Friday, January 29, 2016

Friday Night Videos: Frog Leap Studios Metal Covers

No big theme tonight. Nothing to do with RPGs either.

Just a new artist I discovered this week.
Leo Moracchioli of Frog Leap Studios (which I think is just him and his wife, and sometime their daughter) does these amazing metal covers of popular songs.

You can find his cover on Amazon and iTunes.

Here are few I got a kick out of.


Kickstart Your Weekend: Family and Familiars

A couple of Kickstarters today.

First is a really cool one,  I really love Castles & Crusades, but I also really love D&D 5e.
So it is really cool to see the Troll Lords bring out a product for 5e that was also one of my favorite Troll Lords books.

5th Edition: Familiars, Monstrous Companions, Steeds & More is part of their new 5e line.  It is an update of their Castles & Crusades Book of Familiars.   Though I have on very good authority that this book is more than a conversion, it's a complete rewrite of the book.

It looks really cool and will be a nice addition to my 5e library.

This next KickStarter I know very, very little about except that it is a widow wanting to bring her late-husband's game to the market.

The game is EVERYVERSE RPG and it is a multi-genre RPG.

You can also read more about it on their blog at,

Both are worthy of your attention.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Review: The Winter Witch by Paula Brackston

I have been researching a bunch of witch books and winter witches in particular.  I found bunch of books so here is the first.  Paula Brackston was recomended to me as a fan of Harry Potter. In this book, The Winter Witch, I didn't quite see it, but I think other books of hers might be a closer fit.

There was a lot about this book that attracted me. Set in the early 19th Century, set in Wales and it dealt with a witch from a line of witches.  Interestingly enough her parent that was a witch was her father.

The story revolves around Morgana and her new husband Cai.  The characters are both likable and you really root for them throughout the book.  Morgana has a quiet...sorry no pun meant; she is a mute...sort of witchcraft.  She can move things with her mind, see far away places and other subtle powers.  I really like how her powers were protrayed and how they grew throughout the story.

The story of course is not without conflict. This arrives in both mundane issues such as the villiage getting used to Cai's strange new wife, a priest who is accusing her of witchcraft and a rival witch that wants Cai and his land.
The story built rather slowly and honestly I felt it dropped a bit in the middle, but near the end Brackston turns it all the way up and it becomes a magical adventure and battle worthy of it being mentioned in the same reviews as Harry Potter.

I listend to this book as an audiobook from Audible.  Marisa Calin was fantastic as all the characters and really did do a good job of giving Morgana a voice.  I am happy to see tht she has read other books from Paula Brackston, so that also makes her books more attractive to me.

In the end I am giving the book 3.5 out of 5 stars.

For gamers this is a good set piece to show how well you can involve low level character in epic battles.  I will have more to say about Winter Witches when I am done with the other "Winter Witch" book in my TBR pile.

This book qualifies for the following reading challenges.

Belle's Library New To You Square

No surprise it fit so many, I was joining all these while I was reading it!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Greatest Pen and Paper RPGs

I know it's silly, not at all accurate, not really an indication of anything really.
But it is fun.

Rank your favorite RPG!

The Greatest Pen and Paper RPGs

Vote for your favorites. Add something that isn't on the list.
Oh and if possible, spare a vote for Ghosts of Albion! ;) Thanks.

Original Dungeons & Dragons at DTRPG

Well.  Hell is frozen.  You can now buy a legal PDF copy of the Original Dungeons & Dragons rules.

No you too can play the game that started it all.  For just about the same price charged then.

Monday, January 25, 2016

A to Z sign up is Live

The sign up for the 7th annual April A to Z blog challenge is now live.

I am participating again this year.  Last year was a challenge for me to be honest.  But I hope I am better organized this year.  I already have an idea for my posts, I just need to check my Y and Z posts.

I do encourage others in our little corner of the internet to participate.  It not only helps grow your readership and blog, it also helps grow our hobby.  I won't lie, sales of my books go up in April.  People read what I have and they get curious.  My book plus Labyrinth Lord or my book plus Basic Fantasy is enough to get a newbie going for under the price of going to the movies.

Think about and join me if you can.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

7 Myths About the Aquarian Order

“The Star Knights are valuable allies. When they are not thinking with their swords...”
-  Abbess Wednesday CLX of the Kelron Priory 

“We have a saying, ‘Never trust a Witch.’  It’s been good advice.”
-  Master Mic-ahn Amej of the Star Knights

The Aquarian Order are a mysterious group. They do rarely reveal their goals and motivations and never come out and say what their plans are.  They also actively spread disinformation about the nature of the order.   With a large galaxy of trillions of inhabitants, rumors and stories spread.

