Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Mail Call Tuesday - Frightshow Classics Adventures

 Got a a nice little treat in the mail yesterday.

Frightshow Classics Adventures

The latest print versions of the Frightshow (formerly Fright Night) Classics Adventures designed for Chill.

Included was a 2nd printing of my own The Nightmare!

This completes my print editions (so far) of all the Frighshow Classics Adventures from Yeti Spaghetti & Friends. I know a couple more are in progress now, including my Golem adventure, though they won't be out until the spring or later.

Frightshow Classics Adventures

PDFs are available at DriveThruRPG.

If you want a print version, send an email directly to Frightshow Classics at cryptworldrpg@gmail.com.

They are all quite fun and really great for any sort of Horror RPG.

Monday, February 26, 2024

Monstrous Mondays: Trollkönig (Troll King)

 Playing around with different layouts for Basic Bestiary. I did a few, and I didn't like most of them. Not a big deal, I have time.

Right now, I am trying to figure out if I want to break up BB1 into smaller 64-page volumes or one larger one. I like the idea of smaller volumes. To round that out, I might need to develop a couple more monsters here and there. Again, not a big deal.

If I did break up BB1 into say three volumes, they would have about 120-130 monsters each. Do I break them up by themes or alphabetically? I guess I need to see how big it is when I am done.

The "theme" of Basic Bestiary 1 is "Monstrous Maleficarum," or monsters I have read about, used, or developed while working on my various witch books. There are also more than a few here from various monster books I loved reading as a child and spent some time hunting down as an adult. 

In any case here is a new one I worked on when I was supposed to be doing editing and layouts.

Troll King Arthur Rackman
Trollkönig (Troll King)
Large Humanoid (Fey, Faerie Lord)

Armor Class: -5 [24]
Hit Dice: 18d8+108 (189 hp)
   Large: 18d10+108 (207 hp)
Move: 120' (40')
Attacks: 2 fist slams, 1 bite or 1 weapon (x2) or thrown rock, or roar
Damage: 1d12+5 x2, 1d8+5 or by weapon (x2) or thrown rock 2d12, roar for fear
Special: Magic resistance (45%), immune to  poison;  half damage to cold, can communicate telepathically, Magic +2 weapons to hit, regenerate, roar, summon trolls, sunlight sensitivity
No. Appearing: 1 (unique)
Save As: Monster 18
Morale: 10 (NA)
Treasure Type: C x20
Alignment: Chaotic (Chaotic Evil)
XP: 8,900

Languages: Elven, Sylvan, Telepathic, Trollspeak

The King of Trolls may not be the most eloquent or attractive of the faerie lords, but he is one of the most physically impressive.  He appears as a 13' tall troll of massive build. His skin appears to be a dense rock-like hide with patchy bits of hair and numerous scars from his many battles. His eyes, though, betray a keen and malign intelligence not seen in lesser trolls.

Like his subjects, the trolls, he attacks with fist slams and a bite. Though, unlike the lesser trolls, he is also intelligent enough to use weapons. He often chooses to use a giant battle axe doing 1d10+5 hp of damage per attack.  Like a giant, he can throw rocks. The Trollkönig can roar 3 times per day. This roar can cause fear (as per the spell) in any creature of 7 HD or lower, save vs. Petrification to ignore. Creatures less than 1 HD are not allowed a saving throw.  

As their king the Troll King can summon 3d8 trolls to his side. The trolls must be nearby, and they arrive in one turn.   

The King of Trolls also has 45% magic resistance, can only be hit by +2 or better weapons, and is immune to poison and only half damage from cold. This creature also regenerates like lesser trolls, but at an alarming rate of 10 hp per round; starting on the first round, he takes damage. Unlike common trolls, the Trollkönig can regenerate even from fire and acid damage. He can't regenerate if exposed to sunlight.

The Troll King is a powerful individual who has risen above the typical troll, ruling over a vast network of tunnels and caves with utter brutality. Driven by a twisted sense of hierarchy and ambition, the Troll King seeks to assert its dominance over anything smaller or weaker. It hoards treasures stolen from those unfortunate enough to cross its path.  The Faerie Lords tolerate the Troll King, not due to any sense of loyalty or familial ties, but because they often employ him to take care of their enemies and the physical fighting they can't be bothered to do themselves. 

There is a heated rivalry between the Troll King and the Goblin King, largely due to their respective subjects' own rivalries.

Friday, February 23, 2024

#FollowFriday: Ed Greenwood

Ed Greenwood
In my efforts to expand my knowledge of the Forgotten Realms, I am going to Master Sage himself, Ed Greenwood.

Official YouTube Channel
https://www.youtube.com/@edgreenwoodofficial

Patreon Page
https://www.patreon.com/EdGreenwood

X/Twitter
https://twitter.com/TheEdVerse

Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/ed.greenwood.142

I am not a subscriber to his Patreon page, but I hear wonderful things about it. It sounds like a great forum for his ideas and of course exclusives.  I'm a fan, but not at the level I need exclusives before everyone else.

The real treasure trove for me in my explorations of the Realms has been his YouTube page.

Now, typically, I really hate videos. I don't have the time to listen or watch, and frankly, most of the people doing video neither have the voice nor the presence to do them. This is not so for Ed. Ed, among everything else, is a natural storyteller. The Realms are his canvas.

