be a trait (Edge, Asset, Quality or even Attribute) that grants power to perform magic. Like the Gift or Magic. It is tied to a skill, called Spellcasting or Arcana maybe. The skill then can be how you increase your personal power. Of course the Magic trait can also have levels to represent raw power and even something like Mana/Essence points. Currently neither game offers something exactly like this. But Witch Girls Adventures does.

Witch Girls Adventures is fun game I picked up over the summer and have been having quite a bit of fun with. So before I build a new magic system, let's see how one ported over might work.

WGA has a Magic attribute that typically starts out at d8 for most characters, though some have d10. Remember, this is a magic heavy game. Let's translate that to a Magic Edge/Asset. The first level you can buy is d4 and it can move up. WGA also has the Spellcasting skill. Let's move that over as well.
The basic Cortex formula then is Magic + Spellcasting and compare vs Target number. It's a simple system. WGA also various spells/powers that can be bought or learned. We can also use the basic Zap Point mechanic.

Savage Worlds is a bit different. It's power system compares your level (Novice, Seasoned, Veteran…) and then subtracts power points. In WGA every spell has a level, 1 to 6 typically, and those might correspond to SW levels. So Novice can be levels 1-2, Seasoned 3, Veteran 4, Heroic 5 and up. The power Points loss is equal to twice the WGA level. You can still take the different magical "Schools" and break them out into skills. It might even make sense to create a Magic Attribute (just like WGA) and have it ranked d4 and up and purchase the magical skills (WGA schools) just like one does normally in SW. A magic roll then is a Skill roll (plus the Wild Die for Wild Cards) compared to the TN, and then add in any raises. I would also give magic using characters power points equal to twice their Magic Attribute die. So a d4 has 8, a d8 has 16 and so on, just like Witch Girls Zap points.

I like this for Cortex, but not convinced it is any better or worse than what Savage Worlds already has now. What is does give Savage Worlds is more variety to its magic system. Like Unisystem, Savage Worlds has carved out a niche for itself and it works well in that niche. It's Pulpy with "Bigger Than Life Heroes!" and maybe not the high magic hijinks one would see in Ghosts of Albion or Mage.

I have a couple more ideas to test this out, maybe finally bringing to life that Charmed RPG I have been dying to do for years.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wait? Is it 1982 again? More anti-D&D crap.

So the old "Dungeons and Dragons causes violence" meme has reared it's ugly head again.  This time from the particularly lazy journalism of Ms. Laurel J. Sweet and the Boston Herald.  Ms. Sweet put forth that golden chestnut that somehow playing the game Dungeons and Dragons is somehow linked to violent murder. In particular the ones Amy Bishop is accused of.

Now let me be clear here.  What ever Amy Bishop did or didn't do in her personal life is unimportant when dealing with the fact that she murdered three people, supposedly because she didn't get tenure.  We could just as easily blame the University tenure track or the pressures of a publish or perish environment.  I am sure people will blame the gun companies too.
Here is a novel idea.  Let's blame Amy Bishop.  She is the one that pulled the trigger after all.  Apparently she kept pulling till the gun jammed.

But my ire is not directed at Amy Bishop.  We have a court system, juries and a judge for her.  No mine is on the lazy, so called journalism of  Laurel J. Sweet.  Yeah I linked her name again.  Wonder why.

To make the claims or even allusions she is making are either laziness, a misguided attempt to push copy or a hidden conservative agenda.   She published not just one, but two articles on this.  At the risk of giving her exactly what she wants here are the links.  Use a browser that blocks ads if you wish to make a statement:

So. why do I get so worked up about these things?  Well frankly stupid people piss me off, but smart people enabling stupid people to do more stupid things is worse.

See here is how it works.  Lazy journalist looking for a good byline writes fluff piece about D&D leading to murder.  Next thing you know some shit-for-brains religious fuck-wit then quotes the article as "expert testimony", then that person gets quoted as "reading up on all the latest literature", then it is used as "evidence" in a Wikipedia article and you get a snowball of stupid rolling down hill.

Next thing you know someone is digging up old Pat Pulling again and TLN is showing "Mazes & Monsters" in heavy rotation.

Ok to be fair I have no idea if TLN has ever shown "Mazes & Monsters".

It irritates me because it is lazy, and stupid.  Obviously the Boston Herald is trying to push copy and Ms. Sweet is only too happy to help.  But it is bad journalism.

I had my run ins with the D&D Satanic Panic of the 80's.  I was lucky to have had parents that were smart enough to know better than to listen to fundies and to trust their children.  Later on I dealt with Jack Chick personally and, if I may be so bold, came out the winner in that one.

The time I now spend playing D&D with my own children has been fantastic.  I have met some of the coolest people through this game and others like it.  It is a great past time full of great people who deserve better than being painted by the sloppy brush of Laurel J. Sweet.

Agree with me?  Why not let Laurel J. Sweet know yourself.  Reasonable, intelligent emails only.  Or even just something to convey your disappointment in a polite manner.

Don't give her anything else to write about.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


So I have a post on magic in Cortex, but that is going to be delayed a bit.

I burned my hand this weekend making Pad Thai so typing is slow.
I am also not feeling too well today (cold).  So the post will be on it's way.  Just later than I wanted it.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Witches for D&D4

So a pause on my Cortex/Savage Worlds magic discussion for something that has been in the back of my mind for a while now.

Witches in D&D 4.
I go back and forth a lot on this.  Part of me feels that i don't need to do this, the Warlock sorta does what I would want in a witch, but not everything.  I am also of the frame of mind that characters in D&D4 play a certain role in the game and maybe the witch is not a good fit.

But then I come to the point where I am combing classes as hybrids, multiclasses and very specific feats to get what I want, and that is not what I want either.

