Monday, September 25, 2023

#Dungeon23 Tomb of the Vampire Queen, Level 9, Room 25

 Continuing on to the next room, this is the tomb of another dwarven prince. There is a sarcophagus and an interned body but no treasure save for a single bottle.

Room 25

Inside the bottle is a Djinn

The djinn will offer the party 3 wishes total if they don't attack it.

The djinn knows nothing about the Vampire Queen. This is because before imprisoning the djinn she wished for him to forget everything about her.

The party could choose to attack. The Djinn will turn invisible and hide. He will come back around to see if he can get the party to consent to the wishes since this is the only way he can get back to the Plane of Air.

The djinn returning to the Plane of Air will also return his memories. At this point, the djinn will return to the party and offer them any weapons they need to help them defeat the Vampire Queen. The djinn is barred from directly dealing with the Queen herself.

Sunday, September 24, 2023

#Dungeon23 Tomb of the Vampire Queen, Level 9, Room 24

 Moving on from the King's Chamber (where the dragon was), we get to the Queen's Chamber. 

Room 24

This tomb has been desecrated and robbed of all treasures. The Vampire Queen is jealous of any other queen other than herself.

Saturday, September 23, 2023

#Dungeon23 Tomb of the Vampire Queen, Level 9, Room 23

 This room is directly in line with the corridor the party used to enter the room. The passageway slopes down considerably and goes for nearly 100 feet.  The room it opens up into is large.

Inside this room is a large dragon.

Room 23

This dragon has been down here for centuries and it has grown too large to leave or even fly. It is a Necrotic Dragon. It had been a Red Dragon (and uses those stats) but its exposure to the necromantic magics of this tomb has changed it. Its breath weapon is a gout of black fire that burn cold, but burns all the same.

The local living goblins pay it tribute and the Shadow Elves from above believe it is some sort of dark avatar of long dead gods.

It has maximum HP for a red dragon and three times (x3) the amount of treasure.

It can be harmed with holy water (1d8 per vial) and a light or continual light spell will cause it to hit and save at a -1 penalty.


Friday, September 22, 2023

Kickstart Your Weekend: Demons, Angels, and Serpent Queens

 A couple of new Kickstarters for this weekend.

Castles & Crusades Codex Infernum & Codex Exaltum

Castles & Crusades Codex Infernum & Codex Exaltum

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ckg/castles-and-crusades-monsters-the-unclean-and-pure?ref=theotherside

Troll Lords continues their Codex Series with two books. Castles & Crusades Codex Infernum and Codex Exaltum, this time covering Demons and Angels, respectively.

I really liked their Tome of the Unclean, which featured demons and devils, and I thought it was a great book. I love their Codex series as well.  No surprise then that I am looking forward to seeing these out. 

And to add icing on the cake the Codex Exaltum is being written by none other than my frequent partner in crime, Jason Vey!  Jaso really is the perfect person for that with his academic and game-writing background. So my expectations of this one are pretty high. 

The covers look great and will fit in nicely with my current in-use copies of Castles & Crusades.

Also expect these in a future One Man's God-style post.


Trails & Tales: Temple of the Serpent Queen

Trails & Tales: Temple of the Serpent Queen

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/trailsandtales/trails-and-tales-temple-of-the-serpent-queen?ref=theotherside

If you are on social media, in particular Facebook, you know that for a little bit now Danger Forge has been releasing some quality OSR-compatible PDFs for free. The production values are high and the content has been a lot of fun.  

This is their first Kickstarter. 

Personally, I can think of about three or four campaigns I could use this in, one of which is my Castles & Crusades conversion of my "Second Campaign."

#Dungeon23 Tomb of the Vampire Queen, Level 9, Room 22

 Continuing counterclockwise to the next crypt brings the party to room 22.  This one is dedicated to one of the dwarven princesses.

Room 22

The party notices many things.

First, there is the ghost of a dwarven princess standing near her damaged sarcophagus. She is very sad and does not speak.

Secondly, the walls are covered with paintings of the pricess' life. She died young and un-married.  The painting were of her playing in the (then) nearby fields. Braiding her father's beard, and other scenes of innocence.

Thirdly, the party will also also see that these paintings have all been defaced with graffiti and pornographic imagery. 

The princess' ghost cannot be attack of hit. But likewise she can't attack either. She can't find rest because her grave has been disturbed.  A cleric can perform the final rights and put her soul to rest, but she won't leave until the vandalism is removed.

Fortunately the graffiti was done by magic (a magic-user or witch can detect this) and so a Dispel Magic will erase it all.

Doing this will allow the princess to move on.  She will with a smile and as she departs a previously hidden secret door will open and reveal the Princess' treasure. There are two bags of holding each with 18,700 gp value in jewels and gems. There is a crown worth 1,000 gp and a slim bejewelled sword. Finding these is worth 40,000 XP total. 



Thursday, September 21, 2023

#Dungeon23 Tomb of the Vampire Queen, Level 9, Room 21

 Moving on to the next room on the left hand side (to the right of Room 20) is another passageway to a crypt. This one has a guest waiting for the party.

Room 21

In this crypt is a dead dwarf. He is looking at you, but he is dead.  

If the party does not attack right away the dwarf, a bhūta, will ask in a dry and dusty voice to ask the party to hold.  The dwarf will explain that he is only interested in killing the Vampire Queen, or at least get confirmation that she is dead.  If they party lets him pass he will walk by. Give them the same XP as if they had defeated him.

IF they attack, then he will attack back.  Nothing will stop his vengeance on the Vampire Queen.

