Sunday, October 31, 2010

October Movie Reviews: Final Tally

Here we go!

31 movies with 20 new, never before seen.

Not too bad.

October Movie Reviews: Lovecraft Film Fest

Last ones. This last round are some Lovecraft movies.  Pity poor Lovecraft, his books are so good and so scary; but the movie adaptations are usually so bad.  There are some exceptions.

Dagon (2001)
Loosely based on "The Shadows Over Insmouth" it moves the action to Spain.  Here the EoD is slicing up  humans to make "costumes" for the fish mutants.  It has gore, it has sub-par acting and most of the story is preserved but the overall effect is a bit sub-par.  It was an enjoyable little flick, but certainly more of the Lovecraft frame of mind (ie. how many and who survives) than what you normally see in Hollywood films.  It has it's problems to be sure, but it is one of the better adaptations.

Beyond The Dunwich Horror (2008)
This direct to Sci-Fi Channel movie (with an unrated version out there) is Dean Stockwell's second chance at doing The Dunwich Horror (the first was 1970).  This one is more Hollywood and it shows.  In a bad way.  Only barley recognizable as Lovecraft's tale it does have some nice special effects, Yog-Sothoth looks pretty cool.  But there is this whole drug-dream sequences with Abdul Alhazred and his harem of naked girls (I am not 100% sure that Lovecraft ever actually had any women in his stories).  There is a starting scene that is more "Exorcist" or even the movie version of "Constantine" than Lovecraft.  In the end this is weak movie, despite Dean Stockwell playing Henry Armitage and Lovecraft regular Jeffry Combs playing Wilbur Whateley. In fact both are completely misused here to let some D-List actors have all the screen time.  I guess that is how they paid for those special effects.

I'll tally up my movies later.


Happy Halloween from the Other Side!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

D&D4 Halloween Previews

Wizards has some previews up for some new Essentials products that have a distinct Halloween flair.

First, the classic Universal monsters, Frankenstein's Monster (Flesh Golem), Dracula (Master Vampire) and the Wolf-man (infected lycanthrope).

And the new Warlocks, Hexblades are up.  Looks like they might be beefing up their combat a bit.
People are already talking about them a lot too.
Points of Light, and
Can't wait to see the full writeup on these since Warlocks are my favorite 4e Class.

Happy Halloween.

October Movie Reviews: Round up

Rounding up some more movies I saw over the last week or so.  The biggest issue is not watching the movies, but finding the time to blog about them.  I also I like to watch a lot of the Halloween related Discovery and History channels shows and I didn't do that this much this year.

The Plague of the Zombies (1965)
Hammer does zombies.  Interesting take really.  The zombies are sorta incidental.  The big bad here is our voodoo master raising up the corpses of the dead to ... go to work mining.  Sure, it actually makes sense really.  Perfect workers, they don't need to be paid, they will work overtime and if poisonous gas hits the mine they keep on going.
And he would have gotten away with it to if it weren't for those meddling kids-err adults.
Entertaining flick but something that I have long suspected hit me.  I am not a big fan of zombie flicks.  Sure I like Romero and the Dead movies.  But as a whole zombies are not really a sub-genre of horror I care much about.

The Covenant (2006)
Saw this cheap at Target, so I picked it up.  Not bad, not good either.  Think "The Craft" only with dudes.  Five families with magic have lived in this town since Puritan times now the next gen is ready for their powers (even if using magic ages them rapidly).  Of the five only four families are left till new guy comes to town.  Wanna guess who he is and what he wants?  The movie had some good chances to break cliché and many times it looks like it will, but instead it just goes right into it.  Well at least it was cheap.

Frankenstein Created Woman (1967)
My expectations for this one had been pretty low.  I had re-watched Hammer's Frankenstien recently (but didn't review it since I had seen it before) and it was ok.   This movie was something altogether different.  Dr. Baron Von Frankenstein is at it again and again in the form of Peter Cushing.  This time he revives a young woman who committed suicide.  And just because he can, he put the soul of her wrongfully murdered fiancée into her body.  The new woman then goes on a killing spree, killing the men that wrongfully accused her, er him, and got him executed in the first place.
Interesting flick because of the whole metaphysical aspects.   Plus Cushing was fantastic in this, I got so used to seeing him as one Van Helsing or another that seeing this side of his acting really was great.  And lets be honest here, if you are going to go through the effort to create a woman out of the materials you have at hand, you can do a lot worse than Susan Denberg.

Will have to see what I can catch tonight.

Not sure where my count is now.  Will have to add them up later.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Dragon and the Phoenix: Episode 10

Episode 10: The Enemy Within

Jerome: "Come on dere Oz. Lets all do this one more agin'."
- Willow and Tara: The Dragon and the Phoenix, Episode 10 “The Enemy Within”

April 30, 2003. Wednesday

Buffy and Spike quest for a weapon to stop Yoln and Leviathan. While they are gone a group of werewolf bikers come to town to cause trouble and Oz is with them. S
tory Arc elements: The return of Oz. The coda to New Moon Rising. The rebuilding of the trust between Buffy and Spike and the reveal of Spike’s roll in the upcoming battle. The discovery is not a weapon, but rather the one item that Yoln still needs for himself, his missing hand.
Guest Stars: Oz, Kit (a Japanese werefox), Jerome LeCoeur and his band of werewolves, Angelique (a witch knight), The Dealer.
Game Design Elements: Introduce Werefoxes. Provide a cure for lycanthropy.
Soundtrack: Rush “The Enemy Within”, Nick Drake “Pink Moon”

Notes and Comments:
This one is really two adventures in one. The “A” Plot features Giles discovering the location of a weapon they could use to defeat Yoln, who apparently can’t be killed. Weapons has no effect, since he has no body, and magic bounces off of him. Giles only knows it is an item of great power and it has something to do with Yoln’s previous defeat. Figuring he already has his sword, they should get this. The weapon though is in France. They determine the location and Willow works out a teleport spell for them both to get their and back. The rest of the cast with Giles remain behind to do further research. Besides, the Order protecting the weapon does not want a bunch of people popping in. Contrived? A little, but I need to separate the cast.
So Buffy and Spike search for this weapon in France. They discover a weapon connected with Yoln, his severed hand, it possession of a cult of witch-guardians (a mix Christian and Pagan beliefs). The gauntlet is not the weapon they were looking for, but witch-knights do tell them it is vital in the final confrontation, though they are not sure how. Buffy tries it on and it begins to drain her life force. Spike wears it and discovers that he is immune. He also discovers that he can withstand sunlight, is much stronger and can’t remove it.
Back at home a gang of werewolf bikers show up. These guys are straight out of Abomination Codex so that was fun. Their leader is this big Cajun guy, Jerome Le Coeur. Shortly afterwards Oz comes into town with his new wife, a Japanese girl named Kitsune. They have been following Jerome for weeks, looking for the chance to kill him, which will cure Oz. Long story short, the cast works out a spell to stop the bikers, Oz fights Jerome. To keep the action going the Spike-player got to play Oz. Likewise, Buffy’s player played Kit. Yes, Kit was a werefox, but she had complete control over her form and was helping Oz with his. In the end Jerome is killed, Oz and the rest of the werewolves turn back to normal. Oz and Willow have nice conversation as do Kit and Tara. This was a coda to “New Moon Rising” and had originally been called “Under a Cajun Moon” under the “Road Stories” outline. I later re-used it in it’s original format, minus the Oz stuff, for “Season of the Witch”.

This episode also featured a rather snarky cut-scene where a new Slayer, some spoiled dark-haired girl from a rich family, was sent by the Watchers to infiltrate the Cast. Her job was divide the cast and seduce Willow, Spike and anyone else to get them on the Watcher’s agenda. Of course she gets into town she confronts Yoln and before she can say “I am Ken-”, Yoln cuts her off, literally. Petty of us? Yeah. So what.
I introduced Japanese werefoxes, Kitsune, in this adventure as well as slightly modified werewolves. These both appear in Ghosts of Albion.

