Showing posts with label 70s. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 70s. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Classic Adventures Revisited: S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

Cover to S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks
One of the first adventures I ever bought via mail-order was S3 The Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. I had already latched onto the idea that the S series of adventures were going to be mine to run in our extended group of players that crossed many DMs and groups.  I grabbed it without really knowing a lot about it.  I knew there was crashed spaceship central to the adventure and I knew that it was a larger adventure.  Since I was spending my limited paper route money on my new D&D addiction I had to make every dollar count.   S3 had two booklets, at 32 pages each, and color inserts. There were two covers with maps. So even my young mind all of this was more valuable than a simple adventure that only had half that material.

I got it in the mail one summer and took with me on a family trip to the fish fry my parents loved to go to every year.  It was hot, and July and all I wanted to do was sit in our van and read my adventure.  This was also the first time that I encountered what I would later call the "Gary Gygax" effect. This would be the "E.G.G." on the map of Level II.  I remember not liking it at the time because if this was a real spaceship then why was that there.  But more details on that later.

Sci-Fi gaming was not new to me. I had picked up Traveller and I knew about Gamma World. I also had learned that Gamma World and S3 had a shared parentage in Metamorphasis Alpha, though I will admit I wasn't 100% clear on what that meant at the time.   Without knowing much about the size of the Warden (MA) we always assumed this was the Warden.  Given the shape of the ship that landed on Greyhawk and it's size this was more obviously some sort of smaller scout ship with a prison or brig.  One thing everyone in my groups agreed on was this is how Mind Flayers came to Greyhawk.

S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

For this review, I am considering my printed copy from 1982 or so (not my original sadly, lost that one years ago) and the PDF from DriveThruRPG.  This adventure was written by Gary Gygax himself and was the official Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Tournament scenario at Origins II in 1976.  The adventure was updated and published in 1980. Cover art and art book art by Erol Otus, interior art by Jeff Dee, David "Diesel" LaForce, Jim Roslof, David Sutherland III, Gregory Flemming, and Erol Otus.

The adventure comes in two 32-page black and white booklets. The first covers the adventure and the second covers all the weird animals, plants, and gadgets found on the ship.  There is also four pages in the center of book two with full-color art of the animals.  I have one copy where they are glossy and another where they are matte. I have no detail on what the differences mean.  

Glossy vs. Matte art in S3 Book 2

Book 1 covers the adventure.  The preface sets up what this adventure is about and gives some background on how this adventure came to be.  The rest sets up the adventure, placed in the Grandy Duchy of Geoff in the World of Greyhawk.   There is a bit of explaining the nature of this "dungeon," really a crashlanded ship, and how to read the maps. 

While one could call this a funhouse dungeon it is a bit different than the other Gygax funhouse, Tomb of Horrors.  There are a lot of new and weird monsters here and some older ones (like the Mind Flayer) that are given a new life so to speak.  What is most interesting to us, and to the players, were the new tech provided.  The tech items were designed not really to be functional, but to confuse the players as much as possible.  There really seemed to be a fear that D&D characters would run around with laser rifles.  Of course the design makes no sense from a human perspective, so we tried to figure out how they might been created.  One idea was that these make sense if you are a Mind Flayer. 

The adventure itself is a pure dungeon crawl into an unknown structure. 

Book 2 covers all the visual aids for this adventure.

The adventure is a must-have really to say you have had the complete D&D experience.  My oldest hated it though, saying he hates mixing sci-fi with his D&D.  My youngest loved and wanted lasers for everyone.

Classic Modules Today & Revisited

There are 5th edition updates via Classic Modules Today by Todd Bergman and the 5e Conversion by Michael "solomani" Mifsud. Each goes for $1.00.

Goodman Games also offers their massive Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, with introductions and background details from author Michael Curtis, Tony DiTerlizzi, Erol Otus (with some new art too!), and an interview with Diesel LaForce by Tim Wadzinski.

Two versions of the classic adventure are given to represent the seven different printings the adventure went through. These are covered on page 21 and largely deal with the various TSR logos used. Given this information, my copies seem to be later printings.  Corrections to errors found are presented in the 5th edition version of the adventure. 

In the last pages, Appendix G, covers the relationship between Metamophasis Alpha and Expedition to the Barrier Peaks.  IF they had included Gamma World then the trinity would be complete.  Goodman Games still publishes some material for Metamorphasis Alpha.

Goodman Games and TSR's respective Barrier Peaks adventures

The Warden Campaign

I can see an entire campaign built around this crashed spaceship and the mutants it has let loose in the area.  A great way to introduce the ideas of Gamma World or even Mutant Future or Mutant Crawl Classics to your game.  You can expand it with ideas from Mark Taormino's Secret Machines of the Star Spawn.  It could even lead to a Spelljamming campaign.

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea

AS&SH already has things from the stars and even lost technology, so adding this adventure to it is not just a no-brainer, I have a hard time justifying why you shouldn't give it a try. 

BECMI/Mystara

While the Barrier Peaks is firmly rooted in the realm of Greyhawk, there is no reason why it can't be moved to Mystara.  There is already a solid history of magic and technology in Mystara. Not just from the Shadow Elves or Blackmoor, but also the curious connections between these two maps.

Here is Mystara's North and West hemisphere.


Here is Gamma World


Rotate the top map by about 45 degrees counter-clockwise and you get the map below.  No shock since both maps are based on North America.

What happened to cause the world of map 1 to become the world of map 2?

