Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

For my American readers, Happy Thanksgiving!
For everyone else, Happy Thursday!

See you.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Owl & Weasel Wednesday #19 October 1976

Issue 19 represents a shift in Owl & Weasel.  This issue has more D&D related content than any other issue so far.  The front cover also takes on a more magazine like feel. Lets see what is inside.
The editorial is noticeably longer this issue, a precursor to the long White Dwarf editorials to come.  But a fully half of it is devoted to a long and odd joke about mouse having sex with an elephant.  It was a different time.

Page 3 covers the D&D Society news.  More names but also some house rules on which race you can choose.  Basically there are new minimums for some scores to be demi-humans.  Strength for Dwarves, Dexterity, Wisdom and Intelligence for Elves and Dex for hobbits. Hobbits are still used in place of halflings at this point. Rules similar to these show up when OD&D converts over to Basic.

The new D&D supplements "Gods, Demi-gods and Heroes" and "Swords & Spells" are mentioned, but only get about a paragraph each.  I am not sure if longer reviews will appear, but that was the impression I got from the last issue.  Also paragraph on how the new issue (#3) of The Dragon is the best yet.

Page 5 revisits Ian's and Steve's fascination with American Baseball and they discuss the Avalon Hill baseball simulation game where they pit their fantasy Mets (Steven) and fantasy Red Sox (Ian).  While I have not played this game, I might check it out. I have been a life long St. Louis Cardinals fan and this sounds fun.  Plus having some of my favorite historical players like Smith, McGuire, McGee and Stan the Man on the same team with some of the better newer players would be a lot of fun.

Later on we get an overview and discussion on 3 player games.  Interesting, but not my thing.

 Maybe there is a bit of professional jealousy or just natural progression of how these things work, but O&W has some new D&D house rules on keeping time in D&D and another on magical uses in D&D.

Page 9 to 10 covers alignment in D&D.  The first of several thousand never ending discussions.  Though to be fair this is one of the first.

The "News" page is a cross between actual news and classified ads.
Back page covers items for sale at Games Workshop's store.

Owl & Weasel is not just yet a pure RPG zine, or even a pure-ish D&D one, but it's wargame and even board game roots are more in it's past than it's future.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Strange Brew Updates

Thought I would spend some time today talking about Strange Brew.

For my part (the writing) I am moving along. Maybe not as fast as I would have liked, but 12+ years of playing around with this material has given me new perspectives.
For example last night I rewrote the Hermetic Mage Prestige Class to work a little better if your initial path to it was an Alchemist or an Oracle.

Today I am on track to finish up the magic items, though that might take longer depending work and how many pages it ends up.

The art is looking great and I love what I have seen so far.  I have not seen the spells chapter in layout yet, but that is what is happening to it now.

So we are moving along. We had a team meeting a couple of weeks ago to see where all the departments are at and things are good.

I am really looking forward to getting this into your hands.  It is going to be a massive volume.

Monday, November 24, 2014

How Dungeons & Dragons Became A Game Changer

I am moving offices today and don't really have time for a full on post.

But this came across my newsfeed today and I thought I would share it.

Very interesting read.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

What Makes a Good Adventure?

I have been asking around various places and now I want to bring it home.

What makes a good adventure?

Here is my problem. I want to make a new adventure for complete newbie DMs and Players.  I know there are several out there that do this, but I would like one I can print out and give away along with a set of rules.  Likely OSR, but a good adventure should be easy to adapt.

I want something that also takes on some of the tropes of the game.  I am perfectly happy to have the "you all meet in the tavern/inn" starting IF that is a good thing to do for this adventure.

Personally I like a nice mix of puzzles, combat, mysteries to solve and role-playing opportunity.

Looking at the classics, B2 has a great set up, B1 gives you freedom and B3 covers the mystery and puzzles.

Really we don't need another low-level adventure, so if there is one out there that you really like let me know about it and let me know why you like it.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Zatannurday: The Cave of Cool Collection

No one quite loves his supergirls as much as my friend Cal over at Calvin's Canadian Cave of Cool.

So I figured on this cold day I would send him some visitors (that would be you) to admire his collection of pics.

I am sure there are more, but Cal posts many times a day, so it is easy to miss something in his nearly 28,000 posts.  For the record that is over 10x the output of this humble blogger.

Zee outside of the Cave of Cool.  Location only know to select heroes.

He has a fantastic collection of action figures too. If you are a collector then they are worth a look.

So pop on by, say hi. Leave a comment or two on his posts.  Cal's a good guy.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Kickstart Your Weekend: Jim Balent & Holly G's Crossover: When Magick Meets Manga !

I will freely and happily admit I am a fan of the Tarot Comics from Jim Balent.
I am also a big fan of Holly Golightly's "School Bites" webcomic.

In fact I have featured their characters here a number of times over the years for a variety of systems.

Tarot Witch of the Black Rose
Cherri Creeper, Witch Girls Adventures.

But I have never brought them together.

Well Jim and Holly are going to do that now in a new crossover comic book.

The art is going to come in a variety styles.
So we will see Tarot, Raven and Boo in "School Bites" quasi-Manga style and the girls of School Bites drawn in Jim Balent's hyper-realism style.

