Showing posts with label 80s. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 80s. 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. 

Monday, May 10, 2021

Review: Gamma World, 1st Edition (1978)

I had not planned this, but DriveThruRPG is having a Sci-Fi sale now.  I had mentioned that May had a 
"soft-theme" of Sci-Fi.  It is very likely I knew this in the back of my mind.  So while their sale is going on I want to look at various Sci-fi games in my life-long quest to find the perfect one for me. 

I am going to start with some that I have played and see where these reviews take me.


Gamma World 1st Ed
There is an important piece of my 40+ years of D&D anniversary that I have neglected and I thought I must rectify that as soon as I can.  

1981 was a banner year for D&D.  I FINALLY got my real copy of the game, the Moldvay D&D Basic Set which I have talked about ad nauseam here for years.  Within that "Gateway to Adventure" catalog there was another game that I knew a little about and would also soon be part of my ever-growing desire for a good sci-fi game.  That game was TSR's own Gamma World.

Over the next few years, I'd spend time with this game and other editions of it, but it was this first edition that really grabbed me like no other.

I am going to review Gamma World here and talk a little about what I did with it and what I will do in the future.  For this, I am considering my original Gamma World book (the box and dice are long gone), the Print on Demand version, and PDFs from DriveThruRPG.

Gamma World (1978, 1981)

Living thru the Nuclear Scare was an interesting time.  I vividly recall having conversations with kids my own age about how they saw no future because the Russians were growing to blow us all up any day.  Regan was president and I was convinced he was going to do something stupid to get us all nuked. Instead, he just destroyed the middle-class.  But the threat was there all the time.  The news, the movies, even all the music videos, to quote Frank Zappa, used all the same cheesy atom bomb explosions.  Yup we were going to all die and the world become a nuclear wasteland where people drove around Mad-Max style in supercars and fought for the remaining resources. 

I suppose then given that environment a game like Gamma World was inevitable.  Gamma World was our world, but very different. It is always interesting to read an older game describe how the world of their future and our present would turn out.  Gamma World paints a nice picture of the early 21st century as a time when we stopped polluting the Earth and taking resources from it.  Science Fiction indeed.  With that, let's delve into this book.

Gamma World original print vs new PoD

Introduction

There is a lot of interesting thing going on here. We know this is a (maybe even THE) Post-Apocalyptic game.  This said apocalypse began in 2309 going to 2322.  We get some world-building here with various wars leading up to the attack against a group known as The Apocalypse by what remained of the various governments and groups and The Apocalypse fought back. While it is not said to be a nuclear disaster, that is certainly how it feels.  We know that due to this event that some life-forms were completely wiped out and others were mutated into new and strange forms. It is stated that many of the weapons were biological in nature too.  So we have a heady stew of alchemical death raining from the skies.  The year is now 2471 (450 years from now). There are humans and other things here and that is where our adventures begin.  I can't help but draw parallels between this and the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century TV series which came out at the same time.  Gamma World predates the TV show, but not Buck Rogers. The TV series takes place in 2491, so 20 years after GW. With TSR's later dangerous flirtation with Buck Rogers, I wonder if any attempt was made to bring the two lines together?  I certainly would have tried if I had been into GW as much as I was into D&D.

How to Use This Book & Designing Gamma World

An overview of what this book is about and how to use it.  If you ever played an RPG then you know what is here. If you ever played AD&D then you might even have this section memorized. Gamma World uses the same dice as D&D.

The designing part covers what you are likely to encounter in a typical Gamma World setting. It is a broad overview meant only to introduce the players. Details will come later.

Creating Characters

If you can create a D&D character then you can create a Gamma World character; they are largely the same and makes you wonder why there was no unified game system used at TSR.  Well...I have my guesses. You have three "races" Pure Strain Humans, Humanoids, and Mutated Animals. Your attributes are Mental Strength, Intelligence, Dexterity, Charisma, Constitution, and Physical Strength.  I am sure these are recognizable. Pure Strain Humans are just that, but Humanoids and Mutated Animals can have mutations. These are rolled randomly of course and some are beneficial others are defects. You can have a physical and/or a mental mutation.  Mental ones can even include psionic abilities. Plants can also have mutations.  This covers quite a bit of the book, but that is not really a surprise I suppose.

Since the tables in the game are based on various ability scores they are more important in normal play than they are in (A)D&D.  Levels and experience points use does not even come up until page 42.

Play of the Game

This covers the rules of the Gamma World game. We start out with what happened a lot in GW; moving from place to place and searching for things.  Combat is the next section with weapons from clubs all the way to fusion rifles. We get some combat matrices that look like they were cribbed from D&D Basic. This is a good thing.  There is even something here that I always an improvement, the Mental Attack Matrix. I mean this could have, should have, been ported back to AD&D and been better than the psionics system used there.

Encounters

Gamma World is a Gygaxian fun-house dungeon writ large.  That doesn't mean everything you encounter will try to kill you, but that is a good assumption.  The creatures are not as evocative as say the creatures from the Monster Manual but they are compatible with each other so if your really want an orc in Gamma World game it is easy.

Also presented are various alliances. These are the groups, factions and tribes you can encounter. Only a few are presented here and the Game Master is encouraged to make more.

Artifacts and Equipment

Maybe more so than D&D there is a good reason for all these "treasures" to be laying around.  But there is always the chance that something will fail. Gamma World takes the device flow charts from Expedition to Barrier Peaks (it's "cousin" adventure in AD&D) and dials it up to 11. 


