Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A to Z of Witches. Z

Z is for Zodiac

I was going to do Zatanna today, and really I should since my normal Zatannurday posts have been taking a hit for the A to Z.  But instead I want to talk about something else.

Growing up in the 70s I was exposed to what I like to call a lot of "left over hippy shit". One of those was Astrology.  Now I knew astrology was bullshit at a very early age, but I also grew up up when people would ask "what's your sign?".  As typical with anything from the 70s occult era, it somehow made it's way into my writings on the witch.  So witches, by my reasoning, are all very much into horoscopes and everything.

This manifests itself in my book The Witch as the Aquarian Witch.
The Aquarian Witch looks to the stars, planets and beyond to divine the secrets of the universe. The meaning each witch divines can vary from witch to witch and they will often disagree on what the signs and portents mean, but they all share a common belief; that a new astrological age is coming and the change will be profound. Whether this change will be good or ill is at present unknown.

The Aquarian Witch often serves as an astrologer, soothsayer and diviner of fortunes. They are learned in the ways of the motions of the stars, planets, sun and moon so there is a practical, even mundane, application of their skills.
So this looking to the stars is less Call of Cthulhu "when the stars are right" and more "Age of Aquarius".
I have always imagined my "iconic" Aquarian witch as a blonde, waify, looking hippy chick. Stereotypical? Yeah. I never claimed to be 100% original. For a while I had a couple different characters that fit this iconic image, top of that list was Megan Maclay nee O'Kelly from my Season of the Witch game.  But the best example might be Misty Day from American Horror Story: Coven.

What I really want to do with the Aquarian Witch is expand their beliefs and add more spells based on Zodiac signs.

I would stick with Classical Zodiac 12 signs like Gemini, Ares, and of course Aquarius. Though I might go with there common names like The Twins, the Ram and the Water Carrier instead.  I am also still debating on whether or not to use Ophiuchus, the Snake Handler, as the 13th.  I like 12 because there 12 hours on a clock and 12 months of the year.  Also I have 12-sided dice.  I like the idea of using "our" Zodiac as opposed to making one up. It gives me a lot different sources of materials to use and players can relate.  Sure I can use Chinese, Celtic, Hindu or other Zodiacs as well.

In truth there is a lot about Astrology I don't know.  Though for witch characters I will go online and input an approximate "birth date" and see what I come up with in terms of character traits.  Not be a slave to those traits, but play them up more often. I really have no clue what I am reading, but I pick and choose as I like or what I feel works for the character.

Let's pick my favorite witch, Tara Maclay, who I say was born on November 7, 1980.
Here is her natal chart.
While I can certainly see "brave" not so much the "popular".  But like I said, I'll pick and choose.

For my iconic witch Larina, I had to move to modern times, but that is easy.  Her natal chart I can make more use out of.

Has anyone out there tried this with their characters? Does it work? Are you happy with what you get?

Supernatural AtoZ

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Strange Brew Kickstarter is back!

The new video for my Kickstarter is now up.

I am re-kicking off "Strange Brew: The Ultimate Witch & Warlock" again soon.  This is going to be the ultimate book of witches, warlocks and pretty much everything I have been doing for the last 13 years.

But here, let me tell you about it.

This book with be for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.  It would be compatible with any 3.x d20 game you choose to play.

We have taken some time to trim the book down a bit, but it will still be a huge book.  I have a ton of material and I am not alone in this project.

What I want to do here is the same thing that was done for Wizards in Deep Magic and Psychics in Ultimate Psionics.  These are also massive books at 378 pages and 452 pages respectively.  So a book on witches, warlock, their prestige classes and spells will come in around the same size.

Also everything is written.  We have some careful editing to do to get down to our target size, but really if you have liked my work in the past then this will like this one too.

I plan on getting more video up, but vloging is really not my thing.

We are getting some great art and here is one of our firsts, the iconic witch Larina and her familiar Cotton.

This is going to be a great book!

A to Z of Witches. Y

Y is for Yama-uba

Yama-uba is a mountain witch or hag from Japanese culture.
The issue with Japanese creatures and myths, at least from western eyes, is that Yama-uba could be a witch, a hag, a ghost, a demon or somehow all the above at the same time!  Certainly makes them fun.

What separates these creatures from western hags is that the Yama-uba has a second mouth on the top of her head.  She uses this one to eat while her "regular" mouth can be used to hold conversations.  Interestingly this does not make her unique in Japanese culture.  The Futakuchi-onna also has a second mouth on the back of her head.  Maybe in myth these started out as the same creature and then split or two local creatures that adopted the same traits.

The Yama-uba is described otherwise very much like the western Hag; old, large and potentially cannibalistic.  Alternately she is also described as having a dark face with large white eyes.
This has lead to a couple of strange pop-culture trends in Japan.  First is the Pokemon Jinx, that looks like the descriptions of Yama-uba.  She is of course a psychic Pokemon.

There is also the Yamanba fad (is that the right word for this) that Japanese girls have participated in.