Myth 1, The Sisterhood are not Human:  The most common belief is that the Sisterhood isn’t, or is no longer, human.  This is also the furthest from the truth.  The Sisters are very much human, and any human in the galaxy can be born and become a Sister. Providing that they are female of course.

Myth 2, The Order is the Female Version of the Knights: Also common and also very far from the truth.  The average galactic citizen is likely to have heard of the knights, and even a few may have seen one.  When they learn about the Sisterhood they naturally assume that they are part of their Order.  Many female Knights find this a little insulting.  Both are esoteric orders with their roots in ancient times and both wield strange powers.  Knights and Sisters are concerned with the safety and well-being of humanity, but their methods are often very different.

Myth 3, The Sisters like/hate the Knights:  Those that do know the difference assume there is some sort of accord or rivalry between the two groups.  The truth, like most things, is much more complicated.  The Knights and the Sisters can share goals on one mission and be at odds on others.

Myth 4, The Sisters practice Magic:  Another common myth is that the mystical power of the Sisters are magic. Again the truth is more complicated.  The powers the Sisters have are fantastic but they come from training their minds and their connection to the Gestalt.

Myth 5, Failed Candidates are Lobotomized: One of the more distrusting rumors spread about the Order is that those that take the Test but fail are somehow lobotomized. Either via the process or by the Sisters themselves.  This is also not true but based in the reality that the vast majority of the galaxy does not know about the Tests and what happens after the test.  In reality failed candidates go back to their lives, but are sworn never to talk about it.

Myth 6, The Order takes Girls from their Families:  This one is partially true. The Order searches the galaxy for potentials. Girls that show psychic potential are taken back to the Order’s homeworld of Gaia.  Here the girls are trained, but they are not completely cut off from their former lives.  Once they become full Sisters many are too busy with their own duties.  There is also reality that these girls spend their formative years among the Sisterhood and they do view them as their new family.

Myth 7, There is more than one Sisterhood:  This one is also true, but not in the way most people think.  The vast majority of people in the galaxy do not realize that all the Orders of the Sisterhood are part of the same Order.  The truth, only known to very, very few is there a splinter group known as the Capricorn Order that Sisterhood does not want anyone to know about.

More answers when Sisters of the Aquarian Order is released.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Dungeons of Dread

Wizards of the Coast has released the PDF of the famous S-Series modules, Dungeons of Dread.

This has long been my favorite series of modules.  I have great memories of playing these as a kid and even better memories of running these for my kids.

For 10 bucks you can get this class set of adventures, considered by many to some of the best adventures ever written.

Friday, January 22, 2016

The Temple of Elemental Evil

Confession time.  I have never run or played through The Temple of Elemental Evil.
I think I was in the Villiage of Hommlet once, but that was back in the early, early days of the game.

So I have to admit I really want to run it now.  Though I want to tie it in to my current D&D5 game.
Trouble is that the characters are now already 7th level and in the middle of the Slave Lords.  I didn't want to start with T1 because for me it was more important to start with B1 and B2.

So I have the T1-4 supermodule on PDF, but there is a lot going on that I am not a fan of.  Not that it isn't good, it is, but not what I need or want.  Plus I am no fan linking Zuggtmoy to the temple.  Her powers are not elemental in nature.  Plus I always liked the idea that some remnant of Tharizdun especially in the guise of the Elder Elemental Eye.  Maybe this is an elemental themed patron for a warlock.  The idea is of course to play into the larger "Come Endless Darkness" plot line.  So yes this evil is related to the larger evil. Which might be Tharizdun. At least that is what I have always considered over the years.  Turns out that +Joseph Bloch agrees with me.  I already did S4 and WG4, so I guess I am going in reverse.

As usual I have an embarrassment of riches. Too much material actually.

I found some 5e Conversion notes that look really nice.
And I have a lot of choices when it comes to plots, ideas and adventures.
Of course I will use T1 The Village of Hommlet and likely a good portion of T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil.  Given my particular desire to make an easy job far more difficult I am also going to look at versions for other editions.
I read through most of those last night.  T1 is easy, T2 will be a bit more work.  I think I am going to steal a lot of ideas from Return and Princes of the Apocalyspe.

While doing some research, I discovered this blog post, that talked about T2 The Temple of Elemental Evil as promised  back before T1-4 came out.  It is a very interesting read to be honest. That is where the image above came from.