Bhūta (Dwarf)

Armor Class: 4 [15]
Hit Dice: 7+14** (46 hp)
Attacks: 2 claws (1d6+1 x2)
Special: Death Grip, Undead.
THAC0: 11 [+8]
Movement: 120' (40')
Saving Throws: Monster 7
Morale: 12
Alignment: Neutral evil
XP: 1,250 (OSE) 1,100 [9] (S&W) 1,200 (LL)
Number Appearing: 1
Treasure Type: None

When a person is murdered, the spirit sometimes clings to the Material Plane, refusing to accept its mortal death. This spirit, called a bhūta, possesses its original body and seeks out those responsible for its murder. It will never rest until those responsible are sought out and slain. 

Since the transformation into unlife is almost instant (occurring within 1-2 hours after death), the bhūta appears as it did in life for about 2 weeks, taking on a more decayed appearance thereafter. Close inspection (spot on a roll of 1-2 on 1d6) reveals slight decay, and the body still shows signs of any trauma suffered prior to death (wounds, disease, burns, or the like), but outwardly, the bhūta for the most part appears as a normal creature of its race. In its undead state, the bhūta sustains itself on a diet of flesh, preferring that of humans and elves. A bhūta that scores two successful claw attacks on an opponent in the same round fastens its hands around its opponent’s throat and deals 1d6+1 damage per round until the hold is broken with a successful attack by the victim. 

The bhūta’s main objective is revenge on the person that killed it. So long as the bhuta and its killer are on the same plane of existence, it can find its target unerringly.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

#Dungeon23 Tomb of the Vampire Queen, Level 9, Room 20

 Room 19 has many small passageways radiating out. They form 8 spokes, with the larger hall as the first.  The first passage leads to a small mausoleum. 

Room 20

This is final resting place for four dwarven princes.  

There is still some treasure here. A total of 163 gp can be found along an axe +2, +3 vs. Goblins and Orcs.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Baldur's Gate: A Barbarian in Hell

 My son and I have been enjoying the new game, Baldur's Gate 3. He is much further along than I am and so is his D&D 5e group. One of his favorite characters is Karlach, the tiefling barbarian. I admit, she is great. Karlach is this 6ft+ tall tiefling warrior goddess who is also one of the funniest, most optimistic characters in the game. My son calls her a "cinnamon roll" because of how sweet and fluffy she is.

When your character is idle she will be humming to herself and dancing in place. She says things like "fuck! It is great to be alive!" and when she runs into combat she laughs. She calls everyone "soldier" and loves it when you stick up for the underdog, kids or find ways to keep the innocents alive. She has every right to be angry and bitter; instead, she is cheerful and optimistic. 

And sadly...she is also dying.

Spoilers ahead for the Baldur's Gate 3 video game.

A Barbarian in Hell

Karlach has an "infernal engine" for a heart. It works great in Hell, where she was fighting in the blood war, but on the Prime Material, it is burning her up from the inside. One of your quests is to find a way to keep her from burning up. You can, for a while (and it is worth the effort!) but in the end...well the Devil has their due. 

There are a lot of different endings for all the "origin" characters, but Karlach's was particularly bleak. Her happy ending was to be able to say she loved everyone before burning up, leaving only ash.

What did Larian Studios do about this when players started complaining about it? Simple they did what any good studio would do.  They pulled back in the voice actress, reshot Karlach's ending with all new material, and patched it to the game in a matter of DAYS.

You can see her new "happy" ending here.

Personally, I love the idea that she and Wyll go off together since their backstories are so intertwined. If I do another run-through of this game, I want to do it as Wyll with the purpose of seeing what I can do to save Karlach. Karlach would never do it for herself; that is not who she is.

BUT. Even with the "they lived happily ever-after in Hell" ending my son and his group are less than happy with it. So we were talking about it one night while playing BG3.

He wants an adventure for his party where they go to Hell to rescue both Karlach and Wyll.  He wanted to know if I had anything.  

I told him that was a silly question.

A Paladin in Hell

I mentioned the adventure A Paladin in Hell does this, and it has somewhat the same premise as the newer D&D 5 adventure (and Baldur's Gate 3 prequel) Descent into Avernus.

I told him to use the basic outline of APiH, use details from BG:DiA, and make it a mission to rescue Karlach and call it "A Barbarian in Hell." However, in my current run-through, Wyll has rejected his warlock powers to become a Paladin. So I guess it still works.  I half-jokingly have called this "No Sleep Till Avernus" with my son.

In this adventure, Karlach and Wyll are defending a piece of Elturel that has remained in Avernus (let's say it was the temple in A Paladin in Hell).  The characters in Baldur's Gate 3 are limited to 12th level. "Descent into Avernus" takes the characters from level 1 to 13. The AD&D 2nd Ed "A Paladin in Hell" is for characters 15-20 level. So then A Barbarian in Hell is for characters 13th level and above. 

Paladins in Hell

The motivation for most D&D adventures is glory and gold. The motivation for A Paladin in Hell is "the greater good."  For A Barbarian in Hell, the motivation is "Save our friends."  And that is a good motivation, really. 

Besides, if the roles were reversed, you know Karlach would have saved your ass a long time ago.

#Dungeon23 Tomb of the Vampire Queen, Level 9, Room 19

 The end of the hallway (Room 14) opens to a large chamber.

Room 19

There are floating orbs here and a glowing magical portal.  Entering the portal will transport the character to one of the other levels of the dungeon. Roll a 1d12 to determine which one. They appear in Room 1. If characters step through together, then they are all teleported to the same place. Characters that enter separately arrive at different locations. 

The orbs just float and give off light as per a light spell. The orbs (15 in total) are worth 150 GP each (normal glass orb with levitate and light spells).  They break easy, having only 1 hp and a save of 18.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Monstrous Mondays: A Basic Bestiary Update - Of Sorts

 This is the first Monday in more than a month I can sit down and write something about monsters. As it turns out.  I got nuthin. 

