Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Old Maps

I love old maps.  Especially ones from the dawn of discovery when map makers had equal parts of skill, imagination and daring.  Sure I would not want one in my GPS car system, but for my game table?  Yes Please!

Here is one I was reading today while waiting for something else.

That's Taprobana.  An island in the Indian Ocean.
Sure we have an island there now anyway, Sri Lanka, but Taprobana is cool.  It is an island of wizards, fakirs and shamans.  A place to go to learn the highest magics, the most ancient of all arcane secrets.

They also have tea.  Which is a plus.
I just need to find a place for it in my own world.

White Dwarf Wednesday Issue 7

Sorry for the interruption.  Here we are back to Issue 7 with the start of the new full color covers.

White  Dwarf covers always had a "Heavy Metal" feel to them for me.  The magazine not the musical style, though both are accurate.  This cover was no exception.
Plus this cover, half naked girl with sword and space helmet riding a dinosaur just screams OD&D to me.  I love the little lizard dude pointing the way.

This issue is larger than the past ones by 4 pages.  Growth it good, even if it looks like most of those new pages are ads.  But ads are good too, since to me the ads of WD and Dragon were just as good of an indication as to what was popular or at least had the money to buy the space.  There were many games I looked at the ads and later HAD to have.

We have bit on feudal economics in Chivalry and Sorcery (by one of the authors of the game), but certainly fine for any FRPG.

Next up is a huge update to the Fiend Factory.  This feature is about to hit it's apex and there a plenty of new but familiar creatures to be found here.  We have the Necrophidius, the Rover (a large round creature that, um, rolls), a Living Wall (which later became the Stun Jelly) , Volt, the Gluey (which thankfully later became the Adherer), Squonk, Eye Killer, Witherweed, and the Withra.  All are complete with Monstermark ratings too.  What I find interesting here are not the ones that made it in to the Fiend Folio, but the ones that didn't. They don't seem any worse or better than the others.

Ripped from the blog posts of last week are carrying capacities in Treasure Chest.  They are split out by male and female.  Oddly enough they are listed in terms of kg (kilograms) instead of pounds or even "coins".  Though they do state at 1kg = 100 gp.

Yet more on the Asbury system of experience rewards.

Open Box reveiws "The Warlord Game", "The Thieves of Fortress Badabaskor", "Bifrost, Vol. 1", "Lords and Wizards" (Overall 6), "The Sorcerer's Cave", and "Cosmic Encounter" (Overall 8).

WD gives us a section of the Greenlands Dungeon called Lair of the Demon Queen.  Which is a just a quick encounter really with a couple rooms.  Perfect to add into a game or "collect them all!"  Though I can't recall if there ever were more articles on this.

A special guest in the form of Gary Gygax writes about the Proliferation of Magic Items in D&D.  If you didn't know already, old school games are typically low-magic affairs.  None was more low magic than Gary himself it seems.  While his advice is good, and certainly germane to any old school blog, it's not my tastes since I tend to run a magic rich game.

The issue ends with some ads.

All in all the future is looking good for WD.  It has found a nice stride here in's toddlerhood.

Blogroll broken

Like many of you, my blogroll seems to be broken.

I can't add or remove blogs from it.  Shame really, I had found some new blogs I hoped would be nice additions.   Anyone figure out how to fix it yet?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Conspiracy Y?

Reading a book about conspiracy theories and how they can be easily debunked.
But it has me in the mood for a serious Conspiracy X game with heave doses of paranoia, subjective reality and black ops every where.

Might have to try that sometime.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Marvel Heroic Roleplaying

Well unless you have been living under a rock this last week the newest, hottest game on the market right now is Marvel Heroic Roleplaying from Margaret Weis Productions.

It is kinda-sorta billing itself as the spiritual heir to TSR's old Marvel Superheroes Game  (aka FASERIP).
The new book out is called "The Basic Game" , obviously meant to recall the "Basic Game" of MSH and there is even a forward from Jeff Grubb.  So MHR has a pedigree, of sorts, but how does it stack up to it's forefather?


I will be100% honest here.  The rules took me a bit of reading, re-reading, asking other players and spending some time on RPG Net to understand.  AND I Am still not 100% sure I got it right.

I have played around with Cortex+ before.  I like ti for what it is and I'll admit I was a little concerned when I heard that the Marvel Game was going to use Cortex+.  I like it for Smallville and Leverage where drama is important. I even suggested using it for a Modern Supernatural game, but I was not sold on it as a Supers game.

At this point I should point out that "Supers" might not be a good genre for this game.  After all, "Supers" is not even in the title at all and the assumption here that everyone has powers of some sort.

In many ways this game is exactly as my friend Greg describes as the "Antithesis of the OSR".
This game is about building characters, the relationships between them and the drama.  Which, if you think about it, is kinda what Marvel Comics is about.   Does it matter really what the Hulk's strength is?  No.  Just that he is really damn strong.  Can he pick up a tank and throw it?  Sure if the Watcher (the GM, I kinda like that) says he does then he does.  That simple.  If it is a challenge, say can he out punch The Thing or Thor, then that is a different matter.

I think back to a scene I remember reading years ago.  Spider-man teamed up with the Ghost Rider to catch a common foe.  They are obviously very different kinds of heroes and they have their own way of doing things.  The bad guy was actually not essential to the story, so much so that I can't even recall him.  But the issue was more about their contrasting styles and more about how Spidey was horrified when Ghost Rider used Hell Fire on a bad guy.    This sort of thing is perfect for these rules.

So I am going spend some time this week with this game and looking at the support information out there and how one can use this game.

