Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Warlock for Swords & Wizardry

Now to the Brocken the witches ride;
The stubble is gold and the corn is green;
There is the carnival crew to be seen,
And Squire Urianus will come to preside.
So over the valleys our company floats,
With witches a-farting on stinking old goats.
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe "Faust" 

Tonight is Walpurgis Night.  Tonight the witches will ride on brooms and goats to the Brocken in the Harz Mountains and celebrate with the Devil.
Tomorrow is Beltane and Witches will celebrate the start of May and the return of Summer with bonfires.

Today I celebrate the release The Warlock for Swords & Wizardry!

Cover art Copyright 2015 Dean Spencer

The Warlock includes:
  • The Warlock class
  • New race: The Tieflings
  • Rules for goblin, hobgoblin and bugbear warlocks
  • 160+ spells
  • 50+ Warlock invocations
  • New monsters including the Baalseraph, Calabim, Lilim and Shedim demon families.
  • Animal Lords and Faerie Lords
  • New Magic Items
The Warlock is 64 pages and is compatible with The WitchThe Witch for Swords & Wizardry LightThe Witch: Aiséiligh Tradition for Swords & Wizardry, and The Witch: Hedgewitch for the Hero's Journey RPG.  It is also rules-compatible with Sisters of the Aquarian Order.  In fact, all are designed to work together as a complete whole.  Getting these various witches to work together in your game is another matter entirely.

A softcover version is coming in the next couple of days.  I just need to wait till it is delivered to me for approval.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Kickstart Your Weekend: Talislanta, Blueholme and New Minis

A bunch of Kickstarters wrapping up their funding here are some that caught my eye.

Talislanta: The Savage Land

Old-school gamers will remember the infamous Dragon ads of "No Elves" in the old Talislanta ads.  Well the old Bard Games classic is back and for 5 different systems! This one looks epic to be honest and I can't wait to see how the game looks when done.

BLUEHOLME™ Journeymanne Rules

I am not sure we need another retro-clone of Old-School D&D, but I am such a Holmes fan-boy that this is hard to pass up.  Plus I have been wanting to see these rules for a while now.
That cover looks awesome and they are nearing their final stretch goal.

Dark Sword Miniatures – Stephanie Law Masterworks Expansion

I am a big fan of the Dark Sword Masterworks miniatures and now we have a series from Stephanie Law.  She joins such greats a Larry Elmore, Keith Parkinson, Clyde Caldwell and Jeff Easley. These minis look great too, they will be perfect for my upcoming Blue Rose game.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

S&W Warlock: Meet Nik Nak, Goblin Warlock

Nik Nak is one of the first warlocks I worked up for my new Warlock for Swords & Wizardry.
He is a sneaky little goblin, but smarter than most.

Nik Nak by Jacob Blackmon
Nik Nak
3rd Level Goblin Warlock (Bogelbo)
hp 11

S: 9
I:  13
W: 10
D: 12
Cn: 10
Ch: 14

Saves: +2 to saves against charm, hold, paralysis and sleep spells.
BtH: +0
AC: 7* (lesser if Armor of Shadows is invoked)
Alignment: Chaotic

Arcane Blast, Agonizing Blast, Armor of Shadows

1st: Häxen Talons, Obedient Beast
2nd: Poisonous Stare

Nik Nak is a respected, and feared, member of his goblin clan.  He is an impressive and smarter than average goblin. So smart in fact he found his way to the center of the Goblin City and presented himself to the King of Goblins beseeching him for power.  The great King admired the young Nik Nak's verve and granted him a token; a feather from his own cape.  The feather became Nik Nak's warlock familiar and now Nik Nak serves as a warlock with the Faerie Pact to the Goblin King.
In battle, Nik Nak carries a bone rod and wears leather armor. He rides on a giant frog (named "Mrs. Black") he has made obedient. He wears the skull of a giant rat as a helmet. Though this is more to protect the feather he has braided into his long dreadlocks than his own skull.
Nik Nak is a goblin, but he is not a particularly evil one.  He has learned that the threat of violence and terror of his power is usually more effective than actual violence.
Also, Nik Nak is perfectly happy to deal with adventurers in amicable terms as long as there is something in it for him or his Lord the Goblin King.

Usually found in the Goblin Wood outside the Haven Valley, Nik Nak can also be found wandering the Goblin Market where he trades wares, and insults, with other Bogelbos or in the town of West Haven where he deals with darker beings.

Despite racial enmity, Nik Nak has friendly if strained, relations with the Winterhaven gnome clan. This is mostly due to the legendary friendliness of the Winterhaven gnomes.

The Warlock for Swords & Wizardry will be out April 30, Walpurgis Night.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #56

WHAAAT?  A This Old Dragon on a Tuesday? What sort of shenanigans are these? It's true, it's Tuesday and this is Dragon #56 from December 1981!  According to my notes, I have two copies of this one.  Well, I only found one and it is missing the cover and the next pages. Also, there are lot "holes" in the magazine, things cut out for nefarious purposes (I assume), so I am hoping that my other copy is in better shape (but I doubt it).  I popped in the Dragon CD-ROM to see what I was missing.  First thing I notice is this great Phil & Dixie cover. Damn. That would have been cool to have really.   Well lets get  into what I DO have (remember what the rules are, if it is not in the magazine I have, I don't talk about it).  It's December 1981, I am in Jr. High and this is This Old Dragon!

First glance, this is a different feeling magazine than what I would later get used too.  Last week I talked about issue 84 as sort of the Dargon I was most used to.  This one is similar, but there are differences too.  Granted there is 2 years worth of development between these, but some of it might just be MY perceptions.   I didn't own this Dragon back in 1981 and that was before I started buying them. They say the past is a foreign country and this is foreign land indeed.

Out on a Limb confirms we are in a foreign land. One letter wants TWO magazines at only $1.50 each, or if TSR must be greedy, then $2.00 for one of them.  Quick peek at the CD-ROM tells me this magazine costs $3.00 back then.  We never knew how good we had it.