He has had a few I have found really interesting too. 

This one because I a. remembered the picture, and b. loved the idea that Ed could use this channel to talk about things he could not before.  Plus he says "Drau" like Cow. Actually one of the best things about his videos is knowing how he pronounces some of the names he comes up with!

This one because I loved the background on this character and was a fan of Symgharyl Maruel, aka The Shadowsil.  But this one is also fun because Ed has such a love for all these characters.  

That was always obvious to me reading his books and Dragon articles. And he extended that love to characters he was borrowing.

And extends to others who treat his characters with the same love.

So give the Father of the Realms a follow. I hope you find him as entertaining and as educational as I find him.

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Review: Forgotten Realms Campaign Set

The Forgotten Realms Campaign Set
 I have asked this before, but it bears repeating here and now. How does one review a classic? Better question. How does one review a genre-defining classic?  Because that is what I have sitting in front of me now. A genre-defining classic. Eighteen-year-old me back in 1987, ready for his first year at university, would not have thought so at the time, but that is what much older me thinks now. 

The Forgotten Realms was the foundation of the "new" TSR, the one without Gary Gygax and many of the other founders on which they would build their new home. We can debate the merits of this and financials ad nauseam, but by any stretch of the imagination, the Forgotten Realms were very successful. So successful that the biggest video game of 2023 is set there.

This review will cover the Forgotten Realms Campaign Set, the Boxed set from 1987. Written by Ed Greenwood and Jeff Grubb and edited by Karen S. Boomgarden. But any insight to this product knows that the genesis was with Ed, and he first brought it all to life in the pages of Dragon magazine. At least that is alive to us. Many other authors have contributed to Realms over the decades, but here is where it begins.  

How do we begin? Let's take Ed's own words, which he scribbled into my Cyclopedia of the Realms as our opening.

Welcome to the Forgotten Realms

"Welcome to the Forgotten Realms!" - Ed Greenwood

Forgotten Realms Campaign Set

by Ed Greenwood, Jeff Grubb and edited by Karen S. Boomgarden. 1987. Boxed set. Full-color covers and maps. Cyclopedia of the Realms 96 pages. DMs Sourcebook of the Realms 96 pages. Maps and clear hex overlays.

Forgotten Realms box contents

For this review, I am considering the physical boxed set from 1987 and the PDFs from DriveThruRPG. There has yet to be a Print on Demand version.

The DriveThruRPG PDF combines all this information into a 230-page book. Maps are broken up and scanned in at letter size.

Cyclopedia of the Realms
Cyclopedia of the Realms

96 pages. Color covers. Sepia-tone pages and art.

"Let's start at the very beginning. A very good place to start." - Maria von Trapp nee Kuczera, Bard/Cleric

This book is an introduction to the Forgotten Realms, and maybe the most important bit here is the introduction by Ed Greenwood/Elminster and the About this Product.  We start immediately with the "voice" of the Realms, Elminster. He is no ersatz Gandalf, nor is he a more approachable Mordenkainen, and certainly, he is more interesting than Ringlerun. He is our guide, but sometimes I still like to think of him as an unreliable narrator. These are the Realms in his eyes. More (if the not the most) knowledgable, but there are still "small stories" to tell that are beneath his notice. Those are the stories (aka games) I want to know about.

This book covers the timeline (I do love timelines!) and ways of keeping time in the Realms. The date for this set is the end of 1357 DR (that's Dale Reckoning or Dalereckoning). For full context, the Baldur's Gate III video game takes place in 1494 DR, with the current year of the D&D 5e titles at 1496 DR. There is a bit of discussion about holidays and how the "weeks" are grouped as Tendays (3 a month). It feels different and I like it.  The money system is rather AD&D standard, with some proper names to the coins. This is fine because this IS supposed to be an AD&D world, and the authors want people to feel familiar with it all, if not right at home.

Languages and scripts are up. Some of these are still being used in current versions of D&D. 

The Gods are next. These were already familiar to me, not just because this is an old product, but because Ed talked about them in Dragon magazine back in 1985.  See "The Dragon Connection" below. While these gods have "Earthly" sources, it actually works out great and ties into the mythology of the Realms as one being connected to Earth. Something it shares with Greyhawk's Oerth. The connection between Greyhawk and the Forgotten Realms is strong. They share almost all the same demi-human gods. By extension of the rule-set they also share all the same demons and devils. This makes moving between worlds a little smoother. The gods and their relationships are detailed well here and there is just enough unknow to keep them interesting.

Next section is about Adventuring Companies. So here is one thing that the Realms does better than Greyhawk (well there are more, but the first thing in this book). Adventurers are baked into the system. The world doesn't just need adventuring parties, it demands them. These parties can be used as models for your own adventuring parties. All these parties have names as well. I'll have to think about how Sinéad and Co would fit this format. Plus, the back cover of this book has a grid for the adventuring party! Room for 10 characters even.

Adventuring Party Roster

We get into the "Cyclopedia" part of the book now. This is an alphabetical listing of major topics within the Realms. These include things like the various character classes, races, countries, towns, areas of interest and other topics. There is a narrative piece describing it, Elminster's Notes for the point of view of the most knowledgeable native (even when he admits to not knowing much), and Game Information.

