Showing posts with label 5e. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 5e. Show all posts

Monday, May 2, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: Greys (Zeta Reticulians)

Nice meeting of topics here today.  It is May which this year will be the start of my Sci-Fi month.  We have the normal May the Fourth celebrations, and Mayday for Traveller was yesterday.  Plus we get Star Trek Strange New World premiering this week.  AND there is a new D&D Spelljamer on the horizon. So there are a lot of great reasons to celebrate SciFi. 

I also just got finished with my A to Z Challenge for April where I did Conspiracy Theories.  I leaned heavily on a lot of UFO-based ones.  So my appetite has been whetted for more.  And today is Monstrous Monday!  So I thought I would bring all of these ideas together today into a special Monstrous Monday!

Greys (Zeta Reticulians)

Grey Aliens

Of all the alien species that have purportedly visited the Earth few are as popular as the Greys.  These creatures are also known as Zeta Reticulians since they supposedly come from the Zeta Reticuli star system, approximately 40 ly from Earth.  This is based on a drawing from one of the most famous alien abductees ever, Betty Hill.  

Greys are called such due to their skin color. The skin seems to be a uniform grey.  While some are depicted as not wearing clothes, others have suggested that they are wearing skin-tight suits of the same color as their skin to protect them from Earth's atmosphere.  They typically stand 4 to 5ft in height (1.2 to 1.5 meters), are hairless, with large black eyes.  They have no ears nor a nose, save for small slits or holes where such external sense organs would be.  Their bodies are small, thin, and somewhat elongated. Their heads however are large with large foreheads giving the impression of large brains inside. Their hands are long with long delicate fingers. They typically only have four fingers (three fingers and a thumb) per hand, though there are reports of "hybrids" that appear to be greys with human eyes and five fingers per hand.

They do not speak but instead communicate via a form of telepathy. 

Their purpose with humanity is still unknown.  They may not even know themselves just yet since all evidence seems to point to them observing and experimenting on humans. Their experiments in removing eggs and sperm as reported by abductees, and the existence of hybrid forms at least point to an interest in our reproductive abilities.  It is postulated that they are using humans to help deplete their own lessening numbers.

Grey (Dungeons & Dragons 5e)

Grey for 5e

Grey (NIGHT SHIFT)

No. Appearing: 3-12 (3d4)
AC: 6
Move: 30 ft.
Hit Dice: 2-4
Special: Cause fear, psychic abilities (chosen at random), telekinesis, telepathy, Can't use magic
XP Value: Varies

Greys are aliens from the Zeta Reticuli star system. They have enhanced psychic abilities, but are vulnerable to all forms of magic.  They never speak but communicate via telepathy.  A group of Greys are typically a scouting party with various scientists onboard their spaceship. They will abduct humans or cattle, do experiments on them, erase their memories and return them to where they found them.

Grey (OSR)

Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1d4+3 (1d10+2)
Alignment: Neutral [True Neutral]
Movement: 90' (30') [9"]
Armor Class: 7-5 [12-14]
Hit Dice: 
   Scientist: 2d8+2* (11 hp)
   Monitor: 3d8+3** (17 hp)
   Leader: 4d8+8** (26 hp)
To Hit AC 0: 18, 16, 15  (+1, +3, +4)
Attacks: 0 or 1
Damage: None, stun 
Special: Cause fear, paralysis, mind blank, telepathy, vulnerable to magic
Save: Monster 3
Morale: 10 (10)
Treasure Hoard Class: Special
XP:
   Scientist: 35 (OSE) 47 (LL)
   Monitor: 100 (OSE) 135 (LL)
   Leader: 275 (OSE) 290 (LL)

Str: 7,9, 11 (-1, 0, 0) Dex: 16 (+2) Con: 14, 14, 16 (+1, +1, +2) Int: 22, 18, 18 (+5, +3, +3) Wis: 16 (+2) Cha: 14 (+1)

Greys come in three castes; Scientists, Monitors, and Leaders.  Scientists perform the experiments, leaders lead the missions, and are the fighters of the group.  Monitors are a blend of the two, acting as leaders amongst the scientists.  The castes are not hierarchical, they are designed so that each role is filled by the most capable individual.  A group of greys encountered outside of the ships will all be scientists with at least one member a monitor or leader. 

Greys have psionic abilities to cause fear, paralysis by touch (save vs. Paralysis or be frozen for one minute), and to erase the memories of their victims.   Scientists do not attack. They leave this to the Leaders and if needed the monitors. 

Additionally, greys have no concept of magic, they save at -2 against all spells and take an additional +1 point damage from magical attacks. 