Maybe the reactor of the crashed spaceship went critical, blew up, shifted the world axis (something that did happen in Mystara), and created a bunch of weird mutants.  Unless of course the characters can go on an expedition to some mountains and stop it from happening. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

The Enduring Appeal of Holmes Basic & B1

Last week I talked a bit about Holmes Basic in regards to another game TSR put out in 1977, Warlocks & Warriors.  This led to a few more discussions online and some more reflection on my part.  It got me thinking about how much gamers of a certain age keep going back to Holmes.

I mean I get it, really.  There is a simplicity with Holmes that has appeal. This is not the strange mix that is OD&D or the complex rules for everything as AD&D.  It sits neatly in the middle and has a rule book that might be one of the clearest that 70s D&D has to offer.  It paved the way for Moldvay and Mentzer Basics, but it stands pretty well on it's own.


Holmes Basic and the Monster Manual

Once upon a time in the years between the Bicentennial and the dawn of the 80s was a time when the only Star Wars was "Star Wars" and home computers were just getting started there was D&D variant that I personally think a lot of people played.

For me that year was 1979.  The D&D was Holmes Basic and the Advanced D&D Monster Manual.  I, like many others, didn't care that "D&D" and "AD&D" were supposed to be different games. In fact I don't think I even knew until I got my Expert Set much later.  I mean yeah there were articles in Dragon about it, but I never saw those till much, much later.  Even then I don't think I cared.

But none of that mattered really.  Holmes Basic was likely set up as the gateway to AD&D and not really it's own line yet.  As has been discussed by others, most notably Zenopus Archives ("The Monster Manual is a Holmes Supplement." go read it), that the Monster Manual draws on Holmes for quite a lot of detail.  In particular it uses the "5" point alignment system of Holmes rather than the "9" point one of AD&D.  For example there are no Neutral Good, Neutral Evil, Lawful Neutral, or Chaotic Neutral monsters in it.  Those all don't appear until the adventures (GDQ series for example) and the Fiend Folio and Monster Manual II.

It also doesn't hurt that there are artistic similarities between these two books, not just their respective covers.

This was the central core of what was "D&D" for me.  

Looking over at the publication dates of various publications from TSR prior to 1982 you see there is a world's worth of playing here. Again, h/t to Zenopus Archives for this. Even prior to 1980 is full of great material.

Holmes Basic, the Monster Manual, and Eldritch Witchery give me so much potential. 

Warlocks & Warriors & Witches

Something dawned on me while reading some of the replies to my Warlocks & Warrior post.  What if the eponymous Warlock and Warrior were none other than Zelligar the Unknown and Rogahn the Fearless from adventure B1 In Search of the Unknown respectively.  It fits with the covers to be sure.

So if the Warlock is Zelligar and the Warrior is Rogahn, who is the Princess?  Well, if you spend any time here at all then you know who she is. She is Marissia (yes I am sticking with the wrong spelling). 

In my running of B1 Marissia is the daughter of Zelligar and one of the first witches in my games.  While there is a Melissa described in the adventure, I was really set on the name Marissia. 

From Melissa's room (key XXIV Mistress' Chamber) 

Melissa's room
From Roghan's room (key XXV Roghan's Chamber)

Melissa text from module B1

Melissa/Marissia, again I was 10.

So how about this.  "Warlocks & Warriors" is a game played in my D&D worlds that is an homage to the time when the King offered the famed adventures Zelligar and Rogahn the hand of his beautiful young daughter to whoever rescues her first.  It doesn't matter who won because the daughter Marissia was having none of that. She decides to go with the much older Zelligar who adopts her as his own daughter and trains her to be a witch. She then also becomes the lover of Rogahn.  Sometime later the former allies Zelligar and Rogahn turn on each other.  That is the cover of the W&W game and why "Melissa/Marissia" is looking on in cool detachment. Their falling out with each other is what leads to their stronghold, the Caverns of Quasqueton, to lie in ruins.  Again, turning to Zenopus Archives, there is a good place to put B1 on the W&W wilderness map. 

This slight revision still fits with my original idea that Marissia/Melissa is Zelligar's daughter and Rogahn's lover.  While in 1977 having a blonde on your cover was no great stretch, she does have a similarity to all the versions of Marissia I have done or thought of over the years.


It works since "Milissa Wilcox" premiered on Scooby-Doo with a Leviathan Cross in 1978. The ghost had green hair, but the person behind it was blonde. That episode and Scooby-Doo, The Phantom of the Country Music Hall would have certainly been on my mind in 1979.  This is the strange alchemy that fueled my earliest D&D adventures and is still called a "Scooby-Doo Adventure" by my wife.

Yeah, a load of coincidence, and my former Advanced Regression Prof is likely shaking his head at me now.  But it works for this. 

The point is there is a lot packed into all of Holmes' Basic set and I know we didn't know what treasure we had back then.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Warlocks & Warriors (1977)

Warlocks & Warriors Box cover
The weekend before last I was at my FLGS and in their "glass case" there was a game that I have been wanting since I opened my first "Gateway to Adventure."  That game is Warlocks & Warriors.

While the game has some serious nostalgia value to it (details in a bit) the game itself is so simple it makes Dungeon! look like RuneQuest or Champions.

Choose to be a warrior or a warlock and move your pawn on the board.  Run into another player? Duel, which has the effect of pushing them back. 

The goal is to get the blonde princess back to her castle so her daddy the King can give you half his kingdom and supposedly the princess too. Hey, it was 1977.  Given the cover, I thought maybe the blonde was also a playable character.  I really should have known better, but I had hoped.