Ok, now the meat of this issue.  Singing a New Tune is all about a new Bard class.  Jeff Goelz gives us a new, single classed bard based on the Welsh bard.  There are a lot of good reasons to do this and this class looks good.  The level progression feels like a mix of fighter and wizard. The bard gets Druid and Illusionist spells (not Magic User) though some spells are off the lists.  I sorta remember this one but I know I never played it. I really want to now. Bards are fun.

Sage Advice follows with some advice on the PHB Bard.  The interesting point for me here is that all these issues brought up are solved by the previous article. Granted the readers submitting these questions don't/didn't have this article.

Bill Howell is way ahead of the curve here with Songs instead of Spells for the bard. This article also works out well with the first one.  Now the bard is much more of a performance caster than what the PHB bard is or even the Goelz bard is.  This presages the bards of 2nd edition and beyond.  Frankly, I want to use all three to play a 1st Ed Bard again just to see how well this works.  I know there are other versions out there. Maybe I'll run into them.

William Hamblin is next with Map Hazard, not Haphazard. This long article (6 pages) is all about creating fantasy maps. It's cool and all, but I am not looking for that level of detail in my games most times.

One of the ads has something cut out of it that mars the next article.

A quick look through the CD-ROM and it looks like all the pictures of skulls were cut out of this issue.  Over protective parent? Or did someone need to decorate their Trapper Keeper?  I say it's 50/50.

The next article over is Gary's From the Sorcerer's Scroll.  The hole goes through some of the magic circles (which will be reprinted in module S4) and the introduction to the North Central Flanaess.  Also a longer article and certainly interesting enough to Greyhawk historians.   I am sure that all of these have been collected online somewhere.

There is the 5th annual AD&D Tournament Invitationaltional entry form.  You can enter for Best Original Monster, Best Original Spell, Best Original Treasure or Magic Item and Best Original Trick or Trap.
Any idea of what entry won or who won them?

BTW, the pages of this magazine seem a lot thicker than later magazines.  No surprise really, but I did notice it.

Mad Merc by Merle M. Rasmussen and James Thompson is the centerfold adventure. This time for Top Secret. It's a big adventure really. 20 pages. I am little surprised it is intact here.

Figuratively Speaking has a nice article on metal miniatures. Or I assume. The pictures were all cut out!

Ah. Here is something fun.  Some new monsters. I love new monsters.  We have the Shroom from Lew Pulsipher which I think was in White Dwarf too. (quick check, nope it did not). None of these jump out at me, but maybe I'll use them some day.

Off the Shelf features a sci-fi novel about the rise of Donald Trump.

Finally Wormy and What's New? are in full color!
I think Wormy had always been in color, but this is new for What's New.

Nice little trip to a foreign land. I am going to have to visit more often.

Want to see what I what I Was saying about White Dwarf from the same month? Check out White Dwarf Wednesday for issue #24.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Monstrous Monday: Leviathan

Have not done one of these in a long time.

I thought it would be nice to present a monster from my new Warlock for Swords & Wizardry book.

In the book I introduce some new demonic races including the Eodemons or the Proto-demons.  These are creatures that lived in the lower planes long before the devils were cast down or the demons were there.  Warlocks can beseech the Eodemons for power, but there is always a danger.

Here is the Eodemon Leviathan.
Leviathan has featured in a number of my games and is the destroyer of worlds. "He" eats magic and is attracted to worlds full of magic. "He" has destroyed a number of worlds already in my multi-verse and he hungers for more.
Warlock can choose the Leviathan as a Patron, but doing so makes the Leviathan aware of the warlock's own world.  Some warlocks believe that tapping into the Leviathan's power weakens him and keeps him in a sedated state.

Hit Dice: 25 + 19 (131 hp)
Armor Class: -6 [25]
Attacks: 1 bite (4d6)
Saving Throw: 3
Special: Capsize, digestive acid, swallow whole, dominate and summon water-borne creatures, spells, +2 or better weapon to hit, immunity to fire, electricity, and poison, magic resistance (100%), telepathy 100 ft.
Move: 24 (swim) / 9 (ground)
Alignment: Chaos
Challenge Level/XP: 34/8,600
This monster is believed to be is the oldest of all the Eodemons.  Leviathan is so ancient that even other demons seem in awe of “his” age and power.  It is assumed that it is a "he" though there is no evidence to suggest either way. Leviathan exists only for one purpose; to feed.  Leviathan can be found in the Astral realms devouring entire worlds.
"He" spends his time in the deepest parts of the oceans of the worlds that Leviathan visits. Here he consumes all living forms and is drawn to the world with strong magic.  After devouring 800,000 levels/hd of magical life Leviathan will then be strong enough to destroy the entire world.  From there he moves to a new world where he rests before starting the cycle anew.
Leviathan is completely immune to all magical attacks. Consequently, he is incapable of using magical attacks or spells.

Leviathan can appear as a large sea monster, whale or other great gargantuan creature.

Powerful Warlocks that share Leviathan's desire for the destruction of magic and the world can become his Exarchs.  The Hand of Leviathan and the Voice of Leviathan are his heralds.  The Hand appears first to destroy and sacrifice powerful spell casters. The Voice proclaims the return of their lord and opens the gate to allow Leviathan to swallow a world whole.
Killing these heralds does not stop the coming of Leviathan, but it does slow him down.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Swords & WITCHERY! Introducing The Warlock

Once again +R.J. Thompson is hosting Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day.

I have known about Swords & Wizardry for a long time. I just never really played it much.
Part of the problem was I felt it did not live up to the claim of feeling like a 0e D&D.  I had a good retro-clone for that in Spellcraft & Swordplay.  But last year I sat down and played a few Swords & Wizardry games and I really loved it.
Part of this was due to +James Spahn's White Star, a game I really enjoy.

Playing this and the publication of Swords & Wizardry 3rd Printing I decided to do a series of Witch books.

My idea was simple really.  Produce smaller books featuring a witch class variant for Swords & Wizardry or a compatible game. Each book needed to do a few things for me.

  • Each book needed to be a complete class. Everything you need except core rules.
  • Each book needed to offer something new, so customers never felt like they were buying the same material over and over.  Yes, there has to be some overlap, but I typically want 75% to 80% new material.
  • Each book needed to be 100% compatible with the other books. So if you did buy them all you had something that would work together. 