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I might tweak these a bit more, but so far they look great to me.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Kickstart Your Weekend: Adventure! Romance! Chaos! Horror!

Lots of new Kickstarters out there.  So many in fact. Let's have a look!

Mini-Adventure #1: Shadow of the Necromancer 1E/5E & Box Set

Shadow of the Necromancer


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/marktaormino/mini-adventure-1-shadow-of-the-necromancer-1e-5e-and-box-set

Mark Taormino and Dark Wizard Games has another gonzo adventure for us, this time for both 1st Ed and 5th Ed D&D. As always it looks like great fun.

Swords & Chaos

Swords & Chaos

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/blackspirefantasy/swords-and-chaos

Swords & Chaos is powered by the SIEGE Engine, the same system in Castles & Crusades. Looks like it is cut from the same cloth as AS&SH or Barbarians of Lemuria.

Tome of Adventure Design

Tome of Adventure Design

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/adventuredesigntome/tome-of-adventure-design

A revised and updated Tome of Adventure design for 2022.  I have the original and it is really useful to whip up something in a pinch.

An Unexpected Wedding Invitation (5e)

An Unexpected Wedding Invitation (5e)

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/midnight-tower/an-unexpected-wedding-invitation

A bit of change here is a Jane Austin-ish-inspired wedding mystery for 5e. Looks like a lot of fun.

Shield Maidens: A New Viking/Cyberpunk Tabletop RPG

Shield Maidens: A New Viking/Cyberpunk Tabletop RPG

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1990654819/shield-maidens-a-new-viking-cyberpunk-tabletop-rpg

Ok, this one sounds interesting.  Mixing cyberpunk, pre-apocalypse, and Norse myth.  There is also a free preview to get your first shield maiden built.  It is its own system, but it still looks fun.

The Art of Ménage à 3

The Art of Ménage à 3

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/pixietrixcomix/the-art-of-menage-a-3

Now for something completely different.  Ménage à 3 was a fantastic webcomic about three roommates hopelessly in love with each other.  But that did not mean things worked out! It also launched the career of  Gisèle Lagacé.  This has art from the comic and new pieces.

Old Gods of Appalachia Roleplaying Game

Old Gods of Appalachia Roleplaying Game

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/montecookgames/old-gods-of-appalachia-roleplaying-game

Dark weird folk horror from Monte Cook? YEAH! Sign me the hell up! It is the Cypher system and you know the production values will be high.

FAST Core Rulebook - Multi-Genre RPG System

FAST Core Rulebook - Multi-Genre RPG System

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/563681582/fast-core-rulebook-multi-genre-rpg-system

A new multi-genre system that looks like it has a LOT of potential.  I like multi-genre systems since I tend to mix a lot of things together in one game. 


Swords of Cthulhu

Swords of Cthulhu

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/brwgames/swords-of-cthulhu

Another cool one from Joseph Bloch who has a stellar Kickstarter track record.  This one brings the Lovecraftian mythos back (or back again) to AD&D/OSRIC.


Lots of choices!

Thursday, February 24, 2022

The Legend of Vox Machina

My family finished watching the Amazon Prime series "The Legend of Vox Machina" from Critical Role and honestly it was a lot of fun.

The Legend of Vox Machina

It was funny, exciting, and really just a lot of great gamer humor without feeling like gamer humor.

A big problem I have with most gamer-related fiction is you can often, as I say, "hear the dice rolling in the background."  Not so with this.  Yes there are the expected name drops, the occasional mention of a power (Grog wanting to "rage") or a spell (Keyleth saying she can only do that one once a day) but that all took a backseat to what makes any bit of fiction good; good story and characters you can care about.

I have not listened to any of the Critical Role episodes, but my oldest LOVES them.  So we backed the Kickstarter and honestly, we have been very pleased.  He let me know later how the animated series differs from the actual play episodes.  So now I do want to go back to those older Campaign One episodes and listen to them all.

Also not since the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon has D&D seen this much success in a televised medium.  Amazon already renewed it for a second season before season one even premiered.

It has met with critical success, including a 100% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and a 94% audience score. 

Whether you are a fan or not one thing is certain, Critical Role is one of D&D greatest achievements in terms of getting more people interested in our little game.  Born out of an odd combination of Pathfinder and D&D 5 the World of Tal'dorei has also seen quite a bit of success in the D&D 5 printed world with three (soon to be four) books.

Critical Role books

In addition to the series, the actual play episodes, and the gaming material there are comic books, action figures, clothes, and gear.  There is even a 1/6th scale statue of the characters Vex and Vax from Vox Machina coming out.  You know for a fact if there were statues of Keyleth and Jester coming out they would never be able to keep them in stock. Yes even at the nearly $200 price tag.