I also introduced a reoccurring character in this episode, the Dealer and his bar Halfway.

Up next. The Cast gets their weapon and a suprise (or three). Then the final battle.
In the meantime here is a teaser,

Will D&D 4 last?

JB over at the fantastic B/X Blackrazor asked an Honest Question:

I wanted to answer his questions, but got off track and took a while to get to my point.  But in any case here it is.

What do you think is going to be the longevity of 4th edition D&D?
Well there are a few factors to consider.

First, those older editions have appeal because they were the first editions we played. Just like the guy ten years younger than me who cut his teeth on a game that I own and played and very likely will never play again (AD&D 2nd ed).  That is not a slam on AD&D 2nd ed or it's relative value or merits but rather a commentary that I have many games that fill the same void.

I play 4e now. I enjoy it. It is really fun. 

Will I be playing it 20 years from (when I am 60?) no idea. Most likely not.  Maybe I'll go back to Chill or maybe I'll finally convince my kids that the games I wrote are just as fun as D&D.

Plus there are other factors.  D&D4 does not live in the same world as AD&D/OD&D, they left a significant cultural stamp on our collective awareness.  D&D4 has to fight against MMORPGs, the Internet, other games AND it's own legacy.  It had an uphill battle from the start.  I doubt that even the great AD&D1 (of which I am huge fan) could have fared any better.

The truth is it is not 1 single edition of D&D that will endure as time moves on, it is D&D has a higher order concept that will.  Whether the details are called "D&D4", "Basic D&D" or "Pathfinder" will only matter when you get down to the details.

Things to consider though, D&D4 is played by a lot of people.  A lot more than the Old School community I think likes to admit.  Yes there are sanctioned events (like MtG) but there are also plenty of us older gamers that are introducing the hobby to our kids and doing it with D&D4 cause that is what other kids their age are also playing.

So I guess I am saying, "don't ask us, we are old and set in our ways and will give you the answer you want to hear cause we all read the same blogs" and "ask the kids that are new to the hobby what they will be playing in 20 years."

Will D&D4 be around in 20 years?  I am surprised that people are still playing some of the games they are playing now.  But D&D4 as a system has enough going for it, and enough material, to last for 20 years.  Though I bet support for it will end when D&D5 comes out (though you can still find material for D&D 3.5 on WotC's site).

Hell I have enough games for the next 50 years and I am not even sure what we will be playing at my next game session.  It could be Traveller, it could be Pathfinder, it could even be something our GM bought the night before. 

I agree with the Grumpy Celt, we will most likely see a new D&D around 2016.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


How much back story do you like to have for your characters or for characters in game you run?

I get the opinion from many old school blogs that back story only comes up if the characters survive.  The proverbial "you meet an Inn" as if the characters were born there fully formed.  In other games I play  back story is more important.  Even with the same group of players I see differences depending on the game played.

Starting on my My Back to Basics posting, I wanted to get some basic ideas where the players want their characters to come from. 
So I talked to my boys today about it, about their characters and how sometimes the greatest heroes start out as small. So here is what my oldest came up with.
His characaters (I am lettting them play two each) are Dragonborn brothers that grew up on an orphanage/farm.  Farming is not considered to be a good choice for a dragonborn (even though they are raising giant boars) so the lowest members of society are left with the chore.  Dragonborn are used hunting their food, but they see the need for farmed food as well.  So farms are a bit of a necessary evil, but these farms are not easy work.
Liam's characters are dragonborn brothers working on this farm.  They don't know, at least not yet, that their father was a great adventurer who did from "Dragonitis".

I thought this was rather cool. AND it shows why I am loathe to indrisciminantly kill characters.  Could you have imaged a movie or book where you follow the hero for a bit only to have him die in the third scene/chapter only to die and have him replaced by another character.  The movie was named after Indiana Jones, not Sapito.

How much do you know about your characters before the game starts? Or is your character just a collection of numbers to you or do you figure it out as you go along?

Maahes the Tainted Bast for the WitchCraft RPG

Maahes the Tainted Bast

When a Bast spirit is exposed to large amounts of taint they become Maahes. Their namesake was an outsider God absorbed into the Egyptian New Kingdom pantheon. Maahes had a lions head and was later interpreted to be the son of the Goddess Bast and the God Ptah. He was a god of war and called The Bringer of Destruction.

Maahes is considered to be in Bast (the race) mythology to be the first bringer of Taint to the Bast. Whether Maahes was a willing or unwilling carrier of taint is unknown and lost to time.

When a Bast spirit is exposed to Taint it is compelled to enter a body (if not already in a cat body). Sometimes they discover a human, living or dead, and use it for their purposes. Whatever body the tainted Bast enters they become anchored to it forever. The new creature is called a Maahes (singular and plural forms are the same). Regardless of the source of the body or its nature it transforms due to the taint. The Maahes is effectively immortal since it can regenerate loss of life points at the rate of CON per hour. They no longer age and even disease and poisons are no longer effective. Only attacks of a magical nature or ones that drain Essence or Taint have any effect. To destroy a Maahes one must reduce its Essence or Taint to zero.

The appearance of a Maahes differs wildly. Former High Bast Maahes are often stuck between human and Bast forms, usually a human body with a cats head or sometimes cats paws and claws. High and Low Bast Maahes can also appear to be as sickly, even feral, cats. Sometimes it is even difficult to tell what sort of creature the Maahes original was, all that is evident in its twisted form is some reminder of catlike traits. In all cases and whatever the form they carry about them the same aura of corruption that tainted humans and spirits do. Of course to the Bast they are even more repugnant.

Bast relate to Maahes the same way that humans deal with other tainted humans; extreme revulsion and avoidance. What horrifies Bast the most about the Maahes is not just the taint, but the fact that Maahes can no longer reincarnate. The taint that twists their bodies also twist their spirits and minds. Even their telepathic speech is distorted to other Bast.

Maahes can have Gifted or Taint powers as do humans. Some can even develop disciplines of the flesh as do Mockers, but nothing can change their forms back to pure cat.
There are no Maahes known amongst the Mockers.


Strength: 2-5             Intelligence: 3-6
Dexterity: 4-7            Perception: 2-6
Constitution: 4-6        Willpower: 4-7

Life Points: 40-60
Essence Pool: 30-50        Taint: 60-100
                                       Madness: 3-5

Skills: any appropriate for Bast
Powers: Immortality, Increased Life Points, Increased Taint Pool, Regeneration, Taint, Taint Powers,

Maahes have a host of mental derangements. Cruelty is high on list given their cat-natures, but because this is taint with no logic based in our universe there are as many recorded passive Maahes. Eventually, long lasting Maahes have nearly sort of mental imbalance known to man, and some that are not.

Interactions with Maahes
Most covenants know very little about Maahes. While most theorize they are possible, very, very few have actually seen one. Some early reports coming from the Sentinels confused Bast and Maahes and considered them to be the same, evil, creature.
The Wicce, whom the Bast have the best relations with, are mostly in the dark over the nature and even existence of Maahes. It could be that this is by design on part of the Bast. Only the Wicce coven The Daughters of the Flame, acknowledge that they exist and even have records of their existence dating back to their earliest days as a coven (150 CE). They speculate that the Irish Ciat Sith or Cat headed demon (more properly, faerie cat) were in fact Maahes. This could also be the reason why the Daughters have had a falling out with many of the larger Bast covens.
There are rumors that the Rosicrucians have been researching and working on a means to remove the taint fully from Maahes and return them to normal Bast. As with all secrets of the Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross, they are not too forthcoming with the information.

Maahes in Armageddon
Most Maahes flocked to Leviathan as their savoir, equating him with the snakes that the Goddess Bast was presumed to have destroyed. Of course once the disaster in Munich struck many were destroyed outright due to overexposure to taint. While not members in any standing with CoR or AoR, Maahes work to achieve Leviathans will as they perceive it.