Well...that is not entirely true. It could be said I have too much but lack a clear direction.

Here is my issue as it stands right now.

I have a lot of monsters done. Not as many as I want, but a lot. Enough to easily fill a book. But I also have all this other material here that can go with it. Spells. Gods. NPCs. 

Since I am supposed to be developing a SWOT analysis rubric for an MBA course I am developing now, I may try that out here with my current problem. My feeling is it is going to tell me things I already know. That is why these work best with teams. 

Basic Bestiary SWOT
Click for Mural SWOT board

I could add more, but this is enough to keep me going.

This does justify my desire to keep moving on this project, but not the direction I should be taking.

Maybe I am biting off more than I chew here.

One of the directions I took early on was to split my Basic Bestiary idea up into three groups of monsters. Maybe I should go a step further and break it down into smaller units and combine it with my Monstrous Maleficarum; smaller sized publications that would allow me to buy more art for future ones.

I could do all Basic-era monsters, then re-combine them all at the end for an "Advanced-era" hard-cover.  That way people who like Basic-era could just get those, and the people who like Advanced monsters (and hardcovers) could just get that.

With these I am going to go with "Basic-Era" and "Advanced-era" compatibility and not stick too close to any single retro-clone in particular. There are a lot of clones out there now, and to be honest, the differences are mostly trivial.  

The limiting factor, of course, is art. But this at least addresses many of the issues I have above. 

So I guess I need to see what art I have now, a figure out how many monsters per publication would be worthwhile.

#Dungeon23 Tomb of the Vampire Queen, Level 9, Room 18

 The room across from the previous on it set up in a similar manner. 

Room 18

This room is empty. There are also no books here.


Sunday, September 17, 2023

#Dungeon23 Tomb of the Vampire Queen, Level 9, Room 17

 Going down the hall another 50 feet there is another set of double doors on either side. The doors on the left are locked. As before there are three separate locks that need to be opened in the proper order.

The top, the lower left then the lower right. This can be figured out with divination magic or by making three successful Find Traps rolls. Inside this room is a coffin on a dais. There is a desk and many books about vampires.  Inside the coffin there is a vampire chained down with silver chains. 

Room 17

The vampire has been experimented on for centuries. The tomes nearby detail every experiment done. Whoever was doing this was looking for a way to make vampires even more powerful. 

This vampire was a failure.

After a few minutes, the vampire will stir and then begin to scream.  The vampire begs the party to kill him.

Killing the vampire is not difficult. He is completely immobile, so no rolls to hit are needed, and the vampire only has 6 hp. A wooden stake will end him.

If the vampire is released then he will attack the party for blood. 

--

GMs should not grant full XP for killing this vampire. But XP can be given for finding and reading the vampire books.


Saturday, September 16, 2023

#Dungeon23 Tomb of the Vampire Queen, Level 9, Room 16

 Moving across the hall opposite of the stairs (and to the left as walking down the hall) there is another door. This one is not locked and is easily opened. 

Inside the party will find a horse. This horse is obviously demonic. It is red, has small flames leaping off of it, and its eyes are glowing. It is busy eating the corpse of a long-dead elf.

Room 16

The horse looks at the party and keeps eating. If the party continues to watch the horse the horse will stop eating and ask if the party wants any of the elf to eat.

The horse is demonic and it doesn't take a "Detect Evil" spell to see that.  The horse does not attack but instead it gates out if/when it is attacked in an explosion that does 4d6 hp of damage in fire and concussive blast. Save for half.

--

The horse is here due to the magical flux still effecting this tomb.



Friday, September 15, 2023

Kickstart Your Weekend: Cottages & Cerberus

Last year my family and I were playing a D&D 5e game, and we got to talking about our other 5e game. I had asked them what they wanted for their characters "after level 20."  My youngest wants to take over a town and fill it with artificers and build a community of "makers." My oldest wants his Dragonborn to build a mighty temple to the Platinum Dragon in his role as the "Sword of Bahamut."  When they turned around and asked me what I wanted for my NPC/GMPC witch character I said I wanted her to retire with her cat, have a garden of about 1000 different herbs, drink tea, and live that 100% Cottage-core life.  I had done all the "big endings" before.

Well it turns out that you can do that as well.

Cottages & Cerberus

Cottages & Cerberus

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/cottagesandcerberus/cottages-and-cerberus-new-system-pf2e-5e-support?ref=theotherside

This game is described as "A new monster hunting cottage core TTRPG system with PF2 & 5E compatible bestiary."

Sounds fun for the right groups really. 

Honestly I am happy that game designers are taking leaps and doing new things with their RPGs. This won't be everyone's cup of tea, but for someone out there this is the perfect game.

Given the number of pledges it has so far it seems like there is a pretty good market for this. 

The art looks great and there are all sorts of add-ons to enrich your current game. I am considering both the D&D 5e and Pathfinder 2e digital versions.  It might be worth it just for the stats of the "Leviathanus Rex." Imagine a Godzilla-sized narwhal. 

Leviathanus Rex

There is a 63-page preview and a character sheet.  I rather like the idea of "spoons" as a personal resource.

They are doing great so far and I wish them the utmost success.

#Dungeon23 Tomb of the Vampire Queen, Level 9, Room 15

 Traveling down the Room 14 hallway, there is a secure door on the party's right half way down.

Room 15

The door is barred with a huge lock in the center and two more auxiliary locks. Three different Open Locks rolls or Knock spells are needed.

Once open there is a wave of necromatic magic that hits the party. They all need to make a saving throw vs. Detah or take 2d6 hp of damage.

This is a stairwell down to Level 10.


