Saturday, October 31, 2015

October Movie Challenge: Evil Dead

So. Confession time.  I have never seen the first Evil Dead movie in its entirety.  Seen Army of Darkness dozens of times. Evil Dead 2 once back in college.  But the first? Never all the way through.

Well, that now ended this weekend.  Encore had them all on and I made a marathon of them.

I knew the stories of course.  Plus I worked on the Army of Darkness core book back in the day so I knew the background.  But that is not the same thing really.

Watched Evil Dead, Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness. Wonder why I had never watched them all like this before.

31 Watched / 21 New

October Movie Challenge: Ghostbusters (1984, 1989)

Total cheats on my part. I have seen these both so many times, but there are so much fun.
The special effects look a little dated, but I still love them.

These movies fueled a lot of game ideas that's for certain.

28 Watched / 20 New

Zatannurday: The Return of Constantine!

It's Halloween!

What better way to celebrate than the return of John Constantine.

Well he is back on Arrow, and it looks like not a moment too soon.

I am contractually obligated to say "I hope this also means we get Zatanna soon!" ;)

Friday, October 30, 2015

Friday Night Videos: Scary Songs

And now some scary songs/videos with a strong Halloween theme!

So here are 13 Scary songs and videos to keep you going till Halloween. Presented without comentary for your enjoyment.
Play at your hHalloween Party!

Not scary, but part of the season.

And what I consider the first goth song.

This is Halloween

I have some projects I need to get done today before I can truly celebrate Halloween this weekend.

Posting might drop off a bit in November as well. I have some projects that NEED to get done and something has to give a little.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Organizing via Diigo

Doing some research for my day job and I came across Diigo.  It's a social bookmarking site that allows users to bookmark and share websites, pages, articles and so on.  There is more to it than that, but I am just getting going on it.

I thought it might be fun to create a group where we could all share various OSR and RPG blogs and sites.  There is very little RPG on Diigo so far (at least what I could find) so this would be helpful.

To that end I created a group and I am inviting everyone to join and link your sites or site you like.

Right now there is only me.
I am on a free account but I am likely to upgrade to a full professional account if this works half as nice as I hope.  Once I do that then the group will have some more features.

I have added some blogs. Mostly those from my own blogroll starting from the bottom up, but I would love it if you all added your own and commented on the ones added.  Just keep it nice, we are community here.

You can even add this to your own blog or website.

<script type="text/javascript" src="'s%20best%20content&tags=&token=03f4ad7c34cfe7a31674868e9a7499eb" ></script><noscript><a href="" >Group OSR-Blogs-Groups-and-sites's best content</a></noscript>

I know we have sites out there that list all of these blogs, but this is something we can all contribute to and help maintain.
Plus it is kind of fun.

Edited to add: I just discovered I can "auto-post" from Diigo to here. So as we add things an automated posting can go out say every Sunday.

Endless Darkness vs. The Outer Darkness

No game this weekend. It's my son's birthday so he is taking over my game room this weekend.

This gives me some time to work on their next adventure (well, future adventure), the D series.

I have been re-reading the D series for a bit now. It's funny how when reading it today I have a really different perspective on things than when I was going through the adventure 30 years ago.  That's not a surprise really, nor is how much of it I had forgotten.  What is the surprise is how much of it I remembered.  Not from reading it or even the printed page, but what my characters were doing at the time.

I remembered how much I HATE Blibdoolpoolp.

Not the goddess herself actually, but the deception.  20 foot tall nude human with a lobster head?  Why would Kuo-toa worship something that looked so different than themselves?  Well the answer was obvious even to my then pre-teen and teenaged mind.  It was an excuse to draw a naked woman.
Now generally speaking I don't have a problem with this, but I would like to think I am a bit more sophisticated today.

Since Kuo-toa are supposed to be stand-ins for Deep Ones anyway, why not go all the way and use Mother Hydra instead of Blibdoolpoolp.  I can keep all the same names, Kuo-toa are a more "fishy" offshoot of the Deep Ones and they call their Goddess Blibdoolpoolp instead of Mother Hydra, but they are the same thing.  She would become one of those things that is a mix of demon, goddess and what those things are from the outer darkness of Lovecraft's mind.


I have been adding more "Lovecraft" to this adventure series anyway.  Castle Amber was already very steeped in the mythos of Clark Ashton Smith.  I have a bunch of Yithan minis now too.  Plus I have wanted to bring the Mind Flayers closer to their Lovecraftian step-fathers.   So in this sense it all works out.  I also have all of these books at home with the monster stats; Deities and Demigods,  Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of HyperboreaRealms of Crawling Chaos and what I call neo-Mythos books like the Teratic Tome.

My kids are really into reading about the mythos, but not the actual stories yet.  My oldest doesn't read horror and my youngest is working his way up to Lovecraft now.  
Ok. For the record, I know there is so much more to Lovecraft than the Mythos.  But that is the part I want to use here.

I am not planning on bringing in the big C himself.  But I can see Dagon showing up sometime.

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

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Class Struggles: The Warlock

There have been a number of warlock classes, but unlike the wizard, fighter, cleric or even thief, everyone has had their own take on what a warlock should be.
I have talked about the warlock as a class, distinct from the witch, in the past.
I do like keeping my warlocks separate from my witches in terms of class.  In my mind they are just too different. Similar yes, but still very different.  I would allow any warlock to use the same spell list as a witch unless there was a good reason not to do it.

I think the first ever warlock class I ever saw was the "Warlocks: A New Magic-User Sub Class" by Anthony Barnstone in The Dungeoneer #16.  It had some great spells, "Pentacle of Fire", "Aura of the Occult", "Curse of the Bloody Revenge" to name a few.  This was certainly meant to be an evil character class to play, not just as an NPC.  Interestingly enough this the same issue that featured the mystic class.  I have to admit it was one of the things that made me like the Dungeoneer magazine.  It didn't treat it's audience like little kids.

To my knowledge, there has never been a warlock class in the pages of Dragon magazine.  I know there was not one in the pages of White Dwarf.

The Arcanum and Bard Games had a witch/warlock class, making them the same thing.  I am not a fan of that really.