Roleplaying Maahes
As creatures of Taint, Maahes are most often to be pitied. Removed from the world of the Bast, death is often their only, if final, solution. Only the strongest willed Maahes survive long enough to actually enter into the Casts lives, let alone be a threat. The ones that do survive represent not only a powerful enemy (only the powerful ones survive), but one that can infect with taint in addition to whatever powers and skills it had before.

Adventure Hooks
A Low Bast has become a tainted Maahes and has sought the aid of the Cast to help it return to normal. The Cast must choose whether to aid or kill the infected creature.

A former High Bast Maahes and powerful sorcerer has decided that the future evolution of the Bast species is integration with Maahes. His plan, as much of it that can make logical sense, is to kill off as many Gifted humans as he can, infect as many Bast as he can, and then with his army of Maahes, take over the world. Of course his plan is grandiose, but he is still powerful enough to do a lot of damage to the Gifted and Bast in the mean time.

October Movie Reviews: The Haunting in Connecticut

Switch of pace tonight.

The Haunting in Connecticut (2009)

I am not really sure what to say about this one.  Typical haunted house centered around some kid movie that was better when it was called "Poltergeist" or "Ammityville Horror".  Based on a True Story no less.
Honestly I had high hopes for this one, but fought falling asleep to it all night.  Might mine it for a Ghosts of Albion episode.  Or see if I can sell it back to Half-Priced Books tomorrow without making my wife upset (she got it for me for my birthday last year).  You all won't tell her right?

Instead of another flick tonight I watched The Haunted History of Halloween on the History Channel. Not bad, I knew 90% of it already though.  Beat. Gotta go to bed.  Guy Fawkes was scarier than the Haunting movie.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Jim Shipman (content thief) is at it again

The industry's biggest art thief and all around douche-bag Jame Shipman is trying to take his stolen wares to a smaller-yet-still niche.

Ed and Joe over at Esoteric Murmurs posted this:

Basically Shipman is now using his email list as a way to sell his stolen content.
If you need some more info on who Jim Shipman is and why he is a thief then read these:

But  most of all, read this one:

If you want to buy Tunnels & Trolls then only support the company that makes Tunnels & Trolls, Flying Buffalo:

October Movie Reviews: Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires

Back to Hammer for this one in the LAST true Dracula films from the House of Hammer.
Though there is not a lot of Dracula in it and no Christopher Lee.

Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires (1974)

Dracula is visited by a Chinese monk who needs him to resurrect the Seven Golden Vampires, the most powerful vampires in China.  Dracula initially refuses, but decides he needs to get out of his castle for a bit. We learn here that Dracula can speak Chinese/Mandarin or at least understand it.  This scene featured Dracula rising from his coffin in one motion that we would later see in "Fright Night" and "Bram Stoker's Dracula".   Dracula takes over the body of the monk and heads off to China.

There Prof. Lawrence Van Helsing (unknown if it is the same Lawrence Van Helsing from Dracula AD 1972, but it is safe to assume it is) is lecturing to a Chinese university about vampires.  His son, Leyland is also there.  The other professors scoff at him, but one student takes him seriously.  He is the grandson of the man that killed one of the seven Golden Vampires and want's Van Helsing's help to kill the others.  They travel along with his son, another woman paying for everything, and the seven siblings (6 brothers and 1 sister).  Of course the Chinese siblings are all Kung-Fu masters.

There are lots of kung-fu fights which is as unexpected as it gets in a Hammer film and then there is the final confrontation with the last of the Golden Vampires and Dracula himself.

All in all a very interesting tale.  I like how even Van Helsing was stumped on the differences between West and East vampires.  He even postulates, given China's rich history of the supernatural, that the vampire my have originated there and moved west.
This is a period piece to be sure.  Not the 1804 period from the movies, but rather the mid 70's.  Kung-fu was where the money was.
It was not a great movie, and for the last Dracula film, pretty lacking in the Dracula department.  It features John Forbes-Robertson as Dracula looking exactly like he did in Hammer's "Vampire Lovers" (where he was supposed to be Dracula, sort of), but he is only seen at the beginning and end and he dies like punk.

Enjoyable as a Kung-fu movie with Vampires, but lacking as a Hammer film or a Dracula one.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Druthers for Ghosts of Albion, Witch Girls Adventures and d20


For Ghosts of Albion, d20 (3.x) and Witch Girls Adventures.

Druthers are special sort of magical construct often associated with witches and witchcraft. Their kind has not been seen on Albion's shores in many centuries, but they were known to have existed and are referenced in many rarer occult tomes. It is believed that the secret is still known to some witches and to encounter one is a sure sign of witchcraft.

The name comes from an old piece of doggerel scribbled inside a witch's Book of Shadows

"If I really had my druthers,
I'd have my wooden druthers too."

A wooden druther is a corrupt form of "wouldn't I'd rathers", or something the witch doesn't want. So the wooden druther performs tasks that the witch would rather not do herself. The druther can understand simple command phrases of about 15 words each. Typically druthers are used for menial labor or to perform a task that the witch can not do or won't do herself, like killing or scaring an enemy. Often a witch will have a few druthers protecting her home while disguised as trees, requiring a Perception + Notice check of 3 or SL to detect.
A druther cannot communicate at all. Some witches have used woody reeds in the construction of their druthers. When the wind blows across the druther it sounds like a deep bassoon.
Druthers can appear in any form. Usually they are biped and always made of wood. The wood can be carved or a collection of sticks tied together. The appendages need to be attached separately if the druther is to move at all. They can be precisely carved to appear as anything the witch wants, but they typically look like walking bunches of sticks.
Legend has it that there was a witch that had such beautifully carved druthers that they were often mistaken for wood nymphs.

For Ghosts of Albion
Motivation: To follow orders
Creature Type: Magical Construct
Attributes: Strength 7, Dexterity 2, Constitution 6, Intelligence 1, Perception 1, Willpower 1
Ability Scores: Muscle 20, Combat 7, Brains 2
Life Points: 67
Drama Points: 1
Armor Value: 4
Powers: Hard to Kill 3, Immune to cold, fear, poisons, sleep, water, and any mind effecting spell, Natural Toughness, Vulnerability to fire.

Name Score Damage Notes
Punch 7 14 Bash
Slam tackle 7 14 Bash
Stake 8 14 If equipped with stakes
Takedown 12 7
Dodge 7 Defence action
Grapple 9 Resisted by Dodge

A druther is mindless in combat. It instinctively strikes with its wooden fists with almost no regard to what else is going on. One thing druthers excel at is killing vampires. The druther is equipped with built in stakes in the form of fingers if the witch so chooses. The druthers biggest weakness is fire, something a vampire is not likely to use and they have no blood to drink.
Immunities: A druther is immune to cold and water. Stabing weapons only do 1 point of damage per hit. Fire damage against a druther is treated the same as against a vampire.

Some magicians value the wood from an inanimate druther to use to make magical fires.

Animating a Druther
The only know spell came from an ancient tome called the Manual of Druthers. The spell has been copied, but it is still very rare to find. Only an Occult Library of Amazing has a chance of having the spell and even then it must specialize in the tomes of Witchcraft. It is also known to be used very rarely among Shamans, but since Shamans do not write their spells down the chances of acquiring that version is even rarer still.

Witches can construct a druther if she can learn how.
The witch will need at least 200 pounds of wood, either as sticks, planks or individually carved pieces. She must gather and form these pieces herself. The witch will need her consecrated witch tools, special oils and fine incense. After creating the body for the druther, the witch will have to cast the animating spell, then sprinkle the ashes from the burned incense on the wood.

