Showing posts with label Basic Bestiary. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Basic Bestiary. Show all posts

Monday, July 25, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: New & Old School Monster Books; Where the Basajaun lives

Basajaun
Basajaun
Today I want to talk about a few monster books coming up and their intersections and why that is all great.

I recently featured two new Kickstarters on my Kickstart Your Weekend post.  They are Twilight Fables and A Folklore Bestiary for 5E and OSE (less than 72 hours to go on this one!).  Both are for 5e with the Folklore Bestiary also for OSE.

Both of these books look fantastic and you should back them both.  

But you may ask, will there be overlap? Will I end up buying the same monster twice? And the answer to this is "Yes. Yes, you will."  This is not a bad thing.  Going through the two publicly available lists of the monsters both have the Bukavac and the Basajaun.  I'll even go a step further and point out that my own Basic Bestiary also has a Basajaun

That is three different versions of the same monster. I have seen the one from Twilight Fables and you have all seen mine.  They are very different from each other. While obviously the same creature, they do slightly different things. In truth, it is very much like how old bestiaries would describe animals. Even known animals would get slightly different treatments depending on the observer.  And these are not even the only ones. AAW Games has a monster card for the Basajaun for both 5e and Pathfinder. There very well could be a lot more.

The Basajaun here is a good example. This is a monster that exists in folklore and by all rights has a home somewhere in a fantasy game but has little coverage to date. That will change and he will get more exposure. If each monster book is like a medieval bestiary (and that is my starting point for the Basic Bestiary) then it makes sense there are differing views.  

To take it a step further, Twilight Fables uses the conceit of Rod Waibel's point of view character the sophisticated Gnoll Fleabag as the chronicler of these creatures. Likewise, I use my iconic witch Larina as viewed from notes from her Journal.  These two would obviously have different points of view on the same creature.

I have pretty much purchased every monster book I can for all versions of D&D and many for other games.  I always find more room on my shelves for more monster books.

Some monsters appear so often that I have no choice but to compare them. The Orc is a great example. Others also appear rather frequently. The Type I to VI demons from the original Monster Manual appear so often in demon books (thanks to the OGL) that I have been calling them "The Usual Suspects" as a nod to their frequency and to the 1995 film. 

For me, there is always room for more monsters and more monster books.

Monday, July 11, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: Basic Bestiary Movement (& updates)

Basic Bestiary
It has not only been a while (nearly a year) since I last talked about the Basic Bestiary, it has been a while since I have actually worked on it.  That is too bad really because while I have been sitting on my thumbs and doing whatever the hell else I have been doing others (at least three I can think of) have gotten their monster books out or into Kickstarter. And there is a lot of overlap in monsters here.  

Frankly, I could not be happier!

I love monster books. I have said this here a thousand times. And more monster books are always welcome. I'll spend some time with these other books later this week.

But I still want to get my own book out.

I am NOT going to do a Kickstarter for it. Nothing against it, but I don't want want to go there yet. So that means the art will be what I can buy when I can buy it with money from my other books. So that means it will be a bit longer.

I also believe that my monster book will be a value add to all the other monster books out there.  There are a lot of great monsters and monster books out there. Mine will be influenced by what I have read and played over the last decades. 

Also, instead of saying mine is "Labyrinth Lord" or "Swords & Wizardry" compatible or even the very popular "Old-School Essentials" compatible, I am sticking with my own "Basic-Era Compatible."  That might end up costing me some sales or promotions, but my stat block here is not something that is pure for any one system. In truth, I could very well put "Advanced-Era Compatible" on these books as well since I am designing the stat block to cover both systems, even if the style esthetic is going to be Basic-era.  I talked a bit about this in my "Detailing a 'Universal' Stat-block" post and that is where I want to go today.  All based on the question "how many miles per hour is that?"

Movement

One of the things that always tripped me up moving from Holmes Basic to Moldvay Basic and then to AD&D was movement rates.  Let's go back to my universal stat block breakdown and look at the movement rates for the Orc.

Holmes: 90 feet
Moldvay: 120' (40')
Mentzer/BECMI/RC: 120' (40')
AD&D 1st ed: 9"
AD&D 2nd ed: 9 (12)
D&D 3: 30 feet (6 squares)
D&D 4: 6 (8 while charging)
D&D 5: 30 feet

These speeds all are "per round" though what a round is can differ.  Holmes' speed is more in line with AD&D. D&D 3 to 5 are all the same despite different notation.

In my Basic Bestiary I note it like this:

Movement: 120' (40') [12"]  

With "AD&D" notation in the brackets. Note that my orcs then look faster. Rounds in Basic are 10 seconds and rounds in AD&D/D&D3-5 are all 6 seconds.  This means that my 120' movement rate orc in Basic has a different "Real-time" speed in AD&D.  My converted orc moves at 12" and not the 9" listed.  Is this a problem?  Actually, no. I don't feel that it is.