Thursday, September 14, 2023

Review: SURVIVE THIS!! What Shadows Hide, Cthulhu Sourcebook

 Continuing my exploration of Bloat Games' modern horror/monster hunting RPG, SURVIVE THIS!! What Shadows Hide. Today I cover Part 2 of the two books, the Cthulhu Sourcebook.

What Shadows Hide Cthulhu Sourcebook
SURVIVE THIS!! What Shadows Hide: Cthulhu Sourcebook

220 pages. Black & White cover and interior art.
$9.99 PDF

A while back I once said, rather snarkily, that a game can get instant sales by slapping some Cthulhu on it. One the surface this could look like that, but it doesn't do that at all. 

Also, I compared What Shadows Hide to the classic RPG Chill. So the logical comparison here is this is Bloat Games' version of Call of Cthulhu. But it is not quite that either.

What is this game supplement? Easy. Remember the first season of True Detective? It was a great detective show with a cult and some crazy guy talking about Carcosa. Turns out it was all just normal, though very evil, human agents. 

Well, what if Carcosa had been real in True Detective? What if those human agents/cultists interacted with real Elder Gods from beyond reality?

That is what this game is.

This book gives us some new classes for What Shadows Hide. Archeologist, Priest of the Darkness, Priest of the Light, Priest of the Mother, Priest of the Old Ones, Priest of the Protean Path, Priest of the Void, Psion, Warlock, and my favorite, Witch. Some of these we have seen before, but that is fine, not everyone will start with the same book or buy everything in their line (you should, but I see why you might not).

There are new spells, new skills, curses, and psychic powers.

Why put these into this book? It keeps these more powerful classes out of the hands of the Players and squarely in the Game Master's hands. 

We also get a bit about Cosmos Cats (fun!).

The bulk of this book is dedicated to the monsters the characters will encounter and the cults they will likely have to deal with. There is even a good section on creating your own cults.

This book has more utility than just "Book 2" of What Shadows Hide. This book can be easily used with other Bloat Games' RPGs like We Die Young or Vigilante City. There is also enough here for anyone who wants to add some cults to their Fantasy OSR games.

There is even an index.

Both books make for a great game, and a worthy addition to the Bloat Game catalog and the Survive This!! line.

#Dungeon23 Tomb of the Vampire Queen, Level 9, Room 14

 Going back to Room 2 and taking the last exit on the right. This leads to a long hallway.

Room 14

This is a long hall with several alcoves similar to last hallway.  This hall is filled 20 Green Slime.

When the party enters this hall they begin to slowly move towards them. They are all on the floor, none are on the ceiling. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Scooby-Doo Day, the Hex Girls, and Earth-27

 On this day in 1969, I turned 3 months old. I didn't know it then but that same morning a new cartoon that would stand the test of time premiered. Scooby-Doo hit the airwaves on CBS on Saturday morning, September 13, 1969, at 9:30 Central time. It would later go on to several spin-offs, merchandise, movies (both animated and live-action), and give us some iconic characters.  To a kid obsessed with Hammer Films, Universal Horror Movies, Dark Shadows, and the Twilight Zone, it became something of an obsession to me. From my "first" witch to the Hex Girls, it is hard to overstate the effect this show has had on my games. 

So today is a good day to bring back the Hex Girls into my discussions here on the ole' Other Side. 

I have been wanting to do something more with them for a bit to be honest. They are just silly fun. I am going to try to get some stats up for both Tim Knight's (btw, check out his version of my Teen Witch Taryn!) and Pun Issac's respective games. 

I was online looking up some new information and/or art for the Hex Girls when I encountered the Earth-27 wiki. I was not disappointed at all.

Thorn Luna Dusk

This is a crazy site. First, I LOVE all their detail and their desire to throw everything into a blender and hit frappé. There is a solid mix of DC Universe, Scooby-Doo, and even Supernatural here. There are bits of Lucifer and a lot more. Honestly, it would take a long time to dig through the whole thing. I am speaking from experience because this was the rabbit-hole I went down one night and it was all great stuff.

First, I love the art and attention to detail here. This is all just fun stuff. And obsessive on a level I can really appreciate.

However, I could not help but notice something. There is a lot of "canonical" information about the Hex Girls that comes from this blog and my RPG write-ups of them. 

I can see how really. Back in 2013 (sheesh over 10 years ago!) I posted about how some details from here made their way into the Wikipedia entry on the Hex Girls.  Compare that old link to the current one, and you will see the information is now gone, as it should be.  Gone, but never forgotten.  Earth-27 adopts it all wholesale and then expands on it.

Some things I think are obvious; Luna is very obviously bi-racial to me. Their "real" names are taken from my blog with notable exceptions of Thorn's Sally McKnight (from the show) and Dusk's "Muffy St. James."  They keep that, but mention her real name is Margaret and she is just called Muffy. Ok. That's cool. I like that. 

Mind you. None of this bothers me. In fact, I think it is really cool. There are certainly some big improvements in what they have done over what I have done. Plus, they have a "user agreement" to share information, and it is not like these characters are "mine," really. So, in that spirit, I say share and share alike.  There are certainly some ideas they have that I can back-port into my own games. I love the art for example and the character sheets for the characters are a lot of fun. And, sure, let's go with "Margaret 'Muffy' St. James, AKA Dusk." And their mentor is none other than Elvira. So yeah, how can I say no to any of this?

I hope to use some ideas here (within their implied permissions of course) and see what it can do for my games. I know there is a lot more to explore.

Links

Review: SURVIVE THIS!! What Shadows Hide

 I want to spend some time with one of the newer RPGs in Bloat Games' line of SURVIVE THIS!!  Today I want to look at their modern monster-hunting horror game What Shadows Hide.