Here are some other posts I consider "must read" on my goal to build this gigantic conspiracy of evil.
To me "Expert" level (as listed on the T2 cover) is 4 to 14.  But I am more likely to do 4 to 8.  Then the characters of this adventure will then join the other characters of the Order of the Platinum Dragon to move on to GDQ.

So it is settled.  Zuggtmoy is out. Tharizdun is in.  What is his plan?

Simple. He wants out.  He has convinced all these different evil factions to blot out the sun and deliver the essences of gods to him they think they are going to obtain godhood, but in truth they will be freeing him.  Maybe each has a piece of the Elder Elemental Eye.  Lolth has Air, Orcus has Earth, Dagon/Hydra has Water and someone else has fire.  I kinda want it to be Asmodeus.  But I am leaving out the mindflayers.  Why Air for Lolth when she is underground?  Air represents what she has lost. Plus I like tying her to the Queen of Air and Darkness.

This will also let me try some of the new material coming out for 5e.  Like +Mark Craddock's Dhampir TK Monk!

What have your experiences been?  What should I watch out for?

Thursday, January 21, 2016


I love White Star. It's been a ton of fun so far and I really, really enjoy it.
But I also love Basic D&D more than I do White Box S&W. What's a guy to do?

Simple. Make a new mashup of everything I enjoy!

Basic? Yup! Horror? Sure why not!  Lovecraftian beasties?  Of course!

In the little campaign I am working on for my Sci-Fi game it is a giant big Galaxy that has been mostly explored.  So it is less Star Trek and more Star Wars, but certainly there are Trek enfluences.

However there is trouble on the horizon, and that trouble is in the form of the Old Ones.
The stars are finally right.

This is not really an original idea.  But It does include a lot of things I have laying around.

White Star
Starships & Spacemen 2e (for ideas on using Basic)
B/X Basic and Expert (for the rules)
Labyrinth Lord (for rules up to 20th level)
ACKS (for more rules)

So Basic, Labyrinth Lord, ACKS, and Starships & Spacemen...

Welcome to BLACK STAR! ;)

For some background I want to use Eldritch Skies.
I would then mix in Psionics and Lovecraftian Beasties.
A place to adventure and place to play.

The obvious tribute to David Bowie also makes this appealing to me.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Class Struggles & PWWO: The Intergalactic Rogue

The Scoundrel. The Rogue. The Thief.  If you are going to have a galaxy full of Knights, law-enforcement or otherwise protectors of the public trust and law and order then it behoves someone to give all those people work to do.

This is where the rogue comes in.

It doesn't matter how advanced we get as a society there will always be the fringe element that does not want to play by the rules, either as a lovable, if "scruffy" scoundrel or the actually evil thief.

By chance I picked up a number of print copies of some OSR books. I grabbed hardcovers of White Star from +James Spahn, Between Star & Void by +Matthew Skail and a softcover of the B/X Rogue from +Gavin Norman.

One of the first things I noticed was how well the Star Knights might work as a Green Lantern like police force.  And that the galaxy needed more rogues.

Thankfully Gavin Norman's B/X Rogue is so flexible that we can swap out the bits that make it B/X (sorry) and add in the same bits from Swords & Wizardry.  In truth it is not even that complicated.
In the B/X Rogue all the "Thief Abilities" have been replaced by "Rogue Talents".  You start with 4 and  work up to more.   Talents have a high margin of success, only failing under rare circumstances.  So that makes the Rogue into something more versatile.

Magic Talents are an issue and should be taken out.  But I mentioned before that +Richard LeBlanc's Basic Psionics Handbook can be used to add some of wild talents for rogue talents to create a rogue with some power.  Maybe they are a failed mystic, Knight or Sister but still have some powers.

I would also assume that anything like pick locks would extend to their futuristic White Star analogues.   Same with pick pockets.  Instead of actually taking money out of their pocket the rogue has a device that captures transaction codes and allows them to steal credits.

While our model of a classic rogue is often The Grey Mouser, Shadowspawn and even Bilbo our White Star rogue is Han Solo (to a degree), Neo (at the start of the Matrix), mostly James "Slippery Jim" Bolivar DiGriz from "The Stainless Steel Rat" series, Peter "Starlord" Quill (movie version at least), and 90% of the patrons of the Mos Eisley Cantina...I assume.

Now we have a Scoundrel class already which fits some of this thanks to Tenkar.  But the rogue is something a little different.  This now practically begs someone to build a Bounty Hunter class ala "Cowboy Bebop".

