Friday, May 30, 2014

Kickstart Your Weekend

I have some great Kickstarters to share with you this Friday.

First up is the Castles & Crusades full color Kickstarter.
Castles & Crusades was Old-School before there was an OSR.  The game is the simplicity of Basic D&D, the fun of AD&D and the flexibility and modern design of 3e.  Best of all worlds really.
OSRIC may be more compatible with AD&D, but C&C is closer to the spirit of the game.

The Witches
Tonight we get "Sleeping Beauty" through the eyes of Maleficent.  The Witches is a turn on Macbeth, with the eponymous king in Hell being tortured by the same three witches he went to visit.
Something wicked this way comes indeed.

The Holmes of the Baskervilles & The London Vampire Girls!
A very different take on Holmes and the murders at Whitechapel. I like because it sounds like a wild alt-History Gothic Victorian romp.  Plus I was pleased with his last effort, The Victorian Academy of Magick.

Strange Brew (Pathfinder/C&C): The Ultimate Witch & Warlock
Of course I have to mention my own.  We are down to the last week and half now and we are so close.
So please consider funding us, there is a lot of great material here.

So every dollar helps.In the case of Strange Brew it is to pay for art.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Skylla: Castles & Crusades Witch

I was looking back at some posts and I realized I have not done a Skylla post since the start of the year.

It also seems like a good idea to do a Castles & Crusades version of her since +Stephen Chenault has the new edition/printing of Castles & Crusades is up on Kickstarter (only 4 more days to go) and so is my new Witch book for Castles & Crusades (less than 2 weeks).

Now unlike the other posts of Skylla, where I take a published witch class and see how close they come to each other, this is a new class. So new in fact that some of the details are likely to change.  Well...not all the details and certainly not the broad ideas.  I might change the Occult Powers a little bit. I put up a prototype version a while back, so I am going to use that one today.

Castles & Crusades gives me a ton of options when making a witch class.  In fact if you look over the classes in the Players Handbook there is certainly a hole in terms of a Charisma based spell caster.  Plus all the classical fantasy archetypes are covered and then some, save for the witch.

Castles & Crusades is too fun of a game not to have a witch.

Not exactly Skylla, but really close
Skylla, 7th Level Witch (C&C)
Race: Human
Malefic Tradition

Strength: 9 (0)
Dexterity: 11 (0)
Constitution: 10 (0)
Intelligence: 12 (0) P
Wisdom: 11 (0) P
Charisma: 15 (+1) P

Hit Points:  20
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
AC:  (Ring of Protection +1)
BtH: +2

Familiar: Pseudo Dragon
Herb Use
Ritual Magic
Occult Power (7th level): Evil’s Touch

Cantrips: (5) Alarm Ward, Chill, Daze, Ghost Sound,
First: (3+1) Charm Person, Detect Invisible, Light, Sleep
Second: (2) Evil Eye, Locate Object,
Third: (2) Bestow Curse, Witch Wail
Fourth: (1) Phantom Lacerations

Magic Items
Ring of Protection +1, Dagger +1, Broom

Makes me want to drop everything and finish up my Castles & Crusades version of the Witch!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Who is Your Favorite Witch?

Something I did for another site, but thought it would work well here.  I started watching "Salem" finally. Love it so far.  Has not grabbed me like American Horror Story did, but it is only a matter of time.
We also have Maleficent out this weekend so really it is a good time for witches on TV and Movies.

Or as Time Magazine said it, "Witches are the new Vampires".

My goal with Strange Brew: The Ultimate Witch and Warlock would be to allow you play ANY type of witch. Good, Bad, Wicked, whatever type of witch is YOUR favorite, that is what I want to do.

Here is a list of my Top Ten witches, in no particular order.  Who is your favorite?  Let me know in the poll below and in the comments section.

1. Cordelia Foxx (American Horror Story: Coven) - In the 13 episodes of 'American Horror Story - Coven' we saw Cordelia go from meek instructor of Miss Robichaux's Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies and living in the long shadow of Jessica Lange's Supreme to be being blinded, given the Sight, finding out her husband was a witch killer, given some new eyes, blinded again and then finally displaying the Seven Wonders to become the newest Supreme.
As the Supreme she is in charge of all the world's witches.  Since going public that is a lot more girls that need training.  American Horror Story never shied away from death, gruesome dismemberment, sexual taboos and killing off main cast members.  While we might not see Supreme Cordelia again, we certainly will see Sarah Paulson in more seasons.

2. Hermione Granger (Harry Potter Books and Movies) - Harry may have been the 'Chosen One' but you know what he would have been without the "most brilliant witch of her generation"?  Easy. Dead.  Remember in the books Hermione was shy, not very attractive and an infuriating know-it-all.  By Book 3 Harry and Ron both begin to notice, but long before her magical makeover Hermione was proving she was worth more than a full Quidditch team of Chosen Ones.  She mastered spells long before any of her classmates, she brewed the Pollyjuice potions, even in Book 3 (the Prisoner of Azkaban) she is using a Time Turner to take extra classes in the same day.  Who else has done that?  Not to mention while dealing with the whole You-Know-Who thing she still manages to fight for House Elf rights.
Plus, and let us be honest here, she could have a wicked temper.  She was the one that tricked Dolores Umbridge into the Forbidden Forest to get captured by Centaurs and she keeps Rita Skeeter trapped in a jar for the last part of The Goblet of Fire.

3.  Piper Halliwell (Charmed) - For eight seasons of Charmed Piper went from the quiet middle sister of the Halliwell witches to the ass-kicking, demon killing leader of the Charmed Ones, the most powerful witches in the world.   She helped kill the leader of the demon-world, The Source of All Evil, twice. Three times if you count the near attempts in the later seasons.   She married a Guardian Angel (a "White Lighter" in the show), gave birth to two sons that were half-witch and half-lighter and destined to be the future protectors of the innocents of the world.  But more importantly she did all of this while keeping her family and friends safe. Well...mostly safe.