So I am left with the conclusion that I come to time and time again in D&D.
If I want a witch I am going to have to make her myself.

I am currently doing that now for Spellcraft & Swordplay and looking to do it for Basic D&D clones and Advanced ones as well.  I already did it for 2nd Ed AD&D and 3.x D&D and each one felt a little different.
A witch in 4th Ed would have to feel different too.

Like the effort I went through for these previous editions I have to think about what role the witch would serve in this new game.  Here are my thoughts.

1. New Warlock pact
This is the easiest.  I come up with a new Warlock pact that is "witchy" enough for me.  The pros are there are already some very witch-like elements to the warlock and I am not inventing something new, just modifying something already out there.  I could call it something like an Occult Pact.  The would be warlock makes a pact with ancient Occult (hidden) beings that can be good, evil or otherwise.  The pact is something like a devotion so I have the "religion" angle and there are still reasons for clerics and wizards to mistrust them.  One of the criticisms of my 2nd ed witch book was there were really no wicked witches in it.  This I felt, after some reflection on my part,  was a reasonable criticism. With 4e then I have my cake and eat it too with the Dark, Infernal and even the Star pacts covering the wicked and/or mysterious witch.
While there are a lot of pros to this solution, there are some cons as well.
First, the warlock-as-a-witch is stuck in the striker role.  Not too bad really, but the witch in my mind has always been more of a controller.  Yes, yes I am using the new terms from the new game in the past tense.  It is easier to say that than say I have always seen the witch employing certain techniques like charm, mass blindness, controlling others, and polymorphs, all powers that the current Arcane Controller (wizard) does now.
It is enough of a mismatch that I am considering option 2.

2. Witch as her own Class
I have been thinking of the witch as her own class for some time now.   There are a lot of reasons to do this.  First it allows me to do what I want with her.  I can make her a controller for example.  Would I keep her Arcane?  I am thinking not, we have an arcane controller, the wizard, so maybe she should be something else.  The 4e Blackmoor book has the Wokan, which is an update of the old Wokanni class witch had been called the witch in previous editions of Basic D&D.  It has it's own power source.  So taking that as an example, maybe what I really want is a new power source.  The Occult Power source sounds cool.  Either that or Eldritch.  In any case these are ancient magics that bridge the gaps between Arcane, Divine, Primordial and Shadow.
The witch then is an Occult Controller.
I can also move the warlock over to become an Occult Striker.  We already have two Arcane Strikers, the Sorcerer and the Warlock.  This would limit the Paragon paths for the Warlock though.
I would still need an Occult Leader and an Occult Defender.  The Witch Knight from my 2nd Ed book and the Witch Guardian from my 3rd Ed book would combine to make an armor wearing, sword wielding Occult Defender.  No ideas yet on an Occult Leader.
The Pros are obviously I get exactly what I want.  The cons now though are pretty big.  Not only do I need to create a new class, but a whole new set of classes, paragon paths and associated magic items, feats and rituals.

Do I really want to do all that work?
Well. Chances are I am going to eventually.  But I don't need to do everything.  I am not planning on publishing this, so I am free to borrow what I need.
I have looked at several other witch classes for 4e and while they are ok, they don't really work for me.
But the 4e Blackmoor book seems to cover some of my bases.
I already decided that the Monk comes from Blackmoor, I guess I will be using the other classes as well.

The Arcane Warrior is perfect (nearly) as my Occult Defender, Witch Knight.  So I can use him as is.
There are two controllers, the Elderkin and the Idolater that also could work.  But that makes three controllers.  The Wokan is an interesting witch-like character, but it is also not perfect.  It is a "hybrid" role, which I don't care for, but I see the logic in.

I do have this other product, The Witch, from Svalin Games by Richard Lewis.  It's not a bad product, it's not perfect either.  But it does something rather interesting.  It makes the witch a Leader.  I could live with that.  A lot of her powers are Intelligence based, I would change that Charisma or Wisdom to be honest.  Most likely Wisdom.  While I can live with her in the Leader role, the Controller is still my preferred choice.

So where does this leave me now?

Well I can use all the above classes as part of an Occult Power grouping.  Each would need tweaks and edits to make them work well together.  And I might end up rewriting the witch all-together anyway.  But this is not a bad place to start I guess.  It does allow me to get more bang out of my Blackmoor buck and I like that.

Think I am going need to print out my PDFs and do some edits in pencil for these.  That's the other thing.  None of this (except the warlock) in in DDi and that is a pain.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Future of D&D?

Could this be the future of D&D?


Surfacescapes uses Microsoft Surface (an input device and software) to emulate an hybrid table-top / CPRG environment for playing D&D 4th ed.

Granted I don't have 10 grand to dump into gaming right now (but I bet if I added up all the money I have spent in the last 30+ years...) and I am not sure how this would advance, but the ideas are limitless really.  Pre-configured adventures and monsters.  DDI already has some of this now.

I am going to keep an eye on this one.

This could be D&D 5th edition folks.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Cortex and Unisystem

I have a few posts about Cortex coming up and I am actually putting them on hold to put this one up first.

Cortex is a system I have talked about off and on. I like it. It has some neat things going for it. I have described it before as the funky love child of Unisystem and Savage Worlds and that is still a fair comparison. Cortex though is closer in nature to Unisystem I think. Like Unisystem, Cortex is designed to be a universal core rules system. Like Unisystem it has some very cool licensed properties; Supernatural being my favorite, but I have to admit I like Demon Hunters too.

So. Why don't I like Cortex more? Well. For starters I am not a fan of its thin magic system. Or rather, it's overly thin magic system. I will discuss that in a later post, but mostly outside of magic and dealing with normal humans, Cortex and Unisystem are roughly equal. In fact there is a lot overlap between the games.

