Monday, February 28, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: The AD&D 2nd Ed Monstrous Compendiums, Part 3

MC 11 Monstrous Compendium Forgotten Realms II
I am continuing my dive into the AD&D 2nd Ed Monstrous Manuals and today I am reviewing three that are nominally under the Forgotten Realms umbrella.  

There is no doubt that the biggest game world for AD&D 2nd Edition was the Forgotten Realms.  I was fairly anti-Realms back then.  I felt it was a cheap imitation of Greyhawk and I was a little irritated that Greyhawk got pushed to the side.   The 3rd Edition Forgotten Realms setting book did a lot to change that for me and now, especially with my investigations around my This Old Dragon posts, I have come to better appreciate the Realms for what they really are, not for what I thought they were.

That all being said I still bought Realms-related products like these because, well, I love monsters.

MC11 Monstrous Compendium Forgotten Realms Appendix II (1991)

My series This Old Dragon has served me well for this one since many of the creatures here have appeared in the pages of Dragon Magazine, most authored or edited by Ed Greenwood himself.

This PDF is listed at 64 pages + the dividers. The interior art is all black & white with blue accents. The list price is $4.99. There are a total of 76 monsters (with sub-types) here Alaghi to Tren (a troglodyte/lizard man crossbreed).  The Peryton, one of my favorites from the original Monster Manual finally makes its 2nd Ed debut here. Likely due to the "Ecology of" article. I went back to look over some old favorites, namely the Saurial.  I always kind of liked the Saurial since there had been some articles in pop-science magazines about what would a humanoid race evolved from dinosaurs look like.  I was a big fan of the Silurians and Sea Devils from Doctor Who and this was the "Paranoid 90s" when X-Files was about to reign.  So reptiloids, dinosauroids, and more were on my mind.  The entry here says that "Saurials are not native to the Realms, but originate from an alternate Prime Material Plane."  This reminds me of what authors would later do with the Dragonborn in the Realms; have them come from Toril's twin planet of Abeir.  I see in more recent Realms lore they are still from an unknown realm but I like this idea. 

While these monsters are "generic" enough to be used anywhere, most (like the Saurials above) are tied a little more to the lore of the Realms, so extracting them can be done, but they will need some edits.

MC13 Monstrous Compendium Al-Qadim
MC13 Monstrous Compendium Al-Qadim Appendix (1992)

The Al-Qadim Monstrous Compendium had been the only product I ever purchased for the Al-Qadim setting back when it was new.  Again the reasoning was I loved monsters. But while reading it over I discovered there was a very interesting setting here.  

Like the Kara-Tur setting, Al-Qadim was pulled into the Realms. It was added to the Realms quickly after its release but the campaign setting box was designed a bit more for a general placement anywhere.

This PDF is listed at 74 pages and has a $4.95 price tag.  The art is typical for the time color covers and color dividers with black & white pages. Interestingly the accent color here is gold and not blue.  Ravenloft used red so I wonder how it would have been if all the settings had a different accent color to help separate them.  A dark-gray for Greyhawk, burnt orange for Dark Sun, and so on. 

There are 58 monsters from Ammut to Zin. This includes a large number of various Genie/Gin types. 

Divorced from their setting the monsters certainly lose some of their best flavor, but I do plan on using these in a desert-based campaign I have coming up and I think they will work fine.

MC6 Monstrous Compendium, Kara-Tur
MC6 Monstrous Compendium, Kara-Tur Appendix

Kara-Tur did not begin as a Forgotten Realms land. Quite the contrary it was designed to be used as part of Oerth in the 1st Edition Oriental Adventures.  This Monstrous Compendium brings the creatures listed in the 1st ed book, and more, into the 2nd Edition game. 

This PDF is listed at 64 pages (more with binder dividers) and a price tag of $4.99.  The cover and dividers are full color (including Easley's Oriental Adventure cover) and the interior art is Black & White. There are 76 monsters from Bajang to the Yuki-on-na.

Interestingly enough the Eastern Dragons from the Original Fiend Folio are not here.  They appeared in the MC3 Forgotten Realms one, but I thought they should appear here instead.  Likely to solidify the claim of Kara-Tur in the Forgotten Realms or maybe to give the 3rd MC some popular dragons.

There are some very unique monsters here. This is one of the few that I keep separate and do not integrate into my larger monster sets.

We are at a point with the Monstrous Compendiums where we get a bit of overlap.  For example, the Ashira (MC13) has a lot in common with the Hamadryad (MC11).  And the Black Cloud of Vengeance (MC13) is very much a larger, more evil version of the Tempest (MC11).  


Which is which? You tell me.

This is not a surprise, there are over 2100 monsters created for AD&D 2nd Edition, there are bound to be places where they overlap.

The scans for all are pretty crisp and clear. I certainly can see printed out a couple of pages and using them in a smaller binder for a specific AD&D 2nd Ed campaign.  Like I have said before, these PDF are fulfilling the promises made by the Monstrous Compendiums in the 1990s.

Friday, February 25, 2022

Kickstart Your Weekend: Zweihänder, Sands and Old School Fun

A bunch of great Kickstarters this week so let's get to it.

