Thursday, March 31, 2016

Koliada, The Winter Witch for D&D BECMI

Yesterday I wrote about Koliada the Winter Witch for D&D 5th Edition.  While I really enjoyed how she worked out I could not help but think how she might fare under the 36 levels of the Basic-era D&D BECMI.

I felt from the start of D&D 4 that is shared certain characteristics with BECMI.  Both go to really high levels (30 for 4e and 36 for BECMI) and both have immortality as a possible option for characters at their highest levels.
Early on, and I am not sure if I posted this or not. I remarked on how 4e characters start out fairly powerful. I said, at the time, that really a 1st level 4e character is closer in power to a 5th or 6th level classic character.  I have been wanting to put that idea to use (and I'll talk about this next month in fact), but I thought I would give it a go here first.

In D&D4 Koliada is a 26th level character.  Let's work under the assumption that the translation for D&D4 to BECMI is to add four levels.  So Koliada would be a 30th level Basic/BECMI D&D character.  But what kind?
In 4e she is called a "Solo Skirmisher".  When I translated her to D&D5 I opted for a Warlock with the Magic Initiate feat to give her some Sorcerer spells too.  BECMI is not as flexible in terms of class customization.  Magic-User is a choice.  But, and this should be no surprise, I am opting for Witch as her character class.

My 5e conversion made it pretty obvious that she is a Fey Pact. In my Witch book this would translate as a Faerie Tradition.  Though I think there is now ample evidence to me that there must be something like a Winter Witch Tradition too.   Not ready to debut that just yet though.
Also, in complete dumb luck, a 30th level witch in my Basic Witch book has the level title of "Winter Court Witch".  Witch it is then!

Now I Would have LOVED to convert this for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. After all what can be more Hyperborean than an evil winter witch?  But the level caps would not give me the conversion I wanted.  Sure I could do a 13th level Koliada, but that would not give me a decent basis of comparison.  So instead I am going with the D&D Rules Cyclopedia.
I also went to the 4e book, Player's Option: Heroes of the Feywild for ideas on their witches and on the Feywild.

Koliada, The Winter Witch
30th level Witch (Faerie Tradition)
Female, Chaotic

Strength 16
Intelligence 17
Wisdom 15
Dexterity 20
Constitution 19
Charisma 20

Saving Throws
Death Ray/Poison 3
Magic Wands 4
Paralysis, Polymorph 3
Dragon Breath 6
Rods, Staffs, Spells 5

Hit Points: 80
AC: -3
(leather armor +4, Ring of Protection +3, Dex 20 -4)

THAC0: 8
(I know, THAC0 was not used in Basic D&D. You know what this means)

Occult Powers
Familiar: Iceling*
(like a frozen sprite. From Dungeon 162)
Lesser: Speak to Animals (not plants as well)
Minor: Fae Shape
Medial: Curse
Major: Shape Change

Cantrips (6): Alarm Ward, Chill, Daze, Ghost Sound, Inflict Minor Wounds, Spark
1st (9+3): Bewitch I, Black Fire, Cause Fear, Charm Person, Chill Touch, Endure Elements, Fey Sight, Ghostly Slashing, Glamour, Light/Darkness, Minor Fighting Prowess, Silver Tongue
2nd (8+3): Bewitch II, Defoliate, Discord, Enthrall, Freezing Gaze, Ghost Touch, Hold Person, Invisibility, Phantasmal Spirit, Spell Missile, Whispering Wind
3rd (8+2): Arctic Grasp, Bestow Curse, Bewitch III, Dispel Magic, Feral Spirit, Improved Faerie Fire, Lifeblood, Spirit of Hyperborea (Spirit of Avalon), Toad Mind, Witch Wail
4th (7+2): Analyze Magic, Bewitch IV, Charm Monster, Elemental Armor (Ice), Fluid Mastery, Intangible Cloak of Shadows, Phantom Lacerations, Spiritual Dagger, Withering Touch
5th (7): Bewitch V, Blade Dance, Death Curse, Dreadful Bloodletting, Hold Monster, Nightmare, Waves of Fatigue
6th (7): Bewitch VI, Death Blade, Evaporate Fluids, Eye Bite, Mass Agony, Mislead, True Seeing
7th (6): Bewitch VII, Death Aura, Greater Arcane Eye, Greater Blindness, Insanity, Wave of Mutilation
8th (6): Bewitch VIII, Destroy Life, Greater Mislead, Mystic Barrier, Wail of the Banshee, Imprisonment (Ritual)

Note: Koliada's spells will manifest with some wintery, cold, or icy aspect.  So Black Fire is cold, Defoliate will cause a freezing wind to blow and kill plants, Elemental Armor will be ice and so on.