4.  Willow Rosenberg & Tara Maclay (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) - Willow was the shy Scooby. The one that didn't want cause problems, but she helped her new friend Buffy Summers, another chosen one, because if nothing else Willow does what it right.  She got a little taste of magical power in Season 2 and the rest. Well Willow became the most powerful witch in the series.  She re-ensouled Angel, she went toe to toe with demons of all sorts, and when a god destroyed her girlfriend Tara's mind then Willow did something that the Slayer herself had not done. She made a god scream.  Willow though struggled with her power and when a stray bullet killed Tara, Willow (and the Willow and Tara fans) went crazy and nearly destroyed the world. She was talked back down, but she never seemed the same after that.
Tara was and is my favorite Buffy character. For me she is a quiet, but deep well of power. Spend anytime on this site to see what I mean.

5.  Samantha Stephens (Bewitched) - You know what real power is?  Not strangling the annoying people around you! At least that is what I think Samantha's real power was.  Married to a muggl-sorry, mortal, Darren, Samantha still managed to use her powers, stay out of the spotlight (or at least the prying eyes of neighbor Mrs. Kravitz), solve the problems and still look fantastic all in 25 minutes.  A lot of Samantha's problems came from trying to please her husband Darren or from her relatives and later daughter.  With a twitch of her nose and nary a "hocus pocus" heard she still managed it all.

6. Joanna Beauchamp (Witches of East End) - Joanna Beauchamp has managed to do something so magical it makes the other witches seem like First Years at Hogwarts.  She made me really like Julia Ormond!  I am being slightly snarky with that I fear.  I like Julia Ormond, I just never cared for her characters till now.  Joanna is a fierce witch. She is the protective mother (and ALL that entails) of Freya and Ingrid and loving sister of Wendy (who I thought was going to be my favorite Beauchamp witch). She has proven to be strong, determined and despite all that, she still doesn’t know all the answers.  I like that in my witches; knowing that magic can’t solve all her problems.  Joanna and Julia keep me coming back for more Witches of East End.

7. Lafayette Reynolds (True Blood) - Lafayette may have died in the books early on, but in the TV series he is a series regular and one of the most popular characters.  Later on he learns he is witch when his boyfriend Jesus reveals to him that he is a Brujo.  Lafayette can channel the spirits of the dead and possibly even a demon.

8. Mary Sibley (Salem) - I have only just started watching this series but so far I love what I see. Mary is an interesting, conflicted character.  It is hard not to sympathize with her, but she is certainly not on the side of angels here.  Special recognition has to go out to Tituba, one of the historical Salem “witches” and the bridge point between this series and American Horror Story Coven.

9. Katrina (Sleepy Hollow) - We have only seen glimpses of Katrina and her power. But one thing is for sure she is firmly in the camp of the “Good Witches”.  Also given her birth she would be one of the first women to truly be called an “American Witch”.  I am looking forward to seeing so much more of her next season of what turned out to be one of my favorite shows of 2013.

10. Maleficent (Sleeping Beauty, Maleficent) - She is either a fairy or a witch, maybe both, but there is no doubt that she is powerful. She put a princess to sleep for 100 years and raised and entire forest of thorns.

Honorable Mention: Cassie (Hex), Wicked Witch of the West (Oz, Wicked), Angelique (Dark Shadows), Robin (Witch Hunter Robin), Sabrina (Sabrina the Teen Aged Witch), Luna and Tonks (Harry Potter), Witchiepoo (H.R. Puffinstuff), Jadis (The Lion, The Witch and Wardrobe), Rachel Morgan (The Hollows Series) and Kiki (Kiki’s Delivery Service)

Who is your favorite?

Favorite Witches
  free polls 

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

D&D5 Basic. For Free.

Wizards of the Coast really, really, really wants you to play their new D&D game.
How much?

Well they have the Starter Set coming out which covers up to level 5. Not bad really.
But that is not all.

Today Mike Mearls announced the D&D Basic Set.  What is that?
Well it is a stripped down version of D&D 5 with only the Basic 4 classes (Fighter, Wizard, Thief and Cleric) but you can take them to level 20.

And it is 100% free.

That's right a free PDF of the D&D rules.

Mearls likens it to the old D&D Rule Cyclopedia without any world or campaign materials.

It also looks like there will be more freebies in the future too.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Strange Brew. Now for Castles & Crusades

I am pleased to announce that are also offering Strange Brew: The Ultimate Witch & Warlock for Castles & Crusades!

This book is part of the same Kickstarter as the Pathfinder book.  So really for one price you could get 4 books instead of 1.

  • Strange Brew for Pathfinder
  • Strange Brew for Castles & Crusades
  • The Witch for Basic Era Games
  • and the update of Way of the Witch for Pathfinder
We are at 75% funded now with about 2 weeks left to go.

Material is written. We just need to secure the art and layout.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Zatannurday: Zatanna and Scarlet Witch Again!

X-Men Days of Future Past is out and supposed to introduce us to the Cinematic Scarlet Witch. Well, one of them anyway.  But it looked like a lot of her scenes may have been cut.  Maybe to put her more in line with the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver we saw at the end of Captain America Winter Soldier.

So in any case, here she is once again with The Other Side's resident superhero Zatanna!

Zatanna + Scarlet Witch by HaphazardMachine on deviantART

Zatanna and Scarlet Witch Beach Bikinis by justinprime on deviantART

Zatanna Vs. Scarlet Witch by DarthTerry on deviantART

Scarlet Zatanna by SamwiseTheAwesome on deviantART

Zatanna VS Scarlet Witch by Broken-Endings on deviantART

Zatanna Vs Scarlet Witch by Wonder-Heroics on deviantART

Counterparts: Zatanna Zatara and The Scarlet Witch by nhiaphengthao on deviantART

Zatanna Vs Scarlet Witch by VitamineJJC on deviantART

Magic DC Vs. Magic Marvel by olybear on deviantART

Friday, May 23, 2014

PWWO: The Basic Illusionist

Time for another edition of Plays Well With Others.