Of course it could be fun just to see Tarot and Cherri on the same page since both characters seem to be modeled on Jim's wife Holly.

But honestly I am most excited to see "Annie Mia" the vampire turned Dark Angel from School Bites.

I know Jim and Holly are not everyone's tastes, but the comics are fun and they are both great people and this comic promises to be a blast.  So check it out!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Lindsey Stirling - Dragon Age / Occult Violinist

If your Bard is not as cool as this then you are playing her wrong.

I will admit I am a fan of this little pixie.

Of course with the right tinkering in Ghosts of Albion you take the Occult Poet and make an Occult Violinist.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Owl & Weasel Wednesday #18 September 1976

We take  big jump to September now. No I am not missing July and August, with Ian and Steve havig their wild adventure in the States this is the first issue we get since then.

Steve takes over the editorial in this issue to talk about their US trip. They visited TSR at Gen Con (more on that later) and generally took in the sites of the American side of the gaming hobby.  I found it interesting that they thought the America hobby stores were similar enough to London's.   I guess the differences were not as great as I expected either.  They loved Baseball and Frisbee (it was the 70s remember) and brought some home with them.

Reviewed this issue is the Lankhmr boxed game from TSR.   The whole Lankhmar stories and games are really something of a mystery to me.  I have not read the books nor played any of the games. This one sounds like an interesting game, but I wonder if it is more due to my romanticizing the time and subject matter.

Ia posts his take on their American trip They got to meet Gary, Fritz Leiber and the young Miss Wisconsin.   Tim Kask gets name dropped here as well.  Interestingly enough the report is very much like any Gen Con report you have ever read.  Coming from two such notables in the hobby though at their first Gen Con does make you smile.  Everyone has their first con sometime.

The first of the article competition is up from Andy Evans.  His article is about Reality in Fantasy.  It is the first in what will become many articles, Usenet posts, forum posts and blogs about how to build and deal with reality into your D&D game.  Andy here just happens to be one of the first.  Among the things he gets right is future of RPGs (namely they have one) and the flexibility. You can do anything in them and with them.  So he has quite a lot of good insight there.  

A brief article on the next two and last D&D supplements.  "Gods, Demi-Gods and Heroes" and "Swords and Spells".   There will be more on these in future issues, but "Swords & Spells" is really something of a semi-supplement.  Soon we will be entering my generation of D&D.

There is something else the guys picked up in the States.  Skateboarding. They devote and entire page to it in fact.  No need for commentary here from me.

Zine review is  very interesting for one thing in particular.  It discusses the last issue of The Strategic Reveiw (Vol. II No. 2) and the first issue of The Dragon. "Little Wars" is also discussed as the wargame alternate to The Dragon and the successor to SR.   Full price is £1 which makes it "expensive".  Subscribers to SR can convert their subscriptions over to The Dragon.

In this issue I can see why White Dwarf was every other month vs. monthly at first.  Things were still moving kind of slow back then.  Granted we see the same amount (or more) content in blogs and message boards in a day, but we have Internet speed and nearly 40 years of game development to talk about.  That all being said this issue benefited from the short break.  Ian & Steve seemed energized and ready to go and new games were being talked about.  To day this is the most "RPG"-centric OWl & Weasel to date.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Mystara 3001: A Wild Space Odyssey (PWWO: Calidar + Star Wars + d20)

Over the weekend I spent some time cleaning.  I was going through a bunch of "old" d20 books from the dawn of the d20 boom.  I have Dragonstar which I loved in theory but not exactly in practice.  I have d20 Star Wars, which I also enjoyed but I am not totally up on all the Star Wars lore by any stretch of the imagination. I also have d20 Future which gives me all the cool Star Frontiers races I really enjoyed.

I was looking at this stack and thinking that really, I have everything I need for a kick-ass Space Opera game.  Plus in my mind Star Wars and D&D are inextricably linked together.  Not just in terms when they both hit my consciousness but also in feel.   I have often said that the best "D&D movie" ever was Star Wars (A New Hope for the younger fans).

I figure I could also grab some ideas from Gamma World and even Spelljammer.

But what I have been lacking is a way to bring them all together.

Then +Bruce Heard's Calidar came into my life.


I have spoken about Calidar in detail already.  The crunch is Pathfinder, which is d20 really.  So mixing it with d20 Future and d20 Star Wars is really a no brainer.

Calidar helped me smooth out some of the rough spots in my ideas.  It also gave me backgrounds and character to use.  Plus Calidar is a more solid hook for "D&D in Space" than Star Wars was.  I don't want to play a Star Wars game, but I do want to play with some of the toys in the game universe.

Space ships could be a combination of Magic-craft  or technology (not sure which yet). I would include all the planets from Calidar, but I could also take a page or two from Spelljammer and Star Wars.  Maybe not exact planets from Star Wars, but if this is going to be space opera then there has to be a "Dune" like planet there somewhere.  Or even a Dune/Tatooine/Athas composite.  But not make it a central location.

