Monday, January 31, 2011

Druthers for Basic era FRPGs

Trying out some more Basic monsters. These are conversions of some d20 ones I have done in the past. Depending on which Basic game/retro-clone you use I have listed Armor Class as both descending (start at 9 and go down) and ascending (start at 10 and go up).

Here is one of my faves, the Druther.
You can also find this guy in my book, The Witch.

AC: 2 [17]
Hit Dice: 9d8* (40 hp)
No. of Attacks: 2 Limbs (fists or constructed weapons)
Damage: 2d6 / 2d6
Special: Immune to piercing, water and cold-based attacks. Double damage from fire based attacks.
Movement:: 20 ft.
No. Appearing: 1 (1-3 in lair)
Saves: Fighter 9
Morale: 12
Treasure: None
Alignment:: Neutral
XP: 1,200

A Druther is a type of wood golem that can only be created by a witch. The name comes from an old piece of doggerel often muttered by witches,

“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 (Wisdom check at -2 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. 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.

A druther is mindless in combat. It strikes with its wood fists with almost no regard to what else is going on.
As a construct a Druther is immune to mind-influencing effects, poison, disease, and similar effects. Not subject to critical hits, subdual damage, ability damage, energy drain, or death from massive damage.

Arrows or other piercing items, such as spears or thrust daggers, only do 1 point of damage per hit. Water based attacks have no effect on the druther whatsoever. Fire based attacks always do double damage. Cold based attacks do no damage.

Section 15 Copyright Notice

Open Game License v 1.0a Copyright 2000, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.

System Reference Document Copyright 2003, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.; Authors Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams, Bruce R. Cordell, based on original material by E. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.

Liber Mysterium: The Netbook of Witches and Warlocks is Copyright© 2003, Timothy S. Brannan and the Netbook of Witches Team.

Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game Copyright © 2006-2008. Chris Gonnerman.

Labyrinth LordTM. Copyright © 2007, Daniel Proctor. Author Daniel Proctor.

"Druthers for Basic era FRPGs" Copyright ©2011, Timothy S. Brannan

Art is Copyright ©2001 Daniel Brannan and used here by permission.  Art is not open content.

Tarot Witch of the Black Rose for True20

So I have been doing some Tarot posts of late and playing around again with True20 so this should really be a no brainer.  Plus Tarot #66 is now out, so why not.

Now one would expect that her True20 stats should be somewhat similar to her M&M 2nd Ed stats.  But if I build her by the book she ends up a touch weaker.  These are her "by the book stats".  In comparison to her M&M counterpart, this Tarot lives in a more darkly supernatural world, say like that of most modern supernatural novels like The Dresden Files or even the urban fantasy of Kim Harrison.
As typical I am using the Adept's Handbook and the guide to Horror Role-Playing from the True20 Revised book.

I would see her as something like a member of an Occult Guard or a Witch Knight.  Her armor then would be more traditional and ornate, but I would not change the character one bit.

Tarot Witch of the Black Rose

Adept 6 / Warrior 3

STR: 0 INT: +1
DEX: +2 WIS: +1
CON: +1 CHA: +3

Initiative: +2
Defense: +8
Base Attack bonus: +6  (Melee +8, Ranged +8)

Saving Throws
Toughness: +4
Fortitude: +3
Reflex: +5
Will: +8

Virtue: Compassionate
Vice: Impulsive
Calling (Blue Rose): Justice
Reputation: +3

Bluff +5, Climb -3 (armor), Concentration +8, Craft (Blacksmith) +3, Diplomacy +4, Disguise +3, Handle Animal +4, Intimidate +4, Jump -2, Knowledge (history) +5, Knowledge (Occult/Supernatural) +10,  Knowledge (theology and philosophy) +10,  Medicine +5, Notice +6, Perform (Ritual) +6, Research +6,  Search +6, Sense Motive +5, Sleight of Hand +3, Survival +5

The Talent, Imbue Item, Connected, Weapon Training (Sword), Armor Training (light), Attack Focus (Sword), Iron Will

Object Reading, Wind Walk, Heart Reading,  Elemental Blast, Elemental Resistance, Plane Shift, Ward

Languages: Latin, English
Equipment: Sword of the Goddess, Armor

Conviction: 7

Starts out as an Adept and then picks up some levels in Warrior to cover her training.
Adept powers are based on Charisma.
Philosophy: Witchcraft.

So this Tarot is physically weaker than her M&M counterpart, but still rather powerful for the world she would be in.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


Various updates to some hanging threads.

New Game Group
The Northlands Game group met over pizza.  We are going to be playing Pathfinder as I expected, which is good.  We are using variations of of our former Pathfinder characters (so yes, starting at 1st level AGAIN).  I am going to be playing Oisín, a Cavalier (not a Paladin).  All the characters are half-brothers; Dad got around a lot.  I need to read up on the Cavalier some more and decide what cause he takes up as his own.

Gen Con Updates
I will be going to Gen Con this year.  So far I think I am only going to run three games.  Dinosauria! (one for adults and one for younger people) and a revised Obsession. Obsession was a HUGE success in my mind, but every group wanted to kill the wrong guy from the start, which is fine, but not at all what I wanted to see happen, so the adventure is the same, the first Act will be slightly changed.  So if you played Obsession before, this will not be different enough to play again.  I do want to run a kids game, there are more families coming to Gen Con than ever before and I want to support that.

Sci-Fi game
I think the issue with me not finding a good sci-fi game is I tend to link Sci-Fi more to properties (Star Wars, Star Trek) more than I do Horror or Fantasy.  The closest thing I ever got was Star Frontiers.  I think, given what I am mostly likely to do with a Sci-Fi game, is stick with d20 3.x.  There are plenty of good sci-fi games that use d20, including some of my faves Star Wars and Star Frontiers (sort of d20-there are SF elements in d20 future).  I am going to have to give it a try sometime to see how it all works out.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Zatannurday: First submission!

Welcome back to Zatannurday everyone.  I am pleased to show off my new logo/graphic for the occasion.

I might make it a touch smaller, but I wanted to show it off too.

Zatannurday was barely s few hours old when I got my first submission!

Here is some original art by Eric Stettmeier aka Bubbashelby of the Toyriffic blog (where you can enjoy Harley Qwensday).  Look for his cool Zatanna post today too.

You can find the original here, and a post on the DC Justice League Unlimited Zatanna here,

Thanks so much for helping Zatannurday grow!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Season of the Witch: Episode 3

Episode 3: Strange Sort of Homecoming

Late Summer 2004
Willow & Tara go to Tara's home town in Alabama to attend the funeral of Robert Maclay, Tara's father. While there they discover more about Robert's past and how it is connected to Willow and Tara's future.

The girls return to Tara's hometown where they stay with her brother Donny, his new wife Leah and their new baby Megan (named after Tara's mother). Though without knowing Leah has set the girls up in seperate rooms as if they were "just friends". One of the themes of this episode was actually confronting the issues of homophobia as opposed to dancing around the issues. This was at the request of my player/testers who felt that the show never did a very good job of this.

The girls arrive in town. Go to the wake. Tara decides she needs a drink and heads to the local bar. She runs into a guy (Dan) that had a crush on her in high school who never quite understood she was gay. As well as cousin Beth. People in the bar begin to talk and whisper about Tara being back, and with a girlfriend no less.  To bust the tension of the moment my Tara player decides to break into a bit of dirty dancing with Willow to Prince's "Gett Off".  They of course get kicked out of the bar, much to Beth's delight.

