Friday, July 23, 2021

Kickstart Your Weekend: Celts, Demon City, and Anime

A few Kickstarters today that look like a lot of fun.

Heroes of Tara Player's Guide

Heroes of Tara
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1955128460/heroes-of-tara-players-guide?ref=theotherside

5e? Irish myths?  Yes, please!  I mean what else do I need to know here?  No. That's pretty much all I need!

Pixies, Wyrms, Demon City – Three Mini Role-Playing Games

Demon City

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dyskami/pixies-wyrms-demonicity-three-mini-role-playing-games?ref=theotherside

While Dyskami Publishing has some issues left over from the Guardians of Order days and...I am not quite sure how I feel about that, I did love BESM.  These new books for TriStat are exactly the sort of things I loved.  Hell, I even had my own Demon City in the works, but I am happy to put that down of other projects. 

Thursday, July 22, 2021

This Old Dragon: Issue #125

Dragon Magazine #125
Been a bit since I did one of these I thought this might be a good time to pull this one out. 

Dragon #125 comes to us from a magical time in ancient history known as the Fall of 1987.  This issue is from September 1987 in particular.  I just met this girl from the dorm next door. She had already kicked everyone's ass in cards in her dorm and now she was over at mine to humiliate everyone here.  So yeah we quickly became friends, then best friends and sis years later we were dating and today is our 26th wedding anniversary.   So yeah, I look back at this time rather fondly. 

Dragon #125's special feature is Chivalry.  Not a bad choice with all the Arthurian movies I have been watching this month.  The cover art by Roger Raupp is a great portrayal of Arthur vs Modred. 

Letters include one to remind us the Wormy has appeared in 100 issues at this point. Sadly the end is near.   Also mentioned is Finieous Fingers which hadn't appeared in Dragon for a long time. There is also a letter about religion in D&D and the DragonRaid game gets mentioned. 

Nice ad for the Science Fiction Book Club.  This would have been around the time I joined for the second time and I see a number of books here I still have.  This was my transition phase of moving out of dark fantasy and into horror proper. 

Forum has the usual collection of deep cuts for the game.  One, in particular, discusses a letter from #121 about parthenogenesis in Amazons and delves into the details of the mating habits of harpies.  Is this Dragon Forum or Penthouse Forum?  Likely to have the same level of "Dear Editors, I could not believe this, but this really happened..."

The first true article comes up and it is a neat one.  Nigel D. Findley gives us The Ecology of the Greenhag.  The central idea revolves around the notion that all hag types are born of the mating of a Night Hag and various humanoid species.  It is a neat idea really.  I like that the Night Hag has a gestation period of 13 months. Greenhags likewise can give birth to an Annis after their "quite frequent" matings with ogres or hill giants. No indication on how the Sea Hags or other hags fit into this.

Ed Greenwood is up with a Realms article.  This was the start of the Golden Age of the Forgotten Realms.  The article, Woodlands of the Realms, covers magical and mundane trees and forests of the Forgotten Realms.  You have to give the guy credit, he came up with some good stuff even in the minutia such as this.  

Our special section of Chivalry begins next.

The Code of Chivalry by Mark Easterday gives us some knightly orders and what to do with them. There are benefits and drawbacks for PC Knights and even a simple system for honor.  It is nothing Earth-shattering, but it has appeal in it's simplicity. It is also something more people should be doing with knights, cavaliers, and paladins. 

Nice big ad for the Time-LIFE Mysteries of the Unkown series, now frustratingly incomplete at your local used book store. 

Time-LIFE Mysteries of the Unknown

Thomas M. Kane is next with Meanwhile Back at the Fief...  This one covers all the duties of a feudal lord. There are some details on day-to-day activities and tables of odd occurrences.  I seem to recall some similar rules in the D&D Companion set. These came after that so I wonder how they compare.  

Armies from the Ground Up by James A. Yates is next and deals with the hows and whys of raising an army in an AD&D game specifically.   Again, very useful to have. 

A "new" section that was going to be semi-regular is up, Lords & Legends.  I have no idea how much or for how long it continued. A quick Google search shows it came up at least one more time.  This is entering as bit of a "Dark" time for me and Dragon.  I was in college and any spare money went to food, school supplies, or...other school supplies.  It is "dark" in the sense that it is a period that is unknown to me.  I remember reading this issue back then, but my Dragon purchases would be only for special occasions like the October issues. 

For this Lords & Legends from Katharine Kerr we have three lords of the Age of Chivalry; Count William of Orange, Bertrand (nephew of William), and Count Rainouart of Tortelose.  All from the Chanson de Roland ("Song of Roland").

Our last article in this series is Glory, Danger, and Wounds by Garry Hamlin.  This article also draws on The Song of Roland for inspiration and deals with battle and honor for Cavaliers. Large battles and private duels are discussed.  More importantly how such battles and duels should and should not be used. 

The Best for the Best covers elite espionage agencies for Top Secret and is a rare non-Merle M. Rasmussen article. This one is from William Van Horn and it is more proper for the Top Secret S.I. game that Rasmussen did not develop. 

For our centerpiece, we get a new "mini" game from David "Zeb" Cook, Clay-O-Rama, a miniatures battle game where the playing pieces are made from clay or Play-doh. You get some friends, some dice, some pencils, and some modeling clay (Play-Doh is recommended) and you get started making your Claydonian to do battle. Make sure you leave some clay/playdoh aside for missiles  The rules are really simple, you move, you attack, you calculate damage. The whole thing takes up three page and a cover.  Pull it out of your magazine and you are good to go.  It does look like silly fun, to be honest. 

Clay-o-rama

Our fiction selection is by Lois Tilton titled The Passing of Kings.

Lee Ian Wurn is up with a rare post-Gary Greyhawk article. In the Bazaar of the Bizarre, we have the Magical Maps of Greyhawk.  We get magical maps that more or less are the magical GPSs of their day.  The article though gave me an idea.  What if there was a giant magical Bazaar, like what you find on Deva in the Myth Adventures books by Robert Lynn Asprin.  I could make each article a stall, like you find in those giant flea markets or the vendor's room at Gen Con.  And just to be that guy, the stalls have the same number of the magazine they appeared in.  This shop of magical maps is found in stall #125.

Jeff Grubb is up with Plane Speaking. This time featuring the Positive Quasi Elementals. There are only three, Radiance (Fire-Positive), Steam (Water-Positive), and Mineral (Earth-Positive). The Lightning (Air-Positive) appeared in the Monster Manual II.

The Game Wizards talks about the new Dragonlance Adventures hardcover.  This was a rather popular book with my small group in college. There were a lot of ideas I freely stole from it for my own games.  I also thought it was odd about the hard cap of 20 levels.  Now that is normal. 

A Second Look at Zebulon's Guide comes to us from Kim Eastland and covers all sorts of errata and clarifications.  I was out of Star Frontiers at this point having switched over to FASA Doctor Who and Star Trek. I have heard that Zebulon's Guide changed things but I will admit I do now know to what degree. 