This section also covers trade, the value of goods, and robots. I wonder how many Gamma World games changed the importance of robots after the Terminator movies came out?

The last few pages cover an example of play and there are some charts (random encounters) and hex grids that can be removed for use.  They look right at home next to my D&D charts of the same period.

Print on Demand

The Print on Demand version might be one of the best ones yet.  Yes, the maps from the box set have to be printed out, but that is not a big deal.  The new PoD is clear and easy to read.

Nothing is lost in the translation.  Plus the new pod uses the box art for the front and back covers so everything is here.  All that is missing is dice.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Mail Call: B7 Rahasia, Print on Demand

Got a nice treat in the mail last week.

Module B7 Rahasia

Rahasia is one of the next adventures I will be running in my War of the Witch Queens campaign for Basic-era D&D.  I have a copy of the original B7 version, but I thought a Print on Demand would be nice to have as well.  

I was not wrong.

Interior of Module B7 Rahasia

Interior of Module B7 Rahasia

Interior of Module B7 Rahasia

Interior of Module B7 Rahasia

Back of Module B7 Rahasia

As with all the PoD modules from the TSR era the maps are not printed on the inside covers but rather as pages.  Not a huge deal to be honest, just make sure you buy the PDF as well and print them out at home.


I had hoped that Rahasia's letter had been cleaned up.  It hasn't. But the source version was difficult to read as well.  I had to retype it so I could have it ready for my War of the Witch Queens game.  

To get this once rare and hard-to-find adventure for just under 12 bucks (I paid $11.99 total) is a really great deal, to be honest. 

Rahasia Links

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: Clash of the Titans (1981, 2010)

Double Feature!

Clash of the Titans (1981)

I can't talk about monsters all month and NOT pop in the stop motion masterpiece of Clash of the Titans.

If you come to this blog I have no doubt you know this move and this story.  So instead lets talk about the production.  Let's get good look at the casting for the gods. Laurence Olivier as Zeus, Claire Bloom as Hera, Ursula Andress as Aphrodite, Maggie Smith as Thetis. Seriously these WERE the gods in 1981. Add in relatively unknown (pre L.A. Law) Harry Hamlin as Perseus and the captivating Judi Bowker as Andromeda then our cast is set.  Throw in some Burgess Meredith for comic relief and a bunch of Ray Harryhausen stop motion creatures and you have a classic.

I am not sure if Medusa was ever depicted as a half snake-woman before this movie, but she sure was after it.  Maybe more so than anything outside of Tolkien has left it's stamp on D&D more than the Greek myths and no movie did as much as Clash of the Titans.  Even people that have never seen the movie know "release the Kraken!"

The film almost has a Disney quality to it with it's score and cinematography. Cinematographer Ted Moore had worked on a lot of 70s Bond films and two of the Sinbad movies, the spiritual forefathers to this one.

Re-watching now (and again) the story holds up and the special effects are more charming than dated. Even Bubo was less annoying in reality than in memory. 

Clash of the Titans (2010)

Ok. The Greek myths endure because they are stories that can be told and retold again and again.  A remake then should always be welcome.  And on paper this one sounds good.  First lets look at our Gods again. Liam Neeson as Zeus, ok do we even care who else is playing the gods at this point?  Ralph "Voldemort" Fiennes as Hades.  Luke Evans (Dracula Unbound, The Hobbit) as Apollo, Danny Huston as Poseidon and Alexander Siddig (Deep Space Nine, Game of Thrones) as Hermes. Ok so, this is all good.  Sam Worthington as Perseus. Ok a good actor, but lacks a certain Harry Hamlin-ness. Alexa Davalos as Andromeda, also good.

Plus we know the special effects were going to be better since this was the new age of CGI.

And...yet it all falls so flat.  Zues' "release the Kracken" doesn't have Sir Laurence Olivier's gravitas and we know Liam Neeson can deliver a line.  Hades...exactly WHY was Hades here anyway? The rest of the gods were blink an you miss them.

The Kracken was underwhelming, but still fun.  Medusa, well. Actually I liked this one. While the first medusa was a spectacle of stop motion puppetry the new one with the face of supermodel Natalia Vodianova seemed more human. It also was one of the first certainly not the last time the story made you feel properly sad for Medusa.  But that is topic for another day really.


The movie is all glitz and spectacle and no heart.  The sign where they toss Bubo from the original movie aside might have felt funny, but it is a good example of the entire film.

Still for a popcorn flick it is fun.  You can even see this as a prequel of sorts to the Greek gods in Wonder Woman.

--

Game Material

Pretty much the entire movie to be honest. The original is so deeply imbedded into the DNA of 80s roleplaying it would be hard to tease out today what came from the Greek myths before this movie vs. after.

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: The Beastmaster (1982)

The Beastmaster (1982)

Another one that made it's presence felt in many D&D games at the time.  In fact, I can think of about 4 or 5 different beastmaster classes off the top of my head now.

It has been forever since I have seen this one, so lets see what we have here. 

We have a young Rip Torn as our bad guy Maax ("May Axe").  Some scantily clad witches tell that King Zad's unborn son will kill him. One of the witches is none other than the future Mrs. Wayne Gretzky, Janet Jones. 

The witches transfer the unborn baby to a cow. Here they attempt to sacrifice him but are stopped by Ben Hammer. He takes the baby to raise as his own. 