In fact to steal another page from Dune I think I need to do something to make extra special about Calidar.  In the game now Calidar is where you start and venture out.  I think I will have Calidar the destination instead.  The characters leave their home world. Likely Mystoerth and then the come here.  If I am using the Mystara Calendar then the Gazeteers were all published in or around 1015 AC.  I would make this 3000 AC. Or 3001 just to be that way.

It might seem odd to want to go back to 3rd Edition, but honestly I think it would be a blast.  The multi-classes, the Prestige classes, all of it would work great here.

I could also steal heavily from Doctor Who, Star Trek and even the 80s Buck Rogers and have a "Draconian Empire" that would be my Klingon analogues. Use Dragonborn naturally.  In many ways I guess it would by my Mystoerth world writ-large.

Yeah. The Allied Human worlds (Oerth, Mystara, Krynn and Toril) discover the new world of Calidar, which is rich in some resource.  They get there only to meet a counter claim from the Draconic Empire.  Already there are colonies of Dwarves and Elves, stationed on the moons, and an indigenous population.  This could be a lot of fun.  Plus it would give me my sci-fi kick I have been wanting for so long.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Teach Your Kids to Game Week

It is Teach Your Kids to Game week over at DriveThruRPG.

I love these sorts of games.  Sure I way beyond "learning to game" myself and so are my kids.  But back about 10 years ago my son wanted to play with my funny sided dice.
Back then I used D&D 3.0 to teach gaming to my boys and it worked nice.  In retrospect I might of done something a little different.  Maybe something like Basic D&D (a current fave) or even a streamlined version of AD&D.

So I really love seeing games like these and there are lot to choose from.
Here are a few of my favorites.

Little Wizards
If you have a kid that loves Harry Potter or Kiki's Delivery Service then this is the game to get. Quick, Easy and Fun could be the tag line for this game.  The stats are simple really. Three traits, some powers and of course a description of your wand and familiar.   I am disappointed I have not used this game more myself. It might be a "kids" game but it packs a lot of punch and frankly is one of the most clever little games I have seen in a long time.  The Character sheet is a treat too.

Hero Kids - Fantasy RPG
I have a lot of love for this game. I was supposed to submit an adventure for it, the Cave of the Stinky Goblin, which is the very first adventure I ever ran for my own son.  A Goblin is washing his stinky clothes and garbage in the river and smelling up the town of West Haven.  This game, like many others here, use a simple d6 based mechanic. This is good since that is what most people have in their homes.  My kids were attracted to my multi-sided dice, butI see no reason why you could not just replace all the d6s in HK with d8s for example.
The rules are light and fast. There are plenty of character sheets for all four classes and blanks along with cutout minis. There are a lot of monsters too.
Calling "D&D lite" does not really do the game justice, but it is rather close.

Mermaid Adventures RPG
I don't know much about this one but I have heard nothing but very high praise for it.

Monsters and Other Childish Things: Completely Monstrous Edition
This is a game that works well as a "kids" game, but there is enough here for adults to have fun with it.  I have always wanted to use this as a "dark Pokemon" (and that is saying something) or even a very dark version of Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends.

Kids & Critters RPG Trilogy
An absolute steal at this price.
For under 3 bucks you get 3 complete games for kids.
Tales from the Wood where you play creatures from The Wood.  Think Watership Down.
Lashings of Ginger Beer is about playing a kid in Idyllic England, so it might actually work best for adults.  Most similar to kids adventure tales.
It's a Dog's LIfe is the best of the three where you play a Prairie Dog out on the American Plains with heavy American Indian/Native American influences.
All three games are simple to learn and easy to play.
These games require a bit more abstraction to play than some other kid games, but nothing a little kid with a great imagination couldn't handle.

Faery's Tale Deluxe
I reviewed this one a while back.

Toy War
Toy War takes very simple rules (and also teaches kids how to use a ruler) to bring their favorite toys to life. Each toy has a purpose and something it does well. In one session we brought in a baby harp seal (was cute), a toy Dalek (can shoot), a space ship and some D&D dragons. We came up with this idea to rescue some fish and we were off. The adventure is fast and fun. In the end we saved the fish, only to have them eaten by the baby seal.  The baby seal got away with it because he was cute.
Depending on your kids this could be a game of structured make believe or even an on-going saga. Or it can be a great diversion for a rain or snowy afternoon.
Worth every penny and then some.

DC ADVENTURES Hero's Handbook
For older kids to be sure.  I have reviewed this one and it's Mutant & Masterminds parents a number of times here/

Adventures in Oz: Fantasy Roleplaying Beyond the Yellow Brick Road
Reviewed here and here.

Cavemaster RPG
Cavemaster might one of the biggest games here on my list (outside of DCA).   This is a "stonepunk" game where you play cavemen.  Some kids might love this idea, others might be turned off on it. For me I think it is an excellent concept and would work with a group generally smarter kids.  Kids that for example would understand our pre-history origins.
What makes this good for kids is that the system itself is so easy to use. In fact one of the conceits of the game is it is molded after the first RPGs played by cave men.  Well...not really...and Game Designer Jeff Dee knows this, but it is still fun.
The game is rich and detailed and really deserves a deeper look on my part.