The Valley Out of Time series for S&W DCC MCC

The Valley Out of Time series for S&W DCC MCC

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/science-wizard/the-valley-out-of-time-series-for-sandw-dcc-mcc?ref=theotherside

This one looks like a lot of fun. Has a whole "Lost World" vibe to it and I love that shit. It was already planned for DCC, MCC, and S&W and now with the first stretch goal Pathfinder 1st Edition.

Zweihander Fantasy Horror RPG Starter Kit

Zweihander Fantasy Horror RPG Starter Kit

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/zweihander/zweihander-rpg-starter-kit?ref=theotherside

I don't know a lot about Zweihänder. I know it is a clone in a sense of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying.  So I have been told to try this instead of Warhammer.  Creator Daniel Fox also takes credit for (rightly or not) taking down The Trove so that is a good thing in my mind.

This starter kit looks like a lot of fun and I think I am a good choice as a customer. 

The Sands of Despair: a D&D 5E and PF side trek

The Sands of Despair: a D&D 5E and PF side trek

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dlimedia/the-sands-of-despair-a-dandd-5e-side-trek?ref=theotherside

Recent seismic events unearth a long buried tomb in the desert, and the locals fear that a long dead tyrant's last words may come true.

Sounds fun to me! Plus I have been wanting to do more desert adventures. 

And the big one of the week!

Old-School Essentials Fantasy RPG Box Sets

Old-School Essentials Fantasy RPG Box Sets

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/exaltedfuneral/old-school-essentials-fantasy-rpg-box-sets?ref=theotherside

Ok we all know what this one is. It's the biggest kid on the OSR block right now and after 2-3 days it is sitting on half a million dollars.  Not too shabby really.

I have everything for this already. But damn this is attractive.

Enjoy!

Thursday, February 24, 2022

The Legend of Vox Machina

My family finished watching the Amazon Prime series "The Legend of Vox Machina" from Critical Role and honestly it was a lot of fun.

The Legend of Vox Machina

It was funny, exciting, and really just a lot of great gamer humor without feeling like gamer humor.

A big problem I have with most gamer-related fiction is you can often, as I say, "hear the dice rolling in the background."  Not so with this.  Yes there are the expected name drops, the occasional mention of a power (Grog wanting to "rage") or a spell (Keyleth saying she can only do that one once a day) but that all took a backseat to what makes any bit of fiction good; good story and characters you can care about.

I have not listened to any of the Critical Role episodes, but my oldest LOVES them.  So we backed the Kickstarter and honestly, we have been very pleased.  He let me know later how the animated series differs from the actual play episodes.  So now I do want to go back to those older Campaign One episodes and listen to them all.

Also not since the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon has D&D seen this much success in a televised medium.  Amazon already renewed it for a second season before season one even premiered.

It has met with critical success, including a 100% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 94% audience score. 

Whether you are a fan or not one thing is certain, Critical Role is one of D&D greatest achievements in terms of getting more people interested in our little game.  Born out of an odd combination of Pathfinder and D&D 5 the World of Tal'dorei has also seen quite a bit of success in the D&D 5 printed world with three (soon to be four) books.

Critical Role books

In addition to the series, the actual play episodes, and the gaming material there are comic books, action figures, clothes, and gear.  There is even a 1/6th scale statue of the characters Vex and Vax from Vox Machina coming out.  You know for a fact if there were statues of Keyleth and Jester coming out they would never be able to keep them in stock. Yes even at the nearly $200 price tag.

When was the last time one of your campaigns did all of that?  Ok. I do have 1/6th scale versions of two of my own iconic witches. No, I am not going to share how much I spent on them.

So the show was a lot of fun, maybe a touch adult for some, a lot of swearing some nudity, lots of gore. But seriously, does no one remember gaming when they were 14? 

I wish them the best of luck and hope for their continued success. 

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

What *IS* Blackmoor in my World?

I have been reading more of the late Jason Zavoda's posts about his "Blackmoor Land of a Thousand Witches" and I have wanted to do something with that.  This got me thinking about some ideas I had had for 4e Blackmoor.  Which then got me thinking about my world in a larger sense and how Blackmoor really is the keystone of my Mystorerth world.  

Even before I adopted James Mischler's name for it I was playing in a combined Msytara/Oerth world (and I kinda regret not calling Oestara now).   My world was Mystara/The Know World, my DM's was Oerth Greyhawk.  The central common feature was Blackmoor.

Blackmoor, Dave's version

But what even *IS* Blackmoor in my world now?

It has always been some sort of Shangri-La like place of High Magic and High Tech in the Mystara books and place of post-apocalyptic destruction in Greyhawk. 

So I am going back to the sources, the original Blackmoor.

I read on good ole Wikipedia (the unofficial Splat Book for every RPG) that the original Blackmoor campaign setting "include(ed) ideas from The Lord of the Rings and Dark Shadows and applied the Fantasy Supplement rules from the Chainmail game." That sounds like my games!

Blackmoor CY576

I also went the best Blackmoor sources on the net, Havard's Blackmoor Blog and the Blackmoor Archives.

To be blunt there is an absolute ton of material in both of those sites to keep me busy for weeks.  But there are a few key points there AND I have Harvard and fellow Mystoerth enthusiast Mathew Fenn to thank.

