Tuesday, August 31, 2021

#RPGaDAY2021 Day 31 Thank

RPGaDAY2021 Day 31

This one might be the easiest one in the series.

Day 31 Thank

I want to thank everyone that read my posts, posted replies, and interacted with me on Social Media. 

I also want to thank Dave Chapman for doing this every year.

Thank everyone.  Now I turn my sights to October and Halloween!


Monday, August 30, 2021

Ghosts of Albion is a Platinum Best Seller!

I was working on something for later in the week and I noticed something really cool.

Ghosts of Albion is a Platinum Best Seller

Ghosts of Albion

I have a Platinum best-selling title!  I do admit I am pretty pleased by this. This game is my pride and joy. 

Another of my favorites is NIGHT SHIFT which is also moving up in the sales ranks.


Silver is pretty good considering we had a successful Kickstarter and sell the book via the Elf Lair Games store-front

Ghosts of AlbionNIGHT SHIFT

Don't forget! The Night Companion is in the last days of its Kickstarter. Love to hit the 5k stretch goal, but 6k would be even better.

#RPGaDAY2021 Day 30 Mention

RPGaDAY2021 Day 30

Almost to the end!

Day 30 Mention

I thought I might mention some D&D-related content I am looking forward to.

From Wizards of the Coast

Some great-looking books coming up.

The Wild Beyond the Witchlight reminds me a bit of the Ravenloft Carnival product for 2e. Likely that is how I am going to use it.  Love the idea of a traveling carnival from the Feywild.  Plus the chance for the return of Warduke, Kelek, and Skylla?  Yeah, sign me up!

Fizban's Treasury of Dragons.  Ok, I am not looking forward to this one per se, but I am looking forward to seeing my oldest, dragon-loving, son get it.  Though it does look like it has a lot of cool things in it.

Strixhaven: A Curriculum of Chaos. Seriously. How could I know be excited about this one? 

From Goodman Games

Original Adventures Reincarnated #6: Temple of Elemental Evil. I never played or ran the ToEE back in the day. I have planned on using it as the penultimate adventure for my D&D campaigns when they all end.  This two-volume set looks fantastic is exactly what I need for my campaign.

So yeah. I am sure there is more, but these are the ones on my mind right now.

Don't forget NIGHT SHIFT The Night Companion is nearing its last few days.  Give us some support. If we hit the stretch goal I will give a new Night World and this will keep me out of trouble for a while.


Sunday, August 29, 2021

#RPGaDAY2021 Day 29 System

RPGaDAY2021 Day 29

We can see the end from here!

Day 29 System

I feel today is going to be a lot about what sort of game system people prefer. Things like "d20" or "BRP" or a favorite of mine, "Unisystem."

Those are all good choices.  But today I want to talk about one that might not yet be yours or anyone's favorite. Not yet anyway.

Today I am going to talk about O.G.R.E.S. and a little bit about O.R.C.S.

The "S" in both stands for "System," so it is redundant to say "O.G.R.E.S. System" or "O.R.C.S. System" just O.G.R.E.S. and O.R.C.S. is fine. 


O.G.R.E.S. stands for Oldschool Generic Roleplaying Engine System.  It is the system that powers NIGHT SHIFT.  It sits somewhere between the "rulings not rules" freeform of OD&D and the simple mechanics of d20.  The end result is something that feels very familiar and new at the same time.  

O.G.R.E.S. features three main subsystems as described by my co-author and designer Jason Vey. They are:

  • Percentile checks
  • d20 checks
  • The Rule of 2

The first two are likely self-explanatory, but here is Jason explaining all three in detail.

Percentile checks are used to check anything that requires a straight probability. Some class abilities use percentile checks (thief skills, for example, and the ranger's tracking). Other class abilities (the druid's nature lore ability) simply work. For the most part, however, any class ability requiring a check will use percentile dice. Also, just about every table in the game (with a few exceptions) uses a percentile roll.

d20 checks are used for anything combat-related. To hit rolls, saving throws, and turning undead are rolled on a d20.

The rule of 2: this is my name for a sub-system in D&D that has never been precisely codified, but is buried deep in the bones of the game. Any time a situation needs to be adjudicated in D&D for which there is not another system, throw a die, and on a result of 1 or 2, it happens. Listening at a door (and not a thief)? You hear noise on a 1 or 2. Looking to notice a secret door (and not a dwarf or elf)? Roll a d6 and you find it on a 1 or 2. Surprise? 1 or 2. The only thing that changes, for the most part, is the type of die--rangers, for example, use a d8 surprise die--and some character types may adjust the probability (elves noticing a secret door without searching is a 1 on a d6).

Three very simple subsystems.  Of course, all of these can be reduced to d% rolls.  But really it is all simple.  That is the point. In a game like NIGHT SHIFT action can happen very fast and you don't want a system of dice rolling to get in the way.

There is a hierarchy here of sorts.  Most things will be a d%, followed by combat-related actions with a  d20, and finally the Rule of 2. For everything else.

The Night Companion will expand on this and give you more options for play.


O.R.C.S., or Optimized Roleplaying Core System, is the new version of the system that powers Spellcraft & Swordplay.  This system is heavily inspired by OD&D and other old-school play styles.

The core of O.R.C.S. is the 2d6 task resolution.  Much like the earliest form of D&D BEFORE the d20 was introduced.

Everyone talks about how Swords & Wizardry is the closest thing to OD&D, but they obviously have never played Spellcraft & Swordplay!

I am hoping we will see a lot more of O.G.R.E.S. and O.R.C.S. in the future.

Don't forget NIGHT SHIFT The Night Companion is nearing its last few days.  Give us some support. If we hit the stretch goal I will give a new Night World and this will keep me out of trouble for a while.


Saturday, August 28, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: Heavy Metal (1981)

Few movies are as "D&D" to me as 1981's Heavy Metal.  It mixes sci-fi, fantasy, horror, with a great soundtrack and more than a few members of SCTV.  