Ventisca the Yama-uba
AC: 5 [14]
Hit Dice: 10d8+10* (54 hp)
No. of Attacks: 2 claws + 1 bite
Damage: 1d8/1d8 + 1d6
Special: Charm, Dance, Shape Change, Spell use
Movement: 20'/40'
No. Appearing: 1
Saves As: Witch 10
Morale: 11
Treasure: 1d12 Gems (1d10x10 gps each)
Alignment: Chaotic
XP:  2,300

Yama-uba is large creature related to the common hags and the night hag.  She has two forms that are her most often used.  The first, and the one that many claim is her true form, is that of a grossly bloated hag. Her hair is black and wiry and her skin is molted and yellow from disease.  Open sores cover her skin and her breath is foul.  Due to her size her movement is slowed.
Her second form, Yamanba, is more appealing.  Her skin is dark, almost blue or violet and her hair varies from light blonde to platinum.  In this form she move twice as fast. There must be some reason why she can't remain in this form.
In both form the Yama-uba favors red dresses.
The Yama-uba is a cannibalistic monster that prefers to eat small children, but like many hags she has been known to care for children that evil parents have left to die.
The Yama-uba can cast any charm-like witch spell as a 10th level witch. She will typically augment this with dance which in her Yamanba form will provide a -2 penalty to any save vs charm.
Yama-uba, despite their appearance and diet, are often sought out for magical advice.  If the Yama-uba so decides she can grant as many boons as she likes.  Typically this takes the shape of either knoweldge or a +1 to hit, damage and saves for 24 hours.  She can also just decide to eat anyone that walks into her land.

Supernatural AtoZ

Monday, April 28, 2014

A to Z of Witches. X

X is for Xothia

The Xothia is a the witch of the dwarves.  Back when 3.0 D&D came out a change in the rules opened all classes to all races. That left me with an interesting problems.  I had half-elf, half-orc, and even goblin witches were like, but never considered dwarves, halfling or gnome witches would be like.
I was sitting in a research meeting at work on day, a student was presenting but I didn't need to pay attention. So I set down and wrote these words "for as long as anyone can remember Roryn was the Xothia of the Rock".

The Xothia is the witch of the dwarven people.  Dwarves are depicted as lawful, dour and non-magical.  The Xothia was a chaotic, bright and very magical creature.  In other words, more elf-like.  From this point the ideas just flowed.

I decided that the worst things that can happen to any dwarf are removal from clan and family and shaving off their beard.  The xothia deals with both of these as part of her life.  First when a dwarf learns she is a xothia she moves away from her home.  She is still a part of the community, but she is also apart.
How does a dwarf, male or female, learn they are a witch?  They never grow a beard.
In my world dwarves, male and female, grow beards and these beards are a measure of their standing int he clan.  For dwarves a fully beard indicates virility and overall health. A xothia never grows a beard.  For a male this is devastating; in fact the best way to shame or dishonor a dwarf is to remove his beard.  For a dwarven woman lack of a beard means she would not be able to have children.  It's not true, but it is a belief.

She typically will wear long, brightly colored dresses. Minimal gold jewelry (it reminds them too much of the home they left).  Their homes are bright lit with lanterns that cast light in multiple colors.

The Rock is the home of the Xothia.  Typically 6 to 7 witches will live at the Rock, all under the direction of The Xothia, the oldest witch of the group. In my world the current Xothia is Roryn.
I talked about her when the first Hobbit movie came out.

Over the years I have really gotten to like the xothia.  Dwarves are an interesting race, so the witches of the dwarves should be as equally interesting.   I have not come up with any other xothia other than Roryn, but her story is interesting and I think there is more to tell about her.

Supernatural AtoZ

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Zatannurday: Evil-Lyn Attacks!

Another Zatannurday on Sunday.
Last week I shared the awful Turmoil in the Toybox series. So I thought today might be a good day to share some my favorite toy witches!

Might as well start with the undisputed star of early 80s toy-franchise insanity.  The Mistress of Evil Magic herself, Evil-Lyn!

Evil-Lyn and Zatanna do have something in common. If you have been here for any length of time you know that the best writer for Zatanna is Paul Dini. Paul Dini got his start on Masters of the Universe and her wrote the famous Evil-Lyn episode "The Witch and The Warrior"

Who would win in a fight? Well this guy goes with Zatanna.

Evil Lyn by Inspector97 on deviantART

Evil-Lyn by DarioJart on deviantART

Evil Lyn by Dangerous-Beauty778 on deviantART

Evil-Lyn by berkheit on deviantART

Sketch 363 - Dragon Con by MatteoScalera on deviantART

EVIL-Lyn by vashperado on deviantART

Sketch Card #116 - Evil-Lyn version 2 by destinyhelix on deviantART

MOTU: Evil-Lyn by grantgoboom on deviantART

Evil Lyn by AngryDogStudios on deviantART

Megacon 2014: Skeletor and Evil-Lyn by pgw-Chaos on deviantART

Evil-Lyn by Inspector97 on deviantART

I have to admit. There have been these DC vs. Master's of the Universe packs out, but non for Zatanna or Evil-Lyn.  Seems like a no-brainer to me.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

A to Z of Witches. W

W is for Warlock

For the longest time I did not do anything with Warlocks.
I know the first time I ever heard the word warlock in connection with witches. It was, oddly enough, an episode of the Waltons (a show I never liked) that a baby sitter was watching. Though more likely it came from an episode of Bewitched (a show I did like).

Once I started doing research I soon discovered that "warlock" really isn't the male version of a witch.  Witch is the male version of witch.  "Warlock" actually comes from the word wǣrloga, which means “oath breaker”.  I also read that warlock is actually an offensive term to most witches.  So my first writings had warlocks as evil witches.

When I opted to use the term warlock in my 2003 Liber Mysterium I decided that Witches and Warlocks were similar classes.  So I decided that at some point in their shared history, warlocks broke free from witches ideologically and were branded traitors.  Witches often refer to warlocks as “betrayers”.  This conflict, commonly known as “The Schism” is something neither side will speak of.  However a poignant reminder remains, witches and warlocks have similar means of learning their magic (from Patrons or Pacts) and both have access to the same spells.

Despite common stereotypes, warlocks can be either male or female. Most warlocks are male, and this association is so strong that most people mistakenly call a male witch a warlock.

