Monday, October 31, 2022

October Horror Movie Challenge: Documentary Night

I do like to have at least one night of documentaries.

Understanding the Witch Trials (2018)

Understanding the Witch Trials (2018)

This was a good one. I found it on Kanopy and it is part of the Great Courses series. Not a lot of new data here but it was all very well represented. I will need to find the rest of this series.  

Aside: Kanopy is a great service. All you need is a public library or University library card to get access. 

War on Witches (2011)

Fairly obscure one. I only found it on Tubi. It covers England and Scotland's witch trials, arguably some of the most famous. It's fluffy and not a lot new material. 

Witches: Masters of Time and Space (2021)

Ok, this one does cover material I have seen before but it also covers stories and histories from other parts of the world that I have seen only a few times before. So quite good really.

War on WitchesWitches: Masters of Time and Space (2021)

The Witches of Hollywood (2020)

This one covers how witches are depicted in Hollywood (and before). It features commentary from Peg Aloi, Heather Green, Pam Grossman, Kristen J. Sollée, and Dianca London. I am familiar with most of them.

It covers a lot of history very quickly to focus on Hollywood. They start with Snow White and Wizard of Oz and moves on to The Witch.  We get some history on why Margaret Hamilton has green skin.  There are some interesting thoughts on the ruby slippers but totally ignores the fact they are silver in the book and red because that shows up better in Technicolor. Other movies covered are Carrie, Rosemary's Baby, I Married a Witch, and more. 

They cover television as well including one of my favorites, "Bewitched" and "Charmed." 

There is a lot of great commentaries also on witches vs. the Patriarchy which is great, to be honest. This documentary reminds me how much I like Peg Aloi's and Pam Grossman's work.  

The Witches of Hollywood (2020)

I have a few more on my list but I am running out of juice here. So I am calling it.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYONE!


October Horror Movie Challenge 2022
Viewed: 48
First Time Views: 37

October Horror Movie Challenge 2022


100 Days of Halloween: Witch: Fated Souls Second Edition

Witch: Fated Souls Second Edition
Double shot today for my LAST #100DaysOfHalloween. Wow. It was nice and sunny and I was sitting on my patio when I wrote my first post in this series. Now it is cold, rainy, and gray outside. But this is exactly where I want to be. And today I saved something very special for last.

Witch: Fated Souls Second Edition

I have been a fan of Witch: Fated Souls and Elizabeth Chaipraditkul for a while now. I even got her to the foreword for my own The Green Witch for Swords & Wizardry book. 

So for this Halloween day, I give you Witch: Fated Souls Second Edition, Quickstart, AND the Witch: Fated Souls Second Edition, Kickstarter.

Quickstart

PDF. 36 pages. Full-color cover and interior art. 

Design & Development: Elizabeth Chaipraditkul & Steffie de Vaan

This quick start covers the basic rules of Witch: Fated Souls Second Edition and includes a quick adventure to play.

Like the 1st Edition, Witch: FS2 deals with people (Witches or "The Fated") who sell their souls for power in the modern world. The different sorts of "demons" these characters sell their souls to will determine what sorts of power they will get and how they interact with the world, or their "Fates". 

Pausing for a second I can see already improvements in gameplay, readability, and layout of this Quickstart over the original Witch: FS1. 

Characters now have nine abilities, not eight, and are grouped by Mind, Body, and Spirit with three sub-attributes each. These are all explained and how they are used in the QS.  Checks are also explained. The new mechanics are based on Elizabeth Chaipraditkul and Steffie de Vaan's other game Afterlife: Wandering Souls. This opens up a whole level of play if you have both games. But I am going to wait on that one. 

We have a section on magic and knowing Witch: FS1 there is going to be a lot more in Witch: FS2.

There is even some detail on advancement. So really, as far as characters go you have enough here to keep you busy until the Second Edition Kickstarter is done.  

Demons are covered in their own section and they are the most interesting and likely complicated thing in this game. Complicated that is in how to run them and interact with their Fated. 

The last half of the quickstart covers the included sample adventure, "The Devil Made Me Do It."

There are included NPCs, similar to the ones that appear in Witch: FS1 and using the same art; which is great for returning players helping them get acclimated to the new system. It is recommended you use these characters to aid you in learning the game. 

The Fated

If the full product is anything like this Quickstart then we are in for a treat!

Kickstarter

The Kickstarter for this game just launched today and it will likely be funded by the time you read this post.

You can read all the Kickstarter details on their campaign page, but for me, the proof is in the playing.  I liked Witch: Fated Souls First Edition, even if there were things I would have done differently (but hey, that is the nature of these things) and this new edition looks better.

There is an absolute ton to go along with this game and it looks fantastic. 


My Links to Witch: Fated Souls, First Edition


The Other Side - 100 Days of Halloween



Monstrous Mondays: D&D Undead

Libris Mortis: The Book of Undead (3.5)
Wow. It is the last Monday of October and it is Halloween.  If you think I have been saving something special for today then you would be correct.  Today I want to talk about the Undead!

Ghosts. Vampires. The Undead. These are the monsters that got me into D&D from the start. Yes it was fun to see all the monsters of mythology here, but I didn't want to be Perseus or Heracles, I wanted to be Van Helsing (I ended up as Dr. Seward, and that is fine). 

So it is to the undead that my monster-hunting eye has always turned. This has been true for every edition of D&D I have played. Second Edition AD&D had Ravenloft and The Complete Book of Necromancers. Third and Fourth Editions have had today's subjects.

Libris Mortis: The Book of Undead (3.5)

PDF and Hardcover. 192 pages. Full-color cover and interior art. For this review, I am considering both the PDF from DriveThruRPG and my hard-cover book.

Libris Mortis was the undead book for 3.5. Undead were covered in the Book of Vile Darkness for 3.0 and here they get more attention and more details.