The one thing you can say about the entire OSR Gestalt that despite it all there is still a sense of community and of giving back.  Case in point, The Basic Illusionist.

The Basic Illusionist is the brain-child of +Nathan Irving and was first seen during the S&W Appreciation Day Blog Hop.

Go to his blog now and grab a copy.  Oh. Did I mention it was 100% free?

Before I delve into the book itself. Lets take a moment to look at this cover.
Seriously. That is a cool ass cover. I am not sure what made Nathan Irving choose this piece ("Beauty and the Beast" by Edmund Dulac) but I love it.  The title works in seemlessly, like they were meant for each other.  The woman in foreground is no longer the "beauty" but she is now an Illusionist.

Ok.  So the book is overtly for Swords & Wizardry, but there isn't anything here keeping you from using any Original of Basic inspired system.  I know it works out well in Labyrinth Lord and Basic D&D and it really should work well in ACKS, Spellcraft & Swordplay or any other system.  Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea might be a trick, but they have an Illusionist class already (more on that later).

Getting into the book now we have 34 pages (with cover) on the Illusionist class. The book starts off with a helpful FAQ.  Personally I think Nathan should also put that FAQ on his blog as a page so every knows why they should get this.  The Illusionist class itself is in S&W format, but the only thing keeping you from using this in any other Basic or Advanced Era game is a table of Saving Throws.  Copy over what ever the Wizard or Magic-user is using in your game of choice and give them -1 bonus to saves when it comes to illusions.
The Illusionist gets a power or feature every odd level, but nothing that is game breaking when compared to the wizard.  The Illusionist trades flexibility for focus in their magical arsenal. There is even an Illusionist variant class called the Mountebank.  Which is more of a con-artist.  Not sure how it compares to other classes of the same name.

One of the best features of the book is a guideline on illusionist magic and how to play with illusions.  Great even if you never play the class.

What follows next is over 150 Illusionist spells.  Many we have seen before and come from the SRD.  That is not a bad thing. Having all these spells in one place and edited to work with the class is a major undertaking.  I for one am glad to see them here.  Spells are alphabetical instead of sorted by level.
A list of conditions ported over from the SRD is also included. I like that personally.  We all love how the older games and the clones play, but in our zeal we tend to forget that 3.x and later games did in fact have some good innovations and ideas; this is one of them.

We end with a couple of monsters and a two page OGL statement.

Really, this is a fantastic piece of work and really should be the "go to" document if you ever want to play an illusionist.

Playing Well With Others
The design of the Illusionist class (and the book) is such that adding it to any game should really be a breeze.  Adventurers enter a new land and discover a new brand of wizard.  Compared to other custom wizards out there the illusionist is more powerful than his counterpart in 1st Ed. AD&D.  This is not power creep in my opinion, I think Nathan has has actually fixed the classic Illusionist and brought it more in line with the Wizard.

Magical Theorems & Dark Pacts
+Dyson Logos' Magical Theorems & Dark Pacts is an excellent book for playing all sorts of wizard types.  That is oddly enough except Illusionists.  This however is not issue; The Basic Illusionist fits in quite nicely here.  The Enchanter from MT&DP would have some spells that might be good for the Illusionist as well.

Theorems & Thaumaturgy
Another great free product. Theorems & Thaumaturgy comes to us from +Gavin Norman and introduced his Vivmancer class.  Vivimancers and Illusionists are about as different as one can get really.  But Theorems & Thaumaturgy does have some things that the Basic Illusionist can use.  For starters there some more Illusionist spells in T&T that the Basic Illusionist could use.  Both books make the assumption that Illusionists should have access to 8th and 9th level spells.  If you are going to play a Basic Illusionist then it is worth your time and effort to get a copy of Theorem & Thaumaturgy.
Nathan, I would talk to Gavin and see if you can use his spells if you ever expand your Illusionist book. Maybe toss over some elementalist spells his way if you have them.

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea
+Jeff Talanian's fantastic Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea also has an Illusionist class. Like all the classes in the book it is limited to 12th level.  I had a quick glance over the spell lists last night and there wasn't anything that jumped out at me; the spells are drawn from similar sources.  There is is information though that owners of either could use. Obviously the Basic Illusionist cover many more spells but more importantly it has the guidelines for covering how illusions in the game work.

The Witch
Of course I want to mention my own book. Witches and Illusionists share the ability to cast various figments and charms/mind affecting spells.  I would say that in any game that has both classes that Illusionists should be limited to charm spells up to 5th level and witches any type of figments up to 5th level.  Illusionists then get all (or most) of the Illusion spells and witches get all the curses.

What I Would Want Next
I know. I sound greedy.  Nathan Irving works his butt off on this, puts it together and gives it away for free and I am over here saying "yeah, but do you have any more?"
But my motives are pure.

I would love a print version of this. It would really be awesome.  At 34 pages it is a bit smallish for print, but that is easily fixed.  Add a few more spells (plenty of OGC), some illusion based magic items, a couple more monsters (not a lot) an appendix for using this class in different retro-clones (LL, OSRIC, ACKS) and maybe even stats on adding gnomes as player characters.  Call it "The Complete Illusionist" sell it for a couple of bucks on DriveThru and get a print copy made.  OR Keep it free as a PDF and have print copies up on Lulu.  In any case it would look good on my "OSR" shelf. There is enough OGC out there now to do all of this in fact.  There is enough OGC in the 4 books mentioned above!

Bottom Line:  This is a great book. I loved the awesome art and the fact that it is free. Though I would have gladly paid for it.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

One more Reason to Support my Kickstarter

Say that 256 pages of witchy goodness is not enough?
Ok, how about another 200. For free?

