Wednesday, June 16, 2021

More Mystoerth

While I was driving on vacation, I get a message from Matthew Fenn, AKA "Matteus," on Facebook. It was his new version of the Mystoerth map.   Now I likely saw it right as I was getting ready to leave and responded back with a "wow, that is cool!" and then I sadly promptly forgot about it.  In my defense, it was 900 miles later when I actually sat down to look at social media again.

The map he sent to me is fantastic.  Click for a larger version.

Mystoerth

It is based on the James Mishler and Chatdemon map I love so much.

This would have been reason enough for me to talk about it today, but there is more! 

There is a discussion about this map on Facebook,

And at the Piazza Message Boards.  I even dusted off my old Piazza account to join in on the posts.

I am going to add some of these links to my Mystoerth page.   I also went to Map to Globe to get a globe of the world rendered.

Mystoerth globe in space

I also uploaded the huge TimeLine my co-DM from the 1980s and early 90s compiled to cover the combined Mystara-Greyhawk world.

While writing this I was chatting with Matthew and he is getting the map printed on cloth.  This made me think of my own Victorian London map I had printed by Banners on the Cheap.  I am going to check that out in a bit.  Though, maybe not as big as the one I have now.

London Map from Banners on the Cheap

So. Where does that leave me?

Well, it was not that long ago when I was talking about using the Orignal Known World for War of the Witch Queens.  

My problem is I love maps.  Every map is a new world to explore.  I have been using Old-School Essentials for my system of choice for WotWQ and I just got my OSE-Advanced Fantasy books and will be using those going forward.  Since OSE-AF is a nice mix of Basic and Advanced versions of the D&D game, why not use a world that is a nix mix of the Basic and Advanced worlds?

Ugh. I hate having to choose! Why can't I use both?  Right. Time. 

Maybe I can cheat. Make my Mystoerth hollow (I do love a Hollow Earth!) and use the Moldvay/Schick Known World map as the interior of my Mystoerth.  Hmm. I do like that idea.  It would help explain some similar names on the maps.  Though it gives me some problems with the Underdark.  The Moldvay/Schick map is much smaller, implying a smaller surface area.  It's been decades since I took calculus to figure out the interior surface area of a sphere. I could compare the outer surface vs. the inner surface and then work out the "depth" between the two worlds.  The crazy Hollow Earth book I have here assumes a "thickness" of 8 miles. I forget what the Rules Cyclopedia assumes. 

Sounds like time to do some math!

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Mail Call: Old-School Essentials Advanced Fantasy

I am back at work today after vacation and buried in emails and work.  I am also buried in physical mail too, but among the bills and junk mail, there was a nice little treat.  My Old-School Essentials Advanced Fantasy books came. 

Old-School Essentials Kickstarter

These books live up to the hype of the OSE Core rules.

I opted for the "limited edition" covers as I did for the first Kickstarter.

Old-School Essentials Kickstarter Books

The Reference Booklet and the Carcass Crawler zine fit into the box, but the adventures do not. Not due to shape or size, just because the box is full!

Old-School Essentials Reference bookOld-School Essentials books and box

I have not delved into the books yet, but I am already very happy with them. 

As I have mentioned with Advanced Labyrinth Lord and Basic Fantasy, these books do not represent the D&D we bought back then, but more likely the D&D we played back then.   An odd mixture of AD&D and D&D. 

Currently, this is the ruleset I am using for my War of the Witch Queens campaign. So for me the rules are just right. 

I got my Swords & Wizardry Complete Boxed Set just two weeks ago but due to vacation, I have not really read through it all that much yet.

Swords & Wizardry  and Old-School Essentials boxed sets

I am going to need to go through them both and compare and contrast them.

Both seek to scratch that old-school itch, but in different ways. So this could be a lot of fun.

Boxed Sets

They do all look nice together.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Monstrous Mondays: Boo Hag

Back at it!  I was on vacation all last week. I was down visiting my in-laws in South Carolina. It was fun, but the South is not for me.  I am happy to be back home in Chicago.

But while I was down there I looked into any monsters, cryptids, and urban legends they had.  There are a few, like all places, and many are familiar at least to readers of this blog.  There are lizardmen, bigfoot, and the usual variety of ghosts.  One of the creatures, from the Gullah descendants of African slaves, is the Boo Hag.

Boo Hag by Ashere
The Boo Hag by Ashere
Boo Hag

Medium Fey (Aquatic)

Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1 or 3 covey)
Alignment: Chaotic [Chaotic Evil]
Movement: 90' (30') [9"]
  Swim  150' (50') [15"]
Armor Class: 4 [15]
Hit Dice: 6d8+6*** (33 hp)
THAC0: 12 (+7)
Attacks: 2 claws, 1 bite or special
Damage: 1d6+1 x2, 1d4+1, special
Special: Constitution drain, fear, gaseous form, sleep, witch spells
Save: Witch 6
Morale: 10 (12)
Treasure Hoard Class: U (VI)
XP: 1,250 (OSE) 1,280 (LL)

Str: 15 (+1) Dex: 17 (+2) Con: 13 (+1) Int: 14 (+1) Wis: 17 (+2) Cha: 4 (-2)

Boo hags are semi-amphibious hags without skin of their own. In their natural form, they appear as hunched humanoids with no skin and exposed musculature, stringy white hair, yellow bulging eyes, and grimacing mouths of jagged teeth.  They live in swamps.

The sight of a boo hag without its skin forces a creature to make a save or become frightened. A boo hag lives within a swamp but makes sure there are human or demi-human settlements nearby. At night, they venture from their swamp, find a lonely cabin or farmstead, and take gaseous form to enter the house.

They then pick a strong, male victim and sit on his chest, stealing away their breath and life energy. A hag squatting on a person inflicts one level of Constitution damage per 5 minutes. Every 5 minutes, the victim may attempt a new saving throw to awaken.  Victims killed by a boo hag are skinned. The skin is used as a disguise. While it is inside a person’s skin, the boo hag is affected as per the change self spell.

Boo hags can be distracted for 1d6 x10 minutes by brooms, the straws of which they are compelled to stop and count. If attacked while counting straws, the hags flee with their brooms, that they may count the straws at their leisure in a safe place.   Victims of a boo hag are recommended to keep a broom by their bed.  When the boo hag returns they will count the straws in the broom and not attack.  If morning comes they will flee back to their lairs. 