Witch Girls Adventures: Director's Cut
Reviewed throughout my blog.
I do wish that The Second Edition would come out.

Monster Slayers: The Heroes of Hesiod
This one IS actually D&D lite.  I reviewed it here,

Mutants & Marvels
From the OSR's own Tom Doolan this game is a mix of D&D & Marvel Super Heroes (FASERIP), or rather OSR games and 4C.  Streamed down into just under 45 pages it makes it a great 1st supers game for kids or an on going game for the right group of adults.

Grab one of these.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Kickstart Your Weekend: Adult Wednesday Addams

A while back I sang the praises of Melissa Hunter (+melissahunter)  and her web series Adult Wednesday Addams.

Well the for the longest time it looked like 6 episodes was all we were going to get, but now she is back with an Indiegogo campaign to bring us Season 2.

She is already at her goal, but a few more buck wouldn't hurt.  Plus at the bargain price of only $5 Wednesday promises not to kill you.

If you have not checked out the first 6 videos please do so.  Melissa does a FANTASTIC Wednesday. And it is a lot of fun to see her in new situations like Internet dating, one-night stands, part time jobs and looking for an apartment.  Sounds mundane, but not when it is Gomez and Morticia's youngest daughter.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Cinematic Unisystem: Witches of East End

It really should be no surprise that I enjoy Lifetime's Witches of East End.

Yes it is a "chick show" and yes it is soap opera-y but really I don't care.  It is a a fun show and it has witches in it.  Plus I love Mädchen Amick and was drawn in because of her.

But a few surprising things happened.  First I was not prepared to walk away saying "wow Julia Ormond was really great in that!"  I NEVER liked Julia Ormond, I never liked her work.  Yet this show made me do a complete 180.  I think she is great in this and now I am wondering if I was just underestimating her as an actress.  OR I think she needed to mature a bit more (and maybe me too) so I could appreciate how good she is.
Rachel Boston and Jenna Dewan-Tatum are both great as the younger witches Ingrid and Freya respectively.

Honestly it is like the a crossover between "Charmed" and "Practical Magic".

Of course I was bummed out when Lifetime canceled it after Season 2.
Though there maybe hope yet. There is a massive campaign to get the show back and it seems to be making a lot of head way. Even William Shatner is Tweeting that it should not have been canceled.
Checking on the #RenewWitchesOfEastEnd hashtag on Twitter it seems to be gaining more and more ground.

Witches of East End for Cinematic Unisystem

My normal mode here is to use Classic Unisystem for books and Cinematic for TV shows.  Well Witches of East End is both.  For this posting I am going to focus soley on the TV show and do Cinematic Unisystem.  This is mostly Buffy/Angel stats, but a lot of Ghosts of Albion added in since it is a better fit for the show.
The Beauchamp witches are considered to be a supernatural race so they can choose some supernatural qualities and drawbacks normally denied to humans.

Joanna Beauchamp
Str: 2  Dex: 2 Con: 2 Int: 5 Per: 4 Wil: 7

Life Points: 39
Drama Points: 10

Age 10, Attractive 1, Contacts 2 (occult), Control Weather 5, Hard to Kill 5, Healing Touch 3, Immortal, Magic 7, Nerves of Steel, Occult Library 3 (The Grimoire), TK 7, Unique Kill (Argentium)

Adversary 5 (various witches, warlocks and members of Asgard that support her father),  Emotional Problems (must protect her girls above all else) 1, Honorable 2, Love (Tragic), Obsession (Find a cure for her family curse), Secret (is immortal from another world) 2

Acrobatics 1, Computer 1, Crime 1, Doctor 3, Driving 3, Engineering 1, Getting Medieval 3, Gun Fu 1, Influence 3, knowledge 6, Languages 4 (English, Latin, Greek, Asgardian), Notice 5, Occultism 8, Science 2, Sports 1

Spellcasting: +22
Deflect: +22

Joanna is the matriarch of the Beachamp witches.  She is sister to Wendy and mother to Ingrid and Freya.  Joanna is over 1,000 years old and has been living on earth in exile. She tries to maintain a low profile when she can in order to keep her girls safe.
She works as an art teacher in the small town of North Hampton

Wendy Beauchamp
Str: 3  Dex: 4 Con: 2 Int: 4 Per: 4 Wil: 5

Life Points: 54
Drama Points: 10

Acute Senses 2 (night vision, smell), Age 9, Attractive 2, Contacts 2 (occult), Control Weather 4, Hard to Kill 8, Healing Touch 2, Immortal, Magic 6, Nerves of Steel, Occult Library 3 (The Grimoire), Supernatural Form (dual form, human and cat), TK 6, Unique Kill (kill all her nine lives)

Addiction 1 (mild lechery), Adversary 4 (various witches, warlocks and members of Asgard that support her father),   Love (Tragic), Secret (is immortal from another world) 2

Acrobatics 3, Crime 2, Doctor 2, Driving 3, Engineering 1, Getting Medieval 4, Gun Fu 1, Influence 4, Knowledge 6, Languages 3 (English, Latin, Asgardian), Notice 6, Occultism 8, Science 2, Sports 3

Spellcasting: +19
Deflect: +19

Wendy is Joanna's younger sister. She is flighty and free spirited, but is fiercely devoted to her sister and nieces.  Wendy and Joanna were estranged for while when Wendy accidentally killed one of Ingrid's incarnations.

