Friday, June 29, 2012

Tomorrow it Begins!

Tomorrow I start my* new D&D group.  

So far where is what we know.

  • We are playing D&D 4th Edition with the plan of going from 1st to 30th level
  • I will have *7* players aged 8 to 12 1/2
  • We are playing in the Forgotten Realms as it is in the 4th Ed books.
  • We are going to do the H-P-E Modules starting with "The Keep On the Shadowfell"

Two of the kids are mine. Three are the sons of my friend Greg and two are friends of my oldest son.  The two new kids have never played anything before.

Greg's kids have played a lot of games, mine have played a variety of D&D games, most notably our 3.x Dragon Slayers game.

We are going with the Orcus wants to become the God of Death plot line.  The differences will be that it's Kelemvor that has died due to the Spellplauge and the Raven Queen is only a Godling, her power untapped. This makes her a more likely target to Orcus than the mature Raven Queen.  I'll admit there are some things from Amber Benson's "Death's Daughter" that I want to try out too.   I am still doing many of the ideas from this post back in 2010, except these characters are not the descendants of the 3.x characters and I am going to smash a world into this one.  

Honestly I think it is going to be great.  4e has it's detractors, but we still had fun with it.  Plus my son plays in a Castles & Crusades game with 3 of the other kids listed above and my two boys are still finishing up their 3.x game where I used all the old 1st Ed modules.  We get to do all sorts of schools here.

(*really my son's)


Well I have been trying out LinkWithin on my blog for the 3rd time (or maybe the 4th) and this time it seems to work much better.

In earlier versions of the Other Side layout I had written large parts of my own CSS. The new Blogger layout now gives me the advanced features I wanted without needing to muck around with coding.  That is nice since my own coding also has disabled some of the nicer comments features.  It also was not very compatible with LinkWithin.

Well now it seems to work better.  I am not seeing how the algorithm works; for example how a post on the Zatanna and Hex Girls will also direct you to Dracula, Shakespeare, and D&D Basic.  But I guess in my world that makes sense.

The one thing I am noticing that my hits for older pages are way up.  That is a good thing.  I have over 1200 posts here now, some of that older stuff has to be good too!

Do you like the LinkWithin widget?  Are you finding any hidden treasures, not just here, but any blog that uses it?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

My Game Room needs a HUGE map

Custom Yard Signs
Custom Bandit Signs
So a bit ago I was approached by Nathan Beddome of "Signs on the Cheap" and "Banners on the Cheap" with an idea of printing up a large game map for my game room.

Well I have always wanted a large map of Victorian London on my  wall so I responded back and we got to chatting.

Today I got the file formats I needed to know about so I am going to give it a try.

This is a very different kind of market for both me and his company.  Afterall I rarely if ever need vinyl banners and I am sure they print up much stuff for gamers.  So I am quite curious to see how this will all turn out.

I will keep you all posted on how it works out and all that good stuff.
Now I just need to find a good image file (that I own) for this!  So far though things have been pretty easy going.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

White Dwarf Wednesday #21

Miss me?  Sorry for the delay last week.  This has been a busy time at work and I have been taking it home with me at night to do instead of this.
Let's get down to business. 

Issue #21 is from Oct/Nov 1980 and it is off to a good start with some cool late 70s/early 80s wizard art.  A lone star focused through gems reveals a fighter in battle.  If it were redone today the gem would be d20 shaped.

We have an ad for Ariel games which in a bit of neat synchronicity features a game reviewed earlier today by James at Grognardia, The Mystic Wood.  This and four other pages of ads follow.

The editorial is another "Ripped from todays blog roll" on whether or not the Vancian magic system is outdated.  Interesting really.  This is 1980, not 2012 and the D&DNext playtest discussion.  Though maybe they should read this editorial.  Not that the offered solution, the power point system in RuneQuest, is much more modern today, but it bears thinking about.
There is also a note about their production artist, Robert Owens, who was killed in a crash.  

Andrew Finch gives us a new D&D class based on The Chronicle of Thomas Covenant.  "Lore of the Land" features the Lore Lords.  They are an uber spell casting class that can combine their spell casting levels to cast more powerful spells and increasing the fighting ability of others.  Something like a hyper-bard. Also detailed are Rhadmaerl, or a new type of magic user based on the Lore of Stone and the Hirebrand or Lillianrill, magic uses based on the Lore of Wood. And finally the Bloodgurd, a type of fighter.  If you are a fan of the novels then these might be fine, but as character classes they look a little over powered, with the exception of the Bloodguard.

Roger E. Moore gives us a bit on Merchants.  Including what they do and an NPC class for them. Very much an example of the early days when every profession had to be detailed as a class.

Open Box review Azhanti High Lightning, one of the classic classics of Travleler. Andy Slack gives it 8/10, James gives it a little bit more detail.  Roger Sandell reviews Intruder from Task Force Games, giving it a 6/10. He states it is a "good idea, but needs improvement".   John Lambshed reviews another Task Force Games entry, Valkenburg Castle.  This one fares better at 8/10.

Letters deals with important issues like alignment and why does a lantern burn for 24 hours but the same flask of oil thrown lasts only a round.

Up nest is another complete mini-game Survival by Bob McWilliams. Seems simple and quick to play.

Treasure chest is upping their game this issue with a bunch (15) new spells.

Fiend Factory gets a huge makeover this issue.  For starters the layout is better and the monsters are all grouped by a theme. In this case wilderness monsters for characters of 5th to 7th level.
The font used to write the monsters' names is now a plain one, not the stylized art font unique to every monster.  Monstermarks are still included.  The monsters themselves also seem to have been taking up a notch in terms of design.  The jokey monsters are gone, replaced with real threats. This issue gives us The Brothers of the Pine (undead full of magical pine sap), Chthon (a living rock), Enslaver (a small pool of mercury that controls others), Micemen (the results of Brownie/Orc crossbreeding), Dragon Warriors (created from the teeth of dragons), Grey Sqaargs (a race of evil automata) and a Cyclops.

