Thursday, June 30, 2016

The search for Q2

In August I will start the boys on the GDQ series.  Reading through all the material I can't help but wish there was something...more to the ending.

Back in April I mentioned that Q1 seemed lonely because it was all by itself and it does have quite a different feel to it than the G and D adventures.  I mused at the time a "Q2" would be a good addition.   I think I even talked a bit about a drow civil war.

I have been thinking a lot about what a Module Q2 might look like or be.  Since I am also strapped for time I thought a pre-made, published adventure might be my best bet.  I want it also to be something that challenges the characters and players.  Q1 was designed for characters levels 10-14. So I want something near to that.

Plus to make the "Q" in "Q2" mean something I wanted to stick to "Queen" adventures.  BUT not  ones that I might want to put into my "War of the Witch Queens" adventures.

So who are the contestants in my Q2 pageant?

First up is +Mark Taormino's Hanging Coffins of the Vampire Queen.  This adventure has a lot going for it. There is the Queen connection, it's high level and there is a vampire realm briefly described in Q1 that would work for this. Also, I wanted more vampires in the end of the adventure too.
On the con side the module is a slaughter house.  Making it work with Q1 would take some work.  There is also so much going in this adventure that it really could be used on it's own.  I also like the idea of making this part of the old Palace of the Vampire Queen adventtures too.

+Monte Cook's Queen of Lies is another really good choice.  It's a good adventure (having been reprinted three different times), it fits the theme REALLY well, it is about the right level, has that Drow civil war thing going on and calling it "Q2 Queen of Lies" really, really appeals to me.  (Side note I had a rather infamous NPC back in the late 80s whose nickname was "Queen of Lies").   The basic plot though really takes the characters away from the big arc I have going on, but not so much I can't work with it.  It is for D&D 3.0, but I can make that work no problem.

+Wolfgang Baur and  Gwendolyn F. M. Kestrel's Expedition to the Demonweb Pits for 3.5 is an honest to goodness sequel (of sorts) to Q1.  It also has a lot going for it. The issue I have is that Lolth is assumed to be alive when the module starts and there is no way I can guarantee that.  Yes it is unlikely she will get killed in Q1, but it is possible.  Again this one is big. I mean huge really. There is so much going on here that it is also it's own campaign.   Lots of good ideas to mine here though.

P2 Demon Queen's Enclave is for 4e, but it has the whole Drow and demon thing going for it too.  Also it was written in part by +Mike Mearls and +Robert Schwalb so I know it has potential.  It also ties in the whole thing nicely with Orcus.

First (Fantasy) World Problems I know.

I am up for an Ennie this year for Best Blog!
Please click on the link and vote "1" under "The Other Side".

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga

Well, it has taken us a year but we finally finished the Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga.

I made some changes to the adventure to have it fit in better with the overall arc of the Dragonslayers in their quest to stop the rise of Tiamat.  I also foreshadowed events of my Come Endless Darkness and War of the Witch Queen campaigns.

In the process of this adventure the characters began roughly at 20th-24th level in 3.x, converted over to 5e and they are leaving the adventure as 1st Ed characters.  In the course of the year they leveled up in the Hut so now everyone is about 29th level.  This is the reason for the switch to 1st ed since I think it handles 20+ levels better than 3e or 5e.   Also in the course of the last year I took bits and pieces from the Dragon Magazine (1st Edition) version of the Hut and something I found for 4th edition.

They fought the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

The last Rainbow Dragon.

The dragon is supposed to be this dragon:

And finally, a re-ensouled, and very, very pissed off Kostchtchie.

For Kostchtchie I used an idea I had read years ago in White Dwarf #15; the Russian Nesting Doll monster.  Though I flipped it and started with a kobold, then a goblin, orc, hobgoblin, ogre, hill giant and then finally Kostchtchie himself.    Freaked the kids out that each time they hit him he got stronger.
Yes, that is one of the old ogre figures from the AD&D action figures line.

I mentioned in my review of this adventure that it is more plot driven than the other S series adventures. Baba Yaga is more of a defined character than say Acererak or Drelnza. In fact, she is presented in much of the same manner as Strahd was in Castle Ravenloft. Though there is the assumption that the PCs won't be so stupid as to attack her. Could the right group do it? Sure, but that is not the fun of this adventure. The fun here is investigating her magical hut and finding things that might be unique in your world. The Hut itself is almost a mini-campaign world, complete with it's own rules of magic and control over the daylight and nighttime hours. It does recall some of the "funhouse" dungeons of the S series in terms of what is being offered but there is some logic applied to most of the rooms. Others, unfortunately, feel like filler.
It was a fun adventure, but not one that really lives up to the S legacy or the potential of Baba Yaga herself.

Now given the levels the characters are at I will need to start looking into some of the really high level adventures for them.  Though really they should be ready to retire.

I did add Baba Yaga as a fully stated out monster thanks to the Baba Yaga Boss Stats (5E) from 00Games. But thankfully the kids did not piss her off enough to attack her.

Up next...are the Dragonslayers ready to stop the rise of Tiamat?

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Iggwilv, The Witch Queen of Perrenland

I have been doing some research on Iggwilv for my War of the Witch Queens adventure and as part of my prep for my kids finishing up "The Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga" (more on that tomorrow).

While working on these it occurred to me that what I really wanted was a "Power Score -like" treatise on Iggwilv as she has appeared in all editions of *D&D.  So I went to the source and to see what +Sean McG  had written on the subject.  The more I read and the more I thought about it the more it seemed like a good idea to collaborate with Sean and see what his touch would bring.  Sure enough, he did a bang up job.  You can read his post on Iggwilv today.