But there are a few things going for it.  First and foremost this game was designed by Gardner Fox.  Yes THAT Gardner Fox.  So I was hoping for a little more to be honest.  The guy that gave us Zatanna and Doctor Fate (among others) should have had cooler warlocks.

It is also an "Introductory Fantasy Game" so it would be fun as an introduction to old-school D&D tropes for younger kids.  Though the lack of anything like fantasy monsters (as moving pieces) or treasure limit the use of this for that.  The playing pieces are basic, but not really for 1977 standards.

The cover similarities between this and Holmes Basic can't be ignored.

Holmes Basic D&D with Warlocks & Warriors Boxes

It really seems to be the same "Warlock" and "Warrior" on both covers.  Both were done by David Sutherland and both boxed sets came out the same year.

This is also not the only time we see the "Princess" we next see her in the AD&D Player's Handbook looking over the collected treasure loot. 

The W&W Princess becomes her own hero!

Maybe she told the Warrior and the Warlock (and her dad)  to go get bent and she became an adventurer herself.  I mean she is eyeing that magic sword.

Zenopus Archives (the authority on all things Holmes) comments on how the map from this game would make for a good Holmes Basic "Hex Crawl".

Warlocks & Warriors Wilderness Map

The box itself is surprisingly light.  But I am judging it by today's standards.

Warlocks & Warriors box and pawns

Warlocks & Warriors instructionsEarly TSR catalog

Warlock & Warriors credits

Would this game satisfy my "Traveller Envy?"  I am not sure.  I think I could work it into a game somehow.  Maybe as the previously mentioned Hex Crawl for Holmes (or Basic Era between levels 1 and 3).  I could come up with a whole adventure for it to be honest.  Warlock holding a princess captive, hex crawl to find her.  But that is WAY too clichéd. 

Still. I can't help think there is a way to add this to the Holmes Experience.  Potentially add it to the Monster Manual for the full 1977 experience!  Or maybe the Ancient Ruins on the map are the dungeon from the Dungeon! board game. 

Elise Gygax, D&D, Dungeon! and Warlocks & Warriors. Party like it is 1977!

The game itself is really just a larger "mini-game" not much more complex than the mini-games that TSR would later release in 1981.  I'll even go on a limb here and say the relationship between Warlocks & Warriors to Holmes is not significantly different than the relationship between the 1981 mini-games and Moldvay Basic.

TSRs Mini-games

More on these mini-games at a future date!

Reviews

Friday, October 30, 2020

October Horror Movie Challenge: Witchcraft of the 70s

I want to get in some Witchcraft documentaries from the 70s.  These really cover what formed some of my earliest thoughts on witchcraft and the occult.

These movies are not really horror, but they good supporting movies for all the horror movies I typically watch. All these titles received an X rating when they were released but are really all pretty tame.  

An interesting note that all these films feature Alex Sanders and Maxine Sanders.

Legend of the Witches bluray cover
Legend of the Witches (1970)

This is a nice weird one and It is part of a larger DVD/Blu-Collection I grabbed from Amazon.  The first part is a slow narration over scenes of the moon and sun rising and setting in glorious black & white.  It reminds me a little of the start of Aradia, Gospel of the Witches.  We get to the creation of man and we see a number of neolithic shamanistic cave paintings. 
We get to the part about witches with prerequisite naked dancing under the moon.

We get to see a witchcraft initiation, which looks a bit Gardenarian or Alexandrian (checked it is Alex Sanders, so Alexandrian). We get some history of England including the notion that William the Conqueror was the son of a Witch, and Robin Hood had a coven. This leads to a bunch of material about witches including the witch hunts. 

Different witch rituals are shown from wicca to Luciferian with copious amounts of nudity (likely the source for the X ratings) but nothing even remotely shocking really.

Secret Rites (1971)

This one starts off with a "witches orgy" and a woman being dragged to "unspeakable obscenities" but fear not! Her lover "John Goodfellow" has come to rescue her brandishing a cross and rebuke witches as if they were vampires.  The scene freezes and our narrator continues in saying that this has been the perception of witches for years.  We cut to Alex Sanders who tells us it is complete rubbish. 

This covers the initiation of a new witch into Alex's coven. As well as a very brief look at his discussion group (likely brief since there is no nudity), a Wiccan handfasting, and even a Great Rite.

The following were included on the same DVD. 

The Witch's Fiddle (1924)
A man gets a fiddle from a witch that can make anyone dance. 

Out of Step (1957)
A documentary series that covers witchcraft in this episode.  Interviewed are Margaret Murry, Gerald Gardner, and Alastair Crowley's friend, Louis Wilkinson. 

The Judgement of Albion (1968)
From Robert Wynne-Simmons, the director of Blood on Satan's Claw.  Based on the poems of William Blake. It is a trippy little flick where faeries, in the guise of young college students, still roam "A Green and Pleasant Land" amid modern troubles.  Completely experimental and yet so utterly British. 

All of these movies and shorts reveal an interesting look at Britain at the end of the 60's.  While in the US we were moving headlong into the excess of the 70s and "left-over hippie shit", England seemed to be two different places at the same time. A country aware that it is slowing down even as new prospects are on the horizon and a country whose Pagan past was just a little bit below the surface. These two are likely related to each other.