She has a lot more spells here than either the 5e or 4e version.  But both 4e and 5e have a number of "at will" powers or other powers/spells that can be regained.  BECMI characters have to wait till the next day for their spells to return.  So she also has some spells that have similar effects to other spells.

I also think I need a Winter Witch tradition and some more cold based spells.

Books used in the conversion process.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Koliada, The Winter Witch for D&D 5

Back in June of 2009 D&D 4th edition was still on the shelves and Dungeon #162 was available for download.  Inside was an Epic level adventure by Stephen Radney-MacFarland called "Winter of the Witch". It featured the machinations of the so-called Winter Witch, the minor Archfey Koliada and her plans to freeze the world.    From the adventure:

"In this epic adventure, the Winter Witch—a legendary archfey—has launched a campaign to send eternal winter cascading over large portions of the world. After a summons to Winterhaven, the characters find a land locked in ice, and an old ally in need of aid. A trek to find a artifact known as the Sun’s Sliver ensues, the only force potent enough to defeat the Winter Witch and banish her from the mortal world once more. An adventure for 22nd-level PCs."

While not totally an original plot, it was still fun, well executed and had a lot things going for it.  But mostly it had Koliada who grabbed my attention from the start.  It also started me thinking about witches of winter.  In particular, why are there so many. Louhi, Elsa and the Snow Queen), Jadis, all the Jadwiga winter witches from Pathfinder and so on.  Notably almost all of these are also royalty, if not outright queens.

This also got me thinking about the War of the Witch Queens campaign I want to do next.  So good job +Stephen Radney-MacFarland! Your character from 7 years ago has inspired me quite a lot.

Recently I have been thinking about D&D 4e conversions.  Both to 5e and to BECMI specifically.  5e, because it is the D&D of the day now and D&D 5 makes a lot of allusions to past versions.  For example the Prince of Frost, Koliada's father/brother/lover/patron appears both in the Dungeon #162 adventure and as a potential Warlock patron in D&D5.

For D&D 4 to 5 conversions (and I'll talk about BECMI ones later)  I opt not to use a 1 to 1 correspondence.  Instead, I convert on a 2/3's basis;  Take the D&D4 character and times it's level by 2/3rds.   WotC still has her stats up, she is a 26th level solo skirmisher.  A lot about her though says Warlock, in particular a fey-pact Warlock Hexblade from the 4e era.

Conversion in this case is going to be more concept driven than finding correspondences with powers.  In fact for a 26th level warlock she is missing a number of spells and powers.  To be fair, the adventure never says that is what she is; just my translation.

So in 5e terms what is she?  Well. I think I made a solid case for her to be a warlock. Her powers come from her patron, the Prince of Frost (Fey Patron). She has a magical sword she can summon (Pact of the Blade) and she has a number of ice based powers.  Now she could use some more oomph, she is the main antagonist afterall, so I buffed her up with some feats.  Let's have a look.
26th level in D&D4 translates, roughly to 17.3333 level, or 17th level in D&D5. She also has some really high ability scores too. I am scaling those back a bit as well.

Koliada, The Winter Witch
Warlock 17, Eladrin Female, CE
Background: Noble

Strength 16 (+3)
Dexterity 20 (+5)
Constitution 19 (+4)
Intelligence 17 (+3)
Wisdom 15 (+2)*
Charisma 20 (+5)*

Proficiency Bonus: +6
Proficient skills: Arcana, History, Intimidation, Persuasion
Saves: Wisdom, Charisma

AC: 24 (studded leather +4, Ring of Protection +3)
HP: 165 (HD d8)
Speed: 30'

Sword of Blackice, "Rimefang" +11, 2d8

Fey Patron Warlock, Pact of the Blade
Patron: Prince of Frost

Feats: Elemental Adept (cold), Magic Initiate (Sorcerer), Keen Mind, Spell Sniper

Powers: Fey Presence, Misty Step, Beguiling Defenses, Dark Delirium

Invocations: Agonizing Blast, Eldritch Sight, One with the Shadows, Thirsting Blade, Sign of Ill Omen, Lifedrinker, Witch Sight

