Friday, July 12, 2024

Kickstart Your Weekend: Fantastic Quest of Whimsical One & Lost Tomb of Mummy Lich

 More Maximum Mayhem adventures from Dark Wizard Games!

Fantastic Quest of Whimsical One & Lost Tomb of Mummy Lich

Fantastic Quest of Whimsical One & Lost Tomb of Mummy Lich

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/marktaormino/mmd-10-fantastic-quest-and-mmd-11-lost-tomb?ref=theotherside

I mean by now you should know what these are all about.

The Fantastic Quest of Whimsical One features art from Erol Otus, so that is a nice added feature. 

Both of these fit well with my idea of a long campaign for B/X or OSE. And they look like a lot of fun!

No 5e versions this time around though.

Thursday, July 11, 2024

Quests from the Infinite Staircase

 I picked up the new D&D 5 adventure omnibus, Stairway to HeavenQuests from the Infinite Staircase yesterday. It looks like it was well done.

Quests from the Infinite Staircase

Quests from the Infinite Staircase

The back cover has a "50" logo on the back which is nice, but damn, Wizards is really dropping the ball on this 50th Anniversary.

The adventures are some classics.

The Lost City

The Lost City

I have not looked to see how well this new version of the Lost City compares tot he Goodman Games version out a few years ago. I know there are a lot of tweaks to the older adventures in this new version.


Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

The Expedition to the Barrier Peaks looks down right scary, which is great as far as I am concerned. 


The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth is an old favorite of mine and this new version looks like a lot of fun. 

Drelnza

It even has stats (as it should) for my old girl-friend Drelnza.

Beyond the Crystal Cave

Of all of these , Beyond the Crystal Cave is the only one I have not run or played in. As you can see, my old copy is a bit worse for the wear. 

Infinite Staircse and 13th Doctor

I also picked up the Thirteenth Doctor sourcebook for the Doctor Who RPG. It also looks great.

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Larina Nix and Malcear for Quest of the Ancients

 The other night my oldest son Liam and I were going to continue our AD&D 2nd Ed game in the Forgotten Realms. I got to talking about about some of the NPCs of the Realms and mentioned the strangest one I knew was Raven of Raven's Bluff.  Which got me on the topic of Quest of the Ancients in general and what a Fantasy Heartbreaker was. He asked if I had stated up Larina for it already, and too my utter shock I saw I had not.

Instead of playing some AD&D 2nd Ed, we rolled up characters for Quest of the Ancients. I built Larina and he did his human/demon-hybrid assassin Malcear. 

Quest of the Ancients


I do want to extend my public thanks to Vince Garcia. I told my wife there was a game developer out there who was as obsessed with witches and Stevie Nicks as me, and she didn't believe it.

Larina Nix
Larina Nix
13th level Human Witch
Female

Armor rating: 0 / 0
Tactical move: 10'
Stamina points: 36
Body points: 10

Stats
St 9 (Dmg. +0, L/N/H/VH Load 18/45/63/90, Max lift 180)
Ag 12 (AR att +0)
Cn 12 (Rest 7, Stamina/Body recovery 1/1)
IQ 20 (memorization time 1)
Ch 19 (Reaction +15%)
Ap 18
Lk 7

Attack 1
Combat phase: 4
Dmg: 1D4+1 (dagger) or by spell
Ethics: I
Size: 5'4", 125#

Witch Abilities
A: Create Focus (wand)
B: Additional Combat Skill Slot (2 for 4 total)
C: Create Potions and Elixirs
D: Form Coven

Skills (200 pts)
Language: 50 (read/write 10)
Courtliness: 15%
Danger Sense: 4%
Herbalism: 60%
Music: 10%
Nature Lore: 10%

Spells

Rank 1: Beguile, Control Fire, Disenchantment, Evil Eye, Magic Dart, Read Magic Script, Skull of Flame, Slumber, Trick, Whisper, Witch Warrior
Rank 2: Cure Wounds, Enchant Bracers, Fire Darts, Jack-o-lantern, Moon Sigils, Witch Wand, Witch Wind
Rank 3: Babble, Charm, Charm, Electric Arc, Energy Blast, Hand of Glory, Sheet Lightning, Starburst, Witch Mark
Rank 4: Bat Swarm, Death's Eye, Hex, Shooting Stars, Time Vision, Witch's Eye
Rank 5: Candle Magic, Cauldron of Magic, Moon Web, Witchfire
Rank 6: Aura of Fear, Enflame, Pentagram of Protection, Starfire
Rank 7: Ethereal Whirlwind, Witch Ward


Malcear
1st level Human (demonic) Assassin
Male

Armor rating: 1 / 1
Tactical move: 10'
Stamina points: 36
Body points: 10

Stats
St 17 (Dmg. +1, L/N/H/VH Load 34/85/119/170, Max lift 340)
Ag 20 (AR att -5)
Cn 15 (Rest 6, Stamina/Body recovery 1/1)
IQ 15 
Ch 12 (Reaction +0%)
Ap 13
Lk 10

Attack 1
Combat phase: 1
Dmg: 1D6+1 x (short sword) 
Ethics: I
Size: 5'8", 175#

Assassin Abilities
Disguise: 40%
Information Gathering: 37%
Stealth: 45%
Climb: 67%
Concealment: 40%
Detrap: 40%
Lock Pick: 40%

Skills (150 pts)
Blindsight: 30 pts
Danger Sense: 24%

Larina and Malcear in Islay

--

Ok. Not bad. The system was not really enough to keep Liam's attention, so we did not try to play it. I am thinking I have extracted pretty much everything out of this game I can get. I think this one is moving to the lower shelves now.

Unlike some other games I have tried out over the last couple of years, I do not recommend this one as a D&D 5 replacement. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Mail Call: More Mayhem from Dark Wizard Games

 Nice little surprise in the mail today.  Two new adventures from Mark Taormino's Maximum Mayhem adventures from Dark Wizard Games.

Adventures from Dark Wizards Games

Again there are 5e versions (for my kids) and classic OSR versions for me.

The OSR maps are in classic blue and the 5e are in full color.

Seven Golden Demons

Slime Pits of the Sewer Witch

Legend of the Seven Golden Demons is his highest-level adventure to date at levels 14-18.  This will stretch my ability to use these for OSE-Advanced, but I am sure I can do it.

