Monday, June 27, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: Mystical Companions (Castles & Crusades)

All month long I have been talking about D&D and mostly near-D&D FRPGs.  While last week was all Pathfinder, the one-time heir-apparent to D&D, this week I want to talk about a game that really does capture that feel of early, 1st Ed AD&D, with a more modern point of view.  

Of course, that game is Castles & Crusades.

I have never hidden my love of Castles & Crusades and I would play a lot more of it if I could. It really does capture the feel of older D&D, maybe something of a Basic-era mixed with Advanced, through the lens of 3rd Edition.  One really could consider it the evolution of AD&D2 into the new millennia. 

This week I want to do more with Castles & Crusades, but I am going to do it from the point of view of some of my regular blog features.  Today is Monday and that means Monstrous Mondays. So I am going to review and discuss the Castles & Crusades Mystical Companions book. 


I can't believe that it has been three years (almost to the day) since I reviewed the 5th Edition version of this book.  I had meant to do much sooner than this.

The Troll Lord's Mystical Companions is the update to their fantastic Book of Familiars.   It comes in two flavors, A Castles & Crusades version, and a D&D 5th Edition version.   I have both in digital and PDF formats, today I am going to focus solely on the Castles & Crusades version.  Yes, they are in fact different enough that two separate reviews are really needed.

I was always going to use this book in my Magic School games, whether that game used an Old-School ruleset (like Castles & Crusades or OSE) or (now) D&D 5th Edition.  I think that highly of it.  Now it is something I am using as part of my War of the Witch Queens campaign where every character has an animal companion, pet, or familiar.  My oldest kid has taken my 5th edition version and made it his own.

Mystical Companions for Castles & Crusades
Mystical Companions for Castles & Crusades

For this review, I am considering both the PDF version from DriveThruRPG and the hardcover version I purchased from Troll Lord Games. 

Hardcover book and PDF. 192 pages, full-color art by Jason Walton and Peter Bradley.  PDF is bookmarked.  This book is divided up into 12 chapters and 5 appendcies. Largely focusing on the various Castles & Crusades classes and their respective animal companions.

Chapter 1: Familiars and Companions

This gives us our basic overview of the book and the concepts of an animal companion in the Castles & Crusades game.  Pro-tip. Even a casual read of the chapter titles should clue you in that if you wanted to use this with AD&D 1st ed you very easily could. There is also the notion that Animal Companions and Familiars, while similar and can perform similar roles and tasks are very different from each other. 

On Animal Companion vs. Familiar.  While rules in the book cover book and treat them somewhat interchangeably an Animal Companion is more like a loyal pet or friend.  A Familiar is a creature summoned to work with the PC.  Animal Companions are free-willed, familiars are not.

For ease, I am going to use"animal companion" for all cases unless a distinction needs to be made. 

There is the concept here of Advantages, this allows the character to summon an animal companion. In truth, I think this works better in 5e than it does here, but I will explore this a bit more.  Additionally, there are various Powers and Tricks animal companions can have or impart to their player characters.

Animal companions are all treated as other creatures from the beginning. They have HD, hp, AC and more scores. 

Advantages are a new mechanic for C&C to allow them to take on various "powers" or "features."  It was introduced in the Castle Keepers Guide as an optional rule, here it is required.  It is, very simply put, a "Feat" system for C&C.  That does not really describe it well enough, but it is close.

Different classes get new Advantages at different levels.  Various abilities and powers of the animal companions are detailed here. Including what sort of special powers you can get by taking another animal companion/familar at higher levels. 

If you are playing AD&D 1st Ed and really want to do familiars correctly then I highly recommend this book. 

The following chapters each deal with the various C&C classes (and their AD&D counterparts in my readings) and their respective animal companions.

Chapter 2: Barbarian Familiars & Special Mounts

I don't recall Conan having a pet, but Cú Chulainn is known to have had some pet dogs. Since Barbarians feel closer to nature they have totem animals; an animal or creatures revered by their culture. This chapter covered these, and all the expected animals are here, but there are also totems for mammoths, displacer beasts, dire creatures of all sorts, and even small dragons. 

Chapter 3: The Bard’s Familiar

Bards typically have familiars that aid in their singing or musical magics. Providing a number of powers to aid their abilities. 

Chapter 4: The Cleric’s Familiar

These are not so much as animals and more attendant spirits. The least of the messengers of the cleric's god(s).  Often they are here to provide the cleric guidance or omens. These creatures can, and often do, take on animal shapes. What that shape is depends largely on the cleric's domain. 

Chapter 5:The Druid’s Familiar

Similar to both the Barbarian's and the Cleric's familiar.  Here the deciding factor is the terrain/environment the druid is native to.  There is a large sidebar/section on Druid Familiars vs Druid Animal Companions.

Chapter 6: The Fighter’s Familiar

This one seems a bit odd, but they do make a case for it. A good historical example might be the Mongolian fighters and their horses, or the hunting dogs of Celtic cultures. 

Chapter 7: Monk Familiars

Again not one you normally think about. These seem to follow the same logic of the barbarian, but in stead of totem spirits they are manifestations of ancestor spirits. Think Mu-Shu from the animated Mulan.

Chapter 8: Paladin Special Mounts & Familiars

Paladins already get mounts. This extends that logic a bit more. 

Chapter 9: The Ranger’s Familiar

Honestly, all Rangers should have an animal companion of some sort. This codifies it. 

Ranger Familiars

Every ranger needs a red panda familiar.

Chapter 10: The Rogue’s Familiar

Like the fighter, one does not normally associate Rogues/Thieves with animals, but honestly, it would be good. Think of Laurence Fishburne's character "The Bowery King" and his pigeons or D&D's own history of associating thieves with cats (the Grey Mouser from Lankhmar or Gord the Rogue).

Chapter 11: The Illusionist’s Familiar and Chapter 12: The Wizard’s Familiar

Putting these two together since they follow similar ideas.  This is as close as we can get to the classic idea of a familiar.  The natures of their familiars are different, which is great, it provides more distance between these two classes. 

Appendix A: Animals

"Monster stats" for various (51) mundane animals.

Appendix B: New Monsters

Likewise, these are new monsters (36). Many are either familiars or creatures that feed on familiars. 

Appendix C: New Spells

A bunch of new familiar summoning and related spells for all spell casting classes.

Appendix D: New Magic Items and Artifacts

Magic items to summon, control, or aid familiars and animal companions. 

Appendix E: Dragon Riders

This last section covers a new class/path, the Dragon Riders, and how these rules are used for that class. While many of the same rules are used here as for familiars this takes them to a new place and should be considered optional. 

This is the Appendix/Chapter that my son grabbed this book from me for, BUT he opted not use their Dragon Riders but kept the book anyway for everything else.

Dragon Rider

A Dragon Rider is a Path that can be added to any class, but some have more use for it than others.  If the idea of PC Dragon Riders concerns you, then keep in mind it is being sold as "optional".  And also Dragon Riders of some form or another have been around since the dawn of the game.  If it is something you want, then there is plenty here for you to use.

If I ever ran a Magic School game with this then Dragon Riders would be included.

Index 

We end with a robust index and the OGL section.

Final Thoughts

A note about art. There is not as much in this book as other Troll Lord books, but what is here is from the fabulous Peter Bradley and Jason Walton, who also gives us the cover art.

