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. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Mail Call: D&D History and Adventures

 It's Tuesday, and that means mail around here. It also means UPS, which delivers late in my neighborhood. It is also the release date of Wizards of the Coast's new 50th anniversary book.

New "old" D&D books

The Making of Original Dungeons & Dragons, 1970-1977 is a really great book. I can't wait to get into it more.

The Making of Original Dungeons & Dragons, 1970-1977

The Making of Original Dungeons & Dragons, 1970-1977

The Making of Original Dungeons & Dragons, 1970-1977

The Making of Original Dungeons & Dragons, 1970-1977

The Making of Original Dungeons & Dragons, 1970-1977
Original Character sheet.

I also spent some cash on a bunch of AD&D 2nd Edition Forgotten Realms adventures and sourcebooks.

AD&D 2nd Ed Forgotten Realms

AD&D 2nd Ed Forgotten Realms

AD&D 2nd Ed Forgotten Realms

I'll get to each one in turn. Looking forward to using these in my AD&D 2nd Ed game. This will be a lot of fun.

Monday, June 17, 2024

Dracula, The Hunters' Journals: 17 June, Jonathan Harker's Journal (Cont.)

 Johnathan keeps himself busy for two to three weeks watching Dracula's minions.

Dracula - The Hunters' Journals


17 June.—This morning, as I was sitting on the edge of my bed cudgelling my brains, I heard without a cracking of whips and pounding and scraping of horses’ feet up the rocky path beyond the courtyard. With joy I hurried to the window, and saw drive into the yard two great leiter-wagons, each drawn by eight sturdy horses, and at the head of each pair a Slovak, with his wide hat, great nail-studded belt, dirty sheepskin, and high boots. They had also their long staves in hand. I ran to the door, intending to descend and try and join them through the main hall, as I thought that way might be opened for them. Again a shock: my door was fastened on the outside.

Then I ran to the window and cried to them. They looked up at me stupidly and pointed, but just then the “hetman” of the Szgany came out, and seeing them pointing to my window, said something, at which they laughed. Henceforth no effort of mine, no piteous cry or agonised entreaty, would make them even look at me. They resolutely turned away. The leiter-wagons contained great, square boxes, with handles of thick rope; these were evidently empty by the ease with which the Slovaks handled them, and by their resonance as they were roughly moved. When they were all unloaded and packed in a great heap in one corner of the yard, the Slovaks were given some money by the Szgany, and spitting on it for luck, lazily went each to his horse’s head. Shortly afterwards, I heard the cracking of their whips die away in the distance.


Notes

Moon Phase: Last Quarter

What has Jonathan been doing for the last two-three weeks? Has Dracula been feeding him still?

We also get our first glance at the boxes the count will fill with earth for his trip to London. Are the square boxes shaped this way to avoid detection? I think so; coffins are a bit too obvious. 

Updates

I have a bunch of projects I need to get done this week including my edits to Thirteen Parsecs. So post will be a touch sporadic.

I do have a bunch of draft posts that just need a bit of editing and polish, so maybe I'll get a few of those off as well.

Thursday, June 13, 2024

"It's me. I'm witches." Taylor Quick, Pumpkin Spice Witch

Taylor Quick, Pumpkin Spice Witch
Witch by T Leish with minor edits

 I swear. People are losing their damn minds.

I mentioned this all briefly in my Satanic Panic post back in April about how there are a bunch of Right Wing Evangelicals making the claim that Taylor Swift is a witch, or satanic, or both. Some have even gone as far as to "conclude" she must be a clone of Zeena Schreck, daughter of Church of Satan founder Anton LaVey.  Ignoring the fact that cloning tech is nowhere near this good now, let alone when Taylor was born.  I think they watched the movie "The Boys from Brazil" and thought it was a documentary. No. I don't give them the benefit of the doubt for having read the book instead.

I mean, I could go on and on; there is so much stupid shit out there. Just Google "Taylor Swift Witch" and read in horror how gullible (and stupid) some people are. 

Honestly, it boils down to three things.

  • She is a successful woman.
  • She says what she wants, when, and how she wants.
  • They can't control her, and they find that galling.
Plus, she is smart (as evidenced by her taking control of her own record deals) and knows how to have fun with her public persona (see "No, Its Becky").


It's Me. I'm Witches.

So what do they do? They take a page from their favorite playbook, and I honestly think this is Page 1, and they try to demonize her—somewhat literally. 