Witchcraft 70 poster
Witchcraft '70 (1970)

This Italian "documentary" follows the lives of various real witches in England. I say "documentary" because it only details the most salacious elements of the neo-pagan movement in England.  It also conflates all witchcraft with satanism.  Now a few of the people they profile like Alex Sanders dabbled in "the Left-Hand Path" decades before and Anton LeVey who was a Satanist, others like Eleanor Bone and Maxine Sanders were Wiccans.  The Sanders in fact developed the Alexandrian Tradition of Wicca.  In fact, there are many times that what is depicted on screen and what the narrator is telling us is happening are complete conflict.   There is a hand-fasting between Alex and Maxine Sanders which is described as Maxine marrying the Devil in the guise of Alex.  They imply that in all of these "Satanic Weddings" that Alex, as the Devil, gets to have sex with the women first.  A lot of criticism has been laid at the feet of Alex Sanders and Alexandrian Wicca, but this is not one of them. 

Oh there is the implication too that Brazilian witches engage in incest.  If that feels like it came out of nowhere then yeah, I thought so too. In the middle of talking about proper British witchcraft we get this side trip to Brazil. 

Another unforgivable sin (if that word can be used) is that the Narrator (Alberto Bevilacqua) quotes Jacob Sprenger of the Malleus Maleficarum as an authority. 

Finnish witchcraft is shown to have a nubile nude witch submit to a cult leader as her future husband, chosen by the high priestess. 

It is all very Mondo with plenty of blood sacrifices.  There is a bit on Ted Serios and his psychic photography.  Mediums. Krishna Consciousness (which is entrapping all of America's youth!) and some more on Brazil.  Oh. and they spend some time on LaVey.  Plenty of nude women hanging around including LaVey's own daughter and future high priestess of her own sect. There are a few scenes in the LaVey piece that I am sure got in front of some of the artists of White Dwarf

And it ends with Cryonics, or the freezing your body after death.  Cause why not.  Even the start of the 70s was weird.  I guess their issue was the artificial extension of life. 
It feels like some Christian scare tract/documentary.  Better watch out those English witches will get you!

It has an X rating, but there is nothing here that I have not seen in a "TV-MA" series on Amazon or Netflix. 

Reading other reviews online I just watched the Italian version "Angeli Bianchi... Angeli Neri" (White Angel ...Black Angel), not the redubbed, re-edited "American" version. 

NIGHT SHIFT and Old-school Content:  A few notes.

I have had this game idea for a while now, Spirit of '76, that takes place in the summer of 1976.  It has a solid Americana feel to it and it is inspired as much by movies like "Smokey and the Bandit" and "Convoy" as it is "The Omen" and "It's Alive".  But this got me thinking of a similar idea, only maybe set in England during the end of the 60s, 1968 to 1972 in particular.  Something very Mod but with horror and supernatural elements.   I'd love to set it in London. 

Watched: 55
New: 39



Thursday, October 29, 2020

October Horror Movie Challenge: Demon Witch Child (1975)

Demon Witch Child (1975)
Demon Witch Child (1975)

Another one that has been on my list for a while now.  I had it on tap for 2018, but for some reason, I never got around to it.  I think I just forgot about it. Actually, it is perfect for this year and right now.

Before I get into the plot, such that it is, I want to talk about what this movie represents.  All month long I have been focused on the time period in Europe, and mostly Italian and Spanish cinema, just right before the Exorcist hit.  The sweet spot for me has been 1971 to 1973.  Now maybe someday I'll do a post Exorcist run of movies, but until then this is the film that I will hold up as Exhibit A as to the effect the Exorcist had on filmmaking. 

Demon Witch Child, aka The Possessed and La Endemoniada, has a pedigree of sorts.  Marián Salgado who plays Susan, the titular "Demon Witch Child," was the Spanish voice actress for Linda Blair's Regan in the Exorcist.  So she was handpicked by director Amando de Ossorio for his Exorcist rip-off, er, homage.   The fact that she also bears some similar facial features to the old witch played by Tota Alba helps.

The Exorcist influences are all over this movie.  Susan crawls around, her body (not just head) spins around 180 degrees. She swears, she makes rude sexual comments all the time, she speaks in different languages (though we never hear them).  And it is all a little weird. I honestly got the feeling that the movie was written one way, but when the Exorcist hit more was added. 

An old witch desecrates a church and is arrested.  She is suspected of kidnapping a baby, but instead of talking she throws herself out of a window.  Her daughter (played by Kali Hansa who also spent some of time working with Jess Franco, including one of his hardcore outings, Weiße Haut und schwarze Schenkel, 1976) witnesses this and decides to curse the daughter of a local politician, Susan. 

Susan it seems is now possessed by the spirit of the dead old witch. The make-up effects are pretty good and do a good job of making Marián Salgado look like Tota Alba.  

Sadly the movie goes nowhere really.  Susan sacrifices babies, eats them,  gets people killed, murders a reporter, and comments on how well hung he is before castrating him. But there is also a surprising lack of gore or nudity for the time.  There is a subplot with a priest, our would-be exorcist, how before he became a priest he was engaged.  It is all very random in places. 

This is not the only movie I have seen from the time that suffers a lot from comparisons to The Exorcist, but this one of the most glaring ones. 

Watched: 52
New: 36

NIGHT SHIFT and Old-School Content
Possession is always fun in a game. Unless you happen to be the one possessed.  While this movie was obviously about demonic possession they can be other types.  Based on similar tales, I posted about the Eretica Vampire a few years back.  I even used a still from this movie.

Eretica (Vampire)
Eretica (Vampire)
No. Appearing: 1
AC: 6
Move: 40ft.
Hit Dice: 7
Special: 2 attacks (claws, bite), Mind control, Strong and Fast, Witch spells, blood drain.
XP VALUE: 750 

Eretica are the spirits of dead witches who possess the living, turning them into a sort of living vampire.