SURVIVE THIS!! What Shadows Hide

I say "newer," but these have been around for a bit.  There are two books in the line, the Core Rules and the Cthulhu Sourcebook. For the purposes of this review I am considering both the PDF and Print versions of these books. There are at this time no Print On Demand versions, I bought these from Bloat Games at Gary Con in 2022.

What Shadows Hide
SURVIVE THIS!! What Shadows Hide: The Roleplaying Game

250 pages. Black & White cover and interior art. 
$9.99 PDF.

If you have followed any of my reviews of the various Bloat Game offerings then you will know that I am a big fan of their games and the SURVIVE THIS!! system that powers their games. Like the previous games (in particular Dark Places & Demogornons and We Die Young) this is a horror game. Though the feel to this one is a bit different. This is not the 1980s or 1990s anymore, this is a game with real stakes, real horrors and people dedicated to fighting them.

Up front, if you have played or own any of the other SURVIVE THIS!! games then a lot here will feel familiar. The rules sections are largely the same as are the rules for creating characters, combat, and some of the monsters.  This time the authors address this and mention this is done for maximum compatibility between the game lines. You can take classes from any SURVIVE THIS!! game and use them here and visa-versa. 

The joy of this game though is what it brings that is new. And there is plenty of that.

The game largely follows a similar path to that first taken by the Chill RPG. You have professionals working in various areas of the government (or other places) and they interact with an organization known as C.A.R.E., Conservers of the Ancient Realm of Earth. Think of them like BPRD, SCP, or even good old SAVE. Many characters will be involved with C.A.R.E., but you don't have to do that in your games (CARE-less?), the point is there is a connected group that does it's best to fight back against the monsters of the night.

Character Creation

Characters can have a Race, Occupation, and a Class. Races include Dimensional Forsaken (Angels and Demons), Doppelgangers, Fairies,  Ghosts,  Ghouls, Greys, Half Mer-men, Humans, Jari-Ka (Mummies), Negator, Reptilians, Vampires, and Were-beasts.  This moves it a little further afield from Chill and into World of Darkness territory. 

Occupations have a random table with how much they make each year.

Classes include Academic, Arcane Thief, C.A.R.E. Field Agent, Exorcist, Medium, Monster Hunter, Mystic, Necromancer, Occultist, Paranormal Investigator, and Void Master. Some of these are from other books, but pay attention to the details as some do feel different.

Character creation follows the same process as other SURVIVE THIS!! games and by extension most Old-School games. Attributes are covered which include the standard six, plus the "Survive" attribute common to all SURVIVE THIS!! games.  

Like the other games in this family, Hit Points start with a 2d6 and increase by 1d6 per level, regardless of class or race.  Combat can be pretty deadly in these games for people used to the hardiness of even Old-School D&D characters.

Character creation, spells (rune tattoos), skills, and Equipment cover the first 140 pages of the book, so a little more than half. 

Rules

Here we get our rules for playing the What Shadows Hide game.   We get an overview of game terms, which is nice really. Rules for Curses, Exorcisms, and Madness are covered. Similar to the rules found in We Die Young. It looks to me like they could be backported to DP&D rather easily. 

There is a fair number of combat rules.  Likely this has come about from the authors' experiences with their other game Vigilante City. 

We also get rules for XP & Leveling Up and Critical tables.

The Setting of What Shadows Hide

This is the real treat of the book. What makes this one different than the others. The world is filled with monsters, aliens, and other threats to well well-being of humankind. It is largely up to the characters (and those like them) to keep the world safe. Here we get into detail about C.A.R.E. and other organizations. We also cover the cults and organizations the characters are most likely to encounter and how to deal with them. 

At the end of the book, there is a section of adventure seeds. There are some monsters here, but they are directly related to the adventures. For more monsters, you will need the second book in this line, the Cthulhu Sourcebook, or grab one of the other Survive This!! books such as the wonderful DARK PLACES & DEMOGORGONS - The Cryptid Manual are an excellent choice. 

There is a bit here that can be found in other Bloat Games' Survive This!! games. But that is fine, because as an author/designer/publisher, you never know what someone's first book is going to be. So I am perfectly happy with seeing the Mystic again for example. Each book/game does add more to the sum total of the Survive This!! experience, so even in a class I know well (hello again Mystic) there is something new and often something a little different.

You can use all the games interchangeably, along with supplements made for the individual lines. 

A quick read through the book at Gary Con 2022 and I knew right away I could use this core book to recreate any Chill or Conspiracy X game I played in. If I wanted to recreate ay Call of Cthulhu game, well for that I would need Book 2 in the series.

#Dungeon23 Tomb of the Vampire Queen, Level 9, Room 13

 Another secret door can be found underneath the fountain-like structure in the middle. There is a 10ft drop down into the center of the room.

Room 13

This room is filled with the same sorts of snakes that came out of the fountain during the encounter in Room 11

There are 2d10 snakes in this room.  Additionally, there is 3d10 Type U treasure here.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

RPGs are Now Mainstream, example #254

 I want to share a few books with you today. Not reviews, but I do want to talk about them.

Most everyone reading this blog likely knows about this book.

Grimtooth's Traps Too

The Grimtooth Traps books were not official AD&D books, but nearly everyone back in my gaming groups in the 1980s had one or access to one.

These next two are less well-known.

Book of Encounters

They are the Game Master's Book of Random Encounters. The large hardcover (brown) we got my son for Christmas from Amazon. The smaller green "magazine" style one I bought last week. At a grocery store in South Carolina.

All three books share the same origins and goals. They are third-party products designed for "any RPG" but obviously for their respective current editions of *D&D. They fill a niche market of DM's tools, so a small number of people will buy these. 

The biggest differences?

For the Traps Too book, my then-DM and I had to drive to Springfield, IL, to get it. It was 35 miles away, and then we had to go to a store downtown (Black's Hardware) because our regular D&D stores (Waldenbooks and B. Dalton's) didn't carry this.