Parents, know what your kids are listening to!! Here are a few samples of the lyrics from Taylor Swift's new...

Posted by Caring Love Foundation Uganda - CLFUG on Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Though some do have fun with it. 

And of course, if someone mentions witches online, it has my attention.

It has been decided. 

She is a witch in my games, specifically a Pumpkin Spice Witch. But since no PSL is complete without a dash of cinnamon, she has a dash of Mara Witch in her, too. Why? Because she thinks it is funny. 

Sailor Taylor by Delaney Shultz
Sailor Taylor by Delaney Shultz
Taylor Quick
Human Female, Chaotic Good
19th Level Witch, Pumpkin Spice Witch Tradition.

Strength 10
Intelligence 17
Wisdom 15
Dexterity 14
Constitution 12
Charisma 19

Saving Throws (Base)
Death Ray/Poison 7
Magic Wands 8
Paralysis, Polymorph 7
Dragon Breath 10
Rods, Staffs, Spells 9 

Hit Points: 34
AC: 1 (Bracers of Defence) 
Base THAC0: 14
(I know, THAC0 was not used in Basic D&D. You know what this means)

Occult Powers

1st level: Familiar, three cats
6th level: Things Man Was Not Meant To Know Are Fine for Women
13th level: Resting Witch Face
19th level: I Want to See Your Boss

Spells (new spells in italics)

1st Level: Allure, Bad Luck, Call Out, Delicate, Glamour, Greenery Light, Oh My God Becky!, Veritas (Truth Spell), BFFs (Ritual)

2nd Level: Bad Blood, Change Appearance, Light as a Feather Stiff as a Board, Invisible Strings, Sister to the Dark Ones, Witch Slap, You Can't Sit With Us

3rd Level: Bewitch III, Enchanted, Live Laugh Love, Love Attraction Candle, Lover’s Vengeance, Witch Fire, Shake it Off

4th Level: Dream Shield, Ethereal Projection, Intangible Cloak of Shadows, Rain of Spite, Starlight, Bring on the Night (Ritual) 

5th Level: Better than Revenge, Cardigan of Comfort, Overlook, Tripping the Light Fantastic (Ritual)

6th Level: Banshee Blast, Cloak of Dreams, True Seeing

7th Level: Breath of the Goddess, Peace Aura, Hell Hath No Fury (Ritual)

8th Level: Bewitch VIII, Frightful Aspect

Taylor the White Witch
New Spells

Like any witch worth her cauldron, Taylor has written many spells herself. She also altered versions of classic witch spells, which she refers to as "Taylor's Versions."

Bad Blood
Level: Witch 2
Duration: Permanent
Range: All targets within 60'

This spell is like a friendship spell, only in reverse. Once cast, humanoids and intelligent creatures (INT greater than 7) who had previously had good relations will begin to dislike each other and begin to fight amongst each other. 

A successful saving throw redirects these feelings of ill-will back to the witch who cast it. 

Better than Revenge
Level: Witch 5
Duration: Instantaneous 
Range: One target

This spell can only be targeted by someone who has personally hurt the witch. When triggered, usually by damage or some other hurt, the damage is returned back double. So, double damage or other effect.  How that damage or effect is delivered to the victim is up to the witch herself. 
There is no saving throw for this spell. 

Cardigan of Comfort
Level: Witch 3
Duration: One hour
Range: One willing creature

This spell weaves magic like the threads of a well-worn cardigan, granting a sense of security and comfort to the target. Choose a creature you touch. The target gains resistance to cold damage and fey charm effects for the duration. Additionally, if the target falls unconscious while the spell is active, they regain consciousness with 1d8 bonus hit point.

Material Components: Verbal (soothing whispers), Somatic (knitting needles and yarn that vanish at the end of the spell), Material (a small token imbued with a memory of comfort, worth at least 25 gp).

Delicate
Level: Witch 1
Duration: 10 min
Range: Within 15 feet

The witch casts a subtle charm that makes the target more receptive to her words. The witch is treated as having as having a +4 to her Charisma score. This spell can't be used in combat.

Enchanted
Level: Witch 3
Duration: 1 hour
Range: 60 feet

With this spell the witch sings a haunting melody that enchants creatures of her choice within range. Each affected creature must succeed on a saving throw or be charmed by her for the duration. While charmed, the creature regards you as a trusted friend to be heeded and protected.

