Showing posts with label Advanced. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Advanced. Show all posts

Thursday, November 3, 2022

The Isles of Avalon

The Isles of Avalon
One of the reasons I do the long projects here like 100 Days of Halloween or BECMI Month or even shorter week-long deep dives into topics is to take a topic and explore it as deeply as I can. Some topics just need longer to figure out than a one-off blog post. Another reason is to recharge my creative batteries.

So I am fresh off October and last night I feverishly got nearly 10,000 words into a project. Nothing I am ready for the public eye yet, but it felt good to be full of such raw creativity again.

Another little project that grew out my October is this idea of The Isles of Avalon. In truth, it has been there ever since I first picked up Clark Ashton Smith and thought I needed an Empire of Necromancers. But it was rereading my Complete Book of Necromancers and the Avalon Hill game Wizards that the idea became something I want to pursue in depth. 

I do not have all the details yet, but I do know the following.

It is an Archipelago of Islands

There is one large island, the main one, and many smaller islands around it / near it. Right now my mental model is something like the Hawaiian Islands only not tropical. I need some cold places, so another model are the British Isles. Since I am re-reading Tolkien's Unfinished Tales I can't help but add some Númenor into my mental mix.

It is Old

This place needs to have risen to its height ages ago and now fallen into decay. There are still people here and still living their lives, and there are still wizards galore here. But one of the consequences of this is the islands still feel like they are in some sort of lost past. For me to get this feeling I want everything to look like 1970s art. More specifically I am thinking something along the lines of the album art Roger Dean used to do for Yes and Uriah Heep. In fact, those two groups, in particular, would also provide the soundtrack for this endeavor.  This is not the NWOBHM of the 80s I typically do. This needs to sound and feel different to me. 

Another feeling I want is not just that this place is old, but nature has reclaimed it. So there are, or more to point were, mighty citadels here that are now abandoned and nature has moved back in. What strange magics are here? Are there wizards still sleeping in long-forgotten chambers? Do the experiments of long-dead necromancers still haunt the dungeons?  Again with the Yes album cover idea I want this place to look beautiful and feel dangerous. 

It is Advanced D&D

I am pretty well-known for my love for Basic-era D&D. B/X is my jam.  BUT I want a 1970s feel here, and B/X and BECMI are quintessentially 80s.  Now I could very easily merge this with my "1979 Campaign Idea." Indeed, parts of that plan work well in this one, in particular using Warlocks & Warriors as an add-on to module B1.

Though I won't rule out using something like Advanced Labyrinth Lord or Old-School Essentials Advanced.  Especially since I have some new OSE-Advanced books coming from the last Kickstarter and there is a Labyrinth Lord 2nd Edition on the way.

Mix and Match

As usual, I am going to look for existing material to use with it and hopefully things that were published before 1980.  

Again why use other stuff when I can easily create my own? Simple I enjoy doing it. I like to see what pieces I can put together from various other products. That way it feels familiar and new all at the same time. 

I already have a few things in mind I will adapt for this and I am going to have fun doing it. So let's put on some Yes and come with me to these islands and let's visit for a while. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

100 Days of Halloween: The Complete Wizard's Handbook (AD&D 2nd Edition)

The Complete Wizard's Handbook (AD&D 2nd Edition)
This week is all about D&D. Since I have been doing spooky things in general and witchy things in particular, this one *might* stretch this notion a bit. But this book does give us our first-ever official Witch class, er... kit for AD&D. So for that reason alone I should consider it.  But there are other reasons for me to consider this.

The Complete Wizard's Handbook (AD&D 2nd Edition)

PDF and softcover editions. Black & White interior art. 128 Pages.

For this review, I am considering the PDF on DriveThruRPG and my softcover book from 1990.

So a bit of background first. AD&D 2nd Edition came out in later 1989 and introduced the concept of Kits. These were roles that could be taken by a class. They are similar in many respects to the sub-classes or archetypes of D&D 5. You took a kit at the first level and that gave some powers, abilities, and restrictions. They quickly got bloated and dare I say, game-breaking (looking at you The Complete Bard's Handbook) but the early ones like this gave the game some great flavor, and others, like The Complete Psionics Handbook, extended the rules in interesting ways.