I found the magazine Gamemaster's Book of Random Encounters in the periodical rack in the checkout line at a grocery store next to copies of People, Us, and whatever holiday cookbook magazine America's Test Kitchen was selling.

This is just one more example of how ubiquitous RPGs are getting. 

Hell, even at my sister's funeral people from a side of my family I barely know were talking about how great Baldur's Gate 3 is. (Spoilers. It is great.)

Sometimes, it is easy to forget how great we have it now. Sometimes it is easy to forget how scarce or rare things used to be. 

We are really in a Golden Age of RPGs now and sometimes it is nice to sit back and soak it all in.

#Dungeon23 Tomb of the Vampire Queen, Level 9, Room 12

 In Room 11 there are three small secret rooms behind the many alcoves. All are covered here.

Room 12

Each of these rooms are small, 10' x 10' or so. Their function is unclear. They could have been guard rooms, storage rooms or something else.

There are no treasures and no monsters here.

Monday, September 11, 2023

#Dungeon23 Tomb of the Vampire Queen, Level 9, Room 11

 Going back to Room 2, and moving on down the gallery there are the larger exits to the left and to the right. Taking the left leads to a long hallway. 

Room 11

The room is a large, circular chamber with a high ceiling. The walls are made of smooth, polished stone, and the floor is covered in a thick layer of dust. There is a single door in the far wall and a large fountain-like structure in the center of the floor. There are alcoves in the walls with gargoyles in the recesses.

The traps in the room are all triggered by pressure plates. The first trap is located by the doorway. If a creature steps on the pressure plate, dart traps will fire (from the gargoyle's mouths), dealing 1d6 damage, save vs Poison or take another 1d8 points of damage. The second trap is located in the center of the room. If a creature steps on the pressure plate, a pit trap will open, dropping the creature 10 feet to the ground below (1d6 hp damage). The third trap is located under the fountain. If the trapdoor is opened, a swarm of poisonous snakes will pour out.

Ten (10) snakes come out from under the fountain. These snakes are blind and are the same color as the stone. They use the same stats as Giant Rattlers.

There is a cache of gold, 105 gp, hidden under the fountain. 

Sunday, September 10, 2023

#Dungeon23 Tomb of the Vampire Queen, Level 9, Room 10

Moving to the right there is another room, similar to room 9.

Room 10

This room was also a research library. The books here have been destroyed by water and fire. All are beyond saving.


 

Saturday, September 9, 2023

#Dungeon23 Tomb of the Vampire Queen, Level 9, Room 9

 On the back wall of Room 8 there are two small rooms. To the left (perspective of the entrance) is door to room 9.

Room 9

This room is a small research library. The light inside is magical (no fire near these books).  Most of the books are treatises on magical animals and monsters.  Anyone spending an hour or more reading through these books will gain 10 XP. Spending a week with the entire collection would grant 1000 XP.

There are a few books on the Gravlok Ka Varnash, including how it came to have that name; a powerful wizard had cast read thoughts on it and it scrambled his mind so completely that this was all he could say. 

There is no way to transfer all these books, there are too many. But It is possible to spend some time reading here.

There is nothing here about the Vampire Queen save for books sing her praises or talk about how brutal she is with her enemies. 


Friday, September 8, 2023

#Dungeon23 Tomb of the Vampire Queen, Level 9, Room 8

 At the end of the hall of Room 7 is a large circular chamber. There is a large dark, circular pit in the center of the room.

Room 8

The floor of the ring slopes down and the center ring rises up four feet from the floor.

There is ancient writing on the surface of the center ring. The words, if anyone can speak Draconic, tell of an ancient creature, the Gravlok Ka Varnash.

The pit can be opened and the creature released if the rituals are followed on the side of the pit.

Gravlok Ka Varnash 

Armor Class: 5 [14]
Hit Dice: 13 (8hp per HD)
Attacks: 12 × tentacle (2d6 each) + poison
THAC0: 10 [+9]
Movement: 120’ (40’)
Saving Throws: D4 W5 P6 B6 S8 (13)
Morale: 12
Alignment: Chaotic
XP: 1,200
Number Appearing 1 (1)
Treasure Type: Nil

This creature is a mass of writhing tentacles. Each tentacle can attack on its own and hit a separate target. Doing 8 hp worth of damage destroys a tentacle.

The creature is immune to mind affecting magics like sleep, charm, hold, and ESP.

The wizards here had been studying the creature until it ate too many apprentices.

Thursday, September 7, 2023

Knight City: Trials of the Teen Witch!

 I love shared universes. I love shared multi-verses. But anytime I can see a collaboration of various creatives to bring new life to something old or bring to life something new, then I am all for it.

Last week, I shared how both TTim Knight over at Hero Press and Pun Issac over at Halls of the Nephilim brought to life my evil villain, The Refrigerator for their respective Superheroe universes. 

I'll play a little in their sandboxes, too and bring over one of my iconics to their worlds. Today I am visiting Knight City with one of my favorite superheroes Taryn, the Teen Wtich.

Tim is using a modified version of Villains & Vigilantes. I am not 100% clear on all his house rules, but I can't go wrong with a by-the-book super. 

Taryn "Nix" Nichols
Taryn and Mojo, created in ePic Character Generator

To recap, Taryn is the teen daughter of my witch Larina. I wanted a character specifically for supers that had a magical background. My comics reading through the 1980s was largely Teen Titans and X-Men (so...like everyone else) and I wanted a character that would fit into those sorts of tales. 