Big ad for Mayfair's updated City-State of the Invincible Overlord

City-State of the Invincible Overlord

Role-Playing Reviews is next covering three fantasy adventures.  This is another one of the articles that would get WotC into trouble despite their good intentions.  The article is Copyrighted 1987 by Ken Rolston, which means he likely still held the reprint rights. The adventures in question are The Grey Knight for Pendragon, Phantom of the Northern Marches for MERP, and Treasure Hunt for AD&D.  We learn something we had suspected at this time, that the term "Module" was growing out of fashion. So for the adventures Rolston lets us know that the Grey Knight is one of the best he has seen, Treasure Hunt is a fantastic adventure for 0-level AD&D characters, and Phantom is wonderful.

The Role of Books covers some of the new releases for the last quarter of 1987.  There is the Orson Scott Card's Seventh Son, a couple from Harry Turtledove, and the debut (more or less) of Peter David who later go on to be one of America's most prolific authors.  

Jeff Grub's Marvel-Phile is up with some enemies for the Incredible Hulk; Abomination and Zzzax, and an ally, Doc Samson.  I was thinking about Abomination just the other day while trying to decide if I should include the Hulk movies in my Marvel re-watch that I might never get around to.

Gamer's Guide has the classified ads. I wonder how many of these places were still around. 

Convention Calendar covers the cons of Fall 1987.

Three pages of Snarf Quest, a page of DragonsMirth, and three of Wormy.

Some interesting bits to be sure, but nothing that jumps out to me to be used today.  The Greenhag stuff is fun, but I have taken my hags into a completely different direction really.  While everyone talks with glowing nostalgia for the Dragons prior to these (and I do as well) there is a lot between 1987 and 1997 that I never read and only have briefly glanced at.  So that might be my new sweet spot for The Old Dragon.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

B/X Boxing Match: OSE-Advance Fantasy vs. Swords & Wizardry

Time for another round of Boxing Match. Unlike the last Boxing Match of OSE vs. BX RPG where I was comparing more similar systems.  This time I am going with the current big heavyweights in the OSR.  These games also feature somewhat different systems and different rules assumptions.


To start off both games, Old School Essentials and Swords & Wizardry allow you to play the same sorts of games.  You can even assume that an adventure, or supplement, or whatever written for D&D (any Pre-1997 version) can be used with either of these two games with about equal amounts of conversion needed.  In my mind, the conversion is so negligible that I am not going to factor that at all in my comparisons.

Also in terms of the game that these two are drawn from, both games live in a strange liminal space between D&D and AD&D.  That is at least if we are considering OSE Advanced Fantasy.  OSE builds on a base of B/X era D&D and adds some elements of AD&D.   Swords & Wizardry starts with a base of OD&D and what that would become in AD&D but keeps the rule abstraction at the B/X level.

Looking at the total number of pages is not likely to be very helpful here.  Both games have different levels of modularity baked in so adding or subtracting things is very easy for both.

Format

Both sets split their rules up into various books. Overtly there are Player books and Gamemaster books.  Among the player books are also books dedicated to spells and magic.  OSE books are in hardcover format, S&W are soft covers.   There are fewer pages to the S&W books overall, but considering their smaller, sans-serif font I feel that content-wise they are mostly the same. 

Swords & Wizardry nudges ahead in one way. Their set includes a set of seven polyhedral dice. The addition of a GM's/Referee Screen that fits into the box makes it stand out.   

The round goes to Swords & Wizardry.

Swords & Wizardry

Classes

Just going with "out of the boxes" classes these two games compare well in terms of "base" classes. 

In the Swords & Wizardry Player's Book, we have the following: Assassin, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Magic-user, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, and Thief.  Classes have a maximum of 20th level.

In the OSE-Advanced book, we get: Acrobat, Assassin, Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Illusionist, Knight, Magic-user, Paladin, Ranger, and Thief.
There are also the "race as class" variants of: Drow, Duergar, Swarf, Elf, Gnome, Half-elf, Halfling, Half-orc, and Svirfneblin.  The level maximum is 14 for humans and variable for others.

S&W has Dwarves, Elves, Halflings, and Humans for races.  OSE has all the above-mentioned race-as-classes as races for other classes as well. 

The clear winner of this round is OSE-Advanced, but in truth, S&W is doing exactly what they set out to do leaving these extra classes and races for others to define. 

Old School Essentials

Monsters

Oh, I do love my monsters.  All the usual suspects are here with both cleaving very close to their spiritual god-parents. So lots of overlap with the Monster Manual for example.  Part by design, part by nature of the d20 SRD.

By the numbers, Swords & Wizardry Monsters and Moar Monsters have 56 and 62 monsters (118 total) covering 44 and 24 pages respectively. 

Old School Essentials features 205 monsters over 65 pages for their "Basic" book and 327 monsters over 107 pages for their "Advanced" book.

So for these sets, the round goes to OSE, but keep in mind that Swords & Wizardry Monstrosities and Tome of Horrors bring their monster totals to over 1,400. 

The round goes to OSE. 

Game Play

Honestly, the differences here are so trivial. Combat might be faster in S&W, but that can be open to debate.  The modularity of OSE makes it a great game to have at the table where everything is easy to find and the facing page layout makes everything easy to read at a glance. 

You can use just about every classical resource or adventure with either with no issues.

Both games come with two separate adventures. I reviewed the OSE ones here

Final Round

So. Who is the winner here?  

We are. That is who.  We live in a time of unparalleled choice and access.  Determining which of these games is going to be splitting hairs at best and even then there are still a dozen or so others that fill their same niche.  Not to mention all the original material still out there. 

Boxed sets


Monday, July 19, 2021

Monstrous Mondays: Qliphoth, Gamaliel

One of the things I am most looking forward to in my Basic Bestiaries is developing new and different demonic lineages. One of these I have spoken about in the past is the Qliphoth.

The Qliphoth are the discarded husks of primordial beings.  It is natural to think of them like the husks or used exoskeletons of cicadas, or even the skins of snakes. Since these beings were more than mortals currently are and became even more ascended, their husks are more than just leftover skins or skeletons.

Case in point the Gamaliel.  

Gamaliel as a Sensory Homunculus

When the Primordials shed their "husks" or "peels" to be the Luminous Beings, one such husk was their dark sexual desires.  As hyper-intelligent immortal and immoral kindred, their desires were particularly dark. As they shed their evil desires their conscious and subconscious sexual desires and yearnings became the Gamaliel.

Gamaliel based on the Sensory Homunculus
Gamaliel

Medium Fiend, Qliphoth (demon)

Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1d6)
Alignment: Chaotic [Chaotic Evil]
Movement: 120' (40') [12"]
Armor Class: 8 [11]
Hit Dice: 6d8+6*** (45 hp)
Attacks: 2 hands, 1 tongue + special
Damage: 1d6+1 x2, 1d4+1
Special: Cause delirium, Qliphoth immunities
Save: Monster 6 
Morale: 12 (12)
Treasure Hoard Class: None
XP: 1,250 (OSE) 1,280 (LL)

Str: 14 (+1) Dex: 14 (+1) Con: 18 (+3) Int: 12 (0) Wis: 7 (-1) Cha: 2 (-4)

The Gamaliel, or the Obscene Ones, were among the first of the Qliphoth to be formed.  They appear as medium-sized nearly humanoid-looking creatures.  Their hands, feet, lips, tongue, and sexual organs are enlarged to grotesque sizes in comparison to their otherwise small bodies.  They always appear nude as a mockery of the forms their progenitors eventually took on. They may appear as male or female.