I rather like it, to be honest. Hit me with facts, and let me build some adventures around it!

DMs Sourcebook of the Realms
DMs Sourcebook of the Realms

96 pages. Color covers. Sepia-tone pages and art.

One of the best things in this book is the Introduction. We get words from Ed (as Ed) talking about the World of the Forgotten Realms and how it is now our world too. Yeah it is trademarked by TSR and now WotC/Hasbro, but this is an open invitation to do what you want with this world now. This is a foreshadowing to all the great Ed Greenwood content we would get over the next almost 4 decades. Honestly reading Ed's own words make me excited for all the exploration ahead of me. This is followed by words from Jeff Grubb, who also had a hand in shaping the AD&D version of the Realms. And more by editor Karen S. Martin who adds her experience and excitement to this world.

So much better than any puff-piece bit of gamer fiction!

We get right into it. Information on how to use this as an AD&D campaign world is started from the word go. Overview again of the boxed set. How to set up campaigns for new players, new campaigns for experienced players, and bringing in characters from other campaigns. Hmm...I should try all of these to be honest. Maybe a character from one of my Greyhawk or Mystara campaigns could come on over. I DO like the idea that Elvish and Dwarvish and some others are mostly the same languages. Would really help bring the worlds closer together. 

A bit of coverage on the maps and how to use them. Nice comparison of the map of Faerûn compared to the continental United States. And a section of various wandering monsters. The Forgotten Realms may be Forgotten, but they are very much alive!

The next 20 pages detail NPCs of note. Any to drop in as background, enemy, or ally. 

Speaking of living. A really nice section on recent news and various rumors starting in DR 1356 to 1357 are presented. With or without your characters, the Relams live on. 

Another plus for this boxed set is the ready-run adventures for low-level characters. The first, The Halls of the Beast Tamers, is a nice dungeon crawl. Next is Lashan's Fall, which appeared in Dragon #95 as "Into the Forgotten Realms," and even the maps are the same! Mind you I think this is a bonus since that is the adventure I always wanted to use as an intro to the Realms. I still can come to think of it. 

Into the Forgotten Realms

The next section is a "Pages from the Mages" style entry.  Lots of spells books to be found with plenty of new spells. I think some of these were in "Pages form the Mages" to be honest. That's fine, they work well here.

Honestly, the ONLY thing missing here are some new monsters, and this would be complete.

Maps & Plastic Hex Overlays

There are four gorgeous maps of the content of Faerûn. While it doesn't quite live up to the artistry of the Darlene World of Greyhawk maps, they are more practical. The plastic hex overlays also make it easier to read the maps and then do your hex crawls in whatever area you like.

The Dragon Connection

One of the great things about doing my This Old Dragon feature and concentrating on the period between 1980 and 1987 is watching the Forgotten Realms develop and grow as an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons world. From Ed's musings on gods in Down to Earth Divinity to magical tomes and spells of the Pages from the Mages and The Wizards Three features to adventure Into the Forgotten Realms, all of which would find homes in an official Forgotten Realms product in some shape or form.

I mentioned already that Dragon #95's Into the Forgotten Realms makes an appearance here as an introductory adventure.

As I mentioned, all we were missing were monsters. Well, Ed penned enough monsters in the pages of Dragon Magazine that were explicitly for the Realms, so collecting them all is worthwhile. In addition to monsters, there are magic items, more spells, blades, shields, and even musical instruments, and I know I am nowhere near collecting it all. I do know I will run out of room in my box for them all.

Realms in Dragon Magazine

My Thoughts

There is a lot packed in this box. It's like a TARDIS really; bigger on the inside. In truth, nothing of what I thought was going to be here was here. Yes, there are NPCs, but they are background, and your characters may never ever run into them. They are the background noise of the Realms until the characters are the big noise. I certainly unfairly judged the Forgotten Realms. 

A lot of this stemmed from me thinking that Gygax had been done wrong. Yes, that was true, but the Realms really had nothing to do with that. The New TSR was working to relgate Gygx to the past and Ed was just the guy in the right place in the right time with the right idea. I was also unfair of me to judge the Realms on that.  If reading Ed's "The Wizard's Three" has taught me anything that Abier-Toril and Oerth have more in common than not.

Greyhawk and the Forgotten Realms

This is, of course, just the start. A big start, to be sure, but a start all the same. This is a canvas to paint on. This is a great set, not just for its time but also for now. Minus some of the stat blocks and spells, everything here can be used with any version of D&D or similar game with little or no effort. 

While I am somewhat overwhelmed by the task before me, I am also excited about it.

Honestly, I am going to pull out some dice and roll up some characters now.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

New Witch Sheet

 I am not exactly sure why I didn't do this one already.

Witch Character Sheet

I was working on something else and needed an AD&D (Dragon #114) witch for it.  It then dawned on me that I didn't have a proper AD&D character sheet for a witch.  Well. I fixed that today.

Witch Character Sheet

I edited an existing PDF and ran some off on my printer. Proper Goldenrod, of course, but also salmon and blue since they came in those colors as well (NPC and permanent character records, respectively) and because I can come in purple. All my important witches have sheets in purple!