According to the Labyrinth Lord RPG book, 120' is the exploring speed per turn and 40' is the combat speed per round and 120' is the full running speed per round. So my question. How fast is this in MPH?

120' per round is 120 feet per 10 seconds or 720 per minute or 43,200 per hour or 8.18 repeating.  I opt to make the miles an easier 5400* feet to get 8 miles per hour.  So an orc can run full-on at 8 miles per hour. 
(*5400 is divisible by 2 and 3 so it gives me better numbers to work with.)

This brings up an interesting notion.  How fast can a particular monster move?

I looked at my entry for Archangel and see they fly at 360', which translates into 24 MPH. Not very fast from our point of view, but fast when compared to a mundane horse.  Maybe they have a Haste at-will spell and can fly at 48 MPH?  If it is a "Greater Haste" say at x3 then 72 MPH feels a little more respectable. Fantasy creatures don't always translate well into the real world.

Ideas like this have been helping drive my design philosophy.  When working on a monster I often ask "how do they relate to the PCs?" or "what sort of situations will this monster be in with the PCs?" since the Player Characters are the focus of all adventures.  Now I do also ask "How does this monster relate to Normal Humans?" and this has shifted my view on many creatures, in particular the undead.  There are consequences to both of these.

On the PC-centric side, we get the Succubus/Whispering Demon issue I mentioned a while back when I covered the BECMI Immortal Rules.  To quote:

A Succubus in AD&D is a 6+6 HD creature (average hp 33), her physical attacks are not great, but her kiss drains 2 life energy levels. In BECMI a Whispering Demon has 15* HD and 70 hp! Oh and her AC is -6.

A 6 HD creature is more than enough of a challenge for normal humans, it is also a pretty good (and scary) challenge for low-level characters. But a 15 HD succubus? That is a challenge for many!  But I do notice that in nearly every movie or tale about a succubus the demon is defeated in the end.

6 HD is what you get when you aim for Normal Humans.  15 HD is what you get when you aim for PCs.

The Basic Bestiaries will take on the point of view of Normal Humans for the most part. So my succubi (I have a couple) will be more along the lines of 6 HD.  My Archangels however will likely be flying at 72 MPH.

Monday, December 27, 2021

Monstrous Monday: Aamon, Grand Marquis of Hell

Another social media-inspired post today.  My wife was reading something on Geek Girls and she got very excited about the idea of there being border-lands in Hell. Which naturally got us talking about my Demons for Basic Bestariy III.  Not knowing anything about the D&D Blood War, she thought the idea of multiple demonic species in "Hell" a really fun idea.  She was really excited when I mentioned that my Basic Bestarity Demons come in 12 different species, or what I am calling Lineages.

What D&D calls unique devils I refer to as the "Baalseraph" or the Devil Lords.  These are the ones that fell to Hell after losing the War in Heaven.  Each Baalseraph is unique and each one had a previous name from when they were spirits of good.   

Today I want to investigate both of these topics and also show why I also like using OGC monsters.  In this case, I am updating "Amon" from the Tome of Horrors Complete from Necromancer Games and Frog God Games.

Aamon, Grand Marquis of Hell

"Amon, or Aamon, is a great and mighty marques, and commeth abroad in the likeness of a Wolf, having a serpents tail, [vomiting] flames of fire; when he putteth on the shape of a man, he sheweth out dogs teeth, and a great head like to a mighty [night hawk]; he is the strongest prince of all other, and understandeth of all things past and to come, he procureth favor, and reconcileth both friends and foes, and rule forthy legions of devils."

- Johann Wier (1583) Pseudomonarchia Daemonum.

Large Fiend (Diabolic, Baalseraph)

Aamon, Grand Marquis
Frequency:
 Unique
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic [Lawful Evil]
Movement: 180' (60') [18"]
Armor Class: -2 [21]
Hit Dice: 22d8+44****** (143 hp)
 Large: 22d20+44****** (165 hp)
To Hit AC 0: 6 (+14)
Attacks: 1 weapon or 2 claws, 1 bite
Damage: 2d6+6 (+3 weapon, +3 strength) or 1d6+3 x2, 1d8+3
Special: Baalseraph powers and immunities, magic resistance (75%), regeneration (3 hp/round), spell-like abilities, summoning, teleapthy 100 ft. (see below)
Save: Monster 22
Morale: 12 (NA)
Treasure Hoard Class: XVI, XII (G,K)
XP: 16,250 (OSE) 16,750 (LL)

Str: 19 (+3) Dex: 17 (+2) Con: 16 (+2) Int: 18 (+3) Wis: 16 (+2) Cha: 18 (+3)

Aamon, also called Amon and Nahum, appears as a wolf-headed humanoid standing 9’ tall. His fur is brownish-black and his eyes and teeth are yellow. His great clawed hands are brownish in color and covered in shaggy fur.  He has a long tail like a snake.  