Spells Known
Cantrips: Eldritch Blast, Chill Touch, Blade Ward, Mage Hand, Ray of Frost (MI), True Strike (MI), Ice Bolt (SS)
1st level: Faerie Fire, Sleep, Fog Cloud (MI)
2nd level: Calm Emotion, Phantasmal Force
3rd level: Blink, Fear
4th level: Dominate Beast, Greater Invisibility
5th level (current casting): Dominate Person, Hold Monster, Scrying, Seeming
6th level: Conjure Fey
7th level: Finger of Death
8th level: Power Word Stun
9th level: Power Word Kill

Languages: Common, Sylvan, Draconic, Primodial, Abyssal

All in all, a nice build.

I am ignoring her Unique Kill quality about only being killed via a bolt of sunlight from the artifact Sun's Sliver. 

Have to try her out now against my players!

Monday, March 28, 2016

Getting Ready

I am getting ready for the big GDQ adventure, but this past weekend I was visiting my sister in my old home town.

I stopped by my Seond Favorite Local Game Store, On/Off the Square in Jacksonville, IL.
I love stopping by to support the local guys so I picked through his box of loose minis and came out with these:

Plus some giants and a bunch of bugs.  I have some more here at home, so my collection is growing nicely.

This is going to be great!

Now I just need to sort through my giants and make sure I have enough.  Though, if push comes to shove, I also have some old toys of the kids that would make decent enough hill giants.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Willow & Tara: D&D 5th Edition (Modern)

I haven't visited my witches in a while. Some part of my brain likes to think they are nice and retired, living in the suburbs somewhere raising a bunch of daughters.  So I never even considered doing a post with them for D&D 5.

Geek and Sundry decided to do it for me.

Granted they did for the Buffy cast, but Willow and Tara got a special place on their list.
Check out their link, If the Apocalypse Comes, Play D&D, to give them the hits.

They also did some Harry Potter sheets too, because Hermoine and Willow in the same game would be epic. (Also remember, the Scobby gang are the same ages of the Potter kids. They were in "high school" at the same time).

But here are my girls in their D&D form.

So. What Wild Shape would Tara prefer?  I also approve of Tara being just a bit lower level than the rest of the gang.

Necromancy for Willow?  You know, I think I can see this.

These are obviously early in their adventures, Season 4 to 5 I would say.

Consequently, today is Alyson Hannigan's birthday! So Happy Birthday Alyson!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Tournament Scoring Sheet

If anyone wants a copy of my DM's Tournament log sheet I have it up on Google Drive.
It's not much different than what is in C2 Ghost Tower of Inverness.

Link to DM Scoring Sheet


Leprechauns: The PWYW Experiment Continues

Something I put together for St. Pat's day, but didn't get through the approval process in time.
Two options for adding Leprechauns to your games.

First up is a race as a class option for "Basic Era" games.
Leprechauns for Basic Era Games

While I working on that one +James Spahn released his very fun Hero's Journey, so I felt a Leprechaun race option might be fun for that.
Leprechauns for Hero's Journey

The PDFs cover the same essential materials, so having one will give 80% of what the other has.
Both are Pay What You Want.

If you have some spare change and what to try a new class/race might I suggest this.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Weekend Gaming: Ghost Tower of Inverness

This past weekend an old grade-school/highschool friend was in town with his kids so we played some D&D5.  They had been over before and we had a lot of fun then.

Their character were all 5-6 level, but all of our characters were higher and in the middle of the Slave Lords series.  Originally I was going to run an adapted Temple of Elemental Evil, but in the end I opted to run something I have been wanting to run forever; C2 The Ghost Tower of Inverness.

While reading through it I also decided that I was going to run it as a Tournament module, complete with scoring for individuals and team.

Well everyone had a great time.  It had been a while since I last used this module and even longer since I had thought about it for D&D.  But it was quite satisfying.

Tournament scoring is an interesting beast really.  Not sure if I will ever do it again, but I am happy to say that I have now done it.

The adventure took about 5 hours, which is what I expected.  I wasn't too strict on the time in turns elasped since all it did was change their team score.

To tie this into the larger Come Endless Darkness plot/campaign I am having the Soul Gem as one of the artifacts used to drain the sun's life force.

Should make for an interesting and fun time as we lead into the Giant series coming up!

Monday, March 21, 2016

A to Z Blog Challenge 2016 Theme Reveal - Participation Asked!