The witch can use this spell again on the same creature. Once enchanted any future use of this spell is at a -2 penalty for saves.

Invisible Strings
Level: Witch 2
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute
Range: Self

The witch can create invisible magical strings they can manipulate with her will. These strings can lift and manipulate objects weighing up to 10 pounds within 30 feet of of the witch. She can use these strings to perform simple tasks or remotely interact with objects.

Shake it Off
Level: Witch 3
Duration: Instantaneous 
Range: All within hearing range

This spell, once uttered, will remove any one condition affecting those listening. This can include a Bewitch, Charm, Hold, Paralyze, Petrified, or Poisoned. Those hearing can also choose to regain half of their lost hit points instead of losing some condition. The only thing that is not affected is Sleep.

Starlight
Level: Witch 4
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute
Range: 120 feet

The witch calls down shimmering starlight in a 20-foot-radius sphere centered on a point within range. Each creature in the area must make a saving throw, taking 4d8 holy or radiant damage on a failed save, or half as much damage on a successful one. In addition, any area affected by this spell is brightly lit as per the daylight spell for the duration.

Material Components: A small crystal or gemstone.

--

Taylor is a lover, not a fighter. But still, don't piss her off. Or break-up with her. 

Selected Links of Insanity

Other, more important links

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

The Enchanted World: Magical Beasts

The Enchanted World: Magical Beasts
I love monsters. Monsters and mythology is what got me into Dungeons & Dragons to start with. Well, that and the fact that everyone in my school seemed to be playing it all at once. So, today's Enchanted World volume, 1985's Magical Beasts, is a rather nice treat for me. In a way, it was a major publisher that paid tribute to my hobby's roots.  While I have no concrete evidence that the Enchanted World series came about due to D&D's popularity, I am not ruling it out either. 

Magical Beasts

by Editors of Time-LIFE Books, 1985 (144 pages)
ISBN 0809452294, 0809452308 (US Editions)

This book is divided into the standard three sections, as with Wizards and Witches it is divided into larger chronological sections. 

Chapter One: Vestiges of the Elder Days

We begin back 40 centuries ago when humans were still primitive hunter-gatherers and how the monsters of our lives, the cave bear, the wolf, the large cat, were just animals that we were barely equal to. Monsters, it seems, go back as least as far as magic. This is not the first or last parallel this volume will have with the W&W book.

This chapter largely covers the creatures of ancient Greece and their mythology. We begin with the minotaur, though its conception is glossed over. The greek myths have quite a number of animal-human hybrids like the minotaur. Also discussed are the centaurs, both noble and savage, satyrs, and stranger creatures like the chimera. Thrown in are the maenads, who look human (are human), but can be as savage as any other monster. From Greece, we head to Egypt to discuss Set, Hours, Tawret, and other animal-hybrid gods. From here, we go on to Ireland and the Fomorians, described as animal-like, though they interact and inter-marry with the more noble Tuatha Dé Danann. The Tuatha defeat the Fomorians and their great ruler Balor of the Evil Eye. 

Chapter One: Vestiges of the Elder Days

We make quick stops to talk about various dog headed humans, like the inhabitants of the islands of Andaman and Macumeran, whose locations are lost to time. 

In the sub-section, The Tale of the Monkey-God, we go to India and recount the tale of Hanuman, the Monkey King, and Ravana, the many-headed king of demons (Rakshasa). Humans and Monkeys joined forces to defeat the evil king.

Chapter Two: Riders of the Wind

Humankind has always looked to the sky and marveled at the flight of birds. So it is natural that there are so many flying creatures. From the legendary Pegasus, to China's Feng-huang, Japan's tengu, to the Roc, Griffins,  and the Harpies. This chapter hops (flys?) around the globe to give us tales and creatures from all over. Even the hubris of man is discussed in the tale of Daedalus and Icarus. 

An Enchanted Bestiary gives us a brief overview of some "lesser-known" creatures—lesser known if you weren't playing fantasy games in 1985, that is. 

Chapter Two: Riders of the Wind

Chapter Three: Paragon of Purity

Lastly, we get to the unicorn. Following the format of the other books in this series, they equate the death of the last unicorn with the death of magic in the world. But before we get to that the unicorn is discussed at great length. We even get coverage of related creatures like the Yale and the Japanese Ki-rin. And more distantly related creatures like the Mi'raj and Shadhavar.