During the funeral Tara and Donny get into a fight over the minister Donny chooses to speak. They get into a fight, Tara storms out, Beth comments on "Tara running away again".  Beth mentions that she cast a spell to set everyone against Tara for leaving her behind. Willow punches her.  Willow follows Tara, tells her about Beth's spell.  Discover that Beth did cast a spell, but it had no effect.    Next day things seem to be better, Donny apologizes. Beth has left town. Tara is given her mother's things including her journal that details this entire life she had working with her father as part of a covert ops group to take out supernatural threats.  Donny also gives the girls Robert's car, a blue 1967 Ford Thunderbird.  Tara, now feeling welcomed in her old home decides to head back to her new home.  On the drive back though the ghost of Robert McClay informs them they have work to do.

Notes: This was not an action packed episode, but rather one of interpersonal actions and reactions.  I wanted to delve deeper into Tara's past and her family life, plus fix some of the problems from the show (demons in female side of the family?? WTF?? yeah, I fix that too). Things learned in this episode:  Tara, her mother and grandmother are/were all power witches. Megan was a "Craft Worker" assigned to Robert's unit to aid his group in hunting the supernatural.  Her job was the "Cleaner", or the removal of spirits.  Robert didn't want to work with a witch, but orders are orders.  Now for their group I just used my old 1980's Chill game.  So Bob and Megan were part of S.A.V.E., but something happened back then and they never finished their mission and Bob and Megan left, never to talk about it again.  We also learn that Megan was from Sunnydale.  Donny is not an dick really, just a jerk that listened to his father's anti-demon, anti-witchcraft tirades a little too much.  He is after all Megan's child too, though he does not have any magic.  Beth though does have some magic, though hers never works.  Her role here is smaller than originally planned, but that is fine, she comes back in Web of Lies.

The big deal here of course is Bob, the Ghost.  He needs to lead Willow and Tara through his failed 1976-79 mission in order to find peace.  This mission is also tied to the what the girls are dealing with now and the Awakening.  They also are given Megan's journal which has the cut scenes of the action in the 70's. 

So you are a young gay woman on a road trip with your girlfriend in a cool convertible, what else could you want?  That's right the ghost of your ultra-conservative, way strict father hanging around.  That's got comedy gold written all over it!  Too bad that the trip is to discover what supernatural force might be taking over the world soon and may have had an impact on why your mother died and why your dad is such an asshole.

Now about Bob: Bob of course was on the show, but never given that name.  I named him that cause he looks like a Bob to me, plus it was a nod to a friend of mine author Robert Black.  Funny thing is Robert Black goes to the same church as does Steve Rankin who played Mr. Maclay in the episode "Family" (one of the highest rated Buffy episodes). This is my chance to try to redeem the character a bit instead of making him a two-dimensional cliche.  Since he played a number of military types on various shows (including multiple characters on various Star Treks) he is portrayed here as a Marine (he has played Klingons, Romulans and Cardassians, and as the infamous Col. Green, I think he can pull off a Marine too).  He was later convinced to work with SAVE after seeing something really scary.  In 1976, when he meets Megan O'Kelly he is in his late 20's

"Megan" was my Tara player's idea.  Originally she was named Deirdre (I had just read the Irish tale "Deirdre of the Sorrows" and thought that Bob should be much older than his wife), but in the end came to like Megan more.  Deirdre then became her grandmother.  Megan, who I figure was 22 in 1976 when she joined Bob's team was something of a California girl.  Long blonde hair, Led Zeppelin concert tee, and wearing hip hugger bell bottoms.  For Megan think of a young Eliza Roberts (Eric Robert's wife), though she does not make any appearnces here except in photos and flashbacks.
We learn that Bob had been in the military when he was younger, but left for an unknown reason.  He was getting followers and cards from people Tara had never heard of before from all around the globe.  Donny didn't even know them.

The town the Tara lived in had been her family home for years.  Her father's family had been her for generations.  People talked about how Tara left AND also how Bob had left when he was roughly the same age.  Both came back with a strange new woman from California in their lives (Willow and Megan respectively).  This was the start of building a lot of parallels between Bob/Megan and Willow/Tara.  Each generation did something that the other generation could relate too.

We also learn about Tara's first crush. Tara had been in Jr. High and her crush had been a red-headed high school girl that worked at the "Tastee Freeze" (no, there are no Tastee Freezes in AL). Tara would go there to buy a small vanilla ice cream cone just so she could see her, even if she never actually said anything to her. The girl found out, thought it was cute, and began dipping her cone in that strawberry stuff that freezes when it comes in contact with the ice cream. We called them dip-cones. Of course, the girl had a boyfriend, which broke Tara's heart, but her taste for red-headed women remained. Not sure about the strawberry dip-cones though.

Strange Sort of Homecoming was also the first of the "Road Stories" sub arc.  We had planned this as the first series even before Dragon and the Phoenix.  The 67 Ford Thunderbird was our nod to Thelma and Louise, though we already did that ending in Dragon.

We now had our cast whole.  Willow and Tara, our two witches. Bob the ghost and Cordy the Whitelighter.  It was good that the last two could move in and out at will since the Thunderbird can only seat two.

Next Time: Willow, Tara, Bob, and Cordy get caught up in the crossfire of a voodoo war, meet an unlikely ally, and find what may be the most haunted house in the entire Western Hemisphere in "Under a Cajun Moon".

New Game Group

Tonight will be the first meeting of my new game group.  Well, not so much new and not really mine.
"The Northlands Gaming Group" will be the same members of my "adult" Pathfinder/D&D4 group which is a larger set of my normal Unisystem playtest group.  The DM will be Greg aka Rhonin84.

Tonight is the prep meeting over some Chicago-style pizza.  I am expecting we will be doing more in Greg's own world, which will be a treat.  What I am not sure of yet is which system we will be using.  I have narrowed it down to a few guesses though.

Why?  Well we both play it with our own kids separately now and when we get them together. It would be easy to do and between the two of us we have everything.  Plus we had a good Essentials based game recently that was a lot of fun.
Why not? For exactly the same reasons.
My take: I get to play a lot of D&D4 and with this group we will spend a lot of time in combat.  D&D4 combats do take a long time but there are ways to speed it up.

Why? This is the odds on favorite I think. This is the system that this group started out in.
Why not? These reasons are fewer.  The main reason would be that one of the other systems has something in it that PF does not.
My take:  I like Pathfinder and unless we do it here I am not sure when I'd ever play it.

Why? Greg has been telling me for weeks now how much of a fan he is of OSRIC and S&W.  We both love the new B/X Companion. So there is some traction here.
Why Not? The other players are not as familiar with these games as we are.
My Take: I'd love to play in retro-clone game; if done right.

I think I am going to opt for a Paladin in this group; something against my typical witch or wizard.

Looking forward to the first meeting of the new Northlands Gaming Group!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Reviews: Chill RPG

Reviews: Chill
Did some more reviews the other night.  Woefully behind schedule. So wanted to take a big chunk out of it with ones I really, really like first.

Longtime readers know of my love for Chill, my first true horror RPG.