They are not perfect by any means. Just a quick edit job in Affinity Publisher, but I really like them. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

New Releases Tuesday: Adventure Time!

 Normally, Tuesday is a great time to talk about the sort of RPG goodies I got in the mail. But nothing new this week (or last), and I am waiting for the local Games Plus RPG auction before buying anything else.  So, imagine my delight when one of my recent adventures got published over the weekend.  Then, my delight doubled when another adventure I wrote got its own stand-alone treatment!

Frightshow Classics: GolemAdventures in Aldea: Witching Weather

Frightshow Classics: Golem is published by Yeti Spaghetti & Friends and is for the Chill 1st Edition RPG. It also works with Chill 2nd Edition, Chill 3rd Edition (with some mods), and Cryptworld and can even be used as a rules lite adventure. 

A rabbi and a neo-nazi have been found murdered in Queens, NY. Is there a connection? People have spotted a large figure near the synagogue and a former professional wrestler is being held for questioning. But is something stranger going on?

I really loved writing this one and it made really appreciate all the great things about New York. As a Chicagoan, I don't give New York enough credit. But I approached this with the frame of mind of "write this with the same love as I would if this were Chicago." Cause one thing I know for sure. New Yorkers LOVE their city, and I wanted that to show.

Adventures in Aldea: Witching Weather from Green Ronin is older, but I discovered it while working on my Blue Rose characters last week. This adventure appears in the collection Six of Cups. But here, you can buy it as a stand-alone adventure for Blue Rose AGE 2nd Edition. 

A group of orphans have turned up in Garnet, and now the weather is out of control, and the forces of darkness want them. One believes they are his children, and another wants to eat them to gain even more power. You have to stop them both. 

This one was so much fun to work on. Blue Rose is sometimes described (somewhat unfairly) as a "Fantasy Seattle," but my Garnet here is "Fantasy Alton, IL," a blue-collar river town (now sea town) with a deep history and pride. And maybe a monster or two hiding in the bluffs. In addition to the adventure, there is a gazetteer for the City of Garnet with some history and background on some major NPCs.

Grab both if you can! I already got paid, so I don't get anything more from the publishers, but if the sales are good, they can hire me back! 

Monday, February 19, 2024

Monstrous Mondays: Thunderbird (and Basic Bestiary updates)

Work on Basic Bestiary has picked back up. I have 360 completed monsters for it now. I still have my next pass at editing and mechanics tweaking to complete.  What I really need is art. I don't have any, and while I am happy to use some PD art for it (and it fits the look I want), I will need more. A lot more. While I don't mind AI art (and appreciate the computer science that went into it), I can't in good conscience use any in this. 

Still playing around with stat block ideas. Since this is a "Basic" Bestiary, I figure I should get closer to the Basic-era stat block details as I can. I am adding some "modern" ideas like creature size and type (something we see in BECMI and RC, but not BX), and Ascending AC (Basic Fantasy, OSE and LL).  I need to decide if I want to include other details like Advanced era alignments (I am leaning towards yes), Languages (also yes), and Frequency. I am also still considering hp adjustment due to size. I like it a lot, and it makes creatures a lot tougher.

I believe I have settled on using BX/OSE style XP awards and having a table in the back for all the other games I think people might want to use this for, as long as they are OGC.  Edited: I noticed my math might be off on some higher HD monsters. 

The stat block below is what I am thinking so far. Love to hear some feedback on it.

Yes. I am still going to use the OGL for this one. I have gone too far down that road to go back.

Here is one of the last monsters I worked on for the book. As always, the final version might be different.

Giant Bird
Thunder Bird
Gargantuan Beast (Magical)

Armor Class: -5 [24]
Hit Dice: 17d8+68 (145 hp)
   Gargantuan: 17d20+68 (264 hp)
Move: 90' (30')
   Flying: 360' (120')
Attacks: 2 claws, 1 bite, special
Damage: 1d12+5 x2, 2d8+5, special
Special: Lighting bolt, thunder, wing buffet
No. Appearing: 1 (1, or 1d4+1, mated pair with chicks)
Save As: Monster 17
Morale: 10 (12)
Treasure Type: None, See below
Alignment: Neutral (True Neutral)
XP: 6,600

Languages: Avian

Thunderbirds are gargantuan birds that appear as storm gray-colored eagles. They have a 70' wing span that can blot out the sun and talons that can carry off livestock, usually one or two cattle each. Their eyes flash with electrical light and can shoot lightning bolts. When their wings flap, they can cause storms and thunder. Natives of the lands the thunderbird calls home to revere the bird as a messenger of the forces of good and liken it to a spirit. It is a mortal animal, albeit a very powerful one. 

The thunderbird can attack with its massive beak and talons.  It swoops down from their mountain homes, which can be hundreds of miles away, to attack its prey. It prefers large cattle, like horses, cows, and bison, and can carry off up to 2,000 pounds worth at a time. Thunderbirds that live near oceans will even make a dinner out of whales when they can catch them. They do not attack humans if they can avoid it. They do not like the taste and attack humans since humans often return in greater numbers and with weapons. If attacked by humans on the ground, the thunderbird will often just opt to fly away. Thunderbirds and Rocs do not get along as they tend to go after the same prey. Their relationship is similar to that of eagles and hawks.  