For my efforts, I want to do something I have wanted to do forever.  Convert Iggwilv to a Basic-Era style witch.   We know a lot about her and I am basing these stats mostly on her 3.x edition version from Dungeon Magazine #149.   In that she is a Chaotic Evil human Wizard 26 / Arch-mage 4 (30 total levels).  That grants her a lot of spells and powers.
For my version, I toning down her abilities (Int 38, Cha 28...fine for D&D 3.x, not Basic) but granting her the top level of witches I have, 36th level.  Truthfully I would have been happy with anything from 30 to 36, but I have not done a witch this high of level before here.

Iggwilv also has a number of unique spells.  These can be handled by adding them as Witch Rituals.  Which is really appropriate since is was the descriptions of the magic circles in the Demonomicon of Iggwilv from S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth that got me really thinking about doing a witch class.

Iggwilv, Witch Queen of Perrenland
36th level Witch, Daughter of Baba Yaga Tradition*
Female, Chaotic (Evil)

Strength 10
Intelligence 20
Wisdom 17
Dexterity 21
Constitution 19
Charisma 22

Saving Throws
Death Ray/Poison 2
Magic Wands 2
Paralysis, Polymorph 2
Dragon Breath 2
Rods, Staffs, Spells 2
+2 to all saves via Tastchti's Mark
+5 to all saves via Ring of Protection
+2 for Wisdom

Hit Points: 66
AC: -10
(leather armor +5, Bracers of Defense +3, Ring of Protection +5, Dex 21 -4, Tastchti's Mark -2)

THAC0: 6
(I know, THAC0 was not used in Basic D&D. You know what this means)

Occult Powers

Lesser: Familiar (Quasit, "Black Comet")
Minor: Kitchen Witchery
Medial: Detect Bloodline
Greater: Curse
Major: Shape Change
Superior: Longevity

Other Powers
Arcane Diversity: As a Daughter of Baba Yaga, Iggwilv may learn other arcane spells (Wizard, Necromancer, Illusionist). She can replace 1 Ritual spell per spell level with an arcane spell she has learned.  These spells must be learned like other magic-users and recorded in her Book of Shadows ("Iggwilv's Nethertome").
This also help's explain why she was hanging out with the Circle of Eight.  She wanted to steal their spells.

Tastchti's Mark:  This magical tattoo on Iggwilv's was inscribed by the Lilitu Tastchti.  Provides a continuous +2 bonus to her saves and armor class as per the Bless spell.

Cantrips (7): Alarm Ward, Arcane Mark, Chill, Daze, Ghost Sound, Inflict Minor Wounds, Summon Vermin
1st (9+3): Bad Luck, Black Fire, Cause Fear, Charm Person, Darkness, Endure Elements, Fey Sight, Ghostly Slashing, Glamour, Minor Fighting Prowess, Protection from Spirits, Silver Tongue
2nd (9+3): Agony, Biting Blade, Discord, Enthrall, Evil Eye, Ghost Touch, Hold Person, Invisibility, Mind Obscure, Phantasmal Spirit, Spell Missile, Tasha's Hideous Laughter (Ritual)
3rd (9+3): Astral Sense, Bestow Curse, Circle of Respite, Dispel Magic, Feral Spirit, Ghost Ward, Lethe's Curse, Lifeblood, Magic Circle Against Undead, Toad Mind, Witch Wail, Witch Writing
4th (9+3): Abomination, Analyze Magic, Arcane Eye, Charm Monster, Divination, Ethereal Projection, Intangible Cloak of Shadows, Phantom Lacerations, Spiritual Dagger, Tears of the Banshee, Undead Enslavement, Withering Touch
5th (9+2): Baleful Polymorph, Blade Dance, Death Curse, Dreadful Bloodletting, Endless Sleep, Greater Command, Hold Monster, Magic Jar, Nightmare, Teleport, Waves of Fatigue
6th (9+1): Anchoring Rite, Anti-magic Shell, Break the Spirit, Death Blade, Eye Bite, Ethereal Banishment, Mass Agony, Mislead, True Seeing, Dismissal (Ritual)
7th (9): Death Aura, Draw Forth the Soul, Greater Arcane Eye, Greater Blindness, Insanity, Wave of Mutilation, Binding (Ritual), Exaction (Ritual), Gate (Ritual)
8th (9): Astral Projection, Destroy Life, Greater Mislead, Mystic Barrier, Pit, Trap the Soul, Ensnarement (Ritual), Iggwilv's Lightning Cage (Ritual), Imprisonment (Ritual)

New Ritual Spells
These ritual spells often require the use of the appropriate magical circle and often the witch's familiar, which acts as a conduit to the magical energies summoned.

Some of these spells appear in the "Demonomicon of Iggwilv". Others in her Book of Shadows "Iggwilv's Nethertome".

Level: Witch Ritual 6
Ritual Requirement: see below
Range: One creature
Duration: Special
This spell forces an extraplanar creature back to its proper plane if it fails a Spells save. If the spell is successful, the creature is instantly whisked away, but there is a 20% chance of actually sending the subject to a plane other than its own.
The witch needs her ritual items and a proper magical circle drawn around herself.  She much also cut herself since blood powers the ritual.

Level: Witch Ritual 8
Ritual Requirement: see below
Range: One creature
Duration: Special
This ritual works much like a Gate spell, save the creature gated in is trapped in a magical circle.  The creature gets a saving throw vs. Spells to avoid the ensnarement.
The witch can then demand a service from the creature for it's release.  When the service is somplete the creature will return to their own plane.
The spell ends when the witch has struck a bargin with the creature or if sunlight touches the magical circle. In both cases the creature will return to their home plane.  If the creature is held indefinitely they will get a new save vs. spells at Midnight.