Your results may vary, but this book has quickly gone from a neat oddity to one of our must-have books for my Old-school games. My son uses it in the 5e games he has run so much that I have not seen my 5e version of this book in months since it is now in with all of his books.

Do you need this book?  I say yes, but only if you are adding animals of any sort to your game, be they pets, familiars, mounts, companions, or all the way up to Dragon Riders.

Use in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons

I am going to limit my thoughts here to AD&D 1st Ed. The only reason I am not considering 2nd Ed is that 2nd Edition has a skill system that should be incorporated with these rules a little more explicitly.  For 1st Ed, I can see a craft DM using this book more or less as-is. 

I know Troll Lords does not sell this book as an AD&D book. But anyone who is a fan of C&C is likely a fan of AD&D.  (Although I should point out I talked to a couple of real hardcore C&C fans at Gary Con who had never played AD&D First Edition.) But in any case, this is a fantastic reference for the 1st edition all the same. 

Friday, June 24, 2022

Skylla: Pathfinder 2nd Edition

I thought it might be nice to break up the reviews here and see if I can build one of my favorite characters for Pathfinder Second Edition.  And that means I am building a witch.

My girl Skylla here has gotten a lot more popular since I started this series almost 10 years ago. Since then she has gotten new official D&D 5 stats, a mini, and a new action figure release. All of that in the last year alone.  I'd love to take credit for it, but it is really just part of the same thing I was doing 10 years ago; discovering a cool, but under-used character.

A foot in two worlds

What is great about this is I can compare and contrast the official D&D5 Warlock Skylla to a possible Pathfinder 2e Skylla.  I can also compare and contrast her with the Pathfinder 1st edition witch I did years ago.   

In this case, I cleaved a little closer to her Base stats found in module XL1 Quest for the Heartstone and her warlock stats found in The Wild Beyond The Witchlight.

For this build I kept her at 6th level to correspond base stats and the D&D5 stats and not the 7th level I have typically been using.  I have not seen a lot of Pathfinder 2e statblocks online, so I am going with my own format here.

Custom Skylla figure

Skylla
6th level Witch, Human (Wintertouched)
CE Medium Humanoid

Background:  Student of Magic

Ability Scores
Strength: -1 (8)
Dexterity: 0 (10)
Constitution: +2 (14)
Intellignece: +4 (19)
Wisdom: +3 (16)
Charisma: +3 (16) 

AC: 18 (+8 prof)
HP: 62
Perception: +11

Saving Throws
Fortitude: +12
Reflex: +8
Will: +13

Resistances and Immunities: Cold 3

Speed: 25

Melee Strikes
Staff +7, 1d4 (1d8 two-handed) +1d6 electricity

Skills
Acrobatics +0, Arcana +12, Athletics -1, Crafting +4, Deception +13, Diplomacy +11, Intimidation +13, Lore (Academia +12), Medicine +3, Nature +11, Occultism +12, Performance +3, Religion +11, Society +4, Stealth +8, Survival +11, Thivery +0

Feats

Ancestry Feats and Abilities
Wintertouched Human, Adapted Cantrip, Adaptive Adept

Skill Feats
Recognize Spell, Arcane Sense, Charming Liar, Intimidating Glare

General Feats
Toughness

Class (Witch) Feats and Abilities
Hexes, Familiar, Basic Lesson, Rites of Convocation, Magical Fortitude, Steady Spellcasting

Spells

Spell Attack Roll: +12
Spell DC: 22
Traditions: Occult
Focus Points: 2

Inante Spells: Detect Magic
Focus Spells: Blood Ward, Phase Familiar, Spirit Object

Cantrips: Chill Touch, Daze, Detect Magic, Light, Mage Hand, Prestidigitation, Protect Companion
1st Level: Charm, Chilling Spray, Floating Disk, Mage Armor, Magic Missile
2nd Level: Dispel Magic, Invisibility, Knock
3rd Level: Enthrall, Lightning Bolt

--

I like this. She compares well to her D&D5 counterpart. Lots of spells all over the place and LOTS of feats, but that's Pathfinder Second Edition.  

Skylla vs. Skylla

In both cases her Patron is Baba Yaga. So that's really nice. I thought about taking a magical tatoo to cover her mark from Baba Yaga, but I am still reading through the Secrets of Magic book so I am not sure that works just yet.

I feel she might have more magical might than her D&D5 counterpart. I thought this would happen which is why I wanted to set her at the same level (6th level) for a better comparison.

Thursday, June 23, 2022

Review: Pathfinder 2nd ed Advanced Player's Guide

Pathfinder Advanced Player's Guide
Continuing my exploration of the Pathfinder Second Edition I am going to examine the book you all knew I was going to get to sooner or later. 

Like the previous edition of Pathfinder the Advanced Player's Guide introduces some new classes to the Pathfinder game, and like the previous edition, one of those classes introduced is the Witch.

Pathfinder Advanced Player's Guide 

As before I am considering the hardcover Special Edition version of this book. The book is 272 pages and has full-color interior art.

This book is Player focused and shares a lot in common with its predecessor. It also follows the format of the Second Edition Core rules.

Introduction

This introduces us to the book and gives us an overview of what we can expect.

Ancestries & Backgrounds

Now here are some neat ideas. We get five new Ancestries here. They are Catfolk, Kobolds, Orcs, Ratfolk, and Tengus.  

The Catfolk are fun and comparable to the D&D Tabaxi and Rakasta (not Rakasha).  Likewise, the Tengus are like the D&D Kenku.  Orcs are orcs, but I like what they are doing with them. Orcs has always been the "Klingons" of D&D. Someone to fight in the TOS ("The Original Series" or "The Old School") but that changed later on. We have Klingons in Starfleet in TNG and beyond and now we can have Orcs as a player race.  Orcs are still described as being mostly chaotic (which I like) and even, maybe just a little bit evil. Player Character Orcs don't have to be.  Also like Klingons, these Orcs seem to see their gods as something they should strive to kill. A little John Wick influence here? (The game designer, not the character).  These orcs would be interesting to play.  We also get Ratfolk (anthropomorphic rats) and Kobolds.  Now I will admit, I really don't like Pathfinder's ultra-reptilian Kobolds.  I am certain they have their fans, but if I am going to play a small annoying creature why would I choose anything but a goblin? 

Each ancestry gets a set of ancestry feats to choose at 1st, 5th, 9th, 13th, and 17th levels.  

There are new heritages as well including the new versatile heritage which gives you lineage feats as well. I know the "feat haters" are already screaming. Yeah, that might be justified. The lineages are Changeling, Dhampir, and Planar Scions which include Aasimar, Duskwalker, and Tiefling.  These feats are also taken at 1st, 5th, 9th, 13th, and 17th levels.  

More feats are given for the Core Rules ancestries as well. I think the next goblin I play is going to need the "Extra Squishy" feat.

There are more backgrounds as well including Common and Rare backgrounds. 

Classes

Ah. The real reason I bought this book!

In addition to the four new classes, Investigator, Oracle, Swashbuckler, and Witch, there are new features for the twelve Core Rules classes.

The Investigator is an interesting class and one I can see working well in an FRPG.  Basically is Sherlock Holme could fit into your game then this class has a place too.  The Oracle is a staple of classic mythology and is a divine-powered class. A nice alternative to the cleric.  The Swashbuckler is neat and all but I didn't "get it" until I started thinking of them as a DEX-based fighter as opposed to the normal STR-based one. That leaves just one more class.