Maximum Mayhem Adventures

Slime Pits of the Sewer Witch is a low-level mini-adventure that honestly looks like a lot of fun. Normally I would put this one in with the others in my Maximum Mayhem box to run as a gonzo campaign. But my box is getting full, and I can add it to my War of the Witch Queens adventures instead. 

War of the Witch Queens

 Right now I have WAY too many adventures to run, so I should maybe be more selective on what I get.

Monday, July 8, 2024

Dracula, The Hunters' Journals: 8 July Dr. Seward's Diary (kept on phonograph)

Dr. Seward keeps us apprised of his patient.

Dracula - The Hunters' Journals


8 July.—There is a method in his madness, and the rudimentary idea in my mind is growing. It will be a whole idea soon, and then, oh, unconscious cerebration! you will have to give the wall to your conscious brother. I kept away from my friend for a few days, so that I might notice if there were any change. Things remain as they were except that he has parted with some of his pets and got a new one. He has managed to get a sparrow, and has already partially tamed it. His means of taming is simple, for already the spiders have diminished. Those that do remain, however, are well fed, for he still brings in the flies by tempting them with his food.


Notes

Moon Phase: Waxing Gibbous

Stoker was reading up on popular theories of the new and growing field of psychology. Sometimes I wonder if my reading Dracula at an early age was not some seed that later put me on the path of a psychologist. 

I wonder what will happen to the sparrow?

#RPGaDAY2024 for August

 I know I have been really quiet here for a bit, trying to wrap up everything for Thirteen Parsecs. But I am taking a break to let you know I will be participating in Dave Chapman's #RPGaDAY2024 for August. I have done it in years past and this looks like a good list of prompts.

#RPGaDay2024

Here are the text prompts.

  1. First RPG bought this year
  2. Most recently played
  3. Most often played RPG
  4. RPG with great art
  5. RPG with great writing
  6. RPG that is easy to use
  7. RPG with 'good form'
  8. An accessory you appreciate
  9. An accessory you'd like to see
  10. RPG you'd like to see on TV
  11. RPG with well-supported one-shots
  12. RPG with well-supported campaigns
  13. Evocative environments
  14. Compelling characters
  15. Great character gear
  16. Quick to learn
  17. An engaging RPG community
  18. Memorable moment of play
  19. Sensational session
  20. Amazing adventure
  21. Classic campaign
  22. Notable non-player character
  23. Peerless player
  24. Acclaimed advice
  25. Desirable dice
  26. Superb screen
  27. Marvelous miniature
  28. Great gamer gadget
  29. Awesome app
  30. Person you'd like to game with
  31. Game or gamer you miss
  32. Alternative - Amazing anecdote

There is also an alternate version from Skala Wyzwania. who I do not know but seems to be a name in the Polish RPG scene. Here are her prompts.

Skala RPGaDay

Text version of the alternative campaign:

  1. Runes
  2. Forest
  3. Demonology
  4. Cosmos
  5. Fairies
  6. Portal
  7. Forgotten City
  8. Experiment
  9. Heroes
  10. Steampunk
  11. Invasion
  12. Parallel Worlds
  13. Zombie
  14. Awakening
  15. Genetics
  16. Dungeon
  17. AI
  18. Curse
  19. Hologram
  20. Battle 
  21. Disaster
  22. Interdimensional Space
  23. Ritual
  24. Antique
  25. Mutant
  26. Tattoo
  27. Shapeshifting
  28. Mimic
  29. Knight
  30. Trap 
  31. Dragons

Each day roll d10 to go with the prompt:

  1. Describe a Monster
  2. Create an NPC
  3. Write a Bulletin Board Quest
  4. Invent an Item
  5. Write a legend or rumour 
  6. Create a random table
  7. Create a simple mechanic
  8. Present an idea for a Random Encounter
  9. Write an Eavesdroppable Dialogue
  10. Draw!

I am not sure if I'll do just Dave's, both, or a combination.

In any case, it should be fun.

Monday, July 1, 2024

Dracula, The Hunters' Journals: 1 July Dr. Seward's Diary (kept on phonograph)

Dr. Seward keeps us apprised of his patient.

Dracula - The Hunters' Journals


1 July.—His spiders are now becoming as great a nuisance as his flies, and to-day I told him that he must get rid of them. He looked very sad at this, so I said that he must clear out some of them, at all events. He cheerfully acquiesced in this, and I gave him the same time as before for reduction. He disgusted me much while with him, for when a horrid blow-fly, bloated with some carrion food, buzzed into the room, he caught it, held it exultantly for a few moments between his finger and thumb, and, before I knew what he was going to do, put it in his mouth and ate it. I scolded him for it, but he argued quietly that it was very good and very wholesome; that it was life, strong life, and gave life to him. This gave me an idea, or the rudiment of one. I must watch how he gets rid of his spiders. He has evidently some deep problem in his mind, for he keeps a little note-book in which he is always jotting down something. Whole pages of it are filled with masses of figures, generally single numbers added up in batches, and then the totals added in batches again, as though he were “focussing” some account, as the auditors put it.


Notes

Moon Phase: Waxing Crescent

This is the start of one of the great exchanges in the novel, a prequel as it were to the exchanges between Van Helsing and Dracula. Note that in the novel, there is actually very little interaction with Dracula in London and Dracula and Van Helsing have no interactions at all.  But that is for a later date.

Here, we see the acolytes match wits. Renfield is Dracula's and Seward is Van Helsing's. 

Personal notes.

I played Seward in our High School production of Dracula. 

Years later, when working on my Master's degree in psychology, I was a QMHP (Qualified Mental Health Professional) for the State of Illinois. I worked with schizophrenics and yes, I saw one or two of them eat bugs.

Monstrous Mondays: Nouveau Orcs

 Still busy this week so this is drive-by. 

Art previews of the new D&D 5R (D&D 2024) Player's Handbook were released including art for orcs as a playable species.  As expected the Grognard crowd is taking this with measured patience one should expect from the elder statesmen of our hobby.

5r Orcs

No, they didn't. They predictably completely lost their shit. Again.