It's that time of year again!  Time for the Blogging A to Z challenge.

Today is the big reveal of what your theme will be.

I have done a theme most years of the Challenge and will be doing one again this year.  I find a theme really helps focus what I want to do and gives me the chance to go into a topic very in depth.

For 2015 it was Vampires
For 2014 it was Witches
For 2013 is was Demons
and for 2012 it was RPGs.

This year I want to do something to keep my regular audience engaged and coming back and also to share this wonderful hobby with others.

So for 2016 the theme is Adventure!
(yes I am including the exclamation mark).

For the month of April I want to dive into some classic, some new and some odd adventures.  I want to focus on ones people can also still get.  I will talk about my experiences with them and get some tidbits that others can use.

Since my kids have been old enough to play I have been taking them through the classic TSR adventure modules.  Part of it is nostalgia on my part, I won't lie, but it is also more than that.

I have said before that these adventures give us all a shared story in this community of gamers.  My sons can and have talked to complete strangers before based on this shared experience alone.  Over the years at Gen Con I have run S4, B1, Ravenloft and Bone Hill with my kids and we have had tons of people come by to see what we are doing.   It has been a great experience for us all.

I also enjoy it because now at a much older age I can appreciate these adventures on a completely new level.  Sure I can make (and have made) my own.  But that's not what this is all about. I don't need to prove to myself or anyone that I can write an adventure; I did plenty of that over the years.
This is about nothing more than fun and a shared story.

For this Challenge I think I will focus my attentions on the adventures that have appeared in the Dungeon Magazine's 30 Greatest Adventures of All Time.

I am also going to feature adventures from the games I have been playing with my kids.

So for my regular audience, please stick around all month and see what I have to say.

How did you survive the Caves of Chaos?  How did you die in Temple of Elemental Evil or the Tomb of Horrors?  Who did you see along the way? Aleena? Eclavdra? Mordenkainen?

For my new and returning A to Z visitors. Please read these tales and hopefully you will get some more insight to this weird but fun hobby we have.   Adventures are like stories.  But here the stories and the characters take a life of their own.

I hope to see you all here.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Kickstart Your Weekend: Five for Friday

Lots to talk about today, so without further ado.

Classic Edition GM Screen
from +Richard LeBlanc and  New Big Dragon Games Unlimited.

I have been waiting for this one for some time now ever since Richard first teased it.

Sherwood: The Legend of Robin Hood
from +Jonathan Thompson and Battlefield Press

This one looks interesting. I enjoy the Robin Hood legends and this is multi-stated for 5th Ed, S&W and Pathfinder.

Baker Street RPG: Jack the Ripper and Missions from Mycroft
from +Bryce Whitacre

I played Baker Street at Gen Con and it was a fun time.  This looks like an excellent addition to the game.  Honestly with the way Baker Street works this could be an excellent addition to ANY Victorian-era game.

Sandy Petersen's Cthulhu Mythos for Pathfinder

Sandy Petersen knows Lovecraft.  To see this for Pathfinder is a real treat!  And this one looks so good.

Hollow Earth Expeditions: Perils of Mars
by +Jeff Combos

I enjoy the heck out of the HEX books.  This one looks like a ton of fun too!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Class Struggles: The Basic Vampire

The great thing about Basic-era D&D (OD&D, B/X, BECMI) is how flexible it is.

That flexibility and something I always had regarded as a negative, race as a class, is now something I wish to exploit more.

For that I give you the updated and slightly revised Basic Vampire class.
The Blood is the Life - Basic Vampires

This is actually part of an experiment for me. Well two really.

The first is to see if the Vampire as a class would be something that others would want or play.
If so, there is a whole game I have been playing around with for a while that I think will do nicely.

The second is an experiment on publishing a "Pay What You Want" title.

I have had conversations with other publishers about PWYW and they are unwilling to do it. Claiming that they will never get the money they need to make it worthwhile.  I disagree, I think the gaming community at large and the OSR community in particular would rather pay for the materials they want.

If this is successful, and success is a relative term, then expect to see more from me like this.

The Race-as-Class works so well for the Vampire. Afterall if an elf can fight and cast spells, then a vampire can fight and do all the things that make a vampire cool.

Mind you I am not trying to do a Basic knock off of Vampire: The Masquerade here.   This is still the same basic-era vampire we have been fighting for 40 years.  He just now can start at 1st level and work his way up.