When was the last time one of your campaigns did all of that?  Ok. I do have 1/6th scale versions of two of my own iconic witches. No, I am not going to share how much I spent on them.

So the show was a lot of fun, maybe a touch adult for some, a lot of swearing some nudity, lots of gore. But seriously, does no one remember gaming when they were 14? 

I wish them the best of luck and hope for their continued success. 

Monday, February 7, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: Monsters of the Multiverse (5e)

Mordenkainen Presents Monsters of the Multiverse
Back to Monstrous Mondays!  A quick update on where I am at with my Basic Bestiary.  Book 1 is done, I just have some editing and making sure my numbers are doing what I want them to do.  I am going back and increasing the Treasure amounts a little.  It has been pointed out to me that my Old-School games are rather light on the treasure.  I also want to make sure that my XP values are appropriate for the monsters' special abilities.  Book 2 needs a bit more work since I have a ton of undead, but I have a plan for that.  When I am done with all the "level setting" of Book 1, Book 2 will go much faster.

So what does that mean for you my good reader?  Well for the most part I am not going to post new monsters for a couple of weeks at least since I am not actively writing monsters.  That could change if I come across an entry that needs a top to down rewrite.

For a bit I am going to review some of the monster books I have here.  Not so much for the individual monsters, but for a feel of how they work together.  I am not looking for a unified milieu of monsters. On the contrary, the original Monster Manual was an odd collection of monsters of myth and legend and it is now my gold standard.  But at least how they can group together thematically.  Even if that theme is "fantasy roleplaying."

I am going to start with my newest one first.

Mordenkainen Presents Monsters of the Multiverse

Monsters of the Multiverse is the newest book in the Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition line.  It has been eagerly anticipated since the announcement of a rules update coming in 2024 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of D&D.  The new rules are likely to be something akin to D&D 5.5 or even D&D 5r.  I am not expecting a full-blown 6th edition yet. But that is for another time. Today my focus is on this new monster manual because that is indeed what it is.

Mordenkainen Presents Monsters of the Multiverse.  288 pages. Full-color cover and interior art. Part of the D&D 5 gift set, available separately in April.

Monsters of the Multiverse is split into two large chapters.  

Chapter 1: Fantastical Races

This chapter covers the various races that can be used as Player Characters. All in all there are 30 races (33 with subtypes) that are available to use as characters or NPCs here.  Many have appeared in other books and most date back to the 1st Ed days.  In particular, there are the expected choices like Deep Gnomes, Eladrin, Goblins, Minotaur, orcs, and so on.  There are a few I want to focus on.

Fairy. This is fun class and one that began in official D&D books in 4th edition. They are a fun little character that has worked well in other non-D&D FRPG for decades.  D&D in finally catching up.   I converted my own Dirty Nell from Ghosts of Albion and she worked out great. 

Fairy

Goblins are getting some lore updates tying them deeper into the Feywild.  Again, D&D started this in 4e but are playing catch-up here.  Now you can play a Labyrinth style goblin or even one like you find in GURPS Goblins (a completely underrated and underappreciated GURPS supplement).  Of course, there are still many, many evil goblins and they are likely the majority.  But PCs are of any alignment.  My character for this race is Nik Nak, by Chaotic Neutral Goblin Warlock.

Minotaurs go back to 1st Ed Dragonlance as a PC race.  Well, now they are back.

Satyrs are now a playable race.  They were back in 4e where they are a male-only race with hamadryads as their female counterparts. In 5e this is expanded, satyrs can be male or female.  Now if you tell me satyrs are only male I am going to remind you there is a reason why you failed art history.  There are plenty of female satyrs depicted in art over the last few centuries.  I might be playing the stereotype here, but my satyr character is a bard named Roan.  For the hell of it he plays the bagpipes.

If you must have a male-only satyr race, then by all means do that. There is nothing in the rules that say you can't.  I am still a HUGE fan of the Hooves and Green Hair article by Bennet Marks in Dragon #109.  I even commented in my This Old Dragon for #109 that they would make great races for D&D 5.

Satyrs

Shadar-Kai the S&M goths of 4e are updated again for 5e. They premiered in 3e as a type of elf. They are back to being elves here (they had been re-introduced as a race in previous 5e books). My "evil Wonder Twins" of Runu and Urnu are my goto Shadar-kai. 

No race has a default alignment. Indeed alignments for races are never mentioned.  

Chapter 2: Bestiary 

This section covers 250 of the total 288 pages.  Here we get over 250 (259 by my count) monsters for 5e. This is the most of any book aside from the Monster Manual.  This makes this book more akin to the Fiend Folio or Monster Manual 2.  