The Complete Wizard's Handbook is all about wizards, magic-users, and magic.

Ok class what spell is this?
Chapter 1: Schools of Magic

This is not a classroom-like school (though it can be) it discusses the 8 schools of magic codified by AD&D (that is still around today). In AD&D 2e you could have a "Specialist Mage" or someone dedicated to a particular school, they excel in casting spells from that school but can't cast spells from an opposing school.  The example in the Players Handbook is the Illusionist, a holdover from AD&D 1st Ed. Arguably the most popular would become the Necromancer. (more on that later).

Each school is detailed and the requirements for each are also given on top of the requirements for a Generalist Wizard. For example, a Conjurer must have some human blood (seems random) and Enchanters need a Charisma score of 16 or above (that makes sense).

Chapter 2: Creating New Schools

This covers the creation of new schools of magic that either augment or abandon the schools above. It is a great primer on how magic might work and how it could be learned. While the standard schools are not dropped here, they are reorganized. This chapter is also helpful for anyone wanting to rethink their wizards can do. If Original D&D gave us a magic-user that can do anything, this gives us multiple types of wizards that collectively can do it all and not always the same way.

Chapter 3: Wizard Kits

At only 20 some-odd pages this section feels larger. And it is also the focus of my attention today. There are 10 kits detailed here, each with requirements, preferred schools, barred schools and what they do. The kits are the Academician (scholar of magic), Amazon Sorcerers (what it says on the tin, but all the The Complete Class book had an Amazon kit), Anagakok (Wizards from primitive cultures), Militant Wizard (also what it sounds like), Mystic (in this case a sort of pacifist wizard), Patrician (a wizard of noble birth), Peasant Wizard (just the opposite), Savage Wizard (wizard from very remote areas), Witch (why we are here), and the Wu-Jen updated from the 1st Ed AD&D Oriental Adventures

I mentioned this was the first official witch in AD&D, this is true, but it is not the first official witch of D&D. That honor goes to the witch school for Magic-users in GAZ3 The Principalities of Glantri which predates this by 3 years.  The witch here is easily the most detailed of the all the kits along with the Wu-Jen.

The kit creation section was a well-used and abused feature of this book for me when working on other kits and subclasses.

Chapter 4: Role-Playing

This chapter covers all sort of role-playing advice and tips for wizard characters. Various personality types are covered here; the Altruist, the Brooder, the Mystery Man, the Showman., and more. There are also adventure ideas and plot hooks for wizard characters. 

Not the Scarlet Witch
Not the Scarlet Witch

Chapter 5: Combat and the Wizard

AD&D wizards at low levels are easy to kill, so combat tips are most welcome. This covers Defensive spells and Offensive spells and how to best use them. There is also a bit about the restricted weapons list of the wizard.

Chapter 6: Casting Spells in Unusual Conditions

Details what spells are effective where and more importantly which ones are not effective. This includes the mundane underwater and the more fantastic environments like the planes. Also various conditions on the spell caster like blindness, impaired hearing, and speech.

Chapter 7: Advanced Procedures

Covers level and spell advancement to 32nd level. Details on various spells and a bunch of materials on how illusions work in the game. Details on spell components, spell research, and magic item research and creation.

Chapter 8: New Spells

Pretty much what it says. 40 new spells for AD&D.

Chapter 9: Wizardly Lists

Various lists from 25 helpful familiars, to five unusual places for spell components, nine magic items that have not been invented yet, and more. There are maps, locations, and even 12 new magic items.

The utility of this book for AD&D 2nd can't be undersold. There is more here than just class information there is also information on the very lifeblood of most fantasy games; magic.  While the book is solid AD&D 2nd ed there is enough information here for players of any edition of D&D. 

I have mentioned in the past that the magic school and wizard training information makes a great complement to the magic school found in GAZ3 The Principalities of Glantri.  In fact most of my late 90s AD&D 2nd ed games revolved around this idea.  I even brought many of those ideas back to my short-lived D&D 4th Edition game.  And most recently have gone back to this book for my newest AD&D 2nd ed character Sinéad.