The Witch

The Witch has been a great addition to Pathfinder since 1st Edition and I rather like this one too.  This witch is an Intelligence-based spellcaster. Like many interpretations of the witch she gets a Patron and Familiar.  This is how she learns her spells. Now for me this points more to Charisma, but there are a lot of Charisma-based casters in Pathfinder. Wisdom would have also been a good choice.  These witches also get Hexes which are powers they can use that are not spells but spell-like. 

While clerics are clearly divine spellcasters and wizards are arcane, witches as a class can move about these distinctions. So depending on their Patron Theme, they can be Arcane, Divine, Occult, or Primal.  A Rune Witch is arcane, but a Winter Witch is primal. This time also grants a skill, a cantrip and a spell.

In addition to spells, hexes, patrons, and loads of feats, witches also get Lessons, each lesson gives the witch a hex and their familiar a spell. Witches don't use spell books here, just their familiars.  There is so much customization I could make 1000s of witches and no two would be the same. 

Witches in Pathfinder fill the same ecological niche that Warlocks do in D&D 5.

Following the witch we get new feats for the twelve core rules classes. Typically a two- or four-page spread continues with PF2e's design aesthetic. Sorcerers, I should note get new bloodlines as well. 

There is also a section on animal companions (largely stats) and familiars. 

Archetypes
Archetypes

Like the Core Rules of PF2e this has several archetypes that can be applied to classes via the applications of various feats and skills. I do see where some of the 3.x Prestige Classes are now living on here as archetypes. There are also the multi-class archetypes for all the new classes. One of these new archetypes is the Cavalier. I can complete my "Dragon 114" duo with a human witch and an elven cavalier!  Some of these archetypes can be be taken as early as 2nd level, others (typically the former Prestige Classes) need more requirements and have to be taken at higher levels.  I would need to compare and contrast the archetypes to the old Prestige Classes to see how they work out.  I can see where you can build your own Batman now with the monk class, the investigator multi-class feat, and vigilante archetype. 

One thing though. I can see these archetype being adapted to D&D5 or even OSR D&D with some care and attention. 

Feats

Feats are either the boon or bane of Pathfinder. This chapter has more of them.

Spells

New spell casting classes mean a need for new spells. 

Items

New magic items.

All in all this book is a lot of fun. The art is great, and the layout and design is fantastic. There are a lot of great ideas here and I would love to try them out.  Hell. I would be content in making a different PF2e witch a day just to see how many I could do.  But don't worry, I am not going to that except maybe for myself.

There is a lot here I would love to see find a home in some way for D&D, maybe for D&D6.  

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Review: Pathfinder 2nd ed Bestiary

Pathfinder 2nd ed Bestiary
Spend any time here and you know there is one thing that is always true. I LOVE monster books. I can fairly say that monster books, bestiaries, and the like are not just my first love of RPGs but are largely why I am into RPGs, to begin with.

So I knew that even if I never bought anything else for the Pathfinder Second Edition game I was going to buy the Bestiary.  And much like it's Great-Grandfather AD&D, I picked up the Bestiary first. I grabbed the Core Rules (that I discussed yesterday) based entirely off of what I read in this book.

I guess I really should have done this one on Monday instead of a monster, but I wanted to do the core rules first.

So what does this book have and why did I like it so much?  Well, it has a lot going for it.

Pathfinder 2nd ed Bestiary

For this review, I am considering the Hardcover version I purchased at my FLGS.  For Pathfinder 2e I have been going with the Special Edition covers. My oldest gets the Special Ed covers of the D&D 5 books and I get the regular ones since D&D 5 is "His" game.  I normally like to get the Special Ed covers since I am a sucker for a book with a ribbon in it.  Plus he has no plans to play PF2e and we even combined our PF1e books into one collection and sold off the rest (which is how I can buy these!)

The book is 360 pages with full-color art. You know when you walk into the floor of the Gen Con trader hall and the smell of new books hits you?  That's how this book smells. Like Gen Con, but in a good way.

This book contains about 415 different monster stat blocks.  Before I get into those blocks I want to speak about the layout.  The PF1e Bestiary worked hard to get monsters down to one page per monster. Sometimes there were variations, but it was obvious the Paizo crew (and many others of the d20 boom) liked the presentation of one monster per page as in the AD&D 2nd days.  PF2e takes this design strategy and extends it to the next level.  Sometimes we get one monster per page. Many times we get a monster type (for example the Alghollthu) that extends across 2-, 4- or more pages (always an even number) that are facing each other. So in this case the Skum and Faceless Stalker.

Alghollthu

This continues throughout the book. The practical implications here are 1.) finding something is easy IF you know the group it might be under. 2.) you can lay your book flat and have access to everything you need for the monster.  There is of course one other.  While I love my special editions, if I went to the Paizo website and got all of these as PDFs I could do the exact same thing I have done with the AD&D 2nd Edition Monstrous Compendiums and the various S&W Monster books, I can print them all out and organize them all into one large folder.  Note you can do the same things with the D&D 4e Monster books too.  Maybe this is something I should consider when doing my Basic Bestiary. 

Continuing on.  The stat blocks are easy to read and honestly understand if you have played any form of D&D form the last 20 years.  There is the Name, it's level (which replaces HD and CR).  Under that there are the descriptor tags, this includes Alignment, Size, and Traits.  So our faceless stalker is a Chaotic Evil medium-sized aberration and it is level 4.  There are some basic "monster stats" such as skills, perception and abilities mods, and what items if any it has. It's Defence block is next with AC, saves, HP and resistances, immunities, or vulnerabilities.  It's attack block follows.  The feel is very much like that of D&D 5e.

The block is smaller than that of PF1e (thank goodness!) and all the important bits are readily visible,

Like the Core Book this features sidebars with more details. This often includes rumors, mentions of other types, and more.

About the Monsters

Most monster books take a LOT of cues from the 1st Edition AD&D Monster Manual. Many feature the same set of monsters. Enough that I often refer to the Demons Type I to VI and the Succubus as "The Usual Suspects."   Does this Bestiary follow suit? Almost, the Hezrou (Type II) and Nalfeshnee (Type IV) are missing but the others are here.  

Either due to space or to make the the stat blocks come out right there are a lot of creatures here that you do not normally see in a "core" monster book and some that I expected are missing. Nothing game-breaking mind you.  In fact it gives a great flavor to the book. There are many you expect, all the dragons for example, and some I didn't, like the gug and lillend. 

One of the neatest things about this book is reading over what are classical monsters too many of us and seeing how they are different not just through the lens of PF2e, but from different creators and a different world.  I have already talked about how much I enjoy Pathfinder's goblins, but they really do feel different here. This change is then reflected in other creatures like the barghest. Some are quite different, like the kobolds, and others are largely still the same, like orcs.

Speaking of orcs. A while back I did a post discussing what should be part of a universal stat-block and I used orcs as my example. The reasoning was that orcs are one creature that has appeared in all versions of D&D (yes there are others, but they are ubiquitous) and they are a good typical foe for 1st level adventurers.  How do the Pathfinder (PF1e and PF2e) orcs stack up?

More Orcs!

Orcs in D&D 3.x were (are) CR ½.  This meant they were a good, but not necessarily deadly, challenge to a party of 1st-level characters. In Pathfinder 1e they are now CR ⅓, so even easier really.   Pathfinder has the Orc Brute at Creature 0 and Orc Warrior at Creature 1 with 15 and 23 hp respectively.  Still something a group of first levels could take on, but maybe slightly harder. 