Animate Druther (Ghosts of Albion)
Quick Cast: No
Power Level: 3
Philosophy: Witchcraft, Shamanism
Requirements: The manual creation of a druthers body and an hour long ritual in which the spell components are burned and poured over the druther.
Components: Rare oils rubbed into the wood of the druther, incense to be burned. Price at least £100.
Effect: The witch must prepare the druthers body out of wood and/or sticks. This should take at least a day to gather materials and make the body. Longer times are needed for more complex druthers. The oil is then rubbed into the wood while muttering the spell. Incense is burned and the ashes are sprinkled on to the druthers body. Successful casting means the druther is animated and will respond to the witchs commands.
Spell failure results in a druther that can never be animated. The witch will need to burn the wood and start over. Spell Backfire can result in a Rogue Druther.
Creation: Alteration (+5), Casting Time (-2), Touch (-1), Permanent (+6), Unusual materials (-2), Philosophy ().

Sometimes druthers are referred to as "Drudges", mostly due to their ability to menial work, usually around the home. While a druther may be used to do the witch's dirty work, a drudge will do the witch's dirty laundry. Adventurers have reported of a witch with intricately carved wood drudges as her household staff. A drudge butler was so well made that they could not tell it was a magical construct at all.

Rogue Druthers
The druther has a strong tie to its animating elemental force. Sometimes though, a druther will break free of the witch's control, but not of its wooden body. These druthers are known as rogues and take out their frustration the only way know, to throw themselves into any combative situation it can.
A rogue druther will enter into any situation where its goal is to get itself destroyed, preferably by fire, to free its spirit.

For d20


Medium Construct
Hit Dice: 9d10+20 (69 hp)
Initiative: -1
Speed: 20 ft. (4 squares)
Armor Class: 17 (-1 Dex, +8 natural), touch 9, flat-footed 17
Base Attack/Grapple: +6/+11
Attack: Slam +11 melee (2d6+5)
Full Attack: 2 slams +11 melee (2d6+5)
Space/Reach: 5 ft./5 ft.
Special Attacks:
Special Qualities: Construct traits, damage reduction 10/magic, darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, immunities, fire vulnerability
Saves: Fort +3, Ref +2, Will +3
Abilities: Str 20, Dex 9, Con , Int , Wis 11, Cha 3
Environment: Any
Organization: Solitary
Challenge Rating: 6
Treasure: None
Alignment: Always neutral
Advancement: 10-15 (Large); 15-20 (Huge)
Level Advancement: None

The druther can understand simple command phrases of about 15 words each. Typically druthers are used for menial labor or to perform a task that the witch can not do or won't do herself, like killing or scaring an enemy. Often a witch will have a few druthers protecting her home while disguised as trees, requiring a DC 25 Spot check to notice.
A druther cannot communicate at all. Some witches have used woody reeds in the construction of their druthers. When the wind blows across the druther it sounds like a deep bassoon.
Druthers can appear in any form. Usually they are biped and always made of wood. The wood can be carved or a collection of sticks tied together. The appendages need to be attached separately if the druther is to move at all. They can be precisely carved to appear as anything the witch wants, but they typically look like walking bunches of sticks.

A druther is mindless in combat. It instinctively strikes with its wooden fists with almost no regard to what else is going on.
Immunities: A druther is immune to cold and water. Piercing weapons only do 1 point of damage per hit.

Witches can construct a druther. If the witch has access to a manual of druthers, then she can create a druther from that work. Otherwise a witch may opt to create one from scratch. The witch will need at least 200 pounds of wood, either as sticks, planks or individually carved pieces. She must gather these herself. The witch will need her consecrated witch tools and fine incense. After creating the body for the druther, the witch will have to cast spells, then sprinkle the ashes from the burned incense on the wood.
CL 10th; Craft Construct, air walk, bless growth, feral spirit, lesser strengthening rite, minor creation, caster must be at least 10th level; Price 3,600 gp; Cost 2,000 gp + 1,000 XP.

Legend has it that there was a witch that had such beautifully carved druthers that they were often mistaken for wood nymphs.

Treants, dryads, and wood nymphs view a druther in the same manner a human views the undead or a flesh golem. Most will attempt to destroy them when they can. Some witches and wizards value the wood from an inanimate druther to use to make magical fires.

For Witch Girls Adventures

In the world of Witch Girls, Druthers are a fairly common sight.  Often charged with doing all sorts of repetitive minimal tasks, in fact self respecting witch family would do without a couple in their homes.   While such tasks as making diners is beyond them, setting tables or doing dishes are common enough tasks.

Rank 1 Monster
Body: D8 Mind: D2 Senses: D2
Will: D4 Social: D2 Magic: D2
Life Points 16
Skills: Fighting +1

Magic: Druthers are immune to many magical effects especially ones that affect the mind.  They do however take double damage from any fire based attack.

Cryptozoology fact: Druthers (and Drudges) are near mindless constructs made of wood.
Cryptozoology fact: Druthers take extra damage from fire.

Animate Druther
Elementalism Rank 4
The Witch can bind an elemental spirit to the form of a Druther she has built.   Often it is customary to only compel the elemental spirit to service for a year and a day then the Druther falls apart.  

October Movie Reviews: Quick Round Up

Round-up of a bunch of movies I saw over the last couple of weeks that I have not had the time for full write-ups on.  All of these are new views.


Daughters of Satan (1972)
Tom Selleck is an art dealer who finds a bad painting of some witches being burned at the stake.  The center witch looks just like his wife.  His wife become possessed with the spirit of the dead witch and the other two show up.  Selleck is the reincarnation of the man that set them on fire.  Murder and mayhem ensues.  OR something like that.  I nearly fell asleep while watching.

The Uninvited (2009)
A pretty cool film about a girl that is sent to a mental hospital for 10 months following the accidental death of her mother.  The girl has blocks in her memory and is certain that her fathers new girl friend is some how to blame.  It is a remake of a 2003 Korean film.  While more psychological thriller than actual horror, it has all the trappings of a horror film.  I won't say more because I don't want to spoil the ending.

Sharktopus (2010)
Half shark, half octopus.  Yeah.   You know how sometimes a movie can be so bad it is actually good?  Of course you do.  Well this one went past that point to where it is just bad again.  I have this love-hate relationship with Roger Corman.  While he is only the Producer here (and has some screen time) this is clearly in his realm.  Sometimes Corman can be campy fun, other times you get, well Sharktopus.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009)
I also struggled with whether or not this was horror enough.  Yes there is a mystery and there are very horrific things going on in this movie.   I choose to include it because of those horrific elements (murder, torture, rapes, all multiple times) and because the movie was so good.  If you don't know the story yet, well you were not one of the millions of people that read the book.  Basically a man on his way to prison for perjury gets a case where he must investigate a missing woman from 40 years ago.  The case is very cold and all he has to go on is a few scribbled notes and a few old photos.  He gets help from a hacker Lisabeth (who also has issues of her own like being brutally raped by her guardian) who discovers the notes are bible references.  The case then explodes to something much larger than one missing girl.  Again, no spoilers.

The Others (2001)
I also have a love/hate relationship with Nicole Kidman.  She is a fantastic actress, but she can grate on my nerves.  And I am no fan of her (former? present?) goof-ball religion.
But the Others is a fantastic little ghost story set after WWI involving a woman and her children and their haunted house.  There is a mystery here of course, and mists.  It is in fact very much a Ravenloft-esque story. I also don't want to spoil the ending of this one either.  But I have to admit, I really liked this one; Very spooky and moody.

Don't know where this puts me on the roster yet.  23 by my quick count, or 24 if you let me count the BBC Count Dracula as two.  Puts me about 2 behind schedule.  I have two with me now.  So that should be good.

Monday, October 25, 2010

D&D: Back to Basics

So I have spent a lot of time (and money it seems) on "Basic" D&D recently.  I now have every version of "Basic D&D" that has ever been made.  That's a lot of rules for characters 1st-3rd level.


I REALLY should be doing something with these rules.