Heavy Metal (1981)
Heavy Metal (1981)

I picked up the Heavy Metal Blu-Ray a while back and frankly the transfer is fantastic.  Hearing the music in Dolby 5.1 surround is amazing.  It is hard to properly critique a movie that made up so much of my teenage years imprinting that instead for tonight I wanted to talk about how Heavy Metal is the perfect movie for NIGHT SHIFT.

Before that let's take a moment to take in that poster.

Taarna. Resplendent on the back of her mount, flying, sword aloft. While her armor might be more 80s stripper, she obviously is a warrior. It is some of Chris Achilléos' best work.  I have talked about how White Dwarf always had a Heavy Metal feel for me.  This is one of the reasons. 

Ok. On to NIGHT SHIFT.  Heavy Metal is an anthology. Many stories linked together are a semi-related arc. NIGHT SHIFT is like this in its "Night Worlds" connected, but their own thing.  If this is also the vibe you get from "Twilight Zone" or "Tales from the Darkside" then you are on to what was going on in our minds as we put this all together.  The Night Companion only adds to this.

"Soft Landing"/"Grimaldi"

Our opening sequence and framing episode let us know what is going on here. This is SciFi, and Horror, and Magic.  Astronaut Grimaldi lands on Earth with his Corvette to bring a gift to his daughter.  A gift that kills him and traps the girl showing her images of horror.  We learn that it is the Loc-Nar an object/power/intelligence of timeless evil. 

"Harry Canyon"

The crankiest New York cabbie this side of Corbin Dallas picks up a girl who has a strange object.  An alien artifact, the Loc-Nar from the opening sequence. While it is taking place 50 years after the movie was released, it is only 10 years from now.  No aliens, no flying cars.  We are never getting flying cars. We also get the first indication about the sex and violence this movie has. I remember the discussions about it in school, "It's an R-RATED cartoon!"

Of note for me, some great Stevie Nicks here. One other, but I am saving that one.

While the setting is "futuristic" there is nothing here that could not be done with NIGHT SHIFT.  The Loc-Nar is described as "alien" but there is a solid magic vibe about it.  In fact there is also a lot here for my Black Star game.  More on that as well.


Is Sword & Planet to the letter.  OR at least how we always suspected it would be.  Here the Loc-Nar is a small meteorite that transfers Dennis across time and space into a muscle-bound, hairless barbarian Den. He rescues a girl about to be sacrificed to Uhluhtc (yeah read that one backwards) and gets paid with the only reward she has.  Den gets pulled into a power struggle between a Queen and Ard. Both want the Loc-Nar. Ard gets Den to steal it back, the Queen seduces Den into keeping it with her.  In the end, they both betray Den and try to sacrifice the girl anyway.  Den defeats them not with his strength, but his geeky knowledge of electricity to kill them both.  The Loc-Nar tells us that some are strong enough to walk away from it.  It flies off into the sky and lands on a space station orbiting Earth.

"Captain Sternn"

In the future, there is a trial for Federation Captain Lincoln F. Sternn. He is charged with a laundry list of crimes and his lawyer is hoping he gets his sentence reduced to "burning his body in secret so no one desecrates his corpse."  Sternn has an angle though he has paid off a shulb, Hanover Fiste, to testify on his behalf.  Fiste found the Loc-Nar, now the size of a marble, and slowly he comes a hulking brute that attempts to destroy the station to get to Sternn. Eventually, Sternn pays off Fiste and jettisons him out of an air lock. His severed hand, still holding that Loc-Nar lands in a B-17 bomber during WWII.

The Loc-Nar here shows more ability to change size and travel in time and space as it needs. It can also mutate those as it sees fit.  I have to admit I have ALWAYS wanted Capt. Lincoln Sternn in a Star Trek adventure as a corupt captain.


This was for the longest time one of my favorites. WWII and zombies.  The Loc-Nar turns all the dead airmen into zombies to attack their former crew. What is not to love. This one is pure horror.

"So Beautiful & So Dangerous"

This one has the Loc-Nar and it is assumed that there is a related cause with all the "mutations" being reported.   While this is a fun one, it is really just an excuse for robot sex, drug jokes, and the animators to draw naked women.   Though it can also be seen as a palette cleanser before the ultimate story.


Honestly, I could do an entire post on this one.  Taarna is absolutely a "Chosen One" from NIGHT SHIFT. The scene where she flies to the temple and puts on her armor and retrieves the sword of Taarak might be some of the most-watched animated sequences in the history of animation.  I admit it. I still get chills when I hear the voice of Taarak start "To defend. This is the pact..."

In this segment, the Loc-Nar is showing the young girl his final triumph. It has grown huge and crashes into a mountain on some distant planet.  Pilgrims go to seek it out, but they are buried in green lava, only to come out transformed into homicidal monstrous barbarians.  They attack a city and kill everyone, but not before the council of elder can psychically summon Taarna, the last of the Taarakians. 

Taarna never speaks. But she hunts down the barbarians with the intent to kill them all.  She manages to get a few, but she is captured and tortured by their leader.  Taarna escapes, reclaims her mount and manages to kill the leader. But she is gravely wounded and she, and her bird, are dying.  In a final act of sacrifice, she flies up, holding the Sword of Taarak high she plunged into the Loc-Nar, destroying it there and back on Earth with the little girl watching.  The girl runs for safety as her home and the Loc-Nar explode.

A new bird mount lands in her yard and as she mounts it to fly away her hair turns white and another Taarakian is born.  Go ahead. Tell me Buffy didn't crib notes from this. 

If your characters can't be as epic as Taarna are you really even PLAYING?

Heavy Metal

One of the best songs in a stellar soundtrack is Blue Öyster Cult's "Veteran of the Psychic Wars."  The song is about Elric of Melniboné or Hawkwind or any Eternal Champion.  A solid case is made here that the song, here, is about Taarna.  The Veterans of the Psychic Wars might be Eternal Champions, but the Veterans of the Supernatural Wars are Chosen Ones.