Attributes are roughly the same. Strength = Strength, Dexterity = Agility, Constitution = Vitality, Intelligence = Intelligence, Willpower = Willpower and Perception = Alertness. Even the ranges are roughly the same. 1 = d2, 2=d4, 3=d6, 4=d8, 5=d10 and 6=d12, with the proper human mins and maxs lining up. Cortex even assumes the human average to be about d6, similar to Unisystem's 3. With the point buy systems Cortex's Veteran is roughly equal then Experienced Heroes in many Unisystem games. Life points are calculated differently, so I would stick to the system used in each game rather than a full conversion.

Skills are likewise roughly equal. Cortex has more skills and offers skill specializations, something that might work very nice ported over to Unisystem as a bridge for the Cinematic to Classic gap. I like the Skill Specializations. Nice way for more powerful characters to spend their points. I like it quite a lot to be honest, so much that I would consider it for a Cinematic/Classic Unisystem hybrid. Have Cinematic skills up to a certain point (say maybe 3) and then anything after that (4 and up) have to be specializations.

Unisystem characters get Qualities and Drawbacks. Cortex characters get Traits and Complications; and they get a few of those. This is fine really when dealing with normal humans. In the core rules there are still a few to choose from and there are others in the other, licensed material cores. In this respect it is closer to Savage Worlds. All three games have some overlap here, but each has something here and there to offer the others. Demon Hunters and Supernatural can get a boost from the likes of Buffy, Angel and Ghosts of Albion, while Unisystem gamers can get a different feel for their games from Demon Hunters and Supernatural. Adding Battlestar Galactica to the mix extends this even more. Ghosts of Albion/Angel/Buffy, Supernatural and Demon Hunters all live under the same basic idea; the supernatural is real and you need to fight it, though they all differ in approach. Mixing the games up a bit would be perfect for that Urban Fantasy genre that is so popular these days, with a perfect balance of fluff and crunch and rules-lite cinematic fun. While conversions are easy, some would be harder to convert. For example, a Cortex Vampire costs d6, in Unisystem Vampires are 15 pts. Granted they are different sort of vampires. But something like a Slayer or Protector would cost quite a bit in Cortex, and for the current games they have not really appropriate. I'd have to go through all the Demon and Supernatural creation rules (in Angel and Ghosts respectively) to see if they would convert fine to Cortex.

Magic though is an issue. Not surprising (and really nothing against the other games) I like Unisystem's magic the best. But looking over Cortex's base system, there is a lot of room to improve on what they have, adapt something else or grow something new! The magic system in Ghosts would work fine more or less as is. I would need to create a "Spellcasting" skill, to represent basic understanding and then specialize it out into various forms; say Kabalistic, Solomonic, FamTrad Witchcraft to go one route or even Alteration, Necromancy, Illusion for another or even more basic, Arcane, Divine, Psionic. Lots of choices really. Just need to sit down pen to paper one day and do it. But this one sounds the best to me so far, though I have a lot of ideas.

Cortex has at least one thing going for it that I do like over Unisystem; the step-die mechanic. Not that I don't like Unisystem's 1d10 (or even my 2d6 variant), I do. But the die + die gives a nice set of probability curves over die + fixed numbers.

So now all that is left is to test my conversions. So what is a good choice? Well I need a good Unisystem character that could also exist in a Cortex world. Sounds like a great excuse for me pull out Vampire Tara! In my Unisystem games Tara and Willow are still alive and together, and in one adventure they came across a vampire version of Tara, from another reality. Well. Amber Benson played a vampire named Lenore in Supernatural. Sounds like a perfect choice. You can see her Unisystem stats here, You can use these stats for Vampire Tara or Vampire Lenore as you like.

Vampire Tara
Agi d10 Str d12 Vit d10 Ale d12 Int d6 Wil d10

Init d10 + d6 LP 20
Endurance d10 + d10

Traits Allure d4, Amorous d4, Sharp Senses d6

Skills Athletics d6/Acrobatics d10, Drive d6/Horses d8, Influence d4, Knowledge d6/Occultism d12, Melee Weapons d6, Perception d6, Science d2, Unarmed Combat d6

Comparing these stats to those of "Kate" in the Supernatural Corebook I am fairly pleased. Conversions seem to work out very nice.

So, given this, maybe I should run a Vampire Willow and Tara game using Cortex. I think it could be really fun and work. Play a couple of vampires on the run various hunters, sort of the opposite of most Unisystem fare, but not quite World of Darkness.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tolkienesque Fantasy

So. I had this dream last night. It was basically a 60s British sit-com called “Tolkienessque Fantasy”.

The idea is that all the things that Tolkien wrote about were actually real. There is a real “Middle Earth” and Hobbits and all that. He would “go down there” and report his findings in books. Silly? Yes. It gets sillier.

So you have Professor Tolkien circa 1960-1965, and he has two college students. William, his studious grad student, Polly, a ditzy undergrad and his secretary/housemaid Donna, who for reasons I am not clear on, was called “Dondo”. Polly and William were both very Mod.

So this lot would adventure every week down to Middle Earth. William would approach Professor Tolkien about some minor detail about Middle Earth history (I suppose there are courses in Middle Earth history at Oxford in 1961) and Tolkien (who seemed very Hobbit like) would declare “I don’t know. Shall we go down to ask Bilbo?” and off they would go on one madcap adventure after the next.

Did I mention that all my dreams are usually this detailed?

Anyway, I thought it might make a fun game model. It’s one part “The Hobbit”, one part “The Chronicles of Narnia”, a tiny part “Doctor Who”, and a little bit of “Are You Being Served?” and “Faulty Towers”. Approach Middle Earth from a modern frame of reference. Played totally as a farce mind you. This wouldn’t be Tolkien’s Middle Earth, or even Jackson’s or Bashi’s. Maybe it would be Rankin-Bass, but there is an obvious cartoon element here.

