Monday, August 31, 2020

Monstrous Monday: Apple Tree Man

It might still be August, but tomorrow is September and for my family, that means trips to the apple orchards. 

Apple Tree Man

Apple Tree Man © Andy Paciorek

Large Fae

Frequency: Very Rare (Unique per orchard)
Number Appearing: 0 (1)
Alignment: Neutral (Neutral Good)
Movement: 60' (20') [6"]
Armor Class: 3 [16] (should always sum to 19)
Hit Dice: 10d8+10* (55 hp)
Attacks: 2 limbs (bash)
Damage: 1d8+1, 1d8+1
Special: Double damage from fire and cold iron, immune to charm, hold and sleep spells. Awaken trees.
Size: Large 
Save: Monster 11
Morale: 11
Treasure Hoard Class: See Below
XP: 2,400

Similar to treants, the Apple Tree Man is an ancient fae that lives in orchards. They are often the oldest apple tree in the orchard. It is not completely clear if these creatures are fae that have become tree-like or a tree that has awakened.  It could even be that the spirit of the apple tree man is present in the oldest tree in the orchard and he passes from orchard to orchard making him effectively immortal and unique.

The Apple Tree Man will not attack unless provoked or if his orchard is in peril. 

The Epimēlides (q.v), dryads of apple trees, are considered to be his daughters and granddaughters.  He can summon 2 to 8 (2d4) Epimēlides to aid him in protecting the orchards.  Additionally, he can "awaken" 1-4 (1d4) normal apple trees to fight as 6HD Treants to fight.

If a party though respects the orchard, does not harm any trees, and only eats the apples they need, the Apple Tree Man will be obliged to show them the quickest path out of the orchard.   

If they offer him hard apple cider, especially cider made for Apple Wassailing, then the Apple Tree Man will tell the party where they can find buried gold in the orchard. Usually 1d6x100 gp worth.

If a witch is present then the Apple Tree Man will hide their tracks and make the party undetectable by foes.  A witch may also be gifted a special apple wand that will cast one 1st level spell just once. The wand can be used later for other magics if desired. 

The Apple Tree Man will appear as a treant with apples growing from his hair, an old man or some combination of the two.

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 31 Experience

And here we are at the end of another #RPGaDAY for August.   What new Expeiences has this given me?

From the start, this month has been about my reflection of a Summer with the BECMI rules and Basic-era rules in general.  I spent a lot of time here thinking about what these rules do that is different than what I have been used too over the last few years (read: Modern D&D) and what I was used too back in the 80s (read: Advanced D&D).

My lens for this #RPGaDAY was these experiences. Because of that reading what others had posted gave me a very different viewpoint.  It was not 2-3 blog posts and 5-7 tweets that were all identical and everyone talking about the same thing.  This was nice.  While I was not as responsive as I would have liked to have been to others on this, reading them all was fun.

Since I also spent a lot of time talking about my BECMI/BX campaign, War of the Witch Queens, maybe I'll use that map as a simple dungeon crawl.  Maybe using ideas from my various posts here and when those don't work, well, I am sure I'll think of something. 

Hopefully, next year when this starts I'll be at Gen con again with my kids. That would be really great.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 30 Portal

 There are all sorts of portals to be found in RPGs and D&D in particular, but one was the most important to me.


In these 16 pages, I got a glimpse of something more.  More worlds than I knew existed out there and they could be mine...all I needed was more paper-route money.


Here I first learned the differences between D&D and AD&D, though it would be a longer before I really knew.  Other games I have heard about but had not seen. Games like Dungeon! and Vampyre.   I learned of Gen Con and I wanted one of those T-Shirts.


I am a little sad we don't have these anymore, but there are far too many products these days to make it practical. 

I see Archive.org has a copy archived if you want to take a look.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Zatannurday: New DC Movies & TV

DC FanDome was last weekend and there is more to come, but here is what was released for the future of DC on your screens.




Let's start on the big screen and with the one I am looking forward to the most. Wonder Woman 84!


It has Maxwell Lord, Cheetah (Barbara Ann Minerva version), and...Steve Trevor? No idea how they are going to do that, but I am betting it was Maxwell Lord's doing.  In any case, the movie looks great and I bet soundtrack is going to be awesome. 

For the next one, let me say I am cautiously optimistic. 


Look, I am a Batman fan as much as the next DC fan, but there are other characters out there and we have had several Batman movies. 

Speaking of other characters, there is one that not a lot of people know about so it will be interesting to see how it works out on screen.  A sequel/prequel to the successful Shazam movie we are introduced to Shazam's main enemy, Black Adam.



On the smaller screen, we are going to get the "Snyder Cut" of "Justice League".  I am also looking forward to this one as well. 


If you recall a few ago Warner/DC released the "Richard Donner" cut of "Superman II." 
Personally, I prefer the Donner cut over the Lester/Theatrical original.  Given what I know of what was going on on the set of Justice League I am also hopeful that this one will be good too.  Though I am now hearing it will be four hours long!

You are going to need HBO Max for it, but that is fine if you already have HBO.

We are also hearing more about one of the refected Justice League Dark ideas.  This one was from Joseph Kahn.  I am not sure how far along this one ever got, but there was some cool concept art.


Dan Stevens was cast as John Constantine.  But the best is a punk-looking Zatanna played by Natalie Dormer.  I miss the fishnets, but this is cool too.

There is another FanDome coming up in a couple of weeks. I bet they will cover more of the TV shows then.

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 29 Ride

Lost our Internet yesterday do to a neighborhood outage.