Don't forget NIGHT SHIFT The Night Companion is nearing its last few days.  Give us some support. If we hit the stretch goal I will give a new Night World and this will keep me out of trouble for a while.


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.

#RPGaDAY2021 Day 28 Solo

RPGaDAY2021 Day 28

One of the things I have never really been able to do to my own satisfaction is Solo play.

Day 28 Solo

The idea of solo play is one that does go back to the earliest days of RPGS.  For example, there are plenty of Tunnels & Trolls adventures that are for solo play.  The infamous introductory adventure with Aleena in the Mentzer version of the D&D Basic Red Box is another example.

I had a few of the Endless Quest books, but mostly I got bored with them very quickly.  I tried playing the various Zork games from Infocom (yes including "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" game.  No. I never got the Babel fish.)

Back in the 80s my High School DM and I spent a lot of time programming a BASIC (as in the computer language) AD&D combat simulator.  We could load up to 10 characters and 10 monsters (of an unlimited number on disk) to fight.  It worked out rather nicely.

There are now much better D&D experiences in terms of software that can be enjoyed as a solo player but for me they suffer from the same issue that Tunnels & Trolls did/does.  Nothing can beat the interaction of others.

I suppose if given the choice of an online game with others using just web meeting software (like Zoom) vs a really interactive video game that is as close to D&D as you can get. I'll take the online game.   Not that I don't like video games, they are just not the experience I want when I want to play an RPG. DragonAge and Skyrim feel the closest to me. 


Friday, August 27, 2021

#RPGaDAY2021 Day 27 Fraction

RPGaDAY2021 Day 27

This one took a lot longer to write than expected, and sadly, not one I really wanted to write.

Day 27 Fraction

I love doing blog challenges, blog hops, and themed posts.  It gives me something to look forward to, something new to write about, and it lets me interact with others that I might not be interacting with or even knew before.

Sadly. I am also only getting a Fraction of the interaction here. 

My Twitter posting is way up and my interactions there have increased by about x3 to x4 in this month.  But here? Sadly crickets.

I am not sure why that is, to be honest.  I know there is a faction among the RPG bloggers that hated the April A to Z.  Again it was something I enjoyed, but I saw the drop in interactions and in daily visits. 

It is disappointing. I want to keep my regular readers happy. I also want to expand my reader base.  Interactions from both help me write more and maybe cover topics I might not otherwise cover.

So help me out here.

Do you like these social-media-wide themed months like this and the April AtoZ?

Do you like my other themed months or weeks like I did with BECMI in June 2020 or Troll Week or my week with Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft?

Let me know!


Thursday, August 26, 2021

#RPGaDAY2021 Day 26 Origin

RPGaDAY2021 Day 26

I had some ideas for Theory, but none of them really took shape.  So instead I want to talk about Origin. In particular the Origin of NIGHT SHIFT.

Day 26 Origin

Come back with me if you will all the way to 1995-1997.  I had just gotten married, moved into a new house, and was working on my first Ph.D.  Life was pretty good.

That is except on the RPG front.  I was so burned out of AD&D and D&D, approaching my 20th year of gaming with something akin to apathy really.  I had been enjoying all the things the Internet had to offer me in terms of connecting with other gamers, but the games themselves had left me a bit less than thrilled.  TSR was busy at the time going after any website or group that even mentioned "D&D" so my tastes were beginning to sour.

By 1999 I was more or less ready to give up on D&D, plus I had a kid on the way and thought that I would never get the chance to play much (hahahaha!).  Then along came C.J. Carella's WitchCraft RPG.  I have recounted that tale before, but something in that book reignited the spark that had been dying. WotC and the OGL would further fan those flames, but that is still a bit off from here.

WitchCraft was the perfect game for me.  It did everything I wanted and it did them perfectly.  That is except for the things that D&D did perfectly.  I hung out on the Eden Boards and there I met Jason Vey.  He was coming from a similar background as me; we both loved WitchCraft and old-style D&D.  But we also enjoyed a lot of new games too.   From here we worked on Buffy the Vampire Slayer together.  Jason would go on to do a bunch fan-created works for both Unisystem and D&D and later d20 and then go on to work on All Flesh Must Be Eaten and Castles & Crusades.  I'd go on to do my various witch books, a lot of Unisystem conversions, and move on to working on Ghosts of Albion

A look over our fan-made and published works it would seem that NIGHT SHIFT was fairly inevitable. 

I recall working on a "Monster Manual" that I still have on my hard drive where I took all the creatures from the AD&D 1 Monster Manual and converted them to Unisystem.  Both Classic and Cinematic.  If you are thinking that the seeds of my current "Basic Bestiaries" also began here you would be correct.

NIGHT SHIFT began as a conversation. One according to Jason, but I recall a few different threads that came together.   The first was Jason pointing out that Level/Class builds, like in D&D, can be every bit as flexible as point-buy ones, like in Unisystem.  He was mostly talking about his own Amazing Adventures, but I was also thinking about in terms of the various OSR games.  BTW, you can do both now in NIGHT SHIFT thanks to the Night Companion.

The next conversation was the two of us talking about all these ideas we still had for various games, regardless of, or divorced from, their systems.  Eventually, we decided that we should be making this game with these ideas.

For me, the origin was one of pragmatism.  I wanted something to fit the "Buffy-shaped" hole in my life.  Not just in terms of fandom, but yes that, but also in terms of system.  The same can be said of "Ghosts of Albion."  I LOVE the work I did on both of those games and I am proud of it.  But neither game is completely "mine."  Buffy has also sorts of baggage attached to it now that people are finally seeing what a douchebag Whedon was and is.  "Ghosts" for as much as I love it will never see another printing, no supplements, no new material.

NIGHT SHIFT is my game. It is Jason's too. And as I always say, once YOU buy it then it is YOUR game too.  But it is a game I can love unconditionally and support without worry or feel like I am investing in a sunk cost. I have D&D 4th Edition for that.