So if I ever get the desire to run a 60s game and don’t want to get into all the drug culture or psychedelica of the time, I might try this.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Young Ones

And now.  Something silly.

Once in every lifetime
Comes a love like this.
I need you and you need me.
Oh my darling can't you see.

The young ones,
Darling we're the young ones,
And young ones shouldn't be afraid.

To live, love
There's song to be sung,
For we won't be the young ones very long.

(Character descriptions stolen from Wikipedia, )

Rick: Oh no, the front door's exploded. Vyvyan.
Mike: Vyvyan.
Vyvyan: Vyvyan, Vyvyan, Vyvyan. Honestly, whenever anything explodes in this house it's always 'Blame Vyvyan'.

Neil Pye

Name: Neil Pye
Alias: Neil the Hippie
Played by: Nigel Planer
Type: Pacifist Hippie

Neil: Oh, look, I know, I know, why not put "boomshanka"?
Mike: Ahh... that's hard to tell, Neil. What does it mean?
Neil: It means "may the seed of your loin be fruitful in the belly of your woman".

Life Points: 25
Drama Points: 10

Strength 2
Dexterity 2
Constitution 1
Intelligence 3
Perception 4
Willpower 4

Hmm...he is the only one that cleans the house. Hard to Kill (though he does manage to get killed) 2, Natural Toughness.

Emotional Problems (Depression, Severe; Fear of rejection, Severe), Bad Luck 3, Honorable 1, Humorless, Mental Problems (Delusions Sleep will give you cancer, Severe; Obsession pacifism, vegetarianism, Severe; Paranoia Deranged) , Outcast, Resources (Miserable),

Acrobatics 0
Art 2
Computers 0 (he hates technology)
Crime 1
Doctor 1
Driving 1
Getting Medieval 0 (Pacifist)
Gun Fu 0 (still a Pacifist)
Influence: 0
Knowledge 3
Kung Fu 0 (yeah)
Languages 1
Mr. Fix-It 3
Notice 3
Occultism 2 (only because he has a personal devil)
Science 1 (limited to Natural Sciences)
Sports 1
Wild Card

Neil Pye, the hippie, is a clinically depressed, suicidal pacifist, vegetarian and environmentalist working towards a Peace Studies degree. He is victimised by other housemates (especially Rick and Vyvyan) and forced to do the housework, including shopping, cleaning and cooking. He is never acknowledged for it unless it goes wrong.

Neil is pessimistic and believes everyone and everything hates him, a belief which is mostly true, though he does have some friends, two hippies, one also named Neil and one named Warlock. He dislikes technology (except for videos) and speaks out for Vegetable Rights and Peace. He is a chronic insomniac, believing that "sleep gives you cancer".

Neil wants the others to feel sorry for him, or even just to acknowledge his presence. His attention-seeking antics range from repeatedly banging himself on the head with a frying pan to attempting suicide. He claims that "the most interesting thing that ever happens to me is sneezing". This is because whenever he sneezes, it causes a large explosion.

In the second series his parents (who appear in the episode "Sick") are revealed to be upper middle class. They are conservative Tories who look down on Neil for starring in such a disreputable comedy series.

He also says 'heavy' a lot.

Neal in Modern Games: Neal is still living in the house and working on his Peace Studies degree. He does not know that the other guys have left, since they never told him, and thinks they just have been avoiding him for 25 years.


Name: Rick
Alias: Prick (the p is silent), The Peoples Poet, Rick the Complete Bastard
Played by: Rik Mayall
Type: Communist Bastard

Rick: Neil, the bathroom's free. Unlike the country under the Thatcherite junta.

Life Points: 22
Drama Points: 15

Strength 2
Dexterity 2
Constitution 1
Intelligence 3
Perception 2
Willpower 2

Is complete and utter bastard a quality? If so Rick has it in supernatural levels.

Adversary (Vyvyan), Emotional Problems (Easily Flustered; Fear of rejection, Mild), Bad Luck 1, Mental Problems (Coward, Severe; Cruelty, Mild unless it is directed towards Neil then Severe; Delusions is charming and intelligent, Severe; Obsession Cliff Richards, Severe; Paranoia Severe; Zealot(communism, socialism, Rickism), Severe), Resources (Miserable), Talentless/Dullard

Acrobatics 1
Art 2 (he thinks its 5)
Computers 0
Crime 2
Doctor 1
Driving 0
Getting Medieval 1 (but it refers only the medieval police state he is living now)
Gun Fu 0
Influence: -2
Knowledge 2
Kung Fu 1
Languages 1
Mr. Fix-It 0
Notice 1
Occultism 0
Science 2
Sports 0
Wild Card

Rick is a self-proclaimed anarchist who is studying sociology and/or domestic sciences (depending on the episode). Rick writes poetry and calls himself "The People's Poet".

Rick is a hypocritical, tantrum-throwing attention-seeker who loves Cliff Richard. Rick tries to impress the others with his non-existent wit, talent and humour. He verbally insults (and often physically assaults) Neil at every opportunity. He fights and bickers with Vyvyan and often attempts to impress Mike.

Rick is also vegetarian and wishes all men to love each other like brothers. However, he rarely does anything that can be attributed to brotherly love.

Rick is portrayed as unlikeable and so self-absorbed that he believes he is the "most popular member of the flat" even though his housemates hate him (Vyvyan describes Rick's name as being spelled "with a silent P"). Despite the fact that the other members dislike and disregard Rick, at one point he is heard to say that they "really are terrific friends."

Believing himself to be the 'People's Poet' or the "spokesperson for a generation", Rick often greatly exaggerates or lies about his political activism and class background and is exposed in the final episode "Summer Holiday", when it is suggested he comes from an upper class, Conservative background.