For 2013's Eldritch Witchery the Spellcraft and Swordplay rules allowed me to try something new.  The witch was a type of cleric (something I did in 2nd ed, pre 1999) and the warlock was a type of wizard.  So instead of being one thing (class) that split apart I made them two seperate things that came closer together.  I liked how it turned out to be honest.  For Strange Brew I am going back to my original idea of having the two classes seperate, witch and warlock, but have them have roots that are tied together.  So there is more in common between the witch and warlock than the cleric and druid.  Closer actually to the wizard and sorcerer relationship.

In Strange Brew the plan is now for the Warlock get the same spells the Witch does.  They also have access to Hexes, though it is more limited.  The Warlock also gets a magical based attack in the form of the Arcane Blast.  There are also differences between the Patrons of the witches and the Patrons of the warlocks.

I am sure I will get questions about why not use the Warlock from the Tome of Magic or from 4e. Simple. I can't. They are not open in terms of the OGL. Plus I don't want too.  Those warlocks are fine, but not really what I think of when I think of a warlock.

I feel that most warlocks out there in the gaming world now are influenced by the Warlock in World of Warcraft and other MMORPGs.  I want to go back to much older sources and build my warlock from that.

Supernatural AtoZ

Friday, April 25, 2014

Review and PWWO: The Complete Vivimancer

I recently downloaded The Complete Vivimancer the new book from Necrotic Gnome Productions, the same folks that gave us Theorems & Thaumaturgy.

+Gavin Norman, of the City of Iron blog, gives us a new(ish) class, the Vivimancer.  The book is 88 pages and advertised as Labyrinth Lord compatible with both Basic and Advanced stats (more on that in a bit).
The class was introduced in Theorems & Thaumaturgy.  The basic class is a type of Wizard/Magic-User and detailed on two pages.  The experience per level, saves, spells, and attacks are not too different from the Magic-user normal.
For the Advanced option elves and half-elves can also be vivimancers.  Interestingly enough elves can advance to 11th level and half-elves to 10th.  I would have expected it to be the other way around.

The next substantial chapter is on Spells and Laboratory procedures.
The biggest expense in gold and time for the vivimancer is his laboratory.  The vivimancer according to the rules needs to spend 6 hours per day in his lab.  I wonder how much time this leaves for adventuring, eating and sleeping. Update:  This is only when a magical procedure is underway, so not something the vivimancer does everyday. Upkeep costs is 10 gp per spell level, so about 1980gp per month at 20th level. Not unreasonable really.

The next 65 pages detail spells levels 1 to 9.  Like most Labyrinth Lord compatible products the spells are compatible across a wide variety of products.  You could use these with any old school product wizard, magic-user and yes witch.  Though to do so I think robs the class of some it's charm and power.
The spells are a varied sort.  There are some very useful, some are variations on a theme and others will have limited utility to the adventuring vivimancer.  But all have a lot of style.  If you prefer your games a little more G-rated then this isn't a book for you.  While not as over the top as Carcosa or Lamentations of the Flame Princess, there are a lot of cutting things up and putting them back together.

The chapter on magic items is nice varied lot as well, with attention paid to things the vivimancer needs to perform his craft.

We also get Appendices on Psionic Powers and Mutations.  Both are fine and work but in use I might swap out the same rules in the Labyrinth Lord compatible Mutant Future.

Overall I really liked it.  Like the book said why let Necromancers have all the fun.  There is a lot here that can be used in any game really even if you never use them as a class.  Personally I wonder what a bad guy team of a Vivimancer and Necromancer might produce.   Heck with the Advanced rules, a Vivimancer/Cleric.

There are couple of places where Insanity is mentioned but not a lot of details on how insanity would work in a game.

The art is somewhat sparse, but it is all original and unique to this book (ok maybe 1 or 2 are in T&T).  So that gives it a sum positive in my mind.

The book is 88 pages, as mentioned above, and lists at $10.00 for the PDFs.  Maybe a bit higher $/page ratio, but I'll be honest I am not sure where to price these things. I think $7.50 would have been best, but I am not judging.

I have to admit I was set to like this book.  "The Complete Vivimancer" reminds me of the old Bard Games "The Compleat Spellcaster" and "The Compleat Alchemist".  Not just in terms of title and feel, but in terms of content.  This is the sort of thing I enjoy from the OSR/Old School publishing realms.  I like something I can drop into my games with no issues.  Plug and Play gaming.

I would like to recommend this book.  I particularly recommend it as a change of pace from the evil Necromancer NPC.

There is a lot to love about this book.

Plays Well With Others: The Witch and The Vivimancer

Since The Complete Vivimancer is designed for Labyrinth Lord overtly and Basic Era game in general it should theoretically drop into any Old-School D&D game.  Well as it turns out, it does and it does so rather nicely.  Limit the spell levels to a max of 6 and you have a great new class for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea and one that fits right in really.  It is also a nice compliment to Magical Theorems & Dark Pacts.   It also plays really nice with my own Witch class.

There are several spells that both Witches & Vivimancers can use from their respective books.  These are just my ideas, your GM would have to choose their own and it is possible that Vivimancer author +Gavin Norman might have some different ideas.

Vivimancer Spells for the Witch
First Level: Entangle, Hormone Control
Second Level: Arcane Sight, Insect Messenger, Pair Bonding, Bleeding Wounds (reverse of Staunch Blood Flow)
Third Level: Accelerated Reproduction, Anthropomorphism (perfect witch spell), Paralysis
Fourth Level: Immunity to Disease, Insanity
Fifth Level: Nature's Secrets, Psionic Awakening (for Aquarians only), Transfer Pregnancy (as a Witch Ritual)
Sixth Level: Impregnate
Seventh Level: none
Eighth Level: none
Ninth Level: witches can't cast ninth level spells.