Boo Hags have a weaker spellcasting ability than most hags, only able to cast as a 4th level witch.

Boo Hags hate swamp hags, maybe more so than other forms of the hag.  Boo hags turn their anger onto the River Hags, who they see as a lesser type of hag. They avoid either kind whenever they can unless they form a covey with them.  A common covey with a swamp and boo hags includes a green or river hag.  A boo hag adds the powers of Gaseous Form to the covey once per day.

There is some relationship between the boo hag and the Soucouyant.  Some believe that the victims of the boo hag will become a soucouyant when they die.  Others believe that that soucouyant is an undead form of the boo hag.  The general consensus is on they are undead versions of the boo hag, but nothing definitive is known. 

--

Looking to expand the entries to all the hags I have. 

Friday, June 11, 2021

#FollowFriday Ravenloft Giveaway!

I can't believe it is Friday AND the Friday before my Birthday.

So let's do something fun.

I am really enjoying the new Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft. A lot.

I played through the first Ravenloft module on my birthday so many years ago and now I want others to have the same joy.

So I want to give away a copy, shipped by me anywhere in the contiguous United States.  Sorry Europe and the rest of the world, but I need to work out the logistics of that first.

So here are the rules.

I am going to share this post on Twitter.  

To enter I need you to do the following:

  1. Like the Tweet. 
  2. Retweet it. In the Retweet tell me your favorite villain/big bad from any edition of D&D.
  3. Follow me on Twitter.
  4. (Bonus) Follow me on Instagram and Facebook for extra chances.

Do those three things (or four!) and I'll put your Twitter ID into a spreadsheet and pick a winner.

I will also pick two runners up who will each get one of my witch books of their own choice.

Winners agree to send me their mailing address to ship the book.  I'll send out one of the standard covers as pictured above.

I am going to be out over the weekend but I will pick the winner Sunday, June 13th before 11:00pm Central Time.

So let me know on Twitter and GOOD LUCK!

Thursday, June 10, 2021

OneBookShelf / DriveThruRPG Price changes

Quick one here.

One Book Shelf

So last week I got a note from OneBookShelf about changes in their prices.  This will not go into effect until July, but I wanted to make you all aware.

This means that some prices might be changing for some of my books.

No idea which ones yet.  My inclination is to leave the prices of older titles the same and take the hit on the increase, but I need to figure out how much that is.  

Also, while I am still picking away at my High Witchcraft book as the last of my "Basic Era" witch books, I have also been mulling the idea of a "Complete Witch" for the new Swords & Wizardry boxed set.

It would be for Swords & Wizardry. 1-20+ levels and contain all the material from all my S&W books. I would put a big disclaimer on it to let people know what they are getting. It would be the class, all the traditions and spells, and magic items.  No monsters unless they are needed (like for a spell).  Same digest size as the S&W boxed set.  Maybe, maybe, some new content.

Thoughts?


 

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft, Part 4. Do You Wanna Build a Darklord II?

Demon Eyed Elsa
I am going for this

Nothing exists in a vacuum. RPGs are no exception to this rule. While Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft is a great tool for a DM wanting to add horror to a D&D game and it is the tool to use to run a D&D 5e Ravenloft game, it is by no means the only tool.  

I have so many horror RPGs that I have tools for just about any type of horror game I ever want to run.  I have not even gotten into doing things like adding WitchCraft's Book of Hod to Ravenloft (and I have been doing it for years) or even getting into the material from World of Darkness or Call of Cthulhu RPGs.  

WitchCraft, World of Darkness, and Call of Cthulhu are all fantastic games.  Each one has a different approach to their own types of horror.  If I am fighting against the cosmic horrors then CoC is my game.  If I want to explore the horrors of existence within myself as a monster tr something that is no longer truly human then WoD.  If I want a mixture of the two with a grounding in philosophies of the world as all being true then WitchCraft/Armageddon is my game of choice.  This is only three games. I can grab from Chill, Kult, Little Fears, and more.   All are great. All are fun. Not every one of them is great for a Ravenloft game.

So. Let's build another Darklord like I did last week with Darlessa. I am not going to go into the same level of detail as I did with her.  Instead, I am going to use some other horror sources to do my heavy lifting.  NOW to be sure, I don't NEED to add anything to Ravenloft for me to use it.  Everything I am doing here I could do from scratch from the material in Chapter 2 of VRGtR. I happen to also have all these other books with great ideas. 

I have this thing that happens with all my campaigns.  I collect a lot of data, materials, products whatever for a campaign. I pick, I choose, I write, I rewrite and in the end, I get something that is often not at all exactly like what I wanted, but that is great really. But I also have this stack of other "Stuff" that I didn't use but is still compelling to me.  My campaign "Ogre Battle" grew out of my old "Shadow War" for example.  I ran this huge war that worked as a prequel to this big AD&D campaign.  The Second Campaign grew right out of Come Endless Darkness.  Right now my big campaign taking a lot of my creative energy is War of the Witch Queens.  I have barely got into it (characters are 3rd level) and I already have leftovers and plot threads that have grown larger than the campaign can handle.

Before I pull that into this conversation let me shift gears and talk about Pathfinder.

Pathfinder is the biggest alternative to D&D out there.  They gained a lot of traction in the 3e days and boomed in the 4e days as the go-to choice for D&D-like games.  I have a lot of really cool, really well-written Pathfinder books. None of them are currently in use because I am not currently playing Pathfinder.

For Ravenloft, the best Pathfinder book you can get is Pathfinder Horror Adventures.  I reviewed this book a while back and there is a lot overlap between what this book does and what Ravenloft does. The Pathfinder book is more "Domain agnostic" so it has more room for things like new classes and spells.  The Pathfinder book also covers sanity, fear, and madness.  I mentioned in my overview of Ravenloft that I usually don't like how most games do "madness." What they do here works well, for Pathfinder, I am not sure how it would work for D&D 5.   I do like Pathfinder's approach to Darklords in their Dread Lords. I am going to keep this in mind for the next bit.

Note: The Horrific Inspirations on pages 252 to 253 in Horror Adventures covers movies, television, and print for the same types of Horror Genres found in Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft. 