Soon young Dar shows a strong affinity to animals. And sooner again we have older Dar in the form of mulletted 80s stalwart Marc Singer.  But he gets no time to enjoy it when his village is attacked by Rip Torn's men.  Maax sees Dar's brand from the witches but before he can get him Dar's dog drags him to the wilderness.  Dar returns to his village (seeing out of the eyes of an eagle) only to find everyone dead.  Even his dog died trying to save him.  

We get an 80s training montage of Dar training and learning how to talk to animals, including some ferrets.  Mind you we are now a half-hour into the movie and Singer's most significant dialog has been with the ferrets. 

I can say it is much slower than I remember, but not as cheesy.  Oh, it is still cheesy, but not as bad as I remember.  I think I was getting it confused with some Roger Corman flicks.  Credit to the movie, they use a lot of real animals and Marc Singer seems really comfortable with them.  Today they would just use CGI.

The Beastmaster may have supernatural powers but that doesn't mean he isn't above using them to steal (the now sadly late) Tanya Robert's clothes or scare her a bit with his lion. 

There are some cool winged "bird-men" or something, but Dar doesn't fight them.

Dar finds a city "Aruk" with a ziggurat (a model, but not a bad one) and the road is lined with dead people long before the same was seen in Meereen in Game of Thrones.  Rip Torn is here sacrificing children but Dar saves one with his eagle.  An effective scene, it would have been better if the eagle had saved the child and tore out Rip Torn's eyes or something, but we still have an hour to go.  Plus Dar returns the child, so I guess the eagle was busy.  Pretty solid good vs evil lines are being drawn here. 

John Amos shows up as Seth.  He appears to be some sort of Monk.  This is one of the roles he took after Good Times.  I always like John Amos, he should have been a much bigger star than he was.  

The undead guards are kind of cool too. Even little Kodo got to be a hero in the end. 

This was much better and more fun than I recall, to be honest.  Nice to have this kind of surprise really

Gaming Content

Lots really.

Ring of Scrying. This ring has an eye set into it like a gem.  Any spellcaster that can scry (Magic-users, witches) can see through this ring using a scrying medium such a pool, mirror, or crystal ball.  Witches will give these to servants and cowans so they can literally keep an eye on them. Damage to the ring though will damage the witch viewing through it.

Beastmaster classes. I covered these a while back in a Class Struggles.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: Dragonslayer (1981)

Dragonslayer (1981)
Since April is Monster Month here I thought it might be fun to check some monster-themed Sword & Sorcery & Cinema movies.  Up first is a classic and premiered at the height of the 80s fantasy craze. Here is 1981's Dragonslayer from both Paramount and Disney.

We are introduced to one of the most famous dragons outside of Westeros or Erebor, Vermithrax Pejorative.  Though he is mentioned among the dragons in Game of Throne's first season.  

The movie is a little slow, but on par with what was normal at the time.  Peter MacNicol is fine as the apprentice turned dragonslayer Galen, but I can't help but think if someone else would have been better in the role.  Caitlin Clarke was great as the girl pretending to be a boy Valerian.  She returned to theatre work after this and this was her only major role.  She sadly passed of ovarian cancer in 2004.

Sadly the movie under-performed in the box office and some of the reviews were not great, but the movie was fun then and to be honest the effects have held up well enough.  It has achieved "cult movie" status and that is not a bad thing.  It certainly is a great one to have on a Dragon-themed movie night.

The effects are good and the director gets away with a lot of "showing less is more."  We only see bits and pieces of the dragon until the very end when it is most effective. Sure some of the stop motion looks very stop motion-y, but Vermithrax still looks like he could go toe to toe with Smaug or Drogon.  I really can't help but think that this dragon wasn't at least some of the inspiration for the DragonRaid game

The musical queues in this are pure Disney so they are also very effective. 

Gaming Content

Now THAT is a Dragonlance! The Sicarius Dracorum really shows that a spear, or a lance, is the best weapon for fighting a dragon.  The forging scene where Galen heats the metal with magic is really one of the best.  If you are not forging your magic weapons like this then you are missing out!

Caitlin's dragon scale shield, while less theatric, is just as magical. 

I am sure there are those that will nitpick that the "dragon" only has two legs and not four, but I can't get worked up over that. He is still a fantastic dragon.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982)

Another fairly notorious one.  I can recall gamers in my Jr. High talking about how to stat up the sword from this.  The start of this one is fun, love the wall of screaming faces.

Among others, this features Richard Lynch as Titus Cromwell the evil king (naturally) and Richard Moll as Xusia the evil sorcerer.  On the side of good, we get Lee Horsley as Prince Talon just before he became Matt Houston and Kathleen Beller, the future Mrs. Thomas Dolby*, as Princess Alana.

I only mention her as the "future Mrs. Thomas Dolby" because that was my first real knowledge of her, on the cover of his "Aliens Ate My Buick" album.  

So let's get to this!

The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982)

So Richard Lynch summons Richard Moll to help him fight King Richard (Christopher Cary).  Of course, no sooner had he got help from the sorcerer Xusia, Cromwell kills him. 

We also get our first look at the ridiculous three-bladed sword. It can cut, slice, and fire blades! 

Eleven years later Talon (now looking like Lee Horsley) comes back home to avenge his father and mother. 