Unlike the typical Vampire, these creatures cannot Polymorph and cannot create new vampires.  In their host form, they can also move about during the day and are immune to holy items.  In their "possessed" form they have all the standard weaknesses of vampires. 
They can witch spells at the 4th level of experience.



Friday, October 9, 2020

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Manitou (1978)

Watching Bigfoot this morning made me think of this oldie and how much it freaked me out as a kid.

This movie typifies the later 70s, post Exorcist, mood of American Horror.  Lots of psychic phenomena, some satanism, and if you can work in Native American or Eastern mysticism all the better.

Tony Curtis is great as a fake psychic and tarot card reader that gets pulled into the drama around a tumor growing on his ex-girlfriend's, Susan Strasberg's, back.  X-rays show the tumor to look like a rapidly growing fetus.

Karen (Strasberg) goes to see Harry (Curtis) the day before her surgery (and they drink a lot of wine before hand).  Harry does a tarot card reading for her and they all come up the same (the tower, the moon, the devil, and death).

That night Karen mutters something in her sleep in a language that Harry doesn't understand (he thinks it is Swahili).

Karen goes into surgery but the doctors are prevented from cutting into the tumor.   At the same time, Harry's psychic ability becomes real.  They take part in a séance and learn about the Manitou. They go and see Dr. Snow (Burgess Meredith in a surprise role) and learn more.

The contact a Native American Shaman played by the always amazing Michael Ansara (Kang of Star Trek and Kane of Buck Rogers) and learn that this tumor is really the ancient Shaman Misquamacus.
At one point Misquamacus tells John Singing Rock (Ansara) not to help them.  I was half-hoping he would stand up and tell them "you are on your white people."

Misquamacus is born (I seem to recall it being scarier in 78) but is held in place at first by John's circle. 

The "demons" summoned by Misquamacus are quite cool.  They have a sort of Lovecraft/August Derleth quality to them. They are even called "the great old ones."  In the end, the evil spirits are destroyed by computers, manifesting as laser blasts from a naked Karen.   Lest we forget this was the 70s.

This really is a cut above my normal fare in terms of acting ability even if the story is a little silly. 

Watched: 11
New: 9

A couple of thoughts here. 

First, there is a wealth of material in Native American folklore that I just have not explored and honestly, I am just not even remotely familiar or even qualified to write about them despite all the stories I have read or watched over the years. 

I'd love to get more of this sort of thing for my Valhalla, AK game.  While the Bigfoot stuff from earlier today went on the silly side, this would be more of the horror side of things. 



Monday, October 5, 2020

October Horror Movie Challenge: Il Sesso Della Strega (1973)

Wait...didn't I watch this one last night?  Well, you would think so just comparing the posters.
Also known as "Sex of the Witch" this one came out a year after Byleth did.  Though in fairness BOTH movies do have a scene that the cover could represent.

An old wine merchant is dying so he curses his family, in particular his greedy grand-children.

One by one people start to die.

The plot, minus the sex and witchcraft, could have been a thriller or even a comedy.  There are some parallels to some murder mysteries like Clue and Knives Out.  In the sense that people keep dying and there are a bunch squabbling children trying to get Daddy's wealth.

There is lots of sex and nudity and it is pretty much the ultimate evolution of the Italian Giallo, Eurosleaze flick.  It was only missing a deformed henchman in my mind. Though there is a creepy dude in black.

I will admit that I am now likely to use "fondling the goldfish" as a sexual euphemism after watching this movie.  The said scene is about 40 mins into my copy.

It is notable that Camille Keaton of "I Spit On Your Grave" fame appears in this one as well as one of the nieces, Anna.  she gets clawed by the previously mentioned creepy dude.

The movie's biggest crime though is that it is a slog and actually kind of dull.

Maybe a Byleth +  Il Sesso Della Strega supercut is needed.  In fact, I know just how to do it.
At least we know what poster to use.

Watched: 6
New: 6

NIGHT SHIFT Content

The rich brother writes his sister out of his will because she was a witch and seduced him when they were younger.  Now their illegitimate daughter is back. She is also a witch (more powerful since her blood is "concentrated") and begins to kill off all her half-siblings (they think she is "just" a cousin) so she can have all the inheritance for herself.
Since she is a diabolic witch her patron is Byleth, the Demon Prince of Incest. 
While Byleth, or Beleth, has a history this version is closer to the D&D/Pathfinder demon Socothbenoth.

Now, this would obviously be a more R or even NC-17 rated game. 
To borrow a Scooby-doo trope one of the characters is a distant relative to the brother's wife (so no weird blood relations here).





Wednesday, August 26, 2020

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 26 Strange

Again a couple ways to go.  

I could comment on these strange days, but I have other social media outlets for that.

I am going to comment on the #RPGaDAY2020 list itself in that these are a lot of strange words.  

Ok, I get it, Dave has been doing this a long time and maybe he is running out of words to use. but knowing and the work he has done in the past I highly doubt he is lacking in ideas. So I'll just put this here as my commentary and that's it.

Ok. Strange. Let's get to the meat of this.

Many of my contemporaries will point to Fritz Leiber, Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tolkien, Moorcock, and Lovecraft as their main sources of inspiration to D&D.  While I share the Tolkien, Moorcock, and Lovecraft influences, I also add Clark Ashton Smith.

But those were not my only sources.