Starbase, the Traveller feature, continues with a mini "situation" for Traveller.  We would call these an Encounter today.

S. Hartley presents the Tomb of the Maharaja, an AD&D mini-module for 6-10 3rd and 4th level characters.  It is a nice little dungeon crawl that could be completed in one night.

Up next are some ads, including this one from Games Workshop that really got my attention.

Remember when I said at the start of this that anything British was automatically cool in my teenaged mind.
Here is a better scan of the Doctor Who board game that I mentioned last time.

With issues 20 and 21 we see a shift in WD to a more mature gaming magazine.  The jokey monsters and classes are going away and focus on other games, like Traveller, is keeping the focus more of serious gaming material.

Let's see if this trend continues.

Some links to other White Dwarf retrospective reviews

An older RPG Net thread that goes issue by issue

A newer EN World one that reviews 10 issues at a time to get a better perspective on the overall trends.

And other Magazine retrospectives:

Grognardia takes us back to the future every Tuesday with his Ares retrospectives.

Land of Nod does Dragon by Dragon every Sunday.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Monday, June 25, 2012

Victoriana 1st Edition

Back when I was working on Ghosts of Albion I became aware of the game Victoriana.

I picked up the game, but since I was deep into playing Ghosts at the time I didn't look at it much.  Finally I did and then learned a 2nd Ed was going to come out.  Of course I did eventually get the 2nd edition (and signed no less!) and know I hear there is a 3rd Edition on the way.

I spent some time reading the 1st Edition rules and thought it was interesting, if odd.  For starters I am not sure why there was no U.S. Civil War. I was also not a fan of the Fuzion system.  I liked all the odd races for the game (even if it did lead to the infamous Orc from Africa debate) and felt like it was, as it has been later described, Victorian Age Steampunk.

The thing that struck me though is how similar that cover is to the Ghosts of Albion BBC logo.  In particular the silhouettes of  William and Tamara.   I am sure it is nothing but coincidence,  but I could not help but notice it all the same.  Save for the pointy ears on the Victoriana cover that *could* be Tamara and William.

I still like this game though.  It has a soft spot in my heart really.  It is like Ghosts of Albion gone all gonzo and turned up to 11.  Plus it is one of the few games I always try to play at Gen Con; well it or 2nd Ed.

Here are the books I own.   What I feel they lack in system, they make up for in style. They can be used with the 2nd Edition of the game with the conversion guide in the back of the 2nd Ed core book.

Victoriana: 1867 Edition
This is the core book of the "1867" or 1st edition rules.

The Hounds of Fate

What if "Hounds of the Baskervilles" was a true story?  Well in the world of Victoriana, it can be!
This is a "Penny Dreadful" or an adventure for Victoriana 1st Edition (aka 1867 Edition).
This adventure though is based more on the old legends of the Black Dog or Old Shuck on the English countryside.  As such it is a good adventure for any Victorian era game with a heavy emphasis on magic or the supernatural. One could easily run this under Ghosts of Albion or Cthulhu by Gaslight.

The Smoke: 1867 Edition

This is one of the best Victoriana 1st Ed products.  At 128 pages it is a very comprehensive guide to London in 1867.
Granted there is the Victoriana-universe spin on everything, but otherwise it is perfect for use with ANY Victorian era game.  It especially works well with the 2nd Edition of the Victoriana game.   The book is sans-game stats, so there is no system conversion to worry about, just thematic conversions.

The maps are fantastic and I especially enjoyed the descriptions of all the neighborhoods.
Very good resource indeed.

The Dragon in the Smoke

Another adventure for Victoriana 1st Ed.  The set up is very nice and it captures the feel of the game right away.
The adventure itself deals with strange eastern magic and mysticism, missing children and a cursed statute.   Plenty of really good plot elements to keep your players guessing.
This adventure also includes some rules on using martial arts.

While I am not likely to play Victoriana 1st Ed these days, it still holds a special place for me.  Though these products listed here are my favorite.

Do we need these?

The 1st Edition reprints are on their way and I am quite excited about it.

WotC just also announced new reprints of the 3.5 version of D&D.

This one has me scratching my head.  I can still buy 3.5 books new at my FLGS.  My 3.5 books are actually in really good shape (picked up the leather bound ones a while back).

I think I would rather see the Rules Cyclopedia reprinted than 3.5.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

EN World Game Day Chicago 32

Once again I am going to be running a game at EN World Game Day Chicago!

I'll be running Ghosts of Albion: Blight. I have had requests to run this one, so here it is for what might be the last time.  Working on some new adventures.

Here is the blurb for the game:

Ghosts of Albion: Blight
Ireland is dying. 
Her Protector has been murdered and you are the primary suspects. Can you clear your name, regain your magic and stop whatever necromancies befoul the land? Time is short, yours and one million lives hang in the balance. Set in 1847 this is an adventure for the Ghosts of Albion RPG.

Game System: Cinematic Unisystem
Rules Edition: Ghosts of Albion
Players: Minimum 5-6, Max 8.
Minimum Age: Teen (13+) (PG for some violence, and problem solving)
Experience Required: None (never played before), some knowledge of "Ghosts of Albion" is helpful.
Materials Provided: Yes, materials are provided for this game. You do not need to bring your own.  One d10 is needed.

There is a sign-up thread over at EN World,

I have an afternoon slot 3:30pm to 8:30pm on Saturday, July 14 at Games Plus in Mount Prospect, IL.
You can read more about Chicago Game Day here,

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Zatannurday: Strikes-Twice Cosplay

Back in the start of June I posted some random Zatanna Cosplayers.  One that really got my attention was Strikes-Twice on Deviant art.
I loved her style and thought she made a great Zatanna.