This seems especially true of the segments that claim never to play "WotC" versions of D&D and don't pay any attention to them.  So the ones that will be least likely to play this version are also bitching and moaning the loudest.

I mean the art is bit too cutesy for me, but a.) this is for a Player's book, not the monster book. and b.) I am not (nor should I be) the target audience.  That is something I am going to get back to, but let's address the prominent issue; that of non-evil orcs.

When it comes to orcs many like to point to their history as defined by the Professor. This great, IF (and only if) we are talking about Lord of the Rings or Middle-Earth. This is D&D and Gary did nothing else if not spend a lot of ink telling us that D&D is not Lord of the Rings. So all the talk of "Melkor can't create" is cute but has little bearing here. 

D&D and AD&D has had "good orcs" before, this is not a new concept. The Forgotten Realms boxed set had them. The AD&D 2nd Ed Monstrous Compendiums had them. Good Orcs are not a new thing. Even Half-orcs were a playable race as long as they were non-good.

One of the cardinal rules of D&D has always been to change what you want to work with your group. That means yes, people can have "good" orcs, and other groups can have "evil" orcs. This should counter any "one true wayism" that seems to clutter up the D&D-related YouTube channels.  

Besides no one is saying you can't have purely evil orcs as well. I have several sub-species of orc, some good, many very evil. Works great for me. Pathfinder 2 has orcs you can have as characters and still fight. 

I think what the older crowd, of which I am a member of that crowd, needs to realize is that we are no longer being catered to. We do not have the buying power we have enjoyed for so long. This group, or at least many members of it, have said "we are not buying any non-TSR D&D" and WotC has said "fine, we don't really need your money."  And they don't. The younger generations have shown they have buying power all on their own. 

Look, Wizards of the Coast is not without some serious flaws and a lot of blame. Their handling of the OGL, sending out Pinkertons, all the layoffs and firings. Not to mention some rather lack lustre adventures. But freaking out over good orcs? Yeah, that should not even be on the list.

So here are a couple of reminders.

  1. Whatever appears in the D&D 5r books only maters to people playing D&D 5r.
  2. Nothing posted in D&D 5r effects any other game. Same as nothing in Pathfinder effects any version of D&D.
  3. Despite the Chicken Littling out there no past book has ever been changed.

Play how you want. Let others play how they want. Stop acting like it's the end of the damn world.

Better yet, adopt these new orcs into your old-school games to challenge your players. 

Sunday, June 30, 2024

Dracula, The Hunters' Journals: 30 June, Jonathan Harker's Journal (Cont.)

Harker fears his end is near and plans an escape. He makes a terrifying discovery. 

Dracula - The Hunters' Journals


30 June, morning.—These may be the last words I ever write in this diary. I slept till just before the dawn, and when I woke threw myself on my knees, for I determined that if Death came he should find me ready.

At last I felt that subtle change in the air, and knew that the morning had come. Then came the welcome cock-crow, and I felt that I was safe. With a glad heart, I opened my door and ran down to the hall. I had seen that the door was unlocked, and now escape was before me. With hands that trembled with eagerness, I unhooked the chains and drew back the massive bolts.

But the door would not move. Despair seized me. I pulled, and pulled, at the door, and shook it till, massive as it was, it rattled in its casement. I could see the bolt shot. It had been locked after I left the Count.

Then a wild desire took me to obtain that key at any risk, and I determined then and there to scale the wall again and gain the Count’s room. He might kill me, but death now seemed the happier choice of evils. Without a pause I rushed up to the east window, and scrambled down the wall, as before, into the Count’s room. It was empty, but that was as I expected. I could not see a key anywhere, but the heap of gold remained. I went through the door in the corner and down the winding stair and along the dark passage to the old chapel. I knew now well enough where to find the monster I sought.

The great box was in the same place, close against the wall, but the lid was laid on it, not fastened down, but with the nails ready in their places to be hammered home. I knew I must reach the body for the key, so I raised the lid, and laid it back against the wall; and then I saw something which filled my very soul with horror. There lay the Count, but looking as if his youth had been half renewed, for the white hair and moustache were changed to dark iron-grey; the cheeks were fuller, and the white skin seemed ruby-red underneath; the mouth was redder than ever, for on the lips were gouts of fresh blood, which trickled from the corners of the mouth and ran over the chin and neck. Even the deep, burning eyes seemed set amongst swollen flesh, for the lids and pouches underneath were bloated. It seemed as if the whole awful creature were simply gorged with blood. He lay like a filthy leech, exhausted with his repletion. I shuddered as I bent over to touch him, and every sense in me revolted at the contact; but I had to search, or I was lost. The coming night might see my own body a banquet in a similar way to those horrid three. I felt all over the body, but no sign could I find of the key. Then I stopped and looked at the Count. There was a mocking smile on the bloated face which seemed to drive me mad. This was the being I was helping to transfer to London, where, perhaps, for centuries to come he might, amongst its teeming millions, satiate his lust for blood, and create a new and ever-widening circle of semi-demons to batten on the helpless. The very thought drove me mad. A terrible desire came upon me to rid the world of such a monster. There was no lethal weapon at hand, but I seized a shovel which the workmen had been using to fill the cases, and lifting it high, struck, with the edge downward, at the hateful face. But as I did so the head turned, and the eyes fell full upon me, with all their blaze of basilisk horror. The sight seemed to paralyse me, and the shovel turned in my hand and glanced from the face, merely making a deep gash above the forehead. The shovel fell from my hand across the box, and as I pulled it away the flange of the blade caught the edge of the lid which fell over again, and hid the horrid thing from my sight. The last glimpse I had was of the bloated face, blood-stained and fixed with a grin of malice which would have held its own in the nethermost hell.

I thought and thought what should be my next move, but my brain seemed on fire, and I waited with a despairing feeling growing over me. As I waited I heard in the distance a gipsy song sung by merry voices coming closer, and through their song the rolling of heavy wheels and the cracking of whips; the Szgany and the Slovaks of whom the Count had spoken were coming. With a last look around and at the box which contained the vile body, I ran from the place and gained the Count’s room, determined to rush out at the moment the door should be opened. With strained ears, I listened, and heard downstairs the grinding of the key in the great lock and the falling back of the heavy door. There must have been some other means of entry, or some one had a key for one of the locked doors. Then there came the sound of many feet tramping and dying away in some passage which sent up a clanging echo. I turned to run down again towards the vault, where I might find the new entrance; but at the moment there seemed to come a violent puff of wind, and the door to the winding stair blew to with a shock that set the dust from the lintels flying. When I ran to push it open, I found that it was hopelessly fast. I was again a prisoner, and the net of doom was closing round me more closely.