To many role-players around my age their first introduction to Horror roleplaying was the venerable “Call of Cthulhu”, but not me. Mine was Chill. I had the Pacesetter version (1st Edition), which I remember quite fondly, even if I did not get much of a chance to play.
The Mayfair version (2nd Edition) is of course superior and it is great to see it here. Picking up a copy of the Mayfair version now I get the impression (true or not) that the makers of Kult saw it and thought, “yes this is good, but what if the world was much, much worse?”
I liked Chill also because it had Midwest sensibilities. Pacesetter was from Wisconsin; Mayfair was/is in Niles/Skokie, a suburb of Chicago than is not to far from where I live (and has one of my favorite pizza places). It was while playing Chill that learned that the best horror was horror close to home. I don’t know, or much care really, what Hollywood thinks is horror. How can a place that gets like 350 days of sunshine know what is horror? On the other hand East Coast horror (Lovecraft) has a completely different flavor. It’s almost alien. Chill may have had a global scope, but the horror is home grown. Chill remembers that there is simple horror in the haunted house, or the strange creature from the Unknown. It is not about the bigger-badder-more horror of some games, where every game has to up the ante on the last game.
Chill does look dated by today’s standards, but keep in mind that most of it was written in the early 80’s and updated in the 90’s. A lot of the rules in Chill can be found in one way or another in modern horror games. In fact one gets the feeling of seeing evolution in process when comparing similar rules in Chill and Unisystem or World of Darkness. Successes, Fear Checks, even proto-Drama point usage (of a sorts) are all here. If one is more used to modern games, the Chill versions do seem unwieldy and even a bit primitive, but looking at them the other way, the Chill rules were a landmark for the time. Indeed there are a lot of rules in existence today that we take for granted that were still cutting edge in Chill.
But that is not to say that Chill does not have something to offer the player of today.
If horror is your game, then Chill is worth your time and money.
5 out of 5 Stars.

Chill Companion
A must have if you are playing 2nd Edition/Mayfair Chill, AND a good buy for fans of any horror rpg.
Add more depth to your characters including (and most importantly to me) the use of magic and psionics. Nothing beats Chill and this was one of the best additions to the game.
5 out of 5 Stars.

Horrors of North America
What I loved most about Chill was it was American Horror. Not just New England, or even old England, but the Mid-West, the North and all over the place.
Horrors of North America is one part travel guide, one part monster manual and all parts awesome. Great even if you are not playing Chill as a guide to whats weird and supernatural out there.
5 out of 5 Stars.

Chill: Vampires
Chill Vampires is the standard to which all vampire related supplements to a horror game must be measured. Any game can produce a bunch of stats, some bad fiction and link them together, Chill: Vampires is a Master's Thesis on combating the undead. Not just notes for the would be vampire slayer (and game masters) but also detailed accounts of the most brazen of the undead. Complete with stats, history, motivations and the notes of previous investigators and SAVE agents.
This book is fantastic for any game but essential for a good Chill game. I would recommend it on the basis of the Dracula and Bathory write-ups alone, but there are more and even stranger and deadlier vampires in these pages.
All games before, and many after, dealt with vampires much the same way, little carbon copies of Hollywood Dracula. Sure, some made attempts at doing different things, but most were weak in implementation. But Chill (and to be fair a D&D article in Dragon about a year before) did something that no other game had done before, give us varieties of vampires. So it was not just pack your stake, holy water and crucifix, you had to know what species of vampire you were after. So that stake would be fine against a Common Carpathian and by luck the Macedonian Vampire, but completely useless against an Alpine Vampire. This played well into Chills other evolutionary concept, in game research.
Some of these vampires represented a type or species of vampire. The Common Carpathian, Macedonian and Oriental Vampires are of this kind. Others were most likely unique individuals with a specific vampirism curse, Elizabeth Bathory is a good example, she is most like a Common Carpathian with some things that are unique to her nature in life.
5 out of 5 Stars.

Unknown Providence: SAVE in New England
Part source guide to New England, part historical treatsie and part adventure Unknown Providence covers a lot of ground. Set firmly in the Chill/SAVE meta-plot this book was one of the first of what was to be the new direction in Chill. Sadly it was also one of the last.
The background and history of New England is awesome. Filled with all sorts of facts and ideas to use in any game as well as a cast on NPC, monsters and SAVE agents.
The adventure is less good, though perfectly fine.
4 out of 5 Stars.

Professor Elemental for Ghosts of Albion?

Why not.  Though Marquis of Queensbury rules did not exist yet in Ghosts of Albion, but it is hard to find Vicortian-era hip-hop.

How many points should a "Fighting Trousers" Quality be worth anyway?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Even Witches have itches

Saw this the other night on "That 70's Show", yeah I know I am behind a bit on my TV watching.

Cause even witches have itches... Made me laugh.

Justice is Blind, Issue 2: BASH!

Continuing on my development of a "new" superhero I want to first talk about a few things from my first post on Justice. I see Justice as a very conflicted sort of hero, but not angsty.  She is conflicted because she wants to do good, but is unsure what is the best way to that.  She knows she has a duty because of who her parents are and she has obligation because of who she is.

One thing that Justice is really needs is a nemesis.  All good heroes are defined by their enemies.  For the moment I'll leave that one to my GM.  Though I did just finish Batwoman: Elegy and I am thinking that the best nemesis for her would be her own twin sister.

Justice is sort of my anti-Witch.  She is smart, yes, but she is strong and has no affinity for magic whatsoever.  So this makes for a character that is more physical than I have done in the past.

Since this is a new character I think I need to use the game that was my first new game of 2010, BASH!.

BASH is a pretty simple system.  Basically it is kind of a modified point buy with points determined by the campaign setting.  Pretty common for a supers game.  The mechanic is kind of an odd one with multipliers (but I think it works for supers) and exploding doubles on 2d6, which I admit I like. It also has a cool FASRIP-looking chart for die results, so it gives it an old school feel (something all old school supers games had were charts, lots of them!). I like that the main Abilities have been reduced to just three; reminiscent of Tri-Stat, but these a Brawn, Agility Mind (BAM!).  Everything after that are skills and powers.

It has it's legions of fans and that is cool and I can see why.  I don't know if I'll ever play it myself.  I'll try it out one day to be sure, but if and when I do, I have a character ready to go.

Here is Justice based on a 40 point game.

Name: Justice
Real Name: Astra Kent / Astra Kal-el

Brawn: 4
Agility: 3
Mind: 2

Soak: 9
Defense: 4
Mental Defense: 2

Martial Arts Mastery (Tough, Fast, Wrestling styles) (+2 Brawn, +1 Agility) 2
Flight, 15 squares, 3
Armor, Impervious (+3 Brawn) 3
Super Senses, Vision and Hearing 3
X-Ray vision 3
Keen Senses, Vision
Skillful, +2 to Skills 1
Heat Vision, Special Attack 2
Super Speed

Social/Sci - Law
Social/Sci - History
Athletics - Acrobatics
Athletics - Running
Stealth - Prowl
Investigate - Finding Clues
Security - Surveillance

Never Surrender

Magic Weakness (Negates Armor)

Character Points: 39

Again I like the picture being put together here.
If this was an on going narrative, Issue #1 (Mutants & Masterminds) focuses on her powers and how much she is like her parents.  Issue #2 here (BASH!) then is told in flashbacks to talk about her training as an Amazon and then her later training with Bruce on martial arts and how to be a detective.  Issue #3?  Well not sure yet, either Icons or Villains and Vigilantes.

Either way tune in next time for the exciting new adventures of Justice!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Reviews, True20 Edition

Some more reviews from DriveThruRPG.  Since I have been on a True20 kick again of late, here are some True20 products.

Colonial Gothic (True20 version)
The world of Colonial Gothic using the True20 system instead of it's normal house system. Typically when a product is converted to a "generic" system some of the style and feel is lost. Though I will say that CG survived with much more of it's soul intact. The system is normally a very easy one to learn so the conversion here does not sacrifice complexity. The game is still same, one of a supernatural New World as it becomes a new country, America.
The conversion does highlight many of the pluses of the game including it's atmosphere and style of play. It also allows you know to bring other True20 that might be helpful. In some ways I prefer this to the original. This one also gets a plus from me as a fan of this time period for play. So kudos for giving revolutionary era America a go.
5 out of 5 stars.