So far I think I have met with success.

My S&W Witch books to date have been:

The Witch for Swords & Wizardry Light
Levels 1-5 for SWL.

The Witch: Aiséiligh Tradition for Swords & Wizardry
A new tradition compatible with The Witch and future products.

The Witch: Hedgewitch for the Hero's Journey RPG
The Hedgewitch tradition for the Hero's Journey RPG and 100% compatible with S&W and other witch books.

Of course Sisters of the Aquarian Order.
Witches for the White Star game.

Today I would like to announce the publication of my newest "Witch" book for Swords & Wizardry.

Next week, on Walpurgis Night, I am releasing The Warlock for Swords & Wizardry.

Cover art Copyright 2015 Dean Spencer

The Warlock includes:

  • The Warlock class
  • New race: The Teiflings
  • Rules for goblin, hobgoblin and bugbear warlocks
  • 160+ spells
  • 50 Warlock invocations
  • New monsters including the Baalseraph, Calabim, Lilim and Shedim demon groups.
  • Animal Lords and Faerie Lords
  • New Items

I still need to add the art but looking at 64-68 pages.

Hope you all enjoy it!  Look for more in the coming week.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Kickstart Your Weekend: Journey To Ragnarok

Every so often I get a Kickstarter sent to me and I am like "Whoa! That looks awesome!" and then I wonder, why haven't I seen this elsewhere?

Such is the case for Journey To Ragnarok: A Norse Mythology Adventure for 5e.

It looks awesome and the timing is right with American Gods and Thor: Ragnarok coming to screens near you.  It funded fast. But this is the first I have heard of it.

The book is for 5e and looks like it will be a good fit.  With information for playing in the Nine Worlds of Norse Myth.

The book will contain:

  • The Nine Worlds setting based on Norse Mythology 
  • Adventure Module for players from 1st to 15th level 
  • New archetypes for all the classes
  • The Rune Master: A new playable class!
  • The Norse Pantheon: an in-depth description of deities and semi-deities
  • The Runic Divination System
  • Mythological and Magic Items
  • Creatures and Encounters from The Nine Worlds
  • Adventure Maps
  • Stunning Artworks by Art of Guardino.

And the art looks amazing.

I have a soft spot in my heart for the Norse Myths and this looks fantastic really.

They are shipping from Italy, so keep that in mind when pledging (shipping costs will be higher).

Plus every pledge level gets a mead recipe! I HOPE they send the recipe after you pledge so you can make the mead and let it do it's thing while waiting for the books.

This is a fantastic looking book. I am going to be getting this myself.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #84

Let's go all the way back to April of 1984 to issue 84 (the only time that the year and the issue were the same) for an April issue I don't hate.  So put on a copy of Van Halen's "1984" cause it's April 1984 and this is "This Old Dragon"!

Dragon 84 is an interesting one for me.  It was almost my first Dragon.  I was going to go buy it at my local bookstore, but the agreement was I had to buy D&D books with my own money.  So instead of this I got something else. Can't remember what.  I wanted to go back and get it, but by then Dragon #85 was out so I got that one instead.  Yes, folks the very first Dragon I owned was issue 85. But more on that later.

Kim Mohan's editorial discusses the lack of "foolish" content in this issue.  He also discusses how this is the LAST issue with Phil & Dixie!  But it is also the first issue featuring the Ares Sci-Fi section, that is cool.

The first full article up is A cast of strange familiars by Stephen Inniss. Back then I tended to stick to more traditional familiars; owls, cats, bats and the like.  This was a great article since it expanded on the lists of potential animals and benefits for the Magic-User.   My own witch class was still a bit off from happening at this point.

An interesting ad appears on page 13. Riddle of the Ring claims to use names from an "uncopyrighted" work of J.R.R. Tolkien.  I wonder how that worked out for them in the long run?  Contrast that with a panel later in "What's New!"

Ed Greenwood and Elminster are back in Ecology of the Trapper.  Interesting article, but I always wanted them to do more interesting monsters.   We get that later in the issue.

Never the same thing twice: Filling out facts and figures on the rakshasa family by Scott Bennie is the sort of thing I was hoping for!  Rakshasas are really interesting and this article expands on that considerably.  I do remember making a Xerox copy of this article because I wanted to do something more with these guys.  I never did really, but I did end up adding them to the ranks of the devils for my own games.

Interesting ad for the Little Wars convention. I guess in 84 it used to be really close to where I live now. The Willow Brook Inn is no longer there, but Little Wars is still going strong.
There used to be so many cons. In April to June there are 25 listed here.

Ah.  Now a bit of history.
And then there were three is a "preview" by +Frank Mentzer of the new D&D Companion rules.  The article starts off with a bit of history on how the "Companion" rules were hinted at in 1980 (yeah we know!) and it was not till 1982 the go ahead was given to create it.  Reading the article you certainly get the feeling that Gary (oddly misspelled as "Garry" at one point) anoints Frank and hands him the UR-Tablets of D&D and tells him to spread the Gospel to his people. Or something like that.
Frank details the design and gameplay assumptions behind the Companion rules.   This includes more epic quests and even outer planar play.  The Masters and Immortal Sets are also teased here as well as the War Machine large-scale battle system.  What the four classes can do after 15th level is discussed with options such as the Druid, Paladin, and Magist.

The centerfold is Part 1 of a two-part RPGA adventure "The Twofold Talisman".  I ran this back in the mid 80s and had a good time with it, but the Star Wars puns in it felt old to me even then.   I thinkI'd like to run this again someday.

In the Reviews section by Ken Rolston, they cover some FRPG classics. A new edition of Chivalry and Sorcery, a game I always wanted to try, is first up.  The big one is a review of the Basic and Expert sets of D&D, the B and the E in BECMI.  I was not a fan of these editions, having firmly come off of the B/X versions before moving (at this time) to AD&D.  Of course, now I appreciate what was done here, but I should have read this review back then. I might have been a little less quick to judge these set unfairly.