Introduction

Tells us all about this book and the basics of the Undead and undeath.

Chapter 1: All About Undead

Gets into the detail of the undead including how they manifest; largely along the traditional Corporeal/Incorpeal lines. Undead physiology and details like metabolism and feeding are covered. There is a useful table of various undead monsters and whether or not they feed, what they feed on, and whether it is needed or just desired. This also covers their senses which can be very different than the living stock they came from. All Undead have Darkvision 60' for example, but their sense of touch is limited. 

Also, undead psychology is covered. Namely, how does one deal with being nearly immortal and never changing? There is a bit on undead religion including some gods (in 3.x format) of the Undead. Some of these we have seen before or have seen mentions of. Doresain the King of Ghouls, Nerull the Reaper, and our good friend Orcus are all mentioned here. 

Though one of my favorite sections is the Fighting Undead section which covers weaknesses and tactics that can be used in fighting the undead.  Much like Professor Hieronymus Grost informs us in Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter, all undead (not just vampires) have a means to their destruction.  This section should make the undead scarier than other monsters. Orcs and Dragons die the same way. You reduce their HP enough with weapons and they will die.  Not always so with Undead.

Chapter 2: Character Options

This is a 3.5 book so there are going to be character options. These start with the feats. They are split between undead-friendly feats and undead-hunting feats.

Building off of the Savage Species there are rules for Undead Characters. This includes level adjustments for undead characters. Not every group will want undead characters, but these rules do help. There are even some Monster Classes. Of course, the best use of these is to make unique undead NPCs to threaten characters with. 

Chapter 3: Prestige Classes

3.x was all about the prestige classes. And there are several here that I found a lot of fun. There are Death's Chosen (high level lieutenants for the undead),  Dirge Singer (a fun bard idea), Master of Radiance (one my Paladin went into), Master of Shrouds (their evil counterpart), Pale Master (Prestige Divine Necromancer), Sacred Purifier (another good undead fighting class), True Necromancer (Prestige Arcane AND Divine Necromancer).  The True Necromancer advances in both Divine and Arcane spellcasting classes and gets special powers. It is also an odd Prestige Class in that it has 14 levels. Obviously to give the maximum effect of taking three levels in a divine class (need Knowledge Religion 8 ranks, cast summon undead II) and three levels in an arcane class (need Knowledge Arcan 8 ranks, cast command undead). I also can't help but think this is an obvious nod to the Death Master.

There are also Undead Prestige Classes such as Lurking Terror, Master Vampire, and the Tomb Warden.

At this point, I could run a 3.5 campaign and battle only undead and never run out of combinations and permutations of monster, class, feat, and prestige class combinations. 

Chapter 4: Spells

Covers spells for Assassins, Blackguards, Clerics, Druids, Paladins, and Sorcerer/Wizards. There are many here that are new. I'd have to go line by line to see how many came from the Complete Book of Necromancers. 

Chapter 5: Equipment

A shorter chapter that covers new equipment. There are alchemical substances, toxins, poisons as well as undead grafts and magic items. 

Chapter 6: New Monsters

Nearly 50 new monsters here and only a few seem to come from previous versions of D&D. The Brain in a Jar stands out as a previous one, but the rest are new. 

I never get tired of new monsters, especially undead ones. 

Chapter 7: Campaigns

This covers the last quarter or so of the book. It covers how to use undead in various roles including using them in encounters. There is also a great section on variant undead. I believe that all undead should be unique in some fashion, often relating to how they lived or died (see "A Christmas Carol"). Only a few examples are given, but they can be extended to all sorts of undead. 

There are various cults here that can be used anywhere and in any version of D&D. There are also adventure sites and seeds which can also be dropped anywhere but require some minor conversion for other versions of the game. 

This is one of those books I keep coming back to for more ideas. Yes I have been using the undead in my own games for more than 40 years now, but there is something else to do, something else to learn, and more to the point, more monsters to fight. 

Open Grave: Secrets of the Undead (4e)
Open Grave: Secrets of the Undead (4e)

PDF and Hardcover. 224 pages. Full-color cover and interior art. For this review, I am considering both the PDF from DriveThruRPG and my hard-cover book.

This book has a solid pedigree. First off one of the authors of this, Bruce R. Cordell, was also one of the authors of Libris Mortis: The Book of Undead.  He was also one of main designers of the epic HPE series of Orcus-focused adventures for 4e. This means to me at least that if you are running the HPE series and using undead (and of course you are) then this book is a must-buy.  There are more details in this book that make it a great book on D&D Undead, but I will get to those in due time.

Chapter 1: Undead Lore

This book starts much like it's 3.5 Edition counterpart. This chapter covers the hows, whats, and whys of undead. There are sections on physiology, outlook, and psychology, as well as society.  These sections are very similar to the 3.5 edition, which makes sense, with the addition of edition specific details.  

For my point of view, the two books (Open Grave and Libris Mortis) both compliment and complete each other. Together they are not the final words on Undead, but they cover quite a lot. 

The section that is newest here is the one on Shadowfell (and thus why it is a great resource for the HPE adventures). 

There are few undead monster stat blocks featured here as well. 

Chapter 2: DM's Guide to Undead

This covers DM's rules. In particular there are skill challenges, how to handle hauntings, and building undead into campaigns. This section in particular is good advice to any DM of any edition wanting to use undead in their games. 

There are also some artifacts detailed here including the Mask and Sword of Kas, the Soul Sword, the Von Zarovich family sword, and more. Like 3.5 there are even some undead grafts. 

New rituals are also detailed. Something I felt D&D 4e never had enough of.  

Chapter 3: Undead Lairs

Location-based encounters were a big deal in 4e. This covers ones with an undead flavor to them for Heroic, Paragon, and Epic level tiers. Three of each are featured with character levels from 1st to 26th. As with all 4e encounter listings, there are plenty of quasi-unique monsters here. Sometimes they are new, and often they are just an edit on an existing creature.  