So I don't need to connect Mystara Blackmoor to Greyhawk Blackmoor physically because they are the same place separated by time.   Harvard tells us that MBlackmoor is set "4000 years in Mystara's past."  For me that means there are two Blackmoors indeed.  Same location, but somehow when their magic-tech devices exploded it trapped a bubble of Blackmoor in time (-3426 CY to be exact) so the PCs can still get to it if they know how.    In this respect Blackmoor become my Atlantis, or at least the Atlantis like the one depicted in the Third Doctor (Jon Pertwee) story The Time Monster.

I have always wanted an Atlantis.  A mythical land/realm destroyed by a cataclysm, maybe one wrought by hubris, BUT there also be enough survivors so we know what the tale is/was.  My version of Mystara's "Known World" has so many different sorts of people living in it because they are the descendants of refugees of the Blackmoor explosion. 

I'd also like to learn more about what sort of "Gothic Horror" and "Dark Shadows" elements were part of the original Blackmoor.  I am not sure that Dark Shadows fits in well with "magic-tech superpower" but it would with the post-apoc Greyhawk-era Blackmoor.  

Blackmoor in the World of Greyhawk

Map by Daniel Hasenbos, Courtesy of DHBoggs

Blackmoor today is more like what the Greyhawk Gazeteers say it is.  But I also want to add bits of Hyperborea to my version of Blackmoor for that full post-apocalyptic feel and justify high powered magic tech still existing.  Hyperborea's Atlanteans might be what I need to complete this picture.

In any case I do have a lot of reading to do and figuring out what it all means for my world.

Matthew "Matteus" Fenn's map

Map of Mathew Fenn

So. What DO I know? Well in no particular order.

  • Blackmoor is north.  For the Flanaess it is about as far north as you can go before reaching the Black Ice.  
  • The Black Ice is black because Blackmoor blew up. 
  • Prior to the explosion Blackmoor was a cosmopolitan utopia. All the races lived and visited here in seeming harmony (there was still tensions here so not all wine and roses) and art, science, and magic were celebrated.  I want it's past to be "far too good to be true" but in fact true.  That is the tragedy of Blackmoor. 
  • The differences between the Mystara map of Blackmoor and the Greyhawk version is due to this explosion.
  • I am reversing the names of the sea near Blackmoor.  In the past is was known as the "Icy Sea" now it is called the "Black Sea" and it actually black and full of weird mutated sea creatures.
  • If there was ever an "Innsmouth" for my world it is here.
  • There WILL be ways to travel back in time (or outside of time) to Old Blackmoor.  This will be my chance to pull out some time travel ideas and break my "no time travel in D&D" rule.  In fact it should be the focus of an adventure at some point. 
  • Blackmoor of today is considered to be a haunted and desolate land.  The tales of Blackmoor's rise and then destruction are akin to our tales of Atlantis.
  • "Not since Blackmoor" is a saying meaning a very, very long time ago. 
  • The land is filled with random magic effects and other strangeness.  The barrier between realms is the weakest here.  So this is also where eldritch horrors are most likely to appear. 
  • I might try to use the "Temple of the Frog" in some manner, obviously I am going to use this as a cult center of Tsathoggua.  I would change many elements of the adventure, but certainly go with the maps and some of the science fantasy elements.
  • I still have to reckon my "Monks come from Blackmoor" notion.  Like I said then these might be psychic ascetics cut from the 70's occult revival cloth.  That would fit with the idea that monks were introduced in the Blackmoor supplement and the Mystics from the D&D Basic/BECMI/RC line. I need a good psychic mystic class to cover them. I have written a bit on Mystics[1][2][3] in the past, so I am sure there is something more I can do with that. 

Obviously I have a lot to consider here. And a lot more to read about before I could come up with any sort of good idea.  My ultimate goal here was to myself to a point where I could talk about Jason Zavoda's "Blackmoor Land of a Thousand Witches" but I am not even close to that yet.  But I can at least see the road map from here.

Links

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Want a Book? Ask!

I posted this elsewhere, but I am super busy at work today.  So here it is here.

I get it. Books and Game PDFs are expensive and everyone is on a much tighter budget these days. SO to that end, if you want one of my PDFs and can't afford it just ASK ME. I'll likely send it along with a couple more to spare.

Maybe at least say somewhere that you thought it was cool/fun/informative or made you sick to your stomach, whatever. But at least ask, the worst thing that can happen is I'll say no (which leaves you where you were) or I say yes and you have a new PDF.

books



Monday, February 21, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: The AD&D 2nd Ed Monstrous Compendiums, Part 2

It's a Presidents' Day Monstrous Monday.  I am continuing my dive into the AD&D 2nd Edition Monstrous Compendiums.  Today I want to talk about the next three that were important to me in terms of what I call the "core" of the AD&D 2nd Ed monsters.   

The AD&D 2nd Ed Monstrous Compendiums, Part 2

It is a commonly held belief that during the AD&D 2nd Ed era that settings were at their height.  The remaining Monstrous Compendiums focused on these settings.  For me it was a perfect systems really.  I could keep monsters in with my core rules, like I did with Greyhawk, Dragonlance and Mystara. Or keep them with my boxed sets of campaigns, like I did with all my Ravenloft stuff.  So let's go with the ones I integrated (to the best I could) into my core set.