Monsters

There are some duplications here. If you have other books then it is very reasonable to ask do I really need this book?  I can't say how much each monster was updated.  A few had some edits and some were largely the same.  BUT I can let you know what monsters are here and where they came from first.

I have created a Google Sheets spreadsheet with all the monsters from all the D&D 5 books except the Monster Manual.  I'll add that one later, but I wanted to focus on all the "new" monsters first.  You can see the duplicates and what books have which monsters.

Despite the whinging of old men online, all the monsters in this book do in fact have alignments. Even ones that have playable race options.  There are still plenty of evil creatures to fight and kill. It is true that the alignments are prefaced by "typically" but that is just saying the quiet part out loud.  That was true for 1st ed and it has been true for every other edition too.  5e is not getting rid of alignment.  

If I had a complaint it is that major unique characters such as Fraz-Urb'luu, Graz'zt and Geyron are not listed under demons or devils, but rather alphabetically by name.  Oh they are still demons and devils and they are still evil to the core, they are just alphabetized by proper name instead of "Demon, Graz'zt." A nitpick to be sure. I kept them like that in my list.  Dinosaurs are listed under Dinosaur, however.  There is a listing for a "Brontosaurus" as opposed to the "Apatosaurus" but I kinda like that to be honest.  Also, my all-time favorite, the Dimetrodon, is here even though it is not a dinosaur. 

Fraz-Urb'luu

Who should buy this?

Well, that is a good question. Largely it depends on much you play D&D 5e and/or how much do you love monsters?   I love monsters. So this is a no brainer for me.  This is D&D 5e's Monster Manual II.

If you play D&D and do not have the other books listed in my sheet then yes get this. 

If you are looking for insight into what might be in D&D 5.5/5r well there is little new knowledge here.

If you play D&D and want to try out these new races, then yes, this is a great choice. 

For me?  I love it, I think it is fantastic and worth the money spent.

Monsters of the Multiverse (5e)


Friday, January 28, 2022

Kickstart Your Weekend: Monsters, Classes and Raven Hex!

 Ok. The day job is really busy this week so this is going to be a complete drive by.  But here are three new Kickstarters I am excited about.

Tome of Beasts 3: Full Throttle 5th Edition Monster Mayhem

Tome of Beasts 3: Full Throttle 5th Edition Monster Mayhem

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/deepmagic/tome-of-beasts-3-full-throttle-5th-edition-monster-mayhem?ref=theotherside

I make no secret of my love of monsters!  Kobold Press' Tome of Beasts are among my favorite 5e books and monster books.   This one should also be great!

SURVIVE THIS!! Dark Places & Demogorgons Class Compendium

SURVIVE THIS!! Dark Places & Demogorgons Class Compendium

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ericfrombloatgames/survive-this-dark-places-and-demogorgons-class-compendium?ref=theotherside

I mentioned this one a couple of weeks ago, but it bares repeating.  The Class Compendium is a great collection for DP&D game.  I highly recommend it.

And finally one from my good friend Jim Balent and Broadsword Studio.

Jim Balent's Raven Hex Saga

Jim Balent's Raven Hex Saga

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/jimbalent/jim-balents-raven-hex-saga?ref=theotherside

Raven Hex is the older sister of Tarot.  She is evil...sorta.  She really just wants a world where witches are not feared or mistreated.  The first Raven Hex book I picked up was a fun romp with Raven sick and feverish from a virus while Tarot read her bed time stories.  The comic was her fever dreams.  It was a lot of fun and very tongue and cheek and a lot of insight to two (Jim and Holly) super fans of Disney. 

There you have it!  Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Dungeons & Dragons Rules Expansion Gift Set

Grabbed the new Dungeons & Dragons Rules Expansion Gift Sets at my FLGS today. 

Dungeons & Dragons Rules Expansion Gift Set

I have to admit I am a sucker for a boxed set.

Boxed set

New DM's Screens

New DM's Screens

Comparisons of the new books to the older ones.

Tasha's Cauldron of Everything

Xanthar's Guide to Everything

The new book, Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse, is the big star of course.  Lots of monsters from other books, but new ones as well.  I am not sure how many are new but I am happy to have them all in one place.  Kinda like a Monster Manual II for 5e.

Astral Dreadnaught

I'll have to review the books in detail, but so far I like what I have here.


Character Creation Challenge: Nik Nak, Goblin Warlock

Nik Nak
Nik Nak by Jacob Blackmon

I was waiting on today's Character Creation Challenge until I got my copy of Mordenkainen Presents: Monsters of the Multiverse today.  While this collects a bunch of material for other books into one volume, I did want to wait to see what the options for new character races/species were.  And I can say I am not disappointed at all!