Let me know what you all think.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

GMs Day 2016 - Last few days/hours

It's Super Tuesday in Illinois.  With a little bit of luck I'll be out voting later today.

You can also vote today, with your dollars!
The GM's Sale is still going on at RPGNow and there are so many good deals going on.

In particular my Sisters of the Aquarian Order is still in the top 10 of the GM's Day sales.
Get it now before the price goes back up!

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Iconic Witches of D&D

No game this past weekend. I wasn't feeling great and my son was at a birthday party.

I was thinking about Friday's post on the witches of Rahasia and of Ravenloft and it occurs to me that D&D lacks in iconic witches.  There are great examples of Vampires, Liches, Wizards, Priests, Paladins, Rangers, enough Thieves to fill a guild, even Bards.

The witches in Rahasia are one thing, but the ones in Ravenloft don't even have proper names really.

Pathfinder does a good job with their iconics.  Feiya is a proper witch, but even the sorceress Seoni is often referred to as a witch.  Not to mention all the witches to be found in Irrisen like Queen Elvanna.

The witches three. Larina, Feiya and Seoni
I have my iconic, Larina.  But she appears mostly in my Pathfinder books.

Who do we have for D&D?

Well for starters and maybe the most iconic is Iggwilv, the Witch-Queen. We also have Elena the Fair, Witch Queen of Summer. Also, while not as a well know or even explicitly a witch is Skyla.

There is also one witch that both D&D and Pathfinder share, Baba Yaga.

There was also Koliada, the Winter Witch. a Level 26 Solo Skirmisher from the 4th ed era adventure "Winter of the Witch". But there is not a lot out there about her.  Interestingly Pathfinder also has a lot Winter and Cold related witches.

Dungeon Crawl Classics gives us Lady Kyleth, The Witch Queen.

Personally I'd love to see more.  There might be more, I just haven't found them all yet.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Rahasia, Ravenloft and Witches

While reading the new Curse of Strahd book I could not help but notice that Rahasia was listed as inspirational material.  This prompted me to go back and look over my well worn copy.

Like Ravenloft Rahasia was written by the Hickmans. It began life as a two-parter for the RPGA, Rahasia and Black Opal Eye.

Between this and the new Curse of Strahd book it got me thinking about thinking about how witches are portrayed in the Hickman's adventures.

The Ravenloft "Bavorian" Witches are fairly stereotypical to be honest.  While that is fine in the confines of the gothic horror tropes, there is always room for improvement.

In Rahasia, the "Witch Sisters" are much more powerful when the are together and have access to the Black Opal Eye.   This includes taking over the bodies of others and communicating with their black panthers.

I still can't help but think they might be more interesting as one of my Basic Era Witches.

Karelena, Solorena & Trilena
Human Female Witches
Faerie Tradition

Level: 1 (5 when together using the magic of the Black Opal Eye)
AC: 9
HP: 5 (11), 4 (10), 6 (13)
Move: 120' (40')
Attacks: 1 (athamé)
Damage: 1d4
Save As: W1 (W5)
Morale: 6 (12)
Alignment: Chaotic

Familiar: Black panther for each

Each knows the following cantrips:
Chill, Close, Dancing Lights, Irritate and Spark

By themselves the witches can cast the following spells:
Karelena, 2 of the following: Command, Magic Circle Against Good, Sleep
Solorena, 1 of the following: Charm Person, Pop Corn, Sleep
Trilena,  1 of the following: Light, Spirit Dart, Magic Circle Against Good,

When encountered together they can cast an additional spell above and any two of the following each.  Hold Person, Knock, Levitate, Mind Obscure, Spell Missile

Together they can also cast:
Level 1 Ritual: Consecration Ritual
Level 2 Ritual: Calling the Quarters
Level 3 Ritual: Imbue Witch Ball

This makes them a little bit more of a threat.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Review: Ravenloft 3.0

The 3.0 era was on us.  I had just come back to D&D from a long hiatus and to my surprise we were getting a new Ravenloft setting and it was going to be penned by Swords & Sorcery Studios/Arthaus/White Wolf.  Say what you like about WW, they do know vampires.

Ravenloft 3.0 was one of those books I bought in the new 3.x era and I loved how it looked.  I splurged and grabbed the limited edition version from my favorite local game store.