There is a bit with Manimal I mean Prince Mikah played by Simon MacCorkindale and George Maharis, a long way from Route 66, as Machelli.  We also get another showing of S&S&C MVP Anthony De Longis appears as Rodrigo.  

I have never watched it all the way through.  I honestly could never get past the sword firing blades.  Watching it now I remember why.

The prince is rescued but they fight their way out. There seems to be a bit of Raiders of the Lost Ark envy here; Talon's escape could be taking place in Cario, Egypt. 

Talon fights Cromwell only to have Xusia come back.  I have to admit Xusia's return is kind of fun, it would have been better if they hadn't telegraphed it. Xusia and Talon fight over who gets to kill Cromwell.  Talon kills the sorcerer and then he and Cromwell fight.

Not a great movie but a cult film all the same. I know a lot of people love it, but I could not get into it in the 80s and didn't do much better now.

Gaming Content

Seems fitting seeing how they call out D&D on the poster and there is not a dragon to be found in this.

The Triple-Sword.  This sword is +3 to hit and damage.  On striking it does 3d6+3 points of damage. 
The sword can launch one of two of its outside blades doing 1d6+3 damage.  Its range is 30/60/120 feet.  Reattaching a blade requires one round in which the wielder cannot attack. 

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

This Old Dragon: Issue #101

Dragon Magazine 101
It has been far too long since I did This Old Dragon.  I'll grab the next one of the pile and see what we have.  Looks like we are headed back to September 1985 for This Old Dragon #101.

This one is another with no cover.  That is interesting because I will admit it is among one of my least favorite covers.  I am not sure why really, it is Dave Martin and did the (in)famous Dragon #114 cover, but I never cared for this one.

One of the good things about taking so long to this is these now seem to smell less moldy and mildewy. That's a plus.

Kim Mohan's Editorial repeats a sentiment I have shared here; Aren't We All In This Together? Essentially they refused to run an ad that disparaged another companies product. I have often felt the same.  Other gamers, games, game designers are not my competition, they are my colleagues. Like Mohan maybe I am naïve. 

Some ads for Call of Cthulhu and ElfQuest.  The ElfQuest, one covers Sea Elves.  I have been re-reading Dragonlance, Dragons of Spring Dawning that introduced the Sea Elves. Been wanting to do more with them myself.  Maybe I should check on eBay for this.

The first article, Update from the Chief, comes to us from Gary Gygax himself.  This might be the last article written by Gary as a member of TSR.  He will be out in October of 1985.  The article covers many topics.  Unearthed Arcana sold over 90k copies in its first month and his Gord book did well.  Gary announces two upcoming publications, Oriental Adventures and T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil for AD&D and more "family-type" games including All My Children. Gary also briefly discusses the critics of D&D and RPGs in general. 

In a fortuitous (turn for me) Roger E. Moore's article on Kender in All About the Kender is up. I just posted stats for what I think is the very first Kender character I have ever made. Lots of people hate Kender. I will admit I never liked them much, but hate was too strong.  My dislike comes more from my enjoyment of halflings.  Moore's article, rereading it all these years later AND while also rereading the first Dragonlance Chronicle my opinion has softened.  Now I think I find Kender in the light they were always intended. What I disliked about them then is what endears them to me now.  I have to admit that some of what I did with gnomes in the 3e days were likely based on 1st ed Kenders.  I am perfectly happy to keep them on Krynn in my own games, but here they get to be as Kendery as they can.   Since I am going to be running DL15 Mists of Krynn, this is a great article to reread.

Plan it by The Numbers is up from Frank Mentzer.  This is a system he had planned on using in the D&D Master Set. It is similar in many respects to the Monstermark system from White Dwarf or the Challenge Rating systems from D&D 3-5.  The system was not used because it was "too heavily mathematic" but it seems rather simple to be honest.  Almost too simple. In any case I think I will give it a try for my Basic-era War of the Witch Queens game. 

Paul Suttie is next with For King and Country. I have say, I find nothing more tedious and dull than discussions about alignment. For something that is only one aspect of the game I find the multitudes of discussions on it largely pointless.  For example, this article covers five pages.  Why?  Do we really need that?  In then he just wants to dump the whole thing.  

The article is at least broken up by a cool black ad for the D&D Master Set.  Makes it look like a limited edition sort of deal. There is also an ad for Unearthed Aracana.

D&D Master SetAD&D Unearthed Arcana

The Role of Books covers the then-new offerings from SF/Fantasy.   I will admit I don't know most of these, but 1985 was around my turning point of leaving science fiction and fantasy reading and moving more into dark fantasy and horror.  Of the titles, I do recognize the novelization of "Ladyhawke" by Joan D. Vinge.  I enjoyed her "Snow Queen" and "Cat" series quite a bit as well as her novelization of "Return to Oz." 

Peter Johnson is next with Charging isn't Cheap on how to recharge magic items.  The nice feature of this article are the examples of how various wondrous magic items are/were created.  This is a nice change from the very formula-driven approach seen in 3e.  Other than the level restrictions on who can create or enchant these items, this could easily be added to any version of the D&D game. The levels might need to be altered is all. 

Jeff Grub, of Marvel Super Heroes fame, sets out to review a game that could be considered a conflict of interest; but he is very clear about where he is coming from on it. So instead of a conflict or a competitor, he comes off as "Expert."  This is good because the game he is reviewing is the DC Heroes RPG.  It's a good review and Jeff obviously loves the game as it is and loves it as a competition to his own MSH game. 