Level: Witch Ritual 7
Ritual Requirement: see below
Range: One creature
Duration: Special
A witch using this spell confronts a creature from another plane and requires of it some duty or quest.
The spell will not affect creatures with alignments greatly opposed to the witch's i.e. good vs. evil, law vs. chaos. Note that a true (absolute) neutral witch is greatly opposed to all other alignments, for the purposes of this spell. A creature which can be affected receives no saving throw, nor will magic resistance protect it. However, this spell does not affect deities or divine beings.
If the creature has received a great favor in the past from a person of the witch's alignment, the witch can name this as a reason for service. This requires that the witch know the personal history of the creature. If no past service is known to the witch, he or she must pledge a valuable gift or favor to the creature in return for its service.
In all cases, the reward promised by the witch must be equivalent to the service required from the creature. The spell then forces the creature to perform the service agreed upon. If the creature fails to perform the mission, it will suffer the penalties of the spells geas and quest simultaneously, until the mission is completed. Creatures cannot be compelled to obey self-destructive or suicidal commands.
When the service demanded from the creature is performed, it is instantly teleported to the witch's location. The witch must then perform the service or grant the reward agreed upon. When the creature's reward is granted, it is immediately sent back to its own plane.
If the witch reneges on the agreement, the creature has two options to choose from. Each is a part of the original spell and does not require magical ability or spell casting from the creature. Should the agreement be broken, the creature can place the witch under exaction. The witch receives no saving throw against this effect.  Otherwise, the creature can attack the witch. Should it choose to do  this, it will be totally unaffected by any spells cast by the witch.
The material components of this spell are, the witch's ritual tools, matter from the home plane of the creature from whom an exaction is required, and knowledge of the creature's nature or past actions; written on a page of parchment which is burned to seal the bargain.

Iggwilv's Lightning Cage
Level: Witch Ritual 8
Ritual Requirement: see below
Range: 25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels
Duration: 1 Hour + 1 turn per level
This spell is a variant of the 7th-level wizard spell forcecage, and it is identical to that spell except as follows:
First, the “bars” of force energy which form the cage are electrified. Any creature, whether inside or outside, who makes contact with the electrified bars or touches them with an object composed of metal or other conductive material, must save vs. spells or suffer 10d6+10 hp damage. A successful save reduces this damage by half, but the lightning cage is not dispelled, nor are its electrical effects.
Second, the floor of the lightning cage is composed of a solid “sheet” of force energy equal to a wall of force, but it is charged only on its outside surface.
Third, unlike a forcecage, Iggwilv’s lightning cage cannot be altered to form a solid cube of electrified walls of force.
Finally, the lightning cage does not require the ritual drawing of a square with powdered diamond as is necessary with a forcecage, but it does require a material component. This material component consists of a “wand” of amber (worth 100 gp), tipped with a transparent  gemstone worth at least 1,000 gp.

Baba Yaga and the young Natasha/Iggwilv by Vania Zouravliov
Tasha's Hideous Laughter
Level: Witch Ritual 2
Ritual Requirement: see below
Range: 25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels
Duration: 1 round per level
This spell afflicts the subject with uncontrollable laughter. It collapses into gales of manic laughter, falling prone. The subject can take no actions while laughing, but is not considered helpless. After the spell ends, it can act normally.
A creature with an Intelligence score of 2 or lower is not affected. A creature whose type is different from the caster’s receives a +4 bonus on its saving throw, because humor doesn’t “translate” well.
Ritual Component: Tiny tarts that are thrown at the target and a feather that is waved in the air.

I am pretty pleased with this to be honest. Certainly not someone I would mess with.

* I considered making her a part of the Malefic Tradition, but wanted her to have the Arcane Diversity.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Monstrous Monday: Beasties from Night Owl Workshop

I like my Monstrous Mondays to be flexible.  Sometimes a monster, other times something monster related or in this case a review.

Now I have gone on the record, many, many times, talking about how much I love monster books. My first glimpse into D&D was way back in 1978-79 when I first saw and read the Monster Manual.  Very few books have come close to that feeling of unlimited potential.  So when a new monster book comes out, I have to take a look and usually grab it.

Beasties from Night Owl Workshop has something of a pedigree in my mind.  The art and text are from none other than +Thomas Denmark.  He is responsible for some of my favorite art during the d20 boom, in particular Citizen Games "Way of the Witch".

Beasties is an 84 page, digest sized, black and white interior book of new monsters.  According to the sales text on DriveThru the book contains:
27 Monsters
6 NPC's
37 Drawings!
5 Maps
1 "Megadungeon" sample.

It certainly punches above its weight class in terms of monsters and content.  All the art is by Denmark himself, as is the text with additional text by Terry Olsen.

The book is designed for "Original Fantasy Rules" but plenty of conversion notes are given for OSRIC and Basic Fantasy.  There are also some conversion notes for Nite Owl Workshop's other games Colonial Troopers, Guardians and Warriors of the Red Planet.

Monsters are typically presents with stats and description on one page and the art on the next.
Many of the monsters have a distinct "old school" or even pulpy feel about them.  Indeed, I certainly can see many of these working great with WotRP above.
There are a lot of new undead monsters to add some interesting challenges to your players too.

I love the "Flying Locust Citadel" to be honest. There are just not enough flying mega-dungeons in D&D as far as I am concerned.

Plus the entire work is released as "Open" under the OGL so that is a nice touch.

Bookmarks in the PDF would have been nice as well as a table of contents. All in all a good book for the price.