Plays Well With Others
A total cheat on my part here.  Both White Star and the B/X Rogue are so flexible that feats of Game Master legerdemain  are not needed here.
There are some features of the B/X Rogue though that make it more suited for White Star than saw the thief from S&W.  This allows for differences in Starlord and the Stainless Steel Rat.

Actually this gives me an interesting idea, but that is for another post.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Mail Call, Part 2

When it rains it pours around here!

Look what else was in my mail box today.

A collection of Basic Psionics books from +Richard LeBlanc including a sticker and a pin.

Alpha Blue and Liberation of the Demon Slayer from +Venger Satanis!

Looks great with the batch I got on Saturday.

Now to come up with something that ties all these together!

Though I do want to point out that the Basic Psionics and White Star books have been BEGGING me to mix them up into something different.  I already talked about how well the B/X Rogue and the Psionics books work together.

Dawning of the Age of Aquarius

By some calculations today, January 19th is the day that the Sun enters the constellation of Aquarius.  So it seems like an astronomically good time to make this announcement.

I am proud to announce my next book.  I give to you, The Sisters of the Aquarian Order for the White Star RPG.

(maybe not the final cover, but close)

Coming in February 2016.

This book will detail the Sisterhood of the Aquarian Order from their early, pre-historical roots to the present day and their uncertain future.  It will cover their roles in the White Star game, their goals and motivations, The Capricorn Heresies, and of course, their near-mystical Rituals and the mystery of the Gestalt.  

I hope you all enjoy this as much as I have had working on it.

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Return of Strahd

The news is finally out, Ravenloft is coming back.
I have known about this for a while now from multiple reliable sources but obviously could not say anything.

Curse of Strahd is the next campaign for D&D 5.

So yeah...I am REALLY excited about it.

I just hope that Barovia is not relocated to the Forgotten Realms. We all know it is from Mystara!

But in any case this looks great and I can't wait till March 5th!  (Yeah I get new releases 10 days early).

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Mail Call!

Look what came in the mail yesterday!

Hardcovers of White Star from +James Spahn, Between Star & Void by +Matthew Skail and a softcover of the B/X Rogue from +Gavin Norman.

They all look great and since they came in at the same time I am thinking a Plays Well With Others is in order.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Friday Night Videos: Women Rock!, Part 2.

A while back I posted a bunch of videos from women that rock.
It was quite popular.

I said then that a part 2 was in order.  So here it is!

K's Choice wis a band from Belgium that had some notoriety in the mid to late 90s.  The biggest album was 1995's Paradise in Me which gave us the hit "Not An Addict". This was a huge song for me during my Sojourn in Hell period, for what should be obvious reasons.  My biggest issue with K's Choice is that for years I swore they were Canadian.   This is the European version of the video which I prefer.

Speaking of the 90s, no one, and I mean no one, does angry like Tori Amos.  Don't think so?  Listen to her lyrics sometime, especially songs like "Me and A Gun", "Pass the Mission", "Spark" and "Cornflake Girl" or to a lesser degree "Crucify".  Taylor Swift sings about someone and it is fodder for Twitter. Tori Amos sings about someone and it is Primal Scream Therapy.
Though the song that always gets me is the first time I saw her.  "Silent All These Year" from the phenomenal Little Earthquakes.

My scream got lost in a paper cup
You think there's a heaven
Where some screams have gone

Never fails to get to me.

I am not all about pathos.  Last time I mentioned my love of Siouxsie Sioux and the Banshees.  That is still true. But I was thinking back to the first song I ever heard of theirs.  Without a doubt it has to be "Cities in Dust".  I remember hearing this all the time in the hey of MTV. I actually sat down to listen to the lyrics once and realized it was about Volcano Day.

At this point do I really need to explain why I am including Stevie Nicks?  No. Ok good.  But I will add that this is my favorite song from the fantastic The Other Side of the Mirror.  This is a more adult and more mature Stevie.  This is a woman that knows who she is and where life is going.  At 31 she was more interesting than the "Wild Heart" girl of her early to mid 20s.

Last time I also mentioned Joan Jett, but I really need to give a shout out to the band that gave us Joan Jett, Lita Ford and Cherie Currie, The Runaways.  The Runaways have been given their due more lately. There was the bio-pic in 2010 and appearances of their signature song "Cherry Bomb" in both Lollipop Chainsaw and Guardians of the Galaxy.   The version from the movie is not too bad, but lacks something raw that original had in droves.