Pledge at $25 or above level and I will throw in a PDF copy of my 2012 "The Witch" for Basic Era/OSR games.

It makes a great companion to my Pathfinder book.

Kickstarter hits 65% in 10 Days!

So my recent Kickstarter for Strange Brew is moving along nicely.
In the first 10 days we have hit 65% of our funding goal.

That is fantastic, but it won't help us hit man of our stretch goals.

So are thinking of adding some more "benefits" for levels.  For example we have the rights now to the old Citizen Games, Way of the Witch book and were are updating that to Pathfinder.
We have a couple of other products ready and a few more nearly ready.

What would you like to see?
Pledge and get a free copy of my Basic Era Witch book?
Something else?

If nothing else or if you are not interested, please consider spreading the word!  Let others know.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

What *is* a Warlock?

I have been thinking and talking a lot about warlocks of late.

More specifically "what is a warlock?"

Research on the word reveals that it is Scottish in origin and was first used in the early 1700s and has a few cognates. So what is a warlock?
A wizard: Well that doesn't help. We have those already in Pathfinder. Ditto for sorcerer and magus.
A male witch: No. That doesn't work so well either. Besides a male witch is a witch unless you want a male witch to be a wizard. But why have a witch at that point?
A spellcaster: No. Half the classes are "Spellcasters" in one way or another.
There is evidence that word shares roots with lēogan and wǣrloga, but those only tell me the roots of the word, not what the word is itself.

And more to the point, what does a warlock mean in my games? What is it's role? What does it do?  This isn't a history or linguistic text I am working, it is a game book, so I have to think about this in terms of what is good for a class and what is good for the players.

Recently I spoke about them on my blog back in April (W is for Warlock), but I have never really sat down to define them in terms of role and powers.  Powers might be important mechanically speaking, but if the class doesn't fill a role in my game then the powers could or should go to someone else.

A while back on my blog I reprinted what Tom Moldvay, author of the D&D Basic set, had to say about witches.  These came from Dragon Magazine #43 which was presenting their version of the Witch class.

According to Moldvay a witch has:  1. The ability to use herbs for healing and magic.  2. The power of fascination, like a super-charm ability.  3. A combination of both Clerical and Magic-User abilities. 4. The ability to practice sympathetic magic.  5. Be worshipers, in secret, of a religion otherwise forbidden in a particular era. 6. Powers based on nature and the cycle of seasons, similar to Druidic* powers.
I added a 7th, the ability to form into covens.

I would like to take these as a basis for the Warlock class, since the witch and warlock are so intertwined historically.

1. The ability to harm using magic.  Warlocks, if anything, are seen as evil.   But players should be able to choose their own alignments for their characters. So an "Evil" act would be to use magic to directly harm.  One thing D&D/Pathfinder is missing is a magical blaster class.  Sure the Wizard and Sorcerer could do this, but it is a side effect of their spell use, not a feature of the class.

2. Combination of Witch, Cleric and Wizard powers. Like the witch the warlock is an arcane spell caster that deals with otherworldly powers. They are a bit cleric, a bit wizard and a lot of something else.  I think this should allow them access to the Witch spells.  This also ties the two classes closer together.

3. Witches have sympathetic magic, warlock have this too but in order to do harm.  This is best exemplified by curses. But warlocks need something more than just that.  Correspondences will be important to warlocks too. Their magic is tied closely to their patron. The rituals they perform to learn and cast their magic also bind them closer and closer to their patron. Their magic needs to be reflected in this.

4. Like witches, warlocks are in league with otherworldly powers for their own benefit.  These are stereotypically demons, devils and lost gods, but they are also Arch Fey Lords and Ladies, areas of magical power, even elementals and primal creatures.  These pacts are a way for the warlock to gain power without having to do all of the learning that wizards do. They also do not have the sorcerer's magical bloodlines, so power for the warlock must be taken where it can.

5. Warlocks, again like wizards and witches, form into groups that aid them. Wizards have their schools, witches have covens, and warlocks have cabals. Where covens are more centers of worship for the witch, a cabal is place for like minded warlocks to share secrets. It is similar to the wizard school in that there is shared learning.

Additionally I would like to see the warlock have some form of corruption happen to them. Their pact ties them body and soul to their patrons.  This should be reflected in the physical presence of the warlock.  The Oracle class has their curse for example and the anti-paladin has their auras.

In the Strange Brew Kickstarter I mention I want the witch to be more than just a distaff wizard.  I also want the warlock to be more than a male, maybe evil, witch.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Blogging A to Z Guest Post: Did I Survive?

This is a Guest Post I am posting today over at the Blogging A to Z Challenge.
IF you are a regular reader here then I do want to hear from you.  What would make the month of April more interesting for you?

Hello everyone. My name is Tim Brannan. I blog over at The Other Side where I primarily talk about games, RPGs and horror.  I am a game author so I use my blog as a platform to talk about my books, but also to share with others in my blogging community to sorts of things I like to write about.

I have been writing material for games nearly as long as I have been playing them.  I started in 1979 and my first "custom class" was a Healer. And....I am not afraid to admit my first new monster I ever wrote up was a "Smurf". Yeah. I was 10.  My first witch class was written sometime between 1985 and 1986.

This was my fourth year of doing the A to Z Challenge on the Other Side. I have also done it one year on my Atheism blog, The Freedom of Nonbelief and another years at Red Sonja She-devil with a Sword, a shared blog dedicated to the comic book character Red Sonja.  Plus I have guest-posted here before on how to use the A to Z challenge in your own writing efforts and the importance of having a theme to your posts.

One would have thought I would have been more prepared this year!

At some point in February I was still planning on doing an A to Z theme on Vampires.  I had started the posts last year when I did Demons. I had an idea for a book about vampires and I thought it would have been a good way to do some research.  It was. Till I shifted midstream.