Her father is a faerie lord, and his relationship with Taryn and Larina is...complicated. He will feature in other plots, but I am working hard NOT to make this a Trigon-Raven retread right now. Scáthaithe would not really be interested in taking over the Earth. Bringing more magic to it? Yeah, that might work. But really, I think his issue would be for Taryn to stay in the Faerie Realms.

While I always considered Taryn a Millenial/GenZ girl, she is named after "Taryn" from the Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors. Which is my favorite of the series. She is pretty much equal parts Raven from Teen Titans, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and Kiki from Kiki's Delivery Service. She has a thing for flying fast and dating guys with fast Japanese motorcycles.

This is an update/revision of her Mighty Protector stats.

Taryn Nix, student and crime fighting witch
Teen Witch
Taryn "Nix" Nichols

Power Level: 6
Age: 17; Ht: 5' 3"; Wt: 114lb; Gender: F
Basic Hits: 3
Side: Good

STR: 9
END: 12
INT: 15
AG: 12
CHA: 17

Hit Points: 7
Power Points: 48
Carry Capacity: 110 lbs
Basic HTH Damage: 1d3
Healing Rate: 0.9/day
Move: 33"

Damage Modifier: +2
Accuracy: +1
ATT: +2
DEF: ??
PSYCHIC DEF: ??
Detect Hidden/Danger: 12% / 16%

ABILITIES/POWERS

WITCH BOLT: Power Blast, Range 54, 1d20 dmg
TELEKINESIS: 540 lbs 
FLIGHT: 108 MPH
HEIGHTENED SENSES: Detect magical auras
MAGIC SPELLS: Takes a full action to prepare

GEAR

Broom. Prop, needed to fly.

Cat. Her black cat is named Mojo.

LEGAL STATUS: Minor of the United States with no criminal record.

What is Taryn doing in Knight City? No idea! Maybe Tim will let me know!

#Dungeon23 Tomb of the Vampire Queen, Level 9, Room 7

 Going back to Room 2, and taking the first exit on the right leads to another long hallway. 

Room 6

This hallway is long and magical lights spring to life as the party walks by. 

There are many open rooms to both sides of the hall, eight (8) on each side. The rooms are about 40' by 40' each. Whatever these rooms were in the past they are empty and long since looted and destroyed.  

There are some rats of the normal sorts and large spiders, but there is a distinct lack of any animal life here.  

The end of this hallway is open with an eerie glow.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Is Alignment Outmoded for D&D?

Alignment
If I had to make a guess on what was one of the most controversial topics in Dungeons & Dragons games since the beginning, I would not say it was the inclusion of demons, devils, or monsters that you can just randomly kill, or who contributed more; Gary or Dave, or even TSR's early litigious past. 

No. Going back, the most hotly debated topic then and now is Alignment.

Reading some old Dragon magazines, Usenet posts, or modern social media, people still love to argue about alignment. I have read a lot of self-proclaimed experts on D&D that get alignment completely wrong both in terms of use and how it should be applied. 

I have used alignment in D&D and some other games, but most games don't even have it and they are not less off for it. 

And of late, I am thinking that D&D doesn't need it either.

I am not saying that "Evil" and "Good" do not exist in the game in some moral gray space. There is alignment as an idea, a universal moral concept, and alignment as a game mechanic. As a game mechanic, that time has now passed.

Cases in point.

I played a Lawful Good paladin in the AD&D 1st ed days. That's redundant because the only paladins were lawful good. However, he traveled with a Neutral Evil Assassin, which was explicitly against the rules. We solved that issue by having a prophecy that these two had to travel and adventure together because their fates were linked and they could not kill each other. What were their fates? Well we only found out later on (and there may have been some retconning) that the Paladin's son and the Assassin's daughter would fall in love.  In this case, the rule about alignment got in the way of a good role-playing opportunity. 

As time went on, the assassin was less and less evil. I eventually concluded that he was Chaotic Neutral with some evil tendencies. And my paladin became more and more Lawful Autocratic than anything. Rules have to be followed because they are The Rules.  Alignment never served them well despite the restrictions both classes had on alignment. Yes, the hard-core rule lawyers will point out I wasn't playing them right or some other nonsense to justify their memorization of rules, but that is the same problem my Paladin had. Rules for the sake of Ruling and nothing else. 

Another issue. I am playing the Baldur's Gate 3 video game now and I love it. While there is a Detect Good/Evil spell, nothing in the game is alignment-specific. 

There is a Hobgoblin named Blurg, a member of the Society Of Brilliance, an order of sages who want to study and bring culture and civilization to the Underdark. Talk to him about it, and he is obviously intelligent and wants to study the rich ecological conditions in the Underdark and it's vast richnesses that could allow everyone to live together harmoniously.  He even has a friend, a Mindflayer named Omeluum, who wants to help the PCs. Both are from "evil" species, yet they do not perform an evil action. Indeed the actions they do perform can best be described as good or at worst self-serving. So maybe Chaotic Good? Neutral is what the Forgotten Realms Wiki has him as.

Blurg

What about Karlach the tiefling? She has killed, but yet she is one of the nicest, happiest characters in the game. Shadowheart worships the evil Goddess Shar, she should be evil by D&D rules, yet she dislikes needless violence and has a soft spot in her heart for kids and animals. And SPOILER: You can also convert her to the Goddess Selûne, effectively changing her cleric's alignment with no loss of powers. Granted Shar and Selûne have a complicated relationship.

At no point in character creation did I list an alignment. 

Even in the image above, the representative characters don't fit all that well all the time. Darth Vader was redeemed in the end. The Doctor has murdered millions even entire species. Captain America though might fit Lawful Good most of the time.

D&D 4 added the Unaligned alignment and made Succubi Lawful evil. D&D 3 made Orcs Chaotic Evil. D&D has published entire books where NPCs never had an alignment listed. 