Legends of Excalibur: Arthurian Adventures (True20)
Legends of Excalibur, True20 edition. This conversion of the very, very good d20 edition is also very, very good. In some ways I prefer it since it takes much of the d20 overhead and trims it out. Instead we are now focused on a game that strives to emulate Arthurian Legends with a very tight and neat system. Everything in the d20 version is also here, so this is not a "trimmed down" version of anything except rules. Maybe some of the unique flavor is lost (no prestige classes or new magic systems), but they are all there expressed in terms of the True20 system, so what would have been a class in d20 is now a background feat in true20. I think the system works well in presenting that low fantasy, high romance feel that one often associates with Arthur too. In the end I think the True20 version works better than the d20 one.
I think I even like this better than Pendragon.
5 out of 5 stars.

Gearcraft: Amazing Machines and Their Construction: The True20 Steampunk Sourcebook
Gearpunk and Steampunk for your True20 games. It is in interesting book. Not set in any particular genre or time the illustrations are evocative of Victorian Steampunk, Pulp and even weird science. The rules are fairly straight-forward on how to build various machines; almost as if they were characters in their own right. Feats and skills are discussed. If you have True20 or a TRue20-based game and want to add some gear based machines (no Matric here yet) to it then this a great little book.
4 out of 5 stars.

World of Nevermore (True20)
Ever wonder what the lands of dream are like? Wonder no more with this world guide book, World of Nevermore. Filled cover to cover with a fantastic world where dreams live. A perfect world for someone with True20 and desire to do something very different. Take your characters (and players) out of their reality and into this one. The book reads like one part Lovecraft's dreamlands, one part Shakespeare's land of the fae and one part Ravenloft.
Plenty of new rules for characters including roles, feats and powers. Plenty of new monsters and 200 pages worth of world to play with them. Really fun stuff here.
5 out of 5 stars.

Shadows of Cthulhu
Any game that tries to do H.P. Lovecraft mythos has an uphill battle against the very venerable "Call of Cthulhu" which is arguably not just the best Mythos game, but maybe the best horror game ever. That is some steep competition. Shadows of Cthulhu holds up quite well really. Looking at it as a Modern Supernatural game using True20 it works out really, really well. There are plenty of new roles and backgrounds for characters. SoC does what only CoC has been able to do well and this incorporate a sanity system into the game that makes sense. Here SoC makes good use of the True20 rules and gives us the Sanity Save. Works just like the damage track already used by True20 it works very, very well with the system.
There is a great section on role-playing in the 1920s (as it should have) and a great section on sanity and the Mythos, which includes the magic common to the HPL games. All regulars are here in the bestiary and some of the "gods" of the Cthulhu mythos. I didn't notice anyone was missing. The book ends with a bit on the town of Innsmouth.
SoC had an uphill battle, but I think it did a great job of giving us a good mythos-based RPG. You would think that we were all Cthulhued-out by now, but SoC is so good and makes True20 really shine. Fantastic use of True20 and the rule additions, while not earth shaking, are great all the same. A must buy if you are Cthulhu fan or a True20 fan.
5 out of 5 stars.

The Imperial Age: True20 Edition
True 20 has become a great solution for all sorts of Modern d20 based games for me and Imperial Age shows why. The rules are adapted from the Imperial Age supplements for d20, so a lot here has been seen before, but all of it looks new through the lens of True 20.
All the Imperial Age products ooze style and this one is no different. There may be better Victorian Age games out there, but one can't deny that this is a great product and a welcome addition to any Victorian gaming library.
5 out of 5 stars.

Unlike some of the d20 books, the True20 games even by 3rd party publishers, seem to work together a bit better.  Hope these games are as fun for you as they were for me.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Red Sonja: Mutants and Masterminds 3rd Edition

Was re-reading my Mutants and Masterminds 3rd Edition book here and thought I should give Sonja a try.
I put her at PL 9, which is about where she would be for the Warriors and Warlocks book for M&M 2nd Ed.  Plus it puts on par with Tarot Witch of the Black Rose. The two certainly seem distantly related. Or maybe not so distantly really.

Red Sonja

Real name: Sonja
Gender: F
Age: mid-20s
Height: 5'9"
Weight: 140 lbs
Hair: Red
Eyes: Green

Power Level: 9

STR: 5 (1)AGL: 3FGT: 14 (4)AWE: 2
STA: 6 (1)DEX: 5 (1)INT: 2PRE: 4

Dodge: 9
Parry: 9/14
Fortitude: 8
Toughness: 9
Will: 4

Armor (Chain mail)

Accurate Attack, All out attack, Attractive 2, Close Attack, Diehard, Equipment (Sword and Armor), Extraordinary Effort, Fascinate (Intimidation), Fearless, Great Endurance, Improved Critical +3 (Sword), Improved Defense +2, Languages (Hyrkanian), Precise Attack (all), Prone Fighting


Athletics +7, Close combat (sword) +19, Deception +4, Insight +3, Intimidation +10, Investigation +3, Perception +5, Persuasion +4, Stealth +7

Gift of the Red Goddess Scáthach
-Enhanced Ability: Dexterity 4
-Enhanced Ability: Strength 4
-Enhanced Ability: Stamina 5
-Enhanced Ability: Fighting 10
Cold Immunity 1

Compulsion: Must never lie with a man unless he has beaten her in single combat
Fame: Sonja is known throughout the land

Power Points
Abilities: 36 Powers: 47 Advantages: 28 Skills: 14 Defenses: 10 = 135 pp

Fairly pleased with this build.  I am sure it is a matter of opinion where fighting skills vs her agility vs her strength lie, but this woks out well.

Cross-posted here:

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Zatanna Saturday: Zatannurday!

I am a huge fan of the special features of some blogs out there.  I love Harley Qwensday over at Toyriffic and the respective Wonder Woman Wednesdays at Hero Press and The Happy Whisk are also faves.
When I do my morning blog reading it is something to look forward to.  Well I have wanted to do something similar, but I already contribute to both the Amazon Princess and the Red Sonja: She Devil with a Sword blogs, so I didn't want to do something that conflicted with those.  Given my likes, I would want to want to do something magical, maybe a little horror themed and something I could use in a game.

Plus I have noticed that a fair number of you are reading my blog on Saturdays, a day I don't often post since that is my day to sleep in!   Of course this all lead to obvious choice: Zatanna on Saturdays. Thus Zatannurday is born!

So what's my plan?  Not much of one really.  Just post some pics, links maybe some game stats.  We will see what happens.

So for this first Zatnnurday I'd like to share one of my favorite pics of the Mistress of Magic by David Reynolds, aka MachSabre aka one of the Daves from ShadowGirls.

I am not sure what the deal is with the crab, but I like it.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Gen Con 2011 - Ghosts of Albion

So Gen Con 2011 is only like 194 days away!  Where did the time go!!

I am going. I am going to run some games.
Here is my issue though.

Should I run Ghosts of Albion?

Every year I go I run Ghosts of Albion, I provide everything people need to play including sheets, a printed rule book and dice.  AND I let people keep the cheat sheets, character sheets and dice.  I do this on my own dime because I care for this game a lot.

But it seems I am the only one.

Look I don't want to get snarky here, but I run this game all the time I promote it, I make sure that people leave the game feeling like they had a great time.  Not to brag, but I get people telling me it was the best game of the whole Con for them.  I work hard on it.

Is it too much to ask then that the publisher actually you know, have books to sell?

I am not asking for free books. I just want the book that has been done for YEARS (that I still have not been paid for) to be out.

This year it is weighing on me.
I want to run Ghosts, but the joy is getting sucked out of me every time I have to say "no, you can't buy it yet. No I don't know when."  It is very discouraging.

So.  Anyone out there want to play Ghosts of Albion at Gen Con this year?
Should I run something new?

Season of the Witch: Episode 2

Episode 2: This Blessed Plot

Summer 2004
Willow & Tara travel to England (courtesy of Cordy) where they discover the secret of the "Journal of Tamara Swift" and their suprising connection to the Protectors of Albion.  They also run into two groups of supernaturals, one wants the Awakening to happen the other does not. Which side should Willow and Tara choose when they still don't know what the Awakening is?