Ingrid Beauchamp
Str: 3  Dex: 2 Con: 2 Int: 6 Per: 4 Wil: 4

Life Points: 39
Drama Points: 10

Attractive 2, Bookish, Control Weather 1, Hard to Kill 2, Healing Touch 2, Magic 3, Nerves of Steel, Occult Library 3 (The Grimoire), TK 3,

Adversary 2 (various witches, warlocks),  Honorable 2, Love (Tragic), Secret (is a semi-immortal from another world) 2

Acrobatics 1, Computer 4, Crime 1, Doctor 3, Driving 3, Engineering 1, Getting Medieval 3, Gun Fu 1, Influence 3, Knowledge 6, Languages 3 (English, Latin, Greek), Notice 5, Occultism 5, Research 4, Science 5, Sports 1

Spellcasting: +12
Deflect: +12

Ingrid is the oldest daughter. She has only discovered that she is in fact a witch.  She spent most of her life as a rational skeptic.  She has similar powers to her mother but can also write new spells.
Ingrid currently works at the local East End library. She is also working on her dissertation on witches and witchcraft.

Freya Beauchamp
Str: 3  Dex: 2 Con: 3 Int: 4 Per: 4 Wil: 3

Life Points: 37
Drama Points: 10

Attractive 3, Control Weather 1, Hard to Kill 1, Healing Touch 1, Magic 3, Nerves of Steel, Occult Library 3 (The Grimoire), TK 3,

Adversary 2 (various witches, warlocks),  Honorable 2, Love (Dash, Killian), Secret (is a semi-immortal from another world) 2

Acrobatics 2, Computer 2, Crime 2, Doctor 3, Driving 3, Engineering 1, Getting Medieval 3, Gun Fu 1, Influence 3, Knowledge 5, Languages 1 (English), Notice 4, Occultism 4, Research 3, Science 2, Sports 2, Wild Card (Making Potions) 3

Spellcasting: +10
Deflect: +10

Frey is the youngest and usually the first to fall in love.  She is not as strong in her magic as her sister or mother, but has a special affinity for making potions.  She is also the daughter that gets along the best with Aunt Wendy.
Freya has calmed down a lot since her "wild child" days (which also makes her Wendy's favorite) to get married to a man named Dash. Though she falls in love with his brother, Killian.  Both brothers are warlocks though.   Freya currently works as a bartender.

Personally I think they would work great in any Cinematic Unisystem game.

I'd love to see more of this show (and so would the rest of the fans).

If you feel so inclined, send a Tweet to @Lifetime with the hashtag #RenewWitchesOfEastEnd.
I would consider is a personal favor.

Also if you are so inclined then please check out this petition.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Owl & Weasel Wednesday #17 June 1976

O&W #17 comes to us from June 1976.  The editorial staff are head out for "Ian's & Steve's Crazy US Adventure" so this is the last issue till September.
The editorial tries to be funny, but just isn't.  Nothing against Ian Livingstone, but seriously stick to what you know and off-beat humor isn't it.  They are hosting a Subscriber Article Competition though to get more fresh blood in.  Winners will get their entry published  and goods from the staff  equal to £5.00.  Not a bad deal really for 1976 and a zine.

We start out with a review of "Lose Your Shirt" from Waddingtons.  It is a racing games with pieces, cards and various props.  Ian praises it for it fun and guesswork in not knowing who is backing what till the end.  I want to take a  moment here and reflect one what must have felt like a boardgame Golden Age then.  Looking back we might even call it the end of the golden age, but I am not sufficiently knowledgeable enough to be able to say.  Often I thought that having someone from this time to chat with might help.  To get more of a context into this side of our hobby.

If anyone knows more about this time and wishes to share insights then please feel free to comment below.

More book reviews on board games. They are very brief really.
What I find more interesting on this page is the ad for NOVA Enterprises, a game store (or mail order) in Brooklyn.  What is great about it (other than it is a Game Store ad) is that they boast about having over 30 F&SF games! We are at best 2.5 years out from the earliest D&D could have been published and there are 30 some odd games in the same general genre.  While that is a low number by today's standards it strikes me as being huge for then!  Also all the prices are in $ not £.
Were some O&Ws sold in the States?  Though the ad does ask for $0.25 or 2 IRCs (international reply coupons) so they must be expecting some orders from O&W regular subscribers.

 Ian Waugh has an article on the growth of Fantasy games, though it includes Sci-Fi games as well. Again this makes it feel like it was a boom time for RPGs.  While it predates my personal experiences it was in the experience of people I gamed with.  It did seem (from them) to be a time of endless possibility. Maybe not endless choice as compared to now.  I can see how the DIY spirit infused the game at this time too.  It was the same as the early computer days to me.