My newest book is now at Kickstarter to get funding for art and printing.  "Strange Brew: The Ultimate Witch & Warlock" is, well, the most complete guide to playing a witch in the Pathfinder game.  A bit of background.  Back in 2000 the 3rd edition of Dungeons & Dragons hit the shelves with the "Open Gaming Licence" which briefly meant 3rd party authors could make their own books for D&D and not get sued or anything like that.  If you followed the admittedly simple rules of the Open Game Licence then you could do it.  Well I did and in 2003 I released "Liber Mysterium: The Book of Witches & Warlocks".  A friend of mine released a similar book for witched called "Way of the Witch". We liked each other books and we happy.  2013 rolls around and this friend, Christina, decides it is time we mixed our books together with the newest version of the D&D 3rd edition game, Pathfinder (it's not exactly, but close enough).  We added in the Pathfinder witch and some others and decided to kick start it as a project.

So far things are going great!  But my extra writing time was taking a solid hit.  I have 13 years worth and 1,000s of pages of notes and material to go through.

So to save some time I switched over to the A to Z of Witches.

It was a good idea.  Go through notes, post ideas as they come to me.  I only managed to stay about 10 days ahead of schedule and that was no where near enough.  So much for my own advice about theme and planning!

I got a lot of great posts up and in fact have enough for another couple months of solid witch postings.
I got to participate in a "mini-hop" of people doing supernatural creatures during the A to Z as well and that was the best!  I have to give very special thanks to Tasha (Tasha's Thinkings) and Sophie (Sophie's Thoughts and Fumbles) for helping me with the idea and then doing all the heavy lifting afterwards.  THEY, and everyone in the Supernatureal mini-hop, really made this A to Z special for me.

If you look at my May 5th post I state I survived the A to Z challenge.  Survived is the right word. Not beat, not won, but survived.  Yes I posted everyday and still got in some of my other posts. Yes I visited my neighbor blogs, but didn't always comment on them.  Yes the material I wrote will find a home somewhere in Strange Brew.

But, I didn't get to interact with other bloggers as much as I wanted. I didn't visit every blog on the list like I have in years past.  And while I noticed that I was getting a good amount of traffic from the Supernatural A to Z and from the A to Z site itself, my regular readers dropped off.  So in that respect I didn't do as well as I would have liked.

I write about games.  That is who I am and what my readers want.  I tried to keep the topics I posted very relevant to gamers, but also to the non-gamers.  Most people in the world don't care if some beastie has 5 HD or 15 HD, you just want to know how tough it is. To gamers that is a big deal. It's a big deal to me.

I love doing the A to Z and I am taking my own advice to heart and starting my 2015 posts this summer.  I am still considering doing vampires. So to make it work there needs to be plenty of material for gamers (what we in the RPG biz call "crunch") and plenty of narrative material enjoyed by everyone else (what we call "fluff").

So what is my plan?

  • Start my post writing early.  Crunch takes longer to write than Fluff. I'll need the time.
  • Keep enough crunch to keep my regular readers happy. Especially if it something new.
  • Keep the fluffy interesting to keep the A to Zers coming back.
  • Visit and interact with more of the bloggers in the A to Z. If I write all my posts this should be easier.
  • I would LOVE to participate in another mini-hop like I did this year. That was awesome.

Looking forward to it!

About the Author 
Timothy S. Brannan is the author of The Other Side blog,
He has worked on a number of games including the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG", and is the author of “The Ghosts of Albion RPG”, “The Witch”, “Eldritch Witchery” and the upcoming “Strange Brew” which is currently in a Kickstarter Campaign. Please stop by and see if this is something you would like to support.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Next Dungeons & Dragons

If you haven't heard yet you soon will.
We now know the dates, prices and cover art of the next edition of Dungeons & Dragons.
No 5th ed. No "Next" (thankfully!). Just "Dungeons & Dragons".

First I like that the edition has been dropped.  This is supposed to be the "Edition to unite all the Editions".
I also like the dragon ampersand a call back to the roots, or at least when D&D was at it's most popular.

Here are the products to get us going.  They are listed on Amazon for pre-order, but I would like to point out that support for these games comes not from Amazon, but from your Local Game Store.  Please buy these locally if you can

Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set
Fantasy Roleplaying Fundamentals

The D&D "Basic" set is first up and this is a fantastic way to get the edition going.  For $20 you can see if you like the rules and game and still get everything you need for levels 1 to 5.   It has a 64 page DMs/Adventure book, a 32 page Player's book and 5 pregens. It even comes with dice.

As a long time fan of the Basic Set(s) I think this is fantastic.

Release Date: July 15, 2014
Page Count: 96
Price: $19.99; C$22.95

D&D Player's Handbook
A Dungeons & Dragons Core Rulebook

Now we are getting into the hard covers proper.  This is a little bit like the late 1970s.  We had the Holmes basic set and then the other hardbacks came out in staggered releases.  Then I think it was more matter of production and bandwidth. Now it is to keep the errata down and make sure each book gets its due.  The PHB is the perfect choice for a second release.
At 320 pages I am expecting quite a lot.  For $50 I should get a lot.  Again, this is not an unexpected price.

Release Date: August 19, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Page Count: 320
Price: $49.95; C$57.00

D&D Monster Manual
A Dungeons & Dragons Core Rulebook

I like this cover a lot. While a red dragon would have been nice, the beholder is also a good choice.
Same page count as the PHB, which I expected.  Same price too.

Release Date: September 17, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Page Count: 320
Price: $49.95; C$57.00

D&D Dungeon Master's Guide
A Dungeons & Dragons Core Rulebook

I have often said that the best book out there on how to run a game (any game) is still the 1st Ed DMG.  I honestly felt that the 3rd Edition DMG was also very good.  So I have high hopes for this one.  Again, the same size and cost as the PHB and MM.

Release Date: November 18, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Page Count: 320
Price: $49.95; C$57.00

All in all I am pretty excited for these.  Right now I have no plans to play it.  My kids still love 1st Ed.  There are some adventures coming out, but they focus on Tiamat and the dragoncult and I did all of that for 3e.  But we are getting new sets of miniatures, so that is something.