When it came back on finally I had day job stuff to finish.  So I am "phoning it in" today with my Ride post.  Though I am still doing the topic I wanted.

Today's post is "Why Do Witches Ride Brooms?"


Here a couple of videos to answer that question.

First up one that talks about in terms of the practice of witches and witchcraft.


Second, we have Greg Owens from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Utah, College of Science.


Maybe one day I'll work up an in-game reason for witches and brooms. 

Here is a bit of an episode of Charmed to help explain why the Warren Witches are depicted on brooms.  It is a little silly, but fun.

Friday, August 28, 2020

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 28 Close

This is about the time of year that I close out Summer projects and inventory my Fall ones to see where I am at.  

But this summer was a strange one really.  The whole Covid-19 thing changed a LOT of plans, one in particular was available free time to get other projects done. The day job was just too involved.

So I am still closing out my Summer though and looking ahead to Fall and beyond plans.  Here is what is going on for me and The Other Side.

Right now I am archiving old projects, both personal and work, I like to have a nice cleaned out work space on my computers.  This also gives me the opportunity to see what I have been working on and what still needs to be done. 

I still have a little bit more I want to do for BECMI month Summer, including a deep dive into the Shadow Elves like I mentioned on Day 9.  That though is in a couple more weeks. 

The really GREAT thing about this #RPGaDAY2020 posting is it has me thinking about all my stacks of research material and upcoming projects.

War of the Witch Queens Campaign

The War of the Witch Queens has been on my mind a lot since I want to run it under the B/X or BECMI rules.  I just have not figured out all the points yet.  I pointed out on Day 20 that Kelek is likely to be my bad guy.  And I think that still works.  In fact if the campaign only goes to level 14 (B/X, OSE) then that will be my guy.  BUT What if Kelek sets thing into motion he didn't predict and it quickly got out of hand?  The Witches, held in check by the Witch Queens are now doing some real damage?  What then? Well. In that case we continue on to level 36!  Who knows, I might even start it with the classic "You meet in an Inn".

Super Dungeon Explorer Adventure Team Go, Go, GO!

This is a bit of a goof, but it has gotten a lot of attention.  I secured an artist this week for the first release of this.  It will be for 5e and likely 180° away from anything Old-School.

Basic Bestiary and High Witchcraft

The first draft of Basic Bestiary is done, working on the beta draft now. I also put together my spreadsheet to track art development. Sadly I have not actually secured any new artists for this one.  So that might be a delay. 

The High Witchcraft book is no where near ready.  I was going over my notes and I am not even sure I have anything that can be considered a draft at this point. Just about a dozen or so files of notes that need to be collated, edited and then made into something. Additionally I have files of materials that did not make the cut for some of the other books; usually due to space or because the idea was not as complete as I would have liked.  If this is really going to be my "last witch book" then it behooves me to either find a home for those orphans here or on my blog.  One such orphan was the Goblin Forest of Haven.

I really want the High Witchcraft book to be really special. I want it to feature some of the ideas I have been playing with for years and to be my Coda for this series. 

I have a couple of other projects on the burners, but nothing I can share just yet.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 27 Favor

Today is my younger Brother's Birthday.  I also always associate this day as the real first day of the Fall Term.  I have been in academia for so long (all my life really) that my calendar still pivots on the Fall term.

So my youngest son started his senior year last week. My older son can't go back to culinary school just yet. My Fall term started on Monday.   Time to clear up old summer projects and move into new Fall ones.

And for this, I am asking for a Favor.


I want to get a few more of my books out into the hands of reviewers.  

So if you are interested in reviewing one of my witch books or even (or especially) Night Shift, drop me a note. You can post below, but send me an email so you can include all your contact details and where you plan on leaving your review.

Thanks! 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 26 Strange

Again a couple ways to go.  

I could comment on these strange days, but I have other social media outlets for that.

I am going to comment on the #RPGaDAY2020 list itself in that these are a lot of strange words.  

Ok, I get it, Dave has been doing this a long time and maybe he is running out of words to use. but knowing and the work he has done in the past I highly doubt he is lacking in ideas. So I'll just put this here as my commentary and that's it.

Ok. Strange. Let's get to the meat of this.

Many of my contemporaries will point to Fritz Leiber, Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tolkien, Moorcock, and Lovecraft as their main sources of inspiration to D&D.  While I share the Tolkien, Moorcock, and Lovecraft influences, I also add Clark Ashton Smith.

But those were not my only sources.

Dr. Strange and Tomb of Dracula

The 1970s were a strange time to be sure.  The 70s Occult Revival fueled my tastes in games in ways I never knew at the time and only saw in retrospect.  Case in point. Dr. Strange comics and Tomb of Dracula.  Both were favorites of mine but when Strange, along with Blade, would battle Dracula? Yeah, THAT was an adventure.  I wanted my games to have these epic world-changing battles that start small but then go on out to the cosmic scale.  Strange didn't just defeat Dracula. He destroyed all vampires.

I was already a huge horror fan at this point and Hammer Horror in particular. So these comics sent me searching more and more strange ideas for my games. I think by 1982 I had read every book of occultism in my local public library.  Creating a witch class was an inevitable conclusion at that point. 

When the Ravenloft module was released it found a no more welcome home than mine.

I have mentioned this in greater detail here.

Strange Stories, Amazing Facts

My copy
My parents were voracious readers. Books filled every corner of my home growing up and every room had at least one bookshelf, some like the living room had three. 

They, like many people of their generation, had a lot of Reader's Digest books. One, in particular, was Strange Stories, Amazing Facts.