Gamaliel lives for one thing only, sensory stimuli. They want to feel everything, touch, taste, smell and hear everything they can.  Yes, when possible they also try to copulate with anything and everything they can.  They lack the subtlety of the Liliam or Baalseraph or even the guile of Calabim or Shedim.  They are nearly mindless beasts that take no heed of anything but their own twisted desires.

They can attack with their huge hands for 1d6+1 points of damage each.  They may also attack with their tongues at 1d4+1.  Their saliva is such that anyone exposed to it via an attack or touch must save vs Paralysis or become delirious.  This state lasts for 2d6 turns in which case the victim is completely unaware of what is going on around them.  There is a 1 in 6 chance that if they were in a combat situation they will keep on fighting with melee attacks. Targets are chosen at random.

Gamaliel can be easily distracted by auditory and visual illusions. They save at a -2 penalty against such magics and can be effectively distracted long enough to be attacked. 

Like all Qliphoth Gamaliel have the following adjustments to damage types: 
Immune: Mundane/Cold Iron/Silver weapons, Poison
Half Damage (save for none): Acid, Cold, Electricity, Fire (Dragon/Magic/Mundane), Gas
Full Damage: Magic Missile, magic weapons, holy/blessed weapons

Unlike other Qliphoth death (their's or others) is not the goal of the Gamaliel.  A dead foe might have an interesting smell or touch, a live one is more interesting and you can do more with them.  For this reason, the Gamaliel are sometimes considered to be not as evil as other Qliphoth; this is a very erroneous and dangerous assumption. They are every bit as evil.  A quick death is far more merciful than being captured and becoming the plaything of a Gamaliel.

--

The mental image I had of the Gamaliel was immediate. They were life-sized versions of the "Sensory Homunculus" we used to talk about back in cognitive psychology undergrad days.  I always knew I aw going to make a monster out that one day.

They are the Qliphoth counterparts to the succubi with roughly the same HD and some powers.  As I define the Qliphoth more I might increase or decrease various abilities, powers or HD/hp. I might even make them Small sized.  Still working out all the details, but that is where the fun is!

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: Camelot (1967)

Camelot (1967)
At the risk of sounding really old, I adore Camelot.  Back when I was young I ended up with a second bout of chickenpox.  My parents had a laser disc player back then and this one of the movies they had. I think I watched it a dozen times.  Not a lot of choice really, but it was still good.  I can still recall all the songs.

I have to admit I often judge my Athurs, Gueneveres, and Lancelots based on the examples set by Richard Harris, Vanessa Redgrave, and Franco Nero.  Let's be honest. Vanessa Redgrave is adorable here.  I am not 100% convinced that she did not contribute to me having so many blue-eyed, redheaded characters.

Arthur's meeting with Guenevere is one of my favorites. And I fully admit I still hum "Camelot" whenever I watch another movie about Arthur.

The story here follows, more or less, the T.H. White "Once and Future King" novel.

Arthur's conversations with "Jenny" are really fantastic. I mean the attitudes are more modern, but that is fine since the setting is more Ren Faire than post-Roman Britain. I find Richard Harris' Arthur enthusiasm infectious. 

Also if you ever wanted a better depiction of an AD&D Paladin then you can't do much better than Camelot's Lancelot. The scene where Lancelot is jousting with Sir Dinadan, accidentally mortally wounds and then heals him has stuck with me for years as the example of laying on hands.  I can't help but think this is what Gygax had in mind when he wrote the Paladin class.  

The movie does drag on a bit, it is nearly 3 hours, but I am hesitant to suggest any cuts. 

The scene where Lancelot rescues Guenevere is both profoundly heroic and profoundly sad at the same time.  Give this to Richard Harris, he makes you feel Arthur's pain. 

Arthur, "For what? Revenge. The most worthless of causes."

I might lack the historical gravitas of Excalibur and have nearly nothing in common with real history but I don't care.  

Much like reading Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur, I think this is a must-view for any fan of the myths and tales of King Arthur.

Gaming Content

Nothing directly here save what all the tales of Arthur can give us.  BUT given the musical nature of this movie, it does make me wonder if a game where everyone is a bard might work.  Lusty Month of May indeed.

This Lancelot, maybe more than any other, is a great example of a Paladin in D&D.

--

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, July 16, 2021

Kickstart Your Weekend and Interview: Roderic Waibel of Chromatic Dungeons

Today I am talking with Roderic Waibel the creator of Chromatic Dungeons which is in the middle of its Kickstarter. Which you can find here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1693797308/chromatic-dungeons?theotherside

Chromatic Dungeons

Tim Brannan/The Other Side:  Let’s start at the beginning, who are you and what do you do?

Roderic Waibel:  I started gaming in 1981 with the Basic Set, and quickly fell in love and moved to AD&D.  Been involved in RPGs every day since, from the first map I drew as a kid, to my first game I wrote in 1986 (I still have a copy of that, and it’s...nothing to be proud of lol).  I’m a project manager as a day job, but have been an indie publisher officially for the past 10 years or so.

TB/TOS: You mention in your bio you have been writing RPGs since 1986.  Anything, in particular, you want to share? What are some of your past hits?

RW:  My biggest commercial success would have to be Compact Heroes.  During my time in the military, portability was a big thing.  It’s one of the reasons why MtG took off for servicepeople; you could easily take it with you while full rulebooks were hard to do that.  So I created a card game that played like a traditional role-playing game.  That won DieHard Gamefan’s Best New Game of the Year in 2011 when it came out.  There are other things I’ve created that I like, but most of those were homebrew systems that never took off.  Let’s be honest, most never do.  Why would someone who doesn’t know me want to play a homebrew system when they have so many officially supported systems out there.  They were all pretty much vanity games.  The only other product that has done pretty well is the megadungeon: Depths of Felk Mor.  I wrote that right when the 5e playtests came out, and is 5e compatible.  It’s written in an old school aesthetic, and chock full of 80s pop culture references lol. Kind of a mix between Cthulhu and 80s cartoon hour.  Yes, that’s a thing lol.

TB/TOS: What are some of your favorite games? Why?

RW:  RPGs are my all-time favorite because I’ve always been very creative and love to imagine things.  Strategy games probably come in second place.  I always have a fond soft spot for Axis&Allies in the non-RPG genre.

Chromatic Dungeons Basic Rules
TB/TOS: Fantastic. Now tell everyone a little bit about your game Chromatic Dungeons.