If you go through NIGHT SHIFT and have been reading this blog then you will see where things in the game got their origins.  Read Jason's blogs and you will see where other things in the game got their origins as well. 

NIGHT SHIFT is a new game, but its origins go all the way back to the turn of the Millenium and before.

Don't forget NIGHT SHIFT The Night Companion is nearing its last few days.  Give us some support. If we hit the stretch goal I will give a new Night World and this will keep me out of trouble for a while.


Wednesday, August 25, 2021

#RPGaDAY2021 Day 25 Welcome

I thought it might be nice to Welcome new readers to the NIGHT SHIFT.

Day 25 Welcome

I have picked up a few new readers so I thought it might be nice to welcome them to my blog and to my game NIGHT SHIFT.

Right now NIGHT SHIFT has a Kickstarter for the first supplement, The Night Companion.  This book adds new classes, monsters, magic, species, point-buy characters, and more.  

But what is NIGHT SHIFT?

NIGHT SHIFT is a modern supernatural/horror RPG.  The system running the game is called O.G.R.E.S., or the Oldschool Generic Roleplaying Engine System.  It is a system that should be familiar to many since it is derived from the d20 SRD in an old-school, or even OSR, fashion.  So if you played D&D in the 70s or 80s you will find a lot here that feels familiar.  But the system is only half the picture.


The genre of NIGHT SHIFT is modern supernatural horror.  Written by myself and Jason Vey, this RPG combines everything we know and have worked on over the 30+ years we each have in the RPG writing industry and 20+ each writing professionally. Games on our collective CVs include, All Flesh Must Be Eaten, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Army of Darkness, Night Bane, Ghosts of Albion, Amazing Adventures, Spellcraft & Swordplay, the Witch, Castles & Crusades, Ravenloft, and more. NIGHT SHIFT takes all these experiences and distills them down to what we hope is the most enjoyable RPG we have ever worked on. 

NIGHT SHIFT has a genre but no default setting. This way you can create your own world to play in.  We DO however provide you with four different "Night Worlds."  These are places to set your game in an move on from there.  These include Jason's "Veterans of the Supernatural Wars" (the closest we get to a default setting) and "The Nocturnumverse" based on his campaign of something like 20 years or more. I also provide my "Generation HEX" a world where magic has come back and it only rests in the hands of tweens and teenagers, to "Ordinary World" where everyone is some sort of supernatural creature trying to get by in a world full of humans that would rather seem them all dead.

So give our game a try.  We think you will enjoy it. 


Tuesday, August 24, 2021

#RPGaDAY2021 Day 24 Translate

RPGaDAY2021 Day 24

Heading into the back end of the challenge. What do we have for today and how does it relate to NIGHT SHIFT?

Day 24 Translate

Continuing on the ideas in Simplicity and Substitute, I often try to Translate material from one game system to another for different sorts of experiences. 

In many ways, the ultimate representation of this is NIGHT SHIFT.

NIGHT SHIFT began as a way to take something my co-author Jason and I loved; the games we worked on and played back in the 1990s and early 2000s and translate it to a rule system we also loved.

The simplest way to describe NIGHT SHIFT is "Buffy the Vampire Slayer with Basic D&D rules" but that doesn't really capture all of it.

In the 1990s my game world of choice for AD&D 2nd Ed was Ravenloft. I loved the horror elements, I loved the trappings of Gothic Horror, and I loved that I could bring in characters I have been playing for years over to it.  The Masque of the Red Death Gothic Earth supplement was a dream come true since it also brought in my beloved Victorian era.   It was perfect...almost.

Near the end of the 90s I was getting really burned out on D&D.  Thankfully I had discovered C.J. Carella's WitchCraft RPG.  Here was yet another "Gothic Earth" only this time coming at from a different angle.  I loved it.  Of course, as the supplements for WitchCraft were released I thought of many ways to "translate" Ravenloft over to WitchCraft.   In a way, I got my wish and wrote Ghosts of Albion.  A horror-soaked Earth, in a Victorian setting.

Still as perfect as I think WitchCraft and Ghosts of Albion are, they still didn't give me something.  Sure it was a minor thing, but there was still something I was looking for. 

Jason did something similar.  While I went for the themes I wanted, he took the Unisystem rules found in WitchCraft and went a different direction with Dungeons & Zombies; a way to translate D&D experiences and adventures into Unisystem.  Like myself, he also had a few "fan" based products.

We really have been dancing around NIGHT SHIFT for decades.

I wanted a game where I could translate anything I have done over the last 30+ years to a single game system.  I feel NIGHT SHIFT does this.

Don't forget our Kickstarter going on right now for The Night Companion.


Monday, August 23, 2021

#RPGaDAY2021 Day 23 Memory

RPGaDAY2021 Day 23

The natural choice here is to talk about a great RPG memory.

Day 23 Memory

I will admit I have a lot of really great RPG memories.  Here are a couple of highlights.

Getting My Hands on the First Monser Manual

It seems only fair to start with my first D&D memory, and indeed my first any RPG ever memory.  The first time I held the AD&D Monster Manual was a defining moment. Here I became introduced to the game that so many of us love.  I can remember afterward riding my bike around the neighborhood thinking about it and what the game was. I had no rules yet, the copy of Holmes Basic had not made it its way to me just yet, so I could only imagine what this game could be like. 

Summers Playing D&D/AD&D

As much as I would have LOVED the connection to the world via the Internet we have today (and believe me I tried with my little TRS-80 Color Computer) I am also glad I got to spend all my summers in the 80s playing D&D.  First D&D with a group of kids from Jr. High and then and another, semi-related group, in High School with AD&D.  The cut off there was not perfect, I remember we mixed a lot of Holmes and Moldvay Basic with AD&D, but these are the broad strokes.  I can still remember fighting Liches, getting trapped in the A Series, and battling the "Queen of the Succubi" in Jr. High. Later moving on to bigger things in AD&D in High School.  Oh, there was my short live Atlantis campaign in College before moving on to Ravenloft/2nd Ed but none of those lasted as long as my misspent youth in the 80s. 