Witch Spells for the Vivimancer
*Cantrips: Analyze Fertility, Daze, Detect Curse, Detect Poison, Detect Pregnancy, Flavor, Freshen, Inflict Minor Wounds, Irritate, Quick Sleeping, Sobriety, Summon Vermin
First Level: Analgesia, Bless Growth, Blight Growth, Block the Seed, Drowsy, Endure Elements, Far Sight, Fey Sight, Sickly, Silver Tongue, Sour Stomach, Vertigo
Second Level: Agony, Broca's Curse of Babel, Delay Poison, Fever, Mind Obscure, Weaken Poison, Youthful
Third Level: Aphasia, Body of Eyes, Clairaudience/Clairvoyance, Lesser Strengthening Rite, Remove Blindness/Deafness, Toad Mind
Fourth Level: Abomination, Confusion, Elemental Armor, Narcolepsy, Neutralize Poison, Polymorph, Vomit, Bount/Strength to the Unborn (Ritual)*
Fifth Level: Baleful Polymorph, Dreadful Bloodletting, Gnawing Pain, Steal Youth, Control Outcome of Birth (Ritual)*
Sixth Level: Evaporate Fluids, False Memory, Mass Agony, Repulsion, Crossbreed (Ritual)
Seventh Level: Insanity**, Magickal Conception (Parthenogenesis),  Wave of Mutilation
Eighth Level: Mind Blank
Ninth Level: There are no 9th level witch spells.

*Ritual spells should be cast by a lone Vivimancer at one level higher.
**(Called Greater Insanity to differentiate it from the 3rd level Vivimancer spell)

In both cases I am just listing the level of the spell as it appears in it's respective book.  Some spells might need to be shifted up or down a level depending on the GM.  Also there is some overlap in the spell effects but the casting and mechanics might be different

New Spell: Magickal Creation (Thaumatogenesis)

This new spell is usuable by either Witches or Vivimancers.

Magickal Creation 
Latin: Thaumatogenesis
Level: Vivimancer 9, Witch 8
Casting Time: 2 hours
Range: Touch

By means of this spell a new life form can be created purely from magic.  Unlike Magickal Conception, which takes exsiting life force and shapes into a new life, Magickal Creation uses only magic.
This spell maybe used to impregnate a female or even a male subject. Typically a female subject is used since is most cases (95% of the time) the impregnated male dies in the birth process.

The casting of this spell takes two hours, during which time the caster must be not interrupted. The casting witch must be able to see the target of the spell, either directly or by scrying.  The target, if willing, gains no saving throw, but an unwilling target if aware of the spell can make a save vs. Spells.  A target unaware of the casting must become aware of the situation before they can save.  Many charlatans play on the paranoid nature of many and sell talismans that protect against this spell.

Since this is using the stuff of magic to produce a life, the spell always works and produces a living life form.  What sort of life form produced is indicated by the table below.

d20 Outcome of birth
1-5 The child is born with only the mother’s traits.
6-10 The child is born with both the traits of the mother and the caster
11-12 The child is born a Chaotic outsider, with both the mothers and casters traits.
13-14 The child is born a Chaotic outsider, with only the mothers traits.
15-16 The child is born a Lawful outsider, with both the mother and casters traits.    
17-18 The child is born a Lawful outsider, with only the mothers traits.
19 The child is born as a half fiend, with only the mothers traits.
20 The child is born as a half-celestial, with only the mothers traits.

Gestation depends on the species of the mother, but time in months is often reduced to time in hours.  So if the mother is human then nine months of pregnancy is reduced to nine hours.  The minimum gestation time in any case is two hours. The Caster may also impregnate themselves in this manner producing a clone.

Material Components
Vivimancer: A tissue sample from either the gestating mother or the caster. The tissue is placed in a vat where it is boiled with Agaric, Basil, Figs and Mandrake root till forming a loose, liquid ooze. This ooze is placed onto the gestating mother (or caster).
Witch: Root Agaric, Basil, Figs and Mandrake root (harvested only by the new moon) are combined into a paste, dried and burned.  An athame and a cup, symbolizing male and female powers to direct the spell are required as the focuses. 

Section 15: Magickal Creation (Thaumatogenesis) Copyright 2014 Timothy S. Brannan.
All text of this spell is considered Open for terms of the OGL.

A to Z of Witches. V

V is for Voodoo

Anytime you talk about witches, witchcraft or anything similar, sooner or later the topic of voodoo is going to come up.  In fact I have brought it up many times this month already.

The most recent season of American Horror Story: Coven did a great job of setting up Witchcraft and Voodoo as rival factions of magic-use.  Personally I loved it and thought it was well done.

What people typically think of as Voodoo comes to us from Louisiana Voodoo.  Which, one could argue, has a lot of theatrics to help in the tourism trade, but has a religious practice as well.  The religion part of Voodoo is more similar to what is known as Haitian Vodou.  There is a third type that I call Hollywood Voodoo which is what American most often see. It raises zombies and is more like what we saw in AHS:C and the Anita Blake books.

In the WitchCraft RPG by C.J. Carella we see voodoo, or Voudun, as another group of the Gifted.  Pretty cool given his work on Voodoo The Shadow War for GURPS.  In other games voodoo is used as a subset or something akin to witchcraft.

Voodoo with/as/vs Witchcraft works great in a modern game.
It's games like D&D and Pathfinder where it is a bit more difficult.

Voodoo (and by this I mean the "Hollywood" version of Voodoo) works because there is such a great interplay between old-world African gods and not-as old Christianity.   Your typical FRPG does not have this really.  One could create a couple of pantheons of gods and have the place where they intersect work like voodoo, but there is no reason that they have to work exactly like voodoo at all.  In fact in most games what works well enough is have a priest.