Aamon is a vassal in service to Geryon, commanding no less than 3 legions of bone devils and 40 legions of lesser shedim (devils) on his home plane in Hell. Amon wields a +3 great-mace with two hands. He can also bite in the same round for 1d8+3 hp damage.  If pressed he can attack with his two massive claws instead of his sword. Amon is only harmed by +3 or better weapons. Amon is very strong (STR 19), receiving +3 to hit and damage in melee combat. He regenerates 3 hp per round.

Aamon has the following spell-like abilities, usable at will: animate dead, charm monster, detect invisibility, detect magic, dispel magic, fear (as the spell), fly, geas, know alignment, polymorph self, produce flame, read languages, read magic, suggestion, teleportation, wall of ice, and limited wish (for another being only). In addition, one time per day he may employ a symbol of hopelessness and gate (60% probability of success) 1d4 bone devils. He is able to summon all wolves in a 1-mile radius and control them to do his will.

Like all Baalseraph, Aamon has the following damage modifiers.  He takes no damage from fire (mundane, magical or dragon), normal weapons, or poison (ingested).  He is immune to the effects of mind-affecting magics like charm, ESP, hold, and sleep.  He takes half the damage (and saves for no damage) from cold, electricity, and poisonous gases.  Finally, he takes full damage (or saves for half where applicable) from acid, magic missile attacks (or similar magical energy), blessed, magical, or silvered weapons.   He has magic resistance of 75%. 

Prior to his fall, he had been the spirit known as Nahum, which means "who induces to eagerness."   He was summoned as an impartial judge in disputes between friends.  Now as one of the fallen he creates strife between friends. 

As a Grand Marquis Aamon commands his troops to fend off the hordes of invading Asuras, Calabim, Tarterians.

Seal of Amon

--

Aamon is not just a great example of a Grand Marquis, he is a great example of an OGC monster.   He is used in Pathfinder, Swords & Wizardry, Advanced Labyrinth Lord, and others along with its original use in AD&D.

Section 15 for this monster follows:

Open Game License v 1.0a Copyright 2000, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.

System Reference Document. Copyright 2000, Wizards of the Coast, Inc.; Authors Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, Skip Williams, based on material by E. Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.

Swords & Wizardry Core Rules. Copyright 2008, Matthew J. Finch
Swords & Wizardry Complete Rulebook. Copyright 2010, Matthew J. Finch.

Tome of Horrors Complete, Copyright 2011, Necromancer Games, Inc., published and distributed by Frog God Games.

Amon from the Tome of Horrors Complete, Copyright 2011, Necromancer Games, Inc., published and distributed by Frog God Games; based on original material by Author Scott Greene, based on original material by Gary Gygax.

I am choosing to cleave close to the original material and the OGC material because I feel that anyone using this monster (or later using the Basic Bestiary) to be able to slot him right into an ongoing game without too many "continuity errors."  So I include his "mythological" background (description, legions controlled) and his "D&D" background (allegiance to Geryon).  I also include more details that are solely from my own games (Baalseraph, borderland disputes). 

My Aamon is expanded and changed, but I can see where you can use Amon and Aamon interchangeably. The ability to pick up one of my monsters and use them in any game is one of my main design goals.

Links


Monday, December 13, 2021

Monstrous Monday: Children of Darkness

Author and world creator Anne Rice died this past weekend at the age of 80. 

Anne Rice, Queen of Darkness

Rice's writing, whether her books on vampires, witches, mummies, or erotic fairytales, had a huge effect on horror writing, modern media vampires, and not least of all, games. 

I recently watched the 2017 "World of Darkness" documentary where Vampire the Masquerade creator talked about how he tried to avoid everything Anne Rice when he was writing, only to watch all the movies and read the books that influenced her. 

There was certainly something in the air around then.  World of Darkness / Vampire the Masquerade came out in 1991, with development starting in the late 80s (on the way to Gen Con according to the documentary).  Back in 1985-86, I read "The Vampire Lestat."  I actually read it before I read "Interview with A Vampire" so my opinion of Lestat was a bit higher than my friends that read the books in the proper order.  "Lost Boys" came out in 1987.  All of this led to some interesting discussions at the game table on the nature of vampires.  