Moving on to Letters later in the issue we have yet another "Ripped from the Blog Posts of Today" submission.  This one is an interesting method of reducing the HD, and thus the attack ability, of monsters in combat.  The premise is simple, weaker monsters have weaker attacks. Therefore a weakened monster should also have weaker attacks.   The attacks are refigured based on the monster's current HP with the following formula.  Monster Fighting Level = (Monster HP)/4.  The author, Ian Moseley, also offers a table.  To simple it up every loss of 4 hp results in a -1 to hit.
It is an interesting idea and even one that was flirted with in D&D 4 and something I had used in Unisystem years ago.  But it is easy to see why it never caught on even if it makes a certain level of common sense.   Still though. Nothing new under sun right?

We end with some more alt-rulings on Diplomacy and the ads.

While there is a lot of talk about other games, I have not seen them yet in the pages.  This is still a general games magazine with a board game focus and the occasional RPG, nee F&SF Games, element.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Reviews: Victorian Era Games, LPJ Design Edition

I love Victorian Era games.  I own most of the classics and many of the non-classics in dead tree versions and nearly everything on PDF.  I am a tad bit obsessive.  But I also play most of these games too.  It is just a fun time to play in.

Here are a few that I have enjoyed, but have not talked about much.  First up a few from LPJ Design.  These were released in the d20 days and have been retooled for Pathfinder.

Victorian Age Feats
14 pages of new feats (12 of content and 2 of OGL).  While there is a Victorian sensibility to these, most, if not all could be used in Pathfinder or d20 Modern.   In particular I liked the Astrology, Bookworm, Charmed, Empathy, Expert Healer and Look Harmless feats.  Others like Puritan Witchfinder might be more suited for 200 years before the Victorian times. A bit of a different feel to feats which I like.  With a price of under 2 bucks this is a pretty good deal really.

Victorian Age Feats 2
Like Victorian Age Feats, this product is 14 pages (11.5 for content, 2.5 for OGL). It offers a wide variety of interesting feats to use with your d20/Pathfinder based game.  Again what strikes me the most about these is how well they work with Pathfinder out of the box.  A minor quibble though. Some of the feats are related to guns, this is fine, but the Victorian era saw a wide variety in technology related to firearms.  The "Rip a Clip" feat is fine, but only useful for firearms created after 1890 (near the end of the era).  Also not appropriate for Pathfinder even with the Gunslinger (but that is not a strike against this product).
For under 2 bucks it is a good deal, but I didn't like it as much as the first.

Victorian Horrors: Jack the Ripper
It is very difficult to talk about the late Victorian period and NOT mention Jack the Ripper.  This 6 page PDF covers how to use Jack in your games and assumes that he will be an adversary of the Characters.  Two possible means of link Jack to the PCs as a nemesis are discussed.   Some detail is given on the public and police reaction to the Ripper case.  Some basic d20 crunch is given to help move the players along.  
Stats are given for Jack the Ripper (d20 Modern) and some ideas are given based on the level of magic in your games.
The text of the "Jack the Ripper letters" are reproduced.
While I think this is a good starting effort a lot more could have been done.  For example a time-line of the Ripper case should have been included and the names of his victims.  Also a map of the killings would have been extremely helpful.  While all of this is readily available, that is also the exact reason why it should have been included.  As it stands this is just a PDF of a potential threat to the PCs with not much in it that says it is Jack the Ripper.

Victorian Horrors: Martian Invaders
A much better effort here than the Jack the Ripper product.  This details the Martian invasion ala H.G. Wells.  This product details the Martians, their crafts and their technology.   Though curiously missing are stats for the Martian alien themselves.  Also while the inspiration is obviously Wells, he is not mentioned in this product.  Quotes from the War of the Worlds text would have also been nice.  Plus there is not much here that says "Victorian" to me.  This could have been about the Wells book or the classic 1953 movie.  Actually it seemed more similar to "Day of the Triffids" to me.
7 pages, 6 of content, 1 of OGL.

All four of these are available in the D20 Victorian Era Bundle from LPJ.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Returning to the Manor

One of the cool things about the early days of this hobby was finding great little zines of new content.  Sometimes it was an alternate rule, or new monster or class.  Some of these were good, many were mediocre but all of them were a lot of fun.  Back then I didn't care how good or bad it was, I was just glad to have something new and exciting to try out.

The Manor reminds me of the best parts of that time.   The Manor is the digital zine from +Tim Shorts over at Gothridge Manor.  I have always enjoyed Tim's blog. He began his blogging around the same time I really started blogging in earnest. Plus he is a fellow Tim so I am inclined to like it!

I while back I reviewed the first three issues and some other publications from him.  Today I want to look into the next four issues; The Manor #4 to #7.

The Manor #4
At 39 pages this issue takes the Manor beyond the Zine world and puts it more firmly in "magazine" territory.   Even the Owl & Weasel or the Strategic Review got to this size.
We start out with an adventure for Swords & Wizardy for 4 to 6 characters of 5th to 7th level.  The adventure is 15 pages and includes 2 new monsters including a very cool, Lovecraftian-feeling "big bad".   The last part of this adventure with the monster (the Or'Drog) and it's lair are worth the price of this Zine alone.  Slap this bad guy into your generic Caves of Chaos and suddenly the stakes have gone up a lot.  I am kicking myself for not reading this sooner.  This was out in July of 2013. I could have used this very monster in exactly what I mentioned above when playing Keep on the Borderlands with my kids. Yes, this 11 HD monster would have been too much for them, but it would have up the stakes considerably.
SO if you have copies of these laying around, READ THEM!  There is good stuff in here.