We get to the centerpiece, literally and figuratively, of this issue.  The Creature Catalog III.  I loved new monsters in Dragon Magazine, and the Creature Catalogs were among my favorite features.  This one has 24 new monsters for your AD&D game and includes submissions from the likes of Ed Greenwood, Roger E. Moore, and Stephen Inniss. With art from Marsha Kauth, Dave LaForce, and Roger Raupp.   There are a few very interesting monsters here too.  The avari are cool-looking bat-like humanoids. The bogeyman is another take on the bogey, bogle, boggart of myth and legend.  The creeping pit is a magical mishap gone wrong. Another hamadryad and lhiannan shee.  The mantimera is a crossbreed of a manticore and chimera (not sure I want to know how that happens). And the yale from mythological lore.   

Consequently, Owen Kermit Edwards is now doing posts on the monsters of Dragon magazine.  His first one is up today on his blog Haughty Fantasy Adventures

TSR Comming Attractions lets us know that T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil is on the way, as well as Book 3 of the Dragonlance Chronicles, Dragons of Spring Dawning.  I have been rereading that and am just about done.

Fiction from Brenda Gate Speilman.

We get to the Ares section now.  

One day I need to back through all of the Ares and see what I can use for my BlackStar and Star Trek: Mercy games. 

Roger E. Moore (our MVP of this issue) has his article on Starships and Star Soldiers on the use of minis in science fiction games.  Timely for me since I just started getting into some 3D printing of some of the FASA Star Trek ships. 

Sorry, Wrong Dimension from Mike Manolakes covers dimensional or parallel universal travel in superhero games.  As a big fan of both the comic and TV event "Crisis on Infinite Earths" and someone that uses different universes in my fantasy games as well.  The 6-dimension coordinate system he has here is EXACTLY something we would have used back then.  This uses a 2d6 for determining dimensions. I like that.  But the d12 is my go-to sci-fi die, so I used that instead. 

More from Jeff Grub on The Marvel-Phile. This time back to Asgard with Beta Ray Bill and Sif.  

Out of the Sun covers man machines for Gamma World from James Ward and Roger Raupp.  And Michael Brown gives us The Stellar Diocese of cleric for Traveller.   That is something I should adopt for BlackStar, but only cultists.

Convention Calendar covers the hottest conventions for Fall 1985 and Winter 1986. Some small ads, notably for a couple play by mail games and art for your D&D characters. Something that I still enjoy getting. 

Wormy gets two pages. I think I need to reread that one from the beginning. I know how it ends, but hitting these in piece-meal, out of order fashion, I forgot what the hell was happening. 

Dragonsmirth gives us TWO different picnic scenes. SnarfQuest gets three pages, mostly about the Gaggleleech. 

I remember this one when it first came out. There is a lot of great material here and the Creature Catalog will certainly see some new use in the future.

Dragon Magazines

Still plenty more to go!

Thursday, February 18, 2021

TSR Minigames as Moldvay-era Adventure Modules

TSR's minigames
TSR's minigames
Last week I discussed how I saw Warlocks & Warriors as something of a "larger" minigame and thematically fitting in with Holmes Basic.   Today I want to fast forward to 1980-81 and talk a little bit about TSR's minigames.

I do not own all of these games, nor am I planning to hunt them all down. My FLGS has a few of them but I have other things on my list to find and buy first.  That being said having them all would be kind of fun.

There were eight total games and I own the first four, the same four that appeared in the 1981 Gateway to Adventure catalog.  The links below take you to their Board Game Geek pages.

Vampyre, my first one. This is for 2-6 players. Players hunt the minions of Dracula in an attempt to find and destroy his coffins.  There is a "wilderness" map and a map of Castle Dracula. Designed by Philip A. Shreffler. Art by Erol Otus.

Revolt on Antares. This game is for 2-4 players and is a "Sword and Planet" style adventure with three modes of play. Typical this boils down to the Terran Empire being the antagonists, protagonists, or neutral. Designed by Tom Moldvay and art by Bill Willingham and Erol Otus. Black Dougal makes an appearance here as well. Also listed for art are Jeff Dee (cover), David LaForce, and Jim Roslof

They've Invaded Pleasantville. For 2 players, a "Town" player and an "Alien" player.  Aliens have invaded Pleasantville as part of their global takeover plan. The town player must either stop or kill the alien sub-commander "Zebu-Lon" (wait a minute...) or get more than half of the townsfolk back to normal.  Designed by Michael Price with art by Erol Otus, Jeff Dee, David LaForce, Jim Roslof, and Bill Willingham.

SAGA. For 2-6 players. Players amass treasure, lands, and glory. The one that has the most glory at the end of 20 rounds wins. Designed by Steve Marsh with art by Erol Otus, Jeff Dee, David LaForce, Jim Roslof, and Bill Willingham.  Willingham's cover is one of the best and this also features some great Erol Otus art. 

Other minigames include Attack Force, Icebergs, Remember the Alamo and Viking Gods. I don't own these games, but their production values seem a touch higher than the first four. 

Minigames, the Gateway to Adventure!
Minigames, the Gateway to Adventure!

All the games feature a 16-page booklet with black and white art and a fold-out map.  Sometimes full color (Saga, Pleasantville, Antares) or two-color (Vampyre).  Vampyre is also the only one with the maps printed on both sides.  Each game also came with counters and two d6s. 