Ravenloft Core book 3.0

I thought the art was fantastic and loved how well it adapted itself to the 3.0 rules.  But I had already had some experiences with 3.0 and even had pictured up some Swords & Sorcery Studios books and enjoyed those as well. The races were a nice treat to be honest. For the first time I really felt like I could run a Ravenloft game with the likes of gnomes, halflings and especially half-orcs, now rebranded as Calibans and the new Giogoto.

I think though I was expecting more at the time.  SSS was part of White Wolf like I mentioned and I was hoping for some of what made Vampire: The Masquerade so good to be here.  In re-reading it now, so many years later, I find I had unrealistic expectations.  In truth this book is a much better organized and updated version of the 2e Domains of Dread book. The nice thing about Ravenloft (and many of the D&D worlds) is that the plot kept moving along despite edition changes.  Though there is also a nice timeline included so DMs can do what they want.

This book has a black and white interior when most others were going full color.  To me this is a feature, not a bug.  Ravenloft is world of shades of grey and the art here is helps convey this.   The book is a basic campaign guide including the people, the lands and most important for Ravenloft, the horrors of the lands.  There are some new feats and skills. No new spells, but suggestions on how magic will be altered by the Mists.  There is even a section on the Gods of  Ravenloft.

Since most of this book covers the lands, their inhabitants and the Cultural Level of each, there is not a lot of crunch.  Translation: You can use this with any other version of D&D you like.  Even the feats look like they would work well with 5e still.  Even the section on "Fear, Horror and Madness" would work well.

It lacks large foldout maps of the 2e days, but it is a surprisingly good resource to me these days.
Well worth picking up.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Review: Curse of Strahd (D&D 5e)

Quick question. Who played Dracula?

Your answer might depend on a lot of thing from when you first saw Dracula in a movie to your age to what your cultural background is.  I also bet that the choice of actor might also say something about your gaming choices, but I am not getting into that today.
Like Dracula, who keeps coming back from the grave to scare or charm a new generation, Strahd the Vampire and his home in Ravenloft keep coming back for each version of the D&D game.

You can easily buy a Ravenloft product to fit any version of D&D you like.  There have been subtle changes with each round of designers and editors.  To extend the Dracula movie metaphor more, I6 Ravenloft is "Hammer Horror" (Christopher Lee).  2e Ravenloft Domains of Dread (boxed sets and books) were "Bram Stoker's Dracula" (Gary Oldman).  3rd Edition was split between Wizards own Expedition to Castle Ravenloft ("Dracula 2000," Gerard Butler) and the Ravenloft setting from White Wolf/Arthaus (Lestat movies).  4e's board game, Undead books and Shadowfell books were different enough that these are more like the NBC TV series Dracula (Jonathan Rhys Meyers).
This new book is "Dracula Untold" (Luke Evans).

I have converted Strahd to a couple of different systems myself.  I have been playing in Ravenloft, the castle and the land, since the original module came out in 1983.  I played it when it first came out and it is one of maybe three adventures I have run under every version of D&D I have ever played.  Ravenloft has history both in game and in the real world.  It was my world of choice in the AD&D 2e years and the effect it has had on adventure design can't be overstated.   To call it a sea change is not hyperbole.

So the new 5e Ravenloft has a lot to live up too.

I mentioned here back in the Summer that I was going to run the original I6 Ravenloft adventure for my family at Gen Con 2015.  I spent most of July prepping for that, working out Strahd's 5e stats, converting the major magic items, filling in some details.  None of it was hard work really. Again I *know* this adventure like few others.  The hardest part was balancing out what has become the de rigueur method of handling a D&D 5 encounter with the more plot-driven nature of the Ravenloft adventure.   Having this new Curse of Strahd book then would have helped me out a lot.

The new book is a retelling of the same I6 Ravenloft adventure from 1983. On the down side there is not much about the "Demi-Plane of Dread" as we knew it back in 2e.  This is more 4e Shadowfell.  Including it as part of the Shadowfell actually gives the DM more flexibility to be honest.   So that is good.  I did not notice much from the disappointing 3e Expedition to Castle Ravenloft here. So that is also a plus.

The book itself is hardcover, full color, 256 pages. Suitable for levels 1 to 10 for D&D 5.  The "Castle Ravenloft" adventure itself has been upgraded to level 9.