In my mind the witch and the warlock began as the same class, but the warlocks broke off from the witches  sometime in the ancient past.  Either warlocks wanted to become more like wizards and mages OR they were responsible for the first wizards.

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea has a great Warlock class. It is a sub-class of the fighter but calls upon dark powers to give them some magical power and spells.  Mor to the point I like how the warlock and the witch are very different sorts of classes.

The AS&SH warlock is something more akin to a swordmage.  We see something similar in D&D4 Essentials Hexblade.  In general I liked the D&D4 Warlock.  They were a class that wanted quick access to power and none of the work that Wizards had to do.  That was a fine role-playing excuse, but not something that played out in the rules.  Warlocks gained powers just like the Wizards did and had no more or no less requirements.

There is a Warlock I created in Eldritch Witchery. It is a type of Wizard really. I liken it to "Wizard Grad School" to be honest.  They use the same spells as the witch and gain a few extra powers.

The Warlocks in Fantastic Heroes & Witchery are another sort.  It is a chaos aligned wizard and has a lot of the same features really.  It uses the same xp per level tables, same HD and same spell progressions.  The FHW Warlock does gain some power, similar in many ways to my own witch, but at a cost.  On the surface this doesn't make it much different than a wizard, with a different selection of spells.  What makes this class, and really this book, different are the selection of spells (the book has 666) and the additional rules for acquiring magic and casting spells.  Adding this material makes the Warlock a much more interesting character.

The Pact-Bound in Magical Theorems & Dark Pacts is another warlock-like class.  Again the idea here is a class that takes a quick path to power for a price, usually to an other-worldly power.

There is a similar one in the pages of the ACKS Player's Companion.  Again the nice thing with this book is that the witch and warlock are separated.

In the 3e era we have a couple of "warlocks".  There is a warlock in the Complete Arcane and the witch in Pathfinder, which always felt more like a warlock to me.  Just staying focused on 3e we have a warlock class from WotC and a witch class for Pathfinder.  For 4e there were also very different witch and warlock classes.  5e only has a warlock.

In the case of the official D&D warlock, he is less of a spell caster and more a raw magical power wielder.  His pacts give him this power.

The question becomes one of whether the warlock should have spells or just weid raw magical power and thus have "blasts".  I am torn myself.  I like the warlock to have access to spells to be honest, the idea is these guys have sold their souls for power, but the "blasty" warlock really isn't all that powerful compared to a "spelly" warlock or wizard.

A good example of what I call a "blasty warlock" is Jeremy Reaban's The OSR Warlock.  Like his Witch Hunter book this book has a number of nice features in addition to the class. The class does not cast spells, it does have lot of special powers. This is by design and owning to the stated OGC and pulp sources.  The warlock here does get some spell like abilities in place of powers.  It actually works rather nicely   What I think makes this book special is the level advancement tables for "First Edition", "Original Edition", "Basic/Expert" and "Cyclopedic Edition".   Plus the author has a section of notes on the class.

I have to admit one of my favorite "warlock" books and one that  captures the Pulp Era warlock well is Green Ronin's "Warriors & Warlocks" book.  Yes it is for their superhero game Mutants and Masterminds (2.0 version) but it was my goto guide for a proper pulp warlock will AS&SH came out, and it is still a lot of fun.

I am certain I have missed some here.  Let me know in the comments below!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

October Movie Challenge: 1970s Collection

Women, Warlocks and Weirdos...

Here are few I have seen over the last week that I have not had the time to review properly yet.
All are 1970s flicks (with one exception) and most have to do with Satanism or the Occult.  All of these have been on my "too watch" list for sometime.

La plus longue nuit du diable (1971)
Also known as "The Devil Walks at Midnight" and "The Succubus".  A cursed woman returns to her father's home and proceeds to kill everyone seven deadly sins style long before "Se7en".  She is described as a Succubus, but she seems to be a cursed woman.  I saw this one originally on VHS many, many years ago. Right around the same time I first saw "Vampyres", so it had to be mid 80s. Been looking for it for years.

Status: Seen

A Virgin Among the Living Dead (1973)
NOT part of the "Living Dead" movie franchise nor really about zombies.  In truth it would not be Halloween if I didn't watch a Jesús Franco movie.  He even appears in the cast as a weird servant that can only utter gibberish.  I have to admit I enjoyed that.  This movie actually has a little in common with my next two movies.  A woman arrives at a castle in England after her father has died only to be drawn into her weird uncle's family of living dead.  Like some of Franco's work it is surreal at times, but this was still a fun movie with some nice surprises.

Status: First Time View

Evil Heritage (1976)
Also know as "Satan's Slave".  This time, the girl comes to her uncle's home and they are Satanists instead of the living dead. Yes her parents are both dead in this one too.  This one features Micheal Gough as the evil uncle and a young Barbara Kellerman who will later play the White Witch of Narnia on the BBC.  This one also has a nice twist on the ending.

Status: First Time View

Black Candles (1982)
Ok, not the 70s, but it does have that late 70s feel to it, though the hair and clothes are very much 1980.  Stop me if you have heard this one before.  A girl travels to England on the death of this time.  Here she met by her sister-in-law who also happens to be the high priestess of a Satanic coven.  Her boyfriend gets pulled in and well, wackiness ensues.  I liked the ending of this movie the least.  I am a little surprised what they got away with in this movie. Depictions of incest, makes the ritual killings look so passe.

Status: First Time View

Moral of the story here?  If a family member dies and leaves you a castle...just sell it and keep the money instead.

26 Watched / 20 New

October Movie Challenge: Oculus (2013).

Mirrors are scary.

Think about it for a bit. Vampires avoid them.  Many cultures cover them or turn them around during funerals.  Witches use them to communicate or even pass through.  Then there is whole Bloody Mary thing.  So Oculus capitalizes on this fear with a scary mirror, two siblings and a warped sense of time with murders.
Karen Gillian drops her normal Scotish accent in favor of an American one in this thriller.  She and her brother witnessed something horrible 11 years ago.  So bad that we are not told at first, only that her brother, now 21, is just getting out of a mental facility.
Over the course of the movie we learn that their mom went crazy, their dad did too, shot their mother and then tried to kill the kids.  Tim, the brother, believes it was because their father was having an affair and their mother caught them.  Kaylie believes it is the mirror the family once owned and it is possessed.   She runs down the list of all the previous owners and the deaths and tragedies that befell them.  Kaylie also has elaborate systems put into place to watch the mirror and keep them safe.
But you know that will all fail.