Taylor Momsen may have gotten her start as "Cindi Lou Who" but thankfully for all of us she sold her soul to darkness.  Just kidding...mostly.  Well years later she is fronting the band Pretty Reckless and she seems to be constantly trying to shed that wholesome image.  She is, in some sense, the spiritual successor to The Runaways.   She looks like Cherie Curry and tries to sing like Joan Jett.  She isn't bad and the band has some good songs.  "Heaven Knows" might be the most recognizable.

So who are your favorites?

New 5e Material Out Now

This did not take long.

+Mark Craddock over at the excellent Cross Planes blog has already gotten two new classes out for D&D 5 over at The DM's Guild.

Dhampirs and Way of the Telekinetic.

I picked up the Dhampir one and I like it. It is quick, easy and adds some fun to D&D5.
Plus it is only a buck so how can I complain about that.

It is nice to see this content come out and I hope this is a first of many new products from Mark but also others.

Everyone is fearing a repeat of the great d20 glut and flood of the early 2000s, but not me.
Bring it on! I am ready to drink from the firehose.

Congrats Mark!  Looking forward to more!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Reading Challenges

I am going to participate in a few reading challenges again this year.

Once again I am participating in The Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge at Melissa's Eclectic Bookshelf.

2016 Witches &a Witchcraft Reading Challenge

I doubt I will do as well as I did last year, but I am going to give it a try.

Also I "read" a lot of audio-books.  So this year I am also going to participate in the Book Nympho's 2016 Audiobook Challenge.  This one I expect I will do well on.  I have to commute everyday to work so I have lots of time in the car.

I have already started on both.

Another one I would like to do is the 2016 Victorian Reading Challenge.  But I don't currently have anything in my TBR piles that qualifies.  Except for games really.

Belle's Library

Still.  I enjoy these and it is a fun way to talk about something I was going to do anyway.

ETA: A few more.

2016 Prequel & Sequel Challenge

Retellings Reading Challenge 2016

2016 EBook Reading Challenge

Flights of Fantasy Reading Challenge

2016 Horror Reading Challenge

New to You 2016

New To You Square

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Class Struggles: What Should a 5e Witch Be?

This post is an odd one for the Class Struggles series.  Instead of looking at different expressions of the same class or class-idea, I want to figure out what a 5e Witch class could be via the same sort of research and analysis.

Why do this?  Well the news came out yesterday that the 5e SRD is now released under the OGL.  While I had not really seriously contemplated the idea of a 5e witch.  I had been playing around with an idea I was calling The Coven for 5e.  Where I took established classes and tried to make them more "witch like" by working within the rules. I am still going to do that since it informs my own play and how the rules work for the various magic using classes.

I want to start by looking back to these posts, What Should an OSR Witch Do or Be? and Tom Moldvay on Witches.  Why? Well, this post represents my thought process when I was working on The Witch.  I like to walk through the same exercises for each version.  Start with the assumptions and then add in the game specific assumptions and see where that takes me.

Let me start by looking at the Moldvay Criteria again for 4e, Pathfinder and my Basic witch.  Why keep 4e? Well if WotC does their own witch it will be informed by the work they did in 4e.

Ability 4e Witch Pathfinder Witch Basic Witch
1. Ability to use Herbs skills skills ability check
2. The Power of Fascination powers spells spells
3. Clerical and Magic-User magic Yes Yes Yes
4. Sympathetic Magic limited to powers limited to spells new spell mechanic
5. Worshipers of forbidden religions yes yes yes
6. Powers based on natural cycles "Moon" builds no spells
7. Covens Yes only with hags Yes
8. Ritual Magic In PHB I only limited Yes

All 8 of these points must be met in order to create a new witch class.  Thankfully, this can be done in 5e.

So the ability to use herbs can be a Medicine or Nature check, depending on how it is used.
Fasicnation can be a power or spell or some combination (which also puts a vote in favor of Charisma as the prime stat).
Clerical & Magic-user magic. Not an issue.  I have a well-established list of spells.
Same with Sympathetic magic.
Covens, Powers based on the natural cycles, and worshippers of forbidden religions will need to be dealt with.
Ritual magic is well covered by D&D5.

Ok. So the framework is there and I have some ideas how to put the witch class on this framework. Time to start thinking about how 5e plays.

Covens as Builds/Archetypes
Each class has a "build" involved with it.  The Druids have Circles, the Sorcerers have their Origins, Warlocks have their Pacts and Wizards have Arcane Traditions.   Witches could have Covens.  In other books and games I have used "traditions" to cover this same basic idea.  But Wizards have that word now.   The Druid Circles struck me as being very coven like in truth.  Though the Warlock pacts could also be redone slightly to reflect some of the same ideas I have about covens and traditions.