"From Beneath the Manor" is so great. It is a feature that I hope to see more of;  Contributors send in their monsters to be stated up for any OSR compatible game and illustrated by Jason Sholtis.  It reminds me of the old Fiend Factory from White Dwarf.

We end with a couple of ads (for that full Zine feel).
Seriously though, The Manor #4 is awesome and I can't wait to read the next ones.

The Manor #5
The Manor #5 is a bit shorter than #4, but at 28 pages it is still a great deal.
First up is the "Vineyard of Villain. Four Evil NPCs to use in your game and illustrated by Jay Penn.
"Cursed Concoctions" by Chris Coski is a collection of 7 new poisons/potions for evil GMs.  There is a random table of tavern names if you need a dive in a hurry.  The "Sullen Hagfish" has good food I am sure.
There is a lengthy article on doors.  With a nice font for the header.  Made this feel like a cool 70s Zine,  The article itself is a good one and a good read for GMs.
There is another longish article on random city encounters.
Like before, we end it with an ad (of sorts).

I am not as overtly enthusiastic about #5 as I was for #4; but there is a lot great stuff here all the same.  Taken as a body of work it is still fun and still gives me that same thrill that I got when discovering Zines in the 80s.

The Manor #6
AKA the Issue with the Halfling with the Epic Pimp Hat.
The Manor #6 is back to 28 pages and jam packed by the looks of the Table of Contents.
The first adventure/setting is "The Brothel at Wargumn". It might be a little to risque for the youngest gamers, but it is sure a lot less risque than things I was reading at the time when zines were popular (70s and 80s).   Easy to drop this into any game, any world or even any town.
The Guard class is next. It would not be right unless a new class showed up every now and then.  I am not sure that this class adds anything above and beyond say a dedicated fighter, but it still looks solid and looks like it plays well.
"Getting from Point A to Point B" is an interesting addition from Ken Harrison.  It details three portal traps/puzzles of getting from A to B in a dungeon setting.  A great little addition to any dungeon where a magic-user may want to keep something hidden (Point B) but still need to get to it time to time.
"Witches of the Dark Moon" is a great little one-shot written by Tim Shorts himself using a lot of elements he had at his disposal.  This includes using my own Witch Class for the witches.  You don't need my book to play this, but it does add a little extra to the mix.  Consequently this one shot also does the one thing my witch DIDN'T do well and that is provide a ready to play adventure for witches.  The adventure it self is a lot of fun.

The only "ad" at the end is one for a the Manor Compilation of issues #1 thru #5.  Now I do want to point out. I LIKE the ads at the end. I do. It gives the Manor a nice zine feel and reminds me of reading the Owl & Weasel or older White Dwarf magazines.

The Manor #7
This is the newest one on the batch (for now) and it shows.  The evolving layout and feel of the zine gives it a nice organic feel.  I love the PDFs, but this issue makes me want them all in print form too.
The other big difference here is that creator Tim Shorts is only the editor of this, he has no content of his own in it.  I am taking that as a sign of good growth.
"Boltswitch's Mobile Potion Emporium" by Boric Glanduum is a great throwback to the traveling snake-oil salemen of the previous turn of the century.   Whether his potions work is up to the GM I guess, but I like the idea enough to steal it!  I hope he has some Guards from Issue #6 to protect him.
"The Skinwalker (Coyote)" by Joshua De Santo is a Native American feeling lycanthropic class for S&W.  It looks fun, but leaves me wanting more to be honest.
Chris Coski is back an he has a number of magical mirrors in "Mirror, Mirror".  His penchant for alliteration is amusing, but it could have gotten tiresome quick.
A couple of smaller adventures are next. "Trouble Down the Well" by Simon Forester and "Horrid Caves" by Garrison James.  Horrid Caves is the larger of the two. It has some new spells and a couple of new monsters.
Rusty Battle Axe brings us some Mind Flayer art and an Illithid haiku.  Two words that I have never used that close to each other.
We end with an ad for Tenkar & the Badger's OSR Radio podcast. Though no URL is provided. Here it is just in case,

All in all these are great additions to your gaming library.  Take them, cut them up and paste the bits you like into your own notebook and run with it like it was 1981.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Kickstart Your Weekend: Barrel Rider Games

James Spahn over at Barrel Rider Games has been quietly releasing a steady stream of work for Labyrinth Lord and Old-School Games for a couple of years now.

I have posted a number of times about BRG over the years and reviewed a lot of his work.

Where BRG really shines is getting out PDFs of a single class for a buck.   You don't have to buy everything they make, but there is certainly something for everyone.

So it is my pleasure to let you all know about BRG's fund-raising drive to get some new equipment to put out the Class Compendium.  Promising to over 200 pages (and I expect it will be more than that even) the BRG Class Compendium will feature some of class from his catalog with plenty of updates to some of the earlier ones.