It was fun seeing Karen Gillian in something very, very removed from Amy Pond.
The movie had a good creep factor to it and the "monster" looked really cool.  I was not totally thrilled with the end, but it was also not a surprise to be honest.

It gave me some ideas to use for mirrors in an adventure I am working on.

22 Watched / 17 New

Monday, October 26, 2015

October Movie Challenge: The Last Witch Hunter (2015)

Last week's Class Struggles I detailed many (but not all) of the Witch Hunter classes.  This last weekend I got a chance to see the movie.

Ok. So this movie is not going to win any awards. But it was still a lot of fun.  I have been a Vin Diesel fan since Iron Giant. In this one, he gets to punch things, stab things and generally have a good time.

Vin Diesel is good as the eponymous witch hunter Kaulder. I guess "Melkior" was out of the question.  Kaulder is the "no spells" type of Witch Hunter.

Rose Leslie is a lot of fun as "Dream walker" witch Chole and of course Micheal Caine is great in whatever he does.  Elijah Wood was also fun to see in a role that goes against type.

Don't go into this movie with high expectations. Go into it know it is a Vin Diesel flick.  Though from a gamer's point of view it is geek-worthy to know that he is basically playing his D&D character on screen.

Ok. What else did I like. The Witch Queen was really cool looking and I am happy they kept her "monstrous" rather than turning on the sexual charm.

The "witch bar" was really cool. A place where witches try out different potions and magical concoctions.  That is something I could totally steal for my own games (but obviously not of publication).

I also liked the mirror-ish, flashy, "Witch eyes" from the movie.  Basically this was so the audience could tell who was really a witch.  In my games witches can always tell who is who.  Some witch hunters can also learn this. There is the tacit assumption that witches in this world are a different species, much in the same manner as in Kim Harrison's "Hollows" books, Harry Potter and a lot of other media. Interestingly the movie contends that the Black Plauge was cooked up by witches to purge the Earth of humans. So like the Hollows, human diseases do not effect witches. There has to be diseases then that can infect witches that do not harm humans.

There is no doubt that this is a "D&D" movie. The opening scene, which takes place in the past, features a group of hunters. My kids pointed out that the group contained a fighter, a cleric, rangers, even one that could be a thief.

Even Kaulder's sword can be easily stated up.  Here it is with some liberties taken.

+1 Sword, +3 Flaming vs. Witches*
Hexenbane is normally a +1 magical sword but in the presence of witches, warlock or evil-aligned spell casters it becomes a +3 Flaming sword.  Witches know this sword on sight and any witch below 5th level must save vs. Petrification (or Will or Wisdom) or act as if a fear spell has been cast on them.

I think I want to detail the Dream Walkers in another post.

21 Watched / 16 New

Sunday, October 25, 2015

October Movie Challenge: Dracula (2006)

We have a saying in our house. "If it is on the BBC then it is going to be good."  Well...this movie is really testing that theory.

Edited to add: Turns out this was on ITV.  So my theory is still good!

This was part of Masterpiece Theatre and BBC so I really expected a lot more than what I got.

He had some interesting ideas. Secret Society dedicated to the undead. Certain have a use for that.  Linking vampirism, blood diseases and syphilis; always fun.  Plus another retelling of the Dracula story.  I liked the actors that played Seward, Mina and Lucy. Sophia Myles as Lucy was exceptional.   But Harker and Van Helsing were a waste.

But I also had a lot of problems with this one.
First of the actor playing Dracula, Marc Warren, was just too young look really. Secondly casting Arthur Holmwood as a villain was a mistake.  Killing Harker early, while not original, is still a bad idea. Also there was no Reinfield. That I can't abide by.

I don't have an issue with people tinkering with the Dracula story as long as it is a good story.  NBC's Dracula series was a good example.  But this one was not.

I had hoped for better to be honest.

20 Watched / 15 New

Friday, October 23, 2015

Friday Night Videos: Spooky Songs

Very loose theme tonight. A bunch of "Spooky" songs and songs that remind of an old friend who has a birthday coming up this weekend.

So without further ado....

When I think "Spooky" I think Classics IV.
I used to have this on a 45 rpm.

Is it spooky? Not really, but it has a cool vibe to it and it is the Season of the Witch. Plus Donovan is cool.

Raven hair and ruby lips, sparks fly from her finger tips...What is not to love about that?

Cream are pretty much rock and roll royalty.  This is one is one my favorite songs of all time.

For the previously mentioned spooky friend here is some of her favorite band.

Find some wings.

She's come undun.

Kickstart Your Weekend: Aquelarre

I have not heard about the Spanish language RPG Aquelarre till before today.
But a quick look online tells me a lot of people are excited by it.

There is a new English language version on the way by none other than White Wolf's own Stewart Wieck.  So that should mean it will look good and be fun.

The text says this is a dark and mature game.  So YMMV.
I enjoy the art made to look like old woodcuts, so I ight back it just because of that alone.

Check it out. It looks like a lot of fun.

Plays Well With Others: Ghosts and the Witch

This is completely self-serving, BUT it is coming from a place of sharing.  I just grabbed +James Mishler's newest product Ghosts -- The Incorporeal Undead.  If you want to get an idea of what you can do with his new book check out his blog at
In particular The Pesky Poltergeist, The Ghost of the Haunted Keep and the Friendly Ghost.  Check them out if you recognize them!

To make the claim that this book "Plays Well With Others" is actually weak on my part.  Weak because the book is really designed to "Play Well With Everyone".  It is Labyrinth Lord compatible (says so on the cover!) but beyond that it is really compatible with just about anything I can think of.  In particular I was thinking how well this would work with Castles & Crusades, or even one of my favorites Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea and D&D5.  His book is written in some sort of Ur-D&D that pretty much works with anything.

So my claims really are not really needed.  But I want to make them anyway.

What I am really excited about is how well it works with my own witch book (that's the self-serving part), but I am excited all the same.