MC4 Monstrous Compendium Dragonlance Appendix
MC4 Monstrous Compendium Dragonlance Appendix

Ok, this one bugged me at first. I bought it and it said Draonlance Appendix on the front even though it was the second two-ring binder.  I didn't play Dragonlance, I was doing Greyhawk and would soon be eyeballs deep in Ravenloft.   My irritations were put to rest when I opened and the cover, while having the same art, just said Monstrous Compendium Vol. 2.   For a while I used both alphabetically, vol 1 with A through M and vol 2 holding N to Z and the tables and blank forms.  Today I use vol 1 for my core monsters and vol 2 for everything else.

Dragonlance falls into "everything else" for me.  The monsters are good, and many that have made their way back into my core monsters.

The PDF from DriveThruRPG is 96 pages, 82 monsters and at a price of $4.99. The monsters range from "Anemone, Giant" to "Yeti-kin, Saqualaminoi."  It covers all the various races of Krynn including the various types of dwarves, all the different kinds of elves, the kender and Dragonlance's lizard men and minotaurs. It was the first to include the Death Knight and Skeleton Warriors, though I always felt they belonged in Greyhawk. Certainly worth it for the Draconians and tips on Dragonlance's dragons which help redefine dragons in D&D in the first place. 

MC4 Monstrous Compendium Dragonlance Appendix

The cover of the PDF is a little dark, but the pages inside are sharp and clear.

MC5 Monstrous Compendium Greyhawk Adventures Appendix
MC5 Monstrous Compendium Greyhawk Adventures Appendix

Personally I always felt that Greyhawk should have had a Monstrous Compendium long before the others, but I can see why it came out when it did, given all that history.  The Greyhawk Adventures book for 1st Edition had a "preview" of monsters in 2nd Edition format. I remember being quite excited about this and really liking the new stat block even though it was much larger than before.

More so than the other MC Appendices, I tried to integrate these monsters as much as I could into my "core" Monstrous Compendium.  To me Greyhawk was the "home world" of D&D.

The PDF from DriveThruRPG is 64 pages, runs $4.99, and includes 63 monsters; Beastman to Zygom.

Many of these monsters have their origins in the AD&D 1st ed modules and Fiend Folio, but there are few others here from the Monster Manaual II.  The only creatures here that really saw "Greyhawk" to me are the Grell, Greyhawk Dragon, the Sword Wraiths and the Drowned Zombies.  There are some here that are more generic like the hobgoblin (how did that one only make it in in MC5?? Corrected. Hobs are in the core set. Hobgoblin, Norkers are in this set!)

MC5 Monstrous Compendium Greyhawk Adventures Appendix


Monstrous Compendium - Mystara Appendix
Monstrous Compendium - Mystara Appendix

First Edition was all about Greyhawk. Second edition was synomous with Ravenloft for me.  But Mystara, or before that name, the Known World was where my gaming began.  So the Mystara Appendix for the Monstrous Compendium was one of my "core" core sets.  

The Mystara appendix take a few diversions from the other core world sets.  For starters this one is 128 pages and $9.99 on DriveThruRPG now.  It is also full color, a indication of the change of publishing style at TSR.   This book was also published as a standalone softcover, perfect bound, book.  It seems that by 1994 the loose-leaf era was indeed over.

The PDF though does allow you to go back to that era and print the monsters out as you like.

This set has 174 monsters from Actaeon to Zombie, Lightning.  Many of the old favorites from the B/X and BECMI days are here too.  Living Statues, Kopru, Decapus and the Thoul are all here in their 2nd Edition glory as well as many of the Gem Stone Dragons.

If you were/are a fan of the D&D Creature Catalogs then this really is a must buy. I find it interesting that this Compendium came out just a year after the DMR2 Creature Catalog.  I'd have to go through them page by page to see if there are any differences in the monsters presented, but they feel very much alike. 

The DriveThruRPG scanned PDF is very bright and clear. I would love to see this as a print-on-demand some day. 

Friday, February 18, 2022

Kickstart Your Weekend: Cthulhu Awakens Roleplaying Game

This week Other Side Favorite Green Ronin is up with a new AGE game and a new Mythos game.  Lucky for me they are one and the same!

Cthulhu Awakens Roleplaying Game

Cthulhu Awakens Roleplaying Game

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/greenroninpub/cthulhu-awakens-roleplaying-game?ref=theotherside

Funded in 40 minutes it is currently sitting at about 6x its funding goal. 

This game, powered by their A.G.E. system (ModernAGE, The Expanse, Blue Rose) covers "The Weird Century" from the 1920s til today.  And the mythos talked about in stories and tales are only a part of the picture.

Do we need another Cthulhu/Mythos game?  Maybe, maybe not, but I do like what I see here and I find this more exciting than some of the Mythos-related RPGs that have come out in the past. 

For my home games I can see us using this a lot. For starters there is all the new background details and I like having new life breathed into my Mythos every so often.  Sure I do my own stuff, but it is nice to get a fresh perspective.

My son plays FantasyAGE so I am sure I'll do something with that.

I have been trying out The Expanse (spoiler I love it) and I love mixing space travel with the Mythos (see BlackStar) so what if the protomolecule is related to the Old Ones?  It could be the start of my BlackStar game! Or at least give me some fun ideas. 