Next is the Ares Science Fiction section, a new feature for Dragon and one I always enjoyed reading.  This section only gives us a taste really of what is to come.

First up is one of the articles I most associate with Ares; their series on detailing the Moon for all the major Sci-Fi systems out there.  It had everything I love. Science, RPGs, sci-fi and an obsessive compulsive need to do something to the Nth degree.  This first one covers the Moon for the Spae Opera RPG.  I always wanted to collect all of these and put them in a binder or something.

Ed Greenwood has another article this time it is The Zethra An NPC race for the STAR FRONTIERS game.  I get the feeling, reading this, that Elminster is out there somewhere in the Star Frontiers universe and Ed was just waiting for an excuse to use him in it.

No Marvel-Phile yet.  But there is a full page ad for the upcoming Marvel Superheroes Game!

Lots of really cool old ads.

So for the comics we have Snarf Quest #9, What's New? with Phil and Dixie, Talanlan, and Wormy all in the same issue.
We touched on this, but this is the last What's New until some special one-shots later on.  Phil & Dixie decide to finally find out WHY they can't do "Sex and D&D" and they get fired in the process. Still though, one of the funnier issue of this with plenty of cameos of Dragon and TSR employees.
This panel makes the Fellowship Games ad above look all the more odd.

We end with natually an ad for I.C.E.s Middle-Earth Roleplaying and a product that to many signified the end of old-school D&D.

I supposed I belong more the Silver Age than the Golden Age even though I had been playing for more than 4 years at this point.

1984 was a turning year for D&D.  We can see it here in the ads and the articles. We can see the turning in Dragon and in TSR in general with the publication of the BECMI sets, Dragonlance and Marvel Super Heroes.
At the time though it felt exciting, like we were entering a new age of gaming. It STILL feels like that's what it was. Sure we can read about how Gary was getting pushed out by this time and how in 85 the finacial toll was beginning to really harm TSR.   But as fans we never knew that. We never saw that side of things.  Dragon was our insight to the hobby and the sights were good.

What do you recall from this time?  How did you see all these changes?

Want to see what I Was saying about White Dwarf magazine from the same month? Check out White Dwarf Wednesday for issue #52.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Into the Nentir Vale (was BECMI/4e Conversion)

Yesterday's post on my BECMI/4e conversions really took off and it seems there is a ton of interest in it.  So I am going to explore the idea further.
Now I have been conversions since, well since forever really. Converting fluff, converting plots. That is easy. Can do it on the fly.  Converting the monsters is also no great task, but it does require some care.  Since I am already doing the work of 4e to BECMI I might as well through 5e into this too.
Why not.

Crazy Delicious
When I convert say between 5e and TSR D&D (1st, 2nd, Basic) I just swap out the monsters. It works nice.  When I add 3e into the mix then I want to look over the monster for any feats or powers it might have and make sure those get preserved somehow.  4e is a bit trickier.

4e, more so than either 3e or 5e, has a strict XP budget. You are expected to level up at certain points in the game.  This might not be true of EVERY 4e game, but it is of HPE adventures.
The other factor working against me is the 30 levels of advancement in 4e vs. the 20 in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd.  BECMI helps me out here with a nice range of 36 levels.
I want characters to progress through these adventures AND still stay within their target levels.

So I am building a spreadsheet (I am a numbers guy afterall) to help me calculate the XPs given per adventure.  This will help me find the appropriate monster replacement for each game, help me balance the XP so the levels come out right and give me the exercise of going through each adventure and understanding each encounter.

Open in new tab/window.

I am opening up my spreadsheet so everyone can have a look and comment.  I am not opening it up to contributors yet since I also want the exercise of going through every monster in every adventure.
I added the data from yesterday's conversion and added a 5e column as well.  The 5e data has the advantage of using a VLOOKUP to allow me just to put in a CR and it spits out the XP.  I could do this with the 4e and BECMI ones as well, just have not done it yet.  I could also easily add Swords & Wizardry to the mix if people are interested.

If you scroll to the right (Col "O" to "R") you will see I have summed up the XP per adventure and then figured out how much per character based on the default (4e) party of 5 or a party of 6.  My feeling is that to make the levels work out with 5e I am going to have to assume that 6 characters are going through.  This should also make the combats faster.  I have not figured out what the optimal number of characters is for BECMI yet.

I will also have to convert the treasure.  There are some wildly different assumptions on what treasure needs to be in different versions of the game.  You get lots in 4e, not a lot in 5e, and in BECMI (or at least Basic) Treasure also gives you XP.

THEN I need to figure out what this all means for my Come Endless Darkness game.  If I run this set of adventures the party goes up against Orcus. In CED I also wanted them to fight Orcus.  Have to figure it out later I guess.

Other posts related to this:

Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

BECMI/4e Conversion, Ghost Tower of the Witchlight Fens

Last week I talked about RPGs and Sunk Costs.  This lead to a discussion of me converting my 4e collection into something else.  As is my wont, I opted for the most difficult conversion I could do and still be D&D; converting 4e to BECMI.

Since this is a test run I want something simple and something that others can look over to see what they think.  So for this trial, I am converting the free low-level adventure Ghost Tower of the Witchlight Fens. I am also using the D&D Rules Cyclopedia for ease of conversion here.

Ghost Tower of the Witchlight Fens is the 2nd adventure for a single player coming off of the D&D 4e Starter set.  The one that looks like the BECMI Basic Set.  Given this the character you are playing should be about 2nd level.   Now when I run this for real I am going to likely use it with a party and scale up the encounters.  But for now I want to see what a quick conversion looks like.
I am taking a lot of cues from the Classic Modules Today folks and just providing the monster conversions. I am not attempting to balance anything at this point.

Special Note: IF (and that is a big IF) I do these conversions I am going to all use the "Prince of Undeath" conversions for the HPE modules that were done by Myrhdraak a few years back.  This conversion makes it more of an Adventure Path style campaign that we now see from Paizo and WotC.  Plus it makes the Orcus plot more interesting.
Details are here:

Ghost Tower of the Witchlight Fens Conversion

Skill checks: Use the appropriate ability score. Perception is normally Wisdom, but use Intelligence where applicable.
Skill Challenges: Use as skill checks, but only provide XP if properly role-played.