I am surprised about how much I can still get from this book.

And obviously, it was the model I followed when I did my very first witch book 23 years ago this week!

Wizards and Witches



The Other Side - 100 Days of Halloween

Saturday, October 22, 2022

Monster Manual Minis, Set A-C

I am on record on how much of an effect the first AD&D Monster Manual had on me.  I can recall playing AD&D and wishing I had (or could even afford) minis just like what was in the Monster Manual.

Well. Now I can.

Monster Manual Minis

This is the first set of minis for D&D (and of course AD&D) based on the art from the original Monster Manual. I have to say I am loving them.

Anhkheg

Basilisk

Beholder

Bulette

Bulette and Carrion Crawler

Chimera, Cockatrices, and Coutal

Cockatrice and Coutal

Obviously not every monster A to C, but it has the stars. I always wanted a Carrion Crawler mini, not sure why, I think they were cool to me back then (still are!).  I have a few now, but this one is the best.

I am thinking that the next set will just be "D" to be honest. Dragons, Demons, Devils. All are perfect for this. 

Monster Manual Minis

Monster Manual Minis

Monster Manual Minis

Monster Manual Minis


 Can't wait for the others!


Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Mail Call: D&D in Miniature

Oh good another Mail Call Tuesday!  They say great things come in small packages, so let's see what these small packages have for me today?

Little D&D and Mini Me

Up first I finally decided to do myself in Mini form from HeroForge.  So here is DM Tim in 25 mm scale. Complete with a laptop, a stack of books, and my always-present giant ass mug of coffee.  The only detail missing is the pencil behind my right ear.

Mini TimMini TimMini Tim

I didn't care for their sneakers options so I am wearing my Gen X-mandated Doc Martens with yellow laces. 

Might need to use this as "The Editor" in my Weirdly World News games.

I also grabbed my next to last 21st Century miniature reprint of the AD&D 1st Edition hardcovers.  And this one is from the personal collection of Heidi Gygax.

Dragonlance Adventures

Dragonlance Adventures

Mini AD&D Books

Now I am just a Dungeoneers Survival Guide away from completing my set of the mini AD&D hardcover books.  Though I doubt it will have the pedigree of my Dragonlance book.


Thursday, September 1, 2022

Review: Swords of Cthulhu

Swords of Cthulhu
Nice mail call last week and I got my copy of Swords of Cthulhu from BRW Games / Joesph Bloch. As always BRW fulfills its Kickstarters in record speed. 

There is a lot to unpack here so lets get to it.

Swords of Cthulhu

For this review and deep dive, I am going to focus on the PDF and Print on Demand, I got from DriveThruRPGvia backing the Kickstarter.

The book is set up much like all the Adventures Dark and Deep books for "1st Edition."  This includes his Book of Lost Beasts and Book of Lost Lore.  One might wonder why this isn't the "The Book of Lost Cthulhu."

The book has the "1st Ed" Orange spine and layout and is a proper 128 pages. If the goal here is to feel like a book that would have been in your book bag in 1986 then I would say it was a success.  

Like the BRW's previous "Books of" this one is for 1st Edition AD&D but no mention of that game is found here. There are oblique references to it, but nothing say to the level we saw in Mayfair's AD&D products of the 80s and early 90s.  Though like those previous two books there is no OGL and no Open Gaming content.  So here are my thoughts on that. One, it doesn't affect the game playability of this book. Two, given that much of the Lovecraftian mythos are in the public domain this feels like a slight really, I mean using essentially IP for free but not giving something back. And three, there is so much of this already in the public domain AND released as Open under the OGL from other publishers it my all be a moot point.  Still I am sure some OSRIC, Advanced Labyrinth Lord, or Old School Essentials Advanced might want to do some Lovecraftian-style adventures for "1st Ed." and this would have helped.

BRW 1st Edition Books

But enough of that. Let's get into what is in the book.