This book should not by any stretch of the imagination be considered good literature or even good research. It is however good fun and a fun read. 

While the book is divided up into roughly chronological sections including one on the future, it was the past and the monsters of myth that always grabbed my attention.  Though flipping through it now that section on the end of the world would be fun to use.

For my birthday about 10 years ago my family found a copy and gave it to me.  Complete with original dust jacket (I am book snob and prefer my dust covers intact).

I have been asked in the past to assemble my own "Appendix N".  Maybe I'll do that one day.

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 25 Lever

Archimedes, the polymath of classical antiquity, is quoted with "Give me a lever and firm place to stand and I will move the world."

A lever is one of the six simple machines described by Renaissance writers. The lever is usually the first, though I think the inclined plane or ramp may have historically been the first.  

How does this apply to my games? Well...it does in a couple of ways, but the underlying theme is "keep it simple."

Design

Like a lot of people, I have been working from home since March.  It has worked out well for me since I can work anywhere I have a solid internet connection.  My wife has been home as well and I will admit I have enjoyed being home with her and my kids quite a bit.  I often get to listen in on her meetings when I go upstairs (my office is in my basement next to the game room) to get coffee. She has been talking about Optimization Levers all week.  In her case it has to do with software development.  But it is something I think about a lot in my day job and in my own RPG design work.

One of the reasons I feel I will never fully be part of the Old-School movement (whatever the stripe) is that I prefer simple solutions over complicated ones.  Don't give me 10 different ways of doing something in a game when one will suffice. I don't need tables when a simple algorithm and a number will work just as well or even better.

This is one of the reasons I feel that modern D&D is superior, design-wise, to older D&D.  I don't need pages of attack matrices for different classes and monsters when 3.x BAB and AC as DC works so much better.  I don't need percentile dive for thieves skills and d6s for ranger skills when both can be done with a d20.

The more you can simplify the rules the more then fade into the background and people can just play.

This is the central design philosophy behind Cinematic Unisystem. Everything is d10 based. Successes are based on any adjusted roll over a 9.  Simple. 

But simple mechanics do mean the game as been "simplified" or "dumbed down." It means the esoterica has been removed.  For D&D and Unisystem the lever is the d20 and d10 respectively.

I see a lot of people online complaining that such and such game is "dumbed down" or "made simple," often accompanied by a confession of never actually have played the game in question. 

Don't confuse simple with simplistic. 

Tools of Design

Likewise, I like to keep my process of design simple.  I feel it puts me into the right headspace for design.  So my levers here are the basic sort.  Paper and pencil.

Don't get me wrong. I am a technophile.  My wife and I love to be on the cutting edge of technology. I can even remember a time in the early 90s where I was looking for 50Ω terminators for the in house network we had built when such things were not only not common, but there was no good place to buy all the parts we needed for the multiple types of computers we had at the time.  

I will still run stats to determine spell levels and figure out which levels are needed.  While I can, and do, run those on my computer, I taught stats for long enough to also do the calculations with a pencil. 

Research still involves me, some books, and a folded up sheet of paper that serves as a bookmark and a place to keep notes. 

Coffee and pencils. Still my most reliable tools.

I mean yes. I will still transcribe those notes onto my PC/Laptop/Phone with some more details. but it has worked well for me for years.

So my advice is to be like Archimedes.  No, I don't mean run through the streets of Syracuse naked yelling "Eureka!" But rather use the simple tools and find a good place to stand.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Tasha's Cauldron of Everything

Wizards of the Coast just announced their next book for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition and I could not more excited.

Tasha's Cauldron of Everything is set for release on November 17, 2020.  I already pre-ordered the standard and alternate cover from my FLGS so I should be getting it on Nov. 7.

What is this book about?  Well, that is Tasha, aka Natasha the Dark, aka Iggwilv the Witch Queen on the cover.  Honestly, that is all I need to know.

But...I can see why others might want to know more. 


It is going to be set up similar to Xanathar's Guide to Everything with new rules.  What do I know is in it so far?

  • New subclasses for every class.
  • The Artificer class.
  • Some psionic classes such as the Aberrant Mind.
  • A new lineage system that adds on to and supplants the D&D racial system. Rather looking forward to that.
  • Group Patrons and sidekicks. Add a little more organization to your adventuring group. 
  • New spells, artifacts and magical tattoos.  That chicken foot tattoo on Tasha's face is a huge clue as to what you are likely to get. (more on that later)
  • Puzzles and more puzzles!
So yeah a lot to offer.  And a lot of it looks like it would translate well into other versions of D&D; which was one of the early design goals of D&D5e/Next.  

I am sure I will find out more, but that chicken foot tattoo on Tasha/Iggwilv gives me a LOT of ideas.  It also might help me figure out some details of my own Pact of Baba Yaga that I talked about a bit ago.  Though now I might call it "The Mark of Baba Yaga" and it is how the Daughters of Baba Yaga can recognize each other.  I can expand on the magical tattoos I presented in The Craft of the Wise: The Pagan Witch Tradition

The art for this also looks fantastic as to be expected.


There is nothing I don't love about that picture.   The color palette, moon, and satyr remind me of the cover of Dragon #114.
And that is Graz'zt on the Alternate limited edition cover too.


Wizards is hosting a D&D Celebration on September 18-20 and will be revealing more.  I am going to try to make it.

Too bad it won't be out for Halloween!

Of course let's not forget the art Jacob Blackmon created for me of the Witch Queens, Larina, Feiya, and Iggwilv!