Vampyre minigame in clamshell, with dice, counters and map

They are all certainly playable and fun on their own.  I had a lot of fun with Vampyre back in the day. But that is not why we are here today.  No today I am going to dip a toe a little bit into my Traveller Envy and mix these with my current D&D games.   Let me start out with my old favorite and one I have used as an adventure in the past.

Minigames as B/X Adventures

There is a lot to love about these little games.  The Souvenir font really hits that nostalgia button hard for fans of the Moldvay/Cook Basic and Expert sets. Not to mention some of the best-looking Erol Otus art.   This troll not only belongs in D&D, but he is BEGGING to be in D&D.

Erol Otus Troll from SAGA
Erol Otus Troll from SAGA

Maybe it is the font, maybe it is the art but when I got these games the first thing I wanted to do was play them as part of my D&D games.  Of course, back then that meant Basic and Expert D&D.  Some of it also came from the desire to get the most out of my purchase with my limited paper route money.

Vampyre

My first minigame.  Now I am a HUGE Dracula and vampire fan so when I got the Cook/Marsh Expert Set and saw that there were vampires in it my first thoughts went to vampire hunts.  My first character was a cleric for this very reason.  The game Vampyre is set during the events of the novel Dracula with the same (or rather similar) characters.  So set in the 1890s. Since Ravenloft Masque of the Red Death was still a decade and a half away, I converted this to a simple Expert D&D monster hunt.   If I were to redo it I'd up the threat of Dracula.  In Expert, I made him a Greater Vampire

Vampire chic, circa 1981
Vampire chic, circa 1981

The dual map, a "wilderness" and a "dungeon" again BEG to be used in the Expert game. The parallels between this game and the Ravenloft adventure. No surprise since both draw from the exact same source materials.  The trick the next time I use this is to make it less like Ravenloft.

SAGA

This is the next piece of "low hanging fruit."  Like Dungeon! the connections to D&D are obvious here.  SAGA has heroes fighting monsters, exploring, gaining treasure. Sounds D&D like to me! There is a nice little Risk-like map of the Viking world. This includes all of England, Denmark, and some of Sweden, Norway, and Ireland.  The map also had "Thule" about in the place where Iceland would be expected (and to the map's odd scale).  The map is also just great to look at. 

Outside of the troll featured above the monsters include Dragons, Drow (not just dark elves), Ghosts, Giants, and Witches!  I am happy to see that witches are the next more dangerous creature after dragons.  The game has some fun spells and magical runes with simple effects and some named magical swords. 

While there are no dungeons in this game it is full of ideas. 

This got me thinking about how Vampyre and SAGA could work together.  In SAGA you travel from mainland Europe to England for treasure and glory.  In Dracula, the last act is the heroes traveling from England back to mainland Europe to hunt the monster.   Maybe with something like Draugr & Draculas as the connective tissue the mini-campaign can be changed from one of just glory to one of monster hunting across the continent to stop the master vampire. Call it Vampyre Saga.  Hmm. That sounds a little bit like a supernatural teen show on the CW.  I'll play with it a bit.

The next two are a little hard to fit in.

They Invaded Pleasantville

The premise of this game is great and recalls 50s alien invasion movies. But as Carl Sagan pointed out in The Demon-Haunted World today's alien abductions were yesteryear's demon possessions.  So swap out the aliens for demons and now this sleepy Midwestern town is a village in the Realms where demons are running rampant.  Stop the Alien Sub-CommanderDemonic Lord.

Revolt on Antares

This game is a fun Sword & Planet game, but remove it from it's setting it is a fairly generic "Us vs. Them" game of rebellion and oppressors.  Sure there are a lot of ways I could use this, but it gets it further and further away from its basic premise.  Maybe it would make for a good Star Frontiers game.

Party like it is 1981!

In any case, there is a lot more fun to be had here. 

Thursday, February 11, 2021

One Man's God: Chinese Mythos

Chinese mythos from Deities & Demigods
I stated in my post about the Yaoguai that I am by no stretch of the imagination an expert on Chinese mythology.  But even I know there is no way for the Deities & Demigods to cover all the mythological figures, gods, demigods, heroes, and monsters of Chinese myth.  The editors of the D&DG agree.

Instead what we have here are a few select gods and monsters for D&D fare.  I am quite certain that anyone that knows more about this than I do will notice some glaring issue, but for the moment let's look at it for what it is rather than what we wish it to be.  This is good because "what it is" is a fascinating, if sometimes problematic, read.

There are a few gods and creatures here that not only would make for great demons (in the Demon category of the Monster Manual) they are creatures that made many appearances in my games. Again this is taking them "as is", not "as they should be" but I will detail that in a bit.

An issue I should address is spelling.  Translating between Chinese and English is often half linguistics and half art.  Even when the spelling is agreed on it can change later, "D" and "T" are notorious.  What does that mean to us?  Well, it makes the research a bit harder on some creatures.  To get into the myths and stories behind these creatures would take a lot longer than this post and outside of the scope of One Man's God, but as always I will try to pull in the research when I can. 

One of the better sources for these myths is  E. T. C. Werner's "The Myths and Legends of China" whose earliest publication date appears to be in 1940.  The book is in the public domain and would have been available to the authors of the D&DG.  While there are other books, I am going to go to this one for confirmation on what is here. Now Werner could have a bunch of issues all on his own. I am not qualified to judge those either.  