RW:  Old school D&D was and is my favorite edition.  Not just for nostalgia (admittedly that is part of it, but a small part), but also because of the kind of experience it lends to.  Rulings over rules, speed of play, zero to hero, player creativity and strategy (you can’t assume every encounter should be winnable which is something I see a lot in modern games), etc.  However, it was a product of its time.  That is, catered and marketed to white young males.  As a young white male myself at the time, of course I never noticed anything problematic.  This isn’t a dig at any of the creators of the game, or any of the players of the game.  It was what it was at the time with what we considered socially OK.  But as we’ve grown as a community over the years, we’ve become incredibly diverse.  That diversity should be represented and included.  People other than straight white men like myself should be able to pick up the game and see themselves represented in it.  Studies have shown, over and over, how a diverse group is much more efficient and beneficial than a monocultural one.  I’ve hired a lot of diverse freelancers and editors for this, and I can tell you that the game is much better for it.  

Then you’ve got lessons learned mechanically over the past decades we can rely on that should be applied.  Things like ascending armor class that are more intuitive rules.

These two factors together were the driving force behind Chromatic Dungeons.  Currently there is a lot of drama going on regarding comments some of the folks who call themselves OSR or old school have made with the new re-branding of TSR.  But that isn’t what caused Chromatic Dungeons to come about.  Comments like those folks are making the news now because they are big names, but the fact is that for a long time, the OSR community has had to deal with a large portion of fans who have been espousing exclusionary opinions.  I firmly do NOT believe the OSR itself is like that, or that most fans are like that.  But it’s a problem that needs to be addressed because there is a reputation the OSR is getting, and it’s not good.  We can’t deny that.  And as a fan of the OSR, I will do what I can to show how the OSR can also be welcoming and inclusive.  

Thus, about six months ago, Chromatic Dungeons was born in its first iterations.  It’s basically a game that captures the best things about B/X, 1e, and 2e, while applying modern sensibilities and lessons learned since then, and being presented in an old-school aesthetic that represents how diverse our gaming hobby has become.

TB/TOS: What do you feel makes Chromatic Dungeons a step above or better than say current Clones on the market now?  What do you think makes it special?  Or bottom line, why should people want to buy this game?

RW:  Having fun is the best reason to play a game, right?  That’s the ultimate goal?  Many clones out there try to replicate the rules of those older versions extremely closely.  But as anyone who played back then will tell you, many of the rules got in the way.  We simply ignored them.  Chromatic Dungeons applies some mechanical changes to help alleviate that.  The first and most obvious is the move to ascending Armor Class.  But then you’ve also got a revision to alignment, making it much less impactful in regards to driving a PC’s behavior or moral code.  It’s a cosmic force that acts as an influence, not a strict moral code you have to follow.  Traditional racial traits have been re-done as well.  Now those choices only give a few traits, but there is a heritage system instead that anyone can choose that gives you traditional racial bonuses.  For example, you can choose to play a human with the fey heritage (let’s say they grew up in an elven city), so they can gain resistance to sleep and charm, two traits traditionally reserved only for elves.  Another change is getting rid of dead levels.  While not being a robust customized able system like feats were in 3e (that would defeat the purpose of having a streamlined system like b/x), each class does offer something other than a hit point gain at most levels.

And then of course there’s the presentation.  The game is presented to be welcoming and inclusive of everyone.  Making everyone welcome is always a good thing, as it grows our hobby and keeps it alive. 

TB/TOS: You list a few differences from older games on the Kickstarter site.  What was your driving motivation behind these?

RW: I guess I answered that above.  I tend to ramble lol.  The key goal is to capture the feel of gaming back then, but rules changes can be made as long as that goal isn’t compromised.  You should be able to pick up an old module from the 80s and play Chromatic Dungeons with very little conversion.  You should be able to do it on the fly, actually.  That’s important for me to keep.  People have a plethora of material from the old days, and they should absolutely be able to use it with Chromatic Dungeons. 

TB/TOS: The Character sheet looks fantastic and has a great old-school feel to it.  What things from the older games did you want to retain?

RW: The most important is speed of play and player skill.  Players shouldn’t feel discouraged from attempting something with their PC if they don’t have a skill for it.  The less a player references a character sheet, and the more they go to their imagination to describe what they want, the better.  Keeping players engaged is important. However, if players don’t prefer to use player skill for whatever reason, they can fall back on a skill system that is incredibly simple.  It’s a roll under ability system.  If your PC wants to jump up to the chandelier and swing across the room, they don’t need an acrobatics skill to do that.  Simply roll the d20 and if it’s under your Dexterity score, congrats!  This system also makes every point in an ability count.  A gripe of mine from the current system is that there is no difference between a 14 and 15 ability score.

Chromatic Dungeons Full game
TB/TOS: What sorts of games do you see others playing with these rules?

RW:  Like all old-school games, I see people taking bits and pieces of this and applying it to their own games.  Most old-school gamers are also big into homebrewing.  Back in the day, we all created our own worlds and adventures, and I don’t see that as much now.  So I can easily see someone taking an old adventure module and playing Chromatic Dungeons with it.  Or taking the heritage system out of CD and using it for their OSE game.

TB/TOS: Who would you say Chromatic Dungeons is for?

RW:  Everyone.  I know that sounds cliche, but it’s true.  It’s a big driver behind the whole project.  Everyone should feel like they can play this.  However, and there’s always a however, I fully understand that some folks might not find the appeal.  And that’s totally OK.  We all have different preferences, and there is no one-true-way to play the game.   For example, because the game is streamlined, optimizers might not be drawn to it because there isn’t the level of customization options as 3e.  If you were to force me to answer, I’d say this game is especially for those who want a classic feel of gaming with modern design sensibilities, and who were traditionally not represented in those older games.  But really, anyone who enjoys the style of old school gaming, regardless of the diversity or lack thereof, should enjoy this game.  Because the game makes a point to represent people of every demographic doesn’t mean it excludes the traditional straight white male (I would be excluding myself!).  Yes, I’ve heard that complaint as well.

I will add this:  Because no intelligent mundane humanoid has a default alignment in Chromatic Dungeons, there are several people who I’ve heard say this game excludes people who just want the old way of doing things, where all orcs are evil.  I want to be very clear that in CD, you absolutely can still do that.  I’m not showing up to anyone’s house to “cancel” them.  It’s just not the default assumption anymore.  But you as a GM can do whatever you want, and play them however your table feels like.  That’s still a perfectly valid way to play the game. 

TB/TOS: What are your future plans for this game?

RW:  The immediate plans are to put out a monthly Zine that offers new material.  Think of it like a mini-Dragon magazine from back in the day.  The first four are already done, and part of the Kickstarter as a matter of fact.  Writing the fifth one now (really expanding on orcs, their various cultures, etc).

TB/TOS: And finally, for the benefit of my audience, well and me, who is your favorite witch or magic-using character?

RW:  The second fantasy novel I read after the Book of Three was Sword of Shannara.  So Allanon has always had a soft spot in my heart.