Now unlike “the Dragon and the Phoenix” adventures, these are not as well playtested or developed. My group was breaking up about this time, I was getting a new job and I was moving back to playing some more D&D. The first half of the season, the “Road Stories” portion, was well thought out, but after the girls get back home was when we all started doing different things. You will notice a lack of cover art for many episodes for example.

“This Blessed Plot” is actually the first “proper” episode of Season of the Witch. While “Semi-Charmed Life” sets up the “rules” of the new series, the actual adventure is not part of the full arc. This is something Charmed did often, an aperitif before the main course.

This episode is an homage to “Coming Up Roses”, a Willow & Tara fan fic site that first convinced me that these two characters were worth playing in a game. I then created a WitchCraft RPG game based in that world (not really Whedon’s). While that was fun, it didn’t last. But that game really shaped how I playtested the Buffy RPG and how I wrote the characters. TBP is also a nod to my own playtest group. We had switched over fully to Ghosts of Albion by this point and this was our way of bring the worlds together. There was a desire to keep the girls in England for a while and make that the series. But in the end I wanted to pursue the “Road Stories” idea some more.

The episode begins with the Cast (Willow, Tara and Cordy) “orbing” (teleporting) to England. The book Tara bought, “The Journal of Tamara Swift” contained a letter addressed to Tara telling her to come to the Swift home in Highgate. When they arrive they discover that the Swift mansion is now a museum of witchcraft and magic. There they meet the curator, Millicent Stuart, and discover that Tara looked exactly like Tamara. They also meet a teen-ager, Sennen, who looks like the newest Slayer. Sennen works with Millicent, but “Millie” is not her watcher.

While in England Willow & Tara are contacted by Anya who tells them that her employer wants meet them. They are surprised that Anya knew that they were coming. I have a great seen were Anya and Cordy meet for the very first time. They don’t actually care for each other. Long story short, Anya is separated from Xander and working for Lilith’s human corporate empire. They meet Lilith (played by Angie Everhart) and Lilith informs them that they are central to the Awakening and she wants to make sure that they do nothing. She does not want the status quo to change. The Awakening could mean the end of humanity and she is rather fond of humans. She promises to make it worth their while and has Anya wipe out their student loan debt. Anya walks them out and tells them they can trust Lilith, after all they trusted the Mormo and those are her children. Upon leaving “L’Enterprises” the girls are intercepted by a van (Anya is knocked out), thrown in and driven off. They can’t use magic in this van at all, even Cordy can’t orb out. When they stop they are greeted by a woman, Morgan (played by Mia Sara), who claims she is the leader of a group known as “The Witches Committee”. She wants to make sure that the Awakening happens and that Willow and Tara are firmly on her side when it does. Morgan tells the girls that they can trust her.

The girls are found by Lilith’s agents and begin to attack the Witches’ Committee members. A magical “turf war” breaks out with Willow, Tara and Cordy in the middle. Millicent shows up and stops the fighting, we discover she is current Protector of Albion. Both sides agree to leave Willow and Tara alone, but they will be watching them.

Millicent tells the girls they are going to need to discover what the Awakening is on their own; not even Tamara figured it out. Millicent does reveal that the Veil is getting weaker. The Veil is what keeps non-magical people from learning about the magical world. As long as it is in place then any magical occurrence will always have a non-magical answer that people will believe. The Veil was not constructed by William & Tamara, but in the 1880’s they helped make it stronger. The last time it was threatened like this was the late 1970’s, but something happened then and the magic that was supposed to be used to fix it never got used. Millicent tells them that their destinies, the Veil and the Awakening are all intertwined and only they can see it all through.

The girls Orb back to the states (“Air Cordy”), once there Tara’s cell phone rings. It is Dawn, she tells her she has been trying to reach Tara for days. Tara’s father has died and she needs to go home to Alabama.

Ok setting up the big plots here. Like I said, no big bad, but I do have some lesser antagonists. I wanted to keep the players guessing on which group was really an ally and which one was not. In the end it would depend on what the Cast decided to do.

I make the William/Tamara and Willow/Tara connection more explicit here. Yes. They are reincarnations of the other. Now a couple of people felt it was a little squicky that Willow had been a man in a previous life and the brother no less. I get that really, but I also wanted to go with the idea that as Anamchara they would go through many lives in many different guises to experience love in a number of ways, including platonic sibling love. I won’t spoil the books for you all, but William and Tamara don’t have the best of luck with paramours. My idea is they gave that up and went back to what works in their next lives.

Millicent had been “the Guardian” in Coming Up Roses. Here she becomes “The Protector”. She ran a museum of witchcraft, which I decided was the old Swift mansion. Millicent and Sennen are detailed here,

The Witches Committee look like a bad Rosicrucian rip off, but in my WitchCraft Games, they are Wicce that want to protect all the Gifted in the world. It is just some have decided that the best way to do that is to control all the mundanes. They want the veil to drop and magic to be out again. This way they are poised to be humanities “protectors” from the evils of the magical world. Lilith wants the status quo to remain, but she certainly has plans in place to take advantage of any situation. There are two other factions that need to be introduced and all of them are watching Willow and Tara.

The Veil is a glamour that keeps us from seeing the effects of magic in the world. But it has been weakening for years (thus the proliferation of all the TV shows about the supernatural!). It’s going to fall. The question is what will happen when it does.

Next up, a strange sort of homecoming…

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Willow & Tara: True20 and Blue Rose

I like True20.  I do.  I am also rather fond of Blue Rose.

In terms of game play and ease of use it is the closest thing I have found like Cinematic Unisystem.  Back in the mid 2000 (2005 - 2007 or so) I was looking for another system.  Not that I was tired of Unisystem or D&D, I just wanted to try something new.  I had played Mutants and Masterminds and I liked it.  I had heard of Blue Rose, but had not tried it yet.

So I picked them both up and did some playing I really liked them.  I wish I could have gotten more people into both games, but it didn't really work out that way.

I have detailed already why I think Blue Rose is a perfect setting and system to do Ravenloft, but you can read those posts here: Black Rose.

I did get a chance to play an online game of True20 set in a modern supernatural world similar to that of Witchcraft/Buffy/Ghosts of Albion and it went great.  It was about a seedy area of Vancouver that was a front for a demonic brothel and swinger's club.  Not for the faint of heart or immature of mind.

True20 has some great untapped potential and to me at least it is a shame that more people don't see that.

Part of the idea of "Vacation in Vancouver" started out for WitchCraft.  Soon though I converted it to True20 and I was pleased with the results (even if I had a couple of people drop out).  Here are some notes from that process.

Converting Unisystem and True20

For attributes take the True20 score (-5 to +5) add 6 and divide by 2, round up.  The table below helps.  I am working on the idea that +5 in True 20 and 6 are both the human maximums and very few people have those.


All True 20 feats would be qualities, skills are skills.  Skills work like M&M skills, so 2 points of True20 skills equal 1 point of Unisystem skills.

Converting Characters
Converting characters is not too bad really.  True20 tries to do a lot of the same things Unisystem does, just in different ways.  I convert characters to get a rough idea of what I want, but then I stat them up from scratch.  It works better than a direct conversion.

Given that my interest in True20/Blue Rose was right after finishing up with Season of the Witch I did do Willow and Tara versions for True20.  No, they did not appear in "ViV", but I did toy with the idea of Vampire Willow and Vampire Tara showing up in it..

These builds are based on the girls during Season of the Witch.   I used True20 as a base but I also like the Calling aspect from Blue Rose, so I am using that as well.