Chapter 4: New Monsters

Ah, here is what we want! There are more than just undead here, there are the "unliving" as well; monsters that have cheated death but are not undead themselves. There are 122 statblocks of monsters here. These included variations on the Ghoul, Lich, Mummy, Skeleton, Vampire, and Zombie. There are new creatures including undead constructs and oozes. Our old friend the Brain in the Jar from Ravenloft is also back. So many of these are at least familiar to me and some are new.

Undead Hall of Infamy

This flows from the Chapter 4 material and is nominally part of Chapter 4, it is its own section. Here we get some stats for some of the biggest undead names in D&D history. They include Acererak, Ctenmiir the Cursed (from White Plume Mountain), Kas the Betrayer, Kyuss, Osterneth the Bronze Lich (a new NPC but has the relic, the Heart of Vecna), Strahd von Zarovich, and Vecna himself.

Templates

Also part of Chapter 4 these are templates for undead creatures.

Alternative Powers

Undead should be unique, so these are alternate power for various undead that replaces one or more of the powers they have listed. 

The utility of this book to the 4e DM can not be overstated. Especially if you are running the HPE adventures or dealing with any undead.

Undead

For me, these books complement each other well. They cover the same basics but go into different sorts of details even outside of their system-related materials. 

It's Halloween!

Monster Party!
It's Halloween! 

I have a lot going on today, so let's get going.

I am ending my Month of Halloween the same way I began, by guest starring on a podcast.

On October 1 I appeared on Monster Movie Fun Time Go where I talked about the movie Day Shift and my game NIGHT SHIFT.

And today October 31 I appeared again on Wobblies & Wizards. Where I talked with Shane (Logar) and Ryan of Appendix N Entertainment about all sorts of horror movies. 

So check them both out!

I was also interviewed over at Third Kingdom Games. So give that a read as well.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Cursed (2021)

The Cursed
A surprise one tonight while browsing Hulu. A neat werewolf movie.

The Cursed (2021)

During the Battle of the Somme, a French captain is wounded. He is taken to the hospital tent and he had three bullets removed from him. A fourth is also found but it is different than the rest, larger and made of silver.

Thirty-five years earlier a group of Romani makes a claim to some land in the French countryside in the 1880s.  They melt down some silver coins and fashion a set of fangs that look like a wolf's but are set in a human skull. 

The landowners, not wanting to lose their land the landowners have the Romani all killed. Their old witch is buried alive with the silver fangs.  

Soon everyone in town is having the same nightmare. The kids of the landowner and the tenants go out to where the old woman is buried and dig up the fangs. One of them puts them into his mouth and bites Edward, the landowner's son. Edward falls into a fever and is bedridden. But soon he runs out of the house into the nearby woods.

A pathologist, John McBride (Boyd Holbrook) arrives. He has been following the Romani. Soon people start dying from "animal" attacks. We learn that John has seen this all before in Gévaudan.  He collects clues and determines it is the curse of the teeth that has turned Edward into a beast and anyone he attacks. 

Few more deaths till the final battle in the church.  John manages to shoot Edward with his silver bullet but hits Isabell, Edward's mother, as well.  

John takes Edward and Charlotte to live with him since their mother and father are now dead and their manor burned down. Charlotte gives John the three unused silver bullets.  We see that the captain from beginning is an adult Edward. Edward dies on the operating table and we see a older Charlotte giving and bed ridden elderly John the last bullett.

--

So yeah this one was fun. Recovering from a bad migrane this morning (and I just told my doctor on Wednesday it had been months since I had one and I might need anymore Sumatriptan.) So I am calling it a night.  But I really should work up the Beast of Gévaudan.

October Horror Movie Challenge 2022
Viewed: 44
First Time Views: 33

October Horror Movie Challenge 2022


100 Days of Halloween: Out of the Abyss

Sorry for the delay on this one. The perfect combination of a migraine and no internet all day conspired against me.

I have spent time with all the previous editions of D&D, let's do 5th today.  And for that, I think I want to spend some time with 2015's Rage of Demons adventure Out of the Abyss.

Out of the Abyss

Hardcover. 256 pages. Full-color cover and interior art.

This adventure was produced by Green Ronin and sold by Wizards of the Coast and is the third adventure made for D&D 5 if I recall right. I bought this one largely because I wanted 5e stats for demons and some places in the Abyss as this book has that.  I also was working on my Forgotten Realms campaign ideas, what would be come part of the Second Campagin

The adventure is an interesting one. For characters 1 to 15. You start in the Underdark and end fighting demon lords in the Abyss itself. That's the least interesting thing about the adventure. We get the aforementioned demon lords and a lot NPCs and a cool new feature of demons, madness. Not only are most demons a little (or a lot) insane and this insanity is contagious. 

We get some new monsters and some updated variants of older monsters.  For our demon lords we get Baphomet, Demogorgon, Fraz-Urb'luu, Graz'zt, Juiblex, Orcus, Yeenoghu, and Zuggtmoy. Interestingly enough, no Lolth. 

I found the adventure was a great introduction to the Underdark and to demons and, for me, a nice hook into the Forgotten Realms. 

I might run it someday, but I have cut it up (not literally) and used pieces of it in other places now so it would need to be with a new group.


The Other Side - 100 Days of Halloween


Saturday, October 29, 2022

October Horror Movie Challenge: Prey (2022)

Prey (2022)
I have been wanting to see this one since it came out. Glad I got a chance to finally see it.

Prey (2022)

Naru (played by the amazing Amber Midthunder) is a Comanche woman who is trained as a healer but wants to be a hunter.  While out hunting with her brother she sees the effects of the cloaked Predator spaceship. She sees this as the Thunderbird and takes this as a sign that she can begin her own hunt.