Poison Dart and Poison Gas traps are Save vs. Poison or die.
Psychic Staircase trap is Save vs. Paralysis or take 5 hp of damage.

Sareth is a 1st level Elf with 7hp and 1 first level spell: Shield

Kobold Quickblade is a kobold chieftain (RC p. 187) with 9 hp (10 xp)  [100 xp]
Kobold Tunnelers (4) are normal kobolds  (RC p. 187) with 1 hp (5 xp each) [25 xp each]

Decrepit Skeletons (2) are normal skeletons (RC p. 204) with 1 hp (5 xp each) [25 xp each]
Grasping Zombie is a normal zombie (RC p. 213) with 13 hp (20 xp) [100 xp]

Skeletal Blackguard is a skeleton with 2HD (RC p. 204, 214-215) with 18 hp (25 xp) [250 xp]
Tomb Rats (5) are giant rats (RC p. 201) with 1 hp each (5 xp) [25 xp]

XP values in parentheses () are for BECMI D&D.  For comparison the D&D4 XP values are in brackets [].

In 4e a player would get a total of 725 XP from combat.  In BECMI/RC this becomes 110 xp.
So progression will be slower for RC.

I could follow this up with  The Dungeon of the Ghost Tower the next adventure.

Also, I can tell already that the combats for the BECMI version is going to be a hell of a lot faster.  This might not be such an insane idea after all.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: Silverglass

"It takes a witch to enter Yth and return, so be thankful you have a witch with you!" Nyctasia said defiantly.

Silverglass by J.F. Rivkin

Silvergalss was always "one of those books".  One of those books I had meant to read, or always saw and was curious about, or picked up a couple of time but never bought.  A chance encounter at my local library book sale though changed that.  For a mere 50 cents (well a $1.00, book 3 was there too) I was able to grab this book.  I knew it was fantasy and I knew it had busty blonde warrior-woamn on the cover (complete with 80s hair), but that was about it.

I had some down time so thought I'd read this and knock a few out of my TBR pile.  Turns out there is a more (and less) here than I thought.

Silverglass is less about our cover girl here (no shock) and more about the dark haired woman behind her.  Though it is about both women and their adventures.   The blonde, Corson brenn Torisk, is a hard drink, hard fighting mercenary for hire who is in Rhostshyl only long enough to spend some money before headed home to see her lover; a respectable bar owner in the next town.  It is for this reason that she is hired by Lady Nyctasia r'n Edonaris.  Who, up till very recently, was a respected member of one of the richest families in the country. She is also on the run from the family of the man she was supposed to marry (and now wants her dead) and her own family (who also wants her dead).  Nyctassia is also a powerful witch.  Corson has no patience for the idly rich or magic, AND she was just hired by both families to kill Nyctassia.   Nyc offers to pay her more as a bodyguard.
Both women are thrown together to get out of town before they are killed. Their destinations? Both are running to men they love who have more "respectable" lifestyles.  Corson's Steifann owns a bar and wants Corson to settle down.  Nyctiasia is returning to Erystalben who wants her to live with him to study magic. At least that is the plan.  Things change on the road.  Given that this is book one of four you can bet there is not a lot of settling down.

A few things jump out at you in this book.  Corson is a swordswoman, a good one at that. We learn she was in the army before this and was convinced by a former officer to take up the life of a mercenary.  Yet at no time in the book does anyone ever call attention to the fact that it is a woman doing this.  It is just a matter of fact.  Not a big deal today to be sure, but in 1986 when this came out? Crazy I am sure.  I am glad I read this now, but I wonder what it could have been like in 86 to have read this.

I am also very much fascinated by Lady Nyctasia.  She has secrets on top of secrets, and like I said, despite the cover she is the focus of the book.  This becomes obvious on the later covers.

Don't read this series looking for deep insights or an epic tale. The first book is about two women trying to get back to their respective loves and not get killed in the process.  It is a fun little romp through a low-magic world with lots of threats, spooky forests, dive bars, gritty pirates,  and a ton of people trying to kill our heroes for the slimmest of reasons.  I enjoyed both characters and looking forward to reading more.

The "author", J.F. Rivkin, is actually two different people. One wrote the first two books and the other wrote the last two.  I am not sure who J.F. Rivkin is and I have not found out any information about a real identity either.

The book is out of print and there are no digital or audio versions I have found.  They pop up every so often at Half-Price books.

2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
2017 Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
Books Read so far: 11
Level: Mother
Witches in this book: One really.  Nytasia, though I suppose that Erystalben could also be considered one.
Are they Good Witches or Bad Witches: Nyctasia tries to be good, so that has to count for something.
Best RPG to Emulate it: Honestly, a LOT of RPGs work here. I did a quick and dirty write up for Corson and Nyc for D&D 5, Swords & Wizardry, and Blue Rose.  Just because.  I am thinking I will try them out in the new AGE-powered Blue Rose in a bit.
Use in WotWQ: Nyc will certainly make a guest appearance at some point.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Kickstart Your Weekend: Forest Kingdom Campaign Compendium

The quickest way to make me interested in something is to tell it is dual stated*.  Such is the case here for Legendary Games' newest Kickstarter.

(*ok, two different books one 5e and the other Pathfinder, but still)

Forest Kingdom Campaign Compendium for Pathfinder and 5E

There is something about old forests that scream "adventure" to me.  Hiden fey realms, goblin cities, and creatures that never leave so never seen by the likes of you and me.

Plus there is so much cool stuff in this compendium.
The add-ons make it even better.  Add on their Gothic Campaign Compendium? Hell yes!

There is so much great looking art and material in this I am not sure where to even start.
Just check it out for yourself and then pledge.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #175

This might be the "newest" Dragon I have in my big box of old mildewy dragons.  It's also in the worst shape, to be honest.  Well, let's see what we can get from this. The date is November 1991, I am in my first year of grad school and this is Dragon issue 175.

I don't recall actually reading this issue before this. The cover is Spelljammer-ish and I wasn't into that world.  I was always much more of a Ravenloft guy.