My opinion of the game has gone up since I first picked it up.  So who knows where I'll be by this Friday.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Undead: I Don't Like Level Drain

I don't like level draining attacks from Undead.

I have never liked them.  I also don't like 3.x "Negative" levels solution either, although it is getting closer.

See "Level" to me has always been an abstraction, a short hand way of saying you are of a certain skill and power.  But the level itself doesn't mean anything.  Loosing them is not even properly scary. Really it isn't.
Play some Call of Cthulhu or Kult where there is no such thing and I can tell you, things are scary enough.

I also don't like them since it has nothing to do with why an undead needs them or even would be able to do this.  If you say the undead "feed" on levels I counter with "ok, why do they even bother with 0-level humans?" OR more to the point, how do 0-level humans survive as long as they can/could/need-to-for-plot-reasons?

Take the example of Dracula.  Are you saying Lucy, who we can assume was attacked by Dracula multiple times, but let's just say three, was at least 6-level?  6th level in what? Mina and Harker too?

Lets look at this from the perspective of a low-level character.  Loosing a level is bad news.  How about from a higher level one, well...bad yes, but not as bad.
Look at the example of the Magic-User.  At 8th level they can cast 2 4th level spells, but after a vampire attack they...forgot them?  Ok so memory loss is not an uncommon thing after an attack, but something that specific?  Ok, so maybe you can stretch and justify it there, what about a Cleric.  He doesn't memorize spells, he prays for them. Now after an attack from a vampire he is no longer worthy for these magics?  Lost me there.

For me, level drain never made much sense at all.  If it is an abstraction of "Life Force" then we already have that in something much more precious than a level and it fits better.  Ability Scores.

Constitution is listed in the AD&D 1 Player's Handbook as:
"Constitution is a term which encompasses the character’s physique, fitness, health, and resistance. Since constitution affects the character‘s hit dice and chances of surviving such great system shocks as being changed by magic spell or resurrected from the dead, it is of considerable importance to all classes."
Instead of levels I say Vampires (and I'll get to other undead) should drain 2 points of Constitution.  It fits better.  The more blood loss you have the weaker you become.  The less likely you will survive a system shock.

Let's say the average Constitution Score for everyone is 10.  Some one like Lucy, described as frail and weak might only be an 8 or even a 6.  Certainly enough to survive multiple attacks, not more than say oh... three.  Mina, who is described as robust and full of life survives more attacks.

The draining attack needs to be tied into the type of undead, how it was made and what it needs.  We already have a precedent for it; the AD&D Shadow drains Strength.  Vampires, who feed on blood (or was that forgotten in AD&D?) should feed on Constitution.  Other undead then fall in line.

The Monsters

Skeletons, Zombies, Ghouls and Ghasts
The various members of the "Walking Dead" typically do not have drain attacks, though some could have fear based ones.  Zombies, Ghouls and Ghasts can also number among the "Hungry Dead" where they eat the flesh, living or dead, of others.

Ghosts, Banshees, Poltergeists
These creatures feed on fear for the most part, so causing fear is their primary goal.  The Banshee can kill with her scream and the Ghost can prematurely age a victim.
Drain: None.
Restore: Damaging, HP restored as normal, aging can be reversed

The mere touch of a Lich is a paralyzing cold attack that has less to do with actual temperature and more to do with the chill beyond the grave.
Drain: None. Paralyzing
Restore: Damaging, HP restored as normal

The rotting disease of the mummy is well known, but mummies can also attack via a draining attack.  This attack, sometimes known as the Mummy's Curse, will drain the victim of Dexerity and Charisma.  Worse yet, the curse is applied after only 1 successful attack and the the abilities are drained at the rate of 1 point each per day till one of them reached 0.  At this point the victim dies and can not be raised.  They will then on the next full moon become a zombie.
Drain: 1 point of Dexterity and Charisma.
Restore: Remove Curse, Heal or Wish only.

Shadow already drain Strength.  As intangible, incorporeal creatures they lack the physicality needed to interact with the world.  Draining Strength then makes them feel more alive, but it is temporary.
Drain: 1 point of Strength.
Restore: Natural healing, 1 point per hour of rest.


These frightful ghostly shades are the result of a curse. They are removed from the physical world, but loathe it.  Like the Shadow, the Spectre drains away Strength, but it can also drain Wisdom.  Strength is lost much the same way and for the same reasons as a Shadow.  Wisdom, the center of reason, is drained because it was something the Spectre lacked to get itself cursed in such a way.
Drain: 1 point of Strength or Wisdom
Restore: Magical healing via Restoration or Heal spell.

These apex undead predators feed on the life force of their victims.  They drain the blood (and thus the Constitution) from their victims.  A vampire can choose to drain 2 points of Constitution per attack, but many will toy with their victims, draining only once per night.
Drain: 2 points of Constituion
Restore: Natural healing, 1 point per week of complete bed-rest.

Most wights were soldiers or fighters in their lives.  Some of that keen intelligence lives on in undead flesh.  Since their lives were cut short due to their physical prowess, or lack thereof, the wight jealously steals Strength from it's victims.  It does this with a cold touch from beyond the grave.
Drain: 1 point of Strength
Restore: Magical healing via Restoration or Heal spell.

The Wraith is a more power incorporeal undead than the shadow, but not quite the twisted evil of the Spectre.  The wraith attempts to drain any ability score it can, targeting the lowest score and draining it till the victim reaches 0.  They do this not so much out of malice, though that is certainly true, but because they need the life force the ability provides.
Drain: 1 point of lowest Ability Score.
Restore: Magical healing via Restoration or Heal spell.