Finally, I want to give credit to the artist of this section of myths, Darlene.  I don't think she gets the credit she deserves half the time (outside of her FANTASTIC map of Greyhawk).  Her art really captures the feel of these myths for me. 

Chih-Chiang Fyu-Ya

This guy typifies the problem I speak of.  A search for him online reveals only sources that were obviously taken from the D&DG.  The only other mentions are people asking where he is from.  Now I have no issue with making something up whole cloth for a game (I do it every day) but does that make him a part of Chinese myth?  In any case, Chih-Chiang Fyu-Ya looks and acts more like a Monster Manual devil than he does a demon.  My feeling is this guy was made up for the D&DG.

He does not appear in Werner's book.

Ma Yuan

Ma Yuan
So Chih-Chiang Fyu-Ya is the punisher of the gods, that is someone the gods send out to punish, much like Erinyes. Ma Yuan is the Killer of the Gods. He kills the gods.  He is also a unique beast and fits our definition of a demon well. He is Chaotic Evil, 70's tall, and has 300 hp.  He could mop the floor with Demogorgon! Well...maybe not mop.  Ma Yuan also appeared in many of my games back in the day as a giant monster of destruction (and ignoring his "High" intelligence rating), his sword is one of just a few fabled weapons in my world that can kill a god. 

In Gods, Demigods, and Heroes for 0e he is called Ma Yuan Shuai. This is very interesting since Tian Du Yuan Shuai is a figure of Taoist myth (though he could have been a real person) and he is associated with Okinawan Gojū-ryū karate. This was interesting to me because I studied Isshin-ryū karate in college and grad school, they are similar in many of their katas. But going done that rabbit hole was a dead end despite how interesting I found it. 

"Yuan Shuai" is also a rank in the Chinese military rank that is equivalent to Marshall in other militaries.  Ma Yuan Shuai could mean something like "Horse Marshall."

Going with this name I head back to Werner's book, I find this:

Ma Yüan-shuai is a three-eyed monster condemned by Ju Lai to reincarnation for excessive cruelty in the extermination of evil spirits. In order to obey this command he entered the womb of Ma Chin-mu in the form of five globes of fire. Being a precocious youth, he could fight when only three days old, and killed the Dragon-king of the Eastern Sea. From his instructor he received a spiritual work dealing with wind, thunder, snakes, etc., and a triangular piece of stone which he could at will change into anything he liked. By order of Yü Ti he subdued the Spirits of the Wind and Fire, the Blue Dragon, the King of the Five Dragons, and the Spirit of the Five Hundred Fire Ducks, all without injury to himself. For these and many other enterprises he was rewarded by Yü Ti with various magic articles and with the title of Generalissimo of the West, and is regarded as so successful an interceder with Yü Ti that he is prayed to for all sorts of benefits.

Doing research on this guy reveals that I was not the only one taken with this character (not a surprise really). Here Spes Magna Games updated his stats to 5e D&D.  

Ma Yuan though is a great being. I would say that he is a great sleeping demon (though his "in lair 10%" seems to preclude this) that is only roused when needed.  Werner's description seems to favor demon really.

Lu Yueh

Some success?  Lu Yueh appears as a figure using a magic umbrella to spreading plague in a 1922 painting by an unknown artist. 

He also appears in Werner's The Myths and Legends of China.  Called Lü Yüeh here he seems to be more of a hermit than a demonic god. Also, he only has one head.  He still causes plagues though. 

Tou Mu

Yikes. 

I am prone to be forgiving in cases like Chih-Chian Fyu-Ya; creatures made up to serve a purpose or a niche for a game.  Or even Lu Yueh and Ma Yuan; myths extended and/or changed to fit into D&D a little better. But what they did to Tou Mu?  No. This is just terrible research at this point.  I have avoided being too critical of the D&DG because I know the authors did not have the same access to materials I have now and, not to be a dick about it, but I have been trained to do Ph.D. level research. I have had 30+ years of professional research to draw on. They did not.  But this case really goes to the critics of the D&DG.  

Background.  Tou Mu was something of a celebrity back in Junior High among the people I played D&D with.  First she looks way freaking cool, secondly, she had a Charisma of 5! She had a ton of great and unique magic items and some DMs even gave her the dancing sword of lightning (as if she didn't already have enough).  She was an Endgame Boss.  

In actual Taoist mythology, she is Dǒumǔ (斗母) the 'Mother of the Great Chariot' or the Big Dipper.  she would not be a "Chaotic Evil Lesser Goddess" but most likely be a Lawful Good Greater Goddess, though a Lesser (but powerful) Goddess would also be acceptable.  Though I am not sure what I find worse, the evil alignment, the 5 Charisma or the 3 in Wisdom.

Here is how she looks in the D&DG,

Tou Mu from D&DG

versus how she is depicted in the real world, 

Dǒumǔ (斗母)Dǒumǔ (斗母) fan art

Seriously, how could they have messed this one up so bad? Turn a beloved goddess into a monster?