A Peerless Mount for World-Conquering Alexander ends our talk on unicorns with a tale of the Macedonian King and his quest for a unicorn mount.

Chapter Three: Paragon of Purity

Reading this, I think they maybe could have made a book of Unicorns like they did for Dragons

This particular volume feels like an extended "Ecology Of..." article. Indeed, of all the ones I covered so far, this one might have the most actionable content for your Fantasy RPG. Especially if you want to add more details to some tried and true monsters.

Monster books

There are only a few monsters here that will be new to anyone who has ever played D&D; this is still a great resource.  I *do* have more than a few of these new ones ready to go for Basic Bestiary, but I was still happy to see one or two that were still new to me.

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Reviews: The Villains and Heroes of the Forgotten Realms

 Getting back to my Realms reviews I am still in that strange liminal times of 1988-1989 when both AD&D 1st Edition and 2nd Edition were still being supported. I have two books today from the "FR" series that ride that line. 

FR6 and FR7 Villains and Heroes of the Forgotten Realms

Both books have very similar trade dress, if not identical. I am reviewing the PoD and PDFs from DriveThruRPG. 

FR6 Dreams of the Red Wizards (1e)
FR6 Dreams of the Red Wizards (1e)

By Steve Perrin (1988)
64 pages. Full-color covers and maps, monochrome interior.

Even with my comparative lack of Realms knowledge I knew about the Red Wizards of Thay. I guess I didn't realize how quickly they had been introduced as the big bads. 

This book reminds me a lot of the old D&D BECMI Gazeteer series in that we we get some history and geography of the lands with some NPCs.

The book teases that it is compatible with the BATTLESYSTEM  rules, but you have to build all of those armies on your own. Too bad, I wanted to do a big battle with the armies of the undead from Thay. Though I still might do that.

The Introduction tells us what this book is about and who and what the Red Wizards of Thay are.

History of Thay. This section gives us a brief overview of Thay's foundation. There is a brief timeline, but it works well here. Some of this information is also found in the later Spellbound boxed set, but that is a way off yet. 

We cover the People and Society of Thay next. Perrin does give us a good explanation of how a whole country can, in fact, be evil, from the Zulkirs to the middle class to the masses of slaves. Honestly, the place sounds like a powder keg waiting to explode, and it is the will and fear of the Zulkirs that keeps everything in check.

Geography of Thay is next and it is good read, though I think it could have been combined with the History of Thay chapter since much of Thay's history has been shaped by its neighbors. This is also a good chapter for me, the newbie, to have a map handy.  I think I am going to need a big wall map of the Forgotten Realms like I do for Victorian London

We get get two chapters that cover the Current Economy and Politics of Thay, respectively. This includes a helpful glossary and a player's guide to Thay.

Magic in Thay, as expected, is one of the larger sections. It has what seems to be a Realms staple; lots of new spells. 

Religions in Thay, is actually an interesting chapter. The Red Wizards themselves seem to be areligious, but not atheists. They acknowledge the gods and do their best not to piss them off. I imagine there are big "media circuses" for when a Zulkir visits a local temple to Mystra for example. 

This has given me an idea. So, according to this book, the slaves of Thay mostly worship Ilmater, who we know from Ed Greenwood's "Down to Earth Divinity," that Ilmater is derived from Issek of the Jug. What if there were some events like "Lean Times in Lankhmar" where Ilmater, via a new follower, took on a role like that Fafhrd did for Issek, but instead of a religious conversion/resurgence, it became the basis for a full-scale slave revolt. Now that is a BATTLESYSTEM game I'd enjoy running. 

Personalities of Thay cover the expected cast of neer-do-wells. OF note here The Simbul does not have a personal name here, yet.

Adventures in Thay give the reader some ideas of things to do in and around Thay. But let us be honest. It is an evil filled with Nazi-like evil wizards who keep slaves. The ideas abound already. 

FR7 Hall of Heroes (1e/2e)
FR7 Hall of Heroes (1e/2e)

Many authors (1989)
128 pages. Full-color covers, monochrome interior.

This book looks like a 2nd Ed book on the cover, but 1st Ed inside. 

This is a "robust" rogues gallery of early Realms characters, and frankly, I am happy to have it since so many of these names are new to me. The stats are an odd mix of AD&D 2nd Ed and 1st Ed, but mostly 1st Edition. So yeah, there are Neutral Good Druids and lots of classes from Unearthed Arcana and Oriental Adventures. 