She tells us on her DeviantArt site that loves Zatanna and she is her favorite "DC Chick".  I can't disagree.
So here are some of her pics.  Please enjoy!

AH! Zatanna by ~strikes-twice on deviantART

Party time, tnellecxe! by ~strikes-twice on deviantART

Deviant ID 1.0 by ~strikes-twice on deviantART

Showstopper! Zatanna and Catwoman by ~strikes-twice on deviantART

Spellaholic. by ~strikes-twice on deviantART

Z VS. H by ~strikes-twice on deviantART

Cats and Wands by ~strikes-twice on deviantART

OOH MR. BATMAN OOH by ~strikes-twice on deviantART

So stop by her page to see more and say hi!

Friday, June 22, 2012

New Game, New World

I am gearing up for my new game.  I posted about it already a couple days back.  Since then I have picked up another new player.

What I have been considering for this game is moving it away from my normal world of Mystoerth to something new. Or at least new for me. I am considering, very seriously, the Forgotten Realms.

I talked about this a while back. I picked up the Player's Guide then, and just got the Campaign Guide.
I own some Realms books as PDFs. They were one of the things I grabbed in the mad dash before DriveThru took them all down.

I mentioned before that I was never a fan of the Realms. I considered it to be a pretender to Greyhawk and not a very worthy one at that.  In fact one of the first examples of my own Nerd Rage was how Anti-Realms I used to be because it took the spotlight away from my beloved Greyhawk.

I picked up the 3.0 Realms Guide when it came out and I admit I liked it. I felt it was a good book and all it really was missing was monsters. The new 4e campaign books are a good model too. Though this time I feel I have enough monsters.

But what I like the most about the 4e Realms book is how completely gonzo it is. Smash two planets together to get one world! I love that! Spell plagues? Bring it on!  Races from Abeir now showing up? Fantastic!

I will be honest.  I know next to nothing about the Realms.  Nada. Zip.
Never read the novels, never played in the Realms EVER.

In fact most of what I know comes not from books or games, but from Wikipedia and the Forgotten Realms Wiki.

Normally I think this would be an issue. But since I am using the 4e material and it is about 100 years after all the events in 3e, not to mention world-changing events at that, that it is ok if that the players know nothing.  All I need to worry about is their local part of the world.
The iconic NPCs are never going to show up, nor in fact will my sons' characters from our 3.x game.
I want this story to be about these characters right now.

I am also still planning to use the HPE modules for these characters to fight Orcus.   Since it is the Realms I am going to add some of the materials from the old H-series, The Bloodstone Wars.

So here are my questions to those of you far more familiar with the Realms than me.

  • Should I read over any of the older material?
  • Where is a good place to start the characters?  IE.  What is "The Village of Hommlet" for the Realms?
  • Anything I should about running the Realms say as opposed to running Greyhawk?

I am feeling really excited about this and want it to work out well.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

I Don't Want No Civil War....

But this one is pretty cool.

MWP has their next Marvel Heroic Roleplaying book out and it covers the big Marvel Civil War arc.

Now, I'll be honest I didn't care for the Civil War story.  But this book does look cool and it adds more heroes for your game.

The books come in two flavors.
The Essentials edition just covers the new material.
The Premium Edition includes the Essentials plus the material from the Basic Game.

I grabbed the Essentials.  But I'll pick through the Premium if it has material updated from the Basic game.

While I didn't care for the story in Civil War it did give us one of the best Cap and Spidey panels in existence.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

First Day of Summer, celebrate with Fire

So last Winter's Solstice I posted a bunch of pictures of DC's Ice.  Well today I'll post her partner and other favorite of my oldest son, Fire.

fire league justice by ~victormanga on deviantART

Fire Fight by *CandelaGreene on deviantART

A fiery Bea by ~brilliant-beatrice on deviantART

Blazing Fire_no text by ~Mancomb-Seepwood on deviantART

Fire by ~Lamzao on deviantART

Fire Wallpaper by ~Ziggyman on deviantART

Enjoy your Summer!

White Dwarf Wednesday

Will be a bit delayed today (maybe till tomorrow).

I just got back into town from a business trip and am woefully behind on everything.

Latest Drama Bomb

Well I go away out of town for a couple of days and there is yet another drama bomb dropped on the RPG community.

If you have not heard it yet, well, look around it will surface somewhere else to be sure.

Even though this is a the exact sorta thing I'd normally through my hat into, I am lacking the motivation to do so.

I will say this though.

If I don't like your product, game and even to a degree you as a human being (I never claimed to be with out bias) then I won't buy your product.  That's it. That's my worst threat.

I am not going boycott it or your publisher.  I might write a bad review if I do buy it.  But that is fair.
I am not going to declare you "my enemy" (enemy? really? What are we, 12 years old?)

I DO understand the original complaint and I DO agree with it.  I don't agree with the actions they are trying to do.

Ok, I didn't want to rant or get involved, so I'll stop here.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Kickstarter News

Angus Abranson, formerly of Cubicle 7,  has started a new Facebook group to keep track of all the RPG-related Kickstarters going on.

Stop by. Get updates. If you know of any, please join the group and post them too!

Monday, June 18, 2012

New Game Group and Game!

There is nothing quite like the excitement of a new gaming group.
New people getting together for the first time, new characters, new game, new worlds to explore.

My oldest son has a friend that really wants to learn to play D&D. So I talked to his mother and she is thrilled about it too. She used to play Werewolf back in college.  We are also going to add his younger brother and my youngest too.  So a total of four boys ages 9 to 12.

My oldest plays in a group now that he is continuing with. They are playing Castles and Crusades and having a good time with that.  My oldest and youngest are still playing our 3.x Epic game, the DragonSlayers.

Given I still have all this 4e stuff I want to get my money's worth out off, we are going to play Fourth Edition D&D.

I think it is going to be a great time to be honest.