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 24 Humor

I have always believed that humor is essential in most games.
Yes, it can be a serious game, but humor; sometimes even gallows humor, is needed.



Like anything, it can be overdone.  In high school during our AD&D games, we had to put a moratorium on stupid puns in our games.  It got so bad that it led to our DM creating the "Wandering Damage table" or just damage your character took from the universe reacting to your pun.  It, in of itself, was a humorous solution to the problem.

For Ghosts of Albion, I wrote a section on horror role-playing. I got into some detail that is appropriate for that game but I also included a section called "See A Little Light" (yes, I am a Bob Mould fan). The point was that constant horrors will wear your characters, and players, down. That every so often you need to lighten the mood.  Even the Ghosts of Albion web-episodes and books had a good mix of humor to them. I mean you can't have the ghost of Lord Byron and not have fun with that.

The topic of RPGs and humor is vast really. So there is no way I am going even cover 1% of it in a blog post.  But I figure I will cover one other thing.

I don't want to make it look like that all my games are Toon or Paranoia, I do like a serious game.  BUT just like too much humor is a bad thing, taking yourself too seriously is also bad.

A while back I was at a game at Gen Con. This was before my family started going with me and I was in a Mutants and Masterminds game. The GM was a real dick. There were a couple of younger kids in the game and like kids do, they joked and had fun, and the GM was just a real bastard to them.  Yes you can have a serious game, but don't be an asshole about it.  It was this dudes game, so I was not going to tell him how to run it, so I did the "dad thing" I just inserted myself between the kids and the GM.  I turned the three of us into this little mini-team of the eight sitting there so he didn't have to talk to them directly.  I don't think he knew how to deal with kids really.

So be like Bob Mould and see a little light.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 23 Edge

Again, lots of directions for "Edge" but I think I am going to go with "cutting edge" and talking about the latest cutting edge in dungeon exploring technology.

Right now the hottest thing for D&D 5 is the Combat Wheelchair. 

Sara Thompson is a D&D player and accessibility educator (and if you had any clue how much money my company spends on accessibility issues you would understand why such a person is vital today) has designed a "Combat Wheelchair" for D&D 5e.

You can get a copy of it here, Combat Wheelchair 2.0

It is actually kind of awesome, and I wonder why it was never dreamed up before.  I mean seriously how many D&D games can point to X-Men comics as a source of inspiration? Certainly someone, somewhere had D&D versions of the X-Men and Professor X included.

She released it on Twitter and very quickly it caught attention. Artist Claudio Pozas even provided some free art for it.   She even got a lot good press on this. 

Even miniature companies jumped on this.

https://strataminiatures.com/

AS you can imagine not everyone is seeing this as the good thing it is.  I am not going to reiterate their rather tedious arguments here; go look them up if you like.  I'll just say that in a game with magic, flying lizards, giants and all sorts of wonders how is this a bridge to far?  

Find out more about this on these sites:

Saturday, August 22, 2020

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 22 Rare

I am what I would call a casual collector of old-RPGs.  I don't think I go crazy to find certain items, but there are some I am always on the lookout for.

I am particularly fond of anything printed in England for example.  I have mentioned before I am an anglophile and a huge fan of anything English/British/Celtic/Gaelic.  So I have made some effort to get some of the older D&D/AD&D books that were printed in England by Games Workshop.

All these books are softcover, which is kind of interesting.

On my list is a Holmes Basic box published by Games Workshop.

I don't have one of these and all the ones I have found are really expensive.

I am also not an autograph hound, but I have a couple items that I am proud of.

First, Deities & Demigods signed by Jim Ward and a couple of the artists. 

Need to get some more of these.  Erol Otus and Darlene are my goal.

And my only Gary Gygax signed item.


One last thing on my list is a carded set of Dragon Dice.  

I used to get these at B. Dalton's Bookseller in Springfield IL.  Had I know how much they go for now I would have bought a couple extra sets.

Yes I know. There are superior dice. And what I would pay for these I could several dozen sets of other dice. But what is the point of going to grad school for 14 years and living on popcorn and pineapple for a year if I can't spurge now?

Friday, August 21, 2020

Kickstart Your Weekend and Interview: Christopher Grey and the Great American Witch

Today I am talking with Christopher Grey, designer of The Great American Novel and The Great American Witch (Games) and author of Goddamn F*cking Dragons, Will Shakespeare and the Ships of Solomon. (Novels)

Christopher is currently coming to the end of his latest Kickstarter for The Great American Witch.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/greyauthor/the-great-american-witch?ref=theotherside

Tim Brannan/The Other Side: Let’s start at the beginning, who are you and what do you do?
Christopher Grey: I’m Christopher Grey and I’m a game designer and novelist. I created The Happiest Apocalypse on Earth, an ENnie-nominated PBTA game about an evil children’s theme park, and The Great American Novel RPG, which was recently nominated for the Indie Groundbreaker Award.

TB: How did you get into gaming?
CG: It’s hard to pinpoint a starting place, I feel like I’ve always been gaming. When I was eight I was making board games on my dad’s file folders. My first RPG design happened somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 or 16. In the early days I played AD&D 2e, then graduated to Rifts, then hobbled over to World of Darkness. I think it’s fair to say I’ve been playing some sort of RPG for at least thirty years.