If you are familiar with AD&D 1st Ed, any part of the mythos, and/or BRW's Adventures Dark and Deep books then you could likely predict with a high degree of certainty of what is in this book.  This is not a bad thing.

The Scholar
The spiritual godfather here is the Unearthed Arcana. The book gives us new races; the Deep One Hybrid and the Degenerate.  These feel like they are right out of Lovecraft books, though I would argue that both races have issues moving outside of their realms. Deep One Hybrids away from water and Dagon for example.

We get level limits for the new races with old classes and old races with new classes (not introduced just yet).

The new classes are the Cultist and the Scholar.  The cultist gets different abilities depending on which cult they are in.  Scholars are a "split class" starting out as Magic-users and then switching over to scholars. If you have the Book of Lost Lore then you can split class with the Savant. I would even argue that the Cleric would be a good choice if the cleric has a high Intelligence. 

The is a Skill system, the same found in the Book of Lost Lore, and this recaps some of that and expands it. While again overtly for 1st Edition it could work anywhere, also it can be ignored for folks that do not want to use skills for their games. 

Up next are spells. In the Cthulhu mythos books and tomes of occult lore and knowledge never lead to good things. These spells are part of that yes, but this is also an "AD&D" game and not "Call of Cthulhu" magic serves a different purpose here.  We get about 36 pages of spells. There is even an optional rule for human sacrifice that fits the tenor of the tales well.

There is a section on running a "Lovecraftian" game along with the tropes found in an AD&D game.  These have been covered elsewhere, but this version fits this tome well.  In particular how to mix demons in with the Lovecraftian mythos creatures. Something I have covered in my own One Man's God

You can't do the Lovecraftian mythos and not deal with sanity. Now. I am going to be honest. The overwhelming majority of RPGs get sanity and insanity completely wrong. I say this a game designer and as someone with degrees in psychology (BA, MS, Ph.D.) and who spent years working as a Qualified Mental Health Professional for the State of Illinois who specialized in treating schizophrenics.  How does this book do? This one introduces a new saving throw versus Insanity. Not a bad solution really. I will point out that "Insane" is largely a legal definition. "Madness" would be a better term of choice here. 

Sanity in Swords of Cthulhu

The definitions and descriptions used for the various modes of insanity (keeping with the book) are fine. We are not trying to emulate the DSM here. Though "Schizoid" is off. What is described there is more of a compulsion disorder. The Mulitple Personality one is always going to be problematic and I personally would drop the occurrence to more like 1 or 2%; even 3% is too high. I would re-do it as something akin to a "fractured" personality.  It is a usable system, but it lacks the integration of the SAN system of Call of Cthulhu. Though this is understandable.  Side note: I always look for "dementia praecox" in the list of insanities. When I see that and it is used properly I know the developer did their homework. It is not here and I had hoped it would be.

Up next we get to what is really one of the big reasons people want a book like this.  The monsters.

Monsters in Swords of Cthulhu

There are about 30 monsters here in AD&D 1st Edition format. If you use nothing else in this book then this is pretty fun stuff. The art is good and works well here.

This is followed naturally by the magic items. Plenty of books and tomes to terrify players and delight GMs. Yes, the Necronomicon is here.

Ah. Now we get to the stars of the show. The main course of this seven-course meal. The gods.  

Gods in Swords of Cthulhu

All the usual suspects are here and the format is familiar to anyone that has read the Deities & Demigods.  IF playability is your largest concern then yes this book WILL replace the 144-page Deities & Demigods for you. No more having to lurk on eBay or hope for that rare score at Goodwill.  The stats are not exactly the same, nor should they be, but they are what I think many would expect them to be. 

We end with an Appendix of suggested reading (a must really) and lists of random tables.

The PDF is currently $9.95 and the hardcover is $24.95.  Perfectly within the price I would expect for this.

Now before I render my final judgment on this one a few more things.

I don't think it is unreasonable to ask "What does this book have that others do not?" For starters, it is developed specifically for AD&D 1st ed. I will point out that we do have plenty of other books, games, and resources that also do this for other OSR games and their relatives as well. Conversion is a matter of personal taste.