Once again I am going back to my original "Red Book" and I pulled the stats on an old favorite, the Children of Darkness, updated to my new Basic Bestiary stat block.  Though spoiler alert, you have seen a variation on these with the Children of Twilight.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels
Vamire, Children of Darkness
Medium Undead (Corporeal)

Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1d4)
Alignment: Chaotic [Chaotic Neutral]
Movement: 180' (60') [18"]
  Run 360' (160') [36"]
Armor Class: 2 [17]
Hit Dice: 10d8+20*** (65 hp)
To Hit AC 0: 6 (+13)
Attacks: 2 fists or by weapon
Damage: 1d6+5 x2, or weapon+5
Special: Constitution drain, immune to mind-affecting spells such as sleep, hold, and charm, plus additional powers
Save: Monster 10
Turn As: Type 12 (Lich)
Morale: 11 (12)
Treasure Hoard Class: XX [C]
XP: 3,000 (OSE) 3,100 (LL)

Str: 22 (+5) Dex: 18 (+3) Con: 16 (+2) Int: 16 (+2) Wis: 13 (+1) Cha: 20 (+4)

Few undead creatures are as powerful as the vampire and none are as successful as hunters as the vampire.  The Children of Darkness are among the most powerful of the vampires.  The transformation to the undead causes the Children of Darkness to become the perfect predator. Their physical form becomes perfect; imperfections disappear, they become stronger, can see and hear better, and naturally, can smell blood.  These vampires only prey on humans and as such only humans become Children of Darkness. 

The Children of Darkness share many of the same strengths and weaknesses as the common vampire. They are strong (they have strength scores of 22), undead, immune to mind-affecting spells such as sleep, hold, and charm. They are also immune to having their minds read.  However, unlike other types of vampires, they can enter dwellings, holy ground and are not harmed by holy items like symbols of holy water.   Additionally, they cannot turn into bats, wolves, or mist. They do not need to rest in coffins, but many do since it is a good guarantee that they will lie undisturbed.  Like all vampires, Children of Darkness are damaged by and can be destroyed by sunlight.   They take 2d6 hp of damage per round exposed to sunlight.   These vampires are turned by Clerics as Liches or Type 12 Undead. 

These vampires can attack with their fists causing 1d6+5 points of damage per hit or attack with a weapon with a +5 to damage.  Additionally, these vampires can have a special power.  These powers can include, Charm, Levitation, Pyrotechnics, Telekinesis, or Telepathy.  Typically these vampires gain their first power soon after becoming a vampire and an additional power for every 100 years of age.   Children of Darkness over 1,000 years old are believed to be able to fly or even immunity to sunlight.

Magical weapons can harm them and if they are reduced to below 0 hp they do not die, must retreat where they will heal at the rate of 1 hp per day.  Damage above this 0 hp threshold is regenerated at the rate of 1 hp per round.  Vampires can "heal" hp on an eight-for-one basis for any hp they drain from constitution points (1 con point = 8 hp). 

The deadliest attack is their Constitution Drain.  Once they latch onto a victim they drain them of blood via a bite.  This bite drains the victim of two (2) points of constitution per round, with most humans drained to zero in five rounds. A human drained to below 0 constitution points will die. A drained human will not return as a vampire unless the Child of Darkness also gives them some of their own blood.  They can only do this if the human is at 0 points of constitution, no more, no less.

Children of Darkness will band together in small groups for protection. Many will share the same sire or will even be "orphans", Children whose sire has abandoned them.  They have a complex set of laws they must abide by which includes not turning children into vampires, (though feeding on them seems to be ok) not creating too many of their own kind (which is difficult to start with), and not killing their own sires.  Some even take this as far as not killing others of their kind. 

The Children of Darkness see themselves as superior to all other types of vampires.  They view other vampires as mutations or aberrations.  Their own rules prohibiting them from killing other vampires do not apply to other vampire types. They often refer to all these other types as "Children of the Devil."

Every hundred years or so a Child of Darkness feels the need for a deeper sleep. They will find a secluded location away from the sun where they will sleep for a decade or more.  Sometimes very old vampires will fall into this death-like state and forget to awaken. 

--

About twice as much text as my late 80s version.  For this stat block, there is now a "Turned As" listing.  This is something I'll introduce in Basic Bestiary II: Undead (currently 220 entries, but only 140 are complete).  "Named" undead will get a chance to make a saving throw but I will detail all of that and my alternate rules for Undead Level Drain in the book.

BBII Cleric Turning

Monday, November 29, 2021

Monstrous Monday: Tiâmat

I have talked about Tiamat since the earliest days of this blog.  No surprise really given my love of mythology and my oldest son's obsession with dragons.  It really is a natural fit for me.  I was working on this post a lot over my Thanksgiving break and I went back and forth on a lot of different ideas.  But circumstances came together and I finally decided, last night, what to post.

My oldest started Descent into Avernus this weekend for his 5e group.  We thought that a nice early Christmas present would be the new Gargantuan Tiamat miniature. 

Tiamat "mini"
The Tiamat "mini." Feiya and Larina for scale.

This thing is, well, gargantuan!

Up till now, we had been using the Aspect of Tiamat, the D&D Icon of the Realms Tiamat, and the Mage Knight Apocalypse Dragon (more on that guy in a bit). The Queen of Dragons enters a lot into our games. 

This also got me thinking about how I handle dragons in my Old-School games.  In particular how I want to handle them in my Basic Bestiary.   Over the years here I have experimented with various ways to present dragons so they are a constant challenge to any party regardless of size or levels.  There have been some really good innovations over the years starting with the dragons in AD&D 2nd Ed and into 21st Century forms of D&D.  I want to capture the best of the best design principles and also allow them to fit into the design I have already been using with my own monster stats.