TB: What are some of your favorite games? Why?
CG: It’s so hard to choose! And it changes fairly regularly. I basically love anything Free League puts out and their latest game Vaesen I think is a masterpiece. The game system is slick and easy and the setting/content is perfection. But they get lots of love, so I’d like to point out some of my favorite indy games. I’m a big fan of Monkeyfun Studios and they are close friends--Bedlam Hall is still on my list of all-time favorite games. I mean you basically get to play Downton Abbey meets The Addams Family. I think Kimi Hughes’ Decuma is a huge innovation in gaming and I shamelessly robbed her approach for a game concept of my own. I’m a big fan of world-building games like Dialect and Microscope. Ten Candles is also top of my list. Oh! And Icarus… that kind of lands in the world-building category. For the Queen changed my understanding of game design. Really loving Lighthearted by Kurt and Kate Potts. I should probably stop. I love so many games.

TB: Very cool! Let’s get into what is important! What is The Great American Witch?
CG: The Great American Witch is an RPG where you get to play in the secret world of witches as they protect humanity from supernatural threats and secret societies. It was built on The Great American Novel chassis so it is story and character-focused. It is designed for campaign play of the kind you see from World of Darkness games.


TB: What sorts of games do you see others playing with these rules?
CG: The rules are highly tuned into the Great American Witch setting and experience. I think folks will have a tough time playing something other than powerful secret witches with the ruleset. However, it was adapted from a generic rule system that has a lot of flexibility. I do intend to expand this rule set into other categories of the GAW fictional universe. So stay tuned on that!

TB: How does it relate to your earlier game, the Great American Novel, and can the two be used together?
CG: Great American Witch adapted the GAN rule-set heavily in order to create an experience unique to it. They aren’t really compatible as they are working toward different things. GAN is designed for one-shots or short campaigns of a literary nature (the sorts of slow-moving narratives you find in classic literature), whereas GAW is designed for extended play that creates cinematic experiences (like the dramatic tension you find from your favorite streaming shows). However, if you’ve played GAN you’ll find a familiar approach to game design--one that focuses on characters and motivations, not on attack rolls or skills.

TB: Of course while the title is clearly an homage to your earlier game, I have to ask are you a Rob Zombie fan? And was the title inspired by his “American Witch”?
CG: I almost didn’t go that direction in order to differentiate it from American Witch. I do like Rob Zombie, but this experience is more like American Horror Story: Coven, the Craft, or True Blood. Ultimately I couldn’t resist calling back GAN since that is the primary engine running it. Plus, it has a nice ring to it.


TB: I loved American Horror Story: Coven and The Craft! What are your future plans for this game?
CG: Oh so much. I intend to work in this system and setting for quite some time. I’ve already started supplements for GAW that will include more play options (such as covens and crafts) as well as additional settings within the same world. I’m also working on other types of games for the setting, such as a story-prompt card game that is already in the editing phase. Eventually, I will expand to other supernatural groups, like the Illuminati, vampires, werewolves, etc. Frankly, I’ll be doing this for a while.

TB: Nice. That sounds great. And for me and my audience here. Who is your favorite wizard, witch, or magic-user?
CG: Considering the amazing examples of magic-users throughout recorded history, this is a hard one. Ultimately, I’d have to say Kiki from Kiki’s Delivery Service. I just absolutely love that movie and character.


TB: I adore Kiki! She is fantastic. Finally, where can we find you on the internet?
CG: Best place is my site christopher.world where I keep all my stuff and links to my social channels.

Links:
https://www.christopher.world/
https://twitter.com/greyauthor
https://www.drivethrurpg.com/browse/pub/12812/Christopher-Grey

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 21: Push

There is always one day in these month-long posting sessions that I have nothing.

Today is that day.  I mean I can come with stuff for "Push" don't get me wrong, just nothing I feel inclined to write about in a meaningful way.   I usually allow my self a pass on any given day. Today I am taking it.

So here is something "push" related.

I guess Garbage is from the same area as D&D, so there is that.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Wynnona Earp for NIGHT SHIFT

Wynonna Earp is back for Season 4! Largely due to the efforts of the fans, "Earpers",  and so far it has been great.  

So I think giving them the NIGHT SHIFT treatment is in order.

Spoilers up to Season 3.  Images of the characters by HeroForge.

Wynonna Earp
AKA "Nona"
5th Level Chosen One, Human
"I am the girl. With the big-ass gun."

Strength: 15 (+1)
Dexterity: 20 (+4)
Constitution: 18 (+3)
Intelligence: 12 (0)
Wisdom: 13 (+1)
Charisma: 15 (+1)

HP: 40 (4d8)
AC: 6
Fate Points: 10

Check Bonus (P/S/T): +3/+2/+1
Melee bonus: +2   Ranged bonus: +6
Saves: +2 to all saves

Special Abilities/Skills
Brutal Warrior, Killing Blow, Supernatural Attack, Difficult to Surprise, Improved Defense, Ranged Combat, Survivor Skills, Stunning Blow, Melee Combat, Regeneration of HP, 2 bonus Damage Dice, the Earp Heir. 

Equipment
Peacemaker (gun form), whiskey flask.

Wynonna Earp is the great-great-granddaughter of Wyatt Earp and heir to the Earp curse.  She is the one that must rid the Ghost River Triangle of all the revenants, or "demon-adjacent" dead that return to battle with the Earp heir.

Waverly Earp
AKA "Waves", "Baby Girl", "Angel"
3rd Level Survivor / 1st Level Sage, Half-Angel
"Heroes always win."

Strength: 12 (0)
Dexterity: 14 (+1)
Constitution: 17 (+2)
Intelligence: 17 (+2)
Wisdom: 15 (+1)
Charisma: 17 (+1)

HP: 20 (3d4 + 1d6)
AC: 8
Fate Points: 15

Check Bonus (P/S/T): +3/+2/+0
Melee bonus: +2    Ranged bonus: +3
Saves: +3 to Death saves

Special Abilities/Skills
Stealth skills, Danger Sense, Perceptive, Sneak Attack, Read Languages, Suggestion, Lore, Half-angel abilities

Equipment
Shotgun, Earp lore.