Witches and Ghosts have always had a nice relationship.
Within James' book there is the "Ghost Net" which is mentioned as being created by witches (well and by others too).  According to rules in The Witch a Ghost Net is created as a Talisman.  It can be hung over the threshhold of a doorway to keep ghosts away.  Usually a Protection from Evil or Ghost Ward spell is all that is needed.

From my book here some spells that would work well with James' Ghost book.  Either for or against ghosts.  If you are using James' Hercynian Grimoire #1 then these are Charisma based-spell casters.

Level 1
Ghostly Hands
Ghostly Slashing

Level 2
Death Armor
Ghost Touch

Level 3
Danse Macabre
Ghost Ward
Magic Circle Against Undead

Level 4
Animate Shadows
Dance Macabre
Phantom Lacerations
Spiritual Dagger
Undead Destruction
Undead Enslavement
Withering Touch

Level 5
Death Candle
Death Curse
Wall of Bones
Wave of Mutilation

Level 6
Break the Spirit
Death Blade
Ethereal Banishment

Level 7
Call the Restless Soul*  (in this case it would be an actual Restless Soul)
Death Aura

Level 8
Mystic Barrier
Wail of the Banshee

So what is the intersection of these two books?  Well that is easy! The Bell Witch.

Bell Witch
No. Enc.: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic (Evil)
Movement: N/A
   Fly: 240’ (80’)
Armor Class: 3
Hit Dice: 3****
Hit Points: 14 hp
Attacks: 1 Touch or TK or Spell
Damage: 1d4 plus Fear
Save: Witch 3
Morale: 12
Intelligence: 14
Hoard Class: NA
XP: 150

The legend of the Bell Witch has been a part of American folklore since the 19th century.

You can read more about the Bell Witch here, and here

For your game here are the pertinent details.  Katie Batts was an old witch that died on the Bell Farm sometime in the early 1800s.  She haunts the farm and in particular Betsy Bell to gain her revenge on John Bell, whom she believes is responsible for her death.

Katie Batts was a 3rd level witch in life. She had a small dog as her familiar who died when she did.

Treasure: The Bell Witch has no treasure.

Ghost Witch:  The Bell Witch was a witch when she was alive. She can still cast spells as a 3rd level witch.  This is the same as Ghost Magician ability.

Poltergeist: The Bell Witch is a type of powerful Poltergeist.  She can manipulate up to 150 lbs at a time.

Bell Witch Ectoplasm: This ectoplasm will allow the imbiber to use witch witch spells of up to the 2nd level.   The imbiber must make percentile roll against the total number of ounces imbiber has had their entire lifetime. Rolling under this amount results in the loss of 1 life level (or Constitution point).

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Review: Ghosts -- The Incorporeal Undead

+James Mishler  has been producing quality material for the "Basic" era games for a number of years.  I have followed him online and have always enjoyed his posts in various forums and on his own blog.
James has been in the business of releasing his own material for a couple of years now and they are always fun.  Well this Halloween he has really, really outdone himself.

I grabbed his and his wife's latest product Ghosts -- The Incorporeal Undead, pretty much without reading the details. It was James. It was Ghosts. How could I loose?  Well let me tell you. I was in for a sweet surprise!  I will be honest here.  Pretty much EVERY other games can deal with ghosts better than D&D used too.  This little book has a lot of work to do.

First off this "little" PDF is 64 pages.  I printed it out and it would make a great supplement to my collection of various "Basic Era" books.  Put on a nice cover and it would be right at home next to Labyrinth Lord, The Witch and many, many other books on my shelf.  Let me step back for a moment and comment on this.  James really "gets" Basic D&D.  He knows why people choose it over Advanced or other games.  His rules are very much in the vein of Basic/Expert and BECMI style D&D (More B/X than BECMI) but he also gives people options who like more Advanced-feeling games.

We begin with an overview of what ghosts are. I was pleased to see that this book treats ghosts as all being unique.  A brief description of common powers to all ghosts is also given. Detail is paid to two of these powers, Fear and Level/Life Drain.  In keeping with the Basic roots, the Fear effects table is simple and effective.  If you are playing a horror game then you might want more, but in truth this is plenty.   Level Drain is also discussed and how to regain those levels.
Now for me, I am still more inclined to use Constitution drain instead of level drain.  Thankfully the rules as written here will allow that.

Next we get into people and animals with the Sixth Sense and Sensitives.  No detailed rules here, just a nice simple approach that I really like.  There is also a discussion on Mediums and Séances.  Now THESE are much needed rules.  This helps move ghosts from a monster with X amount XP to something that can be worked into a plot.   We end with some information on ghost-sensitive animals.  I love what he has done with cats and am thinking of using it for all witch familiars.

Next is the meat of the book.  Ghosts Lesser and Greater.  This is the "monster listing" of all the ghost types with their powers, weaknesses and alternate types.  Included are some old favorites like Apparitions, Haunts, Spectres and Wraiths next to new one like Lost Souls and Geists.   Following this is a list and description of all the special abilities (And ectoplasms) of the ghosts.  You can mix and match to make anytype of Ghost you want.   Following this is uses for uncanny ectoplasm.

There is a section on magic items.  Some spells usable by or on or about ghosts.
(*The Spawn Ghost spell is really nice.  If you are playing a witch then the spell level is 5.)

Finally is a Creepy Appendix N. There are a lot great resources on this page for ghosts of every type "inspired by anything from Hanna-Barbera and H.R. Pufnstuf to H.P. Lovecraft and H.R. Giger"!

There is no art. BUT I also want to add that ghosts are either invisible or look like anything. So this is not a downmark for this book.

If you play any old-school game, original or OSR, and you use ghosts, then you need this book.  It isn't revolutionary, but it does feel a much needed gap in the rules and (if for no other reason) it will get game masters and players thinking about ghosts a different way.
Combine this with his Vampires of the Olden Lands for some serious Halloween fun.

October Movie Challenge: Wicked Lake (2008)

I am not sure if I have ever said "everything is better when you add witches."  It certainly sounds like something I might say. Wicked Lake tests that assumption...and I am not sure it got it right.

Ok I knew I was getting into a third or fourth rate "I Spit On Your Grave" here.  But it is no where near as brutal as that movie.  There are four women in this one and two different groups of men.  Really it is confusing mess.
Here is the basic gist.  Women get attacked, the moon rises and they turn the tables on the men and slaughter them all.
The sun comes up and they all swim in the lake naked and have a happy ending.