She joins her brother on a hunt where they discover a lion attacked one of their own. Naru is able to heal him but she wants to go with her brother Taabe to hunt the line. While out she sees signs that something else other than a bear could be hunting them.  Naru is waiting in a tree for the lion when she is attacked by it, she manages to wound it but it knocks her out of the tree. Taabe brings her home and goes back out to kill the lion.

Convinced there is still something else out there Naru heads out to hunt on her own.  Well, her dog Sarii goes with her.  While hunting Naru sees a bunch of slaughtered and skinned bison. She comes upon the bear and it tries to kill her, but the Predator kills it instead with Naru watching. 

She is found by a hunting party sent by her brother, but the Predatory kills them all but Naru manages to escape. She runs and get stuck in a trap set by French trappers. They have also seen the Predator and want to know what she knows.  They also have her brother Taabe and decide to use them as bait.  The Predator though is not interested in bait and kills all the French.

They get to the French explorers' camp, where Naru kills a few more of the French, and the Predator attacks. They fight but the Predator kills Taabe. 

There is a final battle between the Predator and Naru when she deftly shows what she spent the whole movie learning about her prey.

She manages to kill the Predator and takes its head back to her home.

--

So yeah, this one was really fun. Great addition to the franchise.

October Horror Movie Challenge 2022
Viewed: 43
First Time Views: 32

October Horror Movie Challenge 2022

100 Days of Halloween: 4e Witches

Yesterday I took a look at the World of the Witch for 4E. Today I want to re-reflect on the official witch from 4e in Heroes of the Feywild. I also want to go over the Heroes of Shadow. While there are no witches in that volume they very well could have been.

Heroes of Shadow (4e)Heroes of the Feywild (4e)

Player's Option: Heroes of Shadow (4e)

PDF and Hardcover book. 160 pages. 

For this review, I am considering the hardcover version I purchased when new and the PDF from DriveThruRPG.

The Shadowfell is now a feature of the D&D 4 landscape and many products have discussed it including many of the adventures and Monster Manuals. With the Player's Option book we get classes and races based on the shadow realms and how they can be used.

One of D&D4's greatest strengths was its modularity. Adding or subtracting material from the game was easier than ever before. It is a feature that 5e adopted, though not as radically as 4e. Adding more classes then never felt like a bloat since you could limit the number of classes or races or any other feature. The Player's Option books were that in execution. Heroes of Shadow introduces the Assassin class, the Blackguard Paladin option, the Vampire class, the Binder option for Warlocks, and additions to other classes such as clerics (death domain), warlocks (gloom pact for hexblades), and the Necromancy and Nethermancy schools for wizards. Since classes are so detailed this covers the majority of the book.

The Vampire class should be mentioned since it is different. The idea behind it is that no matter what a person was before this, they are now a vampire and they can progress in power as a vampire. Not for everyone, I am sure but there was an elegance to it that can't be denied. It also worked quite well, to be honest.

There are some new races of course. The Revenant is back from the dead with the power of the Raven Queen with them. The Shade has traded some of their mortality for Shadow stuff. This is the best version of the Shade since 1st ed. The Vryloka are living vampires, one of my favorites in 4e, and variations on Dwarves, Elves/Eladrin, Halflings, and Humans.

There are new Paragon Paths for many classes and Epic Level Destinies. A handful of new feats and some new equipment.

It is a fun set of options that really had the feel of the shadow-soaked 4e world down.

Plenty of great ideas for a 5e game using the same classes (all have 5e counterparts) or as fluff for other versions of the game.

Player's Option: Heroes of the Feywild (4e)

PDF and Hardcover book. 160 pages. 

For this review, I am considering the hardcover version I purchased when new and the PDF from DriveThruRPG.

In general like Heroes of Shadow, Heroes of the Feywild assumes that these characters are either from or have strong ties to their "homeland" in this case the Feywild. IF you have any interest at all in the Feywild or any sort of land of the Faerie (such as Avalon, Alfheim, or any number of others) then this is a good book. While not really compatible with older editions of D&D there is still plenty that can be used. The feats even are written that they could even be used with Pathfinder or D&D 3.x. I found plenty I can use for my current 3.x game that I run with the kids and Ghosts of Albion. I actually ended up liking this book more than the Heroes of Shadow book out earlier.

The Witch The witch is a new "sub-class" of the wizard that basically learned in the Feywild. On one level I didn't like this since the witch isn't really a type of wizard. But in reading it I can get past it since the witch is only a type of wizard "mechanically", she uses the same rules as a wizard and thus all the same powers, feats, magic items, Paragon Paths, and Epic Destinies the wizard can use. In this respect, it makes her more like what I have done in the past where wizards and witches are both a type of "magic-user". It gives the witch a lot of power to choose from.

The witch has two builds or covens she can choose from, a Full Moon Coven and a Dark Moon Coven, or if you prefer a good witch and a bad witch. The covens have some powers associated with them, but the witch is still free to choose powers as she sees fit. Only Paragon Path is given, the Legendary Witch, and it focuses on the two covens. It lacks any strong thematic element, but this is a complaint I have had of the Paragon Paths of the post-Essentials line. The Epic Destiny, the Witch Queen, though is quite good. I had done something similar as a Prestige Class for 3.5. This one is different but there are some interesting powers and effects.

I might try a multi-classed witch/warlock, but that might be splitting my roles a bit too much

Powers and Spells What sets this Witch apart from another Wizard or a Warlock are her spells and powers. The witch relies on her familiar to learn magic. Something I have seen more and more of late in FRPG versions of the witch. Her magic has a distinct feel to it different than that of the warlock, even if there seems to be some overlap. Witches do get a minor healing power from the Full Moon Coven, and her magics in general are more subtle. She does not, for example, have a fireball-like spell, but she can change monsters into other animals and they take damage for it. Heavy on the charms and transformations. Lots of powers with the Psychic keyword. Some are similar in theme to the Warlock; Horde of Puckish Sprites is not too different, save in level than Pixie War Band.