Land of the Ice and Snow

Pathfinder forever gets a special place in my heart because it gave me Irrisen, the land of the Witch Queens. Home to the Daughters of Baba Yaga and has included such notables as Tasha/Tashana/Iggwilv. I have a bunch of material from the Winter Witch Queen adventure path from Pathfinder and other books.   I love the idea of Winter Witches, both in fiction and history.   If I am going to pull in some Pathfinder bits from various books then why not build a Dark Domain that is Pathfinder based.

So. Let's do this.  Irrisen is a land ruled by a Witch Queen and she gets 100 years to rule until Baba Yaga comes in a pulls her out. There have been a few that rebelled and try to go longer and there is always a rivalry between the various Daughters of Baba Yaga over who will get to rule. Queen Elvanna is a good example. There is a lot of potential her then for someone to be a little more pissed off and try to kill her rivals. Now. That in of itself is not a good enough reason to drag someone into the mists. In fact, Baba Yaga encourages such machinations to guarantee the strongest one will rule. It's hard to imagine then what a Witch Queen would need to do to get the mists' attention.  One would have to assume a crime or act so vile that mists have to take notice.

Building a Pathfinder / Ravenloft Domain

Let's take an easy example.  I'll start with Elvanna, but I don't have to.  Let's just say any Winter Witch Queen.  We don't know what happens to these queens when Baba Yaga is done with them.  Tashanna is the only we do know about, but she has been banned from returning to Golarion.  We can assume that Grandmother Bony Legs doesn't let them retire to a beach home in Florida.

When Elvanna was defeated let's say she came up with a plan, if she could not rule Irrisen then no one could.  She whips up a ritual to destroy the whole land in a winter that even the inhabitants of Irrisen would fear.  She started her ritual managed to wipe out a village or two, the key here is that people important to Baba Yaga have been killed. Either the mists open up to grab her OR maybe Baba Yaga has the power to summon them. One thing is for certain.  She killed her own sister, who was going to be the next Queen. Her name likely ends in "-anna."

I would steal some ideas from the 4e adventure Winter of the Witch.  I could even use Koliada the Winter Witch. I did 5e stats for her, but I really don't need stats.  I also have access to the Snow Queen a Winter Fey creature from Kobold Press' Tome of Beasts for 5e.

Snow Queen

If it looks like I am going for evil Elsa, then you would be right. Well. Elsa actually was evil before Disney got to her.

The idea with this Domain is to use the rules presented in Pathfinder Horror Adventures to get my ideas and then the rules from Ravenloft Chapter 2  to detail them. 

I do admit, I am likely to steal some ideas from the old Domain of Vorostokov from the 2nd Ed Darklords book.  The Darklord of that land, Zolnik, was not all that interesting as a Darklord, but the land was.

Think of a landlocked in an endless deadly winter.  Everyone is poor, miserable, cold and the only source of food is what the hunters can bring in.  I would call it Ikkesen.  Combining the Norwegian word for "not" (Ikke) and Irrisen. 

The Dark Domain (5e) / Realm (Pathfinder) is one of Dark Fantasy, but it is also really Survival Horror and just enough Folk Horror to keep you on your toes. Ikkesen rarely gets above sub-zero temps and never above freezing.  It is a dark land of endless winter.  Wolves of the worst sort roam the woods. There are skinwalkers, wendigos, undead and worst things. It is what happens if Ragnarök occurred and the Frost Giants won. 

I will detail this one some more, but I am also waiting to see what I have leftover from War of the Witch Queens.  

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Classic Adventures Revisited: X2 Castle Amber

X2 Castle Amber (Chateau d' Amberville)
What can I possibly say about Castle Amber?

This adventure had always been something of a Holy Grail quest for me. I was a huge fan of Tom Moldvay, I had heard this adventure took place in Glantri and it was full of horror elements. As time went on and I still never found a copy I began to hear more; that it was a crazy dungeon full of crazier NPCs. That it is was more of a thinking module and not a hack and slash one and finally, it was heavily influenced by Clark Ashton Smith, whom I always felt was superior to Lovecraft in many respects.

I did finally get a copy from my FLGS, paid a lot for it, and I also got a copy from DriveThruRPG. The module lives up to the hype. It is not a particularly easy module to run and you better spend a lot of time with it. But for me at that time (the mid-90s when I finally got a copy) it became a great addition to my growing Ravenloft collection. It was not officially part of Ravenloft mind you, but so much of it feels the same that it would have been a crime not to bring them together.  

Later I ran it for my family under D&D 5e rules and it quickly became one of their most favorite adventures ever.  I started a trend in my family's games; they love anything done by Tom Moldvay. 

For this review and retrospective, I am considering my original Castle Amber module, the PDF and POD from DriveThruRPG, and the Goodman Games hardcover of the Original and 5e update.

X2 Castle Amber

Castle Amber is an adventure for characters level 3 to 6 for the D&D Expert Set.  It was written by Tom Moldvay, who gave us D&D Basic set half of the B/X D&D line. This adventure shows that.  While the Expert set was more focused on wilderness adventures, this is a romp through a "haunted house."  For many gamers of a certain age this became the template for all sorts of Haunted House dungeons that are still being published today.

Physically the original adventure was a 28 page book with color covers by Erol Otus with the maps of the titular castle in old-school blue on the inside covers.  The art inside is black and white and done primarily by Jim Holloway.  The art has a duel effect here.  Otus was the prime B/X cover artist, so the feel here is 100% his weird fantasy vibe of B/X.  Jim Holloway was also at this time the primary artist for the Horror game Chill.  Come for the weirdness, stay for the horror. 

Averoigne

The adventure is overtly an homage to the tales of Clark Ashton Smith.  The area where it all takes place, Averoigne, is used right out of the works of CAS.  The Amber family would fit right-in in one of his tales and that is the Colossus of Ylourgne, or rather his D&D counterpart, on the cover.  The adventure even includes a reading guide for those that want to read up on the tales of CAS, and I highly recommend doing so.

CAS, and his contemporary H.P. Lovecraft, were no strangers to the D&D world by 1981.  Indeed Molday's pulp sensibilities shine throughout in this adventure as much as they did with X1 The Isle of Dread and B4 The Lost City.  All three adventures have also been updated by Goodman Games for 5e in their hardcover Original Adventures Reincarnated series, making Moldvay their most reprinted designer. Even more than Gygax himself who as of this writing only has 1, soon to be 2.