I started out with Holmes Basic, moved to Moldvay/Cook and then AD&D.  I never played Mentzer Basic (or any of the BECMI rules) though I now have that boxed set as well and the Rule Cyclopedia.

And this doesn't even scratch the surface of the Retro-Clones.

Of course my kids and I want to play 4e.  I am in a Pathfinder game, I am running a 3.x game, I played the hell out of 1st and 2nd Ed.  It is getting (or has gotten) insane.

So to help me figure this out I am bouncing some ideas here.

My friend Jason Vey has pointed out (and rightly so) that in 4E the characters already start out as heroes.  There is no growth from a normal, mundane person to powerful hero;  ie like Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter or Bilbo Baggins.  This is an important observation.  There is a powerful archetype at work here. So powerful in fact it has it's own name, The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
Look over the builds I have done for some classic D&D icons ([1][2][3][4]) despite my attempts to "normalize" these characters there is one glaring truth.  For low level characters they are awfully powerful.

Compare that all to this post.
JB makes a good point in here that Normal people are supposed to be weaker.  In Basic D&D a normal person has 1-4 hp (as do Magic-Users) so any weapon that does 1d6 has a pretty good chance of killing them outright, and there is still as chance it will kill any demi-human, cleric or thief too.

Now it depends on what I want my game to "be".  Is this a tale of normal people that become heroes?  Or potential heroes that rise up to a greater challenge?  There is a lot to be said about that farm kid learning to be a hero.  But also the biggest gripe I have about playing those early days of D&D is that characters are often too damn weak.

Take the Wizard/Magic-User for example.  Here we have someone that supposedly has been to magic school.  They have learned spell theory, occult knowledge, and all they know is one spell?
Really?  We don't make archers take just one arrow, so why do this?  Plus outside of XP bonuses the Prime Requisites has little meaning in day to day play in Basic.  AD&D improves this a bit.

So I had this idea.

I am going to figure out the make up of the party.  I am letting my players play two characters each, with the caveat that these two have some past history.

Then I was going to run these characters through one of the D&D Basic sets to build up their powers to what you see in D&D4.  So run them levels 1 through 3 and then move on.

So far my oldest son wants to play a Dragonborn Paladin and a Dragonborn Sorcerer and they are brothers.  My youngest wants to play a ranger and a bard, both are 1/2 elf.  Ok.  Problems already.  These classes or races are not even covered in the D&D basic rules.
I suppose I could go very simple and basically use "Dwarf" as a dragonborn and elf as a half-elf; tweaking as needed.

The idea has some appeal to me, but I am not just the only one playing here.

My kids, whose game this is for, could care less about Basic D&D or anything else Old School.  They like and want to play D&D4.

So despite a lot of good games now in my possession, and a lot of good ideas  I am sticking with the new game.  I'll go with the philosophy that while some heroes are made, others are born to greatness and their challenges need to match up to them.  Plus, just because someone has a lot of "kewl powerz" doesn't mean they know what to do with them.
Maybe I'll pull some "Basic" ideas out every so often.

Or maybe I'll just get a separate Basic D&D game going.

Ailuromancy: Metaphysics of the Bast for WitchCraft

What is Halloween without witches and black cats?  How about cats that are witches?

Ailuromancy: Metaphysics of the Bast

Similar to invocations, Ailuromancy is the metaphysical philosophy of the Bast. They have remained undiscovered because the Bast do not write down their formulae or teachings, nor do they share these with humans except under the rarest of circumstances. These can only be learned from master to student and are almost all exclusive to the Bast.

Casting Ailuromancy is the same as an invocation. Bast can gather in groups for group castings, they can use places and times of power, use rituals to tap ambient essence and are subject to crowd effects.
Where humans typically need hands free or be able to speak, the Bast must be able to see or otherwise sense what is around them. For example to Steal Breath, the Bast must be able to see the creature they are stealing from. They must also have their tails free. In some Ailuromancy intricate tail movements replace human hand gestures.

Number 9
For Bast nine, not seven, is the more potent magical number. So Bast covens and group castings are some multiple of nine, or at least three. Three groups of three is a very powerful magical grouping. Treat nine Bast as seven in castings. Seven is still powerful, but not as much as it is to humans.

Group Magic Essence Table: Bast
Size of Group Increased Essence
3 54
5 50
6 81
7 70
9 135
11 110
13 132

If Bast are in a group of humans then the standard rules apply. These are only for Bast casting Ailuromancy.

Very important to Ailuromancy are the names (plural) of the Bast using it. While not related to Ailuromancy itself (other than both being unique to the Bast), the importance of names is in the casting.
All Bast have three names. First is his human or common name, the one that he usually goes by and will answer to from anyone. There is his Bast name, the name he is given by his family or ancestors. Even Bast born and removed from their family at a very young age will still always know his Bast name. These names are often unique since they include a personal identifier and a family name. They can be one used in by another Bast in the same family, but the other family member must have died years ago before that name can be used again.
Lastly, and most important to the topic at hand, is his magical name, his very personal name that he shares with no one. Each name is unique and is passed down throughout the Basts multiple lives. The Bast must sit in deep, deep concentration in order to retrieve his own name. Once this is done then the Bast may use Ailuromancy.

The Essence imprints of Ailuromancy have a particular smell to Bast. Humans must always pass a Difficult Perception test in order to detect it, even if they have experienced it before. While they never share this information with others, the Essence pattern is like a signature of their one true personal name.

The Invocations
Ailuromancy has three basic powers.

The spiritual ailuromancy are ones that effects spirits or essence patterns. Unlike humans, Bast have spirits and not souls. This gives them a different outlook on how essence is used and manipulated.

Bad Luck
2 Essence Points per -1 penalty given (up to -5 max)
One of the most classic ailuromancies used. The Bast must actually cross the path of the victim to impose a -1 penalty to any one task or test per 2 Essence points spent. Gifted can easily notice this sort of ailuromancy, given its similarity to Good Luck. So only a simple Perception task is required. Many Bast are unwilling to use this for that very reason; it instantly brings attention to themselves.

Whisker Bane
Same as Warding WC p. 224

2 Essence Points
The Bast lets out a discordant wail that can cause irritation or damage depending on their mood.
At level 1 the Caterwaul is merely annoying. It causes no damage.
At level 2-3 the Caterwaul cause d4(2) points per level of LP damage to any that can hear it.
At levels 4-5 the Caterwaul can do d6(3) points per level of LP and causes a Fear reaction to anyone that fails a Willpower (doubled) roll.

Steal Breath
5 Essence Points
A Bast can come close to a person a literally steal their life force away. By inhaling the victims breath (and thus being in close proximity to do so) and spending five (5) Essence points the Bast causes the victims life foce to leave their body for the duration of the breath. This inflicts D6(3) Life Points of damage (undead are not affected) and D6(3) Essence and Endurance loss. The victim also needs to make a Constitution check (doubled) or be rendered unconscious for the next 1 to 4 turns. Sleeping victims do not wake up till this is over.
The Bast must be close enough to be able to steal the victims breath so this is most often done while the victim is prone or asleep.
The Essence stolen is actually lost. Bast can only perform this three times per victim or they themselves also begin to lose life points and essence equal to what is stolen.

Favor of Ra
Same as Essence Shield

Physical (effects the body)
The physical powers maybe purchased in levels where every level usually confers extra time or amount the power may be used. For example a Bast with Monkey Hands level 5 can use the power for 5 minutes for each Essence point spent.

Monkey Hands
1 Essence Point per minute per level
This invocation allows the Bast to manipulate objects while in Bast form that normally would be restricted to humans. Their dexterity does not change as this is a mild and directed form of Telekinesis.