The design team for this looks great and I am looking forward to seeing what they can come up with.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

I Am A Lying Liar from Liartown

I was cleaning up my office on Wednesday, waiting for a meeting to start when I started going through a bunch of binders I have.  In particular a few for notes on my witch and necromancer classes (maybe I'll do a necromancer one day).  Anyway, I sorted through all my notes and I found many treasures.

3.5" Floppy disk.  What treasures await??

The fruits of that labor are:

More Monsters!

And...I dug up enough information for not just two new witch books, but three.

For the last year or more, I have been talking about "My Last Witch Book" the High Witchcraft Tradition.  The High Witchcraft book is very much tied up in organizing all my notes and sources project, so I knew I was going to find new material for it today.

I knew I had a lot for it, it was just all over the place on whatever I decided to take notes on.  I thought I had maybe enough for it and another, smaller, book.  Nope. I have enough for three different books now.

I am not really ready to reveal what these other books are/will be.  I reserve the right not to do them if push comes to it.  

So. Yeah.  I guess I do have more books in me.  Though I think I am going to keep the High Witchcraft book as the Last book.

Now I just need to dig up a 3.5" floppy drive.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Mail Call: Night Shift, More Witch Queens and Rat Baby!

Quick one today.  Yesterday's mail brought me some wonderful gifts.

Mail Call

Up first are the new books for the NIGHT SHIFT RPG.  The Night Companion and a new "Night Trip" A Faustian Dilemma.   These are both the babies of my co-author Jason Vey.  You can now get both at the Elf Lair Games store.

I do have a new "Nigth World" in Night Companion.  My "Weirdly World News" where you get to play tabloid reporters try to get that ever-elusive story that proves the supernatural is real, and hope there is a good paycheck in it. 

This book also introduces the world the everyone's favorite cryptid, Rat Baby.

Weirdly World NewsRat Baby Spotted!

 Kickstarter backers will be getting their books now. I knew I was on the end of the list for my copies.

Night Shift

I also got a new Witch Queen adventure in the mail again from Carlos A.S. Lising and casl Entertainment.

When Come the Witching Hour

As you can see, this one also features Iggwilv as the titular Witch.

The Witch Queen

I am going to give this one a review and hope it is as fun as The Witch-Queen's Lament was.  I think I am going to restructure my War of the Witch Queens adventures just a bit. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

The Witch-Queen of Yithorium

I was cleaning up some links on my Witch Links page and I noticed a few I had from the Halls of the Mountian King, the blog of the recently passed Jason Zavoda. He posted a bit about Hyperborea, nee AS&SH, including the Witch Queen of Yithorium.  I also found a lot of material for his own Blackmoor Land of a Thousand Witches.

Jason was very well respected in the Greyhawk community and I thought it might be a nice tribute to expand on his ideas some, but more importantly, share his ideas all with you.  Up first, the Witch-Queen of Yithorium.

The Witch-Queen of Yithorium

There is not a lot of text on who the Witch-Queen of Yithorium is except for what she wants now.

The official Hyperborea forum has a little on her background.  She is a nod/homage to Howard's witch Salome in "A Witch Shall Be Born." She rules from a 100’ tower of alien origin that immediately reminded me of Clark Ashton Smith. She is immortal, ever young, and has ruled Yithorium for nearly 700 years.  She obviously knows what to do.  

Jason provides the most information about the Queen herself in his post.  He uses a picture of Judith from the Bible as his inspiration.  Much like Salome (the namesake of Howard's witch) Judith is known for her association with a decapitated man. John the Baptist for Salome, Holophernes for Judith.   We gather from his post (and others) she was a beautiful woman, small but voluptuous, with long raven tresses.  Naturally, I think of Sarah Douglas.  

We know she is a witch and uses a type of magic unknown to her lands. We learn it is blood magic and that no one in the City-State of Yithorium knows where she learned it.  I am going to say, given the work that Jason has done, that she learned it all in Blackmoor

There are no official stats for the Witch Queen of Yithorium in the Hyperborea books.  She doesn't even have a proper name really. 

The Witch Queen of Yithorium
Female Witch 12th level
Chaotic Evil

Race: Human
Secondary Skill: Torturer

Abilities
Strength: 12
Dexterity: 12
Constitution: 13
Intelligence: 18
Wisdom: 16
Charisma: 18

Casting Ability: 12
Fighting Ability: 5
Saving Throw: 11

Hit Points: 36
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
AC: 9

Powers
Brew Decoction (x5), Familiar, Read Magic, Scroll Use, Scroll Writing, Sorcery, New weapons skills (3), Dance of Beguilement (5th level), Effigy (5th level), Enlist Henchment (6th level), Animate Broom (7th level), Lordship (9th level).   