How does this book stack up to my Monster Manual test?

My Monster Manual Test is how I feel when I first open a game book. While this book can't reasonably live up to the hype of when I first picked up the AD&D Monster Manual it does do the exact same thing; It made me want to buy the system so I could know more about it.  Like PF2e Core this book is gorgeous and just wonderful to read through. The designers have made me invested in their world and I want to know more.

 Enough that I have more books to cover!

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Review: Pathfinder 2nd Edition

Pathfinder Second Edition
All month long I have been talking about, but more appropriately around, D&D. For the rest of this week I want to talk about D&D's, now adult, younger cousin. Pathfinder 2nd Edition.

This won't be a full review. The Pathfinder Core book is massive and absolutely packed. Plus there are plenty of reviews out there.  Instead, I am going to look at some of the changes, updates, and innovations of the game and compare and contrast it to Pathfinder 1e, D&D4, and D&D5.

A bit of history first. Pathfinder 1st Edition was published by Paizo Publishing in 2009.  It was an immediate success with the core book selling out at it's appearance at Gen Con.  Don't quote me, but I think it was some sort of record.  Since then Paizo has always had a huge presence at Gen Con.  Paizo had been one of the 3rd party publishers of choice back in the 3.x days 2000-2008. It had a license to publish Dragon and Dungeon magazines and its support products for 3e were some of the best on the market. When Wizards of the Coast shifted direction and released D&D 4th Edition with no OGL backing, Paizo saw their opening.  They released Pathfinder to a huge public beta testing and took in all sorts of feedback. The Core Rules, which combined what had normally been the Player's book and the Game Masters' book into one massive tome.

It is hard to appreciate just how successful Pathfinder was.  When sales of D&D 4 spiked, but then dropped suddenly, Pathfinder took over the throne of best-selling fantasy RPG from D&D.  D&D didn't just sit on that throne, they built it, often from the bones of vanquished enemies like DragonQuest. So successful that many people began to call it D&D 3.75 and even the rightful progression of D&D 3.x.  

Pathfinder was a success and really would have been a success even without D&D4 underperforming (make no mistake D&D 4 still sold better than pretty much everything else combined). 

Fast Forward to 2012-13. Wizards announce they are holding public playtests for what they are calling D&D Next. The playtests are similar to Pathfinder's.  In 2014 D&D 5e is released to critical and commercial acclaim.  D&D retakes its throne and stays there.  Meanwhile by 2014 Pathfinder is moving along with a 14-year-old system (the 3.0 OGC). It survived the d20 boom and glut and still is the game of choice for many.  But sales are low and the true money maker of any RPG are the core books.  So in 2018 Pathfinder releases their 2nd Edition Playtest book.

Pathfinder 2e Playtest and Special Editions

It does not go over as well as the first playtest, this is the third time the market has seen this from the Big 2, but it is enough that Paizo releases Pathfinder 2nd Edition at Gen Con 2019.  That brings me to today, Pathfinder 2nd Ed in 2022.

Pathfinder Second Edition

Pathfinder 2nd Edition (PF2e here on) is the update to the best-selling, award-winning Pathfinder RPG. For this review/overview I am considering the Special Edition hardcover from my FLGS.  The book is 640 pages with full-color art.

Let's just start from the top. This book is gorgeous. The art is what you have come to expect from Pathfinder and this one does not skimp on it. 

PF2e interior art

There is an evolution here that is very interesting. It is something I call my "Modula-2 Experience."  Back in my undergrad days, I learned to program in Pascal. Not uncommon really, lots of people did that then. But later on I picked up other languages. I had already learned BASIC and Fortran so I picked up C and Modula-2.  C is very different than Pascal so keeping the syntax straight was an issue at first but then became easier. Modula-2 is almost identical to Pascal with some odd bits here and there. Picking up the syntax was a lot easier, but became harder to keep them separate as I went on.

Pathfinder follows the Modula-2 path from D&D's Pascal.  To extend the metaphor more, D&D 3 is Pascal, Pathfinder 1 is Modula-2, D&D 5 is Object Pascal/Delphi and Pathfinder 2e is Oberon. To extend my metaphor to breaking Original D&D is ALGOL.

Exploring PF2e is fascinating. There is a game here that I easily recognize and yet looks new at the same time.  All of the same abilities are here, many of the same races (now called "Ancestries & Backgrounds), and classes.  In fact, the first 240 or so pages read like D&D 3 or 5 or Pathfinder. It's when you delve into the details that differences become apparent.  

1 Introduction

This chapter introduces us to RPGs in general and the Pathfinder 2nd Edition in particular. It (and the rest of the book) features the main text and sidebars to explain the text or put it into context. For example, the text on page 7 mentions dice and the sidebar shows a picture of dice with the standard die nomenclature. 

This covers the basics of character creation such as deciding on your concept, rolling or assigning your six abilities (the classic six), figuring out your character details, and more.  We have six ancestries and twelve character classes.

Ancestries and Classes

Now I will say this. While I appreciate a good character sheet breakdown, the PF2e sheet is ugly as hell. For all the great art in this book that is one garish sheet. Wow. I'll stick with the black & white one.

2 Ancestries & Backgrounds

Modern RPGs are moving away from the concept of "race" and instead are going with Ancestries. I rather like this approach, to be honest. While "race" might be a good term, there are enough negative connotations to it (see my discussions of 19th Century Race Theory) to make it less than desirable. Plus Ancestries and Background help parse out what you get via your parents (eyes, pointy ears, and more) and what you get growing up in a culture.  

Ancestries are what older games call "race" it helps determine your ability score bonuses and sometimes penalty, your size, your speed, and what languages you might know. It also gives you "traits" and who well you see in the dark.  Heritages are sub-specialties of the Ancestries.  My favorite ancestry for PF2e right now is Goblin. Yes, you can play a Goblin in this game! The heritage I like the most is the Ironguy Goblin. You can eat anything.  I love Pathfinder goblins. 

Each ancestry gets an ancestry feat (PF2e is crazy with feats) at the first level. This helps define your character. For example, one feat is Goblin Song where you sing annoying goblin songs to distract your enemies.  You can get additional ancestry feats at 5th, 9th, and 13th levels. Some have pre-requisites. So you can't take "Very, Very Sneaky" at 13th level unless you took "Very Sneaky" before.

An interesting note here. Half-elves and Half-orcs are not an Ancestry. You take Human as your ancestry and then half-elf or half-orc as your heritage. The rule implication here is clear.  You can have mixed ancestry and heritage as the rules allow, you just need your GM to be ok with it. 

Backgrounds are chosen like a feat but are akin to the Backgrounds of 5e.  Akin, not the same.  These usually give some sort of skill, skill boost, or feat. 

Languages come from your Ancestry, heritage (sometimes) and background (sometimes).  

Your HP at level 1 is based on your Ancestry and not your class.  This is a good change since it can also apply to monsters and level-0 NPCs.

3 Classes

Here we get the classes we know from 3.x, more or less. There is the new Champion class, which replaces the Paladin (a Paladin is a type of Champion) and the new Alchemist. 