The kiss of the succubus is as deadly as it is desirable.  Men (and women) who have survived it can barely describe it, but all agree that no mortal embrace can ever compare again.  While the succubus can withhold the draining feature of her amorous attack at will, she won't often do so.  This is because the attack of the succubus will drain Wisdom as well as Constitution.  Any victim that has lost more than 1/3 of their total Wisdom score becomes hopelessly in the thrall of the succubus. Only a Wish or similar magic can save them.  Once the succubus has used up her pawn she may opt to drain Constitution as well or only to finish of the hapless mortal and return to her master with their soul.

Drain: 1 point of Wisdom and Constitution, or 2 points of Wisdom or 2 points of Constitution
Restore: Magical healing, till 1/3 is lost then only via a Wish

Guidelines for Abilities Drained
Other undead or other demons may also have a level draining attack, here is how to convert those attacks to  Ability Draining and how to choose which ability is the most appropriate.

Strength or Dexterity: Any attack where the creature is incorporeal, lacking a true body or is otherwise reminded of their own past physical life. Ex. Shadows and Wraiths lack true physical forms and Wights were mostly fighters.

Constitution: The basis of life-force.  It is used in system survival roles and adds to hitpoints.  Any creature that drains life will drain Con.

Wisdom: The basis of willpower and the desire to continue on.  Also the "mature" side of our minds. People with less wisdom give in to temptation easier.

Intelligence: The domain of the mind. Anything to do with mental prowess, psychic awareness or magical talent lies here.  Ex. Mind Flayers feed on the minds of others, they "eat" Intelligence.

Charisma: The personality of the character.  Also tied to willpower.  Some faerie creatures will drain the life and personality out of a person by draining their Charisma.  Ex. The Leanan Sidhe or Psychic vampires.

There are certainly other ways to do this and we can even argue which ability various undead can drain.  But I think ability drain is far superior to level drain.

Friday, February 24, 2012

20 Questions

The latest OSR Blogger meme is making it's rounds.
This one comes from Untimately,

Here are mine.
  1. Ability scores generation method?
  2. 4d6, drop the lowest arrange as desired.  I am not interested in average people, I want heroes in my games.

  3. How are death and dying handled?
  4. Dying at 0hp, death at -CON

  5. What about raising the dead?
  6. Only clerics can do it.  Elves and Witches can't be raised, only reincarnated.

  7. How are replacement PCs handled?
  8. I keep a stack of sheets handy.  I can always work a new PC into the ongoing story.

  9. Initiative: individual, group, or something else?
  10. Individual

  11. Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work?
  12. Yes.  Critical hits on natural 20s, double damage.  Fumbles on a 1 and attack is lost and "something bad" happens.

  13. Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet?
  14. For AC, no.  For role-playing effects yes.  So if a character is wearing a helmet and a shot misses I'll say it glanced off their helmet.

  15. Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly?
  16. I give players the benefit of the doubt that they have worked together and know what works and what doesn't.  I am more interested in drama and story than whether or not they hit each other.

  17. Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything?
  18. Oh, HELL YES.  Sometimes the only recourse is to run away.

  19. Level-draining monsters: yes or no?
  20. Not really.  Undead drain abilities like STR, CON, CHA or WIS as needed.  Trust me, my undead are plenty scary even with no draining ability.

  21. Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death?
  22. No.  Bad rolls should NEVER dictate a game's outcome. Yes bad things happen, but we have that, it's called "Real Life".  The game is about heroes and their struggle, not a bad roll or a bone-headed DM that can't see past that.  Besides, there is enough to kill you in my games that I don't have to resort to passive/aggressive ways to kill characters.

  23. How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked?
  24. Eh.  If I think the players have too much then I mention it.  With magic anything is possible.

  25. What's required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for down time?
  26. No new levels until the characters can get trained, and that means in between adventures.  Spells have to learned.  Most wizards have schools as sources. Which means I get to limit which spells they have access too.

  27. What do I get experience for?
  28. Good role-playing, defeating (which is not the same as "killing") monsters, treasure, completing an adventure.

  29. How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination?
  30. Traps are left where traps would be located.  NO random death traps.

  31. Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work?
  32. I use old D&D Basic morale (1-12).  Retainers are group NPCs and have to paid and taken care of.

  33. How do I identify magic items?
  34. Wizards have a basic chance based on level.  Otherwise a spell.

  35. Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions?
  36. There is exactly ONE place where you can in my world and it is very famous.

  37. Can I create magic items? When and how?
  38. Yes. Of course. Where do all the magic items in the world come from.  It takes research and craft and years of work though.

  39. What about splitting the party?
  40. No.  That's suicide in my dungeons.  Former party members tend to come back as flesh eating undead.

Here are some others:

Others to be posted I am sure.

Prestige Class: Witch Priestess

Continuing with my new witch Prestige Classes for d20/3.x/Patherfinder.
Earlier I posted the Queen of Witches, today I want to post something I feel lacking in the Patherfinder witch; A connection to the divine.

One thing I felt the early batch of witch books for the d20 game did well was the inclusion of a good amount of Prestige Classes.  There were all sorts really, but the ones I liked the best allowed the witch to take an aspect of what made her a witch and explore it in detail.  The Witch Priestess is one such class.    I suppose to fill out the mix I would also include an Arcane Witch, an Occult Witch, maybe some sort of expert on Charms and another on Potions.  But that would be for another day.

Here is the Witch Priestess.  All content below this point is consider Open.

Section 15:  Witch Priestess, Copyright 2012, Timothy. S. Brannan.
OGC Declaration: The following text content is considered Open Content for term of the OGL.