There is a lot to love about this adventure too.  There are monsters to kill yes, but this is not a kick in the doors and kill the monster sort of deal.  There is a mood and atmosphere here.  In fact this is the prototype for the horror adventures of later date, in particular Ravenloft (which I will discuss).

On one hand, we have a haunted house filled with the not-quite-dead members of the Amber family.  This can be a pulpy nightmare or even a Gothic tale.  The room with the Tarot cards and their abilities gives us a sneak peak of some the things we will see in Ravenloft. On the other we have creatures from beyond that are quite Lovecraftian.  The Neh-Thalggu, or the Brain Collector, is a creepy ass aberration that can give the Mi-Go a run for their money.  

There is travel to other worlds via some strange mists and 16 new monsters. Some of these monsters also appeared in The Isle of Dread, but here they feel a bit different.  Plus what other B/X D&D book can you name that has "Demons" and "Pagans" in it. 

The background of this is rich enough that you want more of it. More on Averoigne and its connection to Glantri, more on the Amber family, and more on the world that this adventure implies.  It is no surprise really that much of this adventure and what it all implies found welcome homes in the BECMI version of Glantri.   

For me though the best connection is the one to Ravenloft. I have to admit the last time I ran this adventure I made the tie-ins to Ravenloft more specific, but I did not have to do much. I have to admit I was rather gleeful inside at the scene where they have to run from the "Grey Mists" to get into the castle.

Classic Modules Today & Revisited

I mentioned the Goodman Games hardcover above, but it really is a gem of a product.  With it, you get the original adventure and a 5e version of the adventure (where was that when I needed it!) as well as some fantastic comments about the adventure itself.  I wish Tom Moldvay had still been alive to give us his thoughts on this.   The 5e version expands on the Castle and those within.  There are a lot more monsters included and there are full NPC stat writeups for members of the Amber family. 

NPCs

Most of all this new version expands Averoigne in ways I would have loved to have had years ago. 

Additionally, there is the Classic Modules Today version published on DMsGuild by Chris Nolen. This one is a straightforward conversion. You need the original adventure but it is a fraction of the cost of the Goodman Games version.  I have both and have used both to great effect.   

Plays Well With Others

Castle Amber is a fantastic adventure and I am a big fan if you can't tell.  What I enjoy the most about it is that by the nature of the adventure itself and how it is written it can easily be added to any world and slotted into any sort of campaign. For me it was a no-brainer for my Come Endless Darkness campaign.  While that campaign is overtly a "Greyhawk" again the nature of it allowed a side trip to Mystara/The Known World. I would later use it as the "front door" to my Ravenloft adventure.  It was something I have wanted to do for so long and it worked so well I want to do it more.  A lot more.  While I gladly mixed and matched Basic, AD&D, 3e and 5e in my games, it is now much easier now that everything I want speaks the same, 5e, language.

Castle Amber & Ravenloft 5e

I have long postulated that not only is Castle Amber a Proto-Ravenloft, but Barovia is from Mystara/The Known World.   These connections are made more explicit with the D&D 5e adventure Curse of Strahd.  With the 5e Curse of Strahd, 5e Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft, and Goodman Games 5e Castle Amber this is now a trivial effort.

Ravenloft and Castle Amber

In fact, using the same process from Chapter 2 of Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft you could easily make the Averoigne of Castle Amber into a Domain of Dread. 

Averoigne is Gothic Horror and Dark Fantasy, with some Cosmic Horror and some Folk Horror.  I could turn up the horror elements a little, but I would not need to do much, to be honest.  Thinking back to my original running of X2 Castle Amber and I6 Ravenloft using the then-new 5e rules I had great fun. If I had tied them closer together then it would have been fantastic. 

Black Rose

Back in the early days of this blog I discussed a game I wanted to run; Black Rose, a combination of Blue Rose and Ravenloft.  Now with the 5e version of Blue Rose out, it would be a lot easier. 


I will have to write my review of the new Blue Rose Adventurer's Guide

This also begs for a good (or Goodman) version of B3 Palace of the Silver Princess for 5e.

Castle Amber is easily one of my favorite adventures and the appeal of it has only grown for me over the years.

Links

The Black Gate ran a fantastic series on Clark Ashton Smith.  I won't link all of them here, just ones that are germane to this discussion, but they are all good.

Monday, June 7, 2021

Monstrous Mondays: The Bagman

Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft has been a lot of fun.  One of the most talked-about monsters featured in it, the Bagman, doesn't have stats. Now before you freak out about this, it is by design.  

In Chapter 5 the section Creating Unique Nightmares covers how one could make a Bagman. 

For example, perhaps you’ve got an idea for a troll that ambushes adventurers while they rest. Considering its origins and appearance, the troll literally being a troll isn’t important to you; you’re more interested in that general challenge and look for the creature. To make your troll feel notorious, you think of what would scare adventurers—where they’re vulnerable and what they’re sensitive about. You come up with an idea for a creature that can come from anywhere, maybe even within the adventurers’ own gear. With tactics and traits in mind, you think of your troll as an abductor and give it the Grappler trait of a mimic and the Amorphous trait of a black pudding so it can sneak in anywhere. Finally, you don’t think of the troll as a minion, but you give it the Alien Mind trait to reect its tormented psyche. Then you esh out its story and give it a name: the Bagman.

- Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft, p. 225

The Bagman is described as an "Urban Legend," it is what happens when someone crawls into a bag of holding out of fear and dies inside.  Troll + Mimic + Black Pudding = scary monster that you can scale to meet the needs of your party.   Sounds great.  But MY Bagman would be a little different.  Sure Troll is a great place to start, but I want something a little scarier.

bagman
"I was an adventurer once just like yoooooou!"
Bagman

Large Undead (Corporeal)

Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 0 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic [Chaotic Evil]
Movement: 120' (40') [12"]
Armor Class: 5 [14]
Hit Dice: 8d8+8** (44 hp)
 Large: 8d10+8** (52 hp)
THAC0: 8 (+11)
Attacks: 2 claws, fear aura
Damage: 1d8+3 x2
Special: Amorphous, fear aura, grab, magic required to hit, undead
Save: Monster 8
Morale: 12 (12)
Treasure Hoard Class: None
XP: 1,750 (OSE) 1,840 (LL)

Str: 18 (+3) Dex: 16 (+2) Con: 13 (+1) Int: 7 (-1) Wis: 7 (-1) Cha: 6 (-1)

The bagman is an undead creature found hiding inside Bags of Holding.   Legend has it that the first bagman was an adventurer who in a fit of panic crawled inside a bag of holding to hide.  His fellow party members were all killed and the bag was tied up and stuffed into a troll's treasure hoard.  The adventurer died inside that bag and the extra-dimensional properties keep their spirit from moving on.  It also twisted their body into an elongated shape.  Their hair and nails have grown long and their bodies are thin and emaciated from dying of starvation.