While he perceives himself as an anarchist, he is actually very fond of ideals produced by Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky and states his interests in them in several episodes. However, he claims to have a dislike of Margaret Thatcher, as is noted by his efforts to threaten her with a bomb in the eponymously named episode "Bomb." This is also noticed in "The Young Ones Book," first published by Sphere Books, wherein negative references are made to both Thatcher and The Conservative Party.

Rick speaks loudly and cannot pronounce his "r"s.

Rick in Modern Games: Rick died in 1985 before receiving his degree in a student protest march. Rick thought it was for an anti-Thatcher march, but it instead was to protest the replacement of Coke with New Coke in the student commons.
He is now haunting a castle in Scotland that houses a magic school.

Vyvyan Basterd

Name: Vyvyan Basterd
Alias: Vyvyan the punk rocker
Played by: Adrian Edmondson
Type: Anti-social Bastard

Vyvyan: What we need is a large consignment of very hard drugs.

Life Points: 49
Drama Points: 15

Strength 5
Dexterity 2
Constitution 4
Intelligence 3
Perception 3
Willpower 2

Fast Reaction Time, Hard to Kill

Mental Problems (Anti-Social impulses, Deranged; Cruelty, Deranged; Obsessions, Mild; Paranoia, Mild; Recklessness, Deranged), Resources (Miserable),

Acrobatics 1
Art -1
Computers 0
Crime 3
Doctor 2 (he is pre-med after all)
Driving 2
Getting Medieval 4 (practically his middle name)
Gun Fu 1
Influence: 3
Knowledge 3
Kung Fu 2
Languages 1
Mr. Fix-It 2
Notice 1
Occultism 1
Science 2
Sports 3
Wild Card

Vyvyan is an orange-haired, mohawked punk rocker and medical student. He is extremely violent and regularly attacks Neil and Rick with pieces of wood, cricket bats and other large objects. He never harms Mike, whom he respects. He despises Rick more than he does Neil, taking every opportunity to insult and attack him. For example, when Rick, Mike and Neil meet his mother at a bar in the episode "Boring", he calls both Neil and Mike his friends, but not Rick, whom he refers to as "a complete bastard." Ironically, the antagonistic relationship between Rick and Vyvyan makes them all but inseperable; by a wide margin, the two spend more time together than apart or with the other housemates.

Vyvyan owns a yellow Ford Anglia, with red flames painted along the sides, and a Glaswegian hamster named Special Patrol Group ("SPG" for short) which he is very fond of, although SPG is also frequently subjected to Vyvyan's extreme violence. His mother is a barmaid and former shoplifter who before "Boring" had not seen Vyvyan in ten years and has no idea who his father is.

Vyvyan displays feats of inhuman strength on occasion (moving entire walls with his bare hands, lifting Neil above his head in a fight with Rick, biting through a brick and even being decapitated and re-attaching his own head), and eats just about anything; televisions, dead rats, cornflakes, or cornflakes with ketchup.

Despite being a homicidal maniac, Vyvyan seems quite sociable and creative; In one episode ("Flood"), he has developed his own potion to transform a person into an axe-wielding homocidal maniac (he claims "it's basically a cure...for not being an axe-wielding homocidal maniac...the potential market's enourmous!"). He has more friends than the others but apparently "he doesn't like any of them." He frequently causes havoc or damage such as wiring the doorbell to a bomb and adding a 289 CID Ford V-8 engine to the vacuum cleaner which proceeds to suck up the carpet, the floorboards and a friend of Neil's (the vacuum also prompted one of the few clashes between Vyvyan and Mike; when Mike admonished Vyv not to use it anymore, Vyv replied by calling him a "poof"). Disturbingly, Vyvyan also appears to be the only member of the group with a driving licence.

Vyvyan in Modern Games: Vyvyan became a very successful plastic surgeon.


Name: Mike
Alias: "the Cool Person"
Played by: Christopher Ryan
Type: Con-artist

Mike: Neil, have you upset the neighbors?
Neil: No, I've blown them up.

Life Points: 26
Drama Points: 15

Strength 2
Dexterity 3
Constitution 2
Intelligence 4
Perception 4
Willpower 5

Charisma 1, Criminal (Con Man)

Covetous (Greedy, Desperate; Lechery, Serious; Ambition, Desperate; Conspicuousness; Serious), Mental Problems (Anti-social, Mild), Resources (Miserable),

Acrobatics 1
Art 2
Computers 1
Crime 5
Doctor 1
Driving 0
Getting Medieval 1
Gun Fu 2
Influence: 6
Knowledge 3
Kung Fu 1
Languages 1
Mr. Fix-It 2
Notice 4
Occultism 0
Science 1
Sports 2
Wild Card

Mike was the odd-one-out of the four. He is the assumed leader of the group, despite his diminutive size, and does not involve himself in the battles between the other three. He makes puns, which are either deliberately cheap or humorous but over-celebrated.

He frequently utters confusing, profound-sounding phrases which baffle the others (for example, when asked by Rick if he stole his apple, Mike replies "Well, if you're gonna sin you might as well be original."). Mike is supposedly the ladies' man of the bunch and brags about his prowess with women, although he is eventually forced to admit his virginity to the others in "Nasty." Though he is a virgin, as are the rest of the housemates, he makes every attempt at wooing the opposite sex, being quite forward and unsuccessful.

A con artist, he always has some kind of plan to make quick money such as renting out Rick's bedroom as a roller disco and soliciting bids for the unexploded atom bomb that fell into the house. Mike attends Scumbag College only nominally as he has blackmailed his tutor and the Dean of the school for grants and apparently passing grades. In "Summer Holiday" he muses "I think I'll ask for one of those Ph.D.s next year."