It amused me in the sense that it was so cheesy and it the formula was so obviously "hey lets add witches and plenty of naked girls to this".  There is almost a sincerity in it.

I wonder what other movies could be improved if the women in the film were in fact witches?
Thelma and Louise? Silence of the Lambs? A League of Their Own?

Well the thought amuses me at least.

19 Watched / 14 New

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Class Struggles: The Witch Hunter

You have to appreciate the fact that Vin Disel is so geeky that not only was his character named Melkor, he was a Witch hunter from the Arcanum book, but now he has a movie more or less based on his character.

Geek and Sundry has also produced a new Witch Hunter class for D&D 5 that you can get here:

So what exactly is a "With Hunter"?  Well I have been fairly quiet on the whole concept myself.  But before that, let's talk about what has been done first.

I should begin with the Witch Hunter that Vin Disel used and the one that I think of as first anyway, the Witch Hunter from the Arcanum.

All the classes in the Arcanum and the Bard Games "Compleat" books before it were all very thin in nature. Some guidelines, some flavor, but a ton of imagination! The class is described as a dual classed hunter/mystic with "highly trained" combat abilities. They read a lot like Rangers to be honest, save with a focus on hunting down spell casting classes. They get training in two weapons (Weapon Proficiencies) and gain two more over the course of their career. They gain the skills of tracking, reading magic, stealth and spell casting.   As spell casters they can't wear armor.
Advancement by level is detailed later in the book (they are on the high end) and they take spells from the Mysticism list, which are similar to Clerics. (Note: I should have covered these Mystics back when I did mystics for my first Class Struggles).
The witch-hunter gets a maximum of 3 attacks per round when they reach level 13 (remember this is 1st-2nd ed-ish). They also gain a +1 to hit every other level.

There are hunter-like kits for 2nd ed. AD&D, but no witch-hunter really.

3rd Edition and the OGL brought out a number of various witch hunter classes.  Many though not till Pathfinder came out.

Super Genius Games had a bunch of books out for OGL/Pathfinder for Witch Hunters. The Genius Guide to the Witch Hunter and With a Bullet Point 9 Witch Hunter Feats.  With these two there is plenty to run your witch hunter in Pathfinder.  Unlike the Arcanum, this one does not use spells but instead has a number of special powers each level.  Both methods are fine with me really.

Not to be outdone there is the Player Paraphernalia #11 The Witch Hunter from The Knotty-Works.  This class also gets good combat ability and some powers, but it also gets spells to 4th level.  This puts it on par with the Ranger.  It has a couple of new feats, but no new spells.  Though you are getting a lot here for a buck and half.
So between these three books there are even more choices.

On the OSR/Retro Clone side we have only one product I know of, PC3 - The OSR Witch Hunter by Jeremy Reaban.  This book has a number of nice features in addition to the class.  The class does not cast spells, nor does it have a lot of special powers. This is by design and owning to the stated literary source. It does have some skills such as read magic and turn undead.  What I think makes this special is the level advancement tables for "First Edition", "Original Edition", "Basic/Expert" and "Cyclopedic Edition".  Nice feature if you ask me.

What Should A Witch-Hunter Do?
One question not always addressed is what exactly does a witch hunter do? That's for the player. The question to ask the GMs is what do Witch Hunters hunt when there are no witches (as a class) in the game?  The Arcanum version tends to focus on all spell casters. The Pathfinder ones tend to focus on the witch class.

Allow me to toss this one back to you all.  Would you or do you use "Witch Hunters"?  If so, who do they hunt? What do they do once they have one?

October Movie Challenge: Demon Hunter (2005)

Continuing the "Hunter" vibe I also picked up Demon Hunter starring Sean Patrick Flannery in the role of the "brooding loner with a chip on his shoulder and a dark past".  The movie is predictable, but it has some nice features.

Billy Drago stars as Asmodeus. Basically he is playing the same character he did on Charmed only now he surrounds himself with more naked women.  Drago chews up scenery as a slimy bad guy like no one else save for maybe Eric Roberts.

Tania Deighton plays his succubus lieutenant.  She has the look, but I can't tell if her fake fangs make it hard for her to talk or if she is just a bad actress. Her succubus looks really cool. The wings were a nice touch.  Yes, she is also featured on the website.

The movie though is predictable, even to the "surprise" ending.  But it has some good moments.

This movie has me curious though.  Here Asmodeus is played as the Demon of Lust as he is depicted in many older texts and not so much as the King of Hell.  I wonder why Gary picked him as the ruler of hell and devils in D&D?  Was it because of him being described as the King of Hell in some books?  Curious. The classic "Politics of Hell" notwithstanding I am curious about his rise over other names like Baalzebul or even Mephistopheles.

18 Watched / 13 New

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

October Movie Challenge: Hansel & Gretel (2013, 2015)

The Asylum is not really known for quality productions.  They are known for fun "mock busters".

Hansel & Gretel (2013) was an obvious jab at the bigger budget "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters" and Hansel vs. Gretel from this year could be capitalizing on the Vin Disel "Last Witch Hunter".

Both feature brother and sister witch hunting team Hansel and Gretel Grimm and both feature a battle with the witch/demon Lilith.  So really one should expect it is my cup of tea.  But...this is the same group of people that gave us three "Sharknado" movies.

I have to admit I crack up every single time someone says "Hansel and Gretel" with a straight face.

Ok so, these are not great movies, but they are not supposed to be.  The acting is not great, even by those that should be better.  Even the actress for Gretel changed between one movie to the next.

Obviously neither is very scary. But there are some neat ideas for witches and witch hunters here.  Though to be fair Hansel kills more people than the witches do.
It also proves my long held belief that being evil makes you better looking.

17 Watched / 12 New

Witch Families

Want to share something I have been working on here and there.  Not all of it is ready for prime time yet.

In my world witchcraft tends to run in families, mostly along the female line, but not exclusively so.  I also have a Tradition of witchcraft known as a Family Tradition.  I thought it might be nice to detail some of the families in my games.