The thunderbird gets its name from the magical storm-creation powers it has. By flapping its wings and remaining stationary, it can create a thunderclap that does 10d6 hp of damage; Breath Weapon saves for half the damage. Which will also define anyone within a 120' long cone, 60' at its widest.  Targets outside of the 120' are unaffected by either the damage or the deafness. It can also 3 times per day cast a 10d6 lighting bolt from its eyes. The range on this is 100', save vs. Breath Weapon for half damage. Ranges outside of 100' to 300' are at half-damage or save for no damage.  The thunderbird will not use this attack against food prey but rather to defend itself from humanoids or other large creatures it finds itself engaging with.  A thunderbird can also summon storms as per the Summon Weather spell. 

Thunderbirds have no need nor interest in treasure. The feathers of the thunderbird are highly prized as a main ingredient for a staff of lightning bolts and other magical staffs. Their feathers are also used in other magic item creations, typically Wings of Flying. Any item that requires a roc feather can use a thunderbird feather instead for a 50% increase in either speed or duration. The feathers of a thunderbird usually can bring in 1,000 gp on the right markets (usually only 2d6 are viable for arcane use). The eggs of thunderbirds are so rare to discover that bounties of 12,000 gp and more are sometimes offered. The lairs of the thunderbird are usually at the tops of mountains so high they are very nearly impossible to reach. 

Tales tell of a great thunderbird so large that when it flies, the land below is thrust into night. This could be a single unique specimen or an undiscovered variety.  


Thursday, February 15, 2024

Character Exploration with Blue Rose 2nd Edition: Duchess and Candella

 A side-step today. I have been working on my reviews of the Forgotten Realms products, but my next one is not yet ready. I was reading over my material for this week, and I thought maybe I should put my money where my mouth is and explore some more relationships within my own games.  

I don't have that ready yet, either! But I did go through my goto game for all things romance, Blue Rose. Since I have a few characters I currently use for various explorations, I thought I would try starting them up in Blue Rose AGE 2nd Edition.  This is also good since last year I was doing some D&D 5e conversions to other systems as D&D replacements.  Blue Rose 2nd Edition is a wonderful replacement for D&D.  

Duchess and Candella for Blue Rose

My two current fun characters are Duchess and Candella. I wanted to explore some more about their characters, especially since I already had plans to run module B3 Palace of the Silver Princess as a Blue Rose game. Back then I mentioned that they were caria daunen, or lovers, but I am not getting that vibe from them now. I mean, yeah, they could be certainly, but I think for these builds, they are not. Or at least not yet. Let's see where they end up.

Candella and Duchess

Blue Rose only has three classes. Adept, Expert, and Warrior. Fantasy Age 2nd Edition adds a new one, the Envoy, but I am sticking with these three. The great thing, though, is even with only three classes, there are lots of ways to customize characters. In D&D Basic (which only had four human classes) they are thieves and their stats are fairly interchangeable. Here I can start them both out as Experts and then through Backgrounds, Powers, Talents, and Focuses (Foci?) they can become very different. I abuse that in my second batch of characters later on.

Concept-wise, some things came up while doing my research the other day.

Candella is:

  • The older one
  • The smarter one (but plays dumb)
  • More acrobatic / higher dexterity

Duchess is:

  • The younger one
  • Has a better constitution
  • Higher wisdom (so acts older)

Their weapons are more or less the same. They are not averse to using poison. Also an interesting note. While done to save space, they have the exact same treasure, save for a pearl necklace Candella has. What is the implications of this for the game? They steal things, but with each other, they are fair; the treasure is split 50/50. The pearl necklace can be explained by having it be something Candella had before they teamed up.

Blue Rose, in addition to what I consider "class" customization, there is a lot of interpersonal customization as well. This is in the form of Blue Rose's Callings, Destiny, and Fate. The relationship mechanics are also great to use. All of these can be ported over to another game. For the example of D&D 5, anything you do to gain Conviction in Blue Rose can be used to grant Inspiration in D&D.

Duchess
Duchess
Female Human Expert, Level 3 (Age 19)

Accuracy: 2 (Primary)  Focus: Light Blades
Communication: 3 (Primary) Focus: Deception, Gambling
Constitution: 4 Focus: Drinking
Dexterity: 3 (Primary) Focus: Stealth
Fighting: 2 
Intelligence: 2
Perception: 3 (Primary) Focus: Searching
Strength: 1
Willpower: 3 

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

Health: 42
Conviction: 4

Powers, Talents, and Specializations

- Pinpoint Attack (+1d6 damage)
- Light Armor training
- Starting Talents: Thievery (Novice), Carousing (Novice)

Arms and Armor

Sword (Fighting) 2d6
Dagger, Melee (Accuracy) 1d6+1

Crossbow (Accuracy) 2d6 30/60 Major
Dagger, Ranged (Accuracy) 1d6 6/12 Minor

Leather (Light Armor)

Persona

Calling: The Wheel, Wealth
Destiny: Knight of Chalices, Charismatic
Fate: Manipulative
Corruption: 0 (but likely to be 1 soon enough)

Relationships

Candella (3), "We are sisters in crime. I am closer to her than my own kin."