As I write there is in the passage below a sound of many tramping feet and the crash of weights being set down heavily, doubtless the boxes, with their freight of earth. There is a sound of hammering; it is the box being nailed down. Now I can hear the heavy feet tramping again along the hall, with many other idle feet coming behind them.

The door is shut, and the chains rattle; there is a grinding of the key in the lock; I can hear the key withdraw: then another door opens and shuts; I hear the creaking of lock and bolt.

Hark! in the courtyard and down the rocky way the roll of heavy wheels, the crack of whips, and the chorus of the Szgany as they pass into the distance.

I am alone in the castle with those awful women. Faugh! Mina is a woman, and there is nought in common. They are devils of the Pit!

I shall not remain alone with them; I shall try to scale the castle wall farther than I have yet attempted. I shall take some of the gold with me, lest I want it later. I may find a way from this dreadful place.

And then away for home! away to the quickest and nearest train! away from this cursed spot, from this cursed land, where the devil and his children still walk with earthly feet!

At least God’s mercy is better than that of these monsters, and the precipice is steep and high. At its foot a man may sleep—as a man. Good-bye, all! Mina!


Notes

Moon Phase: Waxing Crescent

So in his "ever-widening circle" one wonders what Harker knows about Vampire already and why none of that knowledge was used till now. 

The contrast is made between Mina and the vampire brides, this contrast will come into play later one in the form of Lucy. 

It will be a long while before we hear from Harker again. 


Saturday, June 29, 2024

Dracula, The Hunters' Journals: 29 June, Jonathan Harker's Journal (Cont.)

Dracula prepares to leave his castle for England. 

Dracula - The Hunters' Journals


29 June.—To-day is the date of my last letter, and the Count has taken steps to prove that it was genuine, for again I saw him leave the castle by the same window, and in my clothes. As he went down the wall, lizard fashion, I wished I had a gun or some lethal weapon, that I might destroy him; but I fear that no weapon wrought alone by man’s hand would have any effect on him. I dared not wait to see him return, for I feared to see those weird sisters. I came back to the library, and read there till I fell asleep.

I was awakened by the Count, who looked at me as grimly as a man can look as he said:—

“To-morrow, my friend, we must part. You return to your beautiful England, I to some work which may have such an end that we may never meet. Your letter home has been despatched; to-morrow I shall not be here, but all shall be ready for your journey. In the morning come the Szgany, who have some labours of their own here, and also come some Slovaks. When they have gone, my carriage shall come for you, and shall bear you to the Borgo Pass to meet the diligence from Bukovina to Bistritz. But I am in hopes that I shall see more of you at Castle Dracula.” I suspected him, and determined to test his sincerity. Sincerity! It seems like a profanation of the word to write it in connection with such a monster, so asked him point-blank:—

“Why may I not go to-night?”

“Because, dear sir, my coachman and horses are away on a mission.”

“But I would walk with pleasure. I want to get away at once.” He smiled, such a soft, smooth, diabolical smile that I knew there was some trick behind his smoothness. He said:—

“And your baggage?”

“I do not care about it. I can send for it some other time.”

The Count stood up, and said, with a sweet courtesy which made me rub my eyes, it seemed so real:—

“You English have a saying which is close to my heart, for its spirit is that which rules our boyars: ‘Welcome the coming; speed the parting guest.’ Come with me, my dear young friend. Not an hour shall you wait in my house against your will, though sad am I at your going, and that you so suddenly desire it. Come!” With a stately gravity, he, with the lamp, preceded me down the stairs and along the hall. Suddenly he stopped.

“Hark!”

Close at hand came the howling of many wolves. It was almost as if the sound sprang up at the rising of his hand, just as the music of a great orchestra seems to leap under the bâton of the conductor. After a pause of a moment, he proceeded, in his stately way, to the door, drew back the ponderous bolts, unhooked the heavy chains, and began to draw it open.

To my intense astonishment I saw that it was unlocked. Suspiciously, I looked all round, but could see no key of any kind.

As the door began to open, the howling of the wolves without grew louder and angrier; their red jaws, with champing teeth, and their blunt-clawed feet as they leaped, came in through the opening door. I knew then that to struggle at the moment against the Count was useless. With such allies as these at his command, I could do nothing. But still the door continued slowly to open, and only the Count’s body stood in the gap. Suddenly it struck me that this might be the moment and means of my doom; I was to be given to the wolves, and at my own instigation. There was a diabolical wickedness in the idea great enough for the Count, and as a last chance I cried out:—

“Shut the door; I shall wait till morning!” and covered my face with my hands to hide my tears of bitter disappointment. With one sweep of his powerful arm, the Count threw the door shut, and the great bolts clanged and echoed through the hall as they shot back into their places.

In silence we returned to the library, and after a minute or two I went to my own room. The last I saw of Count Dracula was his kissing his hand to me; with a red light of triumph in his eyes, and with a smile that Judas in hell might be proud of.

When I was in my room and about to lie down, I thought I heard a whispering at my door. I went to it softly and listened. Unless my ears deceived me, I heard the voice of the Count:—

“Back, back, to your own place! Your time is not yet come. Wait! Have patience! To-night is mine. To-morrow night is yours!” There was a low, sweet ripple of laughter, and in a rage I threw open the door, and saw without the three terrible women licking their lips. As I appeared they all joined in a horrible laugh, and ran away.

I came back to my room and threw myself on my knees. It is then so near the end? To-morrow! to-morrow! Lord, help me, and those to whom I am dear!


Notes

Moon Phase: Waxing Crescent

Of course, Dracula has no intention of letting Harker leave. He has already promised him to his Brides "to-morrow."


Thursday, June 27, 2024

From Imirrhos to Mystara: The Known World

 Been rather busy this week, but this one came across my feed, and I thought it was interesting. I love the Known World, also known as Mystara, so any details about it's history.