Looking forward to that Basic set in two months.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Great Gaming Weekend!

What a great weekend for gaming!

Friday Night I went to my regular 2nd Ed game. We were missing some players so I got to bring along my oldest son.  We got there and more players were missing. So we created some new characters living in the same world with the idea that they could be alternates for anyone that drops into the game or we could even switch from our primary characters to these.  Some hiccups, but all in all a good night and a great bunch of characters.

Sunday Morning I registered for my GenCon games.  I didn't get everything I wanted, but I still got plenty. Going to be playing some Ubiquity and Mage the Ascension for the first time in years.

Sunday Afternoon.  Again, missing characters. This time my youngest son crashed on the couch from his night of playing paintball.  So my oldest wanted to play our 1st Ed game and finish up the Caves of Chaos.  Instead I had him take one of his alternate characters, an assassin, and discover that Mendel the Merchant was part of the Slave trade to and from the Caves.  This will play nicely when they hit the A series later.
Merchant killed, plot discovered.  All in a good day's work.  Now they just need to clear out caves A, B and C and they can move on to the next adventure.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Zatannurday: Constantine on NBC

This week we were treated to the new trailer for the upcoming NBC series Constantine based on the Hellblazer comics (not the Justice League Dark ones).

I have to admit it looks rather cool.  To say it is better than the Keanu Reeves movie is an understatement.

Welsh actor Matt Ryan really looks and sounds the part.

How long will it be before we see his on again, off again girl-friend Zatanna?  Hopefully soon.

[Zatanna] You taste like cigarettes, Constantine by JamesLeung on deviantART

Everything she does is magic by gabbie on deviantART

Smallville: Harbinger by gattadonna on deviantART

JLAD by CookieMonster-Of-WAR on deviantART

Friday, May 16, 2014

Is Dungeons & Dragons a Cult? and other Friday Questions.

Two recent articles have come out reflecting on the past of Dungeons & Dragons and the rumors of satanic involvement in the 1980s.

While today it is easy, and expected, to laugh at these ideas back then we were embroiled in a war, excuse me, I meant WAR!, against Satan and his chief tools to corrupt were Heavy Metal music and Dungeons & Dragons.

To get something of an idea of what this was all like back then here is a bit of the infamous 1985 60 Minutes feature on it.

If that doesn't work here is the link,

I have to admit I did a lot of searching and while I wanted to find some sites that were still up in arms about D&D I mostly found sites and forums on "I played D&D and I am still a good Christian" and "How D&D Taught me morality".  So much for my "Atheist Agenda".
Though to be fair they might not care for Carcosa. But I don't care for Carcosa either, so that is not an indictment.

I was going to ask if you ever still feel pressure from religious groups about D&D.  But let's be honest. 90% of feel more pressure about playing from our spouses who would rather we be out doing yard work.

So here is a better question.

We live in a time where we have unprecedented access to games. Many really good ones that are even free.  Geek culture has never been more accepted than it is now. We have access to players around the world, not just in our own neighborhoods.  Even our former critics has been silenced and time has shown them to be the fools we knew them for.

Are we in a new Golden Age of RPGs?

And don't forget my Kickstarter! over 50% funded in under 3 days.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Gen Con 2014

Gen Con 2014 is approaching fast.

In case you are going and want to plan out your gaming the listing of 9,000 events is now out.
Registration is this Sunday and promises to be just as hectic as the last couple of years.  I worked out several alternate calendars to get everything in (scheduling for 4 is a pain).

Lots of Pathfinder, but not as much D&D as I would have liked.
And I'll be honest, out side of a couple of token games, the OSR is really no where to be found.  Ok to be fair there are a lot of DCC games, but it's that and Labyrinth Lord

The vendor map is also out now. So you can plan your shopping I guess.
The cool thing though is this is hot linked, so you can also go to the website of the vendors.

A couple of things jumped out at me.
First, Where is WotC?
Second, where is the group that sells all the OSR games?  I know that in 2012 they had their own booth but other years had been sharing one.

I was reading somewhere, can't remember where now, but it was earlier in the week, that the number of events is actually down a little from last year.

The Downside of a Big Kickstarter Project

I am so pleased to report that in the first 36 hours the Strange Brew Kickstarter has reached a third of it's potential funding.

I am quite excited about this. And a bit overwhelmed!  So I have been working on the 1000 or so spells for the book and deciding what to keep and what to get rid of.  No small task.  This is after all the "Ultimate" book and I just don't want a rehash of my Witch book or Eldritch Witchery. Those are fine book but the Pathfinder system requires different things.

So it is off to work (day job) now and editing spells tonight.

In the meantime here is my new favorite dice bag.  I picked it up from BlessedBe Garden.

Ready to go for my Unisystem games.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Strange Brew: The Ultimate Witch & Warlock

The Kickstarter for Strange Brew: The Ultimate Witch & Warlock is back on.

From the KS text:

A 256-page, full-color hardback Pathfinder book on witches and warlocks, featuring spells, ritual magic, patrons, covens, familiars, an

Strange Brew: The Ultimate Witch & Warlock contains everything you need to play every kind of witch, warlock, or pythoness you can imagine, detailing an expansive list of new options for use in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. In this fantastic new tome you'll find...

  • new alternate classes for the occult
  • the warlock base class
  • several traditions
  • innovative uses for skills
  • new feats
  • hexes and powers
  • dozens of new prestige classes
  • class archetypes
  • familiars and patrons
  • multi-class paths
  • hundreds of spells
  • ritual magic
  • and more—no two witches need ever be the same again!

Make your witch much more than a distaff wizard with Strange Brew: The Ultimate Witch & Warlock!

So what makes this different from The Witch or Eldritch Witchery? Plenty!