Ability Scores
What ability score should I use?  I have, over the years, used Wisdom, Charisma and Intelligence.
The Witch uses Charisma.  Eldritch Witchery uses Wisdom and Inteliigence.  Pathfinder uses Intelligence and Charisma.  I used wisdom for both my 2nd and 3rd edition witches.  I can come up with reasons or justifications for any of them to be honest.  I prefer Charisma with Wisdom in a close second.  Trouble is D&D 5 already has two magic-users that use these abilities each.

I think I want to take a look at the 5 basic magic using classes in terms of how well they address the Moldvay Criteria.

Ability Cleric Druid Sor Warlock Wizard
0. Ability Score Wis Wis Cha Cha Int
1. Ability to use Herbs Med Med/Nat No Nat Med
2. The Power of Fascination spell spell spell spell spell
3. Clerical and Magic-User magic Clr Clr MU MU+Pact MU
4. Sympathetic Magic spell spell spell spell spell
5. Worshipers of forbidden religions no yes/no NA yes NA
6. Powers based on natural cycles no yes no no no
7. Covens no yes no yes no
8. Ritual Magic yes yes no yes (pact) yes

Looking at the list is seems that the best "witch" is either a druid or warlock.  This actually tracks with my playing of these two classes as wtiches.

In fact.  The Warlock is very much like what I would want for a witch, but only less "blasty".

Maybe a "Witch" is a warlock that has a "Goddess/God" Patron and instead of evocations there are spells.   I will have to experiment more to be honest. And certainly more time with the 5e Warlock.

I like the idea of of some powers (Occult Powers in previous editions) and spells.

I think IF I were to do a witch I would have to be very, very selective of her spells and make sure they balance out compared to the other classes. It is possible, even liekly that the Witch and the Warlock have similar lists, but who knows right now.

5e players. What do you think a 5e witch should do?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

D&D 5th Edition SRD and OGL. Oh..and you can now write for the Forgotten Realms too.

Well no one suspected THIS I can tell you that.

Wizards of the Coast released the D&D 5th edition SRD along with the OGL 1.1 today.

They have also opened up something they call The Dungeon Master's Guild.

You can now release material under the OGL for 5e using the SRD.  OR if you want to say, write Forgotten Realms material, then you can do that too.

The SRD is nearly 400 pages of D&D 5th ed rules.

If you are a publisher and have something ready to go, you might want to consider your D&D5 options now.

So I have to ask.  Anyone interested in a 5e version of The Witch?

Weekend Gaming

The Order of the Platinum Dragon picked up a new character this weekend.  Crowley, a tiefling warlock had been captured by the Slavers in A1, he decided to stay with the group as they journeyed up the Drachenslab hills to A2.

So far the Order has done well. They have killed Markessa and are about to encounter the Ogre Mage.

The maps from the new Against the Slave Lords PDF came in very handy!

They have all already looted close to 50,000gp worth.  I might need to adjust the treasure for future modules.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Satisfied with Alpha Blue

Alpha Blue is the latest release from Kort'thalis Publishing and +Venger Satanis.

Alpha Blue is a Space Station where the party never ends.  The book is 111 pages (114 if you count covers and extra page). The art is what you would expect from Venger; good and on the creepy side.  Some I *think* I have seen before, but I can't be sure really.  But all of it really comes with a nice vibe of late 70s/early 80s sci-fi cheese.  Basically if you grew up in the 70s and 80s watching any sci-fi you will recognize something here. If you are like me then something you will like.  They layout is clean and easy to read. I also appreciate the color and b/w versions of the character sheet.

The book has a basic system attached to it, mostly, as the author describes to set the tone for a game.  The character generation system actually would well as an additional bit of character information for your standard OSR game.  There is some good material here that can be used for something like White Star or Starships & Spacemen.  Print out your game's regular sheet and an Alpha Blue sheet back to back.

The rest of the book is the reall meat of the book and might not really be most people's cup of tea.  Alpha Blue is a Space Brothel.  The obvious nod here is to the old adult movie The Satisfiers of Alpha Blue.  I will happily admit I have seen and enjoyed the movie.  Actually the movie is an interesting social commentary that all the best sci-fi movies have. But that is for another discussion.

Alpha Blue, the book, is thankfully devoid of social commentary.  I am not trying to say the book is nothing but sleazy encounters, but there is a lot here that can be great setting material...and some sleaze.

I think that Venger missed a good opportunity here to call the game master a "Blue Dungeon Space Master" or a BDSM.  A little awkward? Yeah.  No worse than Dungeon Master I guess.