I want to add one final note regarding this campaign.  It’s important for me to walk the talk.  It’s one reason why I made it a point to hire diverse freelancers and editors.  This isn’t mentioned on the Kickstarter page because Kickstarter cannot be used as a fundraiser for charities, but I have committed to matching 25% of net profits and donating that to The Trevor Project.  That’s a great charity that helps at-risk LGBTQ youth, and to give them the support they need.  So by supporting this project, you’re not just getting a great RPG, you’re helping at-risk youth who deserve to be treated better than our society does. 

Links

Chromatic Dungeons Kickstarter

Izegrim Creations

DriveThruRPG


Thursday, July 15, 2021

Basic Bestiary Updates

Been a little quiet here I know.  So I figured I'd share an update.

Work is progressing nicely again on my various Basic Bestiaries.   I am still working out the kinks of my semi-universal stat block and work on what looks like will be an obscene number of demons.

Basic Bestiary updates

The complete column is the number that is 100% complete, ready for the last pass of edits.  Started has everything from just a name to almost everything minus one or two details. It also includes the complete. 

You can see that when I did this screenshot I was at 623 demons.  That number has jumped by three completed demons and 10 more incomplete/started.   The 10 are my Qliphoth demons I talked about way back in April.   The Qliphoth are just one of the man new demonic groups I am going to be introducing in this book.  

If you have been following my work for a while now you know I have Lilim, Eodemon, Shedim, Baalserph, and Calabim fiends among all my "demons."  This book will introduce the Qliphoth, Asura, Tarterian, Yaoguai, and Yōkai demonic lineages.I have a total of 11 lineages so far.  I just need to find a better name for the Neutral Evil Daemons. 

AD&D 2nd ed renamed them the Yugoloths, which I kind of liked to be honest, but the name is not OGC.   Even Pathfinder still calls them Daemons.  I mean it works yeah and it helps make it easier to use my books with your old AD&D ones.  But I think I can come up with something better really.   I mean I already split the devils into two separate lineages of the Calabim and the Baalseraph, so I am certainly not being tied down by tradition or nostalgia here. Not to mention my Qliphoth are quite different than Pathfinder's Qlippoth.

So why are there FOUR Basic Bestairies? Ah.  So back in April (I think) I was beginning to realize that my Basic Bestiary had grown too large.  I had already portioned off the demons (good plan) and the book was growing more and more.  Even right now I am at 387 complete non-demonic monsters.  So, I made another cut.

Basic Bestiary I, Monsters & Maleficarum, covers all the monsters that kept coming up in my research over the years on witches and witchcraft. This includes many of my Monstrous Mondays posts.

Basic Bestiary II, Books of the Dead, covers all the undead.  At least half of the book will be vampires.  

Basic Bestiary III, Demons & Devils, is pretty much what it says on the cover.

Basic Bestiary IV, covers...well, let me hold on to that one a little bit longer.

The goal was to release them all in 13-week intervals over the course of a year.  Though now I am giving thought to BBI and BBII to be released right away.  I suppose it depends on how much art I can buy and how much of BBIV I get done.

Speaking of art, I had some great art for these, but now I am planning on using that elsewhere.

I am still planning on releasing these in both hardcover and softcover formats so they can fit on your shelf next to your Advanced and Basic-era books respectively.

Basic Bestiary IBasic Bestiary I

Basic Bestiary IIBasic Bestiary II

Basic Bestiary IIIBasic Bestiary III

I am going with the Romantic period Goya and Füssli because they capture the mood of these books perfectly.  BBIV also goes with Füssli.  

I am quite excited to get these to you.  There will be some familiar faces here, but hopefully changed a bit to make them feel new.  My undead book for example takes all the undead combat rules I have used and puts them all in one place. I also universally use my new draining rules here too.  Demons get updates across the board and even what I call "the usual suspects" get a boost. 

My hope is you get as much fun out of these as I did working on them!

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft, Part 5. Plays Well With Others

I touched briefly on this with my posts on Building a Darklord, Castle Amber, and Horror Adventures, but one of the key strengths of  Ravenloft has always been its mutability.  It can go anywhere, it be what you need it to be and while some might bemoan its pastiche of horror literature stereotypes, that same familiarity allows it to work in a lot of ways with other books and games.

While I am perfectly happy, indeed happier now, that Ravenloft is more amorphous and less of a "world" there are plenty of sources out there if you want to expand it beyond what lives in between the book covers now to a larger world.

Here are some resources I am planning on using to make my Ravenloft campaign (whenever I can get that going!) a little more personalized.

Ravenloft and Cthulhu

While this seems to be a "no-brainer" just slapping Cthulhu into a game almost never works.  Sure there are some great monsters here, but the real value-add here are the sections on running a cosmic horror game.  This is a great overall resource, and a fantastic one when running an adventure in Bluetspur.

Ravenloft and Fantasy Horror

I mentioned already the utility that Pathfinder's Horror Adventures provides in setting up some details for a Dark Fantasy Horror game.  The 3.x d20 system in Pathfinder is similar enough to the 5e one in Ravenloft to provide plenty of ideas with a minimum of conversion needed.   If you must have them, the Fear, Sanity, and Corruption rules can be ported over to 5e Ravenloft.  Even some of the Feats can be used (but used sparingly).  Spells and Magic items can be ported over almost as is really. 

In fact, I have found it so useful in the last few days that I have moved it from my "Pathfinder" shelf to my "Horror" shelf.

BlackRose

Going back to some of the earliest posts on this blog are my ideas for a BlackRose game.  Now with the new 5e Blue Rose out, it is practically begging me to use it for this.  For me, the ideas behind BlackRose have changed a bit.  I think a Domain that is similar to Aldea, but maybe more of one of sadness.  Not Aldea, but using a lot of the ideas and rules.  Something more akin to my Kingdom of Rain.  Which has one foot planted squarely in Blue Rose and another in a melancholic sort of Folk Horror that would find a home in Ravenloft.  I ran an adventure under the title "Kingdom of Rain" a while back. It was a little Aldea, a little bit Innsmouth, and a little bit Alton, Illinois.  There are some solid Fey elements to it as well; I introduced my River Hags here.  A version of Kingdom of Rain is set to be published under the name "Witching Weather," so watch this space for more on that.

Ravenloft and the Runewild


Speaking of fey lands, the Runewild from Sneak Attack Press also provides a bit of a wilder fey world with tinges of Horror and Dark Fantasy.  If you ever wanted to expand on the Domain of Tepset then this is a fantastic source.  Again, as with the Horror Adventures and Blue Rose, there is material here that can be dropped into Ravenloft "as is" with very little modification.  The Runewild also help build up that "dream-like feeling" I like to use in Ravenloft before hitting characters with the Nightmares.

My Kingdom of Rain lives in the intersection of the triquetra-shaped Venn diagram of Ravenloft, Blue Rose, and Runewild.  I can also use this for expanding my new Domain with The Snow Queen as the Darklord.  Though do I REALLY want my Kingdom of Rain converted to a Dark Domain?  I'll have to suss that one out as I go through my books here.