I use alignment, but I am seeing less and less need for it in my games. Spells like "Know Alignment" and "Protection from Good/Evil" now will rely more on hostile intent.  

Now, Ill likely keep the Outer Planes as they are and will have to figure that out someday, but for now I am content ditching the whole system.

#Dungeon23 Tomb of the Vampire Queen, Level 9, Room 6

 The double doors are locked and magicked. To open a thief will need to pass a successful open locks roll and a dispel magic or knock spell must be employed.

Room 6

Inside is a treasure store of magic items.  The number of magic items remaining is determined by 2d6+1. 

Use Table X to determine the sort of magic items found.


Tuesday, September 5, 2023

September Updates

September is here, and every year at this time, I say, "how in the hell did that happen???"

I have a snowblower to fix, veggies to harvest, and family to visit this month, so posting might be light.

I also want to get in some Old-School game reviews and discussions, plus I have some other things I want to clear off my plate before October hits.

This year I am joining in the 31 Days of Halloween Movie Challenge from Pun Issac over at Hall of the Nephilim

31 Days of Halloween Movie Challenge

Here is the text version:

Daily Prompt

  1. First Time Watch
  2. Reanimated
  3. Mother Nature Strikes Back
  4. Foreign Language
  5. What A Twist
  6. Anthology
  7. Teen Angst
  8. Horror Comedy
  9. Slow Burn
  10. Body Horror
  11. For The Kiddos
  12. Black and White
  13. Inspired By True Events
  14. We Are the Weirdos Mister
  15. Pretty Blood Suckers
  16. Something Fishy
  17. Underrated
  18. Clown(s)
  19. Folk Horror
  20. Monstrous Blood Suckers
  21. Summer Camp
  22. Howl at the Moon
  23. Best Soundtrack
  24. Slasher
  25. Found Footage
  26. New Movie
  27. Favorite Horror Director
  28. Sci-Fi Horror
  29. Man is the Real Monster
  30. Remake Is Better Than the Original
  31. All Hallows Eve

 Alternates

  • Torture Porn
  • Blaxploitation
  • Video Game Movie
  • Cults
  • Best Gratuitous Nudity 

A few of these might end up being re-watches.  I wanted to do all Spanish language horror this year, but I might not get to that. I am not as far along in my Spanish as I would have hoped, to be honest.

Speaking of October, Horror and Halloween.

Here is some new art for my next book, I need to get a move on it to get it done.

Billy Blue Art
https://www.billyblueart.com/

Best get back to writing.

#Dungeon23 Tomb of the Vampire Queen, Level 9, Room 5

 This Gallery has four major exists, two on the right and two on the left.  Taking the first on the left takes the party down a slightly down-sloping hall.

Room 5

This long hallway has many magical sigils that glow every 10 feet on the ceiling.  Stepping into the light of a sigil has a random effect.

The following effects occur unless the character makes a save vs. Spells.  Roll a 1d20 for the effects of each sigil. There are 10 total sigils.

  1. The character is granted the power to cast a spell of their choice once.
  2. The character is granted a +2 bonus to all saving throws for 1 hour.
  3. The character is healed of all damage.
  4. The character is surrounded by a protective aura that grants them resistance to all damage for 1 minute.
  5. The character is cursed with a -2 penalty to all attack rolls for 1 hour.
  6. The character is blinded for 1d4 rounds.
  7. The character is deafened for 1d4 rounds.
  8. The character is paralyzed for 1d4 rounds.
  9. The character is poisoned for 1d4 hours.
  10. The character's non-magical equipment is destroyed.
  11. The character is trapped in a magical force field for 1d4 hours.
  12. The character is attacked by a swarm of insects.
  13. The character is attacked by a pack (1d4+1) of wolves.
  14. The character is attacked by a group (1d6+1) of goblins.
  15. The character is attacked by a troll.
  16. The character is attacked by a dragon (this is actually an illusion, a second save vs. Spell to disbelieve).
  17. The character is granted a limited wish.
  18. The character is granted the power to fly for 1 hour.
  19. The character is granted the power to understand all languages for 1 hour.
  20. The character is granted the power to see in the dark for 1 hour.

A successful save means nothing happens, positive or negative. 

This hall ends in a large double door.

Monday, September 4, 2023

#Dungeon23 Tomb of the Vampire Queen, Level 9, Room 4

Room 4 can be found on either side of the entrance of the Gallery of Room 2.

Room 4a is to the left and Room 4b is to the right.

Room 4

These rooms appear to be some sort of guardroom or wayroom. 

It is long abandoned. There are some basic weapons here; a dagger, a sword, and a few arrows.

Sunday, September 3, 2023

#Dungeon23 Tomb of the Vampire Queen, Level 9, Room 3

 Room 3 covers the 13 alcoves on either side of this gallery (26 total).

Room 3

Each alcove features the bust of an ancient dwarven king.  Their names and lineages are inscribed along with their accomplishments.  The dates go back to the dwarven mountain kingdom when the mountain was to the north.

Of the 26 busts, at least five have been completely destroyed. Another eight had secret panels, but those have all been looted centuries prior.  All have damage.

Saturday, September 2, 2023

#Dungeon23 Tomb of the Vampire Queen, Level 9, Room 2

The level opens up to a large open gallery. The design is dwarven, but has been modified. The gallery is over 600 ft long.

Room 2

This room is filled with the shadows of dwarven lords and wizard students. They seem to be from different times since they do not interact at all with each other.

Hidden among these shadows are four (4) Spectres.  

These are former minions of the Vampire Queen in life and serve her still after death.

The specters have normal treasure E x4. 

There are also Type A, C, D here as well, but no magic items. The Vampire Queen has used all of those.

On each side of the gallery there are multiple alcoves and exits.