Right now the plans are to play every other Saturday.
I picked up the Forgotten Realms books at Half-Price books a while back dirt cheap so maybe we will play in the Realms.  I have never done that before.

My kids created their characters yesterday and I am going to use the companion rules to let them have a human or animal companion.  My oldest is playing two characters a Dragonborn Paladin/Warlord and Genasi Sorcerer,  My youngest is playing a Half-elf Bard.  I am planning to go totally 4e gonzo on this too.  Use all the options, the cards, everything.

So yeah, it is about as far from an old school game as you can get, but you know what, it is going to be a blast!  I can't wait to get started!

I am not likely to use the "Basic Levels" idea I came up with.  Which is too bad really, cause I really liked that.  But hey, who knows.  Let's see what the kids want.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Free RPG Day Haul

Look what I got!

I grabbed the "D&D"-like ones, because that's what my kids enjoy the most.
Been toying around with an idea that might incorporate all four into a game...but that is silly.

The ShadowRun was more for me.  I have been itching to pull my ShadowRun books down again.

Don't forget you can also get the Ghosts of Albion Quick Start and Adventure Derby Day.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Free RPG Day: Free Stuff Here!

free RPG day
I hope you all enjoy Free RPG Day.

Please head to your FLGS (am will be going to mine)to get some great RPGs and accessories.

Here at the Other Side we don't want you to feel left out if you can't get to a game store.

So here, by permission of Eden Studios you can download the Ghosts of Albion Quick Start and Adventure Derby Day!

Derby Day was written by Garner Johnson who was invaluable help to me while writing Ghosts.

If you were ever curious about my game Ghosts of Albion, then this is your chance.  Please download and try this out.

You can also use these rules to play the first ever Buffy Adventure The Dark Druid.

Please enjoy these courtesy of the Other Side and Eden Studios.

Zatannurday: Zatara

Last two Mother's Day weekends I mentioned a bit about Zatanna's mother Sindella. But in truth there is only one parent that Zatanna has known here whole life and that is her father Giovanni "John" Zatara.

He first appeared in the June 1938 issue of Action Comics #1, notable for the introduction of another famous golden age superhero, Superman.

"Zatara Master Magician"  was by Fred Guardineer and ran from pages 20 to 31.
From the beginning Zatara spoke his spells backwards.  Mostly to give him something different than the other magicians-turned-crime-fighting-mystermen like Mandrake the Magician and his imitators.

Zatara was woven into the DC Comics fold more completely when he was given the back story of having been a friend of Thomas Wayne, introducing him to his future wife Martha and then later training a young Bruce Wayne in the skill of escapology.  It was in fact during the time right after the Waynes were murdered that Zatara left America on an extended tour of Europe.  Here he met Sindella and soon Zatanna was born.
This was developed more as Zatanna's history was developed and most famously in the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Zatanna".

Another of his good friends, or rather paramours was Madame Xanadu, who would not marry him.  Currently Xanadu and Zatanna share a title in Justice League Dark.  They are both Homo Magi, so even though X was Z's dad's former girlfriend, they do look about the same age.  Zatara himself was also Homo Magi in addition to being a stage magician.  A distinction he shares with other, now dead, father figures like Ludlow Swift of "Ghosts of Albion" and Harry Dresden's father.

Of course the most notable feature today of Zatara is that he is dead.  His death is what help push his daughter into a life of fighting crime as her father had done.  Though for a dead guy he pops up often enough in Zatanna's life.

I like the idea of Zatara. I'd love to try him out sometime in a supers or pulp like game.
I have already decided that my first Amazing Adventures character will be Giovanni Zatara.
But until then, here he is in all his Golden Age glory!

Giovanni (John) Zatara - PL 10

Strength 1, Stamina 2, Agility 1, Dexterity 3, Fighting 2, Intellect 3, Awareness 4, Presence 4

Artificer, Benefit, Wealth 3 (millionare), Connected, Contacts, Defensive Attack, Fascinate (Expertise), Languages 3, Skill Mastery: Expertise: Magic, Uncanny Dodge, Well-informed

Close Combat: Unarmed 2 (+4), Deception 6 (+10), Expertise: Magic 10 (+13), Expertise: Stage Magic 6 (+9), Insight 10 (+14), Intimidation 2 (+6), Investigation 5 (+8), Perception 10 (+14), Persuasion 4 (+8), Ranged Combat: Eldritch Blast 6 (+9), Ranged Combat: Mental Blast 4 (+7), Sleight of Hand 10 (+13), Stealth 2 (+3), Technology 1 (+4)

Magic: Magic 10 (DC 25)
   !dleihS: Deflect 10
   !ediH: Concealment 0
   !elzzaD: Dazzle 10 (Alternate; Affects Sense: hearing, sight, Resisted by: Will, DC 20)
   !tsalb hctirdlE: Blast 10 (Alternate; DC 25)
   !tsalb latneM: Mental Blast 5 (Alternate; DC 20)
Magical Senses: Senses 5 (magical, Acute: Sight, Analytical: Sight, Detect: Sight, Hearing 2: ranged, Ranged: Sight)

Initiative +1
!elzzaD: Dazzle 10, +3 (DC Will 20)
!tsalb hctirdlE: Blast 10, +9 (DC 25)
!tsalb latneM: Mental Blast 5 (DC Will 20)
Grab, +2 (DC Spec 11)
Magic: Magic 10, +3 (DC 25)
Throw, +3 (DC 16)
Unarmed, +4 (DC 16)

Motivation: Doing Good

Italian, English, Greek, Latin

Dodge 10, Parry 9, Fortitude 7, Toughness 2, Will 10

Power Points
Abilities 40 + Powers 30 + Advantages 14 + Skills 39 (78 ranks) + Defenses 27 = 150

Happy Father's Day everyone!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Willow & Tara: World of Darkness (new)

Willow and Tara in Mage the Awakening

Following up on my post from earlier today on The World of Darkness RPG.