Willow Rosenberg
Expert 2 / Adept 10

STR: -1 INT: +5
DEX: 0 WIS: +3
CON: 0 CHA: +3

Initiative: 0
Defense: +6
Base Attack bonus: +6  (Melee +6, Ranged +6)

Saving Throws
Toughness: +0
Fortitude: +3
Reflex: +6
Will: +8

Virtue: Curious (Queen of Rods)
Vice: Domineering (Nine of Rods)
Calling (Blue Rose): The Adept, Master of Arcane Arts
Reputation: +4
Prog Skill: Business Owner

Acrobatics +2, Bluff +7, Computers +16, Craft (Chemical) +13, Craft (Electronics) +13, Diplomacy +6, Disable Device +10, Research +13, Intimidate +6, Knowledge (Science) +15, Knowledge (Occult) +16, Medicine +9, Perform (Ritual) +10, Notice +7, Search +8, Sense Motive +7, Sleight of Hand +4, Concentration +13, Survival +7

Contacts, Talented (computers, craft electronics), Master Plan, Attractive, Wealthy, Innate Power (Move Object)

Computer LinkM, Fire ShapingF, Elemental BlastF, IllusionFC MC, Light ShapingF, Manipulate ObjectF,M, Mind ShapingF, MC, Mind TouchM, Move ObjectFM, WardC

Special Abilities

Languages: Latin, French, Hebrew, Greek, Russian, English
Equipment: Dolls Eye Crystal (Empowering Focus)

Conviction: 8

Notes: Starts out as an "Expert" to reflect her computer hacker skills but picks up "Adept" pretty quickly.
Adept powers are based on Intelligence.
Philosophy: Witchcraft.

Tara Maclay
Adept 9 / Expert 1

STR: +1 INT: +4
DEX: -1 WIS: +4
CON: +1 CHA: +3

Initiative: -1
Defense: +9
Base Attack bonus: +4  (Melee +3, Ranged +3)

Saving Throws
Toughness: +2
Fortitude: +4
Reflex: +2
Will: +10

Virtue: Devoted (Queen of Chalices)
Vice: Inhibited (Three of Chalices)
Calling (Blue Rose): The Star, Artistic mastery (Though The Moon is also good here)
Reputation: +4
Prof Skill: Teacher (Art History)

Acrobatics +1, Bluff +6, Computers +8, Craft (alchemical) +6, Concentration +9, Diplomacy +5, Research +9, Handle Animal +6, Knowledge (Art) +11, Knowledge (Occult) +12, Medicine +8, Perform (song) +8, Perform (dance) +8, Perform (Ritual) +9, Notice +13, Search +7, Sense Motive +8, Ride +4, Survival +7

Attractive, Supernatural Talent (Heart reading, second sight)B, Empower, Defensive Roll (+1)

CureF, Enhance Senses, Heart Reading, Light Shaping, Manipulate Object, Aura Reading,
Mind Touch, Move Object, Plane Shift, Second Sight

Special Abilities
The Talent (use convection for any power)

Languages: Latin, French, Hebrew, Greek, Russian, English
Equipment: Dolls Eye Crystal (Empowering Focus)

Conviction: 8

Notes: Starts out as an "Adept" and picks up a level of "Expert" to cover her monster hunting days (gains defensive roll).
Adept powers are based on Wisdom.
Philosophy: Witchcraft.

So the idea here is I did Willow and Tara slightly different than their Unisystem counterparts. Here each approached their magic from a different point of view. While this has no real in game effect, it does give each a different feel, and something I really liked about these versions. I did in fact stat up a witch that uses Charisma as her power source too.

Makes me want to do more with this game.

Sennen Saranta: Living in the Love of the Common People

Sennen has the distinction of being the first EVER Slayer-in-Training character created for the Buffy RPG. I made her in the first month or so of the Buffy RPG playtests. The date on her sheet says Feb 25, 2002. I have updated her a bit now that she is a full Slayer. Sennen's original stats still live on as the Slayer-in-Training stats in "The Slayer's Handbook".

I based a lot of what I think her life was like on the old song "Living in the Love of the Common People" made popular to me at least by Paul Young.

I wanted to post this as prep for my Season of the Witch postings.

Thanks to Kirk if he ever reads this!

Sennen Saranta

Sennen was a character in a group of stories set in 2005 (and written back in 2001) dealing with Willow and Tara called Coming Up Roses. The girls are given a Museum of Witchcraft when its old curator, Millicent Stuart, dies. The museum is actually a nexus point between magical realities and Willow and Tara, with new characters Mel and Sennen, as its guardians. Before the Buffy RPG ever got into playtest I spent the summer of 2001 playing a WitchCraft RPG game based around Coming Up Roses. Willow and Taras official stats look an awful lot like the stats I came up with then.
Coming Up Roses though never went past its first season, but I recruited a few of their writers to help me on The Dragon and the Phoenix. My later season Season of the Witch brought back Millicent and Sennen as special guest stars. Millicents role changed from a Guardian to a Protector, and Sennen was a full Slayer. In both timelines (CUR and SotW) Willow and Tara went to England in 2005. The differences were that Millicent didnt die (I did not want to base them in England) and Sennen had already ditched her Watcher in favor of working with Millicent.

Sennen stands 5'2" (157 cm) tall. She has dark hair with a streaks of blue in it, a pierced nose, labret and navel. She also has a tattoo of a black sun on her left shoulder. She is dark skin with dark brown eyes.

Life has not been great to 15 year-old Sennen Saranta. Born in an Indian neighborhood on Londons East side Sennen had to cope with a lot of the same things her friends did. An out of work and alcoholic father and an overworked mother, and she was a minority among minorities with her mixed Sri Lankan (father) and Londoner (mother) racial mix.

Her family life is bad, but no worse than her friends in the same situation. Her dad is a drunk, but he is not a mean one (he never would touch her or her mother) but he is a lazy one. Her mom is overworked, so no one even notices when she leaves the house at all hours of the night.

The night of Sennens calling was memorable. She goes out one night ends up drinking a little too much, taking a little too much X and finds herself at an after hours party. Soon she discovers that everyone around her is a vampire and she was brought as one of the snacks. With her friend already dead something in her snaps. She sobered up in flash and ended up killing ten vampires before getting out. The next morning she meets this man who looks a lot older than he actually is who identifies himself as her Watcher. Soon Sennen finds herself stuck with James Jimmy AKA Jimmy the Perv Grey and his twisted witch girlfriend Karen Kent. Karen is a witch, she says she is training Sennen to fight evil, but in reality she just likes to torture her. Jimmy likes to watch.

Things change when Jimmy asks Sennen to kill an old witch by the name of Millicent.

Sennen won't ever kill any human, no matter how evil they are, but all demons and vampires (good or not) are fair game.

And dont call her Sen. She hates that.

Sennen Saranta
Character Type: Hero
Life Points: 81
Drama Points: 10

Strength 7
Dexterity 6
Constitution 7
Intelligence 3
Perception 4
Willpower 6

Attractiveness 2
Contacts, Criminal 1
Contacts, Supernatural 2
Fast Reaction Time
Hard to Kill 5
Nerves of Steel

Addiction (Temazepam) 1
Adversary 5
Emotional Problem, Depression 1
Emotional Problem, Fear of Commitment 1
Emotional Problem, Fear of Rejection 1
Mental Problem, Recklessness 1
Mental Problem, Obsession, self-mutilation (cutter)
Screwed-Up Adolescent

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

Maneuver Bonus Base Damage Notes
Punch 12 14
Kick 11 16
Stake 10 14
Knife 10 12
- Thrown 9 6
Break neck 5 28
Dodge 10 None Defensive Move

Note: I suppose if I had kept up with Sennen she would be 21 by now (and closer to the pic above).  Though I never really used her much after this.  Re-reading over these stats it is kind of a pity really.
I did have this idea that after the events in Season of the Witch that Sennen later went on to become the new Protector of Albion when Millie dies.  I kind of like that idea really and maybe that is the version of the character I should investigate further.