The bagman is only encountered in their lair; a bag of holding.  Once the bag is picked up and carried away by an unsuspecting victim the bagman will wait until the bag is motionless again and then it will attack.  They emanate an aura of fear like the spell cause fear.  While the fear is creeping over the potential victims the bagman crawls out of their bag of holding. They will surprise on a 1-3 on a d6.  They move silently and stealthy as an 8th level thief with Dex 16. The bagman never speaks.  They attack with their long claws. 

On a successful critical hit (natural 20), it grabs the victim and pulls it into the Bag of Holding it was using as its lair.  Inside it will attempt to strangle the victim.  The bagman feeds on the dying energies of the victim.  

It is believed that to destroy a bagman one also must destroy the bag of holding they are attached to.

As undead monsters, they are immune to mind-affecting spells.  Magic spells or weapons are needed to hit it. They turn as Spectres.  Any "T" result will send them back inside their bag of holding.

--

I like it. A creepy-ass monster / urban legend.  Something old Grognards tell young adventurers before they head out on their first campaign.  "Watch out for those bags of holding!  The bagman will get yeah when you sleep!"  They laugh and drink their ales, and quietly, and hope no one notices, the slight tremble in their voice or the shake of their hand as they remember a time when the bagman came for them.

The best part about this?  Everyone should create their own bagman stats.  Some are slimy monsters. Others are extra-dimensional aberrations that enter our world via a bag of holding.  Others are stranger still.  Every campaign out there has a different bagman with different powers, attacks, weaknesses.

It might be interesting to see what others do!  

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: Belladonna of Sadness (1973)

Green is the color of the devil.

Looking over my plans for a new Darklord and some other ideas I went search for a very specific sort of movie. I wanted something set in the Dark Ages, I wanted it to involve a witch, and a normally innocent person turning to evil, or at least revenge.

I got a few hits, but the one that keep coming up in various permutations of my searches was the Japanese Animated feature, Kanashimi no Beradonna, also known as La Sorcière, Tragedy of Belladonna, and Belladonna of Sadness.

The movie takes place in an undisclosed time and place, but it is obviously some sort of feudal time.  Though we later learn it was medieval France, it could be anywhere.  Jeanne and her husband Jean have just gotten married and the Lord of the land demands jus primae noctis since Jean can't pay all his taxes.  That night Jeanne is brutalized and she returns home bloodied and bruised. While her husband wants her to forget Jeanne has visions of a phallic-shaped devil that promises her power in return for just small things.   She hesitates at first but soon succumbs to the little monster.

Soon Jeanne has power. Her husband is elevated to tax collector, though when he can't collect all the taxes the Lord chops off his hand.  As she grows in power her devil grows in size. Soon Jeanne is the true power in her village.  When the Lord returns from a war he seeks to arrest Jeanne, but she flees into the forest where she lives for a while.  The villagers start to die from the Bubonic plague and it is Jeanne that saves them with her magic.  They celebrate by throwing a huge orgy.

Jeanne runs afoul of the Lord and his wife again. She manages to get the wife killed when a young page comes to her for a love potion for the Lord's wife. The Lord offers to marry Jeanne but she refuses, claiming she wants everything he has.

She burned at the stake but as she looks out at the onlookers she sees their faces turn into hers. Knowing they sympathize with her.  The narration tells us that Jeanne's spirit lives on in the women of France and they will rise up to eventually overthrow the monarchy in the French Revolution.  It is implied that she is reborn as Liberty in La Liberté guidant le peuple

This was not like any anime movie I have ever seen before.  Check out the trailer for it.

The artistic style is not what many consider "anime" and there is almost a Ralph Bashski psychedelic about it.  The story is of course quite sad. Jeanne never has a choice in her actions, but at least she makes the best of them and she is defiant even to the point she is burning on the stake. 

Articles keep calling it "X" Rated. But that really is sensationalism.  Yes, there is a rape in the beginning, but it is all done in metaphor. Ok. Graphic metaphor.  The trailer has a lot of nudity in it, but that might be every cut in movie.  No, where this movie is the most disturbing is the violence perpetrated on Jeanne (and some to Jean) and how she reacts to it all. 

There is a lot to process in this movie, to be honest. I am severely disappointed I never saw it before this.  

Gaming Content

Would Jeanne be a Darklord? I am not sure, she doesn't seem to live up to the evil witch she is described as or thought of by others.  Instead, she becomes something else. Liberty if the movie is followed.  But there are moments when she could have turned a lot more evil.  I would have a very difficult time blaming her to be honest. 

I do like the subtle seduction the little devil does. As she grows in power, so does he.  This would be a good Warlock Patron.   

There is more I would love to do with this. I think I am going to need the BluRay. 

--

Tim Knight of Hero Press and Pun Isaac of Halls of the Nephilim along with myself are getting together at the Facebook Group I'd Rather Be Killing Monsters to discuss these movies.  Follow along with the hashtag #IdRatherBeWatchingMonsters.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Kickstart Your Weekend: Knock-Down Drag-Out: Country Noir RPG

I do love Kickstarter. I love it when it is used for a smaller company that has an idea and wants to get it off the ground.  Not companies that are using it as a "pre-order" system, but rather a real venture capital like solution.

Case in point.

Knock-Down Drag-Out: Country Noir RPG

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kddo/knock-down-drag-out-1?ref=theotherside

Country Noir is best described as Americana Folk Horror.  Here are what the authors have to say.

Dark country roads, darker forest lands. Crumbling factories and dying towns. Bare-knuckle brawls and gunfights. Mystery and danger. These are just a few of the elements common to “country noir” (sometimes also called hillbilly noir, grit-lit, or southern noir), a category of crime fiction and film where secrets are everywhere and the restoration of order and justice are by no means a sure thing. Winter's Bone, Justified, Ozark, Hap & Leonard, and the Slim in Little Egypt series. Knock-Down Drag-Out is a way for you and your friends to bring these kinds of stories to life.