One of the reoccurring themes in Willow & Tara fiction or games is their shared growth of magical power.  As they grow together and grow more in love, their powers increase to a near phenomenal level.  Sort of like the powers wielded in Mage the Awakening.

Now in my last Buffy campaign, "Season of the Witch", I had Willow and Tara become "mages".  Not exactly what is here, but very close.  I would be lying though if I didn't say there was some influence. There was. You can read about that in the last three adventures of that game:
This is also a common theme in the various Willow & Tara fanfics out there. In fact one of the best Willow/Tara fan fics out there is “Unexpected Consequences” by Lisa Countryman.  Lisa even uses the word “mage” to describe their power level even though I know for a fact she has never seen any White Wolf game.  In Lisa’s “Unexpected Consequences” Tara’s Awakening happens too soon and it causes, well, all sorts of unexpected consequences.  It takes place during season six and is far, far better than what happened on TV.  In the sequel fic “Milestones” Lisa deals quite well with Willow and Tara’s true Awakening some 10-15 years in the future.  Not only does she capture 30-something Willow and Tara quite well, it is an excellent narrative of how an Awakening can happen or be done.  Willow and Tara knew it was coming, and yet they are still totally unprepared for it.  It also shows what an Awakening must be like through the eyes of a mundane or other non-awakened witches.

So as they grow old together Willow and Tara will get much more powerful.

Presented here are a possible Willow and Tara right after the events of Season of the Witch.  I am borrowing heavy from Lisa here as well as my own World of Darkness (old) stats.  This would have lead up to my Season 3 that would have been more magically focus. In fact these conversions lead right from my Mutants & Masterminds 2.0 conversions in terms of when they happened (game wise) and when I wrote them (real time).  It was because of these two games that gave me the idea to move the girls to Boston.

Their Awakening in Brief
Lisa and I both consider Willow and Tara to be “old souls”, they have both been reincarnated many times and have shared many lives together.  Our separate visions of this were so compatible that we meshed them.  I had considered their first incarnations to be “Bodhmal” (Willow) and “Liath” (Tara) from Celtic Ireland, Lisa’s are “Belen” (Tara) and “Damara” (Willow).  In either case Willow and Tara’s Awakening in Mage is a similar event to awakening their Old Soul in WitchCraft; contact with their primal soul-selves. In Mage Revised this would have been their avatar. In Mage the Awakening this is the primal spirit that instructs them on who they were, who they are now and what they are to become.  I choose them both to take the Path of Thyrsus.  While they are not really “shamans”, there is an earthy quality about Tara.  It was more for their seeking of their Primordial Soul-selves. Plus in Lisa’s fiction Willow and Tara’s awakenings was always about a surplus of life and life-power. In UC Tara becomes faster, stronger and more confident.  Something she tries to maintain later in MS. What also struck me was the description of the Thyrsus’ extreme emotions.  This also fits Lisa’s fictions.

Delving deeper into the “Tome of The Watchtowers” (which also inspired the name for Episode 13) we learn that Thyrsus was the only Watchtower formed by a woman. The sexual nimbus fits with sex=magic we saw on TV and Lisa’s description of Adourflame (Episode 11).

I could have chosen Acanthus as well since this communication with their previous souls is across time and space, but I did not feel either of them fit the “Fool” or extremely lucky archetypes.

Willow Rosenberg

Path: Thyrsus   Order: Mysterium

Virtue: Justice. Willow is very much about what is right and what is wrong.
Vice: Wrath.  Some people bring a gun a knife fit, Willow brings a flame thrower.

Intelligence: 5 Strength: 1 Presence: 3
Wits: 3 Dexterity: 2 Manipulation: 2
Resolve: 3 Stamina: 3 Composure: 3

Mental Physical Social
Academics 4 Athletics 2 Animal Ken 0
Computer 5 Brawl 1 Empathy 1
Crafts 1 Drive 0 Expression 1
Investigation 2 Firearms 0 Intimidation 1
Medicine 2 Larceny 1 Persuasion 2
Occult 3 Stealth 1 Socialize 1
Politics 1 Survival 1 Streetwise 1
Science 4 Weaponry 1 Subterfuge 1

Encyclopaedic Knowledge
Language 2     
Striking looks 2
Size: 5
Speed: 8
Initiative Mod: 4
Defence: 2
Health: 8
Willpower: 6/6
Morality: 6

Mana: 9
Gnosis: 5
Wisdom: 8

Personal Data
Age: 27 (in 2008)
Ht: 5’3”
Wt: 115#
Hair: Red
Eyes: Green
Gender: Female


Death: 0
Fate: 0
Forces: 3
Life: 2
Matter: 1
Mind: 2
Prime: 2
Space: 0
Spirit: 1
Time: 0

Tara Maclay

Path: Thyrsus   Order: Mysterium

Virtue: Temperance. Tara is nothing if not understanding and temperate
Vice: Sloth. She is not lazy, but she likes things to move a little slower. She does not enjoy fighting monsters.

Intelligence: 3 Strength: 2 Presence: 3
Wits: 4 Dexterity: 1 Manipulation: 1
Resolve: 3 Stamina: 3 Composure: 4

Mental Physical Social
Academics 3 Athletics 0 Animal Ken 2
Computer 2 Brawl 1 Empathy 3
Crafts 1 Drive 1 Expression 0
Investigation 2 Firearms 0 Intimidation 0
Medicine 1 Larceny 0 Persuasion 0
Occult 5 Stealth Socialize 1
Politics 0 Survival 1 Streetwise 1
Science 1 Weaponry 1 Subterfuge 0

Encyclopaedic Knowledge
Language 3
Striking looks 2
Size: 5
Speed: 9
Initiative Mod: 4
Defence: 2
Health: 8
Willpower: 7/7
Morality: 8

Mana: 10
Gnosis: 4
Wisdom: 8


Death: 0
Fate: 0
Forces: 2
Life: 3
Matter: 1
Mind: 2
Prime: 1
Space: 0
Spirit: 1
Time: 0

Personal Data
Age: 28 (in 2008)
Ht: 5’4”
Wt: 125#
Hair: Blonde
Eyes: Blue
Gender: Female

Of all the re-builds I have done of the girls these are in my top 5.
If I were to pick-up playing these characters again I would seriously consider using the nWoD/Mage rules.