When I first opted to include voodoo with witches it was with a huge grain of salt and caveats. I wanted to include it because I really liked the idea of having a voodoo witch.  I also had a great character called Bone Man who was a voodoo priest and I really wanted to play him in the rules I was writing.

For my new book, Strange Brew, I still not have 100% decided on whether or not Voodoo will be a witch archetype/tradition, a new cleric archetype or even something else entirely.  The Loa are really similar to the idea of Patrons to be honest. After all, Papa Legba and Baron Samedi are too cool not to include.

It will give me a great excuse to finally get Bone Man written up.

Supernatural AtoZ

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Playing Some Old School Basic D&D Tonight, Part 2

So my old school Basic game last Friday went great!

I got to play a witch from my own book that I didn't roll up myself.  It was so great.
Yes we were all 1st level characters. At one point we were attacked by giant rats, but since my familiar is a rat I managed to talk our way out wit no bloodshed and we even got the heads up on some of the monsters.
Our DM is using some houserules and they worked out fine.

What I think I am enjoying the most is that the game is set in the Known World of Mystara!

It was mostly a younger crowd.  Yes. My dice were older that everyone play save for me and the DM.
Next session we are converting over to AD&D 2nd ed.  One of the player has never played 2e and most of the players there never had played Basic either.

Our DM, Greg, is going to let me use my old 2e Netbook of Witches too once we convert.  We figure we will try out a few "old school" systems and then stick with what we like.  I have a feeling we will land on 2e in the end.  It seems to do what we want to do best.  Though we are looking pretty hard at +Joseph Bloch's +Adventures Dark and Deep for some ideas.

In any case this is going to be a lot of fun.

A to Z of Witches. U

U is for Underworld

Eventually the subject of where witches get their powers is going to come up. When it does we often have to deal with the Underworld and who lives there.
It gets called a lot of things, The Ever After (Rachel Morgan), the Never Never (Dresden Files), the Nether Realms (Buffy in one episode), Hell, The Abyss, the Pit.  I have to admit one of my favorites was from the Beetlejuice cartoon, the Neither World.

In my games I typically say witches can't be raised from the dead since they reincarnate.  So if you want to get someone back from the underworld, you are going to have to go there and get them.

This is not an uncommon approach.  The Descent into the Underworld is a very common theme in many myths and stories. We see it in Orpheus, in Dante's Inferno and it is featured in a number of games.
I even ran a game where the sole (hehehe) purpose was to retrieve the soul of a loved one and bring them back.  It was a playtest for Ghosts of Albion using the Army of Darkness rules.  Since it was around 2002-2003 there was only one logical choice, Xena.  A group of adventurers had to a get Xena's soul because Xena was the only able to help them.  But to that they first needed to find Gabrielle.   The adventure's name ("A Friend in Deed") was even a play on the name of the final episode of Xena ("A Friend in Need").  The double play on words here is the last episode was "FiN" and mine is "FinD".

This game also gave me the idea to write my d20 ritual spell "Descent of the Goddess" as spell a witch can cast on someone so they can go down to the underworld and plead their case to Death.  Yes. If you look behind you before you leave you will loose them forever.

I did not do a Descent into the Underworld when I brought back Tara in my games.  I thought the big adventure to get someone was great for Xena, but for Tara that is not how I wanted her return to start.  I just had her show up one day in the episode "Will We Burn in Heaven?"

Of course the Descent doesn't always have to be bad. Rachel is in the Ever After every weekend. Dresden pops over tot he Never Never all the time.  In games it is often a matter of finding the right gate or spell.
For Ghosts of Albion I have always wanted to use a ghostly train.

But I still like the idea that you need a witch to help get you there.

Supernatural AtoZ

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Interview with David Martin

Black Gate has an interview with artist with David Martin.

Long time readers here will know I am big fan of his work, but in particular the witch cover to Dragon #114.

The Cailleach Bheur as a human witch

Pop on over and have a read.

A to Z of Witches. T

T is for Tarot

Maybe it is when I grew up and was thinking about all this stuff (the late 70s early 80s) I associate witches and tarot cards.

There is no really overt connection, but they seem to go well together if you ask me.
I have used Tarot cards in my games and even made a suggestion on how to use them instead of dice while playing Ghosts of Albion.  Tarot decks work rather well for Unisystem since the dice mechanic is a straight d10 (1 to 10 roll).

I have a couple of tarot decks laying around and even a book or two, but I never really use them anymore.  Maybe I should.   I used to use them all the time when playing Ravenloft.

Do any of you use tarot in your games or books?

Tarot Witch of the Black Rose
Tarot Pinup by pziomek 
Another Tarot associated with witches is the famous, or infamous, Tarot Witch of the Black Rose.  Yeah I have talked about her a few times here and I won't lie, I find the comic to be a guilty pleasure.
Tarot is actually a good example of what I would call a Witch Guardian. She is a witch, yes, but has taken up the sword in order to protect her coven.

Typically though they wear more armor than this.

I know some people complain about Tarot's proportions. And yes they are ridiculous.
But they are also based on the artist's own wife, so maybe this is how he see's her.  Since she is one doing the coloring in the comic maybe she does as well.

Supernatural AtoZ

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A to Z of Witches. S

S is for Shaman

Shamans and Witches often get confused with each other on a few levels.

A shaman typically has a closer connection to the natural world than say a witch does. A shaman's magic then will appear to be more in harmony with the rest of the world.

Along with witches, Shamans are also often a forgotten source of magic in many Fantasy Roll-Playing games.
When I was working on my book of Witches for the d20 game, there was a group doing a d20 Shaman.  I worked with them and they with me and it was great to be able to exchange ideas.