Got Your Tongue
1 Essence Point per minute per level
The Bast can speak like a human while in cat form. This is useful on occasions where telepathic conversation is not desired or possible. In order to this the Bast must borrow a voice. They target a nearby human and use their voice. Once the initial contact is made (the Bast must be able to see the human) then the human can not speak for a matter of seconds. The voice the Bast uses is not exactly like the humans voice, it is often higher pitched and cannot be used to fool friends or voice recognition software.

Lick Wounds (Pashts Cure)
10 Essence Point per 10 LP per level healed
Similar to the Healing invocations the Bast can lick a wound to heal life point damage or remove poisons and toxins (at levels greater than 3), or cure disease (at levels greater than 5). The Bast must state what sort of cure it is performing, damage, removing poisons or curing disease.

Claws of Sekhmet
1 Essence Point per combat turn
The Bast invokes the name of Ras protector Sekhmet to lengthen and strengthen their own claws. Damage then becomes d6(3) x Strength+1 LP of damage.

Cait Sidhe
5 Essence Points per 5 minutes per level
The Bast can increase in size to about the size of a mountain lion. Strength and Constitution increase by 2 each, with Dexterity decreasing by 1. One level of Hard to kill is also added. Life Points are increased accordingly.
A Bast with Cait Sidhe at level 4 can spend 5 Essence points to remain this size for upto 20 minutes. The Bast may switch back at any time but to use this power again will cost another 5 Essence points.

Cats and Bast are not bound by the same laws of time and space. They are believed to be able to enter dreams, travel to far away planets or simply be right underfoot when it is most inconvenient for them to do so.

Level 1: Disappear / Reappear
1 Essence Point
By spending a single point of Essence a Bast can seemingly disappear or reappear in any spot within eyesight. This is most often used for short hops of less than 10 feet. To use this Ailuromancy the bast must concentrate on the spot they are traveling too. This makes ill-suited for combat applications since the Bast would spend their attack moving; it is useful to avoid being hit.

Level 2: Return
3 Essence Points
This power allows the Bast to return to any spot she once visited. The spot is marked by the Bast in their minds. The travel to this spot can mundane or magical, but regardless of the spot, the time past, or reincarnation, the Bast can return to it.

Level 3: Moonjump
7 Essence points per 10 yards
The relationship between cats and the moon is a long standing one. With this power the Bast can move great physical distances during the light of the moon. Typically it can used from moving from roof top to roof top, or cross great physical distances. A Bast could also use this power to prevent damage from a great fall by simply moonjumping to a lower point in the fall. For example, someone pushes poor Mojo off of a 95 ft. tower. By spending 15 Essence points he moonjumps 90 ft (30 yards) and only falls 5 ft, something any Bast can survive.

Level 4: Dream Dance
14 Essence Points for 10 minutes
Bast are natural, but untrained Dreamers. Bu means of this Ailuromancy and 10 Essence points the Bast may enter the Dreamscape of a sleeper. The Bast can read the dream (understanding requires a Intelligence doubled roll) or very subtly influence it (Willpower doubled roll to plant a small, 10 words or less, suggestion). The Bast can attack other creatures sharing the Dreamscape (Mara, Vampires using Nightmare) but can not harm the dreamer himself.
(See WitchCraft: Book of Hod, Mindream)

Level 5: Greymalkin
21 Essence Points
The Bast can move from one place of Power to any Place power by walking through them as if they were a gate. Unlike Return, the Bast need not have been to their destination before, simply knows that it exists. To the Bast, different places of Power exist in addition to ones known. Nearly any Bast coven is built on a place of power, or as near as they can be. Most cities have a place or two hiding away.

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Dragon and the Phoenix: Episode 9

Episode 9: Rainbow in the Dark

Willow: I know spells Tara. I need you to teach me magic.
- Willow and Tara: The Dragon and the Phoenix, Episode 9 “Rainbow in the Dark”

April 9, 2003. Friday

Dawn’s new powers are strong and out of control. She becomes the target of every occult faction left in town. All the while Hank Summers sues for custody of Dawn. Social Worker Marion “Cobra” Bubbles is sent in to evaluate her home life. Learn Hank is engaged to his blonde secretary named “Serenity”.
One of Dawn’s friends is killed by a vamp in the end of the last episode. Dawn blames Buffy (friend ends up being Strawberry Switchblade).

Story Arc elements: Return of the Vampire Chicas with new member Strawberry Switchblade. More cults. Willow, Dawn and Tara come to an agreement on magic and their individual journeys of power (Dawn with her new psychic abilities, Willow’s return as the magical powerhouse and Tara’s return to life). Willow and Tara talk about the “the Day of Silence”.

We had some scenes where Dawn was training, Slayer-style only not touching the weapons, but using here TK powers.  Good test of the TK-without-magic rules.  There was also a scene where Dawn gets upset and knocks out all the other PCs (I needed them out so she could run away).  After this episode my mandate was she was not supposed to act immature ever again.  I wanted growth, not lazy writing.

Te above quote came from the end of the game.  Where Willow and Tara are discussing their futures, not just as witches, but lovers as well.  You can have angst and moving plots without resorting to killing or addiction.

Other good quotes from this episode:
Cobra: “It seems that man responsible for your birth has no interest in your future.”
Buffy: “No, not now that he has his new blonde bimbo Serenity.”
Dawn: “Why would anyone name something after old lady diapers anyway?”
(yes, we still some snark left in us).

Runner up:
Buffy: “Oh don’t be a baby, I have been dead more times than you have had a bloody nose.”

Soundtrack: Dio “Rainbow in the Dark”

Notes and Comments:
Ok here is the big Dawn episode. I wanted to show the character as growing and maturing. Though she does do some very typical immature Dawn things, like lashing out at the cast and knocking them all out for a while. The deal here is the final scene for Willow in the shadows of magic. Here she comes back to her own. In the end Dawn's power opens up a tiny hole in reality and she and Willow, without Tara, have to close it up. After ths we talked about what would Dawn's future be. One of my players, Lisa (Tara) thought she should be a doctor, another (sorry forgot who) thought she would end up studing physics. Either way we knew she was going to have the life she felt her sister never could.

Strawberry Switchblade was Dawn's friend who was killed by the Chicas. She became a reoccuring threat in my games regardless of system for a while after that. Her death was to show the Cast that they do not live in a vacuum. The Chicas of course leave town after all of this.

I also wanted to bring back Hank in this one. Everyone seemed to have forgotten him so I figured he was shacking up with some bimbo named Serenity. Anyway he sues which brings in my all time favorite CIA-Agent turned Social Worker, Marion "Cobra" Bubbles. He manages to allow Dawn to stay, garnishes Hank's checks for Child support and kills a vamp in the process.

Strawberry Switchblade
Name: Strawberry Switchblade
Motivation: To make the cast pay for letting her die. Kill anyone else that gets into the way and have fun doing it.
Creature Type: Vampire
Quote: “What do you mean? You MADE me like this. Now I get to return the favor.”

Sex: F
Age: 16 (when killed)
Height: 5'1"
Weight: 105 lbs
Eyes: Blue
Hair: Red

Attributes: Strength 6, Dexterity 6, Constitution 5, Intelligence 4, Perception 3, Willpower 3

Life Points: 69
Drama Points: 5

Qualities: Attractiveness +3, Fast Reaction Time, Hard to Kill 7, Vampire (Murderous)
Drawbacks: Adversary 2, Cruel 3, Delusion (blames the cast for her death) 2, Obsession (kill the cast), Reckless

Acrobatics +4
Art +1
Computers +2
Crime +3
Getting Medieval +5
Gun Fu +1
Knowledge +2
Kung Fu +5
Languages +1
Notice +3
Occultism +1
Science +1
Sports +1
Wild Card (Seduction) +3

Combat Decapitation +6 S Successes X5, Armor Negated
Dodge +11 N Defense Move
Grapple +11 N Impairment Varies
Kick +8 14 Bash
Punch +9 12 Bash
Knives (2) +11 12 Slash/Stab

Marion "Cobra" Bubbles

“Let me illuminate to you the precarious situation in which you have found yourself. I am the one they call when things go wrong, and things have indeed gone wrong.”