Hmm.  Actually now that I am writing this I am thinking of a new modern Ghosts of Albion game featuring Sennen, maybe one of the older Ghosts or Nigel and throw in Dirty Nel just for the fun of it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Hold Me Closer Tiny Dancey

Ryan Dancey, the spiritual father of the OGL and in many minds the guy who saved D&D is on ENWorld speaking his mind.
and some commentary here,

Now Ryan is a very knowledgeable guy but he has been accused of Dooming and Glooming in the past (see here as one example).  But he does make a very good point and one WotC needs to answer a bit better.

If I were a noob getting into D&D4, where should I start?  The obvious answer is "the Red Box", but the trouble is the Red Box doesn't look anything like the rest of the line.

If I were not such a noob and want to get started with D&D4 then where do I start?  Essentials? PHB?

These questions are trivial to me and really anyone that reads this blog, but they are not trivial to someone with 20 bucks to spend and wants to play D&D.  They could buy any game, WotC needs to be clear (and clear to whom is also a good question) what someone needs to buy.

Now I *think* that what WotC wanted to have happen is have everyone go to Essentials.  Which is fine and I can see that.  Can everyone?

Here is a quasi-related question that I would like to hear some thoughts on.

If D&D were discontinued what effect would that have on the RPG landscape?

Conventional wisdom says that as D&D goes, so goes the industry.  The same had been said of IBM too.  But is that still true today?

ETA: A similar post by Jason Vey.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Little Witches, Part 2

My little witches are being discussed over at Get Geekt on how to paint minis.

It also reminded me that Alisha has her own blog here,, though her minis have not been posted there yet.

More thoughts on the Witch

I was thinking about the witch class/archetype over this last weekend.  In particular to D&D4 vs. Old School D&D.
One thing that D&D4 (and even Pathfinder) has is a simple basic magical attack for the witch/warlock.  In D&D4 it is Eldritch Blast, Pathfinder has their hexes and since you can cast 0 level spells at-will there is a great one called Daze.  Stun an opponent from far away so the fighter types can take care of them.

The one thing that magic using classes in old-school games lack is a basic magic attack.  Something that is magic, does a little bit of damage and can be used repeatedly.

The Magic-User/Wizard has the infamous "Magic Missile" spell, but at one use per day it isn't the kind of thing I was thinking of.  D&D4 splits MM into two basically two types, one that always hits and does a small amount of damage (like the older versions) and one that does more damage, but requires a to-hit roll.

In the Buffy RPG witches get a basic TK power, which can be used as a basic attack.  In WitchCraft there is a skill called Magic Bolt that is basically a magical attack.

The issue I am having is that a basic attack like this is not very "witchy". Sure it features in a lot of modern supernatural books like The Dresden Files, but I have been wracking my brain all weekend to think of a time when say a witch from fairy tale or myth used one.  Curses, hexes, evil eyes yes, some sort of blast? Not really.  Harry is also a Wizard, not a witch, a difference that I have quite been able to tell in the books, but it has been mentioned.  Compare that to Rachel Morgan of the Hollows Books.  Rachel has a lot of magical fire power, but if she wants an "attack" spell she mixes up a potion and puts it into the balls of a paint ball gun.

I think if I wanted to add witches to any old-school game an attack spell would need to be of a non-active kind, like a curse, hex or even TK.  Wizards would need something similar, but I think theirs would be more damage causing, sort of like an at-will magic missile.

I suppose this is one of the reason I do like newer games, it does give the lower level magic using types more to do.  Sure the idea is that fighters are your low-level fire power and wizards are the high powered ones and that is great; from a group dynamic perspective.  From an individual perspective it means a lot of time "doing nothing" (not really, but you know what I mean) during combats.

So thoughts everyone?
What do you think of an at-will style magical attack for magic-using types (not clerics though)?  Something like a magic missile, but say does less damage, maybe only 1 pt per level?

Not very Old-School I know, but want to see what people think.

Monday, January 17, 2011

State of the Hobby 2011

I wanted to share this link.

According to ICv2 the hobby is on the rise.  I have to say this does have some face validity to it.  More people staying in and engaging in the relatively cheap hobby of rolling dice and talking in-character.

Hopefully their data is good.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Season of the Witch: Episode 1

Episode 1: Semi-Charmed Life

Episode 1: Semi-Charmed Life by ~WebWarlock on deviantART

Semi-Charmed Life
Summer 2004

Overview: Willow and Tara join forces with the Charmed Ones to stop D’hoffryn from becoming the new Source.

Synopsis: Willow and Tara are on vacation in San Francisco when they decide to stop in an auction house selling items from the Victorian Occult revival. While there they notice many demons and witches passing as normal humans. A book catches Tara’s eye and the director of the auction tells her she should buy it. The book is “The Journal of Tamara Swift”. The girls also notice another item up for a bid, a talisman believed to be owned by Madame Blavatsky, but Willow notices it as the Heart of Belial, a potent demonic artifact.
They bid on the items and win the Journal, but the Heart goes to a very attractive woman (who reminds them of Cordelia). The auction director tells the girls that the Heart has fallen into the hands of evil and they have to stop it. She says she could not do anything herself, but tells Willow and Tara that they need to find her sisters, The Charmed Ones. She tells them her name is Prue Halliwell.

At the same time at the Halliwell Manor Piper is frantic about trying to juggle new baby Chris and still dealing with P3 scheduling nightmares (she is trying to get Michelle Branch back), Phoebe is rushing off to work and Paige is reading the want ads. In the middle of all this chaos, Prue appears and tells them that the “Charmed Ones” (but not “you” or “my sisters”) are in danger. Everyone panics, and Leo says he wants to talk to the only other witch he knows that has come back from the dead.

Leo finds Willow and Tara and takes them to the Halliwell manor. Leo knew Tara when she was in Heaven and she asks him about Kara. Willow wants to know why she does not have a Whitelighter and Leo tells her it was because she was using magic for personal gain and on a tract towards evil.

Meantime the demon (Kira the Seer) who purchased the Heart of Belial shimmers into the underworld. Where she meets with D’Hoffryn. She give the Heart to him commenting that every demon from the source on down that has fought the Charmed Ones has gotten a bad case of being dead. D’hoffryn replies that is why he is not going to fight them, he has something more subtle in mind. Kira also lets him know that Willow and Tara are also in town. D’Hoffryn comments that this must mean that the Awakening is about to occur. He take the Heart and begins to chant his spell.

At the Halliwell Manor the five witches discuss what this all must mean. They look up the Heart in the both The Book of Shadows and in the Journal of Tamara Swift. They discover that it is the actual heart of the demon Belial and it had been in the possession of the former Protector of Albion, John Dee and assumed to be destroyed by later Protector Tamara Swift. The Heart allows it’s possessor to manipulate time. The Halliwells immediately trust Tara and Willow when they go to the Book of Shadows and can open it.
Suddenly Phoebe and Willow disappear and are replaced by Paradox Sisters. Everyone believes that everything is completely normal, including the fact that Paradox Phoebe and Paradox Willow do not have magic (and thus no Charmed Ones power of three or Willow and Tara’s combined Anamchara magic). Tara attempts to hold Willow’s hand and going in a kiss, which causes Willow to pull back in shock. Paradox Willow is straight. At the same time the Book of Shadows refuses to be around Phoebe. Leo orbs out to consult with the underworld (he still does not trust the other Elders). The witches have no time to figure out why though, they are attacked by the warlocks Hannah and Rex.