Witch Priestess
To a witch religion and witchcraft are the same thing and worship is a fairly private affair; it is something she does with (or even without) her Patron in her own way.  To the Witch Priestess though, religion, witchcraft and worship are far more important and she is considered to be a leader in the witch’s religious community and life. Not all witches are called to become a Witch Priestess and the sacrifice is great one.  The witch becomes more like a cleric in many respects.  She gives up advancing in her arcane spellcasting and begins divine spell casting as a cleric of the same level.  The Witch Priestess does have healing powers, but she cannot convert spell energy into healing energy as a cleric can.

Hit Dice: d6

Requirements To qualify to become a Witch Priestess, a character must fulfill all of the following criteria:
Knowledge (Religion) 8 Ranks
Knowledge (Witchcraft): 10 Ranks
Feats: At least one Witch feat.
Special: A Witch Priestess must belong to a coven.
 A Witch Priestess typically has a high wisdom.

Class Skills The Witch Priestess class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Concentration (Con), Craft (Alchemy) (Int), Craft (any) (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Heal (Wis), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (nature), Knowledge (religion), (Int), Knowledge (witchcraft) (Int), Profession (Wis), Sense Motive (Wis), and Spellcraft (Int).

Skill points at Each Level: 4 + Int modifier

Class Features All of the following are class features of The Witch Priestess prestige class.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: The Witch Priestess gains no proficiency with weapons or armor.
  Special: The Witch Priestess gains special powers at each level of her progression.

  Spells per Day: The Witch Priestess begins gaining Divine spells as a cleric of the same level.  The Witch Priestess can though add her levels to levels of witch for determination of DCs or level based effects.  Levels of witch do not however add to her levels of Witch Priestess when casting divine Witch Priestess spells.  For example a character with 10 levels of Witch and 3 levels of Witch Priestess will cast witch spells as a 13th level witch, but Witch Priestess spells as a 3rd level caster. NOTE: A Witch Priestess with levels in a divine spellcasting class may opt to continue to progress with those spell levels, they will not however add to her casting of witch spells.  So a character with 10 levels of Witch, 3 levels of cleric and 3 levels of Witch Priestess can cast as a 10th level witch and as a 6th level divine spell caster.

  Divine Spells: The witch may cast spells as a cleric of the same level. She uses the same list of spells as does the cleric.  She still cannot use spells that are contrary to her alignment or beliefs; that is  no Raise Dead spells. Domain: The Witch Priestess gains access to a clerical domain of the appropriate type.  They gain the spells and associated powers as a cleric with this domain.  At 8th level the Witch Priestess gains a 2nd domain.
   Occult Powers (Su): At 3rd level the Witch Priestess gains additional occult powers as if she were a witch of that Tradition.  The Witch Priestess will choose occult powers form her own Tradition first always at 3rd  level, then branching out to the other Traditions for her next Occult power. Note: Some witches call their Occult Powers “Hexes”.  These witches may choose a new Witch Hex at these levels.  The first Hex must be of the Minor sort. The second Hex may be Major or Grand as appropriate.
  Bonus Feat: The Witch Priestess gains an additional feat.  She may choose from Witch or Cleric/Divine feats if she meets the requirements.
  Form Coven: The Witch Priestess can form a new coven. If she is part of a coven now she will leave, with no ill will, to form her own coven.  The number of witches she gathers is equal to 1d6+ her Charisma modifier.  These witches will be under 6th level for a total number of levels equal to the Witch Priestess level + her level as a Witch.  For example a witch with a 17 Charisma can have a maximum of 9 (3 + 6) witches.  If she is a 10th level witch and a 5th level Witch Priestess the she can have a maximum of 15 levels of witches in her coven. So possibly 8 1st level and 1 7th level or any combination thereof.
  Drawing Down the Moon (Su): Once per day the witch priestess can recall a number of spell levels equal to half her level (witch and witch priestess combined) rounded down.  The witch must complete a ritual to regain her spell levels that takes a full round.  Once complete the witch regains the knowledge of the spells lost.
   Charge of the Goddess (Su): The witch at this point is such a force for her Patron that she can summon the Goddess’ own power into herself.  The witch radiates an aura of Fear at 15’ to all her enemies.  She gains a bonus of +2 to all her saves and AC.  She also gains +3 to all offensive attack forms, spells (spellcasting and DCs) or weapons.  This charge lasts for a number of rounds equal to the witch’s Wisdom score. It may be performed only once per day and takes one full round to perform.

Level BAB Fort. Ref. Will Special Divine Spellcasting*
Save Save Save 1 2 3 4 5
1st +0 +0 +0 +2 Divine Spells, Healing 1
2nd +1 +0 +0 +3 Domain (1st Domain) 1+1
3rd +1 +1 +1 +3 Occult Power / Hex 1+1 1
4th +2 +1 +1 +4 Bonus Feat 2+1 1+1
5th +2 +1 +1 +4 Form Coven 2+1 1+1 1
6th +3 +2 +2 +5 Drawing Down the Moon 3+1 2+1 1+1
7th +3 +2 +2 +5 Occult Power / Hex 3+1 2+1 1+1 1
8th +4 +2 +2 +6 Domain (2nd Domain) 4+1 3+1 2+1 1+1
9th +4 +3 +3 +6 Bonus Feat 4+1 3+1 2+1 1+1 1
10th +5 +3 +3 +7 Charge of the Goddess 5+1 4+1 3+1 2+1 1+1

*A Witch Priestess may choose to continue advancing as any divine spellcasting class she also has.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

New Releases Thursday

So each year I let everyone know about the new releases of some of my favorite women in Urban Horror from two of my favorite authors.
Here are the previous posts, 2010 and 2011.  Here I am only a couple days late.