Personally I like having all these different options in my games.  Especially with the way I have been playing D&D 5 of late.  It makes me want to make my part of the world something akin to Elis Island of the Multiverse.  A place where everyone comes too on their way to new lands.

One of those places in my town of West Haven.  Once I settled on that then the choice of today's character was an easy one.

Nik Nak is a goblin fey-pact Warlock in service to the Goblin King.  I featured him a while back for my Swords & Wizardry Warlock book; which introduced both the warlock class and the goblin playable species.   Here he is in his D&D 5th Edition version.


Nik Nak for 5e

He is a sneaky little goblin, but not completely evil really. He lives in the Goblin Wood where he is the local Boglebo (akin to a warlock/shaman for goblins) and alchemist.  He sometimes sells potions in the market.  He has learned that ripping off a customer is a good deal in the short term, but to sell what he has at a fair price brings in more money in the long term.  He is fond of urban life and would bring more money home if he didn't have such a taste for human alcohol. 

He is often found with his toad familiar, "Lady Patricia Blackwell."  A gift to him from his patron the Goblin King.

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Want to see more of the #CharacterCreationChallenge? Stop by Tardis Captain's Blog and the #CharacterCreationChallenge on Twitter for more! 

Character Creation Challenge

Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Mail Call: Victorian, Tasha and League of Malevolence

It's a month since Christmas, so I can buy things for myself again.  And this is what the mail has given me this week.

Mail Call

Vis Imperium Victoriana is a Victorian RPG using the same rules as Pendragon Chivalry and Sorcery Essence (thanks for the corrections!).  So you know I am excited for that!

Enoch's Wake is from Richard Ruane. Game designer, co worker at my day job, and all around great guy.  Can't wait to get into that as well.  I am totally planning on stealing ideas from this for my BlackStar game.

I got a League of Malevolence figures which include my favorites Skylla and Kelek.

League of Malevolence figures

Skylla and Kelek

Skylla and Kelek

They look pretty good and compare well to my HeroForge ones I had made a while back.

Kelek

Skylla

Skylla and Kelek with Zybilna

I also treated myself to a signed photo from Ginny Di as Tasha.

Ginny Di as Tasha

That one is either going to be part of my D&D5 DM's Screen or be part of my Tasha/Iggwilv/Zybilna character folder.  Either way I am happy to have it!

Happy...uh...January to me!!

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Review: She is the Ancient: A Genderbent Curse of Strahd

She is the Ancient: A Genderbent Curse of Strahd
A couple of months ago, beginning of September I think, I was made aware of a new title on DMsGuild called She is the Ancient: A Genderbent Curse of Strahd by Beth the Bard. 

I checked it out and liked it. Hopped on to Twitter to offer her congratulations and mentioned that she would hit Gold Best Seller status.  Well, this past month she did it!  I thought with Halloween coming up and so many people running the 5e Curse of Strahd this would be a great time to review it.

She is the Ancient: A Genderbent Curse of Strahd

by Beth the Bard

157 pages, color art, PDF.

To start with you will need the 5th Edition version of Curse of Strahd to use this resource. Though I am going to also talk about how this can be used with the original AD&D 1st Edition adventure I6 Ravenloft.

She is the Ancient is more than just giving us a distaff Strahd. You don't need a guide for that.  This guidebook shows how changing the gender of Strahd, but keeping her as a strong warrior figure, changes the nature of her relationship with, well everyone. The most interesting is her new rivalry and even hatred of Tatyana.  These new relationships take up a good bit of this guide. 

Beth the Bard reminds us that this IS a horror adventure and to assume that bad things can't happen to, well, everyone, is unreasonable.  So yes there is still violence here and it's directed at everyone this time.

The changes are largely of these sorts:

Characters/NPCs.  Several characters get changes, some minor, others are major.  Strahd is now female, as is Van Richten.  Others get minor changes. Any of these can be used optionally.  Many of these are much more interesting than the ones we get in Curse of Strahd

Relationships. Related to the characters are new relationships.  These are very well detailed and even if you never change a single character according to this guide this is a very useful tool for Curse of Strahd.

Encounters.  There are also changes to various encounters all over the Curse of Strahd adventure.  This takes the shape of some encounter rewrites and others with tips.  Additionally, there are encounter "flowcharts" that show how the various encounters are related to each other.  There are also new handouts that you can print out to give to players.

That is overly simple, there are 157 pages here after all, but this is the gist of it. 

The layout is clean and clear and the art is rather fantastic.  It is on sale right now, but even at its regular price of $19.99 is a good deal, especially considering all we are getting here.