I would like to see more about the relationship between Witches and Warlocks. Especially given the Fey commonalities and interactions with Patrons. I think I'll have to write that myself now given that the 4e is a dead game line.

Non-Witch Material There are three new races to play that are well suited to a Feywild/Faerie World sort of game. The Hamadryad, the Satyr, and the Pixie. All have something very interesting about them and I'll stat up some witches for each race as well. There are other class builds as well the Berserker (Barbarian), Protector (Druid), and Skald (Bard). All great for a pseudo-Celtic-themed game of D&D. Just add Player's Handbook 2 to the mix to get the base Bard and Gnome and you are set. Honestly, there is enough here to run a high-magic game and never leave the Feywild.

Overall I am very pleased with this book. It's not perfect, but it is very, very close.

4e books



The Other Side - 100 Days of Halloween


Friday, October 28, 2022

October Horror Movie Challenge: Häxan (1922, 2016)

I have watched Häxan before. Many times in fact and honestly it never gets old.

Häxan (1922, 2016)

This is the new version is from the Criterion Collection BluRay. It looks so good too. There is also a 32 page guide book to go along with it.

This new version is gorgeous. The devils seem more lurid, the priests more vile, and the witches...oh they have never looked better.

I got this one for my birthday back in June and I have been waiting to watch it now for the 100th Anniversay.

I will have to check, but I don't think there is anything here that isn't also on my DVD, save for the upscaling. 


October Horror Movie Challenge 2022
Viewed: 42
First Time Views: 31

October Horror Movie Challenge 2022

Witches Larina and Solaine make a potion

Well, this is a fun little treat!

My good friend and wonderful artist Djinn not only created a wonderful little toon of our witches Larina (mine) and her's (Solaine) but she animated them too. And Larina talks!

These are part of her "Dirty Sticky Journal" series, little cartoons like this featuring her character and others she has drawn over the years. She has done a lot of art of Larina, but seeing her come to life like this is really fun.

You can find them on her Instagram page and this one in particular.

The best place though is her Patreon site. And her Linktree.

I have shared her art in the past and she was one of my earliest Featured Artists.

Oh, and speaking of art. I shared The Simbul, Witch Queen of Aglarond yesterday on Twitter and I got this from Ed himself.


All in all a pretty red letter geek day for me!


100 Days of Halloween: World of the Witch 4E

World of the Witch 4E
Moving up to D&D 4e now (I have pretty much-covered everything for 3e), I get to one of the stand-alone Witch Classes.  How is it and how does it compare to the Witch in Player's Option: Heroes of the Feywild?

World of the Witch 4E

PDF. 105 pages. Full-color cover and interior art.

I would call this book a "full service" D&D 4e book. It was published well after 4e was done as a line so it has the advantage of a long development time. It also can incorporate the best of what 4e had to offer.

To start we have seven character themes; the Black Cloak of Vanuna, Cat Sister/Brother, Cauldron Adept, Maleicar, Sea Witch, Temptress/Tempter, and the Witch Priestess. Each gaining some sort of mechanical and roleplaying benefits.

Witch Class

Next, we get to the Witch Class. This is not a subtype of the Wizard like we see in Heroes of the Feywild, but their own class. There is even a nice sidebar about Witches vs. Warlocks.  For this witch the abilities are Charisma, Constitution, and Wisdom, so exactly like I would suspect.

There are four archetypes, here known as covens. They are the Hag Witch (combat ready), Karmic Witch (reactor), Primeval Witch, and White Witch. Each gets a feature or power. 

All witches get the Bewitch feature at 1st level as well as the Ritual Caster feat.

As with all 4e books, we get a long listing of the various at-will, encounter, daily and utility powers they get. A lot of these look really fun. Makes me miss 4e.

Paragon Paths

At 11th level you can choose a Paragon Path with gives you access to other magic. These are the Night Hag, Black Witch, Pact Witch (you have to be a Witch AND a Warlock), and Shaper. There is some text on other published Paragon Paths.

Note: There is no Epic Destiny here.

New Feats

While not as bad as 3e in terms of feats, 4e still has more than 5e does. But that is fine, I like feats to be honest.

Tools of the Trade

lots of mundane and magical tools for the witch.

Lore & Locations

This covers covens, people, places, and things. This book also has a Daughters of Darkness coven! I suppose that should not be a surprise really. Lots of variety here and that is nice. 

There are some NPCs here including a goddess-like figure and some powerful witches. 

The Witch Kingdom of Amarath

Now, this has my attention. It was a kingdom for and by witches and ruled over by three Witch Queens.  There is not a lot here, but for me, it is worth the price of the PDF.

Witch Adventures

There is a table of 50 plot hooks followed by a section on more developed ideas for a campaign. 

There are even new monsters and NPCs listed.

All things considered, I rather like it all. There are a lot of good ideas here and the powers feel about right.   I am a bit removed from 4e nowadays, but this makes me want to play it some more.

Compared to the Player's Option: Heroes of the Feywild witch this one has certain benefits. For me, I might combine them and play them all as one class. I would certainly grab the Witch Queen Epic destiny to use here. 

The art is fine, but all over the place in terms of quality. I don't fault them for that really. Many I recognize and have used myself, to be honest.

There is no POD option for this and I am going to take that as a plus. Why? Well, I mentioned the modularity of the 4e material before, well I can take this, print the pages I want, and build my own 4e witch book to use. Combine it with other 4e material I have and I can have the ultimate 4e witch. And this book serves as the base for all of that.


The Other Side - 100 Days of Halloween


Thursday, October 27, 2022

October Horror Movie Challenge: Bell Witch Movies

A couple of Bell Witch movies tonight. They both pretty much follow the same formula.