First up is the new Calliope Reaper-Jones book from Amber Benson, How to Be Death.

When we last left CRJ she was assuming the role as the new Death.  Don't pretend that just because she has the power and station means she has anything figured out yet.  I think this is my favorite cover of all the books so far.  Out on Feb 28.

Also new is Rachel Morgan's latest adventure from author Kim Harrison, A Perfect Blood.

If Calliope is Death, then Rachel is Dead.  Or at least that is what they keep telling her.  She was declared dead at the end of the last book and now no one from the FIB, to her Demon teacher Al or even the DMV can do anything about it.  Maybe Callie could help her...

I like this cover too.  We get to see more of Rachel.  This one is out now.

Sorry for the interuption

Been kind of a bad week you know.
Thanks to everyone that posted here, G+ and Facebook about my brother Mike.  The world certainly is a poorer place with out him in it.

I have some posts to get back too; I have had the Blog on auto-pilot this week. Well sorta, the post from last night was supposed to post today.

What do I know?

Well. My Basic Era witch book "The Witch" is done.  I just need to get all the art in.

I am doing the A to Z challenge in April.  More on that soon.

The new hotness right now is the new Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game from MWP.
I have it, I have read parts of it, but I am no where near ready for a review yet.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Reviews. Books of the Dragonslayers

The great thing about a long game like I have been playing with my boys is I have had the chance to try out a LOT of different things.

Here are some of the books I have used to date.

Children of Wyrms
My oldest son loves dragons.  One of the things he loved the most about D&D4 was the ability to play a Dragonborn.  But we didn't get to play that much D&D4, he does get to play a lot of Pathfinder.  So Children of Wyrms is a great product.

Let's start with the obvious.  You get to play half-dragons, quarter-dragons and dragon-bloodied (not their word) characters.  So dragon plus some other race.  The details for the race creation is detailed.  The bonuses are detailed as expected and follow from the Pathfinder source.  So nothing is unexpected here.  All four "races" are detailed and special attention is give to Draconic Sorcerers.
Plenty of feats are included as are magic items.
For the old-schooler there is even a table of random physical traits varying by generation.
Part 2 deals with the "Birds and the Bees" aspect of dragons and birth.  It is assumed for the most part that the father is dragon and the female is humanoid.  I suppose the reverse does not pose as many problems for a dragon female.

The book is only 30+ pages, but packs it full.

The artwork and layout is top notch, what I have come to expect from FG actually.  And works as good companion piece to Sisters of Rapture.  I am guessing from the point of view of both books the Sisters spend a lot time with dragons.

I am not 100% sure I'll use the entire book.  But I do plan to use the feats next time my son's "3.x Dragonborn" levels up and it really has a lot of potential.

My only con in this book?  No rules for playing 1/2 Chromatic dragons.  Not that I can't figure it out from all of this, but the assumption here is that only good dragons do this.  I get that and I understand where the authors are coming from, but the option would have been nice.
5 out of 5 stars

17 Archer Feats
My youngest son loves to play archers.  So this was a no-brainer really.

This collection of 18 (not just 17!) feats really help highlight what a good archer should be able to do.
What is good?  Well I like the names, feats (and often times spells) don't have evocative names.  Not so here, "Ring the Bell", "Until You see the Whites of their Eyes" are cool sounding and you want to take them as feats!  The sound more like super-powers really.  They are though what feats should be, something extra special you can do that others can't because of your training.

There are several here my son has used including his favorite at lower levels, Instill Arrow.
Obviously there is a bias her towards elves and rangers, but since he is a half-elven Ranger/Bard he is perfect for this book, or it is perfect for him.

The art is above the normal standards of The Le books, which is nice.  Really in a book like this I would prefer to see old woodcuts of archers.  I think it adds to the feel that the feats are adding to the game, no need for "cartoony" art (of which there is only one piece and it is not really that bad).

The feats work, and they work well.  What more do you need?
Printer and screen versions.  Works great with 3.x and Pathfinder.  Some even look like they would work well in D&D4 (but I have not tried).
4 out of 5 stars

Demon Hunter's Handbook
As we moved later in my 3.x/d20 games, Demons became major antagonists for the characters.  This book was one of many I bought on the subject, but one of the better ones.  The book begins with a a couple of new races for PCs based on Monster Manual/SRD races, the Steward Archon and the Aasimar.  Next we go to a discussion on how each of the core classes can be a "Demon Hunter" using what they already have.  I lked this part since it also encourages better role-playing.
We follow up with demon-hunting prestige classes, which are a better sort than other books like this one.  My favorite was the Righteous Sword and his power "A Good Man's Wrath".  Very nice.
Chapter two gives us the options; new feats, new uses for skills and new spells.  As well as new equipment. All of which have had a place in my game at one time or another.
Chapter Three gives up campaign advice and how to keep a demon hunting game going.  I particularly like the Urban adventures parts since I love to play in cities and there is not much in the way of good material out there.
Chapter Four (which thematically could have been just more of Three) gives us the organizations that fight demons.  After years and years of playing horror games this was less useful for me, but good for someone just getting into the demon-hunting RPG biz.
Chapter five gives us the monsters.  Not very many here and other books do have better choices, but I don't think that a huge list of demons was the prime motivator of this book; so that is fine.