She is the Ancient

The overall feel is the same I get from watching a classic horror movie.  "Dracula" is a horrid monster, someone that kills pretty much everyone in his path.  "The Bride of Dracula" is just as evil, and likely kills as many people, but for some reason, her story seems more tragic.   This new guide turns even this around.

Strahd is tragic, his love for Tatyana has driven him to become a monster.  In this new Strahd, she is still a tragic figure, but it is nothing so prosaic as love that drives her, but hate and betrayal and yes jealousy.  THIS Strahd is motivated by more violent emotions and desires.  You anger her at your peril. 

There is an accessible version of this adventure available. Link included in the PDF.  There are tokens and NPC portraits you can use with this OR with the original Curse of Strahd if you choose.

I6 Ravenloft

Curse of Strahd is the newest iteration of the classic Ravenloft tale.  This is "Dracula Untold" with Luke Evans.  "I6 Ravenloft" is Hammer Horror with Christopher Lee.  SO it stands then that "She is the Ancient" applied to I6 Ravenloft is Ingrid Pitt, in her "Countess Dracula" role. 

I have not sat down with this new guide and Ravenloft and analyzed it line by line, but I have run Ravenloft several times since I purchased the original shortly after it was released.  I have run it for every version of D&D since 1983, including D&D 5e before Curse of Strahd was released.  My feeling here is that She is the Ancient can be used with the classic module just as easily. 

All versions of Castle Ravenloft

Much of what is presented in the She is the Ancient is relationship-based. So conversion to or from 5e and 1st Ed is not an issue.  There are some 5e stat blocks, but nothing that can't be easily replaced or swapped out. 

Honestly the next time I run I6 I am going to give this a try.

What I like best about this is an attempt to do something different with what is now can be considered a classic sort of tale. It shows that like love, the topics of hate, revenge, and undying purpose are universal and can transcend simpler concepts of gender. 

I had thought, originally, that this would give me some ideas for my own Darklord and Domain, Darlessa and Arevenir.  Thankfully, She is the Ancient is not only NOT distaff Strahd, it is also NOT just a generic female vampire Darklord.  I will, however, adopt the adventure flowchart idea and the relationships as they are modeled here.  There are some great ideas to be honest.

Who should buy She is the Ancient?   Anyone who has run and wants to re-run Curse of Strahd and wants to try something different. Personally, I feel the DMs that have run Curse of Strahd already will benefit the most from this.

I also think that first-time DMs of Curse of Strahd will enjoy this, but there is a LOT going on in both Curse of Strahd AND She is the Ancient.

Once you have this you can adopt/adapt as much or as little as you like.   Or even just use the flowcharts and relationships to flesh out all the characters more.

I would say my ONLY complaint is that there is no POD option, but in truth, the layout and design are such that any page or collection of pages can be printed out and slotted into your Curse of Strahd book. Though a POD would be nice. 

She is the Ancient: A Genderbent Curse of Strahd is not going to be for everyone and that is OK.  BUT, for the people that are inclined to use it is a great resource and guide.  It is well written with great art and layout.  A lot of work went into this and like the original Ravenloft, it provides yet more options for replayability.  

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The NPCs of "The Wild Beyond The Witchlight"

Skylla, my ex
While "The Wild Beyond The Witchlight" has a lot going for it the reason, well one of the reasons, I really wanted it was because we were getting some official D&D 5th Edition stats to some classic NPCs, in particular, Skylla and Kelek two "iconic" characters that I am using in my War of the Witch Queens campaign. So I want to look at these old friends and maybe a couple of new ones too.  I'll leave poor old Thaco alone with his pipe and bitterness today.  Plus it is October and Horror month, so I really just want to talk about my favorites, the bad guys.

Who Are These Characters?

Long before the use of the term Iconic Characters to refer to reoccurring D&D characters in publication, there were names like Warduke, Strongheart, Ringlerun, and Kelek.  They appeared in the AD&D toy line from LJN and in other media including coloring books, stickers, adventures, and sometimes even the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon.   It is also one of the reasons why I have to laugh when people today will see a stuffed Owlbear and complain that "WotC is selling out and ruining D&D."  They must have forgotten the Official Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Yoyo or Sunglasses.

Of all of these characters, there were a few standouts who got extra attention.  Ringlerun, the Good Wizard would be the cover boy for the Jeff Easley recover of the AD&D Player's Handook, although many at the time did not see the connection.  Kelek and Warduke would go on to get a guest spot on the D&D cartoon.  Warduke in particular would go on to be a minor celebrity in D&D iconic circles, getting 1st Ed (well...Basic really), 3rd Ed, and now 5th Ed Ed stats.