I mean it sounds really great. 

Now full disclosure. I know of the authors, but they might not remember me. Jason & Ian Miller both worked with my brother at a movie theatre in the heart of Little Egypt.  They had even been to my house at a Halloween Party where they drank some mead my roommates and I had made the year before.  We thought one of them was going to go blind from it.

The game looks like a lot of fun and one I would really enjoy.

So it would be great if it got funded!

Check it out and throw some coin in their direction.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Ginny Di: Backstories don't have to be tragic to be interesting

Ginny Di
Let's take a quick break from Ravenloft to talk about something that will send many DM's screaming for the hills in horror.

Character backstories

Now, most old-school players will argue that 1st level characters don't need a backstory.  That would be fine and all, but I remember playing in the 80s. I have lost count of how many "disgraced princes," "lost royalty," or "tragic orphans" I ran into in games.  I get it, it was fantasy and a way to play out various ideas, concepts, whatever.  D&D was cheaper than therapy. I get it. I do.  And it is fine you don't want to do them now.

But don't pretend it didn't happen.

I have no issues with backstories.  In most of the RPGs I play a backstory is an excuse for the GM (me) to torture your character some more.  Have the Love quality/drawback in the Buffy RPG?  Yeah. Might want to rethink that one.  But I don't always have to do that.   

Our two primary modern examples of "The Hero with a Thousand Faces" by Joesph Campbell are Luke Skywalker and Harry Potter. By all accounts, they are 1st level characters.  Luke is a farm kid. Harry is an abused 11-year-old.  BOTH have great backstories.  "Yer a wizard Harry!" "My name is Luke." "Yer a Jedi Luke!"  But, yes, both are tragic backstories.  Take Campbell's own example of the Monomyth, Gilgamesh.  Gilgamesh is already the King when the story starts.  That's a backstory no one would accept!

Let's just say that there is going to be some sort of backstory.  How should you do it?

Well once again let's turn to Ginny Di.  

She might be new at D&D but her enthusiasm is greater and more infectious than a room full of Grogs blogging about it. Your humble author included.

Her recent video is overtly about one topic, but she actually makes two very good points here that pretty much everyone should agree with.

So her two major points are:

  1. Backstories don't need to be tragic or even dark
  2. Leave it open enough for your DM to work it into the campaign

That's solid advice. One I would like to hope that most Old-Schoolers follow already.

My oldest son has already instituted a "maximum" limit on what a backstory in his games are.  Right now I think it is a page, but he has talked about a paragraph.  Me? I don't care, make as long as you like just keep it in reason.

Ginny points out that characters, and this is true for every version of the game, are not normal people. A level 1 character is still better than a 0 level Normal Human.  They have more hp, are better at fighting or even have magic.  Even in Van Righten's Guide to Ravenloft, the Survivors are slightly better than normal humans.  Luke already was Force-sensitive, Harry could still do some minor magic and talk to snakes.  

Also, no normal person is going to live a life to go out adventuring.  So find those reasons.  Even if that reason is "I just want a pile of treasure." 

Taking Ginny's Advice

At the end of the video, she asks us two questions.  

Have you ever had a character with a happy backstory?
What kind of problems do you run into when writing character backstories?

These are good questions to ask.  

Happy Backstory?

Yes. My wizard Phygora, like his namesake and idol Phygor, came from a well to do, happy prosperous family in Glantri.  He was well-liked, no issues with school, loves, or friends. Just one day he decided, like Phygor before, him to travel the world to learn all the magic he could.  While this could have been tragic, it was symbolic of my own desires to learn all sorts of things.

I have had fighters and thieves that have "only it for the money" or as the kids say "the lolz."

Backstory Problems?

Sadly I do find the tragic backstory easier to write.  Larina's family died in their apothecary shop while she was away studying.  Though I recently brought her mother and father back. Johan's twin brother was killed by ghouls, then he died to become another's character's back story.  I have the usual suspects of orphans, outcasts and other murder hobos.  They far outweigh the happy stories.

Over the years though I have been looking at other ways to generate characters and backstories.

It occurred to me years (ok. decades) ago when sitting in my History of Psychology course.  We were going over Freud's theories of self and were contrasting them with later theorists. Now I have always preferred Jung over Freud.  I guess I am just Jung at heart! (sorry. That joke is mandated by my university, if I don't use it they take away my degrees.)

I am planning to expand on this, but I came to see many of my characters as representations of various Freudian and Jungian concepts.

The easiest one to show is Larina, she is a manifestation of my Jungian Anima/Shadow Self.  Phygora is my Freudian Super-Ego, Johan is my Ego and my assassin character represents my Id.  

I have always been curious if others have done this.

You can find Ginny Di online at:

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft, Part 2b. Do You Wanna Build a Darklord?

Darlessa, the Vampire Queen
Wait.  Shouldn't this be Part 4?  Yes, but everything I am talking about here deals perfectly with the material I reviewed in Part 2 and very little of Part 3.  

One of the shifts in design goals of the new Ravenloft book is a move to focus more on the Darklords you can create for your own game. 

While several updated and new Darklords and Domains are detailed, the fun comes creating your own, and in particular, one that has meaning for your players and characters.   Chapter 2 covers this well and comes before Chapter 3 on the existing Darklords and Domains to get the readers and potential DMs to think about what the domains mean to them.

So let's take the advice of the book and create a new Darklord and Domain.  Now my first horror game likely happened as soon as I got my Moldvay Basic set if not before.  I dig horror. A lot. So I have at least 40+ years' worth of horror gaming to draw on.  And while such D&D campaigns I have run in the past, The Shadow War, Ogre Battle, or even The Dragon and the Phoenix had horror elements to them, but none really rose up to the levels of Ravenloft worth horror, though the Shadow War back in 1991 came close and even featured some Ravenloft game sessions.  My own Ravenloft campaign was essentially a tour of the then Domains ala "The Fantastic Journey" only horror and not sci-fi.  I imprinted on a lot of weird shit as a kid. While a lot of fun, it does not give much in the way of "new" material.  Sure there is a lot of old material I could bring back, but that's not what I want to do here now. 

So let's start with Chapter 2 and build a Domain. And do that, we need a Darklord.

Who is My Darklord?