Briefly here are the main Lovecraftian/Cthulhu Mythos-related games/products I pulled from my shelves for this and how they compare. I am going to focus largely on the monsters and gods since that is the most common element. 

Table of Cthulhu

In most cases, I am restricting myself to the "Core" Mythos creatures and the ones I really like.  Some names are different, but I will try to go with the common names. 

Of Gods  DDG  SoC  RoCC  ASSH  CoC d20  SP CM5  WSH
 Cthulhu  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  
 Abhoth      Y      Y  
 Atlach-Nacha      Y      Y  
 Azathoth  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  
 Chaugnar Faugn          Y  Y  
 Cthuga  Y        Y  Y  
 Dagon    Y  Y    Y  Y  
 Ghatanothoa    Y          
 Hastur  Y   Y      Y  Y  
 Hydra    Y  Y    Y  Y  
 Ithaqua  Y      Y  Y  Y  
 Mordiggian          Y    
 Nodens          Y    
 Nyarlathotep  Y  Y  Y    Y  Y  
 Shub-Niggurath  Y  Y  Y    Y  Y  
 Shudde M'ell          Y    
 Tsathoggua    Y  Y    Y  Y  
 Yig    Y      Y  Y  
 Yog-Sothoth   Y  Y  Y    Y  Y  
               
  & Monsters              
 Ape, Devil      Y  Y      
 Bhole    Y        Y  
 Beings of Ib      Y      Y  
 Bokrug      Y      Y  
 Byakhee  Y        Y  Y  Y
 Cave Beast      Y        
 Colour Out of Space      Y  Y    Y  
 Crawling Reptile      Y        
 Cthonian / Spawn of Cthulhu    Y      Y  Y  Y
 Deep One   Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
 Deep One Hybrid    Y    Y  Y  Y  Y
 Dhole          Y  Y  Y
 Dimensional Shambler          Y  Y  Y
 Flame Creature / Fire Vampire  Y        Y  Y  Y
 Flying Polyp    Y      Y  Y  Y
 Ghast      Y  Y    Y  
 Ghoul      Y  Y  Y  Y  
 Great Race of Yith  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
 Gnop-Keh          Y  Y  Y
 Gug    Y        Y  Y
 Haunter in the Dark    Y  Y      Y  Y
 Hound of Tindalos    Y  Y    Y  Y  
 Man of Leng    Y  Y  Y    Y  
 Mi-Go / Fugi from Yuggoth  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
 Moon Thing    Y  Y      Y  Y
 Night Beast      Y        
 Night Gaunt    Y  Y  Y  Y    
 Primordial One / Elder Thing  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
 Rat Thing          Y    
 Serpent People      Y  Y  Y  Y  
 Shantak    Y  Y      Y  Y
 Shoggoth  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y  Y
 Spider of Leng    Y      Y  Y  Y
 Tcho-tcho          Y  Y  
 Young of Shub-Niggurath    Y  Y    Y  Y  
 Voormis      Y  Y      
 White Ape      Y  Y      
 Y'm-bhi    Y        
 Zoog    Y  Y      Y  
               
 Open Content  No      No  No  Yes  No  Yes  Yes

It looks like Swords of Cthulhu fares pretty well, to be honest. No one book has everything. Now comparing anything to Deities & Demigods is a touch unfair since space in the D&DG was limited.  Likewise comparing to Sandy Petersen's Cthulhu Mythos for 5th Edition (or Pathfinder) is also unfair for the opposite reason; it has so much and few people have written or said as much about the Cthulhu Mythos as much as Petersen has.

Swords of Cthulhu and the Deities & Demigods

But comparing Swords of Cthulhu to say Realms of Crawling Chaos or Hyperborea is appropriate.

Realms of Crawling Chaos

These two books complement each other well. While there is a very, very slight difference in underlying system assumptions each one offers something the other lacks in terms of gods and monsters.