Spells 
First: Alter Self, Charm Person, Detect Magic,  Shocking Grasp, Unseen Servant
Second: Darkness, Ghoul Touch, Infernal Tounges, Ray of Enfeeblement, Witch Fire
Third: Dispel Magic, Exploding Skull, Phantasm, Summon Dæmon I
Fourth: Black Tentacles, Mirror Mirror, Sorcerer Eye, Summon Dæmon II
Fifth: Anti-Magic Field, Summon Dæmon III, Summon Elemental
Sixth: Gelatinize Bones, Transfer Youthfulness


Hyperborea Witch


The Witch Queen of Yithorium

Female Witch, Blood Tradition 13th level
Chaotic

Abilities
Strength: 12
Dexterity: 12
Constitution: 13
Intelligence: 18
Wisdom: 16
Charisma: 18

Hit Points: 36
AC: 9

Occult Powers
Familiar: Raven
7th level: Evil’s Touch 
13th level: Detect Bloodline

Spells 
Cantrips: Black Flame, Chill, Daze, Ghost Sound, Inflict Minor Wounds, Object Reading
First: Bewitch I, Darkness, Feel my Pain, Ghostly Slashing, Glamour, Silver Tongue
Second: Alter Self, Disfiguring Touch, Ghoulish Hands, Scare, Share My Pain, Suggestion
Third: Clairaudience/Clairvoyance, Dispel Magic, Lifeblood, Summon Spirit, Witch Wail
Fourth: Divination, Phantom Lacerations, Polymorph, Spiritual Dagger
Fifth: Bewitch V, Dreadful Bloodletting
Sixth: Spiritual Dagger, Summon Nightmare Steed
Seventh: Wave of Mutilation 

For this witch, I am using a combination of the Family, Maelific, and Mara Traditions. 

While I am perfectly happy to keep her nameless, or only as "The Witch Queen," I am thinking of giving her the proper name of Miriam, to keep with the Biblical theme I have established here. Of course, no one besides her would know that. 
 
The Witch Queen

Hyperborea has always been a large part of my plan for the War of Witch Queens, at least in terms of how witches are presented.  At one point it was going to be my system of choice for the campaign, but I have since settled on OSE.  Still, Hyperborea has a lot to offer me. 

I typically mix in a fair amount of Barbarians of Lemuria into my Hyperborea games. So it might be fun to have Miriam, the Witch Queen of Yithorium be the rival of Methyn Sarr, the Witch Queen of the Fire Coast.  Each thinking the other is the lesser witch while worried that the other might have access to some magic they do not.  They seem to be cast from the same mould, that of Salome of "A With Shall Be Born," but one taking to fire magic and the other blood magic.  I don't think they were/are sisters in the biological sense but maybe they are former coven sisters. Once allies or even friends and now bitter, hated rivals.  If Sarah Douglas is my model for the Witch Queen of Yithorium, then my choice for Methyn Sarr would have to be Emma Samms. Not too far of a stretch since she was the uncredited performance/body model for Princess Teegra in Ralph Bakshi's "Fire and Ice." 

Links

Monday, February 14, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: The AD&D 2nd Ed Monstrous Compendium (Overview & Review)

ETA: You can find the other parts here: [Part 2] [Part 3] [Part 4] [Part 5] [Part 6] [Part 7]

I have been wanting to spend some time with the AD&D 2nd Edition Monstrous Compendiums.  I suppose now is as good of a time as any.

In the waning years of the 80s, AD&D took a new turn. Much of the original guard was gone from TSR and a new edition of its flagship game was on the way.  I was at University at the time, so for me, it was easy enough to move over to AD&D 2nd Ed.  I was not playing with my normal group anymore (they were 200+ miles away) and it seemed like a good place to move on.  

It was June 1989 and I was on what was to be my last family vacation to Harrisburg, PA.  We were doing a big Civil War tour and my dad was meeting up with a bunch of guys he served with during the Korean War.  I remember being on my own for a bit and I found a game and comic store not far from Gettysburg. I went in looking for anything new and anything to entertain myself.  Much to my shock they had copies, released that week, of the new AD&D 2nd Monstrous Manual.  I remember talking to them asking how business was for AD&D 2nd ed and they had said terrible that no one was buying yet.  I am quite certain that changed later on.  But that was also my first hint at anything like an "Edition War."

Monstrous Compendiums

I got it back to my hotel room and I read that book cover to cover.  I loved the idea of the 3-Ring binder and I loved how the monsters were all expanded to include the Habitats and Ecology.  My first RPG love was the AD&D Monster Manual.  This did not fill me with as much excitement (you never forget your first time) but it was close. 

As time went on and I bought more of the Monstrous Compendiums the weakness of the format began to show itself.  For starters you could never properly alphabetize the pages.  One monster per page is great, unless the monster on the back of the page is more letters down the line.  Also in normal use, the pages became tattered and torn; and that is if you removed the perforations right the first time. 

Still, I loved the idea and still do it today. 

Sadly, I sold my original MCs in a game auction about 25 years ago.  I needed room and I had the Monstrous Manual, the proper hardcover that came out later and I was in the process of moving on to other games. So I figured I didn't need these anymore.  Big Mistake...or was it?

I have since bought back a number of the Monstrous Compendiums. I have found them at garage sales, auctions, Half-Price books, and the PDFs on DriveThruRPG.  In fact for less than I sold my originals I have rebuilt my collection and then some.  And I have been expanding.

I have added DriveThruRPG pdfs I have printed.  Dragon Magzine Monsters I have also printed from my CD-ROM.