Now I am doing "Strange Brew: The Ultimate Witch & Warlock" and as it turns out the next book inline is "Strange Brew: The Ultimate Shaman" and again these two teams will be sharing ideas.  I enjoy this, it it nice to have people to bounce ideas off of.

I don't recall ever playing a Shaman character though.  Any time it would have come up I played a Druid or a Witch.    I might have to give that a go sometime.

Supernatural AtoZ

Monday, April 21, 2014

Ghosts of Albion Review

RPG Reviewer extraordinaire Dan Davenport took some time to review my baby, Ghosts of Albion.

Please read his review here:

As I posted on Facebook, I am stunned and completely speechless with the praise he gives me and my book.

Here are some of my favorite bits.

From the Magic Chapter (Chapter 4)
Given the focus on magicians, you’d probably expect this game to this game to have more extensive magic rules than those found in Buffy. You’d be right. What you might not expect is to find a magic system so refined and slick that it sings.
From the History Chapter (Chapter 5)
This could have been a horrifically dry chapter. Instead, I daresay it’s the best chapter of its sort I’ve read in an RPG.
From Monsters (Chapter 6)
Every entry drips with flavor, and many creatures have access to nasty powers unavailable to PCs. As a bonus, the chapter discusses both the realm of the dead and of the faeries, both Seelie and Unseelie, in broad but fascinating terms.
Extensive use of period artwork and text that sounds vaguely archaic while maintaining total clarity makes this game positively drip with verisimilitude, while the format will be instantly familiar to fans of previous Cinematic Unisystem games. I saw no obvious errors.
And, as is true with all good RPG texts, it includes an index.
This game not only masterfully emulates the source material, but also could serve as the solid basis for a magic- and/or monster-heavy Cinematic Unisystem game set at any time from the 19th century and earlier. Given the excellent refinements to the magic system and the vast flexibility of the supernatural powers, I’m happy to declare this the finest incarnation of Cinematic Unisystem to date.

I am blown away by this. Really. I have had a lot of people come up and tell me how much they loved the game and it always surprises me.  I am humbled and incredibly honored by this.

A to Z of Witches. R

R is for Rachel Morgan

Rachel Morgan is the main character in the Hollows series of books by Kim Harrison.

She is a witch, turned day-walking demon in a world where most of the human population was killed by a genetically engineered tomato.  Since then ("The Turn") the vampires, witches, weres, elves and other supernatural types came out of hiding.  Witches look human but are a different species.  They marry and have sex, but can't produce offspring.  Witches are though more related to demons.
Rachel is an independent "runner". She is something like a bounty hunter/detective/occult problem solver.  She uses magic, but since magic has limits, complications and prep time she also uses a paintball gun where the paintballs are filled with sleep potions.

There are currently 12 books in the series with the 13th and last one, The Witch With No Name, out later this year.  I have not caught up yet to book 12, The Undead Pool (so don't spoil me!), but I hear it is good.

I will be honest I did not like Rachel at first.  I thought she was whinny, immature and didn't earn my interest.  Fortunately other characters did.  I was reading book 3, Every Which Way But Dead (all the books are named after Clint Eastwood movies) when Rachel finally grew on me.  Now she is a confident, mature, kick ass witch.  I am going to be really sorry to see her go.

I have stated up Rachel and her vampire partner Ivy before for Ghosts of Albion/Buffy and for Ova.  I ahve also used them as examples on how to build a cast using Cortex+.   I'd also like to try her out in Fate.

So who is your favorite witch?  What book(s) does she appear in?

ETA: Kim Harrison has part of the new cover for Witch With No Name on her site today!

Supernatural AtoZ

Saturday, April 19, 2014

A to Z of Witches. Q

Q is for Queen of Witches

I have talked about and around the Queen of Witches many times here.  It is one concept that you will see in almost all my games.  I have talked about it for Basic D&D, Ghosts of Albion/Buffy and even 3rd Ed/Pathfinder.  I even began this challenge with Aradia, the first Queen of Witches.

But what is a Witch Queen or a Queen of Witches?

In my games the Witch Queen is the most powerful witch of any given tradition. She would control many covens and their leaders, the high priestesses, report to the Queen and her Court.

The last season of American Horror Story: Coven gave us an idea of what Queen of the Witches would be like.  We had a Witch Queen, called a Supreme, and a Voodoo Queen.  It certainly gave me some ideas of what could happen when rival queens interact.

One point I have made in my books, but never really elaborated on was the fact that there is only one Queen of Witches per Tradition.  With magics like longevity and Timeless Body a powerful Witch Queen can reign forever...or at least a really long time.

I would say in traditions that are closer to nature, Craft of the Wise and Classical, the Witch Queen steps down after a number of years in favor of younger sharper minds.  In evil traditions, like the Demonic, Mara or Malefic I would say the Witch Queen is usually killed.  Other traditions might vary. I can see a Family or Gypsy Tradition doing either, depends on what they need.

I came up with the idea of a Queen of Witches from a lot of different places.  Most obvious was the well trod ground (for me) of the Sisterhood of Karn.  They were Gallifreyians! They were witches! Perfect really.

A member of the witch court and her Queen
I also thought Witch Queen had a nice sound to it.  Clerics had already laid claim to High Priest/ess so I felt something different was needed.  Plus there were already Faerie Queens and courts and Vampire Queens, it made sense.
Plus I was doing most of this writing in the 80s so this had some influence as well:

This was the hot stuff back in 81!