Right out of the gate we get a nice big ad for Waldenbooks. Wow, that brings back memories. There is an 800 number here that I am dying to call. Stupid I know.
The first three ads, including the Waldenbooks one, all feature TSR products, no surprise really.

For those that like to keep track, James M. Ward is the Publisher and Editor is Roger E. Moore.

The letters section has an interesting one this time.  A letter describes a new channel coming to cable, the SciFi channel. And it's going to be 24 hours a day!

The feature of this issue deals with Campaigns.
Of particular interest to me are two articles, The Perils of Prehistory and Creative Campaigns: A New Recipe. These two together would help me figure out my Doggerland game someday.

The Marvel-Phile has a couple of heroes I honestly have never heard of. Not that this a big deal really, I had moved back to DC by this point.

TSR Previews covers some new items coming out soon, first up is the new D&D Rules Cyclopedia.  There are more of course, but this one sticks out.

Part 22 of +Bruce Heard's Voyage of the Princess Ark. One day I am going to need to collect all of these and read them in the proper order.  I missed so many back in the day so I really don't have a full idea of what it's all about.  I appreciate the Arsenic and Old Lace reference in this one.  One of the first plays I was ever involved in back in High School.

The Role of Computers is much larger than I recall it being in other issues. Lots of games covered too. Let me think. About this time I had worked on a grant and was able to buy a 286 PC-Clone with an EGA card and 2 megs of RAM, I was so cool. Granted the 386 was already out, but hey, I was still buying it for "work".  Though I have to admit I don't remember any of these games.

The is is listing of the 1990 Origins awards winners, as expected TSR and AD&D grab most of the awards.  Creatively TSR is doing great even if we now know that financially they are in a dire situation.

Like the cover, Sage Advice is Spelljammer focused.  Typically when this is the case the special "feature" of the issue is also likewise focused, but not this case.  Maybe they didn't have enough Spelljammer material?

Ah. Here we go.
Reviewer Allen Varney gives us a brief glimpse into what the 90s is going to look like. Role-playing Reviews covers two new games.  First up is +Lester Smith's Dark Conspiracy RPG.  Kudos to Smith for predicting the economic crashes of the early 21st Century. Sadly it didn't lead to cyborgs and monsters in the streets, just idiots. Dark Conspiracy is not the first modern monster hunting game, but it does help pave a road built by Call of Cthulhu and Chill.  I remember picking this game up in the late 90s when I was on a hard core horror RPG kick, looking for something new.  While I never played this game there is a lot here I really enjoyed.
Next up is the game that defined the 90s. Vampire the Masquerade.
I remember having a conversation with a Vampire player back in the early 90s. Right around this time in fact. He told me then that Vampire was going to destroy D&D.  I told him that other games have said that before, but I was thinking he was out of his mind.  Well...Vampire did do a lot of damage to D&D in the 90s and it did change the face of gaming forever.  Old-school gamers like myself try to dismiss V:TM.  But really people that deny the impact on V:TM do so out of ignorance, jealousy or spite. The review here sets that stage; something big is coming here.
The way the Allen Varney reviews this it is as if Mark Rein-Hagen had taken all of then sacred cows of RPGs and slaughtered them. No equipment lists, weapons only take up a 1/4 of a page, only four pages dedicated to combat! Even skills got a brief overview, but the things that describe who your vampire is? Pages and pages.
My take away from reading this review nearly 26 years later is that Varney doesn't know exactly what to make of the game save that he know he has something very new and very good in his hands. He even takes a moment to discuss the cover which was so different than any game out at the time.
We did not know it then. But this article was a glimpse into the future.  In 10 years time TSR will be gone, White Wolf will be one of the biggest names in gaming and we waiting in eager anticipation as White Wolf's own Sword and Sorcery Studios puts out a Ravenloft book.
Note: A star rating system guide is given, but the games are not actually rated.  Varney has high praise for both games, but not a quantitative rating.

Rhyme & Reason is almost a jarring jolt after reading the reviews. It is something more out the Dragons of the 80s than the 90s. Using riddles in your game.  No offense to author Scot Roach, but I was tired of riddles by that point.  Though it did give me an idea. Instead of having to face the Riddle of the Sphinx I am going to have my players face "The Ridicule of the Sphinx"!
Author Mark Anthony follows this up with another article about riddles.

Ads for Dungeon and for Rifts.

Dragonsmirth has some comic artists I have not seen before. None of the "classics" are here.  Thre is Yamara and the Twilight Empire.  I never read all of the Twilight Empire. I might need to do some research and find where it started and ended.   Anyone have any light to shed on it?

Another ad for Rifts.

In the ads section, I notice that TSR was still running a play by mail game, Conquest of the 25th Century.  I am pretty sure I had an email account at my university at that time (quick check, yes I did) so I suspect that PBM was very soon going to be a thing of the past.
Interestingly, on the next page is an ad for Play by Modem! There is a phone number and you can connect at 300 or 1200 baud! I had a 300 baud modem on my first two computers and I believe by this time the machine I was using had a 2400 baud one. If those words have no meaning for you ask a greybeard. ;)

Again, no cover on this one means no back cover either. I pulled out the old Dragon Magazine CD-ROM archive as saw there is an awesome ad for the Rules Cyclopedia.

At 124 pages this issue feels smaller for some reason.  Maybe it was because the articles didn't grab me or maybe because I was winding down nearly 12 years of gaming at this point and was focused on grad school that the magazine did not resonate with me as much.

Do you have memories of this one?

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

RPGS and the Sunk Costs

Often you will hear people exclaim that they don't need to buy any more/new RPGs because they have more than they will ever play in their lifetime OR they have found the only one they ever need.
I can certainly appreciate both of these claims.  I DO have more than I'll ever play AND I have the game (or really 3 games) I could play forever and never need a new one.

Yet.  I still buy games.

I am fortunate really. I can make my hobby pay for itself. I can buy the books I want, when I want.
Thankfully my needs are also small and specific, so I also tend to write the material I want more out need of the material than out of a cost saving feature.
Sometimes though I buy something and I never use it, or, I never use as I wanted to use it.

Take for example D&D 4e.