Candella
Candella
Female Human Expert, Level 3 (Age 21)

Accuracy: 3 (Primary)  Focus: Brawling, Light Blades
Communication: 2 (Primary) Focus: Persuasion
Constitution: 3
Dexterity: 3 (Primary) Focus: Acrobatics, Stealth
Fighting: 2 
Intelligence: 3 Focus: Evaluation
Perception: 2 (Primary) 
Strength: 2
Willpower: 2

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

Health: 40
Conviction: 4

Powers, Talents, and Specializations

- Pinpoint Attack (+1d6 damage)
- Light Armor training
- Starting Talents: Thievery (Journeyman)

Arms and Armor

Sword (Fighting) 2d6
Dagger, Melee (Accuracy) 1d6+1

Crossbow (Accuracy) 2d6 30/60 Major
Dagger, Ranged (Accuracy) 1d6 6/12 Minor

Leather (Light Armor)

Persona

Calling: The Fool, Adventure and Excitement
Destiny: Eight of Swords, Free Spirit
Fate: Stagnant
Corruption: 0 (but likely to be 1 soon enough)

Relationships

Duchess (3), "We are sisters in crime. I am closer to her than my own kin."

--

Ok, this is fun. It also helps me think about who these characters are a little better. I have always gotten a Harley and Ivy vibe from these two, with Candella being Harly Quinn and Duchess as Poison Ivy. Or maybe even a Fire and Ice (from DC) vibe. Duchess certainly looks more like Fire, but Candella has her personality.  I can see a common tactic where Duchess gets a bunch of adventurers drunk, Candella distracts them with a strip tease, and then Duchess robs them all blind. The two run off laughing with all their ill-gotten gains. 

I made them a year older and a level higher. While they are both 3rd level Experts with a Talent for thievery, they have enough differences to set them apart.

At 4th level, they both will take a Specialization. There are many great ones in the Blue Rose book and more in the new Second Editon Fantasy AGE book. But none feel quite right to me.

I think, and I am not 100% sold on this idea yet, but I might go with Assassin for Duchess, though Hunter might be a better choice. Candella could take the Razor from FAGE2, but in reality, I want something more akin to an Acrobat. 

Still. A lot of things I can still do with these two.

Candella & Duchess for Blue Rose


Wednesday, February 14, 2024

The Enchanted World: The Lore of Love

The Enchanted World: The Lore of Love
 I saw an online conversation in an old-school RPG group a bit ago. This guy was boasting that his games never had romance, sexuality, or anything at all like that. My first thought was, "How sad," and my next immediate thought was, "How boring his games must be!"

Without the stories and contributions of love and romance or just plain good old-fashioned sex, we would loose most of the works of Shakespeare, many of the Greek myths, and practically all of modern music. Ancient Greeks to Motzart's Le nozze di Figaro and Così fan tutte, to "Silly love songs" by Paul McCartney to most of Taylor Swift's catalog. Love just might make the world go 'round.

That is the topic of today's The Enchanted World. I mentioned before that I am not going in publication order, save for the first, and instead going to post the titles that have some connection with when I post them. Today is February 14th, Valentine's Day, so let's look at Love...Enchanted World style. 

Lore of Love 

by Editors of Time-LIFE Books, 1987 (144 pages)
ISBN 0809452812, 0809452820 (US Editions)

This is a later one and does not have a single author. Tony Allen is listed as "text editor" and Ellen Dupont is listed as "staff writer." Of note, in the US, the cover is purple. In the UK, this book had a green cloth cover. 

Like the others in this series the art is a mix of newer pieces with a lot of classical ones. There are for example a lot of John William Waterhouse. The bibliography for this one is also rather impressive. I imagine that as they went on there were a lot more texts collected that they could reference.

Like Wizards and Witches, this one is divided into three larger sections. These can be roughly described as "Finding Love," "Love Gone Wrong" and "Keeping Love."   That's not a perfect match, but it will do.

Chapter One: Destiny's Playthings

Chapter One: Destiny's Playthings

This covers love as a shaper of destiny. The six stories here involve the gods getting involved with the love lives of mortals to some degree.  "A Groom for the Sea-Lord's Daughter," for example, tells about the fairest sea nymph of all, Thetis, and how she spurred the lust of both Poseidon and then Zeus, only to be given to a mortal Peleus because it was prophesized that her son would defeat his father. As an aside I noticed that Thetis' requests of Peleus are very much the same as we see in later mermaid and selkie tales of Northern Europe. 

Maiden's Visions

Tales of the problems when mortals try to avoid their fate abound as in "The God of Marriages" a Chinese tale of a man who sees his bride to be as a toddler and tries everything to avoid his fate, and just playing into it. Or the Indian tale of "A Love Forgotten" of two lovers reunited at last. 

Sometimes, love, though meant to be, is also tragic. Such is the tale of a German knight in "The Cursed Embrace" whose betrothed is already dead.

Chapter Two: Blighted Passions

Chapter Two: Blighted Passions

The story of love is not always about happy endings. Romeo and Juliet aside, there was Popocatepetl and his love Princess Iztaccíhuatl. When an army could not stop Popocatepetl the Jaguar Knight, his own spread lies about his death so they could possibly claim his bride. When she heard her love had died she died herself. When the Jaguar Knight returned and learned of her death and why, he killed all his men.