The first 90 pages or so are some introductions, some background and the updates Castle Ravenloft adventure.   There is an introduction and forward here too. The subtle snark directed at the likes of Twilight in Tracy Hickman's forward can't be missed.  There is a page on how to run a horror-themed game. It's nice, but nothing new and by no means complete.   If you really want to run a horror game find a copy of +Kenneth Hite's "Nightmares of Mine" or Spooky: The Definitive Guide To Horror Gaming.

The book is basically a sandbox, with Castle Ravenloft (the place and the adventure) in the "middle".  It is designed for adventurers from 1st to 10th level.  There are a few really interesting "side treks" including the low level "Death House", the medium level "Argynostholt" and the high level "The Amber Temple".  Death House is available for free from WotC.  So I would grab that first if you are on the fence about this.

Souls vs. Shells
One of the new "features" of this book is the idea that not everyone in Barovia has a soul.  Now if you were playing this as a horror game then this would be a truly frightening concept. The scenarios that are implicit in this are numerous.  Hapless villagers moving through their lives in drudgery, unfeeling save for a pervasive dread.  Or worse yet the same said villagers coming to the PCs begging them to find their lost souls.  Or PCs born in Barovia discovering they are among the "Soulless Shells".   Sadly though as a D&D game I see this only working as an excuse for PCs to murder bystanders.

There are some interesting character options, like the new Haunted One character background.  The iconic magic items like the Sunsword and the Holy Symbol of Ravenkind are here too.  As well as the Tome of Strahd.   The Gothic Trinkets are a really nice touch to be honest.
There are some new monsters too.  The is a fantastic full color tear out map of Castle Ravenloft (roughly 32" by 24") on one side and Barovia on the next.

I think in the end I was hoping for more.  Maybe not so much as a repeat of the 2e Ravenloft Domains of Dread campaign world, but something...more.

There will be a Tarokka deck you can buy later.
I think I still have my 2e one around somewhere, but I prefer to use Tarot cards myself.

You can read the table of contents here.
I got excited when I saw that "Barovian Witch" listed under NPCs and had hoped to see an update to the 2nd Ed "Witches of Hala" but sadly this was not the case.  But it has given me some ideas.

I know. This is Pathfinder, but this is what a witch in Ravenloft could look like.
Ok bottom line time.  Who should buy this and who should avoid it?

Buy this if...
You are a fan of Ravenloft and want to have a complete collection.
You are a fan D&D 5e and want to have a complete collection.
A fan of adventure design and want to see how a 1st ed to 5th ed conversion can be done.
If you are planning to ever run Ravenloft under 5e.
Like the idea of playing in the Barovian sandbox.  This is actually a big one to be honest.

Avoid if...
You are not planning on running the classic Ravenloft adventure.
You are not playing D&D 5e.
Want to do your own conversion of one of the many options out there for taking on Strahd in his castle.

There are no new classes or races.  Not even rules for playing a Vistani.
There are no new spells or rituals either.  This seems like a bigger miss to me.

In the end you have to decide for yourself.  I am certainly not someone that needs tips on playing horror game, nor am I going to run Ravenloft (the adventure) under 5e (already did it) and don't need help converting.  There isn't anything here I could not have done on my or haven;t already done on my own.  But I got it anyway.  Hopefully there will be a sequel for levels 11-20.

Just like Dracula, Strahd can (and will) come back.  There are even details in the book about how it happens.  So maybe a sequel is already in the works?

Now that would be fun!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Ravenloft, Now on DM's Guild

Curse of Strahd is coming out on March 15.  If you live near a Wizard's Premier store you can get your copy now.  With this releaseWotC has also opened up Ravenloft to the DM's Guild.

I hadn't really considered doing anything for the DM's Guild.  Not because of the pricing structure, but because it was more restrictive than the OGL, but this might make me change my mind really.

Back in college during the dawn of 2nd Ed I played the hell out of Ravenloft.  For me really Ravenloft and Second Edition are synonymous.  I know my experience is not entirely unique.  Of course back then I was a poor college student; money could go for pizza, beer or D&D books.  Guess which one usually lost.

The result was what we all did back then, we wrote our own material.  Now I will admit that my writing from the late 80s and early 90s was not great. So maybe only 5% of things I did then would be worth publishing in any forum or form.  But some of that stuff I really liked and would like to see it see the light of day.  So to speak.

Time to dive into my archives and see what I have.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Friday, March 4, 2016

The New Ghostbusters

The new Ghostbusters trailer is out if you have not seen it.