Dragon Mag Monsters

And since I have been doing my This Old Dragon feature I have had many Dragons that are falling apart.  So I have been adding material when and where I can.  Namely the wonderful Ecology Of... articles. 

Ecology of the Ettin

Ecology of the Piercer

I even find material online that others have done.

Centaurs, how do they work?

But many of the old issues remain.

loose pages

But now I have access to all the Monstrous Compendium PDFs.  So I can buy what I need and print them out as I need.

The extra data is still good and I am amazed about how much of it still works for me today.  I might not play 2nd Ed ever again, instead opting for 1st Ed, but I am likely to use the Monstrous Compendiums in place of the Monster or Monstrous Manuals.

If you wanted to rebuy your collection of AD&D Monstrous Compendiums there are 22 books for a total of 2,350+ pages (figure over 2,200 monsters) at a price of $141.66. (note I might not have all of them)  Then you could print out what you want, how you want and organize them as you like.  I have already done this with Demons and Devils.

I am going to spend time with these over the next few weeks.  

Monstrous Compendium MC1
MC1 Monstrous Compendium Volume One

This was the first Monstrous Compendium to hit the market but not the first time seeing the new monster format.  That was published in the (then) new Greyhawk Adventures hardcover.  Originally this came with the monsters on printed, perforated sheets, cardstock color dividers, and the three-ring binder to put them all in.

This product covered some 130 monsters from Aerial Servant to Zombie. It had most of the "usual suspects" including orcs, all the PC races, goblins, and the greatly expanded dragons. The Dragons were the big star of this particular package. They were bigger, meaner, and a whole lot scarier.

The PDF from DriveThru helps this book live up to its promised potential. You can print the entries you want and organize them how you want.  The scans are of the original books/pages so you don't have to worry about a lot of color (you will burn through the cyan/blue though).

A note, like the original Monstrous Compendium this one still has the error on the Vampire page, with side 1 printed on both sides. The correction can be found in the October 1989 issue of Dragon magazine or the full Monstrous Manual.

Monstrous Compendium MC2
MC2 Monstrous Compendium Volume Two

The second Monstrous Compendium package was released that to the horror of OCD Dungeon Master's everywhere, you could not properly alphabetize all the entries.  This one covers more monsters, the second tier ones, Aarakocra to Yellow Musk Creeper and Zombie.  It had a solid Fiend Folio vibe to it. 

Any hopes the rumors were false were soon dashed as this set also did not include the Demons and Devils of old.  We would get them, eventually, but not for a bit.

The weakness of the printed copy of 1989 is no longer an issue with the PDF of today.  Now you can reprint the monsters you want AND keep them to one page for fully proper alphabetizing.  You just a need a new binder that will hold 500 some odd pages.

Like the MC1 this PDF includes the dividers you can print.  For my use? I print them out, put them in a page protector and then put some card stock in with them.

Monstrous Compendium MC3
MC3 Monstrous Compendium Forgotten Realms Appendix

For me, and many others I feel, AD&D 2nd Ed was synonymous with the Forgotten Realms. It was Ed Greenwood's "Ecology of..." articles in Dragon that gave us these expanded monster listings so the Realms and 2nd Ed are a perfect fit in my mind.  Even if 90% of my own 2nd ed gaming was in Ravenloft.

This gives us monsters from Ascallion to Wemic.  Some old favorites like the Eastern Dragons are here and lots of monsters appeared in the pages of Dragon and Forgotten Realms books, many as 1st Edition versions first.

The PDF makes good on the promises to allow you to organize things as your wish.  This is particularly nice for me since I took some of these monsters and placed them in with the ones above in one binder as all the "common" monsters and then mixed the remaining with the other Forgotten Realms MC (MC 11) for "Realms unique" monsters. 

The scan on this one is a little light, so printing might make some of the pages look washed out. BUT you can turn up your printer's settings a notch to make it darker. Not too much or the scanned paper will also show up as "background noise."  But you can also print them out and touch up what you like with a pencil and not worry about marking up a 30-year-old book from your collection. 

The PDFs from DriveThru are a fraction of the cost of the original and I can also buy a very sturdy binder to put them all in.  The big issue is of course my own printer ink.  But if I ever plan on running an AD&D game again I'll be using these and finally have them live up to the full potential that was promised to me back in Gettysburg, PA in 1989.

Friday, February 11, 2022

The OTHER Old School Gaming

I love my old school games. No shock, spend any time here at all and you can see that.  I enjoy a good retro-clone. Especially if someone puts a little spin on it as well.  Well, that feeling extends to my computer gaming as well.

Brief history and many of you have read this before. I bought my first computer, with my own saved up money, back in 1985.  It was a TRS-80 Color Computer 2 and I plugged it into a TV.  It had 16k of RAM, and ran at about 900 Kilohertz.  No disk drive. I had to save everything to cassette tapes.  It did have color though and that to me made it better than the TRS-80 Model IIIs we had at school.  In fact it was very much like this computer.

TRS-80 Color Computer 2

This particular computer was given to me by my brother.  He got it from my old High School DM.  We had the same computer, only his was 64k and had a floppy disk drive.  I would upgrade to the Tandy Color Computer 3 with 128k of memory, running at a whopping 2 Megahertz and a floppy drive.