He is asking for a modest $550 via Indiegogo.  Which honestly I feel is reasonable.  You are making an investment in his company and getting nice book of classes in return.  Also this means the BRG can keep doing what they have been doing the best; short sweet pdfs for a buck.

I think this is a good cause.  You spend some money, you get a book.

You can also find him on the web at:

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Owl & Weasel Wednesday #16 May 1976

It's Spring of 1976.  I remember my parents putting up this red, white and blue wallpaper in my room around this time.  It had all sorts of colonial pictures with it including one of the declaration of Independence.  Why is this important? It isn't!  But it was what I remember from the time.
The time is May 1976 and the magazine is Owl & Weasel #16.

Well the BIG news of this issue is of course the overview/review of Supplement III Eldritch Wizardry.  EW is, without a doubt one of the most influential books introduced to me back in the days of my early game playing.   Depsite the fact that all this material later became part of AD&D, the fact that at one time additional material was a revelation to me.  Druids, Demons, Psionics, Artifacts.  Really. It was everything I loved about AD&D in a "Basic" D&D package.  It is no wonder then that I own 4 copies today.   My favorite part of this?  The last paragraph where Ian Livingstone mentions that there is so much in this book that Gygax and Blume can't possibly dream up more material for the game!

The Page 2 Editorial talks about how Ian and Steve will be going to America the first week of July till September. They plan to visit the TSR headquarters.  There is also talk of the UK's first D&D Con when they get back.  I find this interesting because I wrote a Chill adventure that begins on a TransAtlantic Flight from London to New York in July 1976.   I think for my own amusement I might place Steve and Ian on that same flight and they can interact briefly with the characters!

Page 3 has more on EW and the D&D Society news.

Page 4 to 5 has some book reviews on game books.   They are written though as if all the readers are already familiar with the books.   Was this an artifact of the time, the place or the hobby?  Not sure.

Letters.  Hmmm.  One looks sincere and legit, the others all look like fakes/bad attempts at humor.  We occasionally saw these in White Dwarf as well.

Pages 6 and 7 have a true oddity for me.  "Friday in Dundee" is a basic sort of RPG where players can take on the persona of nearly any sort of character; though only a couple of characters are provided.  You are given some basic information and you are supposed to collect Benefit Points.  I failed to mention that this game was made in Japan by a company that usually makes surgery equipment.  I did some looking and I can't find anything on it.   Anyone know anything more?

Moving on there are articles of "Competitive" D&D, which has some interesting ideas, but I see why it never caught on.

In other news, Avon Hill buys the American game company 3M gaining the rights to Speed Circuit, Feudal, Stocks & Bonds among others.

So this issue goes to show that once again the past is not really as far back as I sometimes thought it was.  A lot of what passes for RPG history or lore is often shrouded in some mysterious "bygone age".  It wasn't, not really.  Once D&D was brand new and people felt three supplements were enough.   Actually, I have run into people like that this week.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Link roundup

I have had a few links from the last week of Halloween and wanted to do something with each one, but instead here they are en masse.

10 Sites to Make Your Halloween Games Better
Over at EN World Charles Akins of Dyvers Campaign has written another guest post of 10 RPG sites you can use to make your Halloween/Horror gaming better.  Yours truly gets picked at #5.

Witches on TV and in Books
Of course this time of years gives us a lot of witch related posts.

Television, Toil and Trouble: The Witches Of TV
A pretty cool article on all the witches on TV now and some notable ones from the past.  I appreciate that the leading photo is of Willow and Tara.

Why Witches on TV Spell Trouble in Real Life
A silly article (not silly funny, but silly not very intelligent) about witches and wish fulfillment. It is like the editors of Time said "we need an article on witches, it's Halloween.  Make it snappy, with references to TV shows but make it topical with references to terrorism."

11 Witches From Fiction Who Embody What Feminism Really Means
An interesting look into witches from literature.

While Children Sleep, Their Stuffed Teddy Bears Fight Away Horrors Under Their Beds [Short Film]
A cool little short film that is a good representation of what I was trying to do with "Kids Stuff: Bogeys, Imaginary Friends and Childhood Terrors".

Plus I updated my own Witch Links page with several witch related blog posts.

Monday, November 3, 2014

What Am I Working On and Why You Won't See Me Much

There might be a dramatic drop in my postings here for November.

I have two projects I need to finish up.  Strange Brew and Darwin's Guide.
I have two projects I am starting that I can't talk about yet that I need to get started on.

I have already decided I am going to take a long break from Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, all of them) and focus on hard core writing, editing and developing.

So if you need me, email is the best. If it is an emergency then my phone.  If you don't have my phone number then it really can't be that big of an emergency!

I still have some reviews I want to get out, so it is not going to silent running all month.

Halloween Head Count

Checking on my numbers for my October Movie Challenges.

39 Total Watched,  26 New

35 Total Watched, 30 New

33 Total Watched, 24 New

31 Total Watched, 24 New.

Not too bad really.
Got in some horror-related gaming in too.  No new releases; Eldritch Witchery came out in 2013 and The Witch in 2012.  But still a fun month.