Ravenloft and Ravenloft


Sounds odd, but most of the grief the new book is getting online is "it's not like the old Ravenloft." Ok, fine. If you must, make it like it.   Most of the Ravenloft books are fluff anyway.  Grab what you want from any of the old books and reuse it.  Want Viktor back instead of Viktra? Ok, do that.  I might create a Domain where they are both there and there is an intense rivalry between them.  I am thinking Father and Daughter.  Their creations of course are caught in this battle.  Rival evil scientists. Using their creations to get at the other.  Both wanting to capture their opponents' creations to learn their secrets. Viktor is intensely jealous of his daughter fearing her creation Else is superior, all the wile claiming she knows nothing that he did not teach her.  Viktra hates her father for never sharing his work and finds Adam to be an abomination.  

The more I type this, the more I like it.  Go all Hammer Horror for Viktor and Giallo horror for Viktra.  Set them on different sides of Lamordia where their minions search the countryside for parts for their experiments and to hopefully capture one of the more successful ones of their rival Darklords. 

It's one part Frankenstein Created Woman (1967), one part Lady Frankenstein (1971), and one part War of the Gargantuas (1966).  All set in Fantasy Gothic Horror Switzerland. Sprinkle in a little bit of Reanimator and I am good to go. 

Horror is my favorite seasoning for most games.  Ravenloft lets me do this with everything.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Monstrous Mondays: Goblin, Mad Hatter

Goblins are ubiquitous in many game worlds.  In some, they are a constant threat, in others a nuisance. The goblins of Lord of the Rings are pretty far removed from the ones of Labyrinth, or even the fairy tales of Grimm.  But they are always a good foil for low-level parties.  In my games goblins tend to be more Chaotic Neutral. Not evil really, but maybe a little naughty time to time.

No one though will ever confuse the Mad Hatter Goblin for anything than what it is, pure evil.

goblin and victim
Goblin, Mad Hatter
Small Humanoid (Fey)

Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic Evil [Chaotic]
Movement: 90' (30') [9"]
Armor Class: 7 [12]
Hit Dice: 2d8+2* (11 hp)
  Small 2d6+2* (9 hp)
Attacks: 1 weapon
Damage: 1d6
Special: Cause Fear
Size: Small
Save: Monster 2 
Morale: 8 (NA)
Treasure Hoard Class: None
XP: 35 (OSE) 47 (LL)

Str: 9 (0) Dex: 17 (+2) Con: 14 (+1) Int: 10 (0) Wis: 8 (-1) Cha: 5 (-2)

The Mad Hatter Goblin gets its name from the gruesome way it displays the remains of its kills,  by stacking the severed heads of its victims on top of its own head.   These goblins appear as do other goblins, save for maybe slightly larger.  They have a look in their eyes that speaks of desperation and maybe no small amount of madness.

Each time a Mad Hatter Goblin makes a kill they remove the head from the body.  The goblin then takes the heads of previous victims and ties them to the top of the new head and then all of these are tied to the goblin's own head.  The oldest, and most decayed, heads are at the top.  The sight of a mad hatter is such that anyone under 4 HD/level must make a saving throw vs. paralysis or be stunned in fear, unable to move or react for 1d4+1 rounds.    The mad hatter will go after these targets first.  Creatures greater than 4 HD/level are immune to this effect.

Mad hatters are both reviled and respected in a goblin community.  The number of heads one has is their level of prestige. When one mad hatter encounters another there is usually a duel of some sort.  The loser gets to contribute their head to the victorious mad hatter's collection.

The only treasure kept by a mad hatter is their collection of heads.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)

The tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table has been so deeply embedded in our society that retellings are not just inevitable, they are ubiquitous.  Among those, there are going to retellings that differ from the classic, Geoffrey of Monmouth and Thomas Malory retellings.  Some might even improve on the tales.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017), is not one of those.  It's not that it takes so many liberties with the tale, that is expected.  It's the liberties are fairly nonsensical and some are just bad.  For starters, while Charlie Hunnam is ok as Arthur, he is really much too old for the role.  

Jude Law reunites with his Sherlock director Guy Ritchie and gives us a decent enough Vortigern, but I felt he wasn't really giving the part all he could.  

Supergirl's Katie McGrath appears as Elsa, Vortigern's wife, making this her second dip into the Arthurian legends. She had played Morganna in "Merlin" (I'll be getting to that soon).  

Djimon Hounsou appears as Sir Bedivere. Frankly, I enjoy every role he has played, but I felt he was phoning this one in. I also felt Eric Bana was miscast, but honestly, I am not entirely I have seen him in anything that I liked him in.  Even his Nero in Star Trek seemed a little off to me.   

The movie feels like it has too much "Games of Throne" or "Vikings" envy.  To that end, Aidan Gillen appears as Sir William, but all I could see was Little Finger. At least he was using his real accent here. 

Of course, there were other things I could pick on, like there being Vikings in Britain at all at this time, or even Chinese people at this point; figuring this was between 550AD and 1040AD.

There is more, but not enough to write about, to be honest.  Interestingly enough my wife, who doesn't care for the King Arthur story, really likes this one.  

What good can I grab from this?  Well, I liked Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey as the Mage, Merlin's apprentice.  I always felt Merlin needed to have a couple more apprentices.  I'll also talk about this when I discuss "Cursed."

Gaming Content

Back in Jr. High, I was playing in a D&D game (Basic/Expert) set in Medieval Britain in the time of Arthur.  Of course, as most Jr. High games in the early 80s were, this one devolved rather quickly on who was going to kill Arthur and claim Excalibur as their own.  I grew tired of that campaign rather quickly and instead wanted to play in Middle Earth.   

But ever since then I have been very, very curious about the RPG Chivalry & Sorcery.  Seeing ads in Dragon Magazine only added to the mystery of the game.  I am going to have to spend some time with that.

Another bit of content, something that I think comes for the later retellings of the Knights of Camelot, is the notion of the New Religion (Christianity) vs. The Old Ways (Paganism).  We saw this in Excalibur and it was a central focus of The Mists of Avalon (which I also hope to talk about).  This movie did not feature it all that much, but the thought was still there.  I like this sort of interaction and love putting it into my games when I can.

Friday, July 9, 2021

Mail Call: Reaper Bones 5

It took a bit, but we finally got it.

Our Reaper Bones came in the mail!

Reaper Bones 4

Reaper Bones 4

Reaper Bones 4

Reaper Bones 4

I have no idea how minis are here. A lot. Maybe too much.

All I know is I better learn how to paint.

ETA: Bones 5, not 4.

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Blue Rose as an Old-School Setting?

Last month I put up my review of the new Blue Rose Adventurer's Guide, which allows you to play a Blue Rose game using D&D 5th Edition.

Now. I love Blue Rose. I love D&D 5e.  But I also love my old school games.  To be blunt, I am an old gamer and these games fill me with nostalgia.  Can I run a Blue Rose game using the systems I have here?

Short answer? Yes!
Longer Answer? HELL Yes!

Everything I need is right at my fingertips. So how would I do it?  Let's have a look.  Now I have talked about how to take Blue Rose and run the AGE system like an old-school-style game already.   Here I want to talk about how to take your old-school rules and run them like a Blue Rose game.