Sinderan Witches
Of course, these two caught my attention right away.  I'd love to hear more about "Sinder's ancient past" and how these two groups of witches came to be.  I'd also love to hear how the "Sinderan Light Witch" became the evil, youth stealing witch and the "Sinderean Shadow Witch" became the good protectors of the innocent.    I could build an entire tradition out of these two.

Don't forget to include the hashtag #MonsterMonday on Twitter or #MonsterMonday on Google+ when you post your own monsters!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Kickstart Your Weekend: Mutant Crawl Classics

Just a quick one today. Very busy at work.

This one might not need my help, but I want to share the word of the new Goodman Games Kickstarter: Mutant Crawl Classics.

I think I might like this better than Dungeon Crawl Classics to be honest. I have a soft spot in my heart for Gamma World and the type of gonzo play I associate with DCC works better in this world in my mind.

So check it out!!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Teela Silvermoon, Faerie Witch

While working on my Faerie Witch post (and truthfully working on some ideas for "War of the Witch Queens") I went back to my archives.

One of my favorite witch books is from the Mayfair Games "Role Aids" book Witches.

I thought it might be fun to try to "update" one of the sample NPC to my Basic Witch book.  For this I want to choose "Teela Silvermoon" since she is also a Faerie Tradition witch.

The first issue off the bat is that my Witch book is for Basic-era games and it assumes that all witches are human.  There is an "Advanced" appendix to allow demi-human races so I am going to have to go with that.

Now I have used Teela before in my games. Not often, but enough to have at least some more backstory.  In my games she is mostly the same save that she is also in love with a human ranger that patrols her woods.  She loves him, but is sad because she knows that she will out-live him.
I also have a druid circle nearby that she interacts with.

Like all elven witches Teela believes that witchcraft was created by the elves. She has no tolerance for those who despoil her woods and less so for the ones that use magic to do it.

As with other builds I swapped her Intelligence and Charisma.

Teela Silvermoon
Elf Female, Chaotic Neutral
13th level Witch, Faerie Tradition

Strength: 11
Dexterity: 13
Constitution: 13
Intelligence: 14
Wisdom: 10
Charisma: 15

BG:Vidaniel by Smilika
Death Ray or Poison:  9/7
Magic wand or devices: 10
Paralysis, Polymorph or Turn to Stone: 9
Dragon Breath: 12
Rods, Staffs and Spells: 11

To hit AC 0: 16 (15 with dagger)
Hit Points: 30
AC: 10

Occult Powers
Familiar:  Hawk ("Farseer") (Improved vision)
7th level:  Speak to Plants and Animals
13th level: Fey Shape

Cantrips: Alarm Ward, Chill, Daze, Detect Curse, Object Reading
First: Analgesia, Cause Fear, Sleep, Silver Tongue
Second: Broca's Curse of Babel, Enthrall, Invisibility, Phantasmal Spirit, Mind Obscure
Third: Aphasia, Locate Thief, Lethe's Curse
Fourth: Charm Monster, Polymorph, Spiritual Dagger
Fifth: Dream, Greater Command
Sixth: Mislead, Moonbow
Seventh:  Widdershins Dance

Cloak and Boots of Elvenkind, Dagger +1,

Looks good to me! Can't wait to bring her back into my games.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Class Struggles: The Faerie Witch

Still celebrating Mid-summer and all things faerie this week.  What better than to talk about the faerie witch for this weeks' Class Struggles.

The faerie witch is one of the easiest witches to use in a game because they most often fit the stereotype of the lone witch living in the woods.  It is a pervasive and well-established archetype of the witch.

The earliest witch classes did not split the class into traditions or covens, that is something that came later on, so it is hard to judge the merits of those classes as a faerie witch.  Certainly the Compleat Spellcaster Witch and the Dragon magazine witches had spells that would have made it possible to make a faerie witch, they were not overtly so.

I suppose I should really define what I mean by a faerie witch before I move on.  These are witches that are typically solitary, typically live in the woods alone, converse with various natural and supernatural animals.  They have practices that are similar to the druid, but certainly a reverence for nature. Often above and beyond their reverence for mortal lives.  They don't all have to be faerie-blooded or even elven, but sometimes they are.   The faerie witch also covers various hags and other witch-like creatures found living in natural environments.  To give you an idea of what I consider to be faeries witches here is a list of the characters I have built using the faerie witch tradition for various games:
The faerie witch was one of the first "Traditions" I ever wrote for the witch class along with the "Craft of the Wise", "Malefic" and "Tempenstarii" witches.  If you want a rough idea of what I was doing have a look at my Castles & Crusades version of the witch that included the faerie tradition.

So where did this come from?
There is a real-life witchcraft tradition known as "Fairy Wicca", but it would be a lie to say that is where this all came from for me.  Sure I read up on it a lot later on, but it wasn't what I was looking for.   This also me to the "Feri Tradition" as well. Looking back over my own notes over the last few days I can't tell where it came from originally except that I have a note on the back of a print out from my school's mainframe and the date on it is 1989.  The note just lists the Craft of the Wise, Faerie, Malefic and Tempenstarii traditions. Later, in a different color ink, I added Amazon, Veneficia and Voodoo.  But I know where those came from and that puts it closer to 1992.  On a side note it was interesting to delve into these paper archives. I could see the progression of technology as I flipped the pages. Mainframe printouts on white and green paper, my Tandy printer, moving on to a color Panasonic dot-matrix printer and then to the first HP Ink-jet that was the version complete version of my witch class.