Teaching My Kids to Play

One of my greatest joys and successes in life is getting to be a dad.  Honestly every other achievement I have made and am proud of takes a back seat to this one.  So teaching my kids to play was one of my greatest joys and memories.   The look on my oldest son's face when he would hit a monster, or better yet, roll a "20" and proudly proclaim "DOUBLE DAMAGE!" or just the wacky character my youngest would come up with was pure joy.  I taught them both using D&D 3rd edition and now we all play 5e.

It has truly been fantastic. 

I also have some great memories of various Cons I have played at over the years.  The time the guy playing an Occult Poet composed an epic poem on the spot, the time my son's character plunged the Sun Sword into the Forge of Moradin to re-ignite the Sun,  the time I got to play Piper in a Charmed game.  All great memories. 


Sunday, August 22, 2021

#RPGaDAY2021 Day 22 Substitute

RPGaDAY2021 Day 22

Related to yesterday, in my desire for systems that "get out of the way" I often substitute a rule from one game for another.

Day 22 Substitute

When I write a supplement or a core rule book I assume that people are going to play it more or less as written.  At least that is, one time.  After that I make no assumptions of how someone is going to play something.  Generally speaking, I also don't play things rules as written.  I am always substituting one set of rules for another.

In Post-2000 D&D skills are much better defined than they are in previous versions.  So I find when running an older version of D&D (say AD&D or Basic-era D&D) then I find myself often asking my players for a skill check.  To make life easier for all of us I will typically use 5e style names and tell them what they need to roll.  It moves the game along faster in most respects.

I am not limited to substituting one form of D&D for another. I will also grab ideas from other games.  I will for example allow a character to use a skill that is not tied to a particular ability.  For example, in Unisystem the skills are independent of Abilities.   So the Art skill can be tied to Intelligence for knowledge of a particular bit of art. Or use it with Perception to determine if a piece of art is a fake. Or with Dexterity to create a piece of art.  In D&D 3, Knowledge is always tied to Intelligence. But sometimes I let characters tie it to Wisdom if they came upon their knowledge via practical experience instead.  

And these are just for skills.  I use the Bloodied condition from 4e for some monsters in combat.  I use the conditions from 5e in old school games, and more publically I use the 5e size modifiers in almost all my D&D games now.

In some ways, though I still prefer AD&D 2nd ed, d10 initiative roll, but 3e-5e's d20 works roughly the same way.

What rules do you like to substitute?


Saturday, August 21, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: The Throne of Fire (1983)

Doing a bit more research on my next Witch Queen adventure when I turned up this little Italian gem.  So. What do you get when you mix Italian actors, Norse myth, a witch, the son of the Devil, and a magical throne?  Well, you get Il trono di fuoco or 1983's The Throne of Fire.

Throne of Fire (1983)
The Throne of Fire (1983)

Azria the witch is impregnated by the Devil to give birth to a mutant baby.  The baby grows up to become the less mutated Morak played to great scene-chewing effect by Harrison Muller. Born at the same time is Siegfried played by Italian stuntman Pietro Torrisi in his last role.  I can't really find much on him.  

In order to gain the Throne of Fire Malak has to marry Princess Valkari, played by Sabrina Siani.  Now, obviously, this is an allusion to Valkerie, but they keep pronouncing it "Val-Kar-EE."  Hmm. I can live with it.  Malak captures the Princess, but not before she can show off her own Xena moves.  

Siegfried comes to the court of the former King Agon, and now belonging to Valkari, to fight Morak.  He stabs Morak, which only causes him to laugh and reveal his "devil face" ala Lucifer.   Defeated he is tossed into the Well of Madness, which admitted was fun.  Here, for reasons, he finds his father, Well it is revealed in a long flashback that he was in the court when Morak first attacked.  He makes Siegfried invisible and invulnerable to everything but fire. 

Siegfried teams up with the Princess and helps her escape, but not before Morak can shot him with a flaming arrow. 

Recaptured Princess Valkari shows she is more than capable of getting herself out of jams and if that means sacrificing Seigfried, well she only just met the guy after all.  She doesn't wear much more than what is show in the poster above in this, but that is still a lot more than she wore in the Blue Lagoon rip-off, the Blue Island.  But I'll give the writer and director credit, for a bit of 80s, Z-Grade Sword and Sorcerery romp Princess Valkari is quite capable. She manages to escape on her own and kill a few guards in the process while Siegfried is still tied up.  

Malak lets Siegfried go to lead him right the Princess, which of course works. And they are recaptured again.  This is getting monotonous. 

Malak charms the Princess to get her to marry him and the solar eclipse happens, "The Night in a Day," so he can sit on the Throne of Fire.  But I guess the timing was not quite right, because when Siegfried throws Malak onto the Throne he burns up.  

Valkari becomes the new Queen and the people want Seigfried to be King.  Really???  He didn't really do a damn thing.

Game Content

The Well of Madness is nice, and a real Queen would have given Seigfried a title and then told him to pound sand.   A Witch Queen would have turned him into a newt for his impertinence. 

Not much here though that can't be found in other, better movies.


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.

#RPGaDAY2021 Day 21 Simplicity

RPGaDAY2021 Day 21

When I first started in RPGs I was all about complexity and systems that mirrored everything, these days, I am more about simplicity.

Day 21 Simplicity

There used to be big debates in RPG circles, narrativist vs. simulationist.  Gamist was thrown in there as well. You don't see that as much anymore. Well.  You do, but now the focus has shifted a bit. 

This debate has waged on in various formats, various permutations, over the decades. But in the end, the one that wins out for me is Simplicity.

I like a lot of games. I like to read and play a lot of games.  I don't like needing huge volumes of pages to explain to me how to play a game.  Sure I understand the value and the place of supplements and "Splat" books, but the core needs to be simple and complexity for complexity's sake is not a value. 