Old School Blue Rose

Setting

Grab the first Seven chapters of the Blue Rose Adventure's Guide and use them as-is. Append with details from AGE or True 20 as needed.  I mention the True 20 since some things will be easier to convert from that.

Classes

Blue Rose True 20 and AGE have only three classes, Adept, Expert, and Warrior.  Blue Rose Adventure's Guide has all the classes from D&D 5.  Older versions of the game don't have all of these. No problems let's see what we do have.

In the Blue Rose Adventure's Guide, we have the following Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Sorcerer, Thief, Warlock, and Wizard.

By using the "Advanced" versions of both Old-School Essentials and Labyrinth Lord, plus a couple of my witch classes, we could cover every class.  It pains me to even say it but we might not even need my witches here!

True20 / AGE D&D 5e OSR / Basic
 Warrior  Barbarian  Barbarian(LL-A)
 Expert/Adept  Bard  Bard (OSE-A)
 Adept/Warrior  Cleric  Cleric
 Adept/Expert  Druid  Druid
 Warriror  Fighter  Fighter
 Warrior/Adept  Monk  Monk (LL-A)
 Warrior/Adept  Paladin  Paladin
 Warrior/Expert/Adept  Ranger  Ranger
 Adept  Sorcerer  Magic-User
 Expert  Thief  Thief
 Adept  Warlock  Witch
 Adept  Wizard  Magic-user

Ancestry, Culture, and Backgrounds

What old-school games call race we will now break up into Ancestry, Culture, and Backgrounds.

Essentially we can map them like this, rules-wise:

Humans are Humans, Night People use the rules for Half-orcs, and the Vata are essentially Elves rules-wise.  Sea folk are humans with some perks, I'd use the half-elf rules for them.  Small Rhydan can use the rules for halflings and medium Rhydan use the rules for Dwarves. Alter movements and attacks as needed.

Monsters

Every monster in the Blue Rose books has something similar to it in the D20 SRD.  This is an artifact of the Blue Rose True20 days.  If it is in the SRD then there is likely an Old-School version somewhere. I could do a search, but I am pretty confident that every monster in the BR-AGE core can be found somewhere in the Old-School world.

Relationships

Blue Rose pays a lot of attention to how the characters interact with others.  This absolutely should be part of an Old School Blue Rose game too.  Here though mechanics and rules will have to give way to good roleplaying and XP bonuses for characters who play their roles well.  While some old-schoolers may balk at this idea, seeing the characters as only a collection of numbers, the truth is the role-playing aspects that both Blue Rose and D&D5 players love so much today were already all there back in old-school play.  Some of us did it then and didn't need the rules to tell us how or why.

Still, I would offer some XP bonuses for good in-character inter-personal relationships. Especially the bonds.  OR if I REALLY wanted to get old school, XP penalty for not doing it.

Blue Rose + White Box = White Rose?

I might also replace the Law-Neutral-Chaos alignment with Light-Twilight alignment.  Effectively there is not much difference in terms of how one plays a character, but it would give a different feel. 

Everything Else

In truth what I have above covers nearly everything.  What remains can be handled by the DM/Narrator in their own games.  I have already talked about how to use Blue Rose in conjunction with several old-school adventures.

My family really enjoyed playing Blue Rose so I might add some more elements of this game to my old-school games.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Review: Witch+Craft, a 5e Crafting Supplemental

Are you a fan of Studio Ghibli movies?  Well, I am and the authors of Witch+Craft, a 5e crafting supplemental are as well. And this book proudly and openly displays that love.  But I am getting a little ahead of myself. 

I backed this project as a Kickstarter a while back and it came with the book, PDFs, and all sorts of great add-ons like wallpapers and spell and magic-item cards (PDFs).

So I am going to be reviewing the hardcover book and the PDFs from the Kickstarter.  I am uncertain if the PDFs from DriveThruRPG are 100% the same or not. 

You can purchase the hardcover from the publisher's website and the PDFs from DriveThruRPG or also from the publisher.

Witch+Craft, a 5e Crafting Supplemental

Witch+Craft is a full-color hardcover 214-page book.  The theme of the book is decidedly high magic, and a style of high magic infuses all aspects of the lives of the people of this particular vision of the 5e fantasy universe.  This book is exactly the opposite of "grimdark," wherein magic is everywhere and it is a tool to be used to make things better.   I state this upfront because that is the pervasive philosophy of the book.  It works, and it is a great one to have.  But it will have to fit your style of gaming and campaigns.  I knew this on the onset, and lets be honest, the cover gives this away, but if this is not your kind of game there is not a lot (there is some!) that this book can give you.  

That all being said this book is a fantastic resource for anyone that has ever said "can I use magic to make BLANK?" Where BLANK is anything and everything from clothes that clean themselves, to self-sorting spell components, to fire that heats but won't burn, to well...half a thousand things I have heard from my kids in their 5e games.

While I may have started this review with who this book is not for, who it absolutely IS for is anyone that has ever played an Artificer in 5e or an Alchemist in Pathfinder 2e.

What this book doesn't have, despite the name, is a Witch class.  Ah well. 

Witch+Craft table of contents

Introduction

We get the basics of this book. In bold letters right in the first line of the first paragraph we get : 

This book is about making things.

You have to appreciate this. Some RPG books are never quite as clear as to what they are about. This book is also about rounding out your character with Trade Classes.  Though Trade Professions would likely be a better term. You can take these along with your Fighter, Wizard, or whatever levels. I will get into more details in a bit.

Chapter 1: Domestic Magic

Part 1 of this chapter covers the basics of crafting. The six-step process is listed and then detailed. 

  1. Blueprint. You propose a project.
  2. Challenges. The GM imposes a Difficulty Level based on the specifications of the project. They will also list the base materials required to make the crafting attempt at all. (7 levels total)
  3. Preparation. You may prepare for the project in order to improve your chances of success.
  4. Craft Action. You begin the project, rolling to qualify your success.
  5. Fine-tuning. After the rolls are in, you may choose to expend bonuses to alleviate any potential flaws.
  6. Appraising. When all is said and done, the item is created, and its features and flaws known.

The rules here a pretty simple and even elegant in their own ways.  It does add to the 5e system as a new sub-system.  So while old schoolers will not even blink an eye it does feel "added on."  Now this is not a bad thing.  It feels like the best system for detailed craftwork, as opposed to say "just roll a d20 and beat this DC."

Part 2 deals with Trade Class basics.  This is just a tracking system on how you get better with crafting.  Class is kind of a misnomer here since it is not a D&D Class.  Trade Profession might have been a better choice.  These professions/classes can progress through Tiers (not levels) and have different kinds of media they work in; crystals, drafting, living arts, metals, textiles, and wood.

Part 3 covers Techniques. Or how you can do things.  This also covers tools.  They are presented like feats but are attached to the Tiers. For example "Green Thumb" does more or less what you think it does.  The prereq is "Living Arts or Wood."  While presented like a feat, it does not have any "combat" advantages.  Certainly lots of role-playing advantages.