Dr. Strange and Tomb of Dracula

The 1970s were a strange time to be sure.  The 70s Occult Revival fueled my tastes in games in ways I never knew at the time and only saw in retrospect.  Case in point. Dr. Strange comics and Tomb of Dracula.  Both were favorites of mine but when Strange, along with Blade, would battle Dracula? Yeah, THAT was an adventure.  I wanted my games to have these epic world-changing battles that start small but then go on out to the cosmic scale.  Strange didn't just defeat Dracula. He destroyed all vampires.

I was already a huge horror fan at this point and Hammer Horror in particular. So these comics sent me searching more and more strange ideas for my games. I think by 1982 I had read every book of occultism in my local public library.  Creating a witch class was an inevitable conclusion at that point. 

When the Ravenloft module was released it found a no more welcome home than mine.

I have mentioned this in greater detail here.

Strange Stories, Amazing Facts

My copy
My parents were voracious readers. Books filled every corner of my home growing up and every room had at least one bookshelf, some like the living room had three. 

They, like many people of their generation, had a lot of Reader's Digest books. One, in particular, was Strange Stories, Amazing Facts.

This book should not by any stretch of the imagination be considered good literature or even good research. It is however good fun and a fun read. 

While the book is divided up into roughly chronological sections including one on the future, it was the past and the monsters of myth that always grabbed my attention.  Though flipping through it now that section on the end of the world would be fun to use.

For my birthday about 10 years ago my family found a copy and gave it to me.  Complete with original dust jacket (I am book snob and prefer my dust covers intact).

I have been asked in the past to assemble my own "Appendix N".  Maybe I'll do that one day.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Review: Tunnels & Trolls (Troll Week)

Tunnels & Troll might be one of the first "clone" games ever, but it really is a proper game in its own right.  The story goes that creator Ken St. Andre was browsing through the original D&D rules and thought he could do better than that so he sat down and created the first Tunnels & Trolls game in 1975.  D&D was barely a thing on the wider scale, though very popular still, and here comes T&T.

Over the years T&T has been updated, re-released, and otherwise seen many ups and downs the game itself has continued and has a dedicated fanbase.  It is easy to see why. T&T is easy to learn, has some neat little quirks, and is just plain fun.  Plus if you ever get a chance to meet Ken St. Andre at Gen Con then PLEASE do it. He is a great guy.

The name, Tunnels & Trolls, almost wasn't. It was almost Tunnels & Troglodytes, but that name was shot down by his players.  Since then the troll has become a sort of synonymous with the game and St. Andre himself. His twitter handle is @Trollgodfather and he runs Trollhala Press.

Tunnels & Trolls now holds the distinction of not only being the oldest RPG still published by the same publisher, Flying Buffalo, but also still controlled by its original author/designer. 

The RuneQuest Connection
Yesterday in my review of RuneQuest's Trollpak I mentioned that in my earliest days I thought Trollpak was a supplement for Tunnels & Trolls. Indeed both games did feature a lot of troll iconography.  But I think two it may have come with one other obsession of mine. Elric. I was (still am) a HUGE Michael Moorcock fan and I loved the Elric books.  I saw the game Stormbinger and I knew it used a similar system to both RuneQuest and Call of Cthulhu.  I also knew that Ken St. Andre had worked on Tunnels & Trolls and Stormbringer.  I guess in my young mind I conflated all of that.  While I might never see my goal of a full Tunnels & Trolls/Trollpak mashup, my dream of an epic Stormbringer/RuneQuest/Call of Cthulhu crossover might still happen!

I have owned many different versions of T&T over the years. I have loaned some out, another is just gone (it is with my original AD&D books I think) and still at least one I resold in a game auction when I needed the cash.  I miss each and every one.
Thankfully I now have the PDF of Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls the most recent version and the one that is easiest to get.  I will be focusing my review on this version, with recollections of previous editions when and where I can.

Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls. 2015 Ken St. Andre, published by Flying Buffalo.
348 pages, color covers, black & white interior art (mostly) and a full color section.
Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls (dT&T) is a massive volume at 348 pages.  
The PDF is divided into Chapter sections, but more importantly, it is split into five larger sections; The Basic or Core Game, Elaboration, Trollworld Atlas, Adventures, and End Matter.

The Basic or Core Game
This covers the first 11 chapters and 160+ pages.  This most resembles the T&T game I remember playing sparingly in the 80s. This covers the basics of the game such as rolling up characters, equipping them, combat and magic.  T&T uses all six-sided dice for everything, so getting started is as easy as getting the rules and raiding your board games for dice.  Because we NEVER did that in the 80s.
Character creation is a bit like D&D and other RPGs from the time (or more accurately other RPGs are like D&D and T&T).  There are a few quirks that make T&T stand out.
Exploding Triples allow for some extraordinary characters. When rolling your 3d6 for stats (like D&D) if you get three of the same number, all "1s" or all "6s" for example, you re-roll and ADD the previous total.  In D&D rolling three "1s" is a disaster, but in T&T you then reroll and add that 3 (1+1+1) to your new roll.  Roll three "6s"? Reroll and add 18! T&T has eight abilities, Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Speed, Intelligence (IQ), Wizardry, Luck, and Charisma. They all map pretty close to D&D with the others Speed, Wizardry and Luck doing what they sound like. 
Kindreds, not Race. With all the discussion of the word "race" in D&D (yes, it is old and problematic and yes it should be replaced) T&T "solved" this issue by going with Kindred (and long before Vampire the Masquerade did).  This also leaves character creation open to all sorts of Kindreds. 
Personal Adds. For every point in a physical ability over 12 (the upper end of average), characters get +1 to their personal adds. Physical stats are Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, and Speed. These adds are combined and then used in combat.
Saving Rolls. All skills and nearly everything else use a saving throw like mechanic for resolution. The most common is a Luck roll, but others can be used.