Across the ocean in Spain we are treated to the story of Don Juan and his ill-fated affairs. Of the tragedies of Narcissus, Daphne, and Thisbe of Ancient Greece. 

The Warlock's Comeuppance


Though not was all tragedy. There were times when love went wrong and it was comical. Such is the tale of the Warlock's Comeuppance. A warlock found a young women he wished to put a spell on, so he convinced his young Latin pupil to get three hairs from her head. The girl caught her brother trying to steal the hairs and instead gave him three hairs from their young heffer. The warlock performed his dark arts spell and soon had a lovesick cow following all over the town!

Chapter Three: True Love Triumphant

Chapter Three: True Love Triumphant

Of course the best tales are the ones where true love wins out over all odds. Tales like Aucassin and Nicolette the Saracen Maid. They were separated by wars, pirates, and separation of years. Or of Hiku, the Polynesian hero who was so brave he went to the underworld itself to find his lost love Kawelu.  Can your characters claim that? (Yeah. Mine can.)

I am a little surprised that the tale of Cupid and Psyche is not here, but maybe that one is so well known they dropped it in favor of these other stories.

Like all the ones I have read through so far, this one is wonderfully illustrated and amazingly researched. Combining the bibliography for all of these would provide a lifetime's worth of reading.  

This one might have fewer "game-related" details than others, but there is undoubtedly a treasure trove of ideas here. 

Next time: Here there be Dragons!

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

In Search Of Duchess and Candella

 I mentioned earlier in this year that my oldest son's group is running through ALL editions of D&D to celebrate 50 years of Dungeons & Dragons. They made characters, and they are taking them through each edition. They have done OD&D, Basic and they are now ready for 1st Edition Advanced.  The characters are now 2nd to 4th level, but there are only 5 of them. And they want me to run an AD&D game for them.

Last week I finally figured out what I am going to run.  They will go through the Orange version of module B3 Palace of the Silver Princess.

Palaces of the Silver Princess

I will explain its infamy to them and run it like it was 1981 for them. So, a mix of B/X and AD&D. Just like we did it.  I'll talk more about the adventure, but for now, I want to focus on a small side matter with the adventure(s). 

That is, who exactly are the thieves, Duchess and Candella?

Duchess and Candella
In Search of...Duchess and Candella

In both versions of the adventure, you encounter two thieves pretending to be Lady Maidservants. Well... not convincingly, since they know very little about what a maidservant does or where anything in the castle is.  But they are earnest and "very attractive" and ask to join the party. 

Now, I always thought that "Duchess" was the dark-haired one and "Candella" the light-haired one. Largely because I thought the dark-haired one looked like a Duchess and Candella is said to have a string of pearls on her. The orange version gives us their ages as 18 for Duchess and 20 for Candella. 

I always liked that art. You are catching two thieves almost red-handed, and the look of surprise on Candella's face and her hair flying about was just great. 

They became minor recurring NPCs in my games. Showing up, stealing something here and there, and then disappearing again. If the PCs were ever tossed into jail, then sure enough, Duchess and Candella were already there.

I had not thought about them much, and they certainly don't get the ink that the likes of Aleena or Morgan Ironwolf get, but they were/are fun NPCs, and I wanted to know more about them.  Turns out I am not the only one.

What does the Web Say?

There are a few links worth visiting and following up on. First is Greyhawk MusingsOn Duchess and Candella.  This is a great place to start due to its thoroughness. In fact, this blog is a treasure trove of information on them, and I respect David Leonard for that.  He speculates that the dark-haired woman thief in G3, The Hall of the Fire Giant King, is Duchess now 11th level. This begs the question, what happened to Candella? Side note: I used that very same thief as a recurring character when I ran G3, but for me, it was Evelyn the Princess Escalla. But I appreciate what he is doing here.  Like me, he equates Duchess with the dark-haired woman and Candella with the light-haired one. 

We learn from no less of a luminary himself, Frank Mentzer, that these two figures were not just Jean Well's characters; they were her favorite duo of characters. She also did the art of them in Polyhedron #4.  

Candella and Duchess in Polyhedron #4

Sadly, we can't ask Wells herself, as she passed away in 2012.

Greyhawk lore master Jason Zavoda made some similar observations and connections for Greyhawk.

I mentioned I was not the only one to find these two fun. They have appeared in more recent products as well. Or at least homages to them.

Candella, sans Duchess, appears on the cover of Blueholme.

Blueholme

She is the one getting the treasure. Wearing the same outfit as Candella at least.

In a minor cameo, but also a cover, no less, they are part of the new D&D Companion Project. I hope to have more on that soon. 

And as I mentioned above, the 11th-level thief from G3 Hall of the Fire Giant King might also be Duchess, without Candella.

Duchess and Candella in Other Adventures

B12 Queen's Harvest is another Basic-level adventure. This time though the "B" is from the BECMI flavor of Basic and not the BX one.

Very early on in this Carl Sargent-penned adventure from 1989, we are introduced to two thieves, Erren and Sarrah, on pages 6-7.  Their ages and appearances line up with Candella and Duchess, even if their stats don't quite match, though. It is not a stretch of the imagination to assume that Candella and Duchess also have other aliases. They are presented in an NPC Mini-Capsule, so they are important to the adventure, though no other details are given.