I am not really 100% there yet.  

But I am at a point where I can present unique dragons like Tiamat (or Tiâmat as I am presenting her).  I still have a few issues to work out, but since I want to get my money's worth out of that figure here she is.

Tiamat
Tiâmat

Gargantuan Dragon (Evil)

Frequency: Unique
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic [Chaotic Evil]
Movement: 90' (30') [9"]
  Fly 180' (60') [18"]
  Swim 180' (60') [18"]
Armor Class: 0 [19]
Hit Dice: 30d8+240****** (375 hp)
 Gargantuan: 30d20+240****** (555 hp)
To Hit AC 0: -2 (0) (+21)
Attacks: 5 bites + 1 tail lash or breath weapons or spell + special
Damage: 3d6+7 x5, 1d6+7 or Breath Weapons or spell
Special: 
Save: Monster 30
Morale: 12 (NA)
Treasure Hoard Class: Special
XP: 30,250 (OSE) 30,250 (LL)

Str: 30 (+7) Dex: 10 (+0) Con: 32 (+8) Int: 28 (+7) Wis: 24 (+5) Cha: 22 (+5)

Tiâmat is the mother of all dragons, good and evil.  She was destroyed by her grandson Marduk and was cast out.  Formerly a god she now represents the primordial chaos of the deep sea or even the infinite abyss.  For this reason, she is often seen with the heads of all the major evil dragons, Black (Acid), Blue (Electric), Green (Poison), Red (Fire), and White (Cold). Fittingly, the mother of dragons makes her home in the depths of the Abyss in a layer known as  Têhom, or the "deep".  She is also considered to be the mother, or at least the Grandmother, of all evil and chaotic monsters.

Tiâmat can attack with all five heads per round.  Each head can bite, use their respective breath weapons, or use spells. The bite attacks do 3d6+7 hp of damage each, but the individual heads cannot attack the same Medium-sized or smaller victim at the same time.  A Large or larger-sized target can be attacked by two heads at the same time.  Tiâmat can attack up to five (5) separate targets this way.  Each head can also use their respective breath weapons doing 10d8 (45 hp) up to three times per day.  She will typically attack with her breath weapons first, to overwhelm and awe her opponents and then resort to spells and bite attacks.  Tiâmat believes that opponents need to be dealt with in the quickest, most deadliest, of ways.

Her aura of dragon fear is such that all, even true dragons, have to make a saving throw vs. magic or fall under the effects of a Cause Fear spell. This will affect all creatures regardless of HD/level.  Each head can additionally cast a Magic-user/Wizard spell per round in lieu of a physical attack.  The white head can cast 2 first-level spells and 1 second-level spell.  The black head can cast 2 second-level and 1 third-level. The green head can cast 2 third-level and 1 fourth. The blue head can cast 3 fourth, 2 fifth, and 1 sixth-level. Finally, the red head can cast 3 sixth, 2 seventh, and 1 eighth-level spell.  Tiâmat chooses her spells at the start of her day. She typically opts for spells of control, damage, and ones that can summon support. She does not need somatic or material components for her spells, they come naturally to her. 

Due to her size, Tiâmat cannot make claw attacks while on the ground.  She can attack with her foreclaws when she is flying or swimming.  She is immune to charm, hold, mind-affecting magic, and sleep effects.  She is additionally immune to all sorts of poison. She takes half damage from acid, cold, and fire. She also has 75% magic resistance.

As the Queen and Mother of Dragons Tiâmat she is served by five consorts. These are dragons of largest size and greatest age of their respective dragon types, White, Black, Green, Blue, and Red.  Each one is utterly loyal to Tiâmat, failure to be anything but this will result in their immediate death and their skins put on display.  Tiâmat can summon 2d6+1 evil dragons of any type once per day.

Tiâmat's home plane is known as Têhom, or the "deep." Here there are seven distinct areas that represent the preferred habitat of each of the five evil dragon types. Each one is governed over by her consorts. The sixth area is an ocean, so deep and so dark that no bottom has even been seen.  Tiâmat makes her home here along with sea dragons of all sorts. It is rumored that the great dragon Leviathan also resides here. The seventh and last area is an island that Tiâmat often visits. Here her treasure horde can be found. This land is populated only by undead dragons.

Tiâmat as a Patron
Dragon Tradition Witches and Draconic Pact Warlocks take Tiâmat as their patron.  Chaos mages also look to the Mother of Monsters as their patron, inspiration, and even Goddess.  All dragons, good and evil, regard her as their mother or the first of their kind but only evil dragons and dragon-kin worship her. 

--

Notes

I like this stat block quite a lot.  I can look at it though and tell I still need to define my demons and dragons both a little better. There are ideas I want to express that I am currently not doing.