There are three basic and one extra character classes. Warriors, Wizards, Rogues and the Specialist.
Kindreds include Humans, Dwarves, Elves, Fairies, Hobbs (Halflings), and Leprechauns. Each kindred then gets an ability multiplier. So if you are a dwarf and you rolled an 11 for Strength  your multiplier is 2 for a 22 strength! But your Luck multiplier is .75 so if your rolled a 12 it is now a 9.  Other attributes effected are height and weight. Fairies have multiples here of 0.1 and 0.01 respectively.

The equipment list is what you would expect with some odd improvised weapons (rocks) and even guns (gunnes) but these are still rather primitive in nature. 

Saving Rolls are covered in Chapter 5 and gave us what is essentially a dynamic Target Number mechanic YEARS before anyone else did.  You determine the level of the Saving Throw (difficulty) times that by 5 to get your target number. Players roll a 2d6 and yes doubles are re-rolled and added.
It's a simple mechanic that works well. 

Chapter 6 gives us some talents. Or things you can do other than wack monsters. 
Chapter 7 cover enemies and monsters and is a whopping 3 pages!  But that is nature of T&T monsters can be abstracted from just a few simple numbers.
Chapter 8 covers combat. If I remember correctly combat in T&T was a fast affair.  The rules support this idea. 

Chapter 9 is of course my favorite, Magic. There have been more than a few times I have wanted to adopt ideas from here for my D&D games.  In the end though I have kept them separate.  Spell levels go to 18 though you need some superhuman Intelligence and Dexterity scores to cast them (60 and 44 respectively).  Spells have a Wiz (Wizardry cost) so it works on a spell-point like system.  The spell names are something of a bit of contention with some people and my litmus test for whether or not someone will be a good player in T&T.  If they don't like the names, then I think they will not be good for the game.  Among the spell names are "Hocus Focus", "Oh Go Away", "Boom Bomb", "Freeze Please" and more.  I like them I would rather have a fun name than a boring one, but I am also the guy who made spells called "You Can't Sit With Us", "Live, Laugh, Love", "Oh My God, Becky!" and "Tripping the Light Fantastic".

Chapter 10 is Putting it All Together with general GM advice.  Chapter 11 covers the Appendices. 
This constitutes the bulk of what makes up the T&T game. 

Elaborations
This section consists of rules additions and other topics.
Of interest here is Chapter 13, Other Playable Kindreds.  This likely grew out of T&Ts sister game, Monsters! Monsters! In dT&T these stats for playing have been brought more inline with the M!M! book for more compatibility.   The attribute multipliers from character creation are repeated here for the main kindreds, and then expanded out for others of the Familiar (or most similar to the Good Kindred, like goblins, gnomes, and pixies) to the Less Common like lizard people, ratlings and trolls!  To the Extraordinary like ghouls and dragons.
The means in which this is done is so simple and so elegant that other games should be shamed for not doing the same.
Later on languages, more talents and accessories (minis, battle mats, virtual tabletops) are covered.



Trollworld Atlas
This section covers the campaign world of Trollworld.  A history is provided and the major continents are covered as well as a few of the cities. This covers about 70 pages, but it is all well spent.
This section also features some full-color interior art including some great maps.

Adventures
Pretty much what is says on the tin.  This covers the two types of adventures one can have with T&T; a solo adventure and a GM run adventure.  
Everyone reading this has experienced a GM run adventure.  But where T&T really sets itself apart are the solo adventures. This is a reason enough to grab this game just to see how this is done.

End Matter
This section contains the last bits.  Credits. Afterwords. Acknowledgments. A full index. Character sheets and a Post Card for the City of Khazan!


I am going to put this bluntly.

Every D&D player, no matter what edition, needs to play Tunnels & Trolls at least once.  They should also read over the rules.  I don't care if you walk away saying "I don't like it" that is fine, but so many of the things I see so-called seasoned D&D players and game masters complain about has a fix or has been addressed already in T&T. 

Like I mentioned with Trollpak who solved D&D's "evil race" problem back in 1982, Tunnels & Trolls fixed it in 1975.

Beyond all that T&T is an easily playable game with decades of material and support and thousands of fans online.  If you don't want to buy a copy to try out then find a game at a Con.  

Is T&T perfect?  No. It lacks the epic that is D&D.  If D&D is Wagner then T&T is Motzart. Easier to approach, but no less brilliant. 

For under $20 (currently) you get a complete game with enough material to keep you going for years. Plus there is such a wealth (45 years now) of material out there that you will never run out of things to do.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

That's So Raven! Raven Swordsmistress of Chaos for BECMI

Raven by Luis Royo
Back in 1987, I was a freshman in college. My then Favorite Local Game Store was also my Favorite Local Used Book Store.  They sold new books, used books as well as new and old gamebooks.  I got a copy of the first printing Deities & Demigods here along with scores of old copies of Dragon and White Dwarf.  

One book they always prominently displayed was the American versions of Raven Swordsmistress of Chaos.  

I never grabbed the book but as an 18-year-old guy, I always was attracted to the covers. I even had a character named Raven, who like the cover, was blonde and had a pet raven.  I was vaguely aware there were more books in the series, but never knew how many. 

Over the last couple of years, I have been on a quest to find and read all the Raven books by "Richard Kirk" who was, in reality, the pen name of authors Angus Wells and Robert Holdstock.  Both wrote Book 1 and then they alternated with Wells on Books 3 and 5 and Holdstock on Books 2 and 4.