It's going to be a vampire. Why? I like Vampires. I played a cleric as my first class ever so I could be like Van Helsing. My goal what to fight vampires and undead.  Let me put a pin in that idea for a moment. 

I thought about maybe using my cavalier that I ran through Ravenloft as a player or one of my favorite NPCs I used as a reoccurring character that would torment the players because while she was a vampire she was not overtly evil. But my cavalier died in the Shadow War and the NPC, well she ended up the focus of a ritual to bring a vampire back to life.  She is human now, and given the history of that character, I kinda want to keep it that way. 

There is only one NPC that could really be my Darklord.  That is Darlessa the Vampire Queen.

Spend any time here and you will know about my history obsession with the various Vampire Queens.  I love them.  Blame Hammer Horror, blame 60's and 70's Giallo, but they are so great.  Darlessa comes to me via Small Niche Games and the Valnwall products where she is credited with killing St. Johan, my very first Cleric character. So the origin here is still Basic, B/X style at that, D&D.   Truthfully there is a multitude of reasons why this works for me, so I am not going to bore you with the justification and the details and just state "it works."  

So let's start with Darklord Creation.  Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft says:

A Darklord’s memories, desires, mistakes, and evil deeds shape the domain’s twisted lands, inhabitants, and features. You need not create these in a vacuum, though. When creating your own Darklord, consider the relationship that will define their evil in your adventures: their conflict with your players’ characters.

- Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft, p. 39

Well...I don't have any players, not just yet.  You all are my players now. The adventures you have had are reading this blog. 

One this is clear off the bat.  The Darklord is evil.  Darlessa might be a lot of things, but a misunderstood villain is not one of them.  This notion of evil and evil deeds is repeated many times in this section. So much for Ravenloft not having good vs. evil. 

What are Darlessa's evil deeds? She kills people. Well, lots of vampires do that. She used her evil and power and privilege to command others.  She tolerated no rivals. She kidnapped the granddaughter of Johan Werper and threatened to kill her. She caused Johan's death instead and this was her last act that damned her.  Let's consult this questionnaire from VRGtR, answers in parentheses:

  • Where was the Darklord before the Mists took them?  (In the swamp outside her castle)
  • Who was the Darklord’s family? (none, she had killed them all centuries ago)
  • How was the Darklord’s family oppressed, oppressive, or both? (domineering over her, killing them might have done the world some good)
  • What was the Darklord’s childhood like?  (oppressive. She was bullied and bullied in return)
  • Whom did the Darklord care about? (Only herself mostly, BUT I am willing to work on this)
  • Who cared about the Darklord? (Maybe a sister?  I will think about this.)
  • Who hurt the Darklord? (everyone, but usually only once)
  • Whose respect or love did the Darklord crave? (only those who had more power than her)
  • What did the Darklord value? (power)

So Darlessa is a vampire, not because she craves lives and blood, but because she craves power. Her desire to control everyone and everything around her was her undoing as a vampire and led her to become a Darklord.  But lots of vampires never become Darklords.  She has to be something else.

In "Corrupt Beyond Redemption" on page 40 we are given some ideas of what makes a Darklord more than your average villain.  The Darklord needs to commit Evil Acts, or "The Dark Powers consider an act to be evil if it is intentional, unnecessary, and successful, and most importantly if it causes significant harm."  Those Harmed have to be significant.  In this case, it was my first character trying to protect my first AD&D 2nd Ed character.  Maybe not significant to you but for me it has gravitas.  And finally, the act has to be Irredeemable.  Darlessa was about to drain the life out of a seven-year-old girl just to get to her parents and grandfather. She managed to cause the death of the grandfather and scar the granddaughter so much she was terrified of the dark.  (Role-Playing tip. Try playing an AD&D character who you have decided is afraid of the dark. All dark, all the time.)

Background

Darlessa always fancied herself as a Queen, which of course is impossible because she is from Glantri. She might have been an upstart Princess if fate had been kinder to her, but instead, the only magic she learned was witchcraft, a "lesser" form of magic to the Glantri ruling class.  Rejected by those she considered her peers and laughed at by those she considered underlings it was no surprise that she turned to evil.  She married a minor noble and soon had him murdered.  She moved up in social status by marrying one of the lesser Princes.  She could not kill him as easily so she had him locked away due to madness, which she of course caused.  She was always vying for more and more power, a better position in the social hierarchy. While she felt she was in control of her situation and had everyone else figured out in truth all the nobility saw through her ruse and were just toying with her.  When discovered this and was laughed out of court she sought out her demon to turn her into a vampire. But even then she chaffed under this yoke and sought to kill her new master. 

She managed to escape and had planned her glorious revenge on all who had mocked her, only to discover that everyone from the court was dead.  Not of some nefarious or evil plan, but of the natural progress of time.  She had taken decades to break free and now it was too late. All that remained were the offspring of those who had rejected her.  She reinvented herself as a noble and re-entered court, this time none knew her.  She would have been successful too had it not been for the cleric Johan.  Clerics had been banned in her day in Glantri, but Johan was distantly related to a noble and had proved a wise council on ecclesiastic and occult matters.  He quickly spotted Darlessa for what she was and thus began 40 years of open conflict between the two.  

Until the night she got what she had desired.  She was going to kill Johan and his granddaughter. Johan had taken his granddaughter to see the court. Her chance had come, everyone who had stood against her were all in one place. She had killed every servant in the castle to get to the girl and had taken her back to her own keep.  Johan followed. The ancient enemies fought and both died by the flaming holy oil.  Only the young granddaughter survived.  Johan was canonized and became St. Johan.  

Darlessa awoke to find herself in a finely appointed castle much like that of the court.  She was surrounded by servants and nobles, and all addressed her as Queen.

Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh from Pexels
Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh from Pexels
The Domain

The Domain of Darlessa is a small island, or at least that is what it seems to be. There is the island and it is surrounded by water, but they are on a lake and the island is in that lake.  Beyond are only mists.  Darlessa is the Queen, but she has no subjects. She has servants, the very ones she had killed to get to Johan, but they are mindless, repeating the same tasks every day, day in day out.  Members of her court have the exact same conversations over and over again.  Games of chess or cards always result in the same outcomes no matter how many times they are played. Everyone in the castle adores her and they tell her this, often. Every day. The exact same way.  She has tried to feed on her servants, but they provide her with no life and they are returned the very next day.  She has gone on berserk killing sprees, killing every member of her court, and they return the next day acting as they always have.