The hardest part about dealing with Family Tradition witches and the rest of world is alignment.  By their nature they tend to be cohesive, large units that work for their own common good.  So it would not be too far out to say they are "Lawful" or even "Good".  But they also tend to disregard laws they feel do not apply to them, so "Chaotic" or even "Evil" would work.  At best they are amoral or have a different set of morality. They are loving to their own members, but can also be cruel and even kill member that don't live up to certain standards.  What I am looking for here is a set of complicated relationships that are not easily defined on an alignment axis.  Groups that can be ally in one moment and an enemy later.

To start I have three major witch families with a fourth as a mystery.

The Winter family is very, very old. So old in fact that many people believe that the season was named for them. As their name implies their magic comes from the use and application of cold.
In this family only the women can become witches.  Once a girl in the family turns 13 her hair will turn white and this is the sign that she must travel north to train with the ancient Grandmother Winters.  The girls return to the family a year and a day later with the basic knowledge of their family witchcraft.  Once returned they will continue their training with other women in their family.  Each year they all congregate at a location determined by Grandmother Winters, usually one of the larger homes of the family.  The family gathers to begin their celebrations on the Winter Solstice, the height of their power.
The family is common in the northern, colder climes.  They own lots of land, but their homes tend to be more primitive than the local homes. Longhouses are most common. Women are almost exclusively witches, with the occasional priest or even wizard.  Men tend be barbarians, warriors or occasional bard.  They are masters of survival in the cold.   Witches gain the Chill Touch spell for free.
Dark Secrets: The Winters Clan often are associated with darker, colder gods like Chernobog.  Their men are often accused of lycanthropy, mostly as werewolves.
Clan leader: Grandmother Winters
Current PC: Tanith Winters

Mont Blanc
The Mont Blanc family is also very old.  The claim is they came down from a mountain that had been blessed (or cursed) by their gods. The Mont Blanc family on the surface is a rich, philanthropic  family.  They have married into royal families across the lands and many heads of state can claim at least partial relationship to the Mont Blancs.  Not all members have the power of witchcraft, but there is a core family of the "purest blood" that all members are powerful witches, male and female alike.
Theirs in an ancient form of witchcraft passed down through the generations.
What isn't in doubt about the family is that they are rich beyond most kings and queens and likely more powerful.  The current family patriarch is Pierce Mont Blanc, an 80-year-old witch of great power and formidable personality. Though the power is shifting to the young twins Kimbra & Kelleigh.  Their gathering time is Walpurgis Night, the eve of May.
Dark Secrets: The family is the center of dozens of rumors, each darker than the last.  They are believed to worship, even consort with demons.  It is also rumored that they also possess the largest collection of occult books and artifacts in the world.  It is claimed, in more hushed tones, that the family practices selective breeding in their own ranks. Marrying young women off to older men for their fortunes if they have no ability for the craft, or inbreeding those that do show signs to concentrate the power their blood.
Clan leader: Pierce Mont Blanc
Current PCs: Kimbra & Kelleigh, and Katherine Mont Blanc

The Caliban family is cursed, so it is said.  They believe to have come from a near human monster that spawned a race of witches known as the Witchbreed.  Unlike the Mont Blancs and the Winters, the Caliban have no lands and no wealth to call they're own.  What they lack in wealth though they make up for in numbers.
While many of the members of the Caliban family can be monsters to look at, each is also well spoken, eloquent and highly intelligent.  They are often accused of being monsters, and some have embraced that role. Some though instead prefer to remain outside of society and away from those that would do them harm.
They appear to be leaderless, but there is a rumor of an ancient hag named Sycorax that rules over them and can call them to her. It is believed they all gather together on Mid-Summer's eve.
Clan leader: Sycorax, mother of Caliban and all his offspring.

There are other, lesser families, in my world as well.
There is a rumor of a fourth large clan, the Gwyddonod, but they were destroyed by the other three.

Monday, October 19, 2015

October Movie Challenge: Weekend Updates

I am SOOOO far behind schedule on this challenge.  But I managed to get some movies in, some I have seen before, but my kids wanted to see them.

Pacific Rim (2013)
Giant mechs vs Kaiju.  What is there not to love?  Caught this on FX even though I have the Blu-Ray. Still though a lot of fun and some good scary moments of giant monsters.
Status: Seen.

Beetlejuice (1988)
Ok, not really scary but also a lot of fun. Kids loved it.  The start of Tim Burton's rise to stardom.  Great performances by Micheal Keaton and Winona Ryder.
Status: Seen about 167 times and it keeps getting funnier every single time I see it.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)
I enjoyed the old Planet of the Apes series but did not care for the 2001 reboot.  These two are a better movies. While the CGI is great and convincing there is still a bit of unreality about all of this that sometimes bugs me.  I find myself asking how an ape can use a gun designed for human-sized and shaped hands for example.  Either way great post apoc fun.
Status: New to me.

La Fille de Dracula (1972)
Another attack of opportunity.  Saw it in 2013.  Was testing out a new DVD drive in my Frankencomputer and this was the one I grabbed.

15 Watched / 10 New

Friday, October 16, 2015

Friday Night Videos: Thomas Dolby

October 14th was Thomas Morgan Dolby Robertson's birthday. Known in other circles as Thomas Dolby.

Why should that concern you?  Well Dolby and I go WAY back.
I got his first album "The Golden Age of Wireless" when it first came out. It was the album that introduce America to TMDR's breakout hit "She Blinded Me With Science".  It was something of my "theme song" back in the day.

I also picked up all his albums that followed including the rare European version of "Golden Age" that did not have "SBMWS".

But what strikes me now, 33 years later, is that Dolby was so far ahead of his time.  He had one of the first websites on the internet and one of the first virtual reality websites. He help design the software used in cellphone ringtones and tons of other geeky things.

But how does that relate to gaming?  Well Dolby was also pretty much the first cyber-punk musical artist and one of the first steampunk looking ones.  I have been inspired by many of his songs in may games.

"She Blinded Me With Science" is the theme song to every mad-scientist everywhere.  This is the 12" single version that also appeared on the first recordings of Golden Age of Wireless (there are five versions of that album, I own them all, I won't get into which version of "Radio Silence" is better).  This is the 7-minute long version.  I also feel cheated when I hear the short American-radio edit cut.  Growing up I thought I would become the scientist like Dolby was playing here, but instead I became the psychologist.