The computer above though was in sad, sad shape.  In addition to a lot of yellowing it had, according to my brother who is an engineer, a broken pin on one of the epromms.  He tried fixing it, but it was DOA.

So I decided to build my own Tandy Color Computer Retro-clone!  But first I needed some supplies and that case needed work.  A lot of work.

Step 1.  Cleaning and Bleaching

The case was a mess and the insides were not much better.

Autopsy of a CoCo2

Autopsy of a CoCo2

Soapy water does wonders

Soapy water does wonders

With some of the grime gone I got out some plastic restore bleach and set it all up under some UV light.

Yellow. The bane of computers

UV light

UV light

UV light

Honestly, I kept it under the light for about a week.  But I can't argue with the results.

Like New!

Part 2. Proof of Concept 

While that was taking a bath in bleach and getting some fake sunlight I worked on my proof of concept.  I had my youngest print out a mini Color Computer case for a Raspberry Pi B.  I also began ordering everything I would need.  Keyboard, USB cables, new case badges, HDMI cables, a USB 3 port, and of course a new Raspberry Pi 4.  

Mini CoCo

While waiting on everything to come in I played around with my proof of concept computer.

Proof of Concept

Boot

CoCoPi

BASIC. I still got it!

COLOR!

CoCo emulator

The CoCoPi emulator even allows me to switch out which classic CoCo processor I can use the MC 6309E or the MC 6809S (my preferred choice).

Got the keyboard and the USB 3 port so those also got tested with the Pi B.  I was able to get the USB 3 port fitted into the old CoCo cartridge slot.  So that was one thing out of the way.

USB 3 port

USB 3 port

Port repicator

Port repicator

I felt that bit came together rather well.  The next part was a little more involved.

Part 3. The Miracles of 3D Printing

I needed to replace all the joystick, cassette, and serial ports with the 21st-century equivalent, USB. My plan was to route high power draw USB 3 to the side port and keep the back for USB 2.  I also needed to replace the TV Out with HDMI.  Unlike the Pi B, the Pi 4 has two HDMI ports, so I needed to work that out.

gotta have a plan

The keyboard is a great size, just a touch too small, and no way to get it into the case and have it stay in place.  Plus I am hard on keyboards, so I needed to make sure it was sturdy.  So the first task, 3D print a keyboard tray.  This is FDM print. Our resin printer is acting up and the bed for it is way too small for this size print.

FDM printed keyboard tray

Keyboard

Not bad.  Now to print the ports.

In addition to printing the ports that go in the back of the computer I got some new male-to-female cables for USB (with splitters), and micro HDMI.  Since they were going to plugged in and out a lot I needed to be sure they were secure.  So I also broke out the resin.  Before fitting the new ports to the computer, I fit the new cables to the ports.

3D Printed Ports

USB

curing the resin

curing the resin

inside

USB went in like a charm.  Next the HDMI ports and power cable.  Sadly though, I had to cut the case of the full-sized HDMI.

had to cut the case

HDMI

power

Though all took a bit to dry and cure.  I was getting close now!

Part 4. Putting it all Together

I knew the hardest part was going to be getting all the cables in.  It was easier than expected except the HDMI kept coming undone.  Still not 100% happy with it.  I had to abandon my plan to also have an ethernet port. It doesn't need it since it has built-in WiFi, but it would have been nice.

Cables stuffed into the case, case screwed back up, time to boot up!

Keyboard lights up!

DOS box works

PC Dragon emulator works

The keyboard lights up (it is a Color Computer after all!) and the DOS box and CoCo emulators work! With that time to put on the new case badge.

case badge

case badge

back

Grab some more emulators from my Pi B and fire up my new retro gaming machine!

DOOM!!!!

Adventure!

Yar's Revenge!

The computer is running Raspbian which is a stripped-down version of Linux Debian for the Raspberry Pi.  I prefer Ubuntu for my Linux, but this is working out fine. 

To match the spirit of the CoCo my side USB 3 port also has an SD Card reader.  So I rummaged through the house to collect all the old SD cards we have laying around.

SD cards

Inserting software on the side

I'll load some programs on these and I'll be able to load software on the side of my CoCo just like the old days!

I spent a long time on this, and maybe way too much money. BUT now I want to do another one! I mean, I already have two, the proof of concept model with the Pi B and the full case with the Pi 4.  There is a micro Windows computer out there that would fit into this case and there is another keyboard that also glows red, green, and blue (proper CoCo Colors) but it is white instead.  Maybe I should wait though.   I have always wanted to gut out a TRS-80 Model 4 and make that into my own version of the proposed, but never produced, Color Computer 4.

In the language of the OSR movement, this is retro-clone.  It uses new mechanics/hardware to simulate/emulate an older experience.  I am not running OS-9 (the OS for the Color Computer) and I am not sure I want to at this point.  While the CoCo is my love, I also enjoy the ability to run an Atari 2600 emulator on it and DOS Box.  So I guess my next step is to grab the Gold Box AD&D PC games and play them on this.

One last look at the before and after.

Before

Before

And After

After

Facebook on a CoCo!

I am very, very pleased with how it turned out.

Now to start trolling some auction sites for a TRS-80 Model 4 and figuring out what keyboard and monitor I can fit into that case.  I already have some old external drives I could fit into it.