I mentioned in the past that this premise reminds me of the +Shon Richards' story Pleasure Station Sigma.   The comparison still holds, but there is more to Alpha Blue than just that.

Honestly there are so many hidden gems and easter eggs here that I am still finding them weeks in to reading this game.  Which brings up a point.
The one thing this book lacks, and really could use, is it's own "Appendix N". A collection of late 70s early 80s B and C grade Sci-Fi movies and TV shows.  Off the top of my head I saw influences of Logan's Run, Barbarella (ok 60s), Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek (TOS), Star Wars (the first trilogy only), Doctor Who (explictly mentioned), Galaxina, Cherry 2000, Westworld, Heavy Metal, Weird Science, the Buck Rodgers RV series, the Flash Gordon movie and of course, Satisfyers of Alpha Blue.

There are a lot of random tables in this book too.  Personally I am not a fan of a bunch of random tables, but here it works.  After all this is a space station with a lot going on. Plus it fits not only the Gonzo-Sci-Fi style VS has going here, but also the Gonzo-OSR style all his books have.

Alpha Blue is not for the easily offended.  It is also not really for anyone that did not grow up in the 70s or 80s; too much of the content will be lost on anyone that hears "Starbuck" and thinks coffee or Katee Sackhoff.   There is the right group out there for this book, and for that group it will be a lot of fun.  Some reviews have called this an "adult" title.  Maybe.  Personally I would say it is R-rated at the worst.  Though now I do know how much damage a jelly-double headed dildo will do if used in combat.

ETA: Just learned of the death of David Bowie.  I think some stats for Ziggy Stardust, Aladdin Sane or The Thin White Duke are in order.

The stars look very different today.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Friday Night Videos: Happy Birthday Elvis & David Bowie!

Happy Birthday to two great kings of rock, Elvis and David Bowie.

Birthday Witches

Today is a special day for two of my friends. Not only do they have new witch books out but it is also their birthdays!

Amber Benson's new book in the Witches of Echo Park series came out this week.  "The Last Dream Keeper" continues the story of the Echo Park coven and the discover that one among them, Lizbeth, is the last Dream Keeper.  In this book their enemies outnumber their friends and the coven will need to protect Lizabeth no matter the cost.

+Elizabeth Chaipraditkul also has a birthday today.  Her new game is "WITCH: Fated Souls".  I am still reading this one, but enjoy what I see so far.  I supported her Kickstarter for the book and I am quite pleased to have done so.  From the book:
You are a member of the Fated. An entire new world has opened up to you. This new world is filled with different planes to explore, each more beautiful and terrifying then the next. It has magical creatures, beasts woven from dreamstuff and monsters wrapped in nightmares. It is filled with a deep and beautiful history, some which only seems like a fairy tale. Your world will never be the same.

Together with your coven, other witches and warlocks who have been Fated, you will explore all the world and planes have to offer. Your coven will protect you, share in your joy, but also be the group of people who understand the harsh realities the life of being Fated brings. You’ll deal with the society, other Fated who have formed groups and government, ruled over by a group of Fated called the Council.

It *seems* like to me you could use Elizabeth's game to play in Amber's world.  I need to read more of each book to know for sure.  But I do know I will have a great time trying to find out!

Please wish these wonderful ladies happy birthday today by buying their books.  I consider them both to be freinds and I know the time, energy and love they put into their writing.

Happy Birthday to you both!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Game of the Year 2015: White Star

For me it really is no contest what last year's biggest and best game was.

It was +James Spahn's White Star.

Not that it is faux-Star Wars in a year of Star Wars (but that helps).
Not that it is a Swords & Wizardry reskinned (but that also helps).

No, it is because it is just so damn fun.  You can tell that James must have been having a great time writing this. It shows in his work.  Plus it is such a good seller on RPGNow and DriveThruRPG others must find it fun as well.

I also give it this nod for all the great supplements that have been coming out for it. You can find some of them in this nifty little guide, The White Star Catalog.

White Star isn't just a cool set of rules, it is also a nice sandbox with some minor assumptions on a game universe.   The best elements are left open for others to play with and develop further.