The fan module by Agathokles, The Dymrak Dread, makes this connection solid with Sarrah, now known as "the Duchess," and part of the Thieves Guild, and her friend Erren Candella. Here they are 5th and 6th level respectively.  This adventure also has Orcus and witches in it, so it is worth my coming back to.

Another adventure to feature them, and this time by name, is the Palace of the Golden Princess, an homage to the original (Orange) Palace of the Silver Princess and Jean Wells herself. There are 5e and OSE versions of the adventure, and they are tied to a comic series taking place in a land inspired by the map in the Original B3 Palace of the Silver Princess. There are even some allusions (in an oblique way) to the Return to the Keep on the Borderlands.

They also briefly appear in Mr. Welch's Mystara Player's Guide for 5e, notably under Mystara's Most Wanted.

Mystara Players Guide 5e - Most Wanted

Mystara Players Guide 5e - Most Wanted

Thought their biggest feature run has been in the various Folio Black Label adventures. Most notably in Folio: Black Label #10 and The Complete Folio Black Label

In The Complete Folio Black Label (covering Black Label 1-6 with extras), nearly every piece of art features our daring duo in all sorts of predicaments throughout all the adventures.  They are also rendered by various artists like Brian Brinlee, Peter Bradley, and Simon Adams, among others. Folio: Black Label #4  and Folio: Black Label #5 even feature them on the cover. Honestly, I bought a bunch of these just to see how much Candella and Duchess art there was in them.

Another artist whose work has been featured in the Folio: Black Label books is Domenico Neziti.  He has done so many pieces of Duchess and Candella that I am giving him his own space below.

Here are a few of his pieces from his Instagram page.







And another I could not find on his Instagram.

Duchess and Candella Demon Bait
Domenico Neziti "Demon Bait"

He clearly has these two down, with some more on his DeviantArt page.

With new books out like Folio: Black Label series it is easy to see how these two have had all sorts of adventures. I can see something akin to distaff versions of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, though maybe less magic. Likely a bit closer to The Rat Queens. When I used them in games I always made Candella closer to the Thief-Acrobat concept and Duchess maybe a little closer to a Thief-Assassin. But I don't get "evil" off of either of them, really. Plus, Duchess doesn't have the strength score to be an assassin. Maybe more fighter-thief.

Duchess and Candella in my Games

Duchess and Candella
Duchess and Candella, Sheets from Dark Wizard Games

I have used them in the past, as I mentioned, but never to the extent I have some other characters and certainly not to the level some other gamers have.

Given all the art out there, they have certainly had a lot of adventures, and some that look outright crazy. But these two seem like fun characters to have "madcap adventures."  I mean, is Morgan Ironwolf going to pretend to be half-naked bait for a demon? No, I don't see it.  I'd love to use these two in my Forgotten Realms adventures but honestly they are so Mystara/Oerth feeling for me I can't see moving them over any easier than I could move the B-modules over.

I have at least figured out how they met. This came up in an adventure before. They were both, independently trying to steal this ruby, from the local guild-mistress of thieves. They didn't know the other was also trying, nor did either know this was the guild mistress. They failed, and the guild mistress, Amara, impressed by their attempt or something else, took them in and made them work together. The two became good friends, and their careers began.  In my mind, Candella had been a tavern wench who had become tired of watching adventurers coming in with ill-gotten gains when she could have all that gold. Duchess' background is a bit darker. She was a servant girl working for a Baron and Baroness. The Baroness had accused her of stealing a necklace, but she had not. The Baron, who was broke, had sold it to cover some of his debts and suggested she could work off her guilt in his bed chamber. When she refused, he got violent, and she ran to escape him, and he fell down the stairs to his death. Knowing she would be blamed and likely executed, she ran. She thinks she is still wanted for the Baron's murder. She isn't; no one ever looked for her. In fact, the Baron's debt was so great that the local authorities had plenty of other suspects. The Baroness died soon after in the home of a relative.

I know, according to the art above, that Candella gains some Boots of Flying, and Duchess gets a huge magic sword. 

Since my oldest is running his group through all of the editions of D&D I'll also do versions of them for every edition. Say 2nd level for D&D Basic/Expert, 4th level for AD&D 1st, 8th level for AD&D 2nd Editon, 12th level for D&D 3.x, 16th level for D&D 4e Essentials (better Rogues), and 20th for D&D 5th Edition.  That should be fun, really.  Course I'll need some good prestige classes when I get to 3.x. I think I'll post them when I get around to stating them all up. 

While I will keep them at the same level, at any given time, Candella is about 600 XP ahead of Duchess. 

Candella and Duchess for BX
Candella and Duchess for B/X. Art by Brian Brinlee and Domenico Neziti, 
Vitruvian Character Sheets Blog of Exalted Deeds

While reading up on them, I saw one person online refer to them as a couple of "party girls." I mean, sure, that fits. The vibe I have always had with them was they were both adventuresses out for a bit of fun and hopefully score some treasure. Ok, a lot of treasure. Though at least one academic dissertation places them in the role of temptresses. I suppose that would work too, though not how I would play them. 

Have you used these two in your games? How did it work for you? What happened with them?

Links