Well, I succeeded in my quest and I found them all and read them.
While they are not...good...they are fun little romp in late 70s Swords and Sorcery (and Sex, but not as much as the Corgi covers hint at). Sometimes described as a mildly ribald Red Sonja or a less ribald Ghita Of Alizar. The books however perfect for game fodder. 

Others have reviewed the books and I went back and forth on whether I should do the same.  So instead I am just going to link out to some of the better reviews and retrospectives for your own reading.

I figured there are five books in the Raven saga and there are five rule sets in the BECMI series.  
Seems like a good fit.  Plus it let's me try out each set of rules with a character.

I also did this with my very first character, the Lawful Cleric Johan Werper. While I find him interesting I figure you all would like to see Raven more. Also I wanted to get a good feel for how the fighter works in all sets AND the advanced fighter paths from the Companion rules.  So let's get to it!

Raven Swordsmistress of Chaos

Raven from Heroforge
The story Raven begins with that of a runaway slave girl named Su'ann. She is reduced by a mysterious warlock-like character named Spellbinder who recognizes that she is "the pivot on which the world turns" partially because she is also protected by giant Raven and he senses something in her.  Spellbinder and Su'ann, now calling herself "Raven" hook up with a band of outlaws and pirates.  They go from adventure to adventure but all the time Raven is training with swords, spears and what would become her "trademark" a set of throwing stars.  It was the 70s man.  Raven though is not training out of boredom, nor even for the higher purpose fate seems to have, but is very vague about, for her.  She wants to kill her former slave owner the Swordsmaster Karl Ir Donwayne.  
While Raven is the cover girl and the eponymous main character, the events are all narrated and told by Spellbinder many years after the fact. Even the scenes where he was not present.  

The story is one that is simple, but close to many FRP gamers. Raven wants to kill Karl Ir Donwayne. How is going to do that? Well, they need to Skull of Quez to appease this ruler to get to Donwayne. But they have to find the mysterious island first and then kill the beast-men. And there are shadowy loners, men with mysterious pasts. Raven jumping in and out of bed with Spellbinder, Gondar the Pirate captain, and even Krya M'ystral, the Queen and sister of the ruler they were trying to go see.  This is all in the first book.  There is a nice gory battle with Karl Ir Donwayne too, but he comes back in future books to bother Raven some more.

We never get a satisfactory end to Raven's story.  Book 5 just ends.  Though all the books are told from Spellbinder's point of view they could be out of order.  We do know that Raven met some sort of end between Book 5 and Spellbinder's remembering which seems to take place many years later. Maybe she became that agent of Chaos after all.

For this I am going to stat up Raven for each rule set in the BECMI rules, trying to feature what I feel are the best parts.  I am also going to try to feature what I can from what she was doing in the books.

Raven, ePic Character Generator


Sheets are from The Mad Irishman

Basic


Here is the Basic version of Raven.  The hardest this is always to guess at what any one character's numbers are going to be. I figure she had good strength and constitution as well as high dexterity since she favors the throwing stars.  Her charisma is very high, not because of her looks, but because she inspires a lot of loyalty from the cutthroats she usually hangs out with.

She is a fighter. No doubt. I also gave her alignment as Chaotic.  She is a force of chaos, but she is also a killer.  For this example, I thought putting her at level 3, or "Swordmistress" (no middle "s" like the books) was appropriate even for her first book.

You can see her full Basic sheet here (click for larger): 



Expert


Fighters don't get a lot in the Expert set. So for her 2nd book I just advanced her to 9th level "Lady" and gave her some magical chain mail.

You can see her full Expert sheet here (click for larger): 



Companion


Ah now here are some changes!

In the Companion rules, we have more going on.  First I wanted to have her become an Avenger or the Chaotic traveling Fighter.  She obviously has no lands to call her own and she is still going about killing things.  But the Avenger gives her some Clerical ability.

Magic is rare and dangerous in Raven's world.  But everyone seems to have some sort of supernatural sort of talent.  So for Raven, I choose spells that fit in with role as the "pivot on which the world turns" and other things like her raven companion.  So things like "detect magic" and "cause fear" made sense. She also got the 3rd level spell "striking" since that covers a lot of what could be a natural talent.

She also gets 2 attacks per round now at 18th level.

You can see her full Companion sheet here (click for larger): 



Master


Master level Raven is really Ultimate Raven.  This is the Raven that goes toe to toe with gods and spirits and comes out unscathed. 

She gets three attacks per round now and I implemented the Weapon Mastery Rules to give her mastery over the sword and her throwing stars. 
She gets more cleric spells, this time to the 10th level of ability.  Some spells are easily explained by her connection to her bird, fate, and chaos.  Others can be explained by natural ability. "Commune" for example is with her bird and the forces of Chaos only.  "Speak with Animals" can be roughly explained by her time with the animal men. Others could be when she was dealing with weird supernatural forces.

She also gets 3 attacks per round now.

You can see her full Master sheet here (click for larger): 



Immortal


This sheet is largely incomplete.  It is also the most different of the other four (printed from my DTRPG copy) and interestingly enough the only book in series that I don't have an American (Royo cover) edition of.  I do have the British Corgi version with the Chris Achilléos cover.  

I made a lot of guesses as to what sort of Immortal she would be and just cheated and made her an Initiate. I might try this again with one of my own characters that I know better. 

You can see her full Immortal sheet here (click for larger): 


All in all I rather pleased with these. I am curious to hear from anyone that has also read these books.
As far as BECMI character I am happy with it.

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