While Mike often does things at the expense or detriment of his housemates, he rarely expresses the sort of open hostility that the others do, and seems to cause them trouble only when it benefits him, rather than out of sadistic joy. He has, however, managed to nail his own legs to a table, and knocked Neil out during a game of cricket, albeit unintentionally. We only see violence inflicted on him once (at the end of the "Living Doll" video, when Vyvyan knocks him unconscious with a hammer).

Mike in Modern Games: Mike bought and conned his way to a seat on the House of Lords where he was instrumental in working on the committee to elect Mr. Harold Saxon.

Gen Con 2010, Ghosts and more

So I bought my Gen Con tickets for myself and my family.  We are committed to going now.
Well I always was.

Talked to my regular GM and he also wants to run some Ghosts of Albion games.  So even more Ghosts fun this year!

Like everyone else it seems I am gaga over the new hotness that is Labyrinth Lord Advanced Edition Companion.  More on that soon.

And I am totally digging the new trailer for The Last Airbender, seen here at Hero Press.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Prince Mamuwalde for Witch Girls Adventures

I introduced Mamuwalde for the Unisystem game systems (Ghosts of Albion, Buffy, Angel), but in truth, he works great for nearly any system that is modern horror. 

Given that Dracula is set up as a potential threat to the students of Willow-Misst School I think adding Mamuwlade to Witch Girls Adventures is a great idea. He can work as an antagonist. The girl's favorite teacher is on cloud nine after meeting this suave handsome royal prince and all he can think of is her. Of course the prince is Mamuwalde and the teacher in question is the reincarnation of his bride Luva. Trouble is only the Stars can see him as a dangerous vampire, their teacher is too far gone.

Or even as an ally. Maybe after he is defeated in the above scenario the cast forgets him till they have to battle Vlad Dracula. They discover that Vlad had another great enemy not named Van Helsing. Can the Stars convince the Prince to fight the Count for them? Could you imagine that clash of the titans? Two vampire lords fighting to the death and knowing the fate of the school rests on who wins?

Lots of potential here for drama.

Prince Mamuwalde
Rank: 5
Age: 230 (as a vampire)
Location: Currently lives in Los Angeles, has homes in New York and New Orleans
Motivation: Find Luva

Body: d12
Mind: d8
Senses: d10
Will: d10
Social: d12
Magic: d10

Life Points: 24
Reflex: 15
Resist Magic: 13
Zap Points: 20

Skills: Athletics +5, Basics +8, Fighting +8, Mythology +8, Hear +6, Leader +4, Look +8, Track +5, Mundane Etiquette +8, Mysticism +7
Traits: Gloomy, Warrior, Vampire

Hypnosis: Mamuwalde can hypnotize others whom he can best in a Will die vs. Will die roll. If Mamuwalde wins, that person is under his power for 24 hours.'

Magic Immunity: Mamuwalde is immune to Alteration, Mentalism and Necromancy type magics.
Shape Shift: Mamuwalde can become a bat or wolf at will.

Special Immortality: Mamuwalde had been cursed by Dracula to live forever, but a Voodoo curse in early 70's made this true. Now Mamuwalde can be killed by anything that can kill a vampire, but he returns from the dead after 3 days. He can only be truly killed if he finds the inner peace he seeks with being reunited with his love Luva.

Bite: 10 damage and drains a person of all Life and Zap points.
Claws: 9

WotC does Retro? Clones go Advanced? Up is Down!

Well a few things going on have the OSR on notice and many are ready with the "I told you so!"s.

The big one of course is the new Dungeons & Dragons Essentials,  which is everything you need to play the D&D 4th Ed game in a basic, condensed form, with counters and dice all in a red box.  So. A Basic Set in a Red Box.  Sound familiar?

or even,

More about that can also be read here,

That and a new Gamma World game is coming out, Castle Ravenloft gets the board game treatment that sounds almost like it is solo-D&D, and even D&D 4 evangelist (and I mean that in a good way) Mike Mearls is going on about how the best way to write a D&D 4 adventure is do it in OD&D or BD&D first.

What is cool about all of this is that Wizard's sees that the OSR is a vital community and has their finger, well maybe not the pulse, but a pulse of the gamer community as well.  Call it what you like, I call it cool.

And moving at least into the 80's, the one of the OSR darlings, Goblinoid Games, has released their expansions to Labyrinth Lord, the Advanced Edition companion. A game that bridges the gap between the "Basic" and "Advanced" games of the Golden Age.

I grabbed the "artless" version since I am not sure what I doing in or with the OSR "Basic" scene these days, but this book is really cool.  I am reminded of the old days of sitting in my bed room roughly age 11 and trying to figure out why my Expert Set Cleric was not the same as the one I was reading in the Player's Handbook and not figuring out why.  This is not a D&D Rosetta Stone by any means, but it is a good translator.  I would have loved this game back then and today, well I still think it is pretty damn awesome.
I like it much more than OSRIC and it might even replace Basic Fantasy RPG as my Basic go-to-game-clone. Which, oddly enough had replaced LL in the same context.

Now of course I am itching to write up a witch for Basic and Advanced versions of the "Greatest Fantasy Roleplaying Game of all Time"

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Prince Mamuwalde "Blacula"

Just watched this again last weekend and I am still amazed at the depth of this move I so off-handedly dismissed the first time I saw it.  There is a lot here in this flick that many modern vampire shows/movies lack.
This has easily moved into one of my favorite vampire films, and Prince Mamuwalde as one of the more tragic figures in vampire storytelling.

Prince Mamuwalde "Blacula"

Blacula and Scream Blacula Scream were noble, and novel, experiments. It was 1972 and two things were popular in cinema, Blaxplotation films and Hammer's Vampire films. Blacula then seemed like a logical, if formulamatic, solution. Chances are it would have made a quick buck in a highly derivative market and it would have been forgotten.

Except someone forgot to tell William Marshall this.