LJN D&D Toys

We would get all their official D&D Basic and Expert set stats, not AD&D, in the product AC1 The Shady Dragon Inn.  This was sort of a Rogues Gallery for BECMI D&D. You can read my review of it here

What I would like to do here today is compare these characters from the Wild Beyond the Witchlight to their Shady Dragon Inn and Quest for the Heartstone counterparts. 

Bad guys

The League of Malevolence

Heroes are great, but give me a "good" villain any day of the week.  Here are five iconic D&D villains. I will compare them to their D&D Basic versions to see what has changed and what has stayed the same.

Kelek

First up is the leader of the League of Malevolence, our Legion of Doom for D&D.  All these characters are Chaotic Evil which tracks well to their original alignments of Chaotic.  

In Basic D&D Kelek was an "Evil Sorcerer" of course at this time a "Sorcerer" was the level title for a 7th level Magic-user.  In 5e his class has become a Sorcerer.  This actually make a lot of sense and I approve of this change.  His stats are pretty much the same from edition to edition with the exception of his Charisma which goes from 7 to 17.  Charisma is the "prime" stat for sorcerers. Here he is described as a sociopath. That tracks with how I have seen him in the past

Part of this adventure is searching for a lost Unicorn horn. Well that was more or less the plot of the only D&D Cartoon to feature Kelek.  If nothing else I am saying he is still after unicorn horns. 

Skylla

Ah. My beloved Skylla.  I was the most excited and the most worried to see what the Wizard's dev team was going to do to you.  I have to say I am not disappointed. In Quest of the Heartstone, she is listed as a 6th level Warlock. Again, this time "Warlock" meaning 6th level magic-user. I do note that the TSR team avoided calling her a "Witch" at the time. Likely due to the Satanic Panic (but Warlock is fine?).  Like her former boss Kelek, the level title is translated to Class here and she is a 6th level Warlock. It fits well if you ask me

Skylla's stats are mostly the same with some tweaks to improve what she needs to be a Warlock.  Though the best changes are in her background.  For starters, her patron is not a demon (like I did) but rather with Baba Yaga (like...I did).  Additionally they tackle the Skylla/Charmay art issue head-on as sometimes Skylla goes by the name Charmay.  It's different than what I do with her, but it works out fine in my mind.

For the record, they got Skylla as close to a "witch: as D&D 5e's rules will currently allow.  I think they did a great job with her.  Kelek too.

Warduke

I do have to ask. Why does everyone like this guy so much? I never quite got it, but hey someone out there is looking at my nearly 30 posts about Skylla and scratching their head. 

That all being said, Warduke here is fairly impressive. I think the fans will be happy.  His stats are all the same in both versions.  His Dread Helm in Basic gave him Infravision to 60'.  The D&D 5e version only makes his eyes glow red.  Well, as I have said many times, I have a pencil.

Zarak

The half-orc Assassin was just an odd dude in Basic D&D that didn't have half-orcs as monsters, let alone as a character race, nor did it have assassins.  Yet there he is on page 18 of my Quest for the Heartstone. In D&D 5 he also has some strangeness. He is a full orc here BUT he is a short one to fit the AD&D/D&D Basic orcs.  Though he is still a Chaotic Evil Assassin.  His Dexterity gets a buff in 5e, but he loses his "boomerang" dagger!

Zargash

The evil cleric is back.  He is 7th level, so that makes him an evil Bishop. Zargash is still Chaotic Evil and he worships Orcus. Stats are tweaked a bit, but otherwise he is largely the same.

Missing Evil Characters include, Grimsword (Evil Knight aka Anti-Paladin), Zorgan (Evil Barbarian) and Drex (Evil Warrior) all from Quest for the Heartstone. Fox Fingers (Thief) and Raven (Evil Cleric) from Shaddy Dragon Inn.  In might be fun to make Raven. She is evil (but maybe not totally), and in love with Warduke. She was once friend with Mericon. Who is up in the next batch.

Valor's Call

Our group of good hereos had the real chance of being boring on one hand and overly sanctimonious on the other.  Thankfully were spared the worse.  They are not as interesting as our bad guys, but they are still fun and there are still some tweaks that make them worth reading and using.

Elkhorn

Our Lawful Good dwarf might have been one of the more popular figures right behind Warduke.  His stats are the same in both versions.  I do like how they took an essentially blank canvas and made a dwarf that is not a Flint Fireforge clone or a Dime store Thorin and gave him some goals.  He is a staunch enemy of evil.  If Strongheart is the founder of Valor's call, then Elkhorn is its heart.