The Bell Witch Haunting (2013)The Mark of the Bell Witch (2020)

The Bell Witch Haunting (2013)

Take the legend of the Bell Witch, mix in bits of Paranormal Activity and the Blair Witch Project and you could get something good. BUT this is The Asylum doing the mixing so we get mixed results. There is some gratuitous nudity, some sub-par acting, and sometimes some fun scares. 

None of the actors or characters are even remotely memorable, but there are some fun scenes usually involving the witch.  The bit at the end where "Dana is currently in a private Asylum on the East Coast" was funny I admit.

The Mark of the Bell Witch (2020)

This is much better and has a few good scares in it too. It follows the story of the Bell Witch closer than the 2013 one above. This one actually takes place in the 1800s.  If I had known this I would have watched this one first.  Nah, it was better this way. It would have made the Asylum movie look even worse.

Kinda tired, so that's enough for one night.


October Horror Movie Challenge 2022
Viewed: 41
First Time Views: 31

October Horror Movie Challenge 2022

The Simbul, Witch Queen of Aglarond

The Simbul, Witch Queen of Aglarond
The Simbul, Witch Queen of Aglarond
I have been asked in the past why I have not stated up one of the greatest spellcasters in D&D lore before and the answer I have always given is this, I wanted to do it right.

That is partially true. The other part is that a character like The Simbul, Alassra Shentrantra Silverhand, Witch Queen of Aglarond has to be done with care and reverence.  Doing my review of The Seven Sisters has only raised this sense in me.  While at the same time filling me with excitement over the prospect of doing it.

I have known since the beginning of my War of the Witch Queens that The Simbul would be involved, and even for a brief time, I considered her to be the Witch Queen that was murdered to set this whole thing in motion. But in truth, I could not do that, even if this is my multiverse's Alassra I just couldn't. The love Ed Greenwood has for this character shines so brightly through every word he commits to paper about her that I just couldn't.  He loves her and made me love her as well.

So she will meet some other fate. In DR 1479 it is said she dies to save Elminster (cough*refrigerators*cough) BUT my Realms game is taking place in DR 1387 or so (using the 3rd ed book as my base which starts in 1372). So she is not dead and may not die.

Also in my Realms. She is a proper witch.

Putting the Witch back into Witch Queen

I always knew I was going to be. But it was Ed's own note in the Seven Sisters that gave me "permission:"

The entries on each Sister detail powerful characters that can easily be renamed and fiddled with for use in other campaigns, and that provide most importantly character motivations and aims for such NPCs of might.

                                                                                                      - The Seven Sisters, page 4

Going back to the 3rd Edition Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide renewed my interest in the Realms and gave me some other insight.

But the final bit of information was reading through Ed's own writings in the pages of Dragon Magazine. In many cases, he clearly is using the word "witch" and meaning it to be the Witch NPC class from Dragon, in particular the one for issue #114.  This gives me all the cover I need really.

Ok. So. Let's say the Simbul is an actual witch, not a mage or wizard. We know (thanks to the Seven Sisters book) she trained with the Witches of Rashemen, so what Tradition would she be? A Rashemen Witch? A Chosen Witch?  I mean Mystra is very much her Patron she owes more of her magic to her involvement than the study of tomes.

I thought that a Chosen of Mystara might be right, but that is more of her birthright than a Trad. Also, there are other Chosen who are not witches. She still has access to wizard spells, so I think she would have to be one in my new High Witchcraft Tradition. This is my homage to a lot of the witches in D&D.

What about her level? Well, in my Basic Witch book the Queen of Witches is Level 36. Does The Simbul go this high? According to her official stats in 2nd ed, she is a Wizard 30 and Fighter 6, and in 3rd ed, she is Sorcerer 20/Archmage 2/Wizard 10.  So 36 and 32 total levels respectively. So yes,  I think 36th level is fine.

The High Witchcraft Tradition

The Simbul is the Witch Queen of the High Witchcraft Tradition.  This is the same tradition that is taught in the Magic School of Glantri, but as a Chosen, she comes on it naturally. Her familiar in this case is her connection to the Weave and the spirits of Magic. So much like a Sorcerer in D&D 3e she comes on her magic naturally, but she also has learned magic.  Witches of the High Witchcraft Tradition are also called The Secret Order and they can learn Arcane/Wizard spells as well. They gain them as other witches gain Ritual magic. 

I have not figured out all of the Occult Powers of this Tradition yet, so this is a work in progress. I am grabbing spells from all my witch books for her, but the base character build is based mostly on The Witch

The Seven Sisters and the Witch


The Simbul, Alassra Shentrantra Silverhand
Witch Queen of Aglarond
The Simbul, Alassra Shentrantra Silverhand Witch Queen of Aglarond
36th level Witch, High Witchcraft Tradition
Human Female, Neutral (Chaotic Neutral)

Strength 14
Intelligence 17
Wisdom 15
Dexterity 18
Constitution 16
Charisma 18

Saving Throws (Base)
Death Ray/Poison 2
Magic Wands 2
Paralysis, Polymorph 2 
Dragon Breath 2
Rods, Staffs, Spells 2

Height: 5' 10"
Hair: Silver 
Eyes: Gray

Hit Points: 87
AC: -2
(Bracers of Protection +3, Cord of Protection +2, Ring of Protection +3, Dex 18 -3)

Base THAC0: 6
(I know, THAC0 was not used in Basic D&D. You know what this means)

Occult Powers*
Lesser: Familiar (Familiar Spirit)
Minor: Witch Vision (see magic, invisible) 
Medial: Drawing Down the Moon
Greater: Witch's Blessing
Major: Craft Permanent Magic
Superior: Longevity/Timeless Body
(*these are not all well-defined yet)