William Marshall was a Shakespearean trained actor with a commanding presence and a booming voice, but more importantly he interject a style and nobility to the character of Blacula. Rumor has it that Blacula was going to be nothing more than some ghetto clone killing people in LA. But Marshall proposed the Mamuwalde, African Prince story-line that made the character more three-dimensional. His Blacula was more noble than any vampire before, or since, with the possible exception of Christopher Lee.

I wont ruin the story here, if you have not seen it. Nor will I reference Scream Blacula Scream too much except that the voodoo angle in it was really cool.


It is 1780 and European educated African Prince Mamuwalde returns to Europe, hoping to speak to the European heads of state as equals to end the slave trade that has been robbing his country of its citizens.
He has met with resounding failure, but no failure will compare to what waits for him and his lovely wife Luva when they go to Transylvania and meet with ruling lord, Count Dracula.
Dracula acts improper with Luva, raising Mamuwaldes ire some more. Dracula, insulted by the African prince bites him and curses him with vampire immortality. He seals the newly dead prince in a coffin and then seals the coffin and Luva in a room. Mamuwalde is forced to listen as Luva dies of starvation and he remains, his bloodlust and revenge unsaited for nearly 200 years.

Dracula's castle, and its lands have fallen into decay, but two enterprising interior designers (maybe hoping to make a few bucks on the Hammer Films craze) make off with several of Dracula's possessions, including an ornately designed coffin. Back in LA the designers fatally discover that their coffin is not empty at all and Mamuwalde, aka "Blacula" is loose on the streets. He alternates from killing machine to suave royal, till he meets Tina. Tina is the reincarnation of Luva and Mamuwalde will do whatever he can to have her.

So 1972 was a long time ago. What is Mamuwalde doing today in your games?
Well you have a couple of options. You can take the events of the movie and move them up nearly 40 years. Course you loose some the nice gritty feel of early 70s LA, but it would be easier to adapt the story.
Or you say that after the events of SBS Mamuwalde returned again (after all Dracula is his sire) and he is still search for Luva/Tina. Borrow a page from the Ravenloft playbook (or are they borrowing from Blacula?) and have Luva show up every generation to tempt the Prince. She would be about due again now.

The Soul Question
Does Mamuwalde have a soul? Absolutely. He is not tortured because he is angst filled and existential rather he is tortured because he know he is a monster, and yet he feels love, remorse and regret. This tends to make him a tad depressed and focus on his lost love even after all these centuries. He was, and remains, an honorable man. Winning him as ally would be a great boon to any group of characters, winning his enmity however is certainly inviting death.

Prince Mamuwalde

Life Points 110
Drama Points 15

Strength 8
Dexterity 4
Constitution 6
Intelligence 4
Perception 3
Willpower 5

Initiative +4
Actions 2
Gender Male
Age 250
Eyes Black
Hair Black
Height 63
Weight 250 lbs.

Age 2
Attractiveness +2
Contacts, Financial 2 (for 2010 use)
Contacts, Governmental 2 (for 2010 use)
Fast Reaction Time
Hard to Kill 2
Increased Life Points
Nerves of Steel
Resources +7
Status +5

Antisocial Impulses, Cruel (Mild)
Dual Shape
Honorable (2)
Love, Tragic (Luva)
Mental Problems, Depression (Mild)

Acrobatics 1
Art 3
Computers 0
Crime 1
Doctor 1
Driving 1
Getting Medieval 5
Gun Fu 0
Influence 5
Knowledge 4
Kung Fu 2
Languages 3
Mr. Fix-it 0
Notice 1
Occultism 4
Science 0
Sports 1
Wild Card 0

Manoeuvre        Bonus        Base Damage        Notes
Bite                +8        27                Slash/stab; Grapple first to feed
Break neck        +13        32       
Punch                +6        16                Bash
Dodge                +9                        Defence action
Grapple        +8                        Resisted by Dodge
Feint                +9       

Scream, Blacula, Scream!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Yamil Zacra: The Infernal Star

I have been a fan of H.P. Lovecraft since high school.  I like his works as much as the next gamer/horror geek (which is to say, a lot), but it was a chance discovery in my college library one day that I happened on a collection of unfinished stories by Clark Ashton Smith.  I had known of CAS for a long time.  I knew he was a friend of HPL and the D&D module X2: Castle Amber, was a pastiche of his ideas.   One story in this collection of unfinished tales was The Infernal Star, a story of a evil star.

Accursed forevermore is Yamil Zacra, star of perdition, who sitteth apart and weaveth the web of his rays like a spider spinning in a garden. Even as far as the light of Yamil Zacra falleth among the worlds, so goeth forth the bane and the bale thereof. And the seed of Yamil Zacra, like a fiery tare, is sown in planets that know him only as the least of the stars .... -Fragment of a Hyperborean tablet.

This story grabbed a hold of my imagination and never really let go.  I could never find that book again in the library, despite my best efforts at looking.  But a couple of years ago I discovered the story online at Eldritch Dark, a CAS devoted website.

This dredged up another half-forgotten memory of Nemesis, the hypothetical red- or brown-dwarf star that obits our sun.  The theory is that Nemesis causes extinction events about 26 million years or so.  The two certainly could be one and the same in a near-apocalyptic game.

Yamil Zacra: The Infernal Star
Somewhere between the stars Polaris and the acknowledged evil star Agol, lies a star nearly invisible to the naked eye; but a star whose ill light shines on Earth still.
The star, Yamil Zacra and it's darker, smaller companion Yuzh, though were once worshipped as evil gods by the Hyboreans and the twisted sorcerers of Mu. Astrologers say that it's foul light was visible when Atlantis sank and the contents moved. In the far future, when many stars have burned out their fuel, they will again be honored by the fell Necromancers of the last continent of Zothique when the Earth is dying.
The ancient Hyboreans believed that this evil star bore the seeds in which all foul magics have grown. That the greatest and most terrible of witches, necromancers and foul wizards were born under it's light.
These magics may be realized when certain amulets of black extraterrestrial metal are grafted into the skin, most often the chest, of those willing. These amulets fell to Earth in ancient times were from the solitary planetary body of Yamil Zacra, a twisted world know as Pnidleethon.