All in all a good book and a very nice collection of demon hunting ideas for any group of characters.
4 out of 5 stars

[PFRPG] Player’s Options: Aasimars, Tieflings, and Elemental Templates
One thing I think Pathfinder players miss out on are the number of races that the 4E players have.   4 Winds Fantasy Gaming though knows how to solve that.  Presented here are various racial templates for new player character races for use with Pathfinder.  Now these are not "copies" of the 4e ones, but they are "influenced" by them.  Taking races from the SRD we have some very interesting new choices for players.  We get 3 types of Aasimars, 12 elemental types and 3 types of Tieflings.  With this there is certainly enough ideas to figure out other Plane-descended races.  What I felt was nice, and glad to see it was not omitted, was how these different racial templates mix with the various types of Sorcerers.
There are also plenty of good feats here for the various bloodlines.

While this is not a long book, it is packed and for the price it is an absolute bargain.
I have come to have a high opinion of the 4 Winds products.  I have not been disappointed and I am glad to have gotten this one.
5 out of 5 stars

Fantastic Maps: The Dragon's Lair
Sometimes I don't need a module, all I need is a good map.  "The Dragon's Lair" is a good map.  My kids love to play with minis and while I can scribble on graph paper, a good scale map for minis is more than I want to do.
This product, plus some printer ink and little imagination became "The Lair of the Stinky Dragon" for my kids one rainy afternoon.

Give yourself some time to print, cut and put this together, but in the end it is worth it.
I love the cutaway view of the dungeon to know what is where in three dimensions, after all the mins are.

I'll be honest here.  I grabbed this one over all the others because it had lava in it.
5 out of 5 stars

White Dwarf Wednesday

Hello all.

No White Dwarf Wednesday today.  I am out of town on a family emergency and I am not back yet.

You can read about it here.

Back when I can.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Prestige Class: Queen of Witches

While I enjoy the Pathfinder Witch there is a serious lack of good witchy prestige classes.  Here is one based on my own Liber Mysterium witch and was going to appear in the 3.5 update.   Some of the powers and ideas here are actually based on my playtests of my Basic Witch class.

Section 15: Queen of Witches, Copyright 2012, Timothy. S. Brannan.
OGC Declaration: The following content is considered Open Content for term of the OGL.

Queen of Witches
There are witches so dedicated to their path and to their Patron that they become not only the de-facto leaders of many covens, but of their traditions as well. They are considered to be the chief agent of the Patron’s will. Sometimes these witches can claim divine parentage, others are chosen by her peers for her deeds. In all cases the Queen of Witches is imbued with a spark of divine power.
Generally speaking there is only one Queen of Witches per Tradition, so only 13 (or less) in the world at any given time.

Hit Dice: d4

 To qualify as a Queen of Witches, a character must fulfill all of the following criteria.

Knowledge (Religion) or Knowledge (Arcana): 7 Ranks
Knowledge (Witchcraft): 13 Ranks
Feats: At least one Witch feat.
Spell casting: Ability to cast 7th level spells
Special: the Queen of Witches must belong to a coven.

 The Queen of Witches typically has a high wisdom.

Alignment: Any.

Class Skills

The Queen of Witches class skills (and the key ability for each skill) are Concentration (Con), Craft (Alchemy) (Int), Craft (any) (Int), Diplomacy (Cha), Heal (Wis), Intimidate (Cha), Knowledge (arcana), Knowledge (religion), (Int), Knowledge (witchcraft) (Int), Profession (Wis), Ride (Dex), Sense Motive (Wis), and Spellcraft (Int).

Skill points at Each Level: 4 + Int modifier

Class Features

All of the following are class features of The Queen of Witches prestige class.

Weapon and Armor Proficiency: The Queen of Witches gains no proficiency with weapons or armor.

Special: The Queen of Witches gains special powers at each level of her progression.

Spells per Day: The Queen of Witches continues to progress in spell casting as if she had gained another level as a witch. This does not include any special powers or benefits, such as extra feats or occult powers (except as noted below), she would normally receive for progressing as a witch.

    Awesome Presence (Su): At first level, the Queen of Witches is infused with the power of her faith and by the faith her Coven has in her. This supernatural ability has two main effects. First all witches can “see” this presence as a bright aura. All witches will treat her with deference and respect. Secondly enemies can also detect this aura. Any morale checks made by enemies are at a –1 penalty.

    Occult Powers (Su): At 2nd level the Queen of Witches gains additional occult powers as if she were a witch of that Tradition. The Queen of Witches will choose occult powers form her own Tradition first always at 2nd level, then branching out to the other Traditions for her next Occult power.
Note: Some witches call their Occult Powers “Hexes”. These witches may choose a new Witch Hex at these levels. The first Hex must be of the Minor sort. The second Hex may be Major or Grand as appropriate.

     A Thousand Faces (Su): At 3rd level the witch gains the ability to change her appearance at will, as if using the disguise self spell. This affects the witch’s body but not her possessions. It is not an illusory effect, but a minor physical alteration of the witch’s appearance, within the limits described for the spell.

    Timeless Body (Su): At 5th level the witch no longer takes ability score penalties for aging and cannot be magically aged. Any penalties she may have already incurred, however, remain in place. Bonuses still accrue, and the witch still dies of old age when her time is up.

Class Level Attack Bonus Fort Save Ref Save Will Save Special Spells per Day
1st +1 +0 +0 +2 Awesome Presence +1 level of existing class
2nd +1 +1 +1 +3 Occult Power / Hex +1 level of existing class
3rd +2 +1 +1 +3 A Thousand Faces +1 level of existing class
4th +2 +2 +2 +4 Occult Power / Hex +1 level of existing class
5th +3 +2 +2 +4 Timeless Body +1 level of existing class

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sabrina the Witch

Oddly enough one witch I almost never talk about is Sabrina The Teen Aged witch.