She is a Gargantuan creature.  So because of that, I am going to be using my alternate HP calculations. A gargantuan creature uses a d20 for HP determination, not the standard d8.  Even with this she is at 30 HD so in standard games she ends up with 375 hp. In my games that is boosted to 555 hp.

A bit on that HD.  Yeah, she has 30 HD.  She is big and bad and is not a monster you find on level 20 of some random dungeon. This flows from the level setting I was doing in One Man's God. Tiamat is not just on the top of the scale, she should be the top.  A former Goddess now cast into the Abyss, that means two things for me. One she is powerful and two she should be a demon of some sort.  She is obviously something more. I have her listed as "Gargantuan Dragon (Evil)" but she would certainly also be an Outsider or even a Fiend possibly. She could even be an Eodemon

Alignment.   I have been playing Tiamat as "Chaotic Evil" since I first started reading Chaos Theory back in the 90s. It always made far more sense to me.  Plus she never really fit into the hierarchy of Hell as far as I was concerned.  I do borrow a page from Paradise Lost and say she was there when the Devils fell.  But that was only one of her lairs in the cosmos. 

What about that Apocalypse Dragon?  Well, I still want to get my money's worth out of him.  So he has been redubbed as Leviathan.  Fitting, given the history my games have had with him.  I will need to revisit my stats for him though. 

Tiâmat and Leviathan
Tiâmat and Leviathan

Links

Links to other Tiamat postings here on the Other Side.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Post Gen Con Updates

Temple of Elemental Evil
Nothing gets my creative juices flowing better than being at Gen Con!  So I thought I might post some random updates on various projects, both public and personal.

Other Side Publishing

Fiend Folio II

This one has generated a LOT of discussions.  But here are my goals for it.

  1. This is just a project for me.  Not publishing it.
  2. I am doing it to get a good feel of monster evolution from OD&D to AD&D and from the late-70s to the mid-80s.  The "Sweet spot" of old-school gaming.  This will inform me on how to build better monsters for the Basic Bestiaries.
  3. I need to get in some Adobe Indesign practice.  This will give me that.

Basic Bestiaries

These are moving along nicely BB1 has 250 monsters in it now, which is by all measures a good number.  But I want to do some more for all the volumes I have planned so I can ensure a common look and feel across them all.  I am happy with what I have here and I am really looking forward to getting these out.

The High Witchcraft Book

What I have been calling my "last" witch book has been left on its own for so long it has mated with some other files on my hard drive and given birth to ANOTHER witch book! Yeah, I have enough material now for two books.  Those are a little later in coming.  I want to make sure I am not just putting out material because I have it, I want it to be good. The second book will come out first more than likely with the High Witchcraft book retaining the notoriety of being the Last Witch book.

Gen Con Brilliant Idea #1

My family and I got to play a LOT of games together over Gen Con.  Something came up during play that I think will be great.  Thankfully a lot of the work has already been done by my for other projects.  This project will complement the Basic Bestiaries, but one is not required for the other at all.  I am keeping this one close to my chest for now.

Personal

September Sales

WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE????  My sales are like 4x to 5x what they normally are! I looked at the sales and thought it had to be wrong.  I rechecked the math and yeah.  My only guess is that it is because Halloween is so close people are looking for horror-themed materials for their games. 

So. I spent some money.  Well...I spent a lot of money.

The Wild Beyond the Witchlight

Classic D&D characters? the Feywild? Creepy ass carnival? Creepier clown named Thaco?  HELL YES! Honestly, there is so much fun stuff here. It portrays the feywild as it should be, equal parts light and dark, beautiful and terrifying, whimsical and deadly. And often all at once. 

There is just so much here. Stats and backgrounds for Kelek, "Charmay", Skylla, and more!  Personally I LOVE want they did with the Charmay/Skylla confusion. A slightly different twist than my own, but one that works well enough.

The Wild Beyond the Witchlight

Temple of Elemental Evil

Going from 5e doing Old-School to Old-School going 5e.  I also grabbed the Temple of Elemental Evil today.

Temple of Elemental Evil

This one is so massive it will need its own post.

Since I was in an old school mood I also grabbed the Codex series for Castles & Crusades.

Codex myths series

The Temple will be the end cap to my 5e campaigns.  So this is going to be great really.

And on top of everything else, I actually lost some weight over Gen Con!

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

#RPGaDAY2021 Day 3 Tactic

RPGaDAY2021 Day 3

Interesting one today. The alternate words are just as appealing to me as the main one.

Day 3 Tactic

I am currently in the different stages of a few very interesting and fun projects.  A couple I hope to get you all soon and others I hope their respective publishers get to you.

Presently I am also rereading some texts from my grad-school days and one, in particular, is about course design.  Now while books are course do not serve the same purposes they do have some similar design ideals.  It should be noted in my day of writing course curriculum I run into peers and colleagues who also are professional game designers. At one point I worked with several fellow designers that were also game designers (or had been) for WotC, White Wolf, and Mayfair.  The skills are similar.   But I digress.