AD&D is a great game, but let's be honest. The rules are a hodge-podge of systems that are largely unrelated to each other save in a post hoc fashion. The layout of the rules is equally poor. We learned it then because it was what we had and we didn't know any better.  AD&D 2nd Ed is better organized (sort of its purpose) but there are still bolted on systems.  Honestly look no further than skills and psionics.   Also, AD&D 2nd ed loses some of the charms of AD&D 1st ed.  Is the charm in the complexity or is the charm in our memory via "Nostalgia Goggles?"  Hard to say. 

D&D 3rd Edition did a bit of a better job of this. 5th Edition does a better job still.  Still neither are at the level of say WitchCraft, Ghosts of Albion, or even Doctor Who Adventures in Time and Space.

I am not trying to imply that simpler is always better.  For example, many of the Powered by the Apocalypse games are quite simple and none of them have ever really grabbed me.  In fact, I usually find them too simple.  

But for me, I desire to remove unneeded complexity for complexity sake and keep my games and my designs a little more simple. 


Friday, August 20, 2021

#RPGaDAY2021 Day 20 Lineage

RPGaDAY2021 Day 20

Today's alt-word has been on my mind a lot lately.  I have been wanting to talk more about it so today feels like the day. 

Day 20 Lineage

Since its inception, D&D has had race as a feature of the game.  However, since its inception race has been more or less been misused.  Really Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, and Humans are different species.  Now while it is true humans can interbreed with elves and orcs I am going to stick with the notion here that they are species.  

Race, as a term, has a lot of negative connotations about it.  There is the idea of ethnic or phenotype determiners of race. There is the colonialism notion of races, and how that was used to justify all sorts of crimes against humanity for centuries.  There are even the Theosophical ideas of races which seem to be the well that D&D has drawn from.  In the end "Race" is not only not even the proper word, it is a woefully loaded word.

I like Species myself.  But you might say "but species can't interbreed!" except of course when they do.  There are sterile hybrids between species, there are even fertile ones. These range from plants to animals and even mammals.   Even in humans, there are fossils that may be human-neanderthal hybrids and many scientists think that we may have killed all the other archaic hominids or we may have bred with them until their genome was absorbed into ours.  We know from mitochondrial DNA scans that Neanderthals share more alleles with Eurasians than with sub-Saharah Africans.  

I also remember having debates in my Philosophy of Science class that species only serve the needs of scientists making taxonomic nomenclature.   

So can all the D&D Player Characters be different species? Of course. Can they interbreed? Absolutely some of them can.  But this is not really the full picture either.

Let's take the term used by the latest D&D 5e book, Lineage.  

Lineage has none of the baggage that race does. Nor does it have to overly complicated scientific logic that species does.  Lineage allows you to build what your character is.  

From Tasha's Cauldron of Everything:

At the first level you choose:

  • Creature type. You are a humanoid. You determine your appearance and whether you resemble any of your kin.
  • Size. You are Small or Medium (your choice).
  • Speed. Your base walking speed is 30 feet.
  • Ability Score Increase. One ability score of your choice increases by 2.
  • Feat. You gain one feat of your choice for which you qualify.
  • Variable Trait. You gain one of the following options of your choice:
    • Darkvision with a range of 60 feet.
    • Proficiency in one skill of your choice.
  • Languages. You can speak, read, and write Common and one other language that you and your DM agree is appropriate for your character.

Simple.  You can rebuild any race you want.  

Just prior to Tasha's Arcanist Press released their Ancestry & Culture: An Alternative to Race in 5e.  A fantastic guide.  Where Tasha's uses "Lineage" this uses "Ancestry," which is in my opinion just as good.  But this product also includes "Culture" in the mix.   So what if you are a human raised by elves?  Or in the case of my own Sharis Val, a drow raised by dwarven clerics in a monastery.  It can even explain the already established differences in the three types of halflings/hobbits with fallohides/tallfellows having halfling lineage and living near elven culture.  Yeah, they are taller and the like, this is a blog post not comparative biology. 

Ancestry & Culture: An Alternative to Race in 5e

You can also vote for Ancestry & Culture: An Alternative to Race in 5e for the 2021 ENnies awards. It is up for:

Pathfinder 2nd Ed also does something with all of this too.  Their system is more mechanically oriented.

Personally, I prefer this over the systems we have been using.  

I would adapt these to Old-School play, but I am going to wait to see how Chromatic Dungeons does it first. 


Thursday, August 19, 2021

ENnies Voting is now Open

The annual ENnies awards is now open for voting and as usual, there are a lot of great choices to vote for, or at the very least shop for.

I might get into my picks later on (have to see how long voting is) but for today I want to focus on one particular book and maybe convince you to consider voting for it.

Up for Best Adventure and Best Cartography is Halls of the Blood King for Old-School Essentials

Halls of the Blood King

I reviewed Halls of the Blood King last month and frankly, I loved it.  So it is great seeing it get some official recognition.  It would be even great if it wins.

It has some serious competition, in particular from the Alien RPG adventure.  But keep in mind that OSE is still largely a one-man operation of Gavin Norman.  Alien and Free League is a more traditional publisher.  So to say that OSE and Blood King are punching well above their weight class is not hyperbole. 

So, if you can make the time, give HotBK a vote for both Best Adventure and Best Cartography.

#RPGaDAY2021 Day 19 Theme

RPGaDAY2021 Day 19

Should be easy to stay on theme today.

Day 19 Theme

If my participation in the Character Creation Challenge in January, the April A to Z Challenge, and this month's #RPGaDAY Challenge, is any indication, I do love a nice theme to work with.

In my blog posts, it gives me a little extra focus and a little extra motivation.  It gives me something to look forward too and apparently, my readers agree.  My hits tend to go up during these times.