Alchemist

Each class has an ability boost, HD for leveling up, saves, attacks, and what skills they have access to. They are constructed very similarly to D&D 3.x/PF1e classes. Each class also has a series of feats they can take at various levels. These include Class Feats (specific to class) and General Feats (used by all). You take a Class Feat at 2nd level and every even level after. General feats are taken at 3rd level and every four levels after. There are also skill increases, ability boosts and other powers/abilities so that there is something happening at every level for all classes.   There are also sample variations on each class; these are done with the choices you make in powers, skills, and feats.  For example a Paladin is a Lawful Good Champion and Dancer is a Bard that takes ranks in Acrobatics and Perform (among others).  So customization is through the roof and no two characters of the same class need to look or feel the same. 

Seoni the Sorceress

To add to this there are even Archetypes to define your character or at 2nd level you can take a multiclass feat to add some abilities of another class to your current one. Much like D&D 4e used to do.  There is just so much to do with these classes.   No surprise then that classes take up almost a quarter to a third of this book.

I do miss the Prestige Classes from 3.x/PF1e though. Though with this level of customization they can be "thematically" folded into the existing rules here with no issues.  Want to be an Arcane Archer? I am sure there is a good skill/feat options that allow you to do that. 

4 Skills

There are 17 skills for PF2e. They are well described and include things you can do untrained and things you can do trained. There are also specific examples of things you can do with each skill and whether or not these are move actions, require concentration or other modifiers. For example, Climbing is a type of Athletics check and it is a Move action. 

5 Feats

Pathfinder isn't Pathfinder without Feats. Love them or hate them they are baked into the system here more than D&D or PF1e. And there is a lot of them. Again though great for character customization, bad for GMs needing to keep track of everything.

6 Equipment

Covers the shopping list. But also has premade Class Kits you can buy which have all the basic gear a class is likely to take. 

7 Spells

The next largest section (about 120 pages) is Spells.  All the same, schools are here, but now magic is divided into Arcane (Wizards), Divine (Clerics), Occult (Bards), and Primal (Druids) Spells.  So seeing a bit of PF1e's later material and D&D4e DNA here.  There are Spell Slots from 0 to 10 (yes 10th-level spell slots) and spells of level 0 (Cantrips) to 9. So you can heighten a spell to higher slots or sometimes a spell might need a higher slot depending on a feat. Similar to 3.x certainly but also a little feel of 5e's spell slot system.  So for example there is no Monster Summoning I to IX. There is only Summon Animal (or Construct or Fiend or Fey etc.) and you can heighten the spell at higher spell slots. So taking Summon Animal at a 7th level Spell Slot lets you summon a level 9 or lower animal. 

Spells are all listed alphabetically and tagged with various descriptors like "Cantrip," "Divination," or "Mental" and more. The description also lists what tradition(s) they belong too, Arcanes, Divine, Occult and/or Primal. 

There are also "Focus" spells that are unique to a particular Class.  Bards, Champions, Clerics, Druids, Monks, Sorcerers, and Wizards all get their own lists unique to them. Yes monks get "Ki" spells.  

Like past versions, but mostly like D&D 4e there are also Rituals. these take longer and have certain requirements that need to be met. 

8 Age of Lost Omens

This covers the very basics of Golarion, Pathfinder's game world. It includes a little history, the lands, and the gods. 

9 Playing the Game 

This is mostly the Game Master's section but there is still plenty here for players.  Covers all the rules needed to play with an emphasis on the basic d20 roll and checks. Note there is no "Natural 20 = critical hit" here, BUT score 10 higher than their DC/AC then you do have a crit! So that is kinda cool. 

10 Game Mastering

This is the Game Master's chapter. Lots of advice here on how to run PF2e games (and some of it applies to any d20-based game.)  There is a lot here yes, but obviously more could be said since there is a Game Mastery guide out as well. 

11 Crafting & Treasure

Modern gamers love to make things. I blame Minecraft. This chapter covers making things (great for the alchemists) and treasure. This is also a fairly large chapter.

Treasure

We end with the Appendicies. 

--

This book is huge and it is packed with information.  The index is great and very useful. In fact, the entire design of the game allows ease of access to all information. This is one of the things that made 4e a well-designed game (not the same as "playable") and we see it live on in OSE as well. 

Who Should Play Pathfinder Second Edition?

Anyone who loves to play D&D in its myriad forms and also loves deep character customization.  In fact, if you love building characters and don't have a game going at the moment then Pathfinder has a lot to keep your character-building hobby very busy.

It is not a lite game. It is very, very crunchy.  While the differences between PF1e vs D&D4 were very pronounced there is less obvious differences between PF2e and D&D5 at least in terms of the types of games you can play.  I will say that if you were to play something like "Keep on the Borderlands" the differences in play between D&D5e and PF2e would be minimal and all resting on the mechanics of the game. Still, you are going to roll initiative, roll to attack an orc, roll a d20 to see if you hit, and then roll damage as indicated by your weapon type. At higher levels, these mechanical differences will become further apart, but essentially they both still have the same DNA linking them back to D&D 3 and before.

There is a lot to like about this game. There is a lot of game here too and that might not be to everyone's taste.

I can something like the Ancestries, Heritages, and Backgrounds making their way to D&D proper. It is so useful and gives so much more customization that looking back it seems like a no-brainer.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: Die Hüne

David faces Goliath in this 1888 lithograph by Osmar Schindler
Today I want to delve a bit more into an idea I had been playing around with a little while ago, the combined pantheon of Greek and Norse mythos into a Roman-Norse syncretism. Both groups have many common features, but one that sticks out is the use of a race of giants that predate the gods that represent the forces of chaos.

In my syncretized myths these creatures are called Die Hüne, (plural. Singular: Der Hüne).  This is what I said about them before:

Die Hüne are the Titans and the Giants of both myths. Primordial beings of great power that the gods defeated but still trouble them. In this myth, the Gods fought Die Hüne and brought order out of chaos. These are not just giants and titans, these creatures are the demons of this mythology.

In my mind, they are something of a combination of giant, elemental, and demon. The Gigantes of Greek myth (not AD&D) were more monstrous creatures.  The jötunn of Norse myth likewise were more demonic. As time goes on these titans and jötunn become more and more human-looking till we have something like the giants of D&D. 

My goal with Der Hüne is to get back to those older, more monstrous giants. Given that this mythology is half-Roman, these people will have been familiar with some of the tales of Goliath, the Anakim, and others from Jewish mythology.  So maybe some of those tales entered into their thinking.

Here is how they will be used in my various D&D/OSR/FRPG games.

The giants Fafner and Fasolt seize Freyja in Arthur Rackham's illustration of Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen.
Erde Hüne

These creatures are also known as Earth Giants.  They are the forebearers of the Hill, Mountain, and Stone giants as well as ogres.  They stand 12 ft tall and are said to have bones made of stone.

These creatures are Chaotic Evil and have the most dealings with humans. While some certainly are stupid brutes, others are sufficiently intelligent and sophisticated enough to lead human armies. They have a taste for human flesh; both in the culinary and carnal appetites. There are some very tall, very evil humans that can trace their ancestry to one of these creatures.  We get the word "Hun" from "Hüne."

Note: These take the role of the "evil giants in the bibles and other tales" giants like the Anakim.  Though I covered some of this ground with Gog and Magog. I had Gog and Magog as a type of Balor or Baalor in my games.  Maybe I could turn up the demonic influences on them and make Gog and Magog the named Erde Hüne.  Balor are also 12' tall.  The myths about Gog and Magog certainly have them more human-looking. This would also bring them closer to the Ogre idea I originally had.  Worth thinking over to be sure and it would give me the demonic influences I want. 