Not because I don't like her, I just don't know all that much about her.  I knew of the Archie comic, but never read it.  I watched the old Filmation Saturday Morning Cartoon and enjoyed that.  I never watched the TV series though with Melissa Joan Hart or the cartoon spun off from it.

Truthfully I never gave her much thought other than starting up a sheet for her in Buffy with a note to watch some of the episodes.  My idea then (2001-2002) was to have the MJH version meet up with the Cast.  That never happened since I went full on into another series.  She never even guest stared in my next series about witches, which is kind of a shame really.

It probably would have stayed that way until fellow Eden writer Thom Marrion hadn't included her in his "Swinging 70's" character write-ups.  Course there she was "Sabrinia, the Late-20 to Early-30s Witch".

But I liked the idea so much that I thought I'd update that version of her.  I always wanted an older matriarch sorta witch character in my game.  Someone that was not active in the normal affairs, but had history.  Plus I also wanted someone that pretty much had the entire supernatural world owing her favors.
And of course I was dying to use Stevie Nicks as casting in something.  Given my history with her, it had to be something special.  Sabrina as a character might not have been my first choice, but I am happy how it all worked out.

Sabrina the Late Middle Aged Witch
(based on Thoms original)

Note: All respect to Thom Marrion for this. This is an idea I had kicking around in my head for a while. Plus I have ALWAYS wanted to use Stevie Nicks as the Queen of Witches in my games. I was listing to the "Wild Heart" today and decided to do this.

Sabrina Spelman-Krinkle
Age: 63, played by Stevie Nicks
Very Experienced Investigator (Semi-Retired)

Name: Sabrina Spelman-Krinkle
Motivation: Not much motivates her now
Creature Type: Human
Attributes: Strength 2, Dexterity 2, Constitution 2, Intelligence 4, Perception 4, Willpower 5
Ability Scores: Muscle 10, Combat 12, Brains 16
Life Points: 26
Drama Points: 20
Special Abilities: Attractiveness +2, Contacts (Supernatural) 5, Emotional Problems (Depression, -2), Love (Tragic), Magic Family, Occult Investigator, Occult Library(Amazing), Secret (She's a witch who belongs to a powerful magical family), Magic 8, Supernatural Senses (Basic and the Sight)

Name;Score;Damage Notes
Dodge;12;;Defense Action
Grapple;14;;Resisted by Dodge
Magic;21;Special;Varies by spell

Thom gives us an idea of what Sabrina was doing in the 70s since that time Sabrina married her long time love Harvey Krinkle which was no end of controversy, a Spelman marring a mortal (though it had been done before) and eventually she rose up in ranks in the Witches Council. After the death of Samantha Spelman-Stephens, Sabrina was the logical choice as the successor to the Queen of Witches. Logical to everyone except to Sabrina herself and maybe Harvey (but not like the Council cared for his opinion), it was in fact their mistreatment of her husband and their non-magical daughter (though their other children were magical) that she finally took on the role. She had hoped to change the Council from the top down. The trouble was the Witches Council is an old organization and moves slow. It took her months to even get them to install a computer in her office.
After years of fighting the system Sabrina is now tired of fighting. Her reason to fight, Harvey, died a couple of years ago and now she is not much more than a figurehead with the true operations of the Witches Council being run by Tabitha Stephens.
However dont let her apathy fool you, Sabrina saw more of the supernatural before age 17 than most teams of occult investigators see their entire lives. Like the previous Queen of Witches, her (great) Aunt Samantha, Sabrina has the full might and power of the Council at her disposal. Though it would take something considerable to get her attention.

In your games: Sabrina looks over her life and sees the wasted years fighting the council, working to keep the council and her family both happy and she has ended up here, older, alone and pleasing no one. Her stats have not changed much to reflect this stagnancy of her life. Think Queen Victoria after Albert died. I even have her wearing black.

Also I like the idea that if you bring her into the game it needs to be for a really good reason.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Player & Character morality

Read these two descriptions of how two different groups of players deal with a potential threat of otherwise incapacitated humanoids.



Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that both groups are equally as dangerous to the PCs and if given the chance will kill them.  Which is the "better" solution?

Now this is not limited to adults or kids as one or the other.  I just played a 4e game with a bunch of 10-11 year olds that wanted "to slaughter everyone" and fight the other characters.  I have played with adults that are the same way.  I have played with both age groups that would rather fine a more rational action.

Here is a question from Tenkar on "Why are PC's so hooked on Torture?"

And we wonder sometimes why we can't get new blood into our games.

Do we as a group encourage this sort of play?  Is it something inherent in the rules or the agreed upon reality?  That is a "violence begat violence" sort of deal?

I did my fair share of immature violence back n the day, but my DM quickly cured me of that.
I had a thief that I felt was a real bad ass.  So while going through the adventure "Death's Ride" he shot a guy in the back with a crossbow.  The NPC was annoying him (aka me) so I shot him.  Throughout the entire run of the classic H-Series modules (Throne of Bloodstone) this NPC, now an undead revenant kept coming back to screw things up for me at the exact wrong moments.  He went from a vague pest to a Deadpool like character that couldn't be killed or turned.  And that included the insane humor.  In the process the already deadly modules turned into a meat grinder with this guy (Kirkroy was his name) letting all the demons know we were coming.

In the adventures above if I were the DM for both.  In #2 (which I was the DM) the characters were rewarded and considered to be heroes and saviors, not mass murdering thugs.  In #1 (where I wasn't), well nothing screws up your day like a bunch of unstoppable undead warriors claiming vengeance on the murder of innocents.  