Waverly Earp is Wynonna's younger half-sister. She only recently discovered that she is not in fact and Earp, but instead the offspring of Michelle Earp, nee Gibson, and the Angel Julian.  She knows the most about the Earp family and curse.  She is currently engaged to former Sheriff Nicole Haught.

Nicole Haught
AKA "Red", "Sheriff Hot", "Hot Sheriff" 
4th level Veteran, Human
"Did I just hit my head and wake up in patriarchal bullshit land?"

Strength: 16 (+2)
Dexterity: 17 (+2)
Constitution: 16 (+2)
Intelligence: 16 (+2)
Wisdom: 17 (+2)
Charisma: 18 (+3)

HP: 37 (4d8)
AC: 6
Fate Points: 10

Check Bonus (P/S/T): +3/+2/+0
Melee bonus: +2  Ranged Bonus: +2
Saves: +2 to all saves

Special Abilities/Skills
Combat Expertise, Increased damage, Supernatural attack, Tracking

Equipment
Shotguns, handguns

Sheriff (formerly) Nicole Haught is the only survivor of an attack of demons lead by Bulshar, the demon responsible for all the demonic activity in the Ghost River Triangle and the town of Purgatory. She is smart and resourceful. She is in love with Waverly Earp and just said yes to Waverly's proposal.

John Henry "Doc" Holiday
AKA "Doc", "Holiday"
5th level Veteran, Vampire
"Careful, Earp. Doing what’s right, even in the face of ridiculous odds … you are beginning to sound like a hero."

Strength: 20 (+4)
Dexterity: 20 (+4)
Constitution: 18 (+3)
Intelligence: 13 (+1)
Wisdom: 15 (+1)
Charisma: 16 (+2)

HP: 42 (5d8)
AC: 6
Fate Points: 10

Check Bonus (P/S/T): +3/+2/+1
Melee bonus: +2   Ranged bonus: +6
Saves: +2 to all saves

Special Abilities/Skills
Combat Expertise, Increased damage, Supernatural attack, Tracking, Vampire abilities

Equipment
Handguns

John Henry "Doc" Holiday was cursed after his friend Wyatt Earp died and had been trapped in a well for 130 years. He was released by Wynonna and they went from being colleagues to friends to lovers. Though with his aging catching up to him Doc went to his ex-wife Kate and became a vampire.

This could be a lot of fun really!

How about a sneak peek at Season 4?

Let's hear that theme song again.


#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 20 Investigate

I have made some off-handed comments here, and on Facebook and other social media platforms, but nothin solid or concrete yet.  So now is that time. I am pulling together several loose ideas and a couple more developed ones into a single narrative.  

All summer long I have been fairly focused on some "Basic-era" games.  In particular OSE, BXRPG, and BECMI.  I knew I was going to get a game together using one or more of these rules.  I also have a big campaign I want to do, War of the Witch Queens, which I have been going back and forth on; should it be Basic-Era (BECMI in particular) or Castles & Crusades.

The premise is simple really, deceptively so.
While our intrepid adventurers are doing their normal adventuring thing they notice that there are an awful lot of powerful, but low level, witches causing troubles.  Making power grabs and largely being a problem.  The adventurers discover, but some means not fully developed yet, that the problem is the witch hierarchy is in shambles.  Someone has murdered the High Queen of Witches.

I said this bit before, but every 13 years the witches gather to choose a new High Queen of Witches. While all the Witch Queens, leaders of their respective traditions, have a say in truth it is the current High Queen that chooses the new High Queen.  This year the witches have gathered and the High Queen has been killed.  Every Witch Queen suspects the others and the entire power structure is in shambles. 

That is the goal.  The characters have to investigate the murder and find out who did it.

Simple, right?  Well...the trouble is that for the most part I don't know who did it. At least not yet.

Here are the details.

Who was murdered? The High Queen of Witches.
How was she killed? It looks like a mundane dagger. But that can't be it right??
Why was she killed? Unknow, it is suspected that one of the out-of-favor Queens did it.
Are we sure? No. Witches are not allowed to harm each other.  This taboo gets more powerful as the witch increases in level.  The powerful the witch, the less able she is to harm another witch.  I call this the Pact of Baba Yaga. She demanded that no witch harms another or SHE will come in and do the harming. 
Ok, why was she really killed? To destabilize the power base of the witches.  The Witch Queens keep the lower level witches in line.  They can't harm them directly...but you can be surprised what they can do.

So, this puts me on an investigation of my own.  Essentially I have to go through the mystery myself and see where it leads me. But this isn't just a murder mystery.  This is a power grab.  Someone wanted the High Witch Queen dead to destabilize the witch power structure on purpose. Who would want to do that?  The other Witch Queens?  No. Can't be one of them. They can't actually harm each other due to the Pact of Baba Yaga.  Plus, why would they want too? Without that High Queen the witches will start warring, start causing trouble and basically doing all the things that got them all sent to the gallows and the stake the first time around.  Plus any new High Queen is going to spend most of her 13 years ruling just cleaning up the mess of the last 13 months.  No.  This is someone outside the hierarchy looking to weaken the witches.

But who?

Enter Kelek the Cruel.