Spells
Cantrips (6): Arcane Mark, Acid Splash, Daze, Mote of Light, Object Reading, Open,
1st (9+2): Analgesia, Bar the Way, Burning Hands, Burning Gaze, Charm Person, Comprehend Languages, Eldritch Fire (Silverfire), Glamour, Mend Minor Wounds, Pace Without Trace
2nd (9+2): Arcane Disruption, Agony, Alter Self, Burning Gaze, Continual Flame, Detect Charm, Dweomerfire, ESP, Evil Eye, Haunting Mists, Mind Obscure, Web 
3rd (9+2): Astral Sense, Bestow Curse, Clairsentience, Control Winds, Danger Sense, Dispel Magic, Expand Senses, Fly, Immunity to Normal Weapons, Lightning Bolt, Protection from Fire
4th (9+1): Analyze Magic, Ball Lightning, Cauldron of Rage, Charm Monster, Divination, Forest of Deception, Masque, Polymorph Others, Polymorph Self, Remove Curse
5th (9): Break Enchantment, Decimate, Enslave, Maelstrom, Nightmare, Private Sanctum, Sending, Telekinesis, Ward of Magic
6th (9): Analyze Dweomer, Animate Shadows, Cackle of the Winter Crone, Cloak of Dreams, Greater Scry, Heroes' Feast, Mass Suggestion, Mislead,  Rain of Fire, 
7th (9): Astral Spell, Breath of the Goddess, Chain Lightning, Greater Teleport, Limited Wish, Regenerate, Spell Turning, Wave of Mutilation, Wind Walk
8th (9): Demand, Eye of the Storm, I Am The Fire, Mass Charm, Permanency, Protection of the Goddess, Storm of Vengeance, Stormbolts, Vanquish

These are only some of the spells she has access to. She has a lot of "named" spells, but I have to find rough analogs in my own books for those. Besides, this should keep her with plenty of arcane firepower. 

While I say that witches of the High Witchcraft Tradition can learn Wizard Spells, the spells above are all witch spells. Some are cross-listed with Wizard, but they can be learned by other witches too. 

Larina seeks advice from The Simbul
Larina seeks advice fromThe Simbul on a magical problem.

Links

Fellow Witch Queens

Forgotten Realms Links


100 Days of Halloween: The Seven Sisters

FOR6 The Seven Sisters (2e)
I have had a long and complicated relationship with the Forgotten Realms. They came out while I was getting ready for University. I had my first interactions with the setting were with its fans online. In those days it would have been LISTSERVs on BitNet or on Usenet. I have to admit. The fans annoyed me. Plus I was a Greyhawk and Known World fan, how dare this upstart world displace those?  

Then a few things happened. First I picked the 3rd Edition Forgotten Realms guide. I thought it was great. Secondly, I got the Dragon Magazine CD-ROM and I went back and reread some of the old articles and realized the depth Ed Greenwood contributed to everything in D&D since, well the beginning.  Slowly I began to see how rich the Realms were. And yes. Just like those fans that annoyed me so, I began to really like the characters of the Realms. 

Case in point. I really, really enjoy the Seven Sisters and The Simbul in particular.  So for today's 100 Days of Halloween, I wanted to talk about these seven extraordinary women, of which two of them are called witches.

FOR6 The Seven Sisters (2e)

PDF and softcover book. 128 pages. Color cover, black & white art.

This book covers the Seven Sisters, the Chosen of Mystra;  Alustriel, Dove Falconhand, Laeral Silverhand, The Simbul, Storm Silverhand, Syluné, and Qilué Veladorn.

Before delving into this book one thing is certain, Ed Greenwood loves these characters. He talks about them in the pages of Dragon magazine, his books, and all his writings. He knows them and loves them and it shows. This is something I keep in mind while reading this.

This book and these characters are an obvious nod to something that has been described as one of the oldest stories in the world, The Seven Sisters or the Pleiades star cluster near the Belt of Orion. We call them "the Seven Sisters" but today we only can see six with the naked eye. This is because 100,000 years ago we could see a seventh star. This seventh is sometimes called the Lost Sister.  Why mention this, well it is obvious when you get into this that Ed, as usual, did his homework before class.

Introduction

This section details what this book is and how to use it. There is even some background fluff. Ed even says we can take these "powerful characters that can easily be renamed and fiddled with for use in other campaigns." I am holding on to that. 

Who are the Seven Sisters?

This is an overview of the Seven going through them all very briefly. Only six are mentioned here and the Seventh...well that is our missing sister and she will be detailed soon enough.  

The Story of the Seven

We get an overview not just of the Seven and how they came to be but the nature of the Chosen, in particular the Chosen of Mystra. They all are the children of a ranger and Harper named Dornal Silverhand and Elué Shundar a half-elf sorceress who agreed to be the host of Mystra's spirit and power. Soon seven girls were born in the winter of each following year. Anastra Syluné, (761 DR), Endue Alustriel (762 DR), Ambara Dove (763 DR); Ethena Astorma "Storm" (764 DR), Anamanué Laeral (765 DR), Alassra Shentrantra "The Simbul" (766 DR), and Erésseae Qilué  (767 DR). Though being the host of such magical power Elué was withering away and was little more than a lich while she was pregnant with Qilué. So Mystra transplanted the unborn baby into the womb of a nearby drow adventuress whose own unborn child had died in her womb. Elué died and Dornal, disgusted with what the Goddess had done went out to seek his own death leaving the six girls in the care of Mystra herself.

I would go into more detail here, but that is retelling the story already here.  

Powers of the Chosen

Now here is the chapter on how I discovered this book. I was looking for some details on the Chosen of Mystra. There are a lot of powers granted to those favored by the gods. 

The Seven 

Each chapter that follows is named for one of the Seven. They are in order, Alustriel, Dove Falconhand, Laeral Silverhand, The Simbul, Storm Silverhand, Syluné, and Qilué Veladorn.