Part 4 is Picking Your Trade Class.  Here are the actual classes/professions. They are based around the media above.  So someone that works with crystals could be Glass Blower or a Mason or a Jeweler. The builds cover what other materials you can work with, what tools you have, and starting techniques.  Each media get three example builds.

Chapter 2: Cape Verdigris

Cape Verdigris is a setting where all of this crafting and domestic magic can be seen in use. It lists places of interest, guilds, shops, and many major NPCs. It is designed to be added to pretty much any campaign world. 

Chapter 3: A House of Plenty

This is a 40-page complete adventure of a different sort.  The goal here is to restore an old manor house to it's former glory using the crafting skills they have learned in this book.  So in TV shows, you are trading Sci-Fi or Shudder for HGTV. There is something interesting here and I really admire the authors' choices here.  

Chapter 4: Spells

This chapter covers 12 new spells to use in conjunction with the rules.  

Witch+Craft tspells


Chapter 5: Familiars

Also what it says on the cover, this introduces 10 new familiars. Many are fey, others are animals. Greater familiars are also presented here. If you wanted a soot familiar like the ones in "My Neighbor Totoro" or "Spirited Away" then this chapter has you covered.

Witch+Craft

Chapter 6: Items

Not just magic items but a whole bunch of mundane and domestic magic items as well.  The blanket of napping is an easy favorite. 

Witch+Craft items

Appendices

Here we get a collection of various stats. 

Appendix I. The NPCs from Chapters 2 and 3 get their writeups here. Why not with the chapters? Easy, in the chapters, you are supposed to be focused on who these people are how you interact with them, NOT what their combat stats are. 

Appendix II covers unusual trades like healers and wandmakers.

Appendix III has various boons and flaws of the items crafted. These can be minor, major or magical/dangerous for boons and flaws respectively. 

Appendix IV is a list of crafting obstacles.

Appendix V cover crafted treasures

Appendix VI is Awakened Objects. So lots of monster stats here.

Appendix VII covers the stats of various objects; HP and AC.

There is a very attractive character sheet in back. The next few pages cover all the designers and artists that helped make this book possible.  There is also a list of Kickstarter contributors. Sadly there are a few typos here with some names cut off, some listed more than once.  Mine isn't even listed at all. 

There is also an index and the OGL statement.

The book really fantastic and joy to look at.  The art is great, the layout is wonderful and very easy on the eyes.

The audience for this book is a little slim.  There is nothing in this book really that would help in combat, defeating the next big bad (unless he challenges you to a bake-off) or any of the things that people typically associate with D&D.  This is much more of a narrative presentation with a lot of role-playing potential.  

One of it's strengths though design-wise is that since the crafting system is not inherently tied to D&D5 is can be lifted out and added to other games with only minor tweaking.  For example, Chapters 1 to 3 could be lifted out and added to something like Blue Rose AGE edition with a little work.  

I would like to recommend this to Old-School gamers. I could something like this working well with a game like Old-school Essentials or The Hero's Journey. But even those games tend to be combat-heavy at times and really don't have much in the way of the need for various crafting. Not to say that some groups or players wouldn't, it's just not universal.

This book is best for the younger D&D 5 player that got into D&D after a steady diet of Minecraft and the ones that loved crafting items in MMORPGs. It is also great for any DM that wants a better handle on making items of any sort.

Witch+Craft


Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Review: Old-School Essentials Adventures

One of my fondest memories of gaming has to be the Summer of 1982 playing this weird-ass hybrid of AD&D first ed and D&D Moldvay/Cook B/X. I think I played every weekend to be honest.

While a lot of games have come really close to this feel, the one that now comes the closest has to be Old-School Essentials Advanced Fantasy

Old-School Essentials Adventures

There are a lot of great clones out there but right now nothing is scratching my old-school itch quite like OSE.  I got my Kickstarter package a bit back and while I was engrossed with the rules of the new books, I utterly failed to give much attention to the two included adventures. That is until I started hearing people talk about them more online.  I went back to them and you know what?  They are really kind of great.

For this review, I am considering both the hardcover copies I got with the Kickstarter and the PDF copies from DriveThru RPG.

Both books are 48-page, full-color books. The maps are printed on the inside covers with encounter areas labeled on the maps.  The books are A5 format (5.8" x 8.3", 148mm x 210mm).

The Incandescent Grottoes
The Incandescent Grottoes
by Gavin Norman

This is an introductory adventure designed for characters level 1-2, written by OSE creator Gavin Norman with art by Nate Treme. 

The adventure could be considered a dungeon crawl along the lines of Keep on the Borderlands, but like so much of OSE it taps into how the games were played rather than written. The dungeons of IG *could be* like the Caves of Chaos, but more accurately they are played like Caves of Chaos were played back then.  What do I mean?  Well, there is a demonic cult here, The Cult of the Faceless Lord. There are factions within the dungeon and how they interact. Plus goals for the various groups of monsters. There are tables of treasures and random occurrences to make exploring this dungeon something players can keep coming back to. 

The rooms and areas a very nicely detailed and the whimsical art really adds to the dream-like qualities of the adventure.  There is even a dragon waiting for the characters at the end!  Ok, it is not a very powerful one, but to 1st and 2nd level characters it is powerful enough.  There are some new monsters (the aforementioned dragon) and lots of great encounters.

While there is no overt meta-plot here, one could easily see this as some sort of introduction to a cult of Juiblex vying for control of the Mythic Underworld. 

A bit about the name.  I can't help but notice that a 1st level adventure into the "Mythic Underground" can be read as "I(n) Can Descen(d)t."  I am sure this is intentional.

Halls of the Blood King
Halls of the Blood King
by Diogo Nogueira

Diogo Nogueira has been racking up an impressive list of RPG publications and getting him to pen an adventure for OSE is quite a score.  And the adventure is pretty much what I hoped it would be like.

This time the artist is Justine Jones. If the art of Incandescent Grottoes is dream-like then the art here is nightmarish.  I mean that in the most positive way. 

The adventure is set up in a manner similar to other OSE adventures. We get maps with major encounter areas, descriptions and relationships of the major factions/NPCs/Monsters.

The adventure itself is a castle of a vampire lord for characters of 3rd to 5th level.  

Detail-wise this adventure lives somewhere between the sparse-ness Palace of the Vampire Queen and the detail rich Ravenloft.  I don't want this to sound like there not a lot of detail here, there is, but there is no over arching epic here.  This is great since it allows you to take this adventure and work it into your world much easier.   For example with a tweak or two here and there I could make this "Halls of the Blood Queen" and add it rather nicely to my War of the Witch Queens campaign.  This would work out well since I am using OSE for that.  The only thing stopping me is I have so many Vampire Queens now!  But still, it would be fun and very, very easy.

The adventure is also rather good and looks like a lot of fun.

If these are examples of how adventures for OSE are going to be written in the future then OSE is going have a nice long shelf life.  While neither adventure is revolutionary in design or concepts they are really good adventures.