Between Star & Void is a great example.
This book covers the Star Knights and their enemies, the Void Knights, in greater detail.  +Matthew Skail has done a great job of showing us what both groups of Knights can do.  I came away not so much wanting to run "Jedi" or "Sith" but something more akin to the Green Lantern Corps.  At 109 pages it is a pretty full (101 pages of content) of material for Star Knights and Void Knights.  This book also includes Mystics, Star Pilot, Way Adapt and Alien Star Knight, and of course, Void Knights and an extra special group, the Eclipse Knights.
There are plenty of new Meditations for the Knights and Mystics and new Empowerments for Void Knights.  The Void Knights really kind of steal the show here a bit.  I think everyone loves a  good bad guy.  Though the Star Pilot will get a lot of love in some game groups I am sure.
We also have a chapter on Star Knight Martial Styles and a chapter on Star Sword construction.  They really put the "Tao" in "Way" here.  I have to admit reading this feels just like playing games in the late 70s early 80s when sci-fi was king and everywhere. I had toys from various franchises and freely mixed them all together is a crazy, and mostly incoherent, whole.  But I didn't care, it was fun.
This book is like that.  Not crazy and incoherent, but certainly a lot of fun.
There are some great Appendices here too. There is an alternate Meditation system in Appendix A.
Appendix B includes some "Fantasy Conversions" for Swords & Wizardry, Labyrinth Lord, Adventurer Conqueror King, or higher level White Star games.  This includes higher level Meditations

The art is a mixed lot, but I love the cover.
There are some obvious typos and the text needs some cleaning up here and there, but nothing that impacts readability or use.  There is a lot of fun in this book and I can't wait to try it out.

Even given my long complicated relationship with Sci-Fi RPGs, I think I may have found my game.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Class Struggles: Race as Class

My love for D&D Basic era play is well known and well documented, but my love is tempered and not complete.  I have a confession.  I really am not a fan of B/X or BECMI style Race as Class.

In the D&D Basic rules Dwarves and Halflings are basically fighters with level limits.  Elves are multiclassed fighter/magic-users, also with level limits.   While this certainly works, it also seems rather, well... limiting.  I mean really, the archetypical halfling/hobbit is a thief.  This was one of the reasons I think so many people went over to AD&D.  I know it was true, partially, for me.
Over the years of game-play I have worked around this, but I never quite got used to it.

Now one thing I do like is the idea that different races should different class expressions.  So not a "thief" per se but a "burgler" would be cool.  Something special.

The ACKS Player's Companion does a great job of this really. This includes such new classes as the dwarven delver, dwarven fury, dwarven machinist, elven courtier, elven enchanter, elven ranger, and the gnomish trickster.  While these could, at the surface level, be viewed as mere renaming of the basic four classes, there is a little more to play with here in terms of special abilites.
As mentioned in the past, this is also the book you need when you want to create new classes.

+James Spahn's Barrel Rider Games has a number of demi-human classes in the Class Compendium.  These include various dwarven classes; Raging Slayer, Rune-Smith and the Warchanter. Some elves, Dark Elf, Greensinger, Half-Elf and the Sylvan Elf.  And as to be expected, Halfling classes, Burglar, Feast Master, Huckster, Lucky Fool, and the Tavern Singer.

I think there are a lot of options for race-specific classes or archetypes.

Back in the 2nd Ed days we had "kits" for various classes and some of these were racial archetypes. The Complete Book of Elves is a good example.  There is a lot of fluff and some backgrounds, but the real meat comes in when we get into the sub-races.  I was never a fan of the Drow-fetish that plagued much of post 1st ed D&D, but a sylvan elf or something stranger like a snow elf, would have been cool to play.  Heck I even created my own elf race, the Gypsy Elf, to fill this need.  We don't get to any of the class kits till Chapter 10. There are some nice choices but we also get the nearly 'broken'* Bladesinger.    *I say broken, but really I just don't like it all that much, and it was abused a lot in groups I was in.

The books for the Dwarves and the Halflings & Gnomes book are similar.  What gets me though is really how much we are lacking in race-specific classes.  Sure the entire idea behind "Fighting-Man" and "Magic-User" is so they can be generic enough to cover all possibilities. But I think after we got past 0e and certainly into AD&D we would be at a point where there should have been more race-specific expressions of class archetypes.
Something like what I did for the Dwarven witch, the Xothia.  Still a recognizable archetype (witch) but presented through the lens of a specific race (dwarf).    Honestly I would like to see a reason, given in a similar format, for the gnome illusionist.  Why are there gnome illusionists? What are they called?

The Companion Expansion from Barrataria Games does cover gnomes and wild-wood (sylvan) elves, half-orcs, half-ogres and half-elves as race-classes.  Wood elves share the same spell lists as do druids and gnomes share a list with Illusionists and bards.  All for the B/X system.  Maybe something +Gavin Norman and +Nathan Irving could look into for their updates for their respective spellcaster books.

I think in the end I would like to see more racial, or read that as cultural, applications of classes.