There is some history, backstory, some fiction, their true name, and more. A stat block is given for each, and make no mistake these are powerful characters. Each chapter lists her powers, what people think of her, what angers her, what pleases her, and what she can be expected to be doing. There is also black & white art of each sister. The only time I have seen them all together and in color is the cover (promotional images) for the novel Silverfall

The fiction bits are fine, though I will note that the piece accompanying The Simbul's chapter is the same as the Pages of the Mages book and "The Wizards Three" from Dragon #200, December 1993. So yeah this is the third time I have read it, but I don't care. I love the fact that there are the three most powerful mages of three different worlds and they all fear Her.

It would be natural for me to say that this sister got more attention and this other one got less, but all get about the same level of detail and attention.

Spells of the Seven

New spells developed or used by the sisters. 105 new spells. Some I have ended up in later editions of D&D, but many are still new. 

Magical Items of the Seven

Likewise, there are some special and even unique magic items. There are nine here.

Using the Seven Sisters in a Campaign

A guide on how to use these powerful sisters by engaging what they are most interested in.  There is also a brief mention of any situation where more than one would be encountered. 

--

The Seven Sisters

Outside of the chapters on the Spells and Magic items, there is not a lot here that is edition specific. I mean yes there are NPC stat blocks for each sister, but I can easily say that for example Qilué is a 16th-level cleric.  Or that The Simbul is a dual-classed 30th-level mage and 6th-level fighter. Consequently, she is a Sorcerer 20/Archmage 2/Wizard 10 in D&D 3rd Edition.  So their levels I say are guidelines. Strong guidelines, but guidelines all the same. Although you have someone like Dove Falconhand and you can see her progression from 1st Edition to 3rd Edition.  The point being that this book is still useful for many versions of D&D, not just AD&D Second Edition.

I don't think I have even scratched the surface of what I can do with this.


The Other Side - 100 Days of Halloween

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

October Horror Movie Challenge: Bulbbul (2020)

Bulbbul (2020)
I have not watched many films from India despite my enjoyment of many of their action films. So tonight was another choice by my wife (who also loves the all-singing and all-dancing Bollywood movies). 

Bulbbul (2020)

Bulbbul is a child bride in the Bengal Presidency, India in 1881. She thinks her husband-to-be is Satya, but instead it is his much older brother Indranil. Over the next 20 years they grow up Bulbbul becomes much closer to Satya.  So close that Indranil arranges to send Satya to London.  

Much of the movie is given in various flashbacks. We see Satya telling Bulbbul a story about a demon-woman witch (a Churel or Chudail) who lives in the trees and kills men. Her most notable feature is her feet; they are on backward. They spend the next few years writing the story out. Satya leaves for London early causing Bulbbul to get upset and burn her story. Her husband finds the partially burn book but only sees "Satya and Bulbbul" not realizing that it was both their names as authors.  Indranil goes to Bulbbul who is bathing, he pulls her out of the tub where he beats her with a fireplace poker. We don't see anything but blood.

He beats so bad that her legs are broken and her feet are deformed.  While she is in bed with her legs trussed up to heal. Shamed, Indranil leaves the manor and leaves his twin's wife Binodini in charge. His twin, Mahendra, is also mentally challenged.  While essentially tied down Mahendra comes to her room and rapes her.  Later Binodini cleaning Bulbbul up tells her that she is in a very rich family and she should just keep quiet and everything will be fine.

Back to the present Satya has returned home to discover that Mahendra is dead, Binodini is living in one of the smaller houses on the manor property and previously shy Bulbbul is the undisputed Lady of the house.  Meanwhile men in the local village are all being killed. Satya thinks it is some sort of animal, the villagers say it is the Witch.

Satya decides, because he went to Law School in London I guess, to investigate on his own.  After he finds the body of a man in a tree he decides that it must be a man doing the killing. When asked by Bulbbul "why not a woman?" he laughs her off. 

Satya begins to suspect Dr. Sudip who has been at every man's home recently.  He takes him at gunpoint to arrest him. Sudip isn't worried and is quite blasé about it. Satya says the only way he will be seen as innocent if there really is a witch. At that point, there is a thud, and the carriage stops.  Satya finds the driver dead. Satya tells the Doctor he is innocent because the witch is real and he is going to kill the witch. The Doctor tries to stop him (knowing who the witch is). Satya and the Doctor fight and in the process start a fire with their torches.  Satya runs into the forest, following the same paths he and Bulbbul did as children and he realizes that it is Bulbbul doing all the killings.

We now see (here and in flashbacks) that it is Bulbbul killing all the men. Each one had done something to harm a woman; the husband who broke his wife's bones, the husband who took a younger second wife and the first killed herself, the older man raping little girls and also Mahendra. She uses her mutilated feet to run in the treetops like the Churel in the stories. By now the fire has engulfed the forest and Bulbbul is trapped up a tree. Staya leaves.

Sometime later Indranil returns to his now deserted manor. He is lying in bed alone when he sees a cloud of smoke. The smoke solidifies into a burning figure that becomes Bulbbul.

--

Ok! This one was a lot of fun and completely unexpected. Great choice.


October Horror Movie Challenge 2022
Viewed: 39
First Time Views: 29

October Horror Movie Challenge 2022


The Village Crone (2015)

 Some more witch board games today and the last one for this season.

The Village Crone (2015)

You play one of six witches (1 to 6 players) and work to take control of a village (Wickersby) without a crone. You send out your familiars (up to 5) to gather ingredients for spells. The first to 13 points wins and becomes the new Village Crone of Wickersby.

The Village Crone

The Village Crone

The Village Crone

The Village Crone - Witches

The Village Crone

The Village Crone

The Village Crone

The game is fun enough and the rules are easy enough. The replayability is high so that is good and there are enough random elements to keep it interesting enough. 

I rather like the idea from an RPG standpoint. Witches going out into the world to find a little hamlet to call their own. Certainly, something they would all like to brag about at the Tredecim. 

You can get The Villiage Crone here: https://firesidegames.com/games/village-crone/