I have taken the d20 witch classes and picked the best of the best OGC. I have also included my original d20 witch refined over 13 years of play. Added to this all is the Pathfinder witch and a brand new Warlock class.

We dropped the page count, made the book full color and dropped our funding goal.
I want to do for witches what Deep Magic and Ultimate Psionics did for wizards and psychics respectively.

If you have liked the work I have done it the past then you will love this.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Review: Masque of the Red Death and Other Tales (AD&D 2nd)

A couple of caveats. I love Victorian RPGs.  Also, I primarily reviewing the PDF release.

Wizards of the Coast and their partner has released the latest PDF from the TSR/WotC back catalog, this time a product I know very, very well.

Masque of the Red Death and Other Tales is nominally released under the Ravenloft line and you will need one of the Ravenloft core books to be able to play this along with the AD&D 2nd Edition rules.  However if you know the AD&D rules well enough you might be able to get by.  The premise of the game it rather a simple one. What if the Dark Powers from Ravenloft found their way to Earth?  Well...I should state out and out that they never actually say that, but imply it rather heavily.  The is a dark, malignant force controlling things on Earth, known here as The Red Death, and this Earth of the 1890s certainly has a lot more in common with Ravenloft.

Pretty much from the time it was published to the onset of the new 3rd Edition rules, Masque of the Red Death was my campaign world of choice.  I still played AD&D2 in Ravenloft, or rather, I ran AD&D2 in Ravenloft, but the lines between Ravenloft proper and "Gothic Earth" became very, very blurry.

For this review I am going to talk specifically about the PDF and only discussing the original boxed set format when appropriate.

To begin with we get five PDFs in this package. These correspond to the four books and the DM's screen.

Book I is the main Masque of the Red Death book.  It is 130 pages of a high quality, OCR scan.  Some the images are fuzzy, but I feel that is more due to the source images rather than the scan itself.  The scan comes in at just over 35 meg.
We begin with an overview of what this campaign guide is about.  I might be mistaken, but this is the first official AD&D product to take place on Earth.   This followed up with a history of Gothic Earth.  Things began to go downhill for everything around 2700 BC when Imhoptep (yes, same as the Mummy movies) began experimenting with darker magics.  The next dozen or so pages bring us to the present day (1890s).  The history is a fast read and I would not ignore it. It sets the tone for the entire game.
Chapter II details character creation.  There are different methods used than the PHB to reflect that characters are not your sword wielding barbarians of a bygone age.  So characters are more average.
There are rough parallels to all the classic AD&D classes, Soldiers, Adepts, Mystics, and Tradesmen.  The AD&D Proficiency system is used here as well.  Interestingly the system seems make more sense here (since skills are really what sets characters apart) but also shows its wear and tear.
Money and Equipment is also detailed in Chapter IV.   Interestingly this one of the few Victorian era games where the default currency is listed as American Dollars rather than Pounds Sterling.
It should be of note that this also the book that adds guns to AD&D2.  Quite a number of guns are detailed here as well.
Chapter V covers magic and you really need the Player's Handbook for this section.
Chapter VI covers the changes to combat.
Getting back to what really makes this special is Chapter VII An Atlas of Gothic Earth. I should point out at this point that the large poster sized map that came with the boxed set is not included here.  It gives a brief overview of the world.  This section is done much better in the full fledged product that shares it's name.
The first Appendix covers various character kits.  If you remember 2e at all, you remember kits. Quite a few interesting ideas are detailed, but you could also do these with the base four classes and good roleplaying.
Appendix II covers some villains of Gothic Earth. There are plenty of old favorite here and some new takes on old characters.  Though I will admit the one thing that still gets on my nerves is Moriarty re-done as a Rakshasa.  In my games he was human. And yes, Dracula is there as well.
And finally Appendix III covers adventuring in Gothic Earth.

Book II is an adventure in 3 parts by future Pinnacle Entertainment head honcho Shane Hensley and featuring the rock star of Gothic fiction, Dracula.  The advantage of this PDF over my boxed set copy? I can print this out and make changes to it. Yeah it is a good adventure, but I can't help but feel it is a pastiche of Hammer and Stoker's original work.

Book III is a Jack the Ripper adventure, Red Jack. Unlike Moriarty's change into a supernatural creature, this adventure make "Jack" into something more mundane.  Normally I would be fine this, but the name of the adventure itself and some of the elements BEGS it to be tied to the old Star Trek episode The Wolf in The Fold and Redjac.

Book IV is the Red Death, an adventure based around elements of the Edgar Allen Poe story.  Some details have been changed and added, but the spirit is the same.  Again, I am tempted to make the main antagonist, Prospero, the Prospero.

Book V is the DM's screen.

Again I'll point out that the large poster sized map is missing.

Once upon a time this boxed captured my imagination like no other game.  This PDF makes me want to crack open some 2e.

Seven Wonders - Examining the Witches of the d20 Era

Strange Brew: The Ultimate Witch & Warlock Kickstarter will go live again tomorrow.

Today I want to spend some time talking about the Seven (yes, 7!) Witch classes that have appeared for the d20 game in various shape and forms. I want to discuss their pros and cons, and why Strange Brew: The Ultimate Witch will be all the better for it.

Witch #1: The DMG Witch – Wizards of the Coast
Let's not forget that the very first witch was a "sample" character in the 3.0 edition DMG. She was basically a sorcerer with a different spell list. She dropped some of the iconic damage spells of the wizard in favor of some minor Cleric spells. I always considered this the baseline witch. Though since it was not in the SRD, I avoided reading about it. When working on Liber Mysterium back in the day, I was very, very strict about what I would read. In fact, I have a spreadsheet full of spells, and I would have discussions on what was and was not a witch spell. In the end, I ended up with a list that was not too unlike the witch spell list in the DMG, but I have tons of documentation of how I got to that point—we were more concerned back then that WotC was going to stomp out any d20 infraction they found. Still glad I did all the work, though. I was able to go back to it for all my other witch books.
I still use that very same spreadsheet. Maybe I could share it someday, if people are curious about how I go about doing this sort thing.