I LOVED the first Ghostbusters.  I got a Ph.D. in Psychology because I wanted to be just like Peter Venkman. (well....sorta).  It is one of the few movies I consider to be "perfect". It hits every beat and there is not a wasted moment on screen.

I think this new movie looks great.

Here. Let me say that again. I think this new movie looks great.

I said as much on the Youtube site and I have been bombarded with so much ire that I can't quite get what the hell these people are thinking.  I have been accused of being a.) a bot. b.) a Sony employee. c.) a Sony bot.  d.) a woman e.) a lesbian but mostly f.) an idiot.  In fact the comments got so bad that someone (either YouTube or Sony) deleted them all.  I still have the emails though.

I have read some of the comments on this too and frankly, I am dumbfounded.

I am no fan of random off the cuff remakes...but this is that. This feels more like a sequel or reboot.
Plus it is also an idea I have been hearing about for 20+ years.  Restarting with a new generation of Ghostbusters.  It worked for Ghostbusters Extreme. Hell it worked great for the Next Generation. Seriously, what the hell is the problem here?
(Reads more comments).  Oh.  Seriously? People are bitching about an all female cast?
I really only have one thing to say about that.

Grow the fuck up people!

Your whining and bitching about this "ruining your childhood" makes you sound like whiny children.
Your complaining about this being some "feminist agenda" makes you sound like a neanderthal and a stupid one at that.

I am going to watch this movie. Likely I am going to enjoy it. But whether it is good or bad ultimately will depend on the script and the actors involved. NOT in the fact that it's a remake or an all female cast.

Plus Kate McKinnon can do no wrong in my mind.  It should be good just because she is in it.
Provided as proof,

Thursday, March 3, 2016

GMs Day sale at RPGNow

It is RPGNow/DriveThruRPG/OneBookshelf's annual GMs Day sale and there is a ton of books on sale.

Including Sisters of the Aquarian Order.

In fact the Sisters seem to be in very good company right now.

#7 on the GMs Day sales. You can pick it up along with White Star.

I am taking this time to comb through my wish list and grab those books I have been wanting for a while.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Link Roundup

Lots of things going on today. So here are a list of links I have been reading or need to read in detail still.  Thought I'd share.

Curse of Strahd is coming.  Ravenloft was my all time favorite module to play and run. The Demiplane of Ravenloft was my world of choice during the 2nd Edition days.  So I am finding it hard to wait till this new book comes out.  Thankfully my FLGS is a Wizard's Premier store, so I should be picking up my copy this weekend.  But until then here are some things to keep us all busy.
Looks great so far!

The Witch is out. The movie that is. I have been following this film for months, so I hope it lives up to the hype.  So far I pleased with everything I read, though I am not trying to read to much to be honest.  Some of my fellow bloggers have already seen it.
I need to see this movie.

Once a again a tip o' the hat to my good friend +Calvin Heighton at Calvin's Canadian Cave of Cool for this one.
It's a "Dragon Wagon" with a surprisingly familiar font.

Is this the conveyance of some mad wizard?  A collector from the future? A Gamma World/D&D crossover?  No idea, but damn if I don't want to do something with this.
Here are some more links of information/pictures.

Need to learn a new language?  Well there is a Chrome add-in that simulates language immersion by swapping out words you read with those of the chosen language.  Which language?  Any language in Google Translate's database.  Trying it out now.

Finally the same folks that brought us the Harry Potter fan film The Greater Good just finished their newest fan film, Severus Snape and the Marauders.  I do love a good fan film!

I have to say the casting of this is spot on.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Old Loves

I have been blogging here for a while.  Mostly about D&D and related clones, but some other games too.  I was reading over some rule books for games I have not played yet or haven't played in a long while and I was thinking.
I really miss the modern supernatural genre.  I have lost track of all the games I have played over the years since the early days of Chill and Call of Cthulhu. I have lost track of all the books I have read in this genre as well; has to be in the hundreds by now.  But I also enjoy the over the top heroics of D&D and supers games too.

So imagine my surprise when I saw Eden Studios was finally publishing the long, long, long, awaited Beyond Human.

Years, a life time ago it seems, I helped with this book.  I contributed quite a bit to the magic chapter.  The magic system is based on my Ghosts of Albion game, which is based in turn on C.J. Carella's own magic systems in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (another game I worked on) and on the WitchCraft game.

I really would love to get something new for these games going again.   Ideas are plentiful, time really isn't.

One day I'll return to this world.