Mayfair Witches
Around the same time, Mayfair rolled out it's Witches book by Nigel D. Findley for the Role-Aids line. This book was great and because of that I avoided it for years! It was published in 1990 and I saw it was doing something similar to me so I put it down.  I was deep into writing then and did not want to have my own class influenced.  I really didn't need to worry.  The "traditions" (which is a common word used to describe different kinds of witches) in this book were set up very differently than what I did.  In fact the relationship they had was more like Class and Sub-classes of the D&D 2nd edition type.  Mine had different powers, this one had different spells.  The spells really make it though and something I would like to try doing sometime.
The Mayfiar Faerie Witches (not to be confused with these witches) were more of a guardian of the forrests and friend to animals type.  Strong and fierce.  They were more Angelina Jolie "Maleficent" than the original Disney one.

The Witch & Eldritch Witchery
My faerie witch appeared in my 2nd edition and 3rd edition netbooks.  Their newest incarnations can be found in my "old school" books The Witch and Eldritch Witchery.  It is notable here because it is one of the very few traditions to appear in both books.  These witches have what I consider to be typical powers; summon familiars, talk to animals, lay devastating know the normal.  But also something that I have added to other versions in the past, assume a fey shape.  For evil faerie witches this would be a hag shape.  I have even toyed with the idea that hags might not be a separate race at all, but rather transformed witches.

The witches in Adventurer Conqueror King System's Player's Companion also are divided by tradition and features a "Fairy Tradition" known as a "Sylvan Witch". This tradition (and all the ACKS Witch traditions) have a collection of bonus spells and powers.  I rather like these to be honest. It makes for an interesting middle point between my witches and the Mayfair witches.

D&D 4
Dungeons & Dragons 4th edition actually had two pretty good "faerie" witches; the fey-pact Warlock introduced in the Player's Handbook and the witch sub-class in Heroes of the Feywild.  The fey-pact warlock certainly represents the dealing with the powers of the fae in a darker, more sinister way.  The witch of Heroes of the Feywild is really more of "Sub-class" of the wizard (something similar to 2nd ed with the witch kit) with a lot of powers and spells that give the witch flavor.

On one level I didn't like this since the witch isn't really a type of wizard.  But in reading it I can get past it since the witch is only a type of wizard "mechanically", she uses the same rules as a wizard and thus all the same powers, feats, magic items, Paragon Paths and Epic Destinies the wizard can use.  In this respect it makes her more like what I have done in the past where wizards and witches are both a type of "magic-user".   It gives the witch a lot of power to choose from.

The witch has two builds or covens she can choose from, a Full Moon Coven and a Dark Moon Coven, or if you prefer a good witch and a bad witch.  The covens have some powers associated with them, but the witch is still free to choose powers as she sees fit.
Only Paragon Path is given, the Legendary Witch, and it focuses on the two covens.  It lacks any strong thematic element, but this is a complaint I have had of the Paragon Paths of the post-Essentials line.
The Epic Destiny, the Witch Queen, though is quite good.  I had done something similar as a Prestige Class for 3.5.  This one is different but there are some interesting powers and effects.

What sets this witch apart from another Wizard or a Warlock are her spells and powers.  The witch relies on her familiar to learn magic.  Something I have seen more and more of late in FRPG versions of the witch. Her magic has a distinct feel to it different than that of the warlock, even if there seems to be some overlap.  Witches do get a minor healing power from the Full Moon Coven, and her magics in general are more subtle. She does not for example have a fireball like spell, but she can change monsters into other animals and they take damage for it.  Heavy on the charms and transformations.  Lots of powers with the Psychic key-word.  Some are similar in theme to the Warlock; Horde of Puckish Sprites is not too different, save in level than Pixie War Band.

There is something of an iconic character here in the witch Rowena (pictured above).  I'd like to find out more about her and maybe stat her up.

D&D 5
D&D 5 does not have a Faerie Witch or even a witch per se.  It does have a Warlock that takes the best properties of the 3.5 and 4e warlocks and makes something that I can use.  The warlock does have a Fae patron which has a lot of flavor to it.  A Fae-Warlock taking the Pact of the Tome makes for a pretty good witch-like character for me to be honest.  In fact, that is the character I am playing now in my D&D5 game and it is very witch-like in play.

I am sure there are others out there.  The archetype is just too pervasive not to be.

Hope you are enjoying this Mid-Summer and Full Moon.  Very witchy that.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

They Keep Killing Aleena, Back to Basic Part 3

This last weekend the kids finished up their foray into the Moat House near the Villiage of Hommlet.
Secrets were uncovered, but more mystery was also discovered.  Lareth the Beautiful, Dark Hope of Chaos was killed.  He did manage to break his Staff of Striking releasing the last 38 charges in a final strike that left everyone unconscious until the ranger Elmo arrived to return them to the Inn of the Welcome Wench.

Bargle, however, managed to escape, taking Cynder with him.
He also killed the cleric, Aleena.

When the characters woke up they were back in the present days with their memories intact.

Next up is a bit of break for these characters, but I hear there are some troubles nearby with some giants.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Midsummer Monstrous Monday: Fire Nymph

Today is the first day of summer, also known as Midsummer.

I know I was planning to do a review today, but a few things conspired against me. Work is really busy, plus today is midsummer and the RPG Blog Carnival this month is about faeries and the faerie realm. Also, my game over the weekend dealt with the disappearance of a character. This character's backstory is tied to today's monster.

Back in the early d20 days the Tome of Horrors hit the shelves and it had a number of old monsters updated for the then 3.0 d20 system and a few new ones as well.  The Fire Nymph was one of those new ones, but also struck me as something that should have been created earlier. Nymphs are fae creatures that also have elemental properties. Plus we have water nymphs, tree nymphs, air nymphs, earth nymphs, fire seemed to be the only one missing.

Since then the Tome of Horrors has been updated, converted to Pathfinder (and here) and to Swords & Wizardry.

What we don't have yet is a 5th edition version.