Kids have it rough. Their parents or guardians die or just leave. Then to top everything off they adopt and dangerous alien creature or find out they are glowing balls of energy. It’s enough to make them want to go on a six state killing spree. Fortunately for them (and us) there is the last line of defense, Marion “Cobra” Bubbles.

Cobra Bubbles is a social worker, a special classification (maybe Division 6). He deals with the cases that send most other social works screaming in terror or crying like babies. He also tends to deal with cases of a rather unusual nature.

Cobra from “Lilo and Stich”
The Disney movie, Lilo and Stich is a riot. I won’t get into the details here, but this movie introduces Cobra as Lilo’s social worker. We find out that he is ex-CIA and help broker a deal to keep Earth protected from aliens back in 1973. We learn that Cobra (don’t call him “Mr. Bubbles”) is very serious about his work, cares for children and is really damn strong. You would not want to piss this guy off...
In "animated" episodes he is a cartoon above, voiced by Ving Rhames.

Cobra in “The Dragon and the Phoenix”

Cobra is pissed off. Headquarters has sent him to Sunnydale, a place he hates. There is a case, that of Dawn Summers, that needs his attention. Her last few social workers have been either too scared or too disturbed to go back to the Summer’s home. The case is a special one. The child’s guardian was completely missing on computer files for the Summer of 2001, no paychecks, no classes, nothing. Then one year later the murder of Kara Mclay occurred in the home. The minor in question, Dawn, found the body along with the murdered woman’s sister, Tara.
There is also a claim that the guardian is living with a much older English man that does not appear on any INS database.
To make matters more urgent the minor’s father is now suing for custody.

It should be no surprise that evil-cultists choose now to kidnap Dawn to extract her Key energy.
In my series here he is played by Ving Rhames.

Cobra Bubbles
Character Type: Experience Hero
Life Points 46
Drama Points 20
Quote: “Thus far you have been adrift in the sheltered harbor of my patience.”
and after he surpise kills a vamp in front of the cast "I hate this town."

Attributes: Strength 5, Dexterity 3, Constitution 4, Intelligence 4, Perception 5, Willpower 5

Qualities: *Cop (Ex), Fast Reaction Time, Iron Mind, Nerves Of Steel, Photographic Memory, Resistance-Pain 3, Resources Level 3, Situational Awareness

Drawbacks: Conspicuous 2 (6'5" tall bald black man in $1000 dollar suit), Honorable 2, Humorless, Obligation 3, Obsession (protect children), Secret 1

Acrobatics 2
Computers 3
Crime 3
Doctor 2
Driving 4
Getting Medieval 2
Gun Fu 6
Influence 4
Knowledge 4
Knowledge, Aliens and the Supernatural 4
Kung Fu 5
Languages 1
Mr. Fix-It 3
Notice 4
Occultism 2
Science 3
Sports 4
Wild Card, Government Contacts 4

Maneuver Bonus Base Damage Notes
Dodge +8 — Defense action
Grapple +10 — Varies
Kick +7 12 Bash
Punch +8 10 Bash
Big Pistol +9 15 Bullet
Pistol +9 12 Bullet

Next up. Buffy and Spike look for a weapon to deal with Yoln. Oz returns with a few suprises.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Rufus and Burne for D&D 4 Essentials

After the success of Morgan Ironwolf, Aleena, and Emirikol the Chaotic, I figured I should do some more updated characters.  And who better than Hommlet's very own Rufus and Burne.

There has been a 4e update to Village of Hommlet and thanks to a kind soul I now have their copy. But oddly enough I did not find Rufus and Burne stated up.
I went with their base stats in the 1st Ed AD&D T1 Village of Hommlet, so in D&D4 terms they are a bit under powered, though Burne has a lot more spells now.  All in all using Essentials is a snap.  I had just re-read my Moldvay Basic book earlier in the evening for something else and I have to say that while the mechanics of making characters has changed, the feel of it has not.

Here they are, the somewhat greedy, a little lazy, maybe a little grumpy, and  very likely to be lovers, Rufus the Fighter and "His Most Worshipful Mage of Hommlet" Burne the Wizard.



Like I said I kept their original stats and even had Rufus buy a Holy Symbol of St. Cuthbert (although the Church of St. Cuthbert is now a Temple to Pelor in the new 4th Ed module).

If I run 4e VoH then I'll certainly have these two show up.  Yes, pink chain mail and blue and yellow smurf hat and all.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Practical Magic for the WitchCraft RPG

Practical Magic

Note: I am not setting this up as one of my October Movies since it is not really horror, and I have seen it so many times now that I could not count it.

FOR MORE THAN two hundred years, the Owens women have been blamed for everything that has gone wrong in town. If a damp spring arrived, if cows in the pasture gave milk that was runny with blood, if a colt died of colic or a baby was born with a red birthmark stamped onto his cheek, everyone believed that fate must have been twisted, at least a little, by those women over on Magnolia Street. It didn't matter what the problem waslightning, or locusts, or a death by drowning. It didn't matter if the situation could be explained by logic, or science, or plain bad luck. As soon as there was a hint of trouble or the slightest misfortune, people began pointing their fingers and placing blame. - Intro to Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman (and the movie as a voice over by Aunt Jet).

Sally Owens: I dream of a love that even time will lie down and be still for.

While I set out to like The Craft and didn't so much, I was also set to dislike Practical Magic and found it to be very enjoyable. Sure both Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock can get on my nerves at times, they both turned out a very enjoyable performance. What really increased my enjoyment of this film was the book.

Practical Magic is based on the novel written by Alice Hoffman. Ill admit that I have never read anything else of hers and I read this book only after seeing the movie. But I am glad I finally did. Despite the title and subject matter, Practical Magic is not really about magic or witches but about sisters and their bond. It is also about love, both platonic and romantic, but mostly about a deep connection between people. Hoffman showcases this with her portrayal of the three generations of Owens witches; Frances and Bridget, Sally and Gillian, and Antonia and Kylie. It is interesting to note that the only Owens witch without a sister is Maria, the same Maria whose spell against love turns into the Owens Curse.

Practical Magic, the movie, has a lot going for it. Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman make very fetching witch sisters. It is the first major roles for future stars Goran Visnjic (Hotel Sarajevo was his break out role, but this was his big American one) and Rachel Wood. Plus I always liked Stockard Channing and Dianne Wiest from their earliest works as well, not to mention a soundtrack by Stevie Nicks. Although she had no lines, I also thought Caprice Benedetti was great as Owens clan matriarch Maria.

The Movie vs The Book
The movie is really is more in line with the universe of WitchCraft than the book (the witches have more power), but the book is much better. The movie and the book do have some significant differences. In the book Sally spends a great deal of time away from the Aunts to try to live a normal life, only to discover that normal is not really what she wanted. This is touched upon in the movie, but not to the same degree. There is more interaction with and between Sallys daughters Antonia and Kylie in the book. Plus the movie reverses the two daughters and has them a little younger. In the movie Jimmy Angelov is Bulgarian and a lady killer in the figurative and literal sense. In the book Jimmy Hawkins is American and just a dumb hood that sells some kids some bad drugs. Both are though are close enough to each other to me to be the same character, so I opt for using Angelov. Goran Visnjic gave an inspired performance as Eastern European-cowboy-Dracula; much more interesting than Hawkins punk thug. Besides, a drunk Goran Visnjic singing You Were Always on My Mind while planning to kill Gillian is very creepy. Not the same creepy as his I am really into sisters now, but still creepy.

So where the movie and book differ, I am likely to go with the book. Ill use the casting from the movie, keep the movies power level for the witches and minor bits here and there.