Kelek has the notable distinction of being the first AD&D Toy Line product I ever bought. I thought he would be great as an antagonist, but in the end, I never used him.  In my investigations of Skylla, I also ran into more details about Kelek.  I learned that like Skylla, Kelek was changed to evil by the Heartstone. He also was a friend to Ringlerun, the good wizard. Skylla had been Ringlerun's apprentice, but now she works with Kelek.  Kelek seems more than happy to use her to his own ends.

Then I discovered two details that really sold it for me.  

First. Kelek was in the Dungeons and Dragons cartoon, Episode "Valley of the Unicorns", where he unwillingly served Venger.  That is not the important bit.  The important bit is who wrote the episode.

Yes. Paul Dini. The same Paul Dini that invented Harley Quinn, wrote SO MUCH material about Zatanna and gave us the definitive Evil-Lyn episode of the Masters of the Universe, "The Witch and the Warrior."


I don't know about you, but for me, that is a pedigree.

Second, and this happened while doing my investigations of both Kelek and Skylla and BECMI related merchandise, I found that Kelek was featured a lot in the AD&D coloring books and in the D&D story books for kids.

In one, The Treasure of Time, Kelek is creeping on Charmay (the good magic-user, and subject of a crazy idea of mine) where he discovers a map to the "Treasure of Time".  Long story (ok it is not that long) short, he finds the treasure and becomes young again, but loses all his knowledge of magic. 

He is humiliated by Charmay who laughs at him while he cries.

The thought occurred to me. Here is a guy that obviously already has issues. Bullied by Venger, humiliated by Charmay, and wants nothing more than to be the Master of all Evil Magic according to his bio in the Shady Dragon Inn and has no problem destroying Skylla once he gets what he wants.

I have been watching a lot of the new Harley Quinn animated series lately where they have Doctor Psycho as a full-on misogynistic asshole.  Further strengthens that Paul Dini connection (I know. He has nothing to do with that show, but there would have never been that show had it not been for Dini) and make Kelek the same.  It's not a stretch really.  Plus it also allows me to play with current politics in my game.  Taking an old misogynistic white dude (and likely aging incel. he had to lure those unicorns in some way) and make him the bad guy in a situation were witches/women hold more power than he does and he wants. 

I have not decided though if Skylla is working with him on this.  Either he has promised her the High Witch Queen crown OR if he is manipulating her as well.


After his defeat at the hands of Charmay, a bitter Kelek had no choice but to go back to magic school and relearn everything.  Only this time instead of a bright young man who had a friend (Ringlerun) with him, he is a bitter old-man in a young man's body.  That also makes him extremely focused. He doesn't go for the types of fun that a young magic-school student might get into. Instead he is bitter, focuses 100% of time on his studies and plots of revenge.  In the process, he sees "enemies" everywhere.  Everyone is trying to stop him or mock him and he is SOOOO much smarter than these fools around him.  It is easy to think of someone like this in real life. He hates his fellow students because they are so stupid in his mind. He hates his teachers because in his mind he has already done far more than they have. Every day that they have to teach him something he already knew long ago, but can't quite remember, is a stinging reminder of his defeat.

Why is Kelek going after the witches? Well he hates women and his old friend and enemy Ringlerun died of natural causes, robbing Kelek of the chance to kill him. 

Sometimes I like to make villains that you can relate too. It's my Lex Luthor philosophy.  Lex never thinks he is the villain, he is the Hero, and that flying abomination is the villain. 

Kelek is just an asshole whose thoughts are so twisted in on themselves that he doesn't care if he is the villain or the hero, he is just going make everyone that laughed at him pay.  No one will stop him because he is so much smarter than everyone around him.

And those types of villains are really fun to defeat.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 19 Tower

Why do wizards have towers?

Thieves get to start guilds, fighters get strongholds and clerics get to establish churches.  Wizards get a tower.  Seems a little weak if you ask me.  But there are some good reasons.

The wizard in his* tower likely goes all the way back to Merlin if not before.  

I do say "his" in this case since the archetypical wizard in the tower was always depicted as male.  Witches get an even worse deal, relegated to just a hut or cabin.

So for a game steeped in medieval quasi-history and tropes, the fastnesses of the other classes make sense.  As does the wizard tower.

The tower represents a sense of isolationism and separation from the rest of humanity.  To reach the top takes work, takes effort. 
Much like becoming a wizard in the first place.

There are also academic associations. We call institutions of higher learning the "Ivory Tower" not just for their remoteness and inaccessibility to the hoi polloi, but also a reflection of the inhabitants' distance from the affairs of the world. 

The Tower (capital T) represents, in the physical, the "otherness" of the wizard.

It can also represent the hubris of the wizard as depicted in the Major Arcana of the Tarot.  I always thought the Tower here was allegorical, like the Tower of Babel from the Abrahamic religions. "You can be powerful, but not too powerful."

I am not a map-maker. But in my spare-time (hahahahahaha) I have been picking at a tower that I might feature in one of my games.  The top of the tower is for star-gazing and for magic that needs to be done under the sky.  The tower also extends down to a lower chamber for darker magics.  Maybe I'll make it part of my BECMI campaign I am planning.  I do have the ground floor all mapped.  There is a statue of a syncretized Ereshkigal-Hecate-Cardea guarding the doorways to the upper levels and lower levels.

Maybe I get my son to 3D print one for me.

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

The Witch Queens Gather

"Every witch owns a clock. It is a special clock in that it never seems to be working until one night of the full moon every thirteen years. Then the clock chimes thirteen bells. Each full moon the clock chimes one less, counting down from thirteen. Until the night of the last full moon.  During this time of the 13 Moons, the Witch Queens gather to choose a new Witch High Queen."