Fire Nymph

This creature appears as a very attractive and beautiful female with long, flowing fiery-red hair. Her eyes are pale blue and her skin is lightly colored with a cinnamon hint to it.

A fire nymph is a very beautiful creature that dwells on the Plane of Fire. It is akin to the nymph and dryad, though its origins obviously lie elsewhere. Fire nymphs rarely visit the Material Plane, though mages are known to request their company on occasion. A fire nymph is most easily summoned on Midsummers' Eve where they can walk about and interact with mortals and other fey. A fire nymph usually wears translucent robes of white or ash.

Summoning a fire nymph is relatively easy, but not without dangers.  The nymphs' passionate nature causes her to move from one emotional extreme to the next very quickly. When a fire nymph is angry her hair will burst into flames.

Also due to their passionate nature there are many gifted pyromancers that claim to be the offspring of a wizard and a fire nymph.

Fire Nyphs are also known as Pyroeads in some arcane circles.
Still working on creating 5e monsters.

Happy Midsummer!

Don't forget to include the hashtag #MonsterMonday on Twitter or #MonsterMonday on Google+ when you post your own monsters!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Kickstart Your Weekend: Spellbook Gaming Boxes Recap

Every so often I like to report on a successful Kickstarter project.  So today I want to share one I got this week, The Spellbook Gaming Boxes from Elder Wood.

I talked about them back in October and I got the boxes I ordered this week on my birthday no less!

The" books" came in a velvet bag, which was a nice touch.

I got one for myself and another for my oldest son.  My youngest didn't want one.

They are a little smaller than I thought they might be, but going back looking over everything they are exactly the size advertised.   Actually, I am rather pleased with the size.

My son filled his with his favorite minis, pencil and his metal dice.

I put in my favorite minis for my witch and the dice I use for Ravenloft and Castles & Crusades.

I think I'll get some dice special for this that I can use for that character too.  Sounds like some good Gen Con shopping!

Nice little latch on it to keep everything in place.

I kinda wish I got something on the spine, but that is fine.

The back looks good too.

I have to say I am very pleased with these and I think I would like to have another one.  They feel really sturdy, but I would not through them into a book bag.  I would use it to carry a figure or two with dice to a game or as a display piece in my game room.

No idea when they are making them for the general public yet though.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Star Trek RPGs

Every so often I get the desire to run a short Star Trek-like game.  Assemble a new crew on a new ship and have some adventures.  This goes all the way back to days of playing Star Frontiers.

I might do a couple of one-offs this summer. Not sure yet really. A natural choice, of course, would be Starships & Spacemen but I am still partial to White Star.  I also like the idea of maybe doing my Black Star game.  Maybe mixing in some Realms of Crawling Chaos and Mutant Future for that Cthulhu in Space feel.

But what has really gotten me in the mood is Pintrest.
Weird I know, but I am totally addicted to "pinning" pictures of Starships.

This one grabbed my attention so much that I just HAVE to use it somehow.

It is a "kit-bash" of the Ambassador-class Enterprise C and NSEA Protector.

I rather like it.
Credit to the ship goes here,

Since his ship is the NX-3000 Mystic, I could make mine the NCC-3120 USS Protector.

Hell. I even considered picking up the models on eBay to make my own, but my painting skills are terrible. I could never do it the justice it deserves.

Not to steal too much from Voyager or even Event Horizon, but my basic outline would be that while testing their new Warp-13 capable engines (shout out to the Omega-13 from Galaxy Quest) the USS Protector is transported ...somewhere... and in this section of space the stars are right and there are horrors.

I would add other technobable details like the curvature of the warp nacelles and how this ship uses triberyllium instead of trilithium in it's warp core.  Maybe it is a design upgrade the Federation got from the Thermians.  (All from Galaxy Quest).  So start off as a regular Trek-like game, and then BAM hit them with the horrors.   Hey, maybe the Theramins are evil. Who knows really.

Lots of ideas here.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Beasties, Birthdays and Bloodstones

Yesterday was my birthday!  Yeah!
But I forgot to get a Monstrous Monday post made. Boo!

I am planning to review "Beasties" the latest monster book from Thomas Denmark. So I'll save that for next week.'s not "Monstrous Tuesday".

In the meantime I was very, very happy to see that two of the four Bloodstone modules are now out.

H2 The Mines of Bloodstone and H4 The Throne of Bloodstone

I talked about these a few months back and it is great to see them in PDF form.  While I have the modules, I might grab these anyway so I can print them out and write on them.

It will be a lot of fun.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Back to Basics, Part 2

Yesterday the Order of the Platinum Dragon was called to the Council of Greyhawk to help figure out what to do about the sun.  Panic is setting in and the world searches for a solution.
Eventually, the great wizarding minds of the land come up with the idea to re-light Moradin's Forge. This is an asteroid that orbits the planet, but in the Dawn Time it was used by Moradin to create the Dwarves.  He then loaned it to the gods of the Elves (who created Gnomes) and the gods of the humans (who created Halflings).    He even let the gods of the Orcs use it, but they created monsters.  The Forge was then put out.

While this is going on the Order has been accused of opening the Temple of Elemental Evil and the murder of Aleena, something they have no memory of.  

We went back into their memories and uncovered their very first adventure. It was not B1 as they previously thought, but rather a visit to the Village of Hommlet where they met a cleric who wanted to know if they were adventurers like her.

We got about half-way through the Moathouse and the conspiracy theories are running rampant now.  The boys have pieced together every little detail they remember, including many I forgot!

For example, one character, who dropped out early on, is brought up.  "Where is Cynder?" refers to an elven elemental fire wizard that just stopped going with the group.  We totally forgot about her, well at least I did, until yesterday.