The video is about 2 hours long, so pop some popcorn and settle in.




Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Dracula, The Hunters' Journals: 25 June, Jonathan Harker's Journal (Cont.)

 Johnathan goes exploring.

Dracula - The Hunters' Journals


25 June, morning.—No man knows till he has suffered from the night how sweet and how dear to his heart and eye the morning can be. When the sun grew so high this morning that it struck the top of the great gateway opposite my window, the high spot which it touched seemed to me as if the dove from the ark had lighted there. My fear fell from me as if it had been a vaporous garment which dissolved in the warmth. I must take action of some sort whilst the courage of the day is upon me. Last night one of my post-dated letters went to post, the first of that fatal series which is to blot out the very traces of my existence from the earth.

Let me not think of it. Action!

It has always been at night-time that I have been molested or threatened, or in some way in danger or in fear. I have not yet seen the Count in the daylight. Can it be that he sleeps when others wake, that he may be awake whilst they sleep? If I could only get into his room! But there is no possible way. The door is always locked, no way for me.

Yes, there is a way, if one dares to take it. Where his body has gone why may not another body go? I have seen him myself crawl from his window. Why should not I imitate him, and go in by his window? The chances are desperate, but my need is more desperate still. I shall risk it. At the worst it can only be death; and a man’s death is not a calf’s, and the dreaded Hereafter may still be open to me. God help me in my task! Good-bye, Mina, if I fail; good-bye, my faithful friend and second father; good-bye, all, and last of all Mina!

 

Same day, later.—I have made the effort, and God, helping me, have come safely back to this room. I must put down every detail in order. I went whilst my courage was fresh straight to the window on the south side, and at once got outside on the narrow ledge of stone which runs around the building on this side. The stones are big and roughly cut, and the mortar has by process of time been washed away between them. I took off my boots, and ventured out on the desperate way. I looked down once, so as to make sure that a sudden glimpse of the awful depth would not overcome me, but after that kept my eyes away from it. I knew pretty well the direction and distance of the Count’s window, and made for it as well as I could, having regard to the opportunities available. I did not feel dizzy—I suppose I was too excited—and the time seemed ridiculously short till I found myself standing on the window-sill and trying to raise up the sash. I was filled with agitation, however, when I bent down and slid feet foremost in through the window. Then I looked around for the Count, but, with surprise and gladness, made a discovery. The room was empty! It was barely furnished with odd things, which seemed to have never been used; the furniture was something the same style as that in the south rooms, and was covered with dust. I looked for the key, but it was not in the lock, and I could not find it anywhere. The only thing I found was a great heap of gold in one corner—gold of all kinds, Roman, and British, and Austrian, and Hungarian, and Greek and Turkish money, covered with a film of dust, as though it had lain long in the ground. None of it that I noticed was less than three hundred years old. There were also chains and ornaments, some jewelled, but all of them old and stained.

At one corner of the room was a heavy door. I tried it, for, since I could not find the key of the room or the key of the outer door, which was the main object of my search, I must make further examination, or all my efforts would be in vain. It was open, and led through a stone passage to a circular stairway, which went steeply down. I descended, minding carefully where I went, for the stairs were dark, being only lit by loopholes in the heavy masonry. At the bottom there was a dark, tunnel-like passage, through which came a deathly, sickly odour, the odour of old earth newly turned. As I went through the passage the smell grew closer and heavier. At last I pulled open a heavy door which stood ajar, and found myself in an old, ruined chapel, which had evidently been used as a graveyard. The roof was broken, and in two places were steps leading to vaults, but the ground had recently been dug over, and the earth placed in great wooden boxes, manifestly those which had been brought by the Slovaks. There was nobody about, and I made search for any further outlet, but there was none. Then I went over every inch of the ground, so as not to lose a chance. I went down even into the vaults, where the dim light struggled, although to do so was a dread to my very soul. Into two of these I went, but saw nothing except fragments of old coffins and piles of dust; in the third, however, I made a discovery.

There, in one of the great boxes, of which there were fifty in all, on a pile of newly dug earth, lay the Count! He was either dead or asleep, I could not say which—for the eyes were open and stony, but without the glassiness of death—and the cheeks had the warmth of life through all their pallor; the lips were as red as ever. But there was no sign of movement, no pulse, no breath, no beating of the heart. I bent over him, and tried to find any sign of life, but in vain. He could not have lain there long, for the earthy smell would have passed away in a few hours. By the side of the box was its cover, pierced with holes here and there. I thought he might have the keys on him, but when I went to search I saw the dead eyes, and in them, dead though they were, such a look of hate, though unconscious of me or my presence, that I fled from the place, and leaving the Count’s room by the window, crawled again up the castle wall. Regaining my room, I threw myself panting upon the bed and tried to think...


Notes

Moon Phase: Waxing Crescent

Harker spends his time investigating the castle. The bit about the 300-year-old Turkish coins is a nod to Dracula's real-world origins. 

We see more about the 50 boxes of earth Dracula will take to London. What is he doing with wives? Obviously, he doesn't take them with him. 

The "second father" is Peter Hawkins, his employer. 

Jonathan is wrong in one sense, he says he only has seen Dracula at night, but that is not true. When he was shaving and Dracula breaks his mirror it was morning.

Mail Call: Vecna Returns

 It's Tuesday, let's see what I have in the mail from the week. It was my birthday two weeks ago, and Father's Day, so I splurged and bought myself some Print On Demand titles from DriveThruRPG.

AD&D 2nd Ed Vecna Adventures

I am starting an AD&D 2nd Edition game with my oldest and I thought these might be fun. He is running the 5e Vecna adventure for his own group and he has used Vecna, or at least the Critical Role version, in his Tal'Dorei campaign as well.

The adventures make for a loose trilogy that spans the 1990s and AD&D 2nd Edition. From Greyhawk, to Ravenloft, to system agnostic (more or less).

Again, I am reading these and thinking of a universe-spanning adventure. Add in some elements from the 5e adventure and then bits from 3e and 4e for the hell of it.

The Vecna adventures

OR. I could put the same effort into my "Necromancer" adventures. The Necromancer largely fills the same role in my games as Vecna. 