The tactics I use to design a course or even design a bit of game work are also similar.

Whenever I have an idea for something. I usually start with what I call a vision document or a notes document. This lays out some ideas and key elements I want for the book/project. Let's take an example for a project I recently opted to put aside for now.  The project on my working projects drive was called "Demon City Tokyo: 2074" and it was going to be an anime-action "Night World" for Night Shift.  The idea came to me last October and grew out of a few other ideas I had "on paper" at the time.  It was going to be expanded on from these core ideas.  So I took that all and placed it in my vision document with some broad ideas; New type of super-collider, Tokyo of the future, some ideas on mixing a lot a Japanese and English for words.  I also linked in a bunch of maps, pages on the internet.  Help pages to refresh my Japanese after not speaking any in nearly 30 years (I can still count though!) and more.

My next phase or tactic in this process is to create the "thick outline."  This is exactly like outlining, save that I am allowed to include paragraphs and other details.  This allows me to start seeing the material in order and allows me to move material around a little easier.  I find doing the vision doc first gives me free-thinking room and then the thick outline focuses these ideas into a form I like.

Up next is detailed writing.  This is where I am on the Basic Bestiary series and where Demon City died.  Not because I did not have the details, but because Dyskami Publishing was coming out with their own Demon City that was WAY too close to mine.  NOW please be aware I am not suggesting anything here other than we both had a common idea.  Theirs is in Kickstarter now and it is likely to be very good.  I felt the world did not need TWO Demon Cities.  Plus as I was working on my detailed thick outline my lack of knowledge of Tokyo was becoming more and more obvious. At one point I even moved the whole thing to my more familiar Chicago, but it didn't have quite the same feel.

Basic Bestiary on the other hand moved forward to the detailed writing stages.   Here my tactic has been to pull any and all material I already had and use it here.  Demon City Tokyo lives on in Basic Bestiary III since a lot of the demons I researched for it are still fantastic demons.  While I write a ton of material here, not all it sees the light of publication or blog posts, and some not in the way they were originally envisioned. 

After that comes playtesting, editing, revisions, layout...but those are all tales for another post I think.


RPGaDAY2021

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Basic Bestiary Updates

Been a little quiet here I know.  So I figured I'd share an update.

Work is progressing nicely again on my various Basic Bestiaries.   I am still working out the kinks of my semi-universal stat block and work on what looks like will be an obscene number of demons.

Basic Bestiary updates

The complete column is the number that is 100% complete, ready for the last pass of edits.  Started has everything from just a name to almost everything minus one or two details. It also includes the complete. 

You can see that when I did this screenshot I was at 623 demons.  That number has jumped by three completed demons and 10 more incomplete/started.   The 10 are my Qliphoth demons I talked about way back in April.   The Qliphoth are just one of the man new demonic groups I am going to be introducing in this book.  

If you have been following my work for a while now you know I have Lilim, Eodemon, Shedim, Baalserph, and Calabim fiends among all my "demons."  This book will introduce the Qliphoth, Asura, Tarterian, Yaoguai, and Yōkai demonic lineages.I have a total of 11 lineages so far.  I just need to find a better name for the Neutral Evil Daemons. 

AD&D 2nd ed renamed them the Yugoloths, which I kind of liked to be honest, but the name is not OGC.   Even Pathfinder still calls them Daemons.  I mean it works yeah and it helps make it easier to use my books with your old AD&D ones.  But I think I can come up with something better really.   I mean I already split the devils into two separate lineages of the Calabim and the Baalseraph, so I am certainly not being tied down by tradition or nostalgia here. Not to mention my Qliphoth are quite different than Pathfinder's Qlippoth.

So why are there FOUR Basic Bestairies? Ah.  So back in April (I think) I was beginning to realize that my Basic Bestiary had grown too large.  I had already portioned off the demons (good plan) and the book was growing more and more.  Even right now I am at 387 complete non-demonic monsters.  So, I made another cut.

Basic Bestiary I, Monsters & Maleficarum, covers all the monsters that kept coming up in my research over the years on witches and witchcraft. This includes many of my Monstrous Mondays posts.

Basic Bestiary II, Books of the Dead, covers all the undead.  At least half of the book will be vampires.  

Basic Bestiary III, Demons & Devils, is pretty much what it says on the cover.

Basic Bestiary IV, covers...well, let me hold on to that one a little bit longer.

The goal was to release them all in 13-week intervals over the course of a year.  Though now I am giving thought to BBI and BBII to be released right away.  I suppose it depends on how much art I can buy and how much of BBIV I get done.

Speaking of art, I had some great art for these, but now I am planning on using that elsewhere.

I am still planning on releasing these in both hardcover and softcover formats so they can fit on your shelf next to your Advanced and Basic-era books respectively.