Again, let's see what Werner has to say about her:

Goddess of the North Star
Tou Mu, the Bushel Mother, or Goddess of the North Star, worshipped by both Buddhists and Taoists, is the Indian Maritchi, and was made a stellar divinity by the Taoists. She is said to have been the mother of the nine Jên Huang or Human Sovereigns of fabulous antiquity, who succeeded the lines of Celestial and Terrestrial Sovereigns. She occupies in the Taoist religion the same relative position as Kuan Yin, who may be said to be the heart of Buddhism. Having attained to a profound knowledge of celestial mysteries, she shone with heavenly light, could cross the seas, and pass from the sun to the moon. She also had a kind heart for the sufferings of humanity. The King of Chou Yü, in the north, married her on hearing of her many virtues. They had nine sons. Yüan-shih T’ien-tsun came to earth to invite her, her husband, and nine sons to enjoy the delights of Heaven. He placed her in the palace Tou Shu, the Pivot of the Pole, because all the other stars revolve round it, and gave her the title of Queen of the Doctrine of Primitive Heaven. Her nine sons have their palaces in the neighbouring stars.

Well, in many ways I supposed that is what OMG is kinda based on; One Man's God is another man's demon.  Still, it doesn't feel right to turn Dǒumǔ into Tou Mou.  I also suppose this also is part of the criticism landed at TSR/WotC's feet back in July of 2020 about the Oriental Adventures book. which, by the way, despite what all the Chicken Littles were saying back then you CAN still buy it in it's unedited form. 

I said at the outset I know far less about Chinese myths than I like and far less than I do about other mythologies.  What I do know there are SO MANY great stories about gods, demigods, monsters, and human heroes that doing this one right would fantastic.

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

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Character Creation Challenge: Fantasy Wargaming

We have all had this one on our shelves at one point or saw it in the book stores and thought to ourselves, "wow I should REALLY do something with that one day."

Today is that day.  I am going to make a character for Bruce Galloway's Fantasy Wargaming

The Game: Fantasy Wargaming

There is a lot to unpack here. Not just in terms of the game itself, but the history of the game.  There is no way I could provide a good review of it for this particular post.  I am not even sure I want to try.  For starters, there is such a disdain for RPGs in this book and for D&D in particular.  I would call it a Fantasy Heartbreaker, but it never lets you get close enough to it to break your heart.  

So instead I am going to defer to the experts here.  They have spent more time on this that I will or ever will.  Plus my copy is so musty it is giving me a headache and it is still four feet away from me as I type this.

Again, given the musty state of my book, I am going to refer to these sites often in my character creation. G.L. Dearman's site in particular has some good character sheets.

The game does cover witches and witchcraft, all be it in a roundabout manner.

Few questions in anthropology have raised as much controversy as the nature of witchcraft. There are three quite separate views of the witch-the peasant magician, the pagan, and the devil worshipper. Fantasy Wargaming accepts all three as valid. Witches clearly exercised magic. and not just Supernatural powers by appeal Equally, the theory of a surviving pre-Christian Celtic fertility cult bas some force. Some ritual elements, notably the sacred dance and orgy, appear at the very beginning of the period, before diabolism bad really taken root. There are echoes of Bacchic revels, and of Diana's Wild Hunt.
Some medieval witches strenuously asserted their worship of a "different" god. Yet equally, the evidence for devil worship among medieval covens is overwhelming. (FW p. 24)

Well, that works for me. I can use this. 

For the character, I was hoping to make a Satanic witch.  Would have been great for the Satanic Panic call-back to when was made.  But I opted for today's date as her birthday and that made her Aquarius.  And I have a perfect Aquarian Witch. 

Fantasy Wargaming RPG

The Character: Marie Capet

Marie is another quasi-mythical character from my games.  I know that she was most active in the year 1012 AD.  Marie is also an Aquarian Tradition witch from my first Basic-era book of witches which, in a few thousand years, will become the Sisterhood of the Aquarian Order.   In later years she would have been called a neo-pagan. Margaret Murry would have embraced her.  As my prototype Aquarian, Marie sees no problem with grabbing what ever bits of esoteric knowledge comes her way.   To the Church, this makes her little better than a heretic and at worst, a follower of Lucifer.  She actually feels that Lucifer has been mischaracterized by the Church and that as "The Light Bringer" he is more of a Promethean-like figure.  She is doing what she can to bring on the next Age of Mankind.  This would not be known as the Aquarian Age, or the New Age, until much later on.

Given the rolls, I figure she was the 2nd daughter of a poor noble. She was going to go into the nunery but instead ended up marrying the Baron that her sister was supposed to marry.  She was married at age 14, so she has a couple of children (that survived) now by age 21. She has a level in Religious and a level in Magic as a Witch.  I assume she is discovering witchcraft from an Italian ladies' maid who knows of the "old ways."

11th Century Frankish Noblewoman
Marie Capet
Female Frankish Witch

Star Sign: Aquarius

Ability Scores (adjusted for Star Sign)
Physique: 1110
Agility: 12
Endurance: 10

Intelligence: 18
Faith: 1416

Charisma: 1213
Greed: 89
Selfishness: 13
Lust: 12
Bravery: 12

Social Class: 17

Height: 5'3"  Weight: 110lbs
Current Agility: 12

Literate: Yes
Speaks: Frankish, Latin, German
Chance to Speak Language: 60%

Leadership: 15

Birthrank: Second Daughter
Father's Social Position: Poor Baron (16)
Husband's Social Position: Rich Baron (17)

Misc. Traits: Paranoia

It is the Paranoia that helped me figure out she was learning her witchcraft on the sly.  Given the time and the culture, I thought an Italian Strega might be the best bet.  Maybe someone with a direct connection to Aradia. 

I did not pick and spells or rituals.  This game is crazy.  But there are a few ideas I want to use from it.