I think just to be "that guy" I am going to make them 13' tall.

Meer Hüne

These giants are found in the oceans to the far north. They are related to the Frost and Sea giants. They are not the progenitors of these creatures but are the offspring of the Rime Jötunn along with the Frost Giants. Sea Giants are the offspring of the Meer Hüne.  

These creatures avoid humans but are no less evil. They have been known to wreck ships where they keep all the treasure and eat the humans aboard. In my myths, they would also be the forebearers of the Viking raiders that would swoop down and raid the villages of these people. 

Note: On Earth, these giants populate the North Sea, the Baltic Sea, and the Norwegian Sea. In my desire to have my cake and eat it too I would picture these guys looking like the stereotypical Vikings. Including "Hägar the Horrible" horned helmets, though no idea how they make such helms. 

Feuer Hüne

These creatures are made of pure living fire.  They are the generation after the Inferno Jötunn and the "older brothers" to the Fire Giants.

Note: Right now these creatures are not significantly different enough from either the Fire Giants or the Inferno Jötunn to merit another distinct monster entry.  

Äther Hüne

These creatures are massive with some towering as high as 36 feet tall. It is said their bones are made of clouds and their muscles are made of storms.  They are the progenitors of the Cloud, Storm, and Fog giants. 

Note: This is my "Jack and the Beanstalk" Giant (though in truth an evil Cloud Giant covers that readily). 

Though anytime I work on giants this image comes to mind.

giants

This image comes from the Creationist idea that there were giants in biblical times. This speculation all grows out of Genesis 6:4 "There were giants in the earth in those days", meaning the fallen angels or Nephelim or whatever.  I spent a lot of time talking about this on my old Atheism blog, The Freedom of Nonbelief

Here is how I use that image above.  These are closer to AD&D heights than D&D 5e. 

  1. Human
  2. Stone Giant
  3. Troll
  4. Ogre
  5. Hill Giant / Erde Hüne
  6. Fire Giant
  7. Frost Giant
  8. Cloud Giant
  9. Storm Giant

There. That is far more useful. 

How do I work through the Square-Cube Law?  Magic!

Of all these creatures I think I will develop the Erde Hüne (Earth Giants) and the Meer Hüne (Sea Giants) more. Fire and Frost are already covered well in the various jötunn of Norse myths. The progenitors of the Storm and Cloud Giants I think are also handled well by the Greek myths.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Friday Updates; Retro-Builds, DemonQuest and July is coming up.

Finding it hard to post on a Friday when it is so nice out!

So some updates.

We had some really hot days this week so I took advantage of it and went out to get my TRS-80 Model III case and give it a new paint job.  It now looks like a TRS-80 Model 4.

TRS-80 Model III Before

TRS-80 Model III After

That is the first coat of primer. I primed it in flat white and used a glossy white top coat.  It's dry but I might put on another coat. 

For this "Retro-Build" I really wanted to use a Raspberry Pi 4 based system again, but I also have this motherboard just laying around. I have not idea if it will fit save for my quick and dirty measurements. I have a new hard drive for it and the keyboard.  I need to cut the bottom of the case to fit the keyboard in, but that is no big deal, and I already have my support.  Going with some industrial foam this time instead of 3D printing one.

keyboard

If I stick with Windows on it versus the Pi I can run all the Gold Box D&D games on it.  Make this nothing but a D&D-related computer. Just like the 1980s. 

My DragonQuest post went over rather nicely. I am going to be checking out the fan revision of 2nd Edition, called Version 2.19 soon.   I am not entirely sure what, if anything, I will do with it but I do love the idea of mixing in bits of the SPI Demons game and calling it "DemonQuest" instead.  Maybe I take some notes from DragonRaid!  This is only a passing idea.  Maybe something I can pick at every now and then.  I do have some ideas though that I like.

July is coming up.  I was talking with my friend Greg this week and the topic of Superhero Games came up.  I might spend some time with some supers games and maybe even get to some Sci-Fi stuff I did not cover in May and some D&D stuff I now know I won't get to this month.  At the end of July (or rather the last )  I have something special planned that should be fun.  No details yet, but here is a spoiler.


Next week, either some Castles & Crusades or Pathfinder and how they relate to D&D!

Thursday, June 16, 2022

One Man's God: Legends & Lore, 2nd Edition

AD&D 2nd Ed Legends & Lore
For this post, I am moving further outside of my original purpose of One Man's God but certainly still within the spirit of why I was doing it.  In truth one of the seeds of what would lead me to do One Man's God to start with was planted while flipping through the AD&D 2nd Edition Legends & Lore and my complaints about it. 

A brief recap. My series, One Man's God, dealt with going through the original Deities & Demigods book and working out how various gods, monsters and/or heroes would work in the cosmology of AD&D 1st Edition demons.  I took each myth/pantheon and looked at them through the lens of AD&D demons. Not Christian demons, though that can inform my view, and not Ars Goetia demons, or any other sort. Just AD&D ones.  I went through the book and took on some ancillary topics as well like Syncretism and how to build my own myths

AD&D 2nd Edition though is a different sort of creature.  For starters, we didn't even have demons or devils at the start. Secondly, the cosmology of the Outer Planes or the "Great Wheel" became something of its own setting in Planescape later on. So a lot of assumptions going into One Man's God are called into question in this new cosmological viewpoint. 

Though I think I could make the argument that I can take the Legends & Lore book and look at it independently of later developments and certainly Planescape and still apply the rules I was using for OMG.  I am going to cover a lot of ground in this one, but it is very familiar ground.  Sometimes very, very familiar.  But before I do that maybe an overview/review of Legends & Lore is in order.

Legends & Lore, AD&D 2nd Edition

For this review, I am considering the hardcover book published in 1990 and the files from DriveThruRPG. 192 pages. Color cover and inserts, black & white and blue interior art. 

My history with Legends & Lore is a complicated one. Deities & Demigods was my very first AD&D hardcover purchase.  I was playing a Cleric in D&D B/X at the time and wanted to expand his role in the game. I thought a book of gods would be a great in. Plus it was mythology that got me into D&D to begin with, so it was a natural choice for me. 

Like many at the time I also, rather immaturely, chaffed under the name change of "Deities & Demigods" to "Legends & Lore" feeling that TSR was bowing to the smallest, but loudest, contingent of people criticizing the game. But I would later buy a copy so my collection of AD&D hardbacks would be complete.  Fast forward a couple of years and now AD&D 2nd Ed is the new game on the block and there is a new Legends & Lore out.  This time I did not mind the name, maybe because I was now in college and saw that it fit the content better. I recall sitting in the apartment of my old High School DM and his cousin was there (he lived in the apartment below) and we were discussing the new L&L book. I can't say the discussion was very favorable towards the new book.

Gods, circa 1990

Before I delve into that, let's look at the book and I'll bring up that discussion as it pertains.

Legends & Lore was written by James M. Ward (who gave us Gods, Demi-gods, and Heroes and Deities & Demigods) and Troy Denning. This book has the advantage of being the one that is most in common with three different versions of the D&D game.  The book is called revised and updated, and it is certainly that, but there are plenty of similarities between this book and the 1st Edition one.

This book contains 11 different mythologies, down from the 17/15 of the previous edition.  This was one of my first points of contention with the book back in 1990.  Where were the Babylonia and Summerian? The Finnish or the Non-humans? One could have easily combined (and made a good argument for it) the Babylonian and Sumerian myths.  Combined they still were not as long as the Egyptian myths cover. 