I have a few Witch Queens detailed out.  Interestingly enough my Witch Queen for the Voodoo witches is a Witch King, a character I have been using for years, Bone Man.  He is not a particularly nice guy, but as a character I really like him.
Another character familiar to Greyhawk fans is Iggwilv she is the Queen of the Demonic Witches and maybe one of the more powerful Queens in my game.  I think as a nod of respect to Vince Garcia and his Quest of the Ancients I might name my Queen of the Faerie Witches, Elvyra.

Supernatural AtoZ

Friday, April 18, 2014

Playing Some Old School Basic D&D Tonight!

Dropping in on a friend's game tonight to play some old school Basic D&D tonight!  I am quite excited about it.

Even better than that I am going to get to play my own witch class!

I have not had the chance to play one of my own witches in a long time. So this is going to be great.

Just need to survive this work day!

A to Z of Witches. P

P is for Prue, Piper, Phoebe and Page

I don't hide it.  I loved Charmed. One of my wishes is to write the official Charmed RPG.

I have talked about Charmed a few times here including the first A to Z Challenge I ever participated in; C is for Charmed.  I also wrote a Buffy/Charmed crossover for the Buffy RPG, "Semi-Charmed Life".

What I liked the most really was the interaction between the sisters.  It was a show about family that also happened to be witches and kill demons.  Supernatural covers similar ground and I like it for similar reasons.

I also picked up the Charmed comic that continued the story of Piper, Phoebe, Paige and yes, Prue.
That was the other thing, Prue was killed at the end of Season 3. They were still mourning her in one way or the other by Season 8.  Star Trek The Next Generation did that with Tasha, but most other genre shows forget after an episode or two (looking at you Buffy).

A couple of Gen Con's back I got a chance to play a Buffy-based Buffy/Supernatural/Charmed crossover. I got to play Piper. It was a blast.

Buffy is an obvious choice for a Charmed game, but I have also been playing around with Fate a little.
My ideas are only in the genesis phase at the moment, but I have some.  I also have a Fate Week coming up so hopefully I will get them altogether for that.

Supernatural AtoZ

Thursday, April 17, 2014

A to Z of Witches. O

O is for Occult Panic and Obeah

I picked Obeah for a very snarky reason.  It goes back to this terrible Christian video "Turmoil in the Toybox" based on the book of the same name.  It was your typical 80s Satanic Panic nonsense that talked about how evil Dungeons & Dragons and cartoons are for kids.
The host, Gary Greenwald,  and his guest, Phil Philips, think the devil is hiding in every toybox.

You can watch it and have a laugh like I did.  The jumps in logic are insane.

Turmoil in the Toybox
Part 1 - Introduction.  With Scooby Doo and the 13 Ghosts.
Part 2 - He-Man and the Masters of the Universe. "He-Man is more powerful than Jesus!"
Part 3 - They talk about evil vs. evil...or so they think.  Again, everything they mention is wrong.
Part 4 - Commercials. I seriously doubt either of these guys have even had a class in Child Psychology.
Part 5 - ThunderCats. Evil or gateway drug to Furries?
Part 6 - Next Episode.  Ken and Barbie. But at 3:30 we get Dungeons & Dragons!
Part 7 - Insectars are featured in the Book of Revelations! Vader looks like Odin! Obi witchcraft!
Part 8 - Violence and the Occult influence of G.I. Joe and Smurfs. Though they won't say they are evil.
Part 9 - Care Bears. Littles and My Little Pony. Rainbow Brite is also evil. Voltoron and Transformers.
Part 10 - More Voltron and Transformers. Buy Gary's stuff!

I love how they pretty much get every detail wrong.

Of course in the 80s I loved all this stuff and if it looked evil I wanted it in my games.  Coming off of the 70s Occult Revival I always felt Witches needed to be a part of the game.  Was there some snarkiness on my part? Of course there was.  If you read my Atheism blog, The Freedom of Nonbelief, you know that this was the same time I was "coming out" as an Atheist.  So if I got to piss off some uptight Christians, all the better!

Of course what does this have to do with "O"?
Well Part 7 discusses, briefly, "Obi Witchcraft". Where witches chant Obi-Obi-Obi all the time.
Pure nonsense and like everything else in this they are as so far off base that they are not even in the same ballpark.

But there is Obeah.
Obeah is a folk tradition that is similar in origin to voodoo.
In my 3rd Edition book, Liber Mysterium, I described it as a form of the voodoo tradition.

I will talk abit more about this when I discuss Voodoo later one, but representing Obeah in a game is not as easy as first seems.  Though if the recent Pirates of the Caribbean movies are any indication, then I could combine bits of Obeah with the archetype of the Sea Witch to create something that could be rather fun.

I have a witch, Sycorax, that is a prototype of this sort of witchcraft.  She is something of a witch, a little bit of a hag and lives on an island.  Yes, she does have a monstrous son named Caliban.  You can do worse than imitating the Bard.

There is something here I think. Something that could be cool.  So I supposed in a way I should thank those two idiots for putting me on the path to getting my Sea Witch figured out.

Supernatural AtoZ

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Back to the Dungeon! Again, again...

Wizards of the Coast is going to re-release their classic board-game, this time with some new cover art.

You can pre-order on Amazon.

I am huge fan of Dungeon and have multiple copies, but I am not sure if I'll pick this one up or not yet.
But I am sure I will check it out.

A to Z of Witches. N

N is for Nox 

So almost a year ago exactly I submitted my "Petty God" to the Petty Gods project.
I am not sure where that project is at the moment, but I am sure it will be out eventually.  In the meantime I wanted to share the god I cam up with; Nox.

Nox is an interesting creation.  Back in the day when we all got together to play we would not get started till it was dark outside.  Why? It seemed cooler and it was the 80s after all.  Nox represent that time when it was still light enough to see, but dusk was gone.