I have a lot of 4e books.  Many I bought REALLY cheap, but some I got new. In any case it represents a sunk cost for me. Even if I unload them all at my FLGS auction, I am not likely to make anything at all back from it.

I'd love to do something with it someday, but am I playing into a Sunk Cost Fallacy?
That is I'll never make my money (time, resources) back by put more money/time/resources int it.

I would love to the run the HPE adventures that are centered around Orcus and the Raven Queen.  I have read through them many times and started them and think it would be fun.

There are three scenarios I am considering.

1. Run them under 5e.  This one is more of a thought experiment for me really.  I'd try to run it as a 4e/5e hybrid to scale 4e's 30 levels down too 5e's 20.   I like this idea since it would make for an interesting experiment and test my knowledge on both systems.  Converting 4e to 5e is easier than say converting 4e to something else.

2. Convert 4e to Something else.  I am honestly thinking of doing this under BECMI. Using the honest to goodness Red Boxes and everything.  This idea appeals to me on a lot of levels. BECMI's 1-36 levels map nicely onto 4e's 1-30.  Both end in characters being immortals.  Naturally this is the hardest to do and appeals to me the most, though I have done it before.  The level differences and system differences would allow me to start H1 Keep on the Shadowfell at BECMI level 4 or 5 and give me 1-3 for other adventures.  Maybe even the Aleena adventure in the Red Box and the Witchlight Fens adventure in the...Red Box.

The more I think about this the more I like it really.   I would need to decided on Class and Race (like AD&D) or Race as Class (as BECMI).  In truth it would not be difficult.  The 4e races all have a class they seem to prefer.  Dragonborn would all be Paladins, Tieflings all are Warlocks, Half-Orcs are all Barbarians and so on.  Plus there is a lot I still like about BECMI that I want to do.
This is something I think needs delving into further.

3. Run the adventures under 4e.  The simplest solution, naturally, has no appeal to me.

Am I sinking more resources into a fruitless endeavor?  Should I cut my losses and run?

No idea yet.  But I think I can invest a *little* more resources with out (too much) loss.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Video Game Question

So. I had a posting for today (and yesterday) but I have opted to delete it.

Instead, I want to talk about something else.

My son bought himself a gaming computer a while back and recently upgraded the video card.
I got the old video card and suddenly I have a whole new world of video games open to me.

I have played a little Skyrim and DragonAge on the Xbox, but generally, I don't have much time for video games.

I *would* play some more, but I want to know what are the better choices out there.
In particular, I am looking to you, my readers, to help me out here.

I am looking for something as close to D&D as I can find.  Yes, I know there are D&D video games out there. If you like those let me know!  But I Am also looking at other versions of DragonAge and the Witcher looks really good.

Don't tell me what you think sucks. Tell me what you think is good!

I love RPGs, magic, combating monsters. I enjoy character customization options.  But mostly I want to hear about what you all think is good.

Bonus. What D&D video games have you enjoyed?

Friday, April 7, 2017

Kickstart Your Weekend: Castles & Crusades Players Handbook #7

The good folks over at Troll Lords have a Kickstarter up for the next printing of the Castles & Crusades Player's Handbook.

They have five days left and only about $1,000 to go.

Castles & Crusades is my favorite game that I never get to play.  Well...I do get to play it, but not as much as I would like really.

This Kickstarter has a lot of really nice perks and the Troll Lords are super great guys.

Check it out!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #150

Moving more forward in time to October 1989 and to one of my most favorite issues of all time, Dragon #150.  This issue was during the prime of the "themed issues" of Dragon magazine, where each month/issue had a theme.  October was always horror and always my favorite.  Plus this issue also features one of my all-time favorite bits of Larry Elmore cover art.
This issue had one of the articles that honestly had such far-reaching effects that I am STILL using ideas from it.   Issue #150 came out in 1989, and I am sure I picked it up right away. I would have been a Junior in university at that time.  I wasn't playing much since I was busy studying all the time, but I do know that I had at least a draft copy of the witch in text format on a floppy disk.

The Dragon's Bestiary is up first with a bunch of new mind-flayer related monsters from Stephen Inniss.   I remember reading this one over and over.  I really wanted to use these guys in my games and I still do.  I noticed while re-reading this recently that the monster stats are for 1st Edition, but the other parts of the magazine are fully 2nd edition.  This was the dawn of 2e and the magazine has a strong post-Gygax vibe about it.  This article though feels older, though there is also a pre-Dark Sun feel to it as well.  The article introduces the Illithidae, or natives of the same world of the Mind Flayers.  If we stick with the mythology they could have easily come in the starship from Expedition to the Barrier Peaks.  The monsters include the pack hunting Cessirids, the lone hunter and slow moving Embrac, the large Kigrids and the near-Illithid Saltors.  These monsters would later be updated to the Illithidae monsters for 3.5 in the Lords of Madness book.

Stephen Inniss follows this up with an article that is heavy on fluff, light on crunch and one that has stuck with me for years. The Sunset World deals with the world of the Mind Flayers.  The article is a long one and presented in the style of an academic symposium, which is likely what attracted me to it.
This article was the start of the idea of block out the sun as a plot device in my games.  I used it in the Dragon and the Phoenix for Buffy and currently in the Come Endless Darkness campaign for D&D 5.

Speaking of vampires and vampire slayers.  Fangs Alot! has the updated/corrected version of the Vampire listing for the 2nd Edition Monstrous Compendium.  If you recall the vampire had the same material printed on both sides of the page, the difference only being the "western" and "eastern" vampire pictures.  This version has the proper second page in place.

The Well-Rounded Monster Hunter details some skills every investigator should have in Call of Cthulhu.  I always read these articles with great interest, looking for things I could port over to my then-current (but sadly dying) Ravenloft game.