This year I am going to be doing my usual October Horror movie marathon and I am considering doing a Lovecraft film fest.  While that has some appeal and something I wanted to do for a while, but sadly many of the movies are not very good.  Not to mention I have seen most of them already.  Kinda defeats the purpose of the Horror Movie Challenge.

I will also be participating in the RPG Blog Carnival for October. The subject, naturally enough, will be Horror.   I have a few other treats for October planned as well, it is practically my holiday.

Other themes I enjoyed recently were BECMI month last year, Troll Week, Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft, and for a deep cut, Superbabes.

I still want to do a series of Superhero posts including some different approaches to the superhero genre.  I could easily spend a month on that. 


Wednesday, August 18, 2021

#RPGaDAY2021 Day 18 Write

RPGaDAY2021 Day 18

Today's word is Write. Something I do every day.

Day 18 Write

Theodore Sturgeon, the American science fiction author, once stated that "ninety percent of everything is crap."  This has been come to be known as Sturgeon's law

I am not sure about his quantification, but I agree with the spirit of his adage.

Once upon a time, I did not consider myself a good, or even a fair, writer.   I enjoyed doing it for myself, but I never felt I would have anything worth publishing.  But at some point, it became obvious to me that the only way to get better at it was to keep doing it.  Not just do it, but also to get feedback and use that feedback.

These days I like to think that I am much better than I was.  Am I good?  That's hard for me to tell on this side of the keyboard.  I look at things I have written and often think "Wow. That is some good stuff...but it could be better."  Even books I am really proud of, Ghosts of Albion, the first Witch book, I look back on and see things I really would like to go back and "fix."  Not that they are broken per se, just things I would have liked to have done differently.

I am not talking about game design, I am always tweaking that (my "Basic" Monster stat block is a good example), but rather wording.

Blog posts are a good place for me to practice this and to get some feedback.  So if I have over 4,730+ posts up now (with a little over two-score in draft mode) that would mean according to Sturgeon that would mean that just north of 4,200 posts here are "garbage" and only 470 or so are "good."   I would like to think the good posts are a little higher, but again I can't argue with the spirit of these numbers.

Even if over 4,200 of my posts are garbage they did serve their purpose. Sometimes that is just have something to ponder while working something out, a bit of playtest, or at the very, very least, practice writing.   And this is just the stuff you have all seen.  I have a lot, maybe even a near equal amount that has never seen the light of day and may not.  That's fine. 

This is also one of the reasons I like to participate in these sorts of challenges.  While some ideas are easy, others require a lot more thought on how they relate to me. Writer workshops often have work sessions where you are given a prompt and have to come up with something.  This is the same idea only I have a bit more of a heads up. 

Hopefully, after 14 years of doing this blog I am still getting better.


Tuesday, August 17, 2021

#RPGaDAY2021 Day 17 Trap

RPGaDAY2021 Day 17

Traps seem ubiquitous in D&D. But honestly, I have never cared for them. The same goes for mimics.

Day 17 Trap

Traps.  Back in the early days of D&D traps were everywhere.  Their existence was one of the early reasons for the thief class.  These days the trap finding and removing the role of the thief is somewhat lessened and for me that is fine.  Because honestly I never really cared for traps.

Sure I don't mind them in small amounts and I like to include at least one or two in a dungeon I don't like to go nuts with them.

What's "nuts?"  Tomb of Horrors always struck me as excessive.  

Back in the 80s traps were all the rage, with Grimtooth's Traps as something of the gold standard.  Back in Jr. High I got my then DM a copy of one of the Grimtooth's Traps books, Traps Too, I think. Big mistake. I got characters trapped in something he had added to the A Series, he never made it out alive.  I let my kids know this when we played the series. I suggested if they found maybe his body was still there and they could loot it!  Sadly (or luckily) they never found him and I honestly could not recall where the trap was added.

Today the traps of choice are Mimics.  

Like traps, I never used a lot of mimics. They are great once, but then after that, they lose their appeal to me.  

In a 5e game, my lack of desire for traps is no big deal. The thief/rogue class has a lot more to do than be the trap finder/trap remover.    But in my War of the Witch Queens, which is a D&D B/X game, I really should have more. 


Monday, August 16, 2021

#RPGaDAY2021 Day 16 Villain

RPGaDAY2021 Day 16

Having a hero is great, but a hero is only as good as the villain they battle.

Day 16 Villain

Villains are great.  I have talked about villains and big bads, and all sorts of bad guys over the years. 

Who have been my favorites?

Yoln, the Shadow Reaper & Hand of Leviathan

Yoln, the bad guy so nice I used him twice.  He was a human general that rose up through the ranks to become a Pit Fiend and the general of Hell's Army in the Dragon Wars from my 1st Ed AD&D game.  He was defeated there and cast out of Hell into the Astral where he was recruited by the Mad God Leviathan where he became the big bad of my Buffy RPG campaign, the Dragon & the Phoenix.  Is he really dead now?  Who knows. He might be back someday.

But after that I decided that no big bad of central villain would work for Season of the Witch.

Cult of the Dragon

The cult that gave my first campaign with my kids so much trouble. 

Come Endless Darkness

My favorite villains though are demons.  In my interconnected Come Endless Darkness the demons are overtly the bad guys with Lolth and Grazzt giving the Order of the Platinum Dragon so much trouble.  Demogorgon is behind all the cults in the Second Campaign.  And Orcus is challenging all the characters into my Into the Nentir Vale campaign.  But all are being deceived by Asmodeus, with the help of Grazzt.  Asmodeus in turn is being deceived by Tharizdûn.  In the end, Tharizdûn hopes to reign supreme with the devils under his control and the power structure of the demons destroyed.

War of the Witch Queens

My newest campaign deals with the death of the ruling Witch High Queen and the power vacuum that creates.  The villains of this piece are Kalek and Skylla.  I talked about their involvement last year's #RPGaDAY.  I am also thrilled to see that they are getting new minis for the next D&D 5e book.  That set also includes the fan favorite, Warduke.  Maybe I should add him in for nostalgia's sake.