Nox later appeared in the first drafts of some of Buffy/Ghosts of Albion games. I later changed the part and it was switched over to Lilith.  I choose to do a witchy goddess because that is what people would expect me to do and I really wanted to do it.

Here she is, in Petty Gods format to be used with Labyrinth Lord or Adventurer Conquer King.

Goddess of Near Night
Also known as: Goddess of Twilight, Mistress of Near Dark, Keeper of Secrets, Trick of the Light, Mistress of Illusions
Symbol: A sunset with a crescent moon and a star above.
Alignment: Chaotic (Neutral)
Movement: 120' (40')

Armor Class: 2
Hit Points (Hit Dice): 80 hp (19 HD)
Attacks: Special, see below
Damage: Special, see below
Save: M19 (or Witch 19)
Morale: 9
Hoard Class: XV
XP: 6,400
Armor Class: 2
Hit Points (HD): 80 (19 HD)
Save: M19 (or Witch 19)
Morale: 9
Treasure Type: Q
XP: 4,400

Nox is the mysterious Goddess of the Twilight, Near Night and the space between sunset and full night. She is the daughter of Night (Nyx) and sister to the God of Vampires (Camazotz). She is not a widely worshiped Goddess, but her name is often invoked by those that welcome the night; typically thieves, vampires, prostitutes, witches and lovers, especially clandestine lovers that seek the cover of night.

She will only manifest in a humanoid form in the hour after sunset but before full darkness.

Nox grants no spells to her followers, but she have been known to render people invisible or at least unnoticed at the times of twilight to hide their activities. This boon is not extended to all who invoke her name, but her name is still whispered by those who wish her aid.

Nox never speaks. It is not that she can’t, she just has nothing to say to mortals. She speaks through her minions though. Not that she is in telepathic communication with them, they just know. Because of this she is also known as the Keeper of Secrets. Lovers whisper their secrets to her, witches tell her where their sabbats are, thieves plot their crimes to her, vampires speak the names of their victims, all knowing that their secrets are safe. A saying has even taken root among those who know her; “Only Nox knows” meaning no one else knows.

She prefers not to attack anyone as she is not a Goddess of violence. Any who attack her, or even annoy her, she can cast any Charm or Illusion spell of her choice as a 19th level Magic-User/Witch to deflect others. Failing that she can cast Sleep that can affect up to 20 people.

She is honored by some vampires since it is believed she created vampires with her brother and they are all their children. She is mostly honored by the reluctant vampire, new to their condition since it is believed that her participation in the creation of vampires was not through her own choice.

Nox appears as a stunning woman of young adulthood. She has two forms that often chooses. She appears with pale skin, flowing gold-red hair (like a sunset) and bright blue eyes. She also appears as fiercely beautiful woman with dark, ebony skin and silver-white hair (like moonlight), but with the same blue eyes. Alternately she has appeared as a large white owl. With her powers of illusion she can appear as anything she wishes, but those forms are subject to the same rules that govern all illusions.

She is on good terms with the Goddess of Night and the Goddess(es) of the Moon. She is neutral to the God of Vampires and the God/Goddess of the Sun. She is on reasonable terms with the various Gods and Goddesses of the Occult and Secrets provided that they do not share said secrets.


Nox is a Goddess of in-betweens; neither light nor dark, day or night, so she served and honored by a number of faeries. In the times of her reign; after sunset but before full night, she is served by the Fyre Fae. These creatures are like pixies in all respects except that they also glow in various colors. At a distance they appear as Will-o-wisps or even Faerie Fire.

Nox’s current chief minion, voice and lover is a witch named Syla. Syla will speak for her lover and will be with her most twilights. Syla is a vaguely elfin woman, who maybe half-elf, half-nymph or a human with elven parentage. She has short platinum-blonde hair and piercing green eyes. She is also a witch (magic-user) of 9th level. Her spells are mostly charm and illusion, but unlike her mistress she is more than willing to attack those who anger her or Nox.

Reaction Table (2d6 Modified by Charisma and below)
2: Sleep. Nox is so insulted by your presence that she puts you to sleep for 8 hours
3-5: Illusion. She casts an illusion of herself while she teleports from the area
6-8: Fyre Fae: She remains, but so many Fire Fye are summoned that approaching her is difficult.
9-11: Boon. She grants you a boon, you can remain undetected (as per a thief hide in shadows at your Charisma x 5%)
12: Boon. She grants you the ability to turn invisible once at any time after sunset but before full night (1 hour after sunset).

+1 if you are present with a lover
+1 if you are thief, witch, prostitute, vampire. (Can’t combine, vampire thief is still only +1)
+2 if you share a personal secret with her.
-2 if you have divulged the secret of another in the last 24 hours
-1 if you are a cleric of the sun.

And something new.

Fyre Fae
Armor Class: 1 [19]
Hit Dice: 1d8 (5 hp)*
No. of Attacks: 1, special
Damage: -
Special Attacks: Dancing Lights 1 per day
Movement: 10’, fly 60’ (perfect)
No. Appearing: Gang (2-4) or tribe (20-80)
Saves As: Fighter 1
Morale: 9
Treasure: None
- Tribe: 3d6 SP, 2d4 GP, Gems: 5% 1d4
Alignment: Neutral
XP: 70

Fyre Fae are often confused with Willow-o-the-wisps or even fireflies.  They are tiny fae resembling smaller pixies.  In the hours of dusk the Fyre fae come out to play where they will flash a multitude of different colors from their wings.
They are harmless and prefer to flee if attacked. Though if needed they will cast a dancing lights spell to confuse attackers of their whereabouts.
1 Fire Fae out of 100 also has the abilities of a first level witch and can cast Light into the eyes of attackers.

Supernatural AtoZ