The Role of Computers covers some video games. The late 80s were an interesting time for computers, I felt he had hit something of a golden age; computers were getting more powerful and cheap and yet there was still enough of a hacker mentality that kept these machines (mostly) in the hands of nerds adn geeks like me.  In many ways if you were a teen playing D&D in the 80s you grew up to be one of the people playing around with computers in the 90s and part of the Dot.Com boom in the late 90s.  It is interesting now, rereading this, to see all the variety of computers software was made for then.  I know in my own case back then I desperately wanted to see more games fro my own Tandy Color Computer 3.  Mock it if you like, but that little computer got me through my undergrad degree in psychology.  I would need the help of an "IBM PC-clone" to finish up my grad school degrees.  Still, it is neat seeing some of these games.  I bet many would run well  on my phone with an emulator.

I still love looking at all these ads.  I actual had sent off a SASE once upon a time to get my own character art. Never sent it back with my payment; never had the money to spare. I always wanted one though. Maybe that is one of the reasons I love getting art now.

John J. Terra has a great article for the FASA Trek RPG, A Final Frontier of Your Own.  Rereading now I am impressed how much of it still applies for LUG Trek and new Trek playtests.  Sitting at my kitchen table re-reading this I sketched out an idea for a game.  I want to run a Star Trek game called the "Daughters of Kahless".  It would be a group of dishonored Klingon Women in a broken down D6 cruiser trying to regain their honor and for the greater glory of the Klingon Empire.  I remember at the time I wanted to do the adventures of a ship propelled to the far ends of the Universe.  I guess that why I have such a love/hate relationship with Voyager. Love the idea, hated the exicution.

In another article by Dean Shomshak we have another CoC article, Unspeakable Secrets Made Easy. This details a number of magical texts.   No spells are listed, but plenty of background information.

More ads follow including the ads for the then new Monstrous Compendiums.  Vol. 1 was out (I picked mine up at a game store in Harrisburg, PA while on vacation) and Vol. 2 was on the way.  The ad though looks different than the binder I picked up and I always wondered if it was because I picked mine up from a different part of the country than I typically bought my Dragons.  Turns out nothing so interesting, just a mock-up for the ad.

It's hard to see, but there is a red border behind the images of the monsters.

Again, this was a great issue that brought back a lot of great memories.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge: To Kill a Kettle Witch

"Blessed fire in the night
Show me what is in the sight
Show me what brings fight or flight
Blessed fire in the night."

To Kill a Kettle Witch: A Novel of the Mist-Torn Witches by Barb Hendee.

Back when I did the Witches & Witchcraft Challenge in 2015 I read the first three books of Barb Hendee's "The Mist-Torn Witches". It worked out great since the third book was new and I quickly read all three books. I didn't participate in 2016 because I was doing a deep dive into the history of England, so I also missed reading this book when it was out. I picked it up on release day and it has sat on my device.

I really enjoyed the tale of new Mist-torn witches Céline and Amelie Fawe. Céline can see visions of the future and is a knowledgeable apothecary.   Amelie is the younger sister and sees images of the past and is just as handy with a sword or dagger. We got to see them grow in power and in confidence over the course of the three books and it was a lot of fun.

While overtly fantasy novels, and more overtly Hendee's own brand of good people in a dark fantasy world, the books are less about the supernatural and more detective stories. Céline and Amelie just have supernatural means of uncovering clues. While the other books dealt with the murders of nobles or people close to them, this time the mystery is the death of a forest and in the center of it all are Céline and Amelie's own people, the Móndyalítko, the gypsy-like "children of the world". It also involves the mysterious Helga the chief servant at Castle Sèone.   We learn right away she is also a Móndyalítko and she has her own share of secrets that are soon revealed and have bearing on the present problem.
We also get more of the backstory of Lt. Jaromir and learn of his connection to Helga.

I don't want to get into too many spoilers here. The book moves fast and thus feels very short. I will say this one is a slight departure from the first three in that there is no clear-cut "bad guy" unless you want to count the price of magic itself.

The book feels like a turning point in the series. Two characters finally get together. Other characters get their stories advanced and two major characters get their histories filled out.  I have mentioned this before, but if this were a movie it would pass both the Bechdel test AND the Mako Mori test.  The was less interaction with the two sisters than in previous books, but I took that as a sign of growth; they are both comfortable in what their roles are now and trust each other to do it.  Or in other words, they are no longer children, but capable strong women.

While I have said before that Amelie (the woman on the cover) is my favorite of the two sisters, I wanted more Céline in this book.  I feel her story is unfinished. Interesting, since she is the sister that can see into the future, it is her future we know the least about.

I hope that Céline and Amelie will also show up in Barb and J.C. Hendee's other books.

2017 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
2017 Witch & Witchcraft Reading Challenge
Books Read so far: 10
Level: Maiden
Witches in this book: Half-a-dozen or so, counting the sisters and the titular "Kettle Witch".
Are they Good Witches or Bad Witches: Good, but some make some bad choices.
Best RPG to Emulate it: Castles & Crusades feels the best for me here, but also D&D 5 would work nicely.  If I were to use Pathfinder I might make them Oracles.  If I were using my own Witch book, then the obvious choice would be to make a Mist-Torn Tradition and their powers to see into the future and the past would be occult powers.
Use in WotWQ: I would love to have a cameo of the sisters in my game someday.   They would certainly be the witches to call on when investigating a murder.

You can find more of Barb Hendee's books at her author page and at

Monday, April 3, 2017

Back on Track! Minis and more!

Just got off of Spring Break with my kids. Had a great time, but now I am back in the grove of work (or at least that is what I keep telling myself as I weep into my coffee).

Got a ton of stuff done on various projects including my next Swords & Wizardry one.

But more important to me is what my wife has been doing.  Last week we started off our Spring Break by going to Gary Con and to Adepticon.  It was great and my wife picked up this miniatures painting starter kit from Reaper.  Well, a week later we are at our FLGS +Games Plus during their 35 Anniversary celebration to buy more minis, more brushes, and more paint.

Here are the fruits of her efforts this past week.

I have found my "Lolth" character.  The blonde witch in the red robes is Tanith, one of my newest characters.

This Vrock is my favorite.
I had to mount it so it would stand up right.

She is still working on learning different techniques and getting better, but this is going to save me hundreds of bucks!

This is going to be a lot of fun.  Plus while the boys and I play D&D she can sit there and paint with us. Which, truth be told, she enjoys more.