In any case, I am happy to have all of these now.

Monday, June 24, 2024

Dracula, The Hunters' Journals: 24 June, Jonathan Harker's Journal (Cont.)

 Johnathan sees more of Dracula's power, and evil, on display.

Dracula - The Hunters' Journals


24 June, before morning.—Last night the Count left me early, and locked himself into his own room. As soon as I dared I ran up the winding stair, and looked out of the window, which opened south. I thought I would watch for the Count, for there is something going on. The Szgany are quartered somewhere in the castle and are doing work of some kind. I know it, for now and then I hear a far-away muffled sound as of mattock and spade, and, whatever it is, it must be the end of some ruthless villainy.

I had been at the window somewhat less than half an hour, when I saw something coming out of the Count’s window. I drew back and watched carefully, and saw the whole man emerge. It was a new shock to me to find that he had on the suit of clothes which I had worn whilst travelling here, and slung over his shoulder the terrible bag which I had seen the women take away. There could be no doubt as to his quest, and in my garb, too! This, then, is his new scheme of evil: that he will allow others to see me, as they think, so that he may both leave evidence that I have been seen in the towns or villages posting my own letters, and that any wickedness which he may do shall by the local people be attributed to me.

It makes me rage to think that this can go on, and whilst I am shut up here, a veritable prisoner, but without that protection of the law which is even a criminal’s right and consolation.

I thought I would watch for the Count’s return, and for a long time sat doggedly at the window. Then I began to notice that there were some quaint little specks floating in the rays of the moonlight. They were like the tiniest grains of dust, and they whirled round and gathered in clusters in a nebulous sort of way. I watched them with a sense of soothing, and a sort of calm stole over me. I leaned back in the embrasure in a more comfortable position, so that I could enjoy more fully the aërial gambolling.

Something made me start up, a low, piteous howling of dogs somewhere far below in the valley, which was hidden from my sight. Louder it seemed to ring in my ears, and the floating motes of dust to take new shapes to the sound as they danced in the moonlight. I felt myself struggling to awake to some call of my instincts; nay, my very soul was struggling, and my half-remembered sensibilities were striving to answer the call. I was becoming hypnotised! Quicker and quicker danced the dust; the moonbeams seemed to quiver as they went by me into the mass of gloom beyond. More and more they gathered till they seemed to take dim phantom shapes. And then I started, broad awake and in full possession of my senses, and ran screaming from the place. The phantom shapes, which were becoming gradually materialised from the moonbeams, were those of the three ghostly women to whom I was doomed. I fled, and felt somewhat safer in my own room, where there was no moonlight and where the lamp was burning brightly.

When a couple of hours had passed I heard something stirring in the Count’s room, something like a sharp wail quickly suppressed; and then there was silence, deep, awful silence, which chilled me. With a beating heart, I tried the door; but I was locked in my prison, and could do nothing. I sat down and simply cried.

As I sat I heard a sound in the courtyard without—the agonised cry of a woman. I rushed to the window, and throwing it up, peered out between the bars. There, indeed, was a woman with dishevelled hair, holding her hands over her heart as one distressed with running. She was leaning against a corner of the gateway. When she saw my face at the window she threw herself forward, and shouted in a voice laden with menace:—

“Monster, give me my child!”

She threw herself on her knees, and raising up her hands, cried the same words in tones which wrung my heart. Then she tore her hair and beat her breast, and abandoned herself to all the violences of extravagant emotion. Finally, she threw herself forward, and, though I could not see her, I could hear the beating of her naked hands against the door.

Somewhere high overhead, probably on the tower, I heard the voice of the Count calling in his harsh, metallic whisper. His call seemed to be answered from far and wide by the howling of wolves. Before many minutes had passed a pack of them poured, like a pent-up dam when liberated, through the wide entrance into the courtyard.

There was no cry from the woman, and the howling of the wolves was but short. Before long they streamed away singly, licking their lips.

I could not pity her, for I knew now what had become of her child, and she was better dead.

What shall I do? what can I do? How can I escape from this dreadful thing of night and gloom and fear?



Notes

Moon Phase: New Moon

More time has passed. It seems Harker and Count are still having their meetings, but what are they talking about. He is also moving about in Harker's clothes, presumably to conduct business as Harker. Dracula is going out of his way to make sure no one comes looking for him.

His brides can manifest out of moonbeams, not so much as mist. We also see this from the count himself later on. 

Here we see the count summoning wolves to deal with the mother of the baby he stole for his brides. Why did she take so long? I am sure there is a story there. What language is she speaking that Johnathon can understand her. German maybe?

Monstrous Mondays: A Monster of a D&D Book!

The Making of Original Dungeons & Dragons
Something a little different today. Instead of talking about a monster, I have a monster of a D&D book. The Making of Original Dungeons & Dragons.

I picked up this massive 576-page book last week. The pages are glossy, full color on heavier stock so this book is massive. When I picked it up at my FLGS I was reminded to "lift with me knees."

This book covers the evolution of original D&D from its Wargame birth to the dawn of what would become the Holmes Basic set and the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game.  

The book is divided into four large sections with a Preface, Foreword, and Afterword.  Let's look at those first.

Our Preface comes to us from Project Lead Jason Tondro. I freely admit I have no idea who he is. He gives us an overview of what this book is about. There is section mentioning that D&D originally catered to middle-class (and even mid-west) white men. This is not in debate really. He also mentions some of the more problematic issues with early D&D, from plagiarism to cultural appropriation to sexism and a bit of slavery. Look. All of this is true and things we have known for a very, very long time. To pretend they were not there, or clutch our pearls because someone brought it up is laughable at best. Acknowledge the past and move forward.  In truth this takes up less than 1/3 of a page of 576 pages. If this section bothers you, then you are looking for things to be bothered by.

The Making of Original Dungeons & Dragons

The Foreward, though, is far more interesting. It comes from Jon Peterson who has the credentials and bonafides to back up all his claims. While he is credited with the forward his fingerprints are all over this book. The sad truth is there are few of the original old guard left. Peterson's dedication to the history of RPGs and D&D in particular is well known and respected. 