For Arcana I gave Willow 11 dots and Tara 10.  This actually might be a little light.
I would love to play around some more with this game some day, but I can't find people to play it.


This is my last post for the YAM Magazine LBGT Blogathon.  I wanted to end with Willow & Tara and using one of the most accepting RPG I have ever known.

World of Darkness and Mage the Awakening

World of Darkness and Mage the Awakening

One of the most influential games to ever hit the market was Vampire the Masquerade.  I have talked about this game quite a bit in the past, but never addressed directly.   Well a while back they “rebooted” the entire universe and now we have the “New World of Darkness” and with it a revised vampire game, Vampire the Requiem.

Let’s start basic; both games are all perfectly playable as they are.  All the games cover much of the same ground and allow you to play similar types and styles of games.  All the games have similar backgrounds, realities and even to some degree futures.  Characters created in one game can easily be thought of as having an analogue in the other game.  In fact recently White Wolf created a “Translation Guide” to allow you to move characters from Vampire the Masquerade to the newer Vampire the Requiem.  It was an insanely popular book spending many months in DriveThruRPG's top 10.   They also now have a Werewolf Translation now.  I am waiting for them to do one for Mage.

The same could be thought of when comparing *WoD with Unisystem.  For every Unisystem character there is an analogue in the World of the Darkness (either).    Both games cover a lot of the same ground, just in different ways.

Translations between the two different systems it bit hard than between oWod and nWod, but it can be done.  So the question then is why would I want to?

Well there are many reasons.  Maybe you want something new a unique to spring upon your players.  Zombies with more “life” in them, vampiric ghouls, conspiracies from either game.    Given that the in-game realities allow many permutations the question become more of Why not?
Maybe you have tons of books of one system, but want the new challenge of a new system, but don’t want to loose your investment in a world.

Or, lets face it SOME ONE out there want’s to see what happens when a Slayer goes up against the Ordo Dracul, or who really is more powerful, a Mage or a Witch.

For the sake of this post I am going to concentrate on nWod or new World of Darkness and the "Storytelling" system and the WitchCraft and Ghosts of Albion flavors of Unisystem.  Given that, I am going to focus mostly on Mage the Awakening.

Worlds of Darkness
What is different between the two WoD games and why should I care?  To start with the rules have been cleaned up to allow greater playability across all the lines and a new focus has been placed on “normal” humans; something the old World of Darkness sorely lacked.  All in all the rule changes are an improvement.  They are, if I dare say it, more Unisystem-like. Also the meta-plot and background has changed.  In many respects the meta-plot of old is gone, this allows Storytellers great freedom.  But it also seems they purposefully did what they could to make differences more pronounced.  In Vampire this is a good thing, in Mage I am less pleased with the results.

Mage: So What’s New?
Well in many ways much is the same.  Characters are still magic wielding humans that can change the nature of reality through the effort of their will and a butt-load of d10s.  There are still traditions of sorts (now called Paths) and there are still spheres of control (10 total).
The authors really took time to think about the myths of Mage. The results will vary in the eyes of the beholder, but there is no doubt that they craft an interesting world.  It is almost like they took all the myths of the world and thought “what are the root truths to all of these”.  The result is something I describe as looking at the world from a perpendicular or a sideways glance; it looks familiar and yet oddly strange.  Everything is familiar and still new and different. Also there seems to be a general fondness for the 70’s occult revival or the trippy acid-induced hangover of the 60’s. For example the five mages of the watchtowers look like something out of a Black Sabbath album.

Mage the Awakening system wise is much closer to WitchCraft.  Mage: The Ascension is more compatible with WitchCraft thematically.

nWoD: Second Sight
In many ways this the Mystery Codex of the new World of Darkness.  It is also the new “Sorcerer: The Hedge Wizard’s Handbook”. It deals primarily with psychic powers and phenomena as well as “low magic”.  It is a good addition to any WoD game and a decent enough primer of psychic ability for any game if you can’t get your hands on the Time-Life Books series. It does do something that the old WoD was never able to do adequately for me, and that is answer the question of what happens if an already powered character gains vampire, werewolf or mage powers.  Full of ideas of new Supernatural Qualities, Seer Metaphysics, and even Taint based powers.  This book is actually quite useful as is for Unisystem gamers.

What Do Users of Each Game Get?
For the Unisystem player the answer should be quite obvious, a variety new and interesting powers for Vampyre characters. Most Vampire powers can be converted to Qualities.  But beyond mere crunchy stuff, there is the thing that makes both games so appealing; the back stories.  Both the new WoD and the old WoD had very interesting back stories and meta plots to their game, it really gave the feeling of living in a real, living (unliving?) world.
Unisystem Games are not as detailed for another good reason, to allow players the freedom to make the worlds their own.  WitchCraft also assumes that there are many different kinds of magic, not just paths to one ultimate truth.  These magics can coexist with each other and the world.

Conversions to Unisystem
Normally when doing a game to game conversion I like to think these are the same characters in the same world, with just a different way of looking at things. Conversions between Unisystem, d20, BESM, Chill,  and even Kult have worked out fine in this regard. Sure there are some differences in world mythos and ways and means of magic, but all in all conversions can be (and have been) done.