The Owens Sisters
Each generation of Owens sisters is presented below. You will notice that in most respect the sisters, while physically different from each other, have very similar stats. This is on purpose. The sisters were one part of the genesis of my Anamchara Quality and my example of their use for non-romantic love and for WitchCraft.
In the case of these stats I kept them at the power level and age they were in the movie (the movie was out in 1998).

Gillian Owens: You southern shrew!
Aunt Jet Owens: Ingrate!
Aunt Frances Owens: Goodie two shoes!
Sally Owens: WITCH!

Associations and Concepts
Well, Alice Hoffman didn't consult with C.J. first, so the Owens don't quite fit, but that is not to say we can't make them fit somewhere. Their attitudes, powers and history remind the most of the Wicce. They, Frances and Jet in particular, are great Weird Ones, but really Eccentric ones would be a better choice of words.

Aunt Frances Owens (Stockard Channing)

Sally Owens: All I want is a normal life.
Aunt Frances Owens: My darling girl, when are you going to understand that being normal is not necessarily a virtue? It rather denotes a lack of courage!

Aunt Frances is the older of the two aunts. She is tall, thin, formidable and looks very much like a Harry Potter witch. If we continue with the book timeline she would 90 today, and most likely still alive.

Strength: 1 Intelligence: 4
Dexterity: 2 Perception: 6
Constitution: 2 Willpower: 5

Life Points: 32
Essence Pool: 51

Skills: Rituals (Wicce) 5, Driving (car, standard transmission) 1, First Aid 1, Herbal Medicine 4,
Qualities: The Gift, Essence Channelling 3, Increased Essence Pool 6
Drawbacks: Accursed (The Owens Curse), Emotional Problems (Fear of Commitment) 1, Status -1
Metaphysics: Affect the Psyche 3, Cleansing 4, Consecration 2, Symbols of Protection 3

Aunt Bridget Jet Owens (Dianne Wiest)

Aunt Jet: This is what comes from dabbling; I mean you can't practice witchcraft while you look down your nose at it.

While Frances would allow the girls to eat chocolate cake for breakfast because others say she cant, Aunt Jet would let them do it because she cant say no to them. Cheerful, plump, short, she would be 88 in 2010

Strength: 1 Intelligence: 5
Dexterity: 2 Perception: 6
Constitution: 2 Willpower: 5

Life Points: 32
Essence Pool: 52

Skills: Rituals (Wicce) 6, First Aid 2, Gardening 4, Herbal Medicine 4,
Qualities: The Gift, Charisma 2, Essence Channelling 3, Increased Essence Pool 6
Drawbacks: Accursed (The Owens Curse), Emotional Problems (Fear of Commitment) 1, Status -1
Metaphysics: Affect the Psyche 3, Cleansing 4, Consecration 2, Symbols of Protection 3

Frances and Jet thought they were going to die together at ages 94 and 92 respectively. That all changed when they had to take in their youngest sisters daughters Sally and Gillian after her death. They raised the girls as their own for years. Their own husbands had died years ago due to the Owens Curse. Frances and Jet are old-school witches. They dress in all black, with funny hats to hide (barely) wild and crazy hair. They ran a very successful, but secret (secret in the way that everyone knew but no one ever talked about it) potion business. They provided potions to cure all sorts of ailments, the get rid of spirits, but most famously were their love potions. They would warn the women who came to them that they were asking for trouble, but in the end they took the money and women left with a small vial. The Owens sisters where also well known for their gardens. When spring came theirs would be in full bloom with jasmine, rosemary, verbena and garlic while their neighbors would still be muddy from the thawing snow. The lilac, lavender and roses grown there could be smelled from blocks away.

Sally Owens (Sandra Bullock)

Sally Owens: Since when is being a slut a crime in this family?

Strength: 2 Intelligence: 5
Dexterity: 2 Perception: 6
Constitution: 3 Willpower: 5

Life Points: 34
Essence Pool: 26

Skills: Rituals (Wicce) 2, Craft (botanicals) 3, Herbal Medicine 3
Qualities: The Gift, Attractiveness 1, Essence Channelling 1 (3), Increased Essence Pool 1, Anamchara (Gillian)
Drawbacks: Accursed (The Owens Curse), Emotional Problems (Fear of Commitment) 1, Impaired Seneses*
Metaphysics: Affect the Psyche 2, Cleansing 1, Elemental Fire 1

*Cant see orange since her first husbands death (from the truck that hit him).

Sally Owens wanted nothing more to live a normal life. Her mother died soon after her father did. He died from the Owens Curse, she died from a broken heart. So she and her sister Gillian went to live with her two aunts. From a very early age Sally displayed the greatest potential, but she turned her back on magic and witchcraft to avoid the curse. She even tried to avoid love, but as fate would have it she fell in love with man named Micheal, got married and had two wonderful daughters. They opened an herbal bath products store. Sally used her knowledge of herbs to create botanicals. Then one day she heard the Deathwatch Beetle clicking away the minutes of her husbands life, Sally ran to find her husband, only to see him get hit by an orange truck. She spent the next year depressed and never left her bed.
One day her sister comes back into her life.

Gillian Owens (Nicole Kidman)

Gillian Owens: Hang onto your husbands, girls!

Strength: 2 Intelligence: 3
Dexterity: 2 Perception: 6
Constitution: 3 Willpower: 4

Life Points: 32
Essence Pool: 26

Skills: Rituals (Wicce) 2, Craft (botanicals) 3, Herbal Medicine 3
Qualities: The Gift, Attractiveness 2, Essence Channelling 1 (3), Increased Essence Pool 1, Anamchara (Sally)
Drawbacks: Accursed (The Owens Curse), Emotional Problems (Fear of Commitment) 1, Mental Problems (Mild Lechery)
Metaphysics: Affect the Psyche 2, Cleansing 1, Mind Hands 3/3

Gillian was the younger of the two Owens sisters. She was the partier. While Sally even at a young age tried to get her homework done, eat her vegetables and go to bed at a decent hour, Gillian was running off with first one boy or another. Soon boys that were terrified of her when she was a preteen, couldnt stop following her when became a teenager and adult. If Sally inherited Maria Owens magic, then Gillian inherited her ability to break hearts and turn other women against her.

Gillian and Sally also have the Anamchara Quality, WitchCraft version. While there is obviously a strong love here, it is the sisterly type. The type born out of tragedy, only Gillian understood Sally and visa versa. While they were as different as night and day, they were really one complete person. Maybe this is a by-product of the Owens Curse, since no man could become their soul mate they needed a proper substitute.

It would be interesting to see if the same unfolded for Antonia and Kylie.

Antonia Owens, 16 (Alexandra Artrip)

Kylie Owens, 15 (Evan Rachel Wood)
blond (dyed, normally black) hair.

NOTE: in the book, Antonia was the oldest and Kylie was the younger. In movie this was reversed. I am opting for the movie casting, but the book characters. This is fine since Kylie ending up much taller and looking more like Gillian.

Kylie Owens: Mom, I'm worried about Antonia. Did you know that she put on her mouse ears and drives around town, all liquored up, NAKED?

Children (to Antonia): Witch! Witch! You're a bitch! Witch! Witch! You're a bitch!
Sally Owens: You'd think after three hundred years they'd come up with a better rhyme!

I have not stated out Kylie and Antonia yet. My plan was to introduce them into a game as sisters, but nothing more than that and see where they go. But at last count I have the stats for close to a hundred different witches. Its hard to keep up, let alone try to work them all into a game.

Both are Gifted and are more powerful than Sally and Gillian. I had decided on not giving them Anamchara. In the book they just didnt get along so well, except at the end and it left me wanting more.

Can love really travel back in time and heal a broken heart? Was it our jointed hands that finally lifted Marie's curse? I'd like to think so. But there are some things that I know for certain: Always throw spilled salt over your left shoulder. Keep rosemary by your garden gate. Add pepper to your mashed potatoes. Plant roses and lavender, for luck. Fall in love whenever you can.
- Sally Owens