My second point of contention, and even then I knew this was a very weak leg to stand on, is that the stats were gone.  Oh sure there were brand new stat blocks for worshipers and what the gods can do and there were the stats for their "Earthly" avatars, but the long, and let me just say it, Monster Manual-like stats were gone. Yes. These are not supposed to beings you can, or even should, hunt down to kill.  

My last complaint, and again this one is weak, is that so much of the art was reused for this edition.

Granted sometimes the older art was used to great effect.

Otus art

Other times, less so.

That's not Cú Chulainn

Thelb K'aarna art for Cú Chulainn? Nope. Not buying it. They would have been better using Moonglum.

The book does though do a very good job to laying out the powers of Greater, Intermediate (new to this edition), Lesser,  and Demi- Gods. Power common to all gods are discussed and powers they grant to their clerics, in general, are discussed, with the details of each god.  Ok. So this means each god takes up more space. That explains some of the loss.  

There is a solid human focus here and that is by the design of the book since they are drawing more from history. 

Each of the pantheon/myths is presented in more or less of the same format. We get a covering of the myths and an explanation on where they come from.  There are some new spells listed and some new magic items.  We follow with the Gods, usually the most powerful first working our way down to demi-gods and ascended heroes.  Where appropriate there are also monsters and sometimes maps/plans of centers of worship. Pyramids for the Aztecs and Egyptians, temples, and so on.

Also included with each god are the duties of the priesthood and what their requirements are. These will include alignment, ability score minimums, Weapons the priests are allowed to use, armor restrictions, what spheres of clerical magic they will have access, what other powers might be granted, and whether or not they can turn or command undead or even have no effect on them at all. This is the forerunner of 3rd Edition's Channel Divinity power for Clerics. 

The myths include American Indian, Arthurian Legends, Aztec, Celtic, Chinese, Egyptian, Greek, Indian, Japanese, Newhwon, and Norse.

One Man's God

Now I want to look at each of these and see how they would fare using the lens of One Man's God. Or, to put it easier. Are there any demons here?

American Indian

Covers some similar ground (as all the myths do) as the original Deities & Demigods. No monsters here, but a lot of heroes.

Arthurian Legends

No gods at all here, despite how important Christian mythology, especially around the Holy Grail, is to these tales.  Only a note that "Authur's deity remains distant and unapproachable."  The Grail is mentioned as a magical relic, but not much more about it. There are only two monsters here, The White Hart and The Questing Beast.

Aztec

Aztec myths are full of demons and demon-like creatures. What does 2ne ed give us?  A paragraph about how the mythology is lacking in fantastic creatures. Sorry, not buying that one. 

Celtic

Now Celtic myths have monsters, and I have talked about many of them before, but only a very few could be considered demons in the AD&D sense of the term. Here we get a lot of gods and only one hero, Cú Chulainn.

Chinese

Again China has tons of creatures that could be called demons in the AD&D sense. The Neglected Ancestral Spirit could be considered demonic. But are they AD&D demons? I am going with no. 

Egyptian

Not sure I am liking that blonde-haired, green-eyed version of Isis here. It is likely that our first concept of demons came from Egyptians. Well.,, I would argue they came from the Sumerians who would then influence the Egyptians. Also, Egyptians have a ton of gods, so no monsters at all in this section. Not even Apep and Ammit. 

Greek

Many of the primordial titans of Greek myth would get new life in Roman myths and then get ported over to Christian mythology. Geryon is one notable example. As far as Greek myths go this one has the gods a bit better organized.  The Furies or Erinyes are now "Lesser Gods" which tracks with some myths and here their alignment is Neutral. Among the monsters are Cerberus (NE) and the Gigantes (CE) which are bit like the primordial versions of the giants. These work great for my Hüne which are bit like demons. 

Indian

One of Kali's great powers is her ability to scare away demons. It's why she is put at the head of armies. Does this book give us any?  Sadly no monsters are mentioned here.

Japanese

This one feels a bit more research than the original D&DG. While no demons, the god Amatsu-Mikaboshi would make for a reasonable devil or some other type of fiend; a unique, Prince level one. He is a rebel god and would not submit to the other gods, so there is a bit of Lucifer in him. That and the fact he is called the "Dread Star of Heaven."

Nehwon

Our odd one out since it is not a world myth but rather the creation of Fritz Leiber.  Again Tyaa could pass for a demonic queen in many settings along with the Birds of Tyaa. 

Norse

The Norse gave us fire and frost giants and many of those primordial giants are quite demon-like. Lots of heroes here, as to be expected, and some monsters. Garm and Fenris Wolf could both be considered to be like demons as well.

In the end this book represented a paradigm shift that was not just part of AD&D 2nd Edition but happened along with it. Even future books that dealt with gods handled them a little different than this, but along the same paths of evolution. 

What was the outcome of my story about talking with my friends about this book?  Well if you see the image of the cover I used, well that is my own book. I didn't buy it right away, in fact it was many years later before I picked up a copy of Legends & Lore.  Strange that a book that was really one of my first purchases for AD&D would in the very next edition become one of my last.


Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Review: DragonQuest, First Edition (1980)

DragonQuest First Edition
I have a history with DragonQuest. Not a complicated one or even an interesting one, but history all the same.  Back in 83 or 84 or so I would head to Belobrajdic's Bookstore in my hometown every weekend. There I would get a new edition of Dragon or whatever sci-fi novel piqued my interest and then check out all the new RPG materials.  One I kept going back to time and time again was DragonQuest.  This was the 2nd Edition softcover and looked really different than anything I had played so far.  The barbarian proudly holds the severed head of a dragon. 

The game intrigued me so much. I flipped through it many times and even it got to the point that I annoyed the owner, Paula Belobrajdic, that she told me I should buy it.  In retrospect, I wish I had.  Though had I I likely would not have picked up the great-looking first edition boxed set next to me now.

My history with the first edition is not as long or as storied. I bought it a while back and it has sat on my shelves for a bit. I did do a character write-up last year, Phygor, for DragonQuest and I really liked how the character came it. 

For this month of D&D, I figure a look into the game that tempted me so much would be neat to look into.

DragonQuest, First Edition (1980)

This game was published by SPI in 1980.  SPI had been a wargame publisher and decided to get into the RPG market. I am sure they were seeing their market share being eaten away by RPGs, and D&D in particular.  This is important since this game does feel very wargamey. This includes how the rules are presented and even how combat is run. While D&D/AD&D at this time was open to minis and terrain maps this game requires them. Or at least chits and the included maps. 

DragonQuest 1st Edition Boxed Set

The boxed set I have contains three soft-cover books. Some chits. Some ads, a comment card, and a tactical hex map.  My set does not have dice, but I also don't think it originally came with dice.  I added two d10s myself.

The First Book of DragonQuest: Character Generation, Combat
The First Book of DragonQuest: Character Generation, Combat

Our first book is the smaller of the three at 32 pages.  The format is three-column and the rules are all presented in "wargame" style.  So Adventure Rationale can be coded as II.1.A.1.  I won't be using this much but it does make it easy to find any rule. A little cumbersome at first and then it gets really easy. 

This was an interesting time. The Introduction (I.) and How to Play the Game (II.) don't spend a lot of time with the "This is a Roleplaying Game" and instead gets down to business. Requirements for play are discussed as well as Game Terms (III.).