This one is a little more tricky.  While converting the actual numbers is not a difficult task really, it is determining if the numbers mean the same thing.  Then there is the dice pool mechanic vs. the stat+roll compare to a target number mechanic of games mentioned above.
In most cases a direct conversion may not be possible so instead one should try to stat the character using the same concepts.  So my Wicce Seeker of Knowledge ends up being a witch on the Thyrsus Path and a member of the Mysterium.  Not exactly the same thing really, but close.
I am viewing this then as separate but equal (which, thanks to the Kansas Board of Education we know really isn’t) characters; alternate universe versions of each other. So the characters are largely the same, just the worlds are different.

Points to Points
We can look at conversions two ways; a point for point conversion or some external correlation.  In WoD (most) everything is on the same 1 to 5 point scale.  In Unisystem everything is also on an equal pointing scale.
This is good, so let’s start with the Attributes. The new WoD still has nine Attributes in 3x3 categories, with Willpower which is removed from the attribute list and has it’s own scoring.  Unisystem has 6 attributes in 2 categories (mental and physical). So not everything is going to convert nicely.
Intelligence, Strength, Dexterity and Stamina (WoD) line up well to Intelligence, Strength, Dexterity and Constitution (Uni).  Willpower and Perception in Unisystem are slightly different in WoD.
The Social triad, Presence, Manipulation and Composure can best be handled by Qualities and Skills.  In particular Charisma (which can be positive or negative in Unisystem) can handle Presence and Composure to some extent.  Others Qualities and Skills include Influence and Attractiveness, as well many supernatural qualities.

If we count the “free” point everyone gets in WoD for all nine attributes and add the amount allocated we get 30 points total and an average of 2.333 per attribute.
In Cinematic Unisystem Heroes get 20 points for 6 attributes, this amounts to a 3.33 per attribute.  So on the average 1 point higher per attribute.

Going to the external validation let’s do what I did with the Chill conversions; compare the max lift of both games.  At a strength of 1 a character can lift 50 lbs in Unisystem or 40 lbs in WoD.  In both systems a strength of 2 will allow a character to lift 100 lbs.  But it is at Strength 3 that the systems differ. At Strength 3 a WoD character can lift 250 lbs, a Unisystem character 150lbs.  This continues and gives us the following table.

Strength nWoD Unisystem
1 40 lbs 50 lbs
2 100 lbs 100 lbs
3 250 lbs 150 lbs
4 400 lbs 200 lbs
5 650 lbs* 250 lbs
6 800 lbs 450 lbs *
7 900 lbs 650 lbs
8 1000 lbs 850 lbs
9 1200 lbs 1050 lbs
10 1500 lbs 1250 lbs

There is a built in error factor of ± 10% of the weight on Unisystem’s side.

Continuing our look at external validation let’s compare what each system calls their human maximum (* above).  In WoD this is 5 (at a higher point cost) and in Unisystem it is a 6 (also at a higher point cost).

All three of these combined point to one overwhelming conclusion:
WoD scores = Unisystem – 1

Very nice.  A quick and dirty look at skills, metaphysics, merits and flaws and this seems to hold true.

Vices and Virtues
This is new to the new WoD game and it is an interesting role-playing twist.  By having your character role-play one of the seven deadly sins and the seven virtues they gain Willpower points.  My suggestion is to retain these when converting to Unisystem and have players gain or loose Essence Points (for Classic games) or Drama Points (for Cinematic games) in place of Willpower.   In the case of following their virtue they gain a 1 to 3 Essence points or 1Drama point instead regaining all lost.
Of course Experience points can always be given, but by giving Essence or Drama points they take on a different feel.  My personal preference is to use this with Essence.
This is most similar to Kult’s Mental Balance mechanic or the Karma mechanic of other games. My trouble is often my characters do not fit well into the seven virtues or vices.

Skills seem a bit easier.  Classic Unisystem has more skills than WoD, but CineUnisystem has less.  Five dots is the human maximum in the WoD, 6 is the human max in Unisystem, but some can go to 9.
Use the same conversion formula here, WoD score = Unisystem score -1.
If converting to CineUnisystem, use a wild card for skills not covered (like politics).

Ah. Now here is the meat of the matter, what makes both games unique.  Mage and WitchCraft’s magic systems are not only very different from each other, they are also largely different from most other games out there. The magic system is often one of the big reasons why people choose one of these games over the other.
In Mage one immerses themselves in a Path and learns (by spending points) Arcana.  These are then utilized by Rotes and powered by Mana (Quintessence in old Mage).   In WitchCraft one immerses themselves into metaphysics and learns the invocations (by spending points) of that area.  In some cases these are also call Aracana. These metaphysics are powered by Essence.

Converting Rotes to Classic Invocations
In Mage magic exist in Arcana and are powered by Mana.  WitchCraft invocations are likewise grouped and are powered by Essence. So they do have surface similarities.
Since invocations have mostly set effects, it is often easier to use Mage rotes as the path of conversion.  But it should be noted that purchasing 7 levels in any WitchCraft invocation often has the same effect as becoming the master of an Aracana (5 dots), again the WoD = Unisystem -1 formula (more or less) comes into play.

For WitchCraft I would take each Mage Sphere and make them a sub category under a new grouping of Metaphysics called “Mage Arcana”.  What separates these from other invocations is the only way to learn them is to be a member of one of the Mage associations.  Mage Arcana might just be a long hiden type of Atlantian Arcana (something both games have) or it might something completely new.  Lost texts from ancient Lemuria come to surface full of this new type of magic for example.
Now certainly there is (and should be) overlap. The Mind sphere should be accessible to anyone with the Sight, and Death and even some Life and Time should be available to Necromancers.

Converting Rotes to Cinematic Spells
When converting to Cinematic Unisystem, Rotes are the way to go.  The dots of the Rote add up to give the Cinematic Power Level.  In many cases this will have to be adjusted by -1.
Witches and Magicians that have more than 9 levels of Sorcery or Magic (respectively) can use the Improvised casting rules in Mage.