So far they have tied Lolth, Yeenoghu and Orcus together.  They remember the Tome of Strahd had a partial spell to block out the sun.  They remembered clues from when they went to Halfway.

For investigating the adventureI took some cues from the novelization of the "Temple of Elemental Evil" and had a goblin raid on the town and a fire at Rufus' and Burne's tower.  They never really engaged with Elmo, so I dropped him.

Frogs. With dirty little lips...
They battled the giant frogs, like everyone does.  They learned quickly that Basic D&D is much more deadly than D&D3 or 5.

Personally, I thought it was a blast.  Tables and charts that used to be second nature to me are now less familiar, but thanks to +Richard LeBlanc's GM screen and packet it was a breeze.
I will say it is one of the best GM's Screens I have used in a long time.  Much more useful than the D&D5 screen and on par with the AD&D1 screen.

Some things still need to happen.
- Aleena has to die. Sorry, but fixed point in time.
- Their memories need to be erased of this event.
- Cynder needs to disappear.
- The warlock, Croulie (that's how he spells it) also needs to be kidnapped by gnolls.  That one is easy.
- They still need to meet up Lareth and Bargel.  Lareth can be killed, Bargel is going to get away.
- Discover more about the "Elemental Eyes".

This is going to be great!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Back to Basics

So today this is happening.

The Council of Greyhawk is meeting to discuss the emergency of the Sun going out.  But in the process, Lady Ironwolf accuses the PCs of causing the death of her cousin Aleena and opening the Temple of Elemental Evil!  The PCs (and the Players!) have no memory of this.

What happened? How does it relate to the current crisis?

Won't know till later today!

Special shout out to +Richard LeBlanc.  His GM screen and sheets will get much use today.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Kickstart Your Weekend: Leagues of Gothic Horror: Shapeshifters & Vampires

Triple Ace is back with more books in their Leagues of Gothic Horror line.  This time featuring Shapeshifters & Vampires.

I rather enjoy the Ubiquity System. It scratches that itch for me that I think others get from Savage Worlds. Leagues of Adventure and Leagues of Gothic Horror also sit in that sweet spot between Victorian adventure, Steam-punk, near-Pulp action and Gothic horror.   Plus I like the rule system. It's like a mix of Savage Worlds and Unisystem in some respects.

I could really get into this game.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Witch Queens Gather...In my Game Room!

Last week it was my pleasure to share some new art I had commissioned.

Well, today my (slightly) early birthday present has arrived.

It's huge, 20" x 30"!  And it is going to look great on my wall.

+Jacob Blackmon did a FANTASTIC job.

It will join some of the other witches I have collected over the years.

I know I should take better pics, but I was in a rush this morning before work.

They say art inspires, well looking at this art this is what popped into my head.

"Outside of the Goblinwood, in the shadows of the Broken Mountains lies the village of West Haven.  Every 13 years on the Summer Solstice the witches of the world gather here to discuss plans, share secrets and keep informed of matters in the world.  Ancient pacts and rituals prevent the witches from harming or to cause to harm each other.

On the night before Midsummer's Eve someone killed Elena the Fair, Witch Queen of Summer.

Now chaos reigns as the witches prepare to go to war with each other.  Old alliances are destroyed and new pacts are formed.  Winter has come early and if a new Witch Queen of Summer is not found and the old one avenged the world will plunge into everlasting winter."

Yeah. I'd play the hell out of that game.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

White Plume Mountain at DriveThruRPG

One of the all-time greatest classic modules is now available at DriveThruRPG.

S2 White Plume Mountain

I had an absolute blast playing this with my kids.  They STILL talk about how they got Blackrazor.

DriveThru has a number of great files to go with this too.
White Plume Mountain Dungeon Tiles (lots of fun!)
White Plume Mountain Revised (3.5)

The PDF is the older mono-chrome cover, but I love this Jeff Dee one.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

League of Extraordinary Ladies: The Huntress

Have not done one of these in a while.  So to celebrate the Kickstarter for Leagues of Gothic Horror: Shapeshifters & Vampires, here is a hunter...or rather a Huntress!
Plus I was reading through some of my Ubiquity books this morning and thought it would be nice to do this again.

The Huntress
Health: 8
Style: 2

Primary Attributes
Body 4
Dexterity 5
Strength 3
Charisma 3
Intelligence 5
Willpower 4

Secondary Attributes
Size: 0
Move: 8
Perception: 9
Initiative: 10
Defense: 9
Stun: 4

Skills (levels only)
Archery 6
Athletics 7
Drive 2
Firearms 6 (hand-held crossbow)
Investigation 6
Larceny 6
Linguistics 4 (English, Italian, French, Spanish)
Medicine 3
Melee 6
Performance 1
Ride 2
Stealth 7
Streetwise 7

Danger Sense
Well Connected

Ally 3 (the Bat-Man)
Contacts (the Justice League) 3
Contacts (Criminal) 5
Wealth 5

Obsession (prevent crime, hunt criminals)

This is Helena Bertinelli, not Wayne.  I have nothing against that version of the character, this is just Miss Bertinelli.  I set her Larceny, Streetwise, Contacts and Wealth accordingly.

Again with these I am not sweating the points. I want them to feel like their comic book counterparts.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Monstrous Mondays: Zugarramurdi Brujas

This creature has been haunting my dreams for a very long time.
I wanted a creature that combined aspects of the witch, vampire, hag and lich into one creature.  A "first draft" of this creature was known as an Occult Lich, but that did not really capture what I wanted.  Here is another attempt. This time for Labyrinth Lord.