Another song from Golden Age, "One of Our Submarines" sounds steam-punky, but is filled with Cold-War agnst. Today it is easy to forget that for a time in the 80s the Russians were going to nuke us while we played D&D in our basements.

The Flat Earth is a totally underrated album in every sense of the word. It is softer, but darker and far more mature.  "Mulu The Rainforest" mixed with some articles I was reading in Dragon and this old horror story I read from India of all places about a small, furry vampire.  Rainforests can be scary ass places.

Also from The Flat Earth, "I Scare Myself".  No reason. I just really like this song and this album.

Aliens Ate My Buick came out when I was in college and endless opportunities were open to me. I really loved this album, but it lacked the punch of Flat Earth.  "Budapest by Blimp" was featured here during my vampire songs marathon back in April.  It's eerie and haunting.  You could almost think of it as a requiem for the Cold War.

The fact that more people don't know about Astronauts & Heretics is criminal.  Actually I get it, it was very experimental even for Dolby. The world wanted Grunge in 1992 not experimental electronica.  We had to wait almost 10 more years for that from Moby.   "I Love You Goodbye" is one of the best songs on the album really. The cajun vibe of the song inspired two different adventures during my long Buffy campaign; The Enemy Within and Under a Cajun Moon.

Review: How to Game Master like a Fxxxing Boss

I try to keep it at least PG-13 around here.

Anyway, I picked up +Venger Satanis' latest book, How to Game Master like a Fucking Boss, not because I think I need help running my games (I have been running games for 35+ years now) but because I Was very, very curious about what he had to say.  Besides,  I am sure there had to be some tips worth reading.  In any case, I am certain it was going to be a fun read.
I also wanted to read this because I was curious about his "O5R" philosophy. I have been doing something similar in my games with my kids, and I wanted to see his views.

To begin VS talks about what Role-Playing and Game-Mastering is.  Ok, I expect this.  He made a point about how he used to run games to where he is now.
• Do I have all my stuff (books, notes, dice, etc.)?
• Do I have a general idea of what’s going to happen?
• Am I ready to crank this bitch up to 11?
I understand this.  I have a game I am running at a convention in 24 hours or so.  Right now the only thing I would add to that list is "Do I have my Pre-gens?"

The book itself is largely divided up into various short essays that talk about what to do in any broadly defined situation.  A lot of it is common sense, but there are few gems in there as well. I like the bits on handling NPCs and especially the NPC villains.  In truth, his "Seinfeld" advice was about the last thing I expected to read here but I enjoyed it.
Other treats include the "Who to Blame" random table. Most of the tables are pretty fun and many are very useful.  I loved the whole section of tables about Cults.
There is a section on the magical language he created for his games that add a nice bit of flavor, but I am wondering if would not have been better in The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence book.

It ends with three sample maps and an afterward.

While I certainly thought of this as a fun read I am not sure I got that much out of it.  Granted I also don't think I am the target audience.  I will certainly use the tables and his magical words are kind of neat.  I think what I really need to do is give this one to my son and have him read it.  He is a longtime player, but has only run a few games.  He certainly has anxiety about running (as well all did the first few times) and I know there are some things in here that would help him out.

I think I will certainly use his cult tables to see what I can come up with.

Kickstart Your Weekend: Alpha Blue

+Venger Satanis is at it again, this time with a sci-fi-ish setting that frankly I am bit excited about.

You can go to the Kickstarter page to read about it.  He has less than a week left.

The premise reminds me of the +Shon Richards' story Pleasure Station Sigma. Which is a good thing in my mind.  And, yes growing up in the 70s and 80s I was a fan of adult feature "The Satisfiers of Alpha Blue".

Actually I could go on about Satisfiers. It has some interesting social commentary and Sharon Mitchell has always been a favorite of mine.

I am hopping this will be more like The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence.
It could be fun or it could be completely puerile.  I am willing to gamble to check it out.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Review: Crimson Dragon Slayer

Purple, now Crimson. +Venger Satanis could have had a whole color theme going here.

Continuing with my reviews of the products of Kortthalis Publishing. Today I want to look at Crimson Dragon Slayer.

I had pretty high hopes for this one. I am part of his target audience, I enjoyed the 80s, enjoy a gonzo edge to my games, and I don't mind mixing my genres a bit.  I also don't mind doses of humor in my games.   But....well maybe I just didn't "get it" in this one.

I want to start off with the things I liked. The book is gorgeous and I am happy to see that VS is spending his money on art than say orgies dedicated to Cthulhu.  No idea though he might be doing both.  But the art is great looking in this book.  It is basically three varieties, the "Lovecraftian" art found in earlier products (ex. on p. 23), the sword & sorcery (p. 11) and the humorous (p. 14).  My favorite though is on page 4. The layout is fantastic and the character sheet on page 41 is a gem.  Plus that cover art. Really, really excellent.  If the arrt was a problem for you in his other products then take heart here.  There is nothing here that isn't PG, and dare I even say it, G rated.  Even the scantily clad barbarian and maiden on page 11 are still covered more than a swimsuit issue.

While reading this I am struck with how this is the RPG version of the Heavy Metal story "Den". In the movie a kid from earth is transported to a sci-fi/S&S world where he become a might thewed (and bald) barbarian.  Not a bad idea really, and something I could do more with than say Carcossa. But it is also riff on the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon.

The book itself is a bunch of house rules.  Again, this is what was advertised.  Many were hinted at in previous books. Some are good, many I have seen in one form or another elsewhere over the last 35 years.  A couple things jump out at me.
Infernal Elf: I have to admit I rather like this idea and it is something I have been toying with myself since listening to Kim Harrison's Hallows series.  In that book Elves and Demons are ancient enemies, but are a little closer than they would like.  This works right in with that.
Robots: Hmm. No. Not really my thing, but I get why it is here.

The chapter on magic is interesting and something I might adopt.  At this point I am imagining Thule as not some distant planet, but as a mystical island just south of Hyperborea.

There are some magic items, some notes on converting monsters and even a small cavern crawl.

All in all the book is fine, but nothing really extra special. Maybe I was expecting more or something different. I don't know.  I am not quite sure it lived up to my expectations of it.