Up next, conversions in practice.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Dear Gamers, We had better be doing better

I want to direct your attention to Anita Sarkeesian.  She is a blogger.
You can finder her blog here,

She writes about a lot of things, but what got my attention is she wants to talk about games, video game specifically, but a lot can apply to Table Top games.

Well Anita had this idea.  The idea was she wanted to talk about depictions of women in video games versus various tropes.  Mind you there was initial indication on what she was going to say.  She wanted to talk about it. She set up a Kickstarter to be used to buy video games to play and to do the videos.  Perfectly reasonable if you ask me.

That is until the bottom feeders on 4Chan found out about it.
Now complaining about 4Chan is like complaining that shit smells bad. Yes, it does, but it's shit.

Well read what happened after that.

So after the most despicable display of human behavior where Ms. Sarkeesian was called ugly, a man hater, threatened with violence, rape and death.  Her project is now 20x over her goal of $6,000.00 ($126,550 as of this writing).
I pledged, and I hope you do as well.

But I am not here to get you do that.  She is doing fine thanks to press coverage.
I am here to talk about what happened here.

The issue was she was going to talk about it.  The mere idea of this sent the lowest form of internet mouth breather into a fit of rage.  The fact that many of them were gamers or at least self-identified themselves as gamers is bad for all of us.  And frankly if you can't see why then it only illustrates how pervasive this problem is.

The problem is of course not just one of rampant sexism in games, both Video and Table Top, but how we treat and welcome (or fail to) the female gamer.

I don't pretend for a moment that we, the larger community of self-identified gamers, can fix all the issues we have here.  And I would also like to think that the reader of this Blog looks at this a problem.

But what can we do?  Well the best I think we can strive for is make gaming a more enlightened place. Yes, were are here to have fun, but I also think back to all the things I have learned over my years as a gamer.
I feel we can use this as a learning tool as something more than just pushing dice and papers around.  There is a solid social aspect here that Video Games can't touch and we, because of that, can and should be better.

Right now my game group consists of all guys. Boys, actually since they are my sons.  But I'll soon be adding one of my son's friends to the mix. But what I can do with them, and I feel I have some success, is point out that Role-Playing is some EVERYONE can do.  Girls like Harry Potter too (remember who my audience is) and if Hermonie can kick ass, so can they.

I think this needs to be the frontier RPGS need to move too.  Get us out of the basements and into the family rooms! Get different people involved.  IF the larger video game community is unwilling to welcome more gamer girls (and women) I say we do.  Make the games that people want to play with their families.

I am not talking watering down the games (At all!).  S&W, LL, BF, OSRIC and S&S are all perfect as they are right now, plus 100s of others, but make the space more inviting.

Table Top Gamers lament that we are loosing ground to video games.  The sales numbers certainly attest to this.  There is a place though where we can always do better than the video games, IF we choose to do and choose to make it better.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Dark Druid

Something different today for the YAM Magazine LBGT Blogathon.  Today, not a character so much as characters  and an adventure.  I wanted to repost a link to the first ever Buffy adventure I ever wrote; updated to feature Willow & Tara more prominently.  Also updated with a new download link.
Originally posted here in 2010.

The Dark Druid: The Director's Cut

A bit of history.  Back in 2002 Eden was getting ready to release their newest game, The Buffy the Vampire Slayer game.  As you may know, I had already been playing a Willow/Tara focused WitchCraft game for about a year, so I was pretty excited by this.  Well I got asked by Eden to write the first Buffy adventure that would appear in "Games Unplugged" along with an interview with C.J. Carella talking about the game.

I took an idea I had been working on for my other game (tentatively called "All Soul's Night") and thus the Dark Druid was born.

I had been reading a ton of Irish myths then.  Among those were the stories of Fionn MacCumhaill ("Finn MacCool") and his foster mothers Bodhmal and Liath.  It occurred to me that Liath and Bodhmal were lovers, and to tie it more directly to my work in Buffy, they were reincarnated later on into the form of Willow and Tara.   Since that time anytime I read a story about Fionn MacCumhaill I can't help but read Bodhmal and Liath as lovers.

The original featured, rather prominently, Willow and Tara, as to be expected.  I had to make some changes to make it playable for others and to make it an "intro" or season opener type episode.  The plot dealt with an enemy from the Cast's past as a portent to greater evil in the future.  It was designed to be a opening episode of the season, but one that may or may not be directly related to the seasonal arc.  We were going to use this i n part of the great "Djinn" story, but that never happened.

Fast forward a few years and I was finishing up work on Ghosts of Albion and another adventure that sprang from "All Soul's Night" called "Blight" (which I have played at Gen Con before).  I felt it was time to bring back the Dark Druid and restore it to the mythology that I had created in my games.  Now you can have it too.  So it became a Prequel or an Episode 0 for my huge Willow & Tara series, The Dragon and the Phoenix.  This adventure and the Dragon adventures were designed to feature Willow and Tara.  My players were extremely pissed off at Tara being killed, so this was our way of getting our own way.

I updated it not only to fit better with my world-myths, and with some of the work I did on Ghosts of Albion and the adventure Blight.  In fact you can run Blight and The Dark Druid as co-adventures, separated by time.

The story is rather direct and linear.  This was partly due to the nature of the story and what is was supposed to do (introduce new players to the game) and part of just me writing for the Buffy game for the first time.  I have opted not to change that here, despite nearly 10 years of Cinematic Unisystem adventure writing since then.  It is supposed to be a quick, fun little adventure dealing with past lives.

The episode was well received and even has a bit on Wikipedia,

It was the first. The start of a series of adventures that led me personally down a crazy path.  It's hard to gauge the effect it has had, it was so fundamental.  From this point my writing increased maybe a 100 or 500 fold.  Hard to say really.