Swords of Cthulhu in the Realms of Crawling Chaos

Hyperborea

Formerly Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea, this game is closer to AD&D than it is to Basic D&D and the tone of the world fits well. Where Hyperborea stands out in the inclusion of and the predominance of Howard and Ashton-Smith mythos as they relate to the Lovecraft ones.  So lots of the same monsters and gods, but more Clark Ashton Smith.  While Swords of Cthulhu gives advice on how to integrate the mythos into your "AD&D" world, Hyperborea gives us a world where they are integrated. What is the difference? In Hyperborea "sanity" is not really an issue since the mortals here already know of the gods and these creatures.  Still, Hyperborea is not everyone's cup of tea.

Swords of Cthulhu and Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea

I would argue that the combination of the three would give you the best Mythos game. Or maybe it would give *me* the best mythos game since I tend to lean into more Clark Ashton Smith tales than H.P. Lovecraft's alone.

Conclusion

Swords of Cthulhu is a great addition to the already crowded field of Mythos-related RPG books. No one book seems to have everything, and maybe that is fine really. If your game is AD&D 1st Edition and you want something a bit more than just what you get from the Deities & Demigods then this is your book.

If you play a lot of OSR games including their spiritual ancestors and you like the mythos, then this is also a fine book, but check with my table here to be sure you are getting what you want.  

For things like "which is better 'Swords of Cthulhu' or 'Realms of Crawling Chaos'" it is a draw. Both do what they are supposed to do well.  Both are good resources. SoC looks a bit better on the shelf next to all my AD&D books, but likewise, RoCC looks good on my Basic-era OSR shelf.

I vacillate on whether we have too many mythos-related RPG titles to thinking one more book won't hurt.  Currently, the word "Cthulhu" produces over 5,450 titles on DriveThruRPG. So there is a market.

Swords of CthulhuSwords of Cthulhu

With so many choices you need to decide what fits well for your games. Swords of Cthulhu is a great choice but it is hardly the only choice. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Review: Adventures Dark & Deep Book of Lost Lore

Adventures Dark & Deep Book of Lost Lore
Last week I reviewed that new monster book from BRW Games, Book of Lost Beasts.  Today I want to review the companion book from the same Kickstarter, Book of Lost Lore.  I went into this one less excited than I did with the Book of Lost Beasts, but not due to anything on the part of this book.  I am always more enthusiastic about monster books. I just have to make sure that I am not making unfair comparisons.  I will be making a lot of comparisons with this book and others, however.

Adventures Dark & Deep Book of Lost Lore

For this review, I am considering the Hardcover I received as a Kickstarter backer and the PDF from DriveThruRPG.  BRW does their print fulfillment via DriveThru, so I conveniently have my PDFs where I expect them and I know what sort of product I am getting in terms of Print on Demand.

The book itself is 134 pages, full-color cover, and has black and white interior art.  The layout and art are a tribute to the "2nd covers" of the AD&D 1st Edition line. So it looks nice with your original books and other OSR books designed the same way. 

Like the Book of Lost Beasts, this book carries the Adventures Dark & Deep banner, but it is not made for that game.  It is material from that game ported "Backwards" to the AD&D 1st Edition rules. So again like Book of Beasts, some of this material has been seen before, though not all in 1st Edition format/rules.  

Lost Beasts and Lost Lore

Much of the material does come from Bloch's "What If" game, Adventures Dark & Deep, and in particular, the Players Manual which itself was derived from BRW Games' very first product A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore (now discontinued).  This is all acknowledged in the Preface of the book.  The selling point of this book is that it is all revised and edited for the "First Edition of the world's most popular RPG."  Not to mention the layout now favors the 1st ed feel rather than the Adventures Dark & Deep feel.

Though as we move on you will see that the biggest comparison that needs to be made is this book to the AD&D Unearthed Arcana.  

On to the book proper now.

This book is split between a Players' Section (close to 98 pages) and GMs' section (36 or so pages).

Players' Section

Dwarf blacksmith
This section covers new races, classes, and spells among other topics that I will discuss. 