Ghosts of Albion at ValorCon 2015

I am going to running a game of Ghosts of Albion: Dinosauria! at ValorCon this Saturday at 10:00am.

Here is the blurb from the program.
New Year's Eve, 1853.

You are cordially invited to a special and most unique diner party.  You will be the guests of Richard Owen as he unveils the most exciting scientific discovery of our time.  You will behold Owen's incredible Dinosauria!

Dinosauria is an introductory adventure for the Ghosts of Albion Role-Playing Game.  Take on the role of power mages, ghosts, vampires or humans that hunt the darkness to protect the shores of England in the early Victorian Age.  Ghosts of Albion is powered by the fast and easy to learn Cinematic Unisystem game engine. The same system found in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel and Army of Darkness.  No knowledge of the game needed.  Game Master provides character sheets, dice and rule book.
So if you are in Chicago come on by and sit in on a game of Ghosts of Albion!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Class Struggles: The Necromancer

Very, very few classes or class concepts have been gone over more than the Necromancer.  For a class that was never part of the original game, and never actually a proper class in it's own right, a lot of ink and pixels have been spent on this class.  So much that I am sure to miss things and might even need a part 2.  Where do we start?

Well to begin with what exactly is a necromancer and what is it that appears in so many games?
Taken from the Greek a necromancer is someone that communes with the dead. So spells like Speak to Dead are a good example.  Historical necromancers, like for example John Dee, spoke to the dead to get advice. or foretell the future.   In modern parlance and certainly in games (maybe one caused the other) necromancy has come to mean a wizard that controls or manipulates the forces of death and unlife.

The easiest Necromancer is simple.  Play a Wizard/Magic-User and then only choose necromancy spells.  Wear a lot of black and hang out with undead.  This is also a very satisfying necromancer since all the trappings have to be role-played.  Alternately one could play a cleric of a god of death, take only reversed necromancy spells and command instead of turn undead.
I think though as time wore on people wanted something that wa little bit of both.

The first, or at least one of the first was from White Dwarf Magazine #22 from December 1980/January 1981.  Lew Pulsipher gives us an article about evil priests, the "Black Priests".  While these are more cultist, there is a lot of necromancy being thrown around.  This is followed by a true necromancer class also by Pulsipher in issue #35 from November 1982.  Either of these classes is fine and represent the design philosophy of the times.  Namely take and rearrange already familiar elements.  The Black Priest and this Necromancer have the same shortcomings though; a reliance of human sacrifice.

The Necromancer is turned up to 11 with the publication of Dragon #76 in August 1983 and Len Lakofka's death master class.  Designed to be an "NPC Class only" I remember seeing it first in the pages of Best of Dragon Magazine Vol. 3.  I admit, I rolled up a death master right away.  He became a major antagonist in my games for many years to come.

In AD&D1 the example of the Illusionist gave birth to the speciality wizards of 2nd Ed.  One of those speciality wizards was the Necromancer.  This continues in practice to the most current version.  Though unlike the Illusionist, the Transmuter or even the Evoker, the Necromancer got it's own book.  The Complete Book of Necromancers was one of those books that everyone seemed to want.  I remember picking it up back when it was first published. I paid $15 for it.  Later the cover price jumped to $18 and soon it became very rare. No idea why.  The aftermarket price jumped considerably and I ended up selling mine on eBay back in 2000 for $81. Not a bad deal really.   I recently picked up a copy at Half-Price Books for $9.  The PDF just about the same price.  Though the book is crammed full of necromancer goodies. Spells, magic items, undead familiars.

Moving out into the world of Fantasy Heartbreakers there is the near-compatible Quest of the Ancients.  This necromancer reads like the Death Master, but has some interesting spells and some powers.  The Arcanum/Bard Games also has a necromancer class.

3.x had, at the last time I looked, at least 3 different kinds of official Necromancer classes.  The two best are from Libris Mortis: The Book of Undead and Heroes of Horror.  Heroes of Horror featured the rather popular Dread Necromancer class.  There is also the Death Master class from Dragon updated to 3.0e.  The Crypt Lord from the aptly named Necromancer Games. Not to mention dozens of others from other third party publishers.  Most take the same elements and reorganize them, but every so often something new is produced.

4e had necromancers as well. It was a type of wizard (much like the witch was) and was introduced in the Player's Option: Heroes of Shadow book.  It had some rather neat features to it as well.

For the OSR things are really no different, dozens of different types and sorts of necromancers. I am only going to talk about a few.

One of the simplest also belongs to one of the simplest OSR games.  Basic Fantasy has a necromancer class on their downloads page for free.  It has a lot of spells and weighs in at an appropriate 13 pages.

I would have to say one of my favorites, at least in terms of style, is the one from Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.  The necromancer here is cut from the "evil cultist" mold like their warlock and has a lot of great spells and powers.

Magical Theorems & Dark Pacts also has a great necromancer and the big feature of this class (and this book) is the number of spells.  While this book as more spells, the AS&SH class is slightly better in terms of what I want. Right along with that is the necromancer from the great Theorems & Thaumaturgy. A basic class, but some really nice spells.

Another really cool one in terms of how the necromancer is presented is the one from Adventures Dark & Deep.  Darker Paths 1: The Necromancer is certainly in the vein of the "this is an evil class" but +Joseph Bloch makes no bones about the fact that players will be playing these as evil characters.  It's sort of the point of his "Darker Paths" series. In that respect this is a good one to pick up just to get some ideas on how to play an evil character.  Plus it has some unique spells.

Back at home I have most of these printed out and put into a folder.  I also have a number of character sheets of all the different types of necromancers.  Basically I have six characters with two sheets each; a 3.x sheet and an OSR compatible one (the five above and an old fashioned MU with necromancy spells).  This gives me 12 different sorts of necromancers for 6 characters.  I call them the Order of Six based on a group I introduced in my Buffy games.  I am planning on using them as my bad guys in my games, but right now I am only playing 5e! So I can't really judge how well they all work.  Similar to what I did with the Witch's Nest.  Sounds like a plan to me.

By the way. My son has a 5e game he is in charge of.  He has a 15th level necromancer in that game and it is wicked.

I feel like there is alot more to say but I have only scratched the surface.

What is your favorite necromancer class?