We get into Character Generation (IV.) This is not a completely random affair as D&D was at the time.  You roll and get a pool of points. Though with a high number of points, your maximum is low, likewise a small amount in a point pool will give you a higher maximum.  The traits are Physical Strength, Agility, Magical Aptitude, Manual Dexterity, Endurance, Willpower, and Appearance. Scores are 5 to 25 for the human range.  So you roll a 4d5 (1d10/2) which will generate a score from 4 to 20.  Compare this to the table under 5.1. This table gives you your point pool (82 to 98) and a Group (A to G) These groups refer to the maximums. A = 25, B = 24 and G =19.-

There are even some rules for developing other types of abilities if the Game Master desires them. After this other details are figured out; Gender (or even genderless), handiness, human or non-human (such as Dwarf, Efl, Giant, Halfling, Orc or Shape-changer), various Aspects, and Heritages.  It can be a complex character system all for what is nominally an 18-year-old.   This all covers the first dozen pages.  There are no classes (rather famously so) and more to your character from the next books.

The last half+ of this book covers combat. All movement and combat is done on a hex grid, not a square one. Gives it an interesting twist and again a holdover of their wargame roots. Plenty of diagrams and examples are given. Combat rounds are 10 seconds and can be made up of an undefined increment of time called a Pulse. There are Strike Zones, Fire Zones, and all sorts of fun bits.  I am reminded of combat in D&D 3rd Edition here to be honest. 

Damage is an equally detailed affair with damage affecting Fatigue and Endurance. When Fatigue is 0 damage starts happening to Endurance, there is a similar idea here in D&D 4th edition. Maybe when TSR bought SPI DragonQuest didn't entirely disappear.  There is also Grievous injury which is much worse. 

Personally, I feel any D&D player could get a lot out of reading this combat section, at least give it a play-through once.  

The Second Book of DragonQuest: Magic
The Second Book of DragonQuest: Magic

Ask anyone that has ever played both DragonQuest and D&D about what sets the two games apart the most and you are likely to hear "Magic."  In 1980 DragonQuest took an approach to magic that would not be seen in other games until much later.  What made it different then? Three pretty good reasons. Mana, different kinds of spells, and Colleges.

Mana in DragonQuest fuels the magic an Adept can use. Spell casting can be tiring and there is never a guarantee that the spell will work. It could fail or backfire. Even when it works the target can be resistant to it.  And Adepts can never wear metal to top it all off. This notion is pretty commonplace now, but then it was new and exciting. I have lost track of how many "spell points" and "mana" systems I have seen applied to AD&D over the years and that is not counting systems like Mage and WitchCraft that use some form of Essence or Quintessence. Ass expected Magical Aptitude is important here, but so is Willpower and even Endurance. 

The different sorts of spells the adept has access to. Nearly every adept has access to at least one magical talent (I'll get to that). These talents can be thought of as a power that can always be used and they are related to the Adept's college.  Then there are "normal" spells. These are the most "D&D" like and each college has its own lists and there is very little crossover, though each college has something going for it. The limiting factors here are how many spells you know.  Finally, there are rituals. These are like spells that take longer, usually much longer, require more components but have a far better chance of success.  

I have talked a bit about them already, but DragonQuest's adepts learn their magic from distinct Colleges. There are twelve colleges: Ensorcelments & Enchantments, Sorceries of the Mind, Illusions, Naming Incantations, Earth Magics, Air Magics, Fire Magics, Water Magics, Celestial Magics, Black Magics, Necromancy, and Greater Summonings.  Each college has its own requirements.  After the college descriptions, we get [xx.1] restrictions, [xx.2] modifiers, [xx.3] Talents, [xx.4] Spells, [xx.6] General Rituals and [xx.7] Special Rituals.  There are 30 pages of these.

This should all sound familiar. AD&D 2nd adopted the college idea in their schools of magic; though there is more overlap in spells.  D&D 4th Ed gave us at-will, encounter, and daily spells that mimic this setup.  All have been recombined one way or the other in 5th Edition. Again, this was all brand new in 1980.

Also, something that flies in the face of all things of the 1980s is the last 25 pages. Here we get a listing of demons straight out of the Ars Goetia of The Lesser Key of Solomon. Who they are and how to summon them. And the Christians were going after D&D. 

The Third Book of DragonQuest: Skills, Monsters, Adventure
The Third Book of DragonQuest: Skills, Monsters, Adventure

Overtly the Game Master's book. 

Skills can be roughly thought of as professions or even, dare I say it, classes. You get professional skills like Alchemist, Assassin, Astrology, Beast Master, Courtesan, Healer, Mechanician, Merchant, Military Scientist, Navigator, Ranger, Spy, Thief, and Troubador.  Each one is covered in detail along with what each profession allows the character to do. 

Each "profession" skill gets a listing [xx.1] to [xx.9] that covers what is needed to learn each skill (prereqs), what it does, and how it does it. For example, according to 53.1, a Beast Master must have a Willpower of at least 15. In 54.1 we learn that while Courtesans do not have minimum scores there is an XP penalty if they don't meet certain requirements (Dexterity, Agility, Physical Beauty) and a bonus if they have higher scores.   The back cover of this book gives the XP expenditure to go up a rank in each. 

Personally. I think this should have been part of the Characters' book.

The next section is all about Monsters. They are divided by like types. So all the primates, apes and pre-humans are in one section, cats in another, birds and avians, land mammals, aquatics and so on all get their own sections. Dragons get their own section, naturally, but wyverns are part of reptiles.  The usual suspects are all here, but not much more than that. There are however enough points of comparison that converting an AD&D monster to DragonQuest would be easy enough. There are some differences too. Nymphs have the lower half of a goat, like that of a satyr. Gnolls are dog-faced. Kobolds look like tiny old men, neither dog nor lizard-like, and tend towards good.  Medusa and Gorgons are the same creatures. Not much in the way of "new" monsters, even for 1980.

The last section covers Adventure. For a game that has such tactical wargame DNA, I expected a little more here, but I guess I am not surprised, to be honest. We also get a few tables.

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There is so much packed into this box. I can really see why this game, more than 40 years later, still has such a following. While I lament that TSR (and by extension Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro) have let this IP fall into disuse, I do see where bits of it live on in nearly all the post-1990 (AD&D 2nd ed Ed in 1989 too) versions of D&D. Schools of magic, tactical battle movement, mini use, all of these became standard.  I can't say that all of these directly came from DragonQuest, but they are certainly all headed in the directions that DragonQuest started. 

My issue right now is not counting D&D and its various forms, editions, and offsprings, I have a lot of Fantasy RPGs.  Many of my favorites are more or less dead.

Dead Fantasy RPGs

They are all great fun but with DragonQuest I am right where I was back in 1984; It's a great-looking game, but no one around me is playing it.  If I Am going to play like it was 1984 I am going to pull AD&D 1st Ed off my shelf.

The obvious reason to choose one over the other is how well does it play? Well, DragonQuest is above and beyond many of the others in terms of rules and playability. Also as I mentioned there is a huge amount of online support, informal as it is. 

There is also the idea that with DragonQuest, and adding in SPI's Demons, I could create a fun demon summoning game.  But again I have to ask, can't I do this with D&D now?

DemonQuest

Maybe DemonQuest is a game I could try out!

What are your thoughts and memories about this game?