The night she was rejected by society plays over and over again as it did in her mind when she was subservient to her demon lord. Now it plays out for real and she holds the place of power and honor. Her every desire has been given to her. And she is tortured by it all. 

This Domain has treated Darlessa everything she ever wanted and she is sickened by it all.  The fawning courtiers, the sycophants, the hangers-on. They all disgust her and there is no release.  The sun remains behind dense clouds and is never bright enough to kill her.  She thirsts constantly, but no one inside her domain can satisfy her.  Even her small cadre of warlocks (of the Undead) who do her bidding are revolting to her.  Though they do leave the island to gather new souls for their Queen.  In truth, she longs for a great Paladin or Cleric to come to destroy her to end her endless torment. Sadly, for her, those were outlawed. 

For the Darklord Connections (p. 44) we have the following:  1: An adventurer reminds the Darklord of their bond, desire or loved one.  OR in this case as the clerics Johan or his granddaughter Celene.  Darlessa is convinced that only Celene would be able to free her. 

Genres of Horror

This Domain is pure Dark Fantasy with bits of Gothic Horror and Psychological Horror. It should feel like a D&D world (Mystara in particular) in the movie Groundhog's Day.  The same day repeats over and over in an endless cycle. It is Dark Fantasy with the trappings of Gothic Horror.  The castle is haunted, but not by ghosts, but by memories.  Psychological horror comes from the "Repeat" and not knowing who is on repeat or not.  Also, how does one get out of it all?

Arevenir
Domain of the Vampire Queen

Darklord: Queen Darlessa
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Gothic Horror
Hallmarks: Undead ruler, same day repeats over and over.
Mist Talismans: Invitation to the Royal Court, a book of beginner spells from the School of Magic, a single candle.

Arevenir is a depressing domain consisting of a small island, a castle on the island and the surrounding village.  The locals are glum and speak no language the characters will understand right away.  The populace will claim the woods nearby are haunted with evil fae creatures and wolves with eyes that glow with balefire. 

The castle offers a respite from the cold, uninviting village. Inside the events of the same night play over and over again. The PCs will find they are trapped inside with no hope of escape except from the evil Queen herself and her warlock acolytes.

To escape they have to find the proper talisman. 

--

I am sure I can develop more if needed. But this is a good start.  With this setup the PCs do not need to fight Darlessa at all. So while I have stats for her I don't need stats for her.  Even if they did like everything else in the castle she would just return the next day. 

What I want here is a land influenced by the French and Italian horror of the mid 1970s.  Similar to the most recent October Horror Movie marathon I just did where I focused on Pre-Exorcist European Horror.

It would be fun little diversion. 

Now if I were making a new Domain for players well I get more player input.  Every successful horror game I have ever run has had one thing in common; Player's buy-in.  They have to want to play it in order to make it work out fine.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Character Creation Challenge: Swords & Wizardry Boxed Set

Swords & Wizardry Boxed set
Is it really June 1st??  Spent my Memorial Day weekend the same way I always do; grilling a bunch of food and spending all my time helping my wife in her garden.  So far we have 61 tomato plants in, 3 tomatillos, 74 peppers ranging from sweet to "Satan's Kiss,"  untold numbers of onions, potatoes, celery, squash and I have no idea what else.  Sadly we ended up losing all of our okra plants due to a late-season frost.

But today is a new month and that means a new character.  Although today's character is not new, per se, it is new since this is the first time I have presented this character before she became a Vampire.

The Game: Swords & Wizardry Boxed Set

I got my Swords & Wizardry Boxed set in the mail over the weekend from the Kickstarter.  It is a great-looking set and I want to spend some more time with it.  Getting a set of dice inside was a nice touch.  The books are top-notch really. Though I fear that my old-school itch is now being scratched by Old-School Essentials. Still, my oldest saw my set and admired it so maybe he will do some running with it.

There is a lot to like about it.

Old School Boxed sets

The Character: Darlessa

Long-time readers know of my love for the various "Vampire Queen" adventures out there and my own history with them.   Darlessa is one of the Vampire Queens I most often use.  She has a nice personal history with me and my characters and she is 100% OGC so others can use her too.

I am going to be using her in another project very soon, so I thought it might be nice to talk about her today before she became a Vampire.  Since I have this new rule system here that mimics the oldest RPG in our hobby, I thought it might be nice to go back and see her as a human witch. Right before her humiliating betrayal and her seeking out her demonic patron to turn her into a vampire.

Darlessa as a human witch
Darlessa

Chaotic Female Human Witch, 13th level

Strength: 10
Dexterity: 12
Constitution: 13
Intelligence: 15
Wisdom: 14
Charisma: 18

Saving Throw: 5
Hit Points: 43
AC: 1

Occult Powers

Familiar (Raven)
Evil’s Touch
Devil’s Tongue

Spells by Level

1st (4): Burning Hands, Cause Fear, Minor Curse, Read Languages
2nd (4): Agony, Bewitch II, Enthrall, Rite of Remote Seeing
3rd (3): Clairaudience/Clairvoyance, Danse Macabre, Toad Mind
4th (3): Arcane Eye, Bewitch IV, Phantom Lacerations
5th (2): Death Curse, Greater Command
6th (2): Death Blade
7th (1): Wave of Mutilation

Magic Items

Bracers of defense, ring of protection, ring spell storing.

Background

Darlessa always fancied herself as a Queen, which of course is impossible because she is from Glantri. She might have been an upstart Princess if fate had been kinder to her, but instead, the only magic she learned was witchcraft, a "lesser" form of magic to the Glantri ruling class.  Rejected by those she considered her peers and laughed at by those she considered underlings it was no surprise that she turned to evil.  She married a minor noble and soon had him murdered.  She moved up in social status by marrying one of the lesser Princes.  She could not kill him as easily so she had him locked away due to madness, which she of course caused.  She was always vying for more and more power, a better position in the social hierarchy. While she felt she was in control of her situation and had everyone else figured out in truth all the nobility saw through her ruse and were just toying with her.  When discovered this and was laughed out of court she sought out her demon to turn her into a vampire.

Darlessa, S&W character sheet

That is the sad tale of Darlessa. One of jealousy, anger, and hubris.  What happens to her next?  Tune in tomorrow and see!