Once in the possession of one of these amulets the dreams of Pnidleethon and Yamil Zacra begin including the means to travel to this chthonic world. When the amulet is finally embedded into the prospective student's chest he forfeits forever his soul and Earthly shell in favor for a form to travel the distances across cold space to the immense world of Pnidleethon.
The scene of these latter dreams was not the Earth, but an immense planet revolving around the sun Yamil Zacra and its dark companion, Yuzh. The name of the world was Pnidleethon. It was a place of exuberant evil life, and its very poles were tropically fertile; and the lowliest of its people was more learned in wizardry, and mightier in necromancy, than the greatest of terrene sorcerers. How he had arrived there, the dreamer did not know, for he was faint and blinded with the glory of Yamil Zacra, burning in mid-heaven with insupportable whiteness beside the blackly flaming orb of Yuzh. He knew, however, that in Pnidleethon he was no longer the master of evil he had been on Earth, but was an humble neophyte who sought admission to a dark hierarchy. As a proof of his fitness, he was to undergo tremendous ordeals, and tests of unimaginable fire and night.
Yamil Zacra in WitchCraft/Buffy/Ghosts of Albion
It is rumored that the possession of such an amulet will increase one's magical energies ten-fold. In game terms increase the character's Sorcery/Magic by +10 or increase their Essence 10 times. While this seems to be great remember at this time there are only two amulets left in the world and the user forfeits their own soul for this power. The soul is not given to some demon or even otherworldly god, but it is consumed whole.

In the Armageddon game I would have Yamil Zacra appear in the nigh sky, a brownish-red blotch on the night sky.  It casts no light, save for those already under Leviathan's influence, but everyone can feel it's heat.

Yamil Zacra in All Tomorrow's Zombies In the present day it is difficult to travel to Yamil Zacra and Pnidleethon other than by eldritch or sorcererous means. But in the future worlds of ATZ such an expedition to a planet that is seemingly dead is different sort of tale.

Option 1: The planet is dead. The crew lands on a planet where there had once been a great, if evil, civilization. Yet something is still out there in the dark picking off the cast one by one. It's Cthulhu meets Aliens, or "Journey To The Seventh Planet" with less suck.

Option 2: The planet is alive. Here the civilization of seemingly advanced humans still thrives. But the cast is trapped. Think of the song Hotel California and apply it to the entire planet. Or, Planet Ravenloft.
Escaping in either case is the goal, the means in each option differ. In Option 1 it is just get back to the ship before you all die. In Option 2 it is figure out how to get back to the ship and get out.

Yamil Zacra in D&D4
Obviously one of the dread and fell stars that grant warlocks their power.

More Revelations of Melech
Yamil Zacra: When civilizations fall, it is the light of Yamil Zacra that falls on them. It is a dark red star barely seen by mortals, those that can see it know it is a portent of doom.

Level 23 Encounter Spell
The Doom of Yamil Zacra                                        Warlock Attack 23
For brief, horrible moment the light of Yamil Zacra shine on your enemy, revealing the doom that must come to all.
Encounter ✦ Arcane, Radiant, Fear, Implement
Standard Action                                                            Ranged 10
Target: One creature
Attack: Constitution vs. Fortitude
Hit: 4d8 + Constitution modifier Radiant damage, and the target grants combat advantage to all your allies until the end of your next turn.
    Star Pact: If this attack hits, the target takes a penalty to Will equal to your Intelligence modifier until the end of your next turn.
    Infernal Pact: If this attack hits, target also takes Fire damage equal to your Intelligence modifier.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Monks come from Blackmoor, part 2

So reflecting on my previous post, Monks come from Blackmoor, I went back and looked over my new (new as of Gen Con) 4e Blackmoor book.  Right there, just as I remembered was the Mystic.  Not what I liked about this Mystic class is it reminded me so much of the old D&D Rules Cyclopedia Mystic.  I am not sure how they stack up against the official 4e Monks, but right now that doesn't matter much to me since these Mystic look like they fit the bill I want as is, right now.  So well in fact I am going over my 4e Blackmoor book with a renewed interest.

Their power source is "Spiritual" rather than "Psychic", but that could just be splitting hairs.  The effect is largely the same for my use.  Though Spiritual is a bit better sounding for what I want to do with them.

They do compare well to some of the other 3rd party monk classes I have seen for 4e, so I Am inclined to say, balance or not, they are roughly compatible with the 4e monks.

Given the roots that Blackmoor share with Mystara I might even go out on a limb here and say Blackmoor has no clerics in the traditional sense.  The people of Blackmoor worship, or at least honor, immortals.  They are not gods and don't grant spells.  Clerics, normally the healers of a group, can be replaced by nobles  who have healing powers and the wokan who also have healing powers and herbalism.  This is not really a big issue as one might think.  D&D4 is using the paths to immortality that was fairly common in Basic D&D and with the Leader roll and everyone having access to healing now, the cleric can be left be things other than the party medic.  Nobles then could gain this as part of their background fluff.  They are trained as both healer and soldier. This also gives the the Nobel class something to do. The hands of the king are the hands of the healer anyone? The msytic/monk then can focus on the spiritual aspects of life.

The people then of Blackmoor do not believe in gods per se. They know their are supper powerful beings out there, but they are hardly owed worship.  Honor in some cases yes, for their deeds, not their words.

I like this idea to be honest with you. Sets up a very different sort of culture for Blackmoor and I like that.

My game world is taking shape.