Witch #2: Liber Mysterium - Timothy S. Brannan
Back when d20 and OGL was still new (2001), I began updating all my notes on witches for publication quality book. This book became known as Liber Mysterium, and was released in 2003. There are a lot of things I REALLY liked about this book. There were a few things I really wanted to do with witches that became a lot easier with the d20 rules. In particular, I had a bunch of “Kiss” spells that had more effectiveness because they were delivered with a kiss. With d20, that became a metamagic feat. Coven spells were covered well, as were occult powers. Though 10 years later, I can admit it was not perfect. There was my own overriding opinion that most witches were going to be good. My bias. While there are tons of spells, some were redundant or a little over- or under-powered, 10 years of playing witches in my ongoing 3.x game has helped me work out a lot of the bugs.
One of the coolest things from the this project though is it really taught me how to work with a team of designers.  I carried over these lessons to Buffy and to Ghosts of Albion.

Witch #3: The Witch's Handbook - Green Ronin; Author Steven Kenson
This one is certainly a great effort. There is a lot I really like about this book. The gems of this book are the ideas for skills, and, of course, the fantastic cover art by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law. Like my own Liber Mysterium, this witch uses Wisdom to cast arcane spells. I still kinda like that, to be honest. There are a lot of nice prestige classes here. In particular were the Witch Priestess and the Witch's Champion, which was similar to something I  was calling the Cowan in my games. The Diabolic Witch and the Witch Hag were also nice and gave some balance to the "mostly good" Witch Priestess. There are new spells, and like Way of the Witch below, it uses the Ritual Casting rules from Relics & Rituals, which were very much in vogue at the time. Covens in this book were covered, but not as much as in Liber or Way of the Witch.
What this book lacks in page count, it makes up for in utility; there is something useful on every page. More to the point, there is something I wanted to use on every page.

Witch #4: Way of the Witch - Citizen Games; Authors Janet Pack, Jean Rabe, Megan Robertson, Christina Stiles
Style-wise this is the best of the lot of the early witch books for d20. Hardcover, with some of the most beautiful art I have seen in a book. I mean, go look at that Thomas Denmark cover.
The witch is basic and has a lot of really nice features. The prestige classes are simple, but functional, dividing the witch into white, black, grey, and brown witches. There are some other nice ideas, as well including how witches lived in this world and their much greater affinity to the magical rhythms of the world. The authors really took their time and care with this one, and it really shows.
There is so much I love about this book that it made want to make my own books better. The nice flow between the art and the text made this feel much more like a single creative endeavor. Even if the material wasn't good (and the material was good) it was a joy to look at. I bought this one before I was done with Liber Mysterium, but I put it up until Liber was out the door. I remember sitting in my car one afternoon to pick up my kids from daycare and wishing I had done some of the things in this book.
Alas, Citizen games did not make it out of the d20 boon alive. They were going to come out with a second witch book, Seasons of the Witch, and I had heard a little about it. I had high expectations really.

Witch #5: The Quintessential Witch – Mongoose Publishing; Author Robert Schwalb
I am not a huge fan of the older Mongoose books. There are number of issues with the classes being all over the place, odd editing, and art that runs the gambit. This book is not any different. The witch class is pretty typical of the time (early days of the d20 boom). There is a wide variety of prestige classes such as the Caller to the Veil, Diabolist, Gypsy Matron, Witch Doctor and even a Witch Hunter, which is nice, but not all of them are usable. For example I am not sure why the Medium has a Charisma loss, or why the Occultist spells are the way they are. The book also tends to be full of a lot clichés. The art for the Vamp prestige class comes to mind, actually the entire Vamp prestige class is pretty much a huge cliché. An evil woman scorned by a member of the opposite sex using her "feminine whiles" to corrupt others. Oh and lets show her in bed with an innocent looking girl. Not really forward thinking there.  Though the material that was good (Patron of the Five Sprits, Puppet Mistress), was very good. There is a good section on new uses for skills, including telling fortunes and a good section of feats. There are new spells and new magic items, as expected, but the coolest thing might be the Places of Power. I also liked the Times of Power and the very detailed Herbal section. What made the Herbal so nice was not all of the herbs used, but that the ones they did included art. It looked like an old-school herbal.

Witch #6: Pantheon and Pagan Faiths – Mystic Eye Games
This was part of Mystic Eye Games: Hunt the Rise of Evil product line. It was also a great effort, and it captured my attention early on. I liked this one because it was the other end of the spectrum from the Green Ronin one, but still not quite Way of the Witch - the book had an implied world setting with witches as a part of it, but not quite as integrated into the fabric of the world as we see in Way of the Witch. The witch still existed in a rich world, and a lot was expected of her. She had the spells and the powers to meet these expectations, too.
This witch was a divine spellcaster, not an arcane one. This was also a nice change of point of view.
I also liked the prestige classes. They were a nice selection of orders with Divine backgrounds and really what I wanted to see in a Prestige Class. The Furies of Destruction were similar to my own War Witch, but far more deadly. The Beast Friend looked like a fun class to try out for a Druid, but it's alignment restrictions (Lawful Good only) didn't quite make sense to me. Slaughter Priests should be in every game.

Witch #7: The Pathfinder Witch (Advanced Player’s Guide)
This is the current Witch. I have spoken about the pros and cons of this witch many times. But I have to admit what I really like are the Hexes. These are such a nice addition to the witch class. The Patrons here are very, very similar to the Patrons I used. Also, if I made the error of assuming that all witches are mostly good, I think this book has the bias that witches are mostly evil. I also can’t get past how weak the covens are in this book.

All seven (and some others here and there) all offer me something fun and unique to the game play. What I want now though is something that allows me to play all these experiences.

Or, to put it another way, the Ultimate Witch.