Looking forward to that set as well as all my players coming up against all these great villains.


Sunday, August 15, 2021

#RPGaDAY2021 Day 15 Supplement

RPGaDAY2021 Day 15
Today's word has gotten me thinking about what are my favorite RPG Supplements.

Day 15 Supplement

RPG supplements are kind of an odd thing.  Some very much have the feel of "leftovers" or things that were meant for the core book but for one reason or another they didn't quite make the cut.  

Others do feel like a very nice addition to the game they are supporting.

Back in the earliest days of my gaming, I did not really see supplements as something "Extra." Indeed the marketing worked well on me I and I often saw this or that book as somehow "required" to play.  I have naturally relaxed that attitude a bit.  I have all the major hardcovers for AD&D 1st ed, but I stick mostly to the cores for AD&D 2nd Ed and D&D 3rd Ed.  4th Edition is somewhat different, but I do have a "core" I stick with. Same as Pathfinder.

The first real supplement that I ever bought was for a game I didn't get to play all that much, but the supplement was worth every penny I paid.  That would have been Chill Vampires for 1st Ed (Pacesetter) Chill.   It really changed how I played vampires in my games so much that when Ravenloft finally came around later I was already using character sheets for my main vampire villains. 

Chill Vampires

Another one that also had a huge impact on my games was Original D&D's Eldritch Wizardry.  

Eldritch Wizardry

Demons. Druids. Psionics.  It was everything my Basic D&D game was missing that I wanted. I didn't care all of this was in AD&D, that cover and those pages just called to me. I am impressed that it is back in print. Well, Print on Demand anyway.  I hear the PoD copy is also rather nice.


Saturday, August 14, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: Sarah Douglas Film Fest

I was working on an adventure for War of the Witch Queens this past week and I was thinking that my Witch Queen in this adventure had a lot in common with Queen Taramis from A Witch Shall be Born and the Conan the Destroyer movie.   I did my digging and discovered that yes, the look/vibe I wanting in my next Witch Queen (loosely based on Methyn Sarr from Barbarians of Lemuria) was based on Queen Taramis AND surprisingly enough "Lyranna" from Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time.

Both were played by the exquisite Sarah Douglas

So I figured I would have to do Sarah Douglas film fest since she plays a witch in both movies.  

Beastmaster 2
Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time (1991)

Nearly a decade after the last Beastmaster movie we rejoin Dar in his battle against evil.  This time against his own older half-brother Arklon. The camp is WAY high in this one. Sarah Douglas plays Lyranna which sounds a lot like my "Larina" (but mine was 5 years before this).  Lyranna has a lot of language and speech that makes her sound like she is from L.A. from the late 80s.  There is a reason for that since she has been studying the land of "LA" where she has learned about a Neutron Detonator that she will give to Arklon, in exchange for ruling with him.

While she has the portal open Kari Wuhrer comes racing through in her red Porshe.  The poster showing the scene has a solid "Back to the Future" vibe to it. 

Ok. I am going to say this. Kari Wuher gets on my nerves. She is not so bad here, and she is actually supposed to be annoying here. 

Let's be honest. This is not a good movie.  I give Marc Singer a lot of credit here. The movie all around him is campy as all hell and he is playing Dar straight.  His earnestness from the previous movie holds over here. 

Wings Hauser chews up scenes as Arklon.  I can't if he is good at camp or bad. In any case, it works for him and this role.  Sarah Douglas is great, but I was inclined to like her anyway.  Even Kari Wuher was a lot of fun in it. 

The movie is not good, but it is fun. 

Conan the Destroyer
Conan the Destroyer (1984)

This is the second, and less well-liked Conan movie.  I personally thought it was a lot of fun. I had been a fan of Grace Jones since her Nightclubbing album so I was looking forward to seeing her in this.

This movie was also the second time I became aware of Sarah Douglas. I thought she was fantastic as Ursa in Superman and Superman II, and she was exceptionally great here.  Well. At least I thought so then.  I STILL think she was great, to be honest.

Queen Taramis (only a princess in the Howard story) gives Conan a quest to escort the Queen's Niece, Princess Jehnna, played the ever-lovely Olivia d'Abo in her first movie, to restore the horn of the dreaming god Dagoth (played by none other than André the Giant).  Sounds vaguely Lovecraftian. Jehnna is naturally a virgin.  Hey pro tip, girls who sleep around never get sacrificed to Elder gods. 

Going along with Conan is the Queen's guard Bombaata played by the NBA and College Basketball Hall of Famer, and future best-selling author, Wilt Chamberlain in his only film role.  I am sure you have all seen the photos with Arnold standing next to Wilt and André before.  Shared by Arnold himself, he commented that he had never felt so puny before in his life.

Arnold standing next to Wilt and André

There is a cool scene with Conan in a room full of mirrors and a creature that swear influenced Hordak.  The creature was neat, the scene however seemed really silly. Made even sillier now with such memes as this. 

Conan and Rose

Among other actors, the immortal Tracey Walter appears as Malak. I swear this guy has been in everything. How many thieves started swallowing gems because of this movie? The equally prolific Mako is here as Akiro, sounding like a gruff Iroh. 

Our virgin is captured. Found. Captured again. Put in jeopardy. And set to sacrificed.  

And like all sacrifices go awry, the angry god kills the one summoning him, this time Taramis. 

So will a fun little romp it is worse than I remember but not as bad as I feared.   I remember that is felt more "D&D" than the first movie did and pretty much every gamer I knew had gone to see it.

Gaming Content

For me,  I can use Lyranna as Queen Taramis as a nice bit of history for my own version of Queen Methyn Sarr.  She starts out as a witch, finds a ruler whom she seduces, and then ultimately betrays and takes his kingdom as her own.  Not 100% original, but it fits with the pulpy feel I want. 

Plus it will give me something to start from.  Though given tonight's movies I wonder if I should rename her to Methyn Sarah.  Doesn't sound quite as evil does it?

Methyn Sarr



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.