Undead Witch by doghateburger
Zugarramurdi Brujas
No. Enc.: 1 (3)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 90' (30')
Armor Class: 2
Hit Dice: 10+5*** (50 hp)
Attacks: 3 (claw/claw/bite)
Damage: 1d4/1d4/1d6
Special: Wisdom & Charisma drain
Save: W 10
Morale: 10
Hoard Class: XVII
XP: 2,600

The Zugarramurdi Brujas are undead witches that are believed to have come from the village of Zugarramurdi, Spain.  Zugarramurdi was the scene of a huge witch trail in the 17th century.  It was believed that these witch sold their souls to a devil named Akerbeltz, he gave them magical powers, silver and a toad familiar.  When alive they had power of animals and members of the opposite sex.  It was believed that these witches could also spit poison.  To maintain their power they had to sacrifice children on the night of the Summer Solstice.
Some of the accused died before they saw trail, but many of the witches were tried and executed.  Their remains, which could not be buried in hallowed ground, were tossed into a cave where the witches used to meet; Cuevas de las Brujas ("Cave of the Witches").
It is said they returned from the dead on the next Summer Solstice.

The term now is used to refer to any witch that comes back from the dead due to improper burial.  As an undead creature they are more powerful than they were in life, though most of their spell casting ability is diminished.
They attack with a claw/claw/bite routine as their primary form of attack.  On a successful critical hit (natural 20) on any attack they also drain 1 point of Wisdom and 1 point of Charisma from their victims.  Any victim reduced to 0 in either ability will become a zombie under control of the Zugarramurdi Bruja who killed it.
They also are surprised only on a 1 in 6.
They also cast the following spells as a 10th level witch: Bewitch III, Charm, ESP, Eyebite, Greater Command, Shriek, Withering Touch, and Undead Enslavement.

Zugarramurdi Brujas are vulnerable to silver, magic weapons and holy items.  Holy water does 1d8 hp of damage to them. They can be turned by good cleric as if they were vampires.  A lawful witch can also turn these creature as if she were a cleric of the same level, such is their abomination of all things the lawful witch holds sacred.   Like a vampire these creature cannot enter into a personal dwelling unless they are granted permisson nor can they ever enter hallowed ground, such as a place of lawful worship or a graveyard.  Doing so causes 1d8 hp damage per round.

Don't forget to include the hashtag #MonsterMonday on Twitter or #MonsterMonday on Google+ when you post your own monsters!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Kickstart Your Weekend: Ninjas and Badges

It's almost the weekend folks!  Here are a couple of kickstarters I think are worthy of your support.

Up first is Ninja High School a new game based on the comic of the same name.

It comes to us from +Jonathan Thompson and Battlefield Press, whom I have worked with in the past.
It's a D6 system, so it should be a lot of fun. I have been wanting to do something with D6 for a while now.

And we are nearing the last 10 or so hours of Gamer Badges by JBM Press.

I have to admit I love the idea of these.  Not just in terms getting the badges (which is fun) but also this is exactly the sort of thing Kickstarter is about; helping a small company get the capital they need to get a unique project off the ground.  Plus JBM Press are good people.

Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The Witch Queens Gather...

They are getting along now, but is War in their future?

Larina, Feiya & Iggwilv

This fantastic art was created by +Jacob Blackmon who has done tons of great RPG art including a lot of the art in the upcoming Strange Brew, which features Larina quite a bit.

If you like his work then pop over to his DeviantArt page, his Patreon page, Facebook or Tsū pages.

I am thinking of making this the "unofficial" cover of my War of the Witch Queens campaign. Which is fine given it is something I am just planning on doing in my home game and not publish.

I just need to do something cool enough to live up to the awesome in that picture.

Edition Changes as a Role-Playing Device

It is no secret that I am a fan of most editions of D&D (and many games in general).  Since I began back in 1979 I have played every edition of *D&D there is and have found something to enjoy in all of them.

Since I have been playing for so long, I have also had campaigns that have lasted years.  Sometimes these campaigns span multiple editions.  For example, my kids started with characters in 3rd edition, then those characters have kids that were started in 1st Edition and then we all moved to 5th edition.  With the occasional side step into Basic or OSR games for fun.   I have used different editions of the game for flashbacks, dream-sequences and general out-of-body experiences.

But looking at the larger picture of a longer narrative have you considered the actual rule changes to part and parcel of what is going on in the world?  Obviously, if you only play one edition this will not mean much to you or if your games have no continuity between editions.   But I have characters that started in Holmes Basic and they have descendants in my current 5e game.   Usually, it is one generation per edition, but how can I explain it when a cleric only has a mace a weapon and no spells till 2nd level when his grandson, who is also a cleric of the same god can wield a sword in some cases and his son can cast minor spells at will?

Some things I did work into a large narrative.
When I went from Basic to First Ed I explained the Class/Race Split by saying that elves in my original lands preferred to become fighter/magic-users due to tradition, but elves elsewhere in the world would choose other classes.

Going from First to Second had the biggest hurdle regarding demons.  First ed had them, second ed originally did not.  So since I had just done a huge war to finish off my "high school" games before college I just said that the war had blocked all demons from coming back into the world.

Second to third was a longer time span of inactivity for me, but the big issue was the birth of Sorcerers; people with spontaneous magic in their blood. Is this a remnant of the re-opening of the demon gates?  Maybe.   Hmm....I think I see and adventure idea!

Fourth has a slew of problems.  Mostly though the change in the nature of magic.  I have regarded this as an odd conjunction of the planes; something that altered the Cosmology.  Again, sounds like a cool thing to play out one day.

Fifth then is the return to the way things were before...with some things changed permanently.

I know there are some "in-story" and "in-universe" explanations for these changes in a lot of the Forgotten Realms material.  I will have to check these out someday and see if they track with my own ideas.

What have you done?