Part 1: Precursors is very interesting. It covers the games and the correspondence between Gygax, Arneson, and others between 1970 and 1973. While some of this in well known, it is great to have it all in one place along with copies of the letters and drafts sent back and forth. One thing is obvious from the start that Tolkien and Middle-Earth DID play a pretty large role in the creation of this game. 

Part 1: Precursors

Among the treasures here are copies of the Chainmail Rules for Fantasy.

Part 1: Precursors

Part 1: Precursors

Part 2: The 1973 Draft of Dungeons & Dragons is also a treasure since unlike OD&D and Chainmail (both of which I am familiar with) this is the first time I have seen this. It is a fascinating read in and of itself. Is it a *playable* game? I don't know. But that is not important really. What is important in the nascent RPG game design going on here. The maps and note alone will be enough for someone out there to go and attempt to play some sort of Ur-D&D for their group. 

Part 2: The 1973 Draft of Dungeons & Dragons

Part 2: The 1973 Draft of Dungeons & Dragons

Part 2: The 1973 Draft of Dungeons & Dragons

Part 3: Original Dungeons & Dragons is the most familiar. I have owned the Original set for a while now and even played a few games with it. What is most interesting here are the sections on the 1973 Draft vs. the Published versions and the Brown Box vs. White Box versions.

Part 3: Original Dungeons & Dragons

The biggest feature of this part is the scanned version of the OD&D rules, complete with Hobbits, Ents, and Balrogs.

Part 4: Articles & Additions covers the evolution of Original D&D via the published supplements and articles in Strategic Review/The Dragon. I covered some of this history here as well with my coverage of the Owl & Weasel and White Dwarf Magazines. This one is also quite interesting because of give and take between Gary's vision and others' input. This includes other writers, such as Dave Arneson, and the public.  It seems inevitable that AD&D would rise out of all of this.

Part 4: Articles & Additions

This part, the largest, has complete scans of Greyhawk, Blackmoor, and Eldritch Wizardry along with selections from the Strategic Review and The Dragon.

Part 4: Articles & Additions

Missing from this history is Gods, Demi-gods and Heroes. No real reason is given for this. I speculate it is due to one of three reasons. 

  1. Space. at 576 pages and a MSRP of about $100, this is already a massive tome. 
  2. Copyrights. A lot of the material in the original GDH belonged, or now belongs, to other companies, and reprinting was a problem. Of course they did still print the Hobbits.
  3. Moral Grounds. It is possible that the editors did not want to include it since it had stats for gods that you could kill. Gods still worshipped and honored by people today. 
Gods, Demigods and Heroes

I suppose it is also possible that it was not included (much like Swords & Spells wasn't) since it did not further the central thesis of this book; the evolution of D&D. 

A bonus is an original D&D Character sheet. I never owned one of these, so I made a photocopy of it to see how it would work; both in black/white and color.

OD&D Character sheet

Not too bad really. Maybe I use this for a character someday.

So. Who should buy this book?

Well, I guess anyone who wants to read more about the history of D&D and is willing to shell out $100 for a coffee-table-like book about it.

Friday, June 21, 2024

Kickstart Your Weekend: Working the (Other) Night Shifts

 Creating an RPG is hard work. You need to figure out what it is about. Choose the right mechanics. Write thousands of words, edit, re-write. Get art. Pay for all of that AND then figure out the publishing details.

But the hardest part? Finding a good name that hasn't already been used!

Take these two, for example; both began with the name "Night Shift." 

Nightbound

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/creativejamttrpgs/nightbound?ref=theotherside

This game began as "Nightshift" but it was so close to ours that everyone involved believed that a name change was the best course of action.

Nightbound does a lot of the same things that NIGHT SHIFT does, but it uses the "Powered by the Apocalypse (PBTA)" engine, so it will attract a different group of players than our NIGHT SHIFT. OR it is just as likely that there will be fans that play both games. 

There is certainly room on my table and shelves for both games.


Nightshift

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/exoticcancer/nightshift-0?ref=theotherside

This one is so different (and spelled differently) that we felt there was no chance of brand confusion. Plus, it looks like a lot of fun.

The designer is a former dancer and now an online personality, so she brings authenticity to the game and a solid artistic vision. 

--

I am backing both games. 

So yes. Please expect a future "Plays Well With Others" to feature these two with our own NIGHT SHIFT.

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Converting D&D 5 to Blue Rose 2nd Edition: Character Exploration

 Ever since the Great OGL Debacle of 2022-2023, I have been looking for something to replace D&D on my table and in my development space. I have not always been successful on either front, but I have found many great contenders, including Castles & Crusades, Pathfinder 2nd Edition, and Wasted Lands. I have another one I wish to add to that list. Blue Rose 2nd Edition.

Blue Rose and Characters

I love Blue Rose. I love the game, the idea, the setting, the mechanics, everything. 

I spent a lot of time reviewing this game when it was released.

The game is an absolute joy, and I hope to continue it for a long time.

Unlike the three games I mentioned above, Blue Rose 2nd Edition's AGE system is not d20-based. It does have some d20 DNA via Blue Rose 1st Edition's True20 system. It is fairly trivial to convert D&D material over to Pathfinder, Castles & Crusades, and Wasted Lands. Blue Rose takes a little more work. However, the scaling is very similar with all of these games.

Blue Rose

The Characters

For this, I will do conversions of my main witch character, Larina, and two of my Forgotten Realms characters. Why these three? I want to play around with how adepts work. Plus, these are the three characters (well, them and Johan) that are most on my mind right now. Sinéad and Nida are part of my 2nd Ed AD&D Forgotten Realms game, so exploring who they are in this Blue Rose/AGE set-up is useful for both Blue Rose and the Forgotten Realms. And Larina, well, she is never far from my mind. 

Plus, it is the Summer Solstice, one of the pagan celebration days, so witches seem appropriate. 

Also, lately, I have been comparing and contrasting Larina and Sinéad. If Larina is my go-to witch, Sinéad is becoming my go-to sorceress or wild magic wielder. Though I am noticing I am playing Sinéad a bit like Larina so I need to find ways to make her (Sinéad) her own character. 

I have already explored a lot of characters for this game. Especially a lot of adepts and how they can feel different from each other. 

I have spent quite a bit of time with this over the years and I really love the characters you can make and play with this game.