What do you all think?  Am I being overly sensitive?
Mind you for this argument I am not accepting "it's just a game" as an excuse. Maybe it is just a game.  But I am talking about in-game behavior.  You might as well say "oh that is because we are on Earth".

Zombies vs. Robots

IDW has a new series of short stories up called "Zombies vs. Robots".
I'll admit I knew nothing about it but today my friend (and Ghosts of Albion RPG co-writer) Amber Benson has a new book out in the series.

Zombies vs. Robots: Mademoiselle Consuela and Her Army of One

She is also running a contest around the book and you could win a lunch with her over Skype.
So go. Download.  99 cents won't buy you much, but it will get you Amber's newest book.  And would make her happy.  Unless of course you have something against happy.

In other Amber/Tara news, Zap2It is running a poll on the most "crush worthy" dearly departed TV character.  If you enjoy my blog, pop over and give "Tara Maclay" a vote.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

February DriveThru Deals

It is that time again.

The new February Discount code for the following items is now out from DriveThruRPG.  Here are the games:

Aruneus Bundle - Troll in the Corner
Part-Time Gods - Third Eye Games
A Peculiar Pentad - Savaged - Super Genius Games
Ultimate Dice Tower 2 - Fat Dragon Games
Exodus Post Apocalyptic RPG Survivor's Guide - Glutton Creeper Games

And here is the code to get 20% off: GeekLoveRules2012  
This code is good until March 14th, 2012.


Leave a signature

I am participating in the A to Z blogging challenge again this year.
As a value add to my regular readers and to new readers each post will be about a different game.  I'll have a review, maybe some new crunch or fluff, something for everyone (I hope).

Regular readers get to hear about something new and new readers can get a better insight to our hobby and maybe find something they would like to try out.

But that is not why I am posting today.

Today I want to encourage YOU my readers to leave your signature when you reply.
If you are reading my blog and you are a blogger, chances are you are saying thing I might want to read or other readers might.  So I want YOU, my readers to leave a signature.

This idea was posted at the main Blogging A to Z site,

For the Challenge we are being asked to leave signatures on the posts we make.
Now typically I (and many of you) do not do this.  It can be considered tacky or SPAMy by most and even rude by others.

But I think I am going to be ok with people leaving comments here to leave your signature.  If you take the time to read my posts and then even more time to post something then I should repay you the courtesy of reading your blog and posts AND have others here do the same.
As long as I think this is not being abused then I am not going to delete anything.

Using Sue Travers cue, here is how you do it.

Leave your name and your blog title as a signature.

So replace the text in red with your link and the text in blue with your name.  So I would do this:

You now have my explicit approval to use that here.  Your experiences may very on other blogs.
If you wish you can try it out below.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

White Dwarf Wednesday Issue 6

April/May 1978 gives us the topic of today's White Dwarf Wednesday, White Dwarf #6.

So we at one year of WD and we see some changes.  The first, most notable change is the right justification of the the text.  I does make the magazine a bit easier to read and looks cleaner.  The second is the introduction of a new feature called The Fiend Factory.  Something that in time will be a major feature of WD and spawn the AD&D Fiend Folio.

First up though is an article ripped from today's Internet postings on various types of Armor Class vs. various weapons.  Very old school yes, but the solution reminds me of the various armor classes we see in 3.x.

Next up is the Fiend Factory. The monsters presented here are from various authors but edited by Don Turnbull.  The format is near-AD&D/Basic D&D (no longer in OD&D format).  Each includes a picture (most times) and a Monstermark rating right there with all the other stats.
Out of the gate we have some monsters that would later live on in the Fiend Folio and some even in infamy.  We have in this issue, The Needleman, The Throat Leech, The Mite, Bonesnapper (no "The"), The Fiend (which later became something of the mascot of later articles), Disenchanter, and the first appearance anywhere of The Nilbog.  The article is longer than most WD articles have been to date (which were about 2 pages max).  This is a significant jump in the evolution of WD.

An article on minis follows then an article on how to adapt Jack Vance's The Dragon Masters to a D&D game.
Open Box reviews two new games, "Knights of the Round Table" by Little Soldier (no ranking is given) and "Elric" by The Chaosium which they loved, but still graded it down in terms of the price (7 out of 10).  Also reviewed are various D&D playing aids from Judges Guild.

The letters section has someone complaining about last issue's comic and another giving reasons why players should be allowed to roll your own attack dice.  See none of you are really old school at all if you let your player roll their own dice!  What's next? 4d6 and drop the lowest die? Anarchy!

Don Turnbull treats us to a lengthy overview/review of Traveller. He does spend a lot of time comparing it to D&D, which at the time I think made it read unfavorablly even if the article is positive.  Today of course it reads differently where our assumption is it should not be like D&D at all.  While he likes the game he feels there are some serious drawbacks to it.  Namely what to do with it once you have it.  While we can wink at that now, I do see where he was coming from.
Another full page of Kalgar.
Some new magic items in Treasure Chest.
Part 2 of the Asbury System of rewarding experience points by level and class.
A hit location system for Melee combat.
And finally an expanded Classified section.

Issue 6 now sees all the early vestiges shed from the pages.  No joke classes, no silly treasure.  White  Dwarf has stepped up.  Issue 6 can stand side by side with Dragon issues of the day and content wise I feel they are comparable.  The art is not there yet and the content is still only around two dozen pages (but the pages are longer and the font smaller).

Next month, cover art takes a big leap forward.