Mercion

Ok. She is no Aleena, but Mercion is the cleric of the group. Her stats are tweaked a bit to give her better Strength and a higher level, but the Mercion in 5e is much more interesting.  In what I feel is a real homage to her Basic D&D roots, she does not worship a god but rather an ideal. She believes that truth gives life to artistry and beauty.  It's kind of a cool concept. If I were to use her as an NPC I would make sure she never lies about anything, ever. In fact, the brutal truth is better for her than a sweet lie. 

Molliver

Molliver the good thief was not in the Shady Dragon Inn product but can be found in the Quest for the Heartstone. In Quest no gender is given for Molliver, so in the 5e book their pronouns are "they."  I like it. I like it because a.) it works for the character and b.) it will certainly piss off the ones that need pissing off.

Molliver is also the only Chaotic Good member of the party. A "Lawful" thief does not make much sense really. Stats are largely the same with a buff for Dex. They even have their boots of levitation, handy for a thief.  

Ringlerun

Our Lawful Good Wizard from Basic remains a Lawful Good Wizard in 5e.  Never as interesting as Kelek, Elminster, or Mordenkainen he was on the cover of the Player's Handbook and a popular figure. 

Ringlerun
His arm must be tired

He is still largely a generic wizard. He has kind of a James Randi in his later years look about him.  In my games he is dead; died of old age, but that doesn't really make sense for a wizard I guess.  I have some ideas forming that I might explore later.  Or not. After all he was never very interesting.

Strongheart

If I have one purely AD&D gripe it is that I rarely see anyone playing a paladin a good way.  "Sanctimonious Asshole" is not a Paladin. Neither is "Grim, tortured because there is so much evil in the world" isn't either.   I was worried that Strongheart was going to fall into one of those two camps. Or even worse, weak Sturm Brightblade clone.

Thankfully, that is not what we got. Instead, 5e Strongheart is the kind of paladin who is all about "we should get together to defeat evil because there is so much good in the world to enjoy!" He makes a good leader.  Again his stats are slightly tweaked to give him a better Strength (13 to 15) which, by the way, his D&D Basic stats were not good enough to make him an AD&D Paladin!

He was the character I was prepared to dislike the most (I have played paladins in EVERY version of D&D) and his actually was pretty cool.

It is mentioned that there are more characters in Valor's Call, off doing Good elsewhere.  They do have a solid feel of "The Superfriends" here. Not s big surprise I guess. Potential other members from Quest of the Heartstone include Peralay (Elf Fighter/Mage), Figgen (Halfling Fighter or Fighter/Theif), Deeth (Fighter), Hawkler (a totally NOT the Beastmaster Ranger), Bowmarc (Good "Crusader") and Valkeer, a half-giant warrior.  Of these Valkeer might the most fun to update to 5e.  Of these Peralay also appears in The Shady Dragon Inn.  

Strongheart and Warduke

Other NPCs

There are plenty of other really interesting NPCs in this book.  Many I plan to lift and convert back to D&D Basic for use in my War of the Witch Queens campaign.

Burly the Hobgoblin

Before D&D, a hobgoblin was more a trickster as exemplified by Puck or Robin Goodfellow. In Witchlight we have Burly a Neutral Good Hobgoblin.  Ok, I'll go with that. My favorite bit is he is a hobgoblin who wears a pumpkin on his head.  Now, where have I seen that before?

Pumpkin head

Bugbear. Hobgoblin.  The differences are largely academic.

Likewise, Chucklehead is a goblin with a  head shaped like a taffy apple.

Iggwilv the Witch Queen

Yes! Getting Skylla was one thing, getting a new Iggwilv?  That's just crazy good.

This is Iggwilv after she has left the Abyss and has been hiding out in the Feywild for centuries. Here she is also known as Tasha, Natasha, and Zybilna.  There is an interaction here with Kelek that plays so well into my plans it is hard not to use it all.  There is an interesting Maiden-Mother-Crone aspect of Iggwilv here in the form of Tasha-Zybilna-Iggwilv.

Iggwilv

Now I am perfectly happy with the formerly Chaotic Evil Iggwilv becoming more Chaotic Neutral as time goes on.  What I am not 100% sure about is her desire to abandon all her research on the Abyss and Demons in favor of learning about the Feywild instead.  But...I can live with it.

The Hour Glass Coven

I like them. Very interesting bunch of witches and hags.

The Minis

This is such an interesting group of NPCs it makes sense that there is also an equally interesting group of minis to go with them.  Sadly the supply chain breakdown has pushed many of these minis till 2022.  But I am really looking forward to them.

Kelek
Kelek

Skylla
Skylla

Zyblina
Zyblina


Looking forward to them.