It also has something that is not entirely a Realms-specific problem, but one I associated most often with the Realms. There are lot of characters here that straight up break the AD&D rules. Yes I get that some (many) are here because of the Forgotten Realms novels. So people like Shandril Shessair is a "Spellfire Wielder," and Dragonbait is a Lizardfolk Paladin. This used to bother me. Not anymore. I am more irritated by the fact that most of the women NPCs all have Charisma 16 or 17 (11 out of 15). Where are my hags? 

There are some personal spells and again The Simbul makes an appearance sans proper name. 

Still, this is a good resource for me to have. I like to have it on hand as I am going through other books to double-check who I am reading about. 

The POD versions are nice. The text has a bit of fuzziness, but far less than other PODs I have seen. They are not perfect for, say, collectors but perfect for what I need them for, and that is used at my game table. 

Monday, June 10, 2024

Monstrous Monday: Forgotten Realms Monstrous Compendiums

Forgotten Realms Monstrous Compendium
It's June! As an academic there is still something not wholly tangible in me when June hits; it is just something I feel. Starting in the 1980s, June also meant days at the library, riding my bike, rolling skating (yes, I used to be really, really good), and nights playing D&D. For seven years straight that meant Basic and Advanced D&D.  So these days I try to focus on Basic D&D in June, but this year is different. 

I am celebrating 50 years of Dungeons & Dragons AND I am also doing my deep dive into the Forgotten Realmsthe Forgotten Realms. Plus in addition to the weekly 5e games, my oldest son and I are starting a new 2nd edition AD&D game set in the Forgotten Realms. This works very well for me since I am already shifting my Realms focus to AD&D 2nd Edition.  

To this end I have been buying a lot of Forgotten Realms PDFs from DriveThruRPG. This has also given me many new monsters from the AD&D 2nd ed era in "ready to print" Monstrous Compendium format. 

Forgotten Realms Monstrous Compendiums

I have talked about the AD&D 2nd Monstrous Compendiums at length before. I have even talked about the Forgotten Realms ones in detail.  So when I began printing out the various Monstrous Compendium sheets from the various PDFs I have bought it became very obvious to me I would need a binder just for them.

This was sealed for me when I remembered that the Forgotten Realms MC Appendix had been labeled "Vol. 3" on the cover. My choice had been made for me. Turns out is was a good choice, because there are TONS of Forgotten Realms Monsters.

Forgotten Realms Monstrous Compendium Vol. 3

I grabbed some alphabetical tabs and began loading this up. I concentrated on monsters from the MCs I already had that were Realm-Specific. Then, I went through the pages of monsters I rescued from my This Old Dragon copies, unless they were too far gone due to water or mold. In these cases, I printed them out from my Dragon Magazine CD-ROM. But my "rule" was I had to have had a physical copy first. There is some 1st Ed monster material here, but that is fine, really.

Monstrous Compendiums

Then, every time I bought a Forgotten Realms PDF, I printed the monsters.

Monster pages from the Forgotten Realms
Campaign Setting boxed set

Monster pages from the Forgotten Realms

Monster pages from the Forgotten Realms
Dragon Mountain

Monster pages from the Forgotten Realms
Oh, look at that. Lawful Good orcs from 1995.

In the cases where I had loose Forgotten Realms pages, like from the AD&D 2nd Ed Campaign Setting boxed set, I made copies to keep the set intact. 

It has been a great experience to discover all the unique creatures I have found in the Realms versus Greyhawk or other worlds.

Currently, I do not have monsters for I, J, and Y. I could mine my other compendium for these, but I am also waiting to see what creatures I might find in other PDFs of Realms material. I still have a few I bought before I started this project, and they might have a few treasures for me. There are also more monsters in my Dragon magazines. Ones written by Ed Greenwood go to the top of the list. 

Right now my Forgotten Realms campaign has no focus. This is on purpose. I have so many campaigns with Big IdeasTM and Lofty GoalsTM. I don't need another one. Maybe I'll just do an old-fashioned monster hunt to mirror my real-life monster hunt.

This has, though, given me another realization. I had planned to get through all of my Realms books this year, but that was before I started buying more. Now, I think this year will just be about AD&D 2nd Edition. Who knows, really? 

BUT I will say this. I am having a lot of fun with this.