- From the Journal of Larina Nix 

Still working on my War of the Witch Queens campaign. 

I have the adventures picked out. I have some "Background noise." I think I even have my Big Bad figured out.

Now I just need my main NPCs.  Thankfully HeroForge has me covered!

All my Witch Queens and a few extras.

Now I just need about $1,300* to get them all printed!
*Well...not really that much. I already have a few.

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 18 Meet

"You meet in an Inn..."

Or not.  Meeting in an inn or tavern has to be one of the biggest clichés in Fantasy Gaming.  I mean, yes it works, but it is certainly a bit of a lazy meeting anymore. But does that make it bad?

Lately, I have noticed, especially with on-line game streamers, that they take the cliché and are very tongue-in-cheek with it.  I also think it is something that has largely been replaced by what is now called "Session Zero."

I like Session Zero.  You get to meet all the characters as they are being rolled up and some backstory is given. Plus there are other house-keeping items that are covered such as what the game is about, any house rules, and what the limits are.

"Meet in an Inn" and "Session Zero" are not mutually exclusive, but they are both typical of the styles of games they usually start.  "Meet in an Inn" is more common with old-school games and "Session Zero" with newer games.  There is also one other factor they represent; expectations of character deaths.

"Meeting in an Inn" is often situated in a game where character death is a likely occurrence. Even though the archetype of this trope, the meeting of Strider in the Prancing Pony, resulted in all the participants surviving to the campaign's end.

"Session Zero" is usually associated with the understanding, either tacit or implicit, that the characters have a good chance of survival.  There is often the aforementioned back story. 

For my "Order of the Platinum Dragon" campaign, I did do the "you meet in an inn" scenario.  Again the purpose of that campaign was to give my kids a "classic D&D" experience and I was not going to rob them of that.

For my "War of the Witch Queens" I have not figured out yet how the characters will meet.  I know how they are going to get on the trail of the mystery, the murder of the Witch High Queen, but before that, I am still at a blank.  But that is ok. There will be a Session Zero, so maybe we can all figure it out then.   Although. I really have wanted an excuse to use The Shady Dragon Inn.

It would give me an excuse to use these two,


Monday, August 17, 2020

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 17 Comfort

Back in 1972, Dr. Alexander Comfort wrote a groundbreaking book, "The Joy of Sex".

Groundbreaking in the frank portrayal of the sexual act as something to celebrate and enjoy.  Also groundbreaking for its illustrations (and photographs at least in the 2008 version) and its place as part of the start of the sexual revolution.

I think what we need today is an equally revolutionary "Joy of D&D."

One might ask why we would need such a book. One could also ask why we need a Joy of Sex, but if nearly 30 years of studying (and three degrees in) psychology you would be surprised by how little people actually know about sex.  Sure they can "do it" and have been since, well forever, but there is still much that people don't know. 
People can ride a bicycle, but that does not mean they are ready for the Tour de France.

I am not talking about a book on how to play the game. We have those, the rulebooks from TSR/WotC.  Or even a manual on how to run the game.  I'll contend that the pinnacle of this is still the AD&D 1st Ed Dungeon Master's Guide.

No. In this case, I am talking about an easy to read book; a breezy sort of guide. Maybe even a collection of essays and personal stories mixed in with guidelines on not just how to play D&D (and I think D&D in particular) but also how to get the most enjoyment out of it.  A Gourmet Guide to D&D and Roleplaying as it were. 

And just like how Dr. Comfort's book broke free of the Puritanical notion that sex had to be done one way for one reason alone, this guide would break the notion that D&D has to be done way.  Sure it can be a serious game, but it can also be light, breezy, and fun. 

Both books serve the same purpose


Sunday, August 16, 2020

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 16 Dramatic

How Dramatic do you like your games?

I suppose I do enjoy some drama. I like the game feel high stakes for the players (and characters) but I am more interested in Cinematic Style play anymore.  Even my horror games are a little more Cinematic than they are Gritty Dramatic. 

Just the other night my wife and I were talking Power Creep in games and TV shows and how to prevent it from being a series killer.  Shows like Grimm, or Buffy, tend only to last 6 or 7 seasons because you have to keep upping the ante on the power to increase the drama.  Fight a vampire Season 1, you need a demon Season 2, a God Season 3 and then...oops. Too far too fast.  Star Trek TNG had the same problem, once you introduce the Borg where is up? 

Shows like X-Files and Supernatural have to come up with ways to justify what is going on. In X-Files' case, I think the show fell apart under its own weight. Supernatural...they just keep doing their own thing and the audience is happy. In the case of X-Files, the drama got too much. In Supernatural, it didn't.

But in the case of Supernatural, the drama hasn't changed, it just gets reused. Certainly not the melodrama.  In Arrow, also mostly normal humans, the drama had to come from strained interpersonal relations that were supposedly solved in the previous seasons. Which is the same thing the next season. While it has worked, one can argue, for Supernatural, it didn't as much for Arrow. 

On the other end of the spectrum, you can have games like old-school D&D.

People will often claim that old-school D&D doesn't have, or shouldn't have drama. I say people are missing out.  I often prefer more cinematic play in my D&D as well, but there is still room for some drama.  Of course, D&D is not like a TV show. There is always something more powerful. And thus the Power Creep. We see as the levels go on and even as the editions go on.  I did my analysis a while back where I showed a 1st level D&D 4 character was as powerful as a 6th level BECMI character.  The monsters accordingly so as well.

Can you increase drama without power creep? Sure. But you have to be careful about it.


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