Taking advantage of Leo's absence the warlocks attack. As in Season 1 of Charmed they try to steal the Charmed Ones powers. The battle goes badly given the depowered nature of the cast and it looks like they are about to gain their quarry, Wyatt’s vast untapped power, when Hannah is hit by an arc of Elder lighting. Thinking is it Leo the Cast is surprised (as are the Players) when it is revealed to be Prue. A wounded Hannah and Rex shimmer out.

In the Underworld Leo find real Willow and real Phoebe, but they are in a temporal bubble and their powers are being drained. Once he sees them Leo remembers who they are. He attacks D’Hoffryn who tosses him around like a rag doll. He hits him with lighting of his own and he disappears. D’Hoffryn tells Phoebe that he was removed from all time. Rex and Hannah shimmer in and D’Hoffryn kills them by tossing them across the room. Willow and Phoebe tell D’Hoffryn it is only a matter of time before they are found by their loved ones. D’Hoffryn tells them that they are not even looking.

At the manor everyone knows there something wrong. Tara feels a loss she can’t explain and is getting very concerned and Paradox Willow is depressed. Paradox Phoebe is angry because she is only here because her flight back to New York was delayed and she hates being involve in all this “magic stuff”. But everyone is more concerned with Prue returning. Thinking that the Heart of Belial must be at the root of this, the witches try to scry for it, but no success.

Phoebe, an empath, combines her magic with Willow to try to get a message out. Phoebe tries to get it Piper, but Willow’s thoughts are too strong on Tara. Tara, also an empath, gets the message.

The three witches and the paradox sisters are orbed to the underworld by Prue. D’Hoffryn is in the middle of some spells surrounded by demons in robes. Everyone sees real Phoebe and real Willow in the bubble, but can’t reach them. The Charmed Ones and Prue attack the demons, Tara tries to get to Willow and Phoebe. Paradox Willow and Paradox Phoebe remain in the background, mostly forgotten.

The Demons are fought and killed and Tara and Phoebe figure out a way to break the time bubble. Once that is done the Charmed Ones power back up, as do Willow and Tara. The remaining priest demons are then easily vanquished. Paige hurls a vanquishing potion at D’Hoffryn but it has no effect. He has become the new Source of All Evil. He throws a fireball at Prue but Paradox Phoebe pushes her out of the way and takes the full blast, exploding into ashes. Prue attacks D’Hoffryn with her lighting. This leaves the cast (and the players) to figure out what to do next. They decide to try a modified version of the Power of Three spell, only this one is a Power of Five. All five witches link hands, even Paradox Willow puts her hands on top of Tara’s and Willow’s linked hands, and they summon the power of the witches in their family line. The spell takes hold and strikes down D’Hoffryn, destroying him and the Heart of Belial. Leo reappears, but Paradox Willow remains.

At the end of the episode the cast, with Prue and Paradox Willow, are at P3. Michelle Branch is back.
The women toast to their new friends and family and promise to always help each other in the future. Paradox Willow wonders why she is still here and all they can think of is there must be some magic left over from the Heart. Willow discovers that Paradox Phoebe has an apartment still in New York so Paradox Willows figure she will go there since she has always wanted to sing on stage. They raise a toast to their “lost sister” Phoebe Bennet and Prue gets ready to leave. Prue does tell Willow that her case was “reviewed” again by the other Elders and they have decided to give her and Tara a Whitelighter on a “probationary” basis. Prue orbs out and Cordelia Chase orbs in with a “You have got to be kidding me!”

Tara, laughing, opens up the Journal of Tamara Swift and a letter falls out. It is address to “Misses Tara Maclay and Willow Rosenberg”. It was written by Tamara in 1889.

Kira is on her knees picking through the dust that was D’Hoffryn till she finds a small rock. Saying “that will do” she holds it and concentrates. Cole half shimmers in. She hands him the rock, all that is left of the Heart of Belial, and tells him she kept up her side of the deal now he was going to tell her how she can come back from the wasteland after Zankou kills her in a few months.

Notes and Comments

Well as the first official episode I had a lot of setup I wanted to do here, but not beat people over the head with it. I mention the Awakening only once and we learn that Tara’s mother was named Megan and her Grandmother Deidre.

I wanted a “witchier” feel to this season than Buffy, so there are lots of elements from various witch shows to guide the players in; Buffy, Charmed, Hex, Ghosts of Albion even little bits of Practical Magic. Then there is the letter to the girls from Tamara, big stuff is in store. Plus I also touch on the theme of nothing is more important than the people you love.

In many ways Charmed is seen as the antithesis of Buffy. So what better way to seperate "Willow & Tara the Series" from Buffy than to have a Charmed crossover.  And not just a crossover, but show Buffy characters aspiring to becoming more Charmed-like. D'Hoffryn becoming The Source, Willow wanting a Whitelighter, Cordy becoming a Whitelighter.

I used Andrew Pergine’s Charmed netbook for the Girls stats, even if I am not 100% sold on his point breakdowns for Whitelighters.

I brought in some Charmed bad guys, Rex and Hannah, and Buffy bad guy D’Hoffryn making a claim to Source. In truth D’Hoffryn would make a bad ass Source, too bad he did the one thing you should never, ever do in my games; piss of a witch.  Here is D'Hoffryn's entry in the Halliwell Book of Shadows.  It mentions that there is no known vanquishing potion for him (Willow would have been able to figure one out back in the old series) but that does not stop the cast from trying one.

Charisma Carpenter gets double duty here both as Cordy the new Whitelighter and as Kira the Seer. I wanted to bring back Cordy because I felt her character got shafted in the show. Not as bad as Tara, but still. Plus she also makes a good foil for Willow, I bring in Tara’s foil later. And let’s be totally honest here, Charima Carpenter is hot.

Of course Paradox Phoebe and Paradox Willow are from my Sisters of Paradox post. They were developed for this adventure.

Paradox Willow living at the end was homage by us to our friend and fellow Kitten Bob Black who came up with the idea originally and he had Paradox Willow live. Paradox Phoebe dies to save Prue which I felt was good because it should that even though that Paradox Phoebe hated Prue they were still sisters and you do anything to help a family member or loved one.

Plus it also became something of an in-joke in my group. If you are playing the Buffy RPG and your Willow is straight then it obviously means you are using the "Riff Reagan" version.

The playable characters were Phoebe (and Paradox Phobe, same player), Piper, Paige, Willow (and Paradox Willow, same player) and Tara. Originally Prue was also going to be a playable character, but it never really worked out. I also had a sub-plot with Andy returning, but it was too much.

This was also the only episode where I made a "cover" image.  You will note that the "Buffy RPG" logo is dropped and a "Willow & Tara RPG" logo is in it's place.  I figure that if you run a modern supernatural game using Ghosts of Albion as the source and the Buffy books as the splats, then what you have is the "Willow & Tara Roleplaying Game".  Made sense to me.

Here is the back cover:

Kara was of course Tara's "Sister" from the Dragon and the Phoenix, Megan was her mother and Deidre her Grandmother.  Originally it was the other way around, but Lisa had Megan as Tara's mother in all her work, so I switched them.  Pru was not a Player-Character at the time, so I felt it was not right to have her there to defeat the bad guy.

The rest of this season was not as finished as "The Dragon and the Phoenix", often times all I had were some rough notes.  Plus my regular group of players was getting less regular.  I was also moving to a new group and running more Ghosts of Albion.  Some of these adventures then had their origin as something that could be run under Buffy or Ghosts.

Originally these were to follow right after "Dragon" but there was a lot of time inbetween, so there is a break of one year game time between the last episode of Dragon ("No Other Troy") and "Semi-Charmed Life".

Next up the girls go to London to confront their past and future. Plus one more guest star makes a surprising appearance.