Up first, the new races.  Here we are given three "new" races for player characters. These are the Centaur, the Forrest Gnome, and the Half-Drow, of which we get Human-Drow and Elf-Drow.  Those unfamiliar with AD&D 1st ed might be surprised to see level limits and ability limits for the races.  Some are pretty obvious, centaurs tend to be stronger but can't climb walls as a thief. Others are culture-based, drow women can advance more in most classes than their male counterparts due to their matriarchal society, but not as much as wizards since that class is not valued.  While back in the day we really ignored all these rules in AD&D (and they do not exist in 21st Century D&D) they are consistent with the rules and anyone who plays AD&D 1st ed exclusively will take to these easy.

The races seem balanced enough.  The centaur is a nice addition and one that really could go into AD&D well enough.  I personally have never had a desire to play one, but they do seem to work.  The forest gnome is also a good choice and a good option for people more familiar with 21st century D&D gnomes.  The coverage of the half-drow is very interesting and the stand-out of the three.  Given some other things I have crossed my awareness this past week or so I am wanting to try out a half-drow now.  I will need to come back to this one later on. 

Classes are likely the top feature of this book.  They are also the ones that we have seen before.  There are Bards, Jesters, Skalds, Blackguards, Mystics, Savants, and Mountebanks.  Let me repeat. While we have seen these before in other BRW products they are presented here as 1st Edition characters classes and as subclasses of existing 1st Ed classes. Except the Bard, the Bard is it's own class with the Jester and Skald as sub-classes of the Bard.  The Blackguard (or Anti-Paladin) is a subclass of the Cavalier to give you an idea where this book would "fit" into the AD&D 1st Ed lineup. 

It should be noted is a usable single Bard class.  No more advancing as a thief, fighter, and then druid to get to the bard, this is a straight out bard class.  The bard also has some nice powers too. The mystic class seems closer to the BECMI/RC version than it does to the monk.  It was also the focus of one of my very first "Class Struggles" features.   I am a little surprised we didn't see versions of BRW Games'  Necromancer, Witch, or Demonolater classes. Likey to keep these with the Adventures Dark & Deep game. 

From Classes, we move on to Secondary Skills. AD&D 1st Ed has never really been about skills outside of what your character class can do.  While back then I saw this as a problem, I am less inclined to think so now.  Still, a good selection of secondary skills are listed here and how they can be used. 

The next 35 or so pages are dedicated to new spells. Mostly these support the new magic-using classes, though some spells are cross-listed for other classes. 

The last part of the player's section is given over to combat and new weapons and armor.  The arms and armor described here do show an appreciated level of research.  One that would have made Gary and his 6 pages of pole-arms very happy.

Game Masters' Section

This section is not as large but still has gems; figurative and literal. 

making magic items
Up first are some guidelines for social encounters including reactions.  There are some alternate treasure rules that uses the same Treasure Type classification but breaks it down into different categories.  Both the original system and this system can be used interchangeably, even within the same game, with the Game Master deciding what works better at the time. 

There are some new magic items, with updated tables to include them. 

Finally some discussion on the game environment including ability checks. 

Honestly, the only thing it is missing to be "Unearthed Arcana II" is an appendix on the gods of the Centaurs.

Unearthed Arcana and Lost Lore

Some art has appeared before in other BRW books but all of it captures the Old-School gaming feel.

So. Who is this book for?

The obvious answer is for anyone that plays First Edition AD&D.  It should work fine with OSRIC, since that cleaves so close to AD&D, but not sure if players of Advanced Labyrinth Lord or Old School Essentials Advanced will get the same benefits. For example, both of those other games have a Bard class that works about the same.  That is not to say they would not get benefits from this book, it's just the base design principles are not 100% the same.

If you are a player of Adventures Dark & Deep then there is likely nothing new here for you.  But if you have those books and still play Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first ed. then there is enough here for you even if you can convert easily between the two games. 

If you play AD&D 1st ed then this is a great book and it will sit nicely on your shelf or on your table next to your other AD&D books. 

One minor point, the book was not released under the OGL.  Doesn't matter for play or use only if you wanted to reuse a class or spell elsewhere.  Though given the use I have seen of the OGL over the last 20+ years this is also likely not an issue. 

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. 