Sinéad for Blue Rose
Sinéad
Female Human/Vata'an Adept, Level 5

Accuracy: 5 (Primary) Focus: Bows
Communication: 3 Focuses: Persuasion, Performance, Deception
Constitution: 3 Focus: Swimming
Dexterity: 3 Focus: Artisan
Fighting: 2 
Intelligence: (Primary) 3 Focus: Arcane Lore
Perception: 3 (Primary) 
Strength: 2
Willpower: 2 (Primary)

Speed: 13
Defense: 13
Armor: 3
Penalty: 0

Health: 56
Conviction: 5

Powers, Talents, and Specializations

Starting Talents: Lore (N), Performance (N)

Arcane Talents: Healing (J), Wild Arcane (J)
Skillful Channeling
Arcane Training: Shaping (N)

Specialization: Bard (N)

Arcana

Wild: Fire Shaping, Sense Minds, Visions
Shaping: Psychic Shield, Move Object, Second Sight
Healing: Cure, Sleep

Arms and Armor

Dagger, Melee (Accuracy) 1d6+1
Dagger, Ranged (Accuracy) 1d6 6/12 Minor

Leather (Light Armor)

Persona

Calling: The Moon: Discovery and Learning Secrets
Destiny: Queen of Rods, Curious
Fate: Jaded
Corruption: 0 

Goals: To discover the secrets and source of her magic

Relationships

Taryn (3), "She is my adopted sister. We will do anything for each other."
Larina (2), "She is Taryn's mother. I am not sure what their deal is, but I will respect her."
Nida (2), "I have never had a friend like her, and so unlike everyone I have met before."

--

Nida for Blue Rose
Nida
Female Human Expert, Level 5

Accuracy: 2 (Primary) Focus: Arcane
Communication: 4 (Primary) Focuses: Deception, Disguise
Constitution: 3 Focus: Swimming
Dexterity: 3 (Primary) 
Fighting: 2 
Intelligence: 4 Focused: Arcane Lore, Shaping
Perception: 4 (Primary) Focus: Empathy
Strength: 1
Willpower: 2 (Primary) Focus: Courage

Speed: 13
Defense: 13
Armor: 3
Penalty: 0

Health: 58
Conviction: 5

Powers, Talents, and Specializations

Starting Talents: Light Armor Training, Pinpoint Attack

Arcane Potential (N), Thievery (N)
Specialization: Shaper (Fire), (N)

Arcana

Fire Shaping

Arms and Armor

Dagger, Melee (Accuracy) 1d6+1
Dagger, Ranged (Accuracy) 1d6 6/12 Minor

Leather (Light Armor)

Persona

Calling: The Sun: Championing the Everyday
Destiny: Eight of Chalices, Daring
Fate: Stubborn
Corruption: 0 

Goals: To find her true path

Relationships

Sinéad (3), "Sinéad is a naive kid with her head in the clouds. And I love her for that. She reminds me of what I was."
Larina (2), "She honestly kind of scares me, but I know she has the answers I seek."

--

Larina Nix for Blue Rose
Larina Nix
Female Human Adept, Level 20

Accuracy: 2 (Primary) Focus: Arcane
Communication: 5 Focuses: Persuasion, Performance +2, Investigation
Constitution: 3 Focuses: Swimming, Stamina
Dexterity: 3 Focused: Artisan +2, Calligraphy +2
Fighting: 2 
Intelligence: (Primary) 5 Focuses: Arcane Lore +2, Research, Sorcerery Lore, Historical Lore, Healing
Perception: 3 (Primary) Focuses: Empathy, Visionary
Strength: 1 Focus: Intimidation
Willpower: 5 (Primary) Focus: Faith

Speed: 11
Defense: 11
Armor: 5
Penalty: 0

Health: 114
Conviction: 11

Powers, Talents, and Specializations

Arcane Talents: Arcane Training (M), Healing (M), Witchcraft (M), Psychic (M)

Linguistics (M), Performance (N), Contacts (J)

Specialization: Seer (M), Shaper (Fire) (M)

Stunts: Skillful Channeling (1), Disrupt Arcana (4), Lasting Aracan
Epic Stunt: Effortless Arcana

Add Willpower to Damage, Familiarity mod -2

Arcana

Fire Shaping
Enhancement, Heart Reading, Light Shaping, Ward, Second Sight
Cure, Sleep, Draw Vitality, Flesh Shaping, Body Control, Psychic Shield
Psychic Weapon, Psychic Contact, Calm, Illusion, Mind Shaping, Mind Reading
Visions, Scrying, Object Reading, Nature Reading

Arms and Armor

Dagger, Melee (Accuracy) 1d6+1
Dagger, Ranged (Accuracy) 1d6 6/12 Minor

Persona

Calling: The Priestess: Oneness with Spirit
Destiny: Queen of Rods, Curious
Fate: Jaded
Corruption: 1

Goals: To become a powerful witch

Relationships

Taryn (3), "My daughter. We lost so much time together in my service to Baba Yaga."
Sinéad (2), "Taryn's adopted 'sister.' I have watched this one from afar and subtly guided her on her path."
Nida (3), "It's...complicated."

--

Ok. Three different approaches to magic (arcana) in Blue Rose. The Wild Talent (Sinéad), the dabbler (Nida), and the Witch Queen (Larina).

Frankly, I am pleased with all three. Larina is scary powerful, and that is what I was aiming for. She has some corruption. I was also going to do Larina's daughter and Sinéad's best friend, Taryn, but I want to work some details on her first. 

I like that this world and this system allow me to bring out different aspects of these characters. 

In some ways I like to think of these as "parallel universe" versions. What these characters could be if the world they lived in was less horrible and had more light.  BUT...I don't even play Blue Rose as all "sunshine and kittens." The bright spots in this world are bright because there is still a lot of darkness out there.  I mean, even (especially) Larina has some corruption because she dabbles in Sorcery, or at least "Forbidden Knowledge." 

These characters compare very, very well to their Wasted Lands counterparts (Larina, Nida, Sinéad). They are not 100% the same, nor should they be, but I can see each (D&D, Blue Rose, Wasted Lands) are an aspect of the other. Given this I really should do Johan for Blue Rose. He would fit in rather nicely, really.