Thursday, February 25, 2021

One Man's God: Nehwon Mythos

Closing on one of the last of the named mythos for One Man's God.  I go to one that has a lot of importance for the creation of the D&D, the Nehwon Mythos of Fritz Leiber's Lankhmar series.

Nehwon Myths

You can now get Lankhmar RPG products for both 1st and 2nd AD&D as well as for Savage Worlds and Dungeon Crawl Classics.  To say it has left its mark on our hobby is a bit of an understatement.  Yet I find I really know very little about the stories.  I remember reading one of the books. It was either in late high school or my early college days, in either case, it was the mid-late 80s.  I recall reading the book and not really caring for the characters all that much.  I have been planning to reread them someday, but they keep getting pushed lower and lower on my to-be-read pile.

For this reason I had considered not doing these for One Man's God.  But the more I thought about it the more I realized it was a perfect chance to "level-set" what I am doing here.  Seeing if another culture's god can be redefined as AD&D Monster Manual Demon. 

Now I am certain that others with far more knowledge than me will have opinions one way or the other and that is fine.  They are welcome to share them.  A key factor of "One Man's God" is just that, one man's opinion on the gods. And that one man is me.  

So strap on a long sword and dirk and let's head to the City of Lankhmar.

Nehwon and Lankhmar in particular seems to have a lot of Gods.  I kind of lank this to be honest.  But how many of them are "Demons?"

We know there are demons here.  Demons and witches are described as living in the wastes. The wizard Sheelba of the Eyeless Face is said to be so horrible that even demons run from it.

Astral Wolves

These guys are great! Love the idea, but they feel more like undead to me.

Gods of Trouble

Ok, these guys start to fit the bill.  They are semi-unique, chaotic-evil, and have 366 hp. But they also have a lot of powers that demons just don't have.  They have worshipers, but no indication that any spells (for clerics) or powers (for warlocks) are granted.   They just seem to be powerful assholes.

Leviathan

There is a demon Leviathan and this guy looks a lot like him.  But this one is neutral and does not have any other powers except for being huge.

Nehwon Earth God

This guy appears to be an actual god, even if evil and non-human. 

Rat God

AH! Now we are getting someplace. Non-human, cult-like worshipers, described as the manifestation of men's fears, and chaotic evil.  I see no reason why the Rat God here could not be a type of demon with a larger power base.  At 222 hp he is actually pretty close to Demongorgon's hp.

The Rat God has some personal relevance for me.  I was riding the bus home in high school one day and there was a group of kids that were playing D&D. I listened in and guess in their game if you wanted to make boots that aided in your ability to move silently they had to be made from the pelt of the Rat God!  I always wondered what their other games must be like.

rat demon
Rat Demon (Prince of Rats)

FREQUENCY: Very Rare
NO. APPEARING: 1
ARMOR CLASS: 2
MOVE: 18'
HIT DICE: 222 hit points
% IN LAIR: 50%
TREASURE TYPE: P, S, T
NO. OF ATTACKS: 2
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 4-40
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Nil
SPECIAL DEFENSES: See below
MAGIC RESISTANCE: 20%
INTELLIGENCE: Supra genius (18)
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic Evil
SIZE: L (10' tall)
PSIONIC ABILITY: I

The Demon Prince of Rats is nearly powerful as other demon princes but he saves his interests and attention only for his rat and wererat followers.  He desires to overrun the Prime Material Plane with his children and feed on the bodies of all the living.

Spider God 

Same is true for this one.  I mean if rats are a manifestation of human fears then spiders are as well. This creature is also CE and at 249 hp that makes it more powerful than Lolth at 66!

Tyaa

Could be a demon, but had more goddess about her.  Again though, Lolth is both Goddess and Demon.  We will later get a demoness of birds in D&D during the 3e days in the form of Decarabia.  Tyaa requires her cult to sacrifice a body part, Decarabia cut off her own legs so she would never touch the ground again.

Bird Goddesses and Demons
Bird Goddesses and Demoness, separated at birth?

Obviously there a lot more here that could be done with these and the monsters/gods/demons that were not featured in the D&DG.