Basic Bestiary IBasic Bestiary I

Basic Bestiary IIBasic Bestiary II

Basic Bestiary IIIBasic Bestiary III

I am going with the Romantic period Goya and Füssli because they capture the mood of these books perfectly.  BBIV also goes with Füssli.  

I am quite excited to get these to you.  There will be some familiar faces here, but hopefully changed a bit to make them feel new.  My undead book for example takes all the undead combat rules I have used and puts them all in one place. I also universally use my new draining rules here too.  Demons get updates across the board and even what I call "the usual suspects" get a boost. 

My hope is you get as much fun out of these as I did working on them!

Monday, May 3, 2021

Monstrous Monday: A to Z Recap and Reflections

winner #atozchallenge 2021That's another Blogging A to Z for April for the history books. It was nice to get back into this really. I enjoy the challenge of not just blogging every day (I kinda do that now anyway) but having a prompt for the blogging.

Let's See how I did.

According to my stats my visits were up 20% over other months, except for October (which are usually up 50% to 75%).   I gained followers across social media, with the most coming from Twitter.

That's all well and good really, but for me one of the important things was I found several new blogs to follow from here on out and many more I'll visit on the Blogging A to Z Road Trip.

My goal was to get some monsters done.  I published 26 days with 24 complete monsters, 3 variations, and 1 subtype. I also 2 categories of monsters, Qliphoth with 10 monsters and Vampires with 44 types.

A is for Allip
B is for Barghest
C is for Cat-sìth
D is for Dragon, Purple
E is for Elf, Shadow
F is for Faun
G is for Glaistig
H is for Hag, Chaos
I is for Incubus
J is for Jack O'Lantern
K is for Kelpie
L is for Lilith
M is for Merrow
N is for Nuckelavee
O is for Orc, Desert
P is for Púca
Q is for Qliphoth
R is for Rakshasa
S is for Skeleton, Electric
T is for Troll, Swamp
U is for Undine
V is for Vampire
W is for Wight, Barrow
X is for Xana
Y is for Yeti, Almas
Z is for Zombie, Drowned

For the visual types, here is a Pinterest board with links to each one.

Follow Timothy's board "April 2021 A to Z of Monsters" on Pinterest.

I started the challenge with over 330 monsters in my projects folder with 156 of those 100% complete.  I started with two ideas for monster books; one for normal monsters and another for demons and devils (and more).

Today I have split this all off into three books (maybe four) of normal monsters, undead, and fiends.  The fourth book is so early I am hesitant to even announce it.

I also have new cover art for all my books, even the proposed fourth book.  

By the numbers, Basic Bestiary I has (so far) 240 monsters with 220 at complete status.  Basic Bestiary II: The Undead has 178 monsters with 80 complete.  Basic Bestiary III: The Fiends has 87 entries, with 19 complete and an additional 616 proper names of demons, devils and other fiends that I need to sort through.  Basic Bestiary IV currently has a working list of 100 monsters, none are complete.

So roughly 320 100% complete monsters, more than doubling my pre-April count of 156. 

That was my true goal here.  I did not think I would walk out of this with a complete book in hand.  There is still a lot of editing to do and my target per book is still 300+ monsters.  The demons and devils book will be more; I might snarkily have 666 monsters.  So far I am within reach of that.

Will I do this next year?  At first, I was thinking no, but in truth, I did forget how much fun it was to visit all sorts of blogs outside my normal reading. Plus in terms of my goals, this was a success.  Maybe I'll do this for my Book IV.

Right now I have a lot of monsters to clean up and get ready for BBI.  


A to Z 2021 Reflections
http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/2021/05/atozchallenge-reflections-2021.html

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

A to Z Blogging Challenge Theme Reveal

I am considering doing the A to Z Blogging Challenge again this year.  It's been a couple of years since I have done it.  I was feeling I was alienating my regular readers with it in favor of people just coming through from the Challenge.

A to Z reveal

So this year I wanted to do something that any and all readers would enjoy.   This year I am doing Monsters.

The idea here is to give me some external motivation to get my two monster books done.

For new readers, there will monsters which are always fun. Since many come from the tales of fantasy,  myth, and folklore maybe there will be something they can use for their own writing or just enjoyment. For my regular readers, new monsters with stats.  I am also looking for all sorts of feedback on not just the monsters, but the stat blocks as well.

The one I have been using on my Monstrous Mondays has been working well for me, but I am sure I can tweak it some more.

The monsters for April A to Z will likely favor the Basic Bestiary I, covering all sorts of witchcraft-related monsters with plenty of fae and undead, but I am not ruling out some demons for Basic Bestiary II.

Both books will come in softcover (Basic red) and hardcover (orange spine) versions.  So they will work with whatever version of the game you are playing.  The interiors are the same with stat blocks designed to work with both the "Basic" and "Advanced" versions of the game.

Basic Bestiary cover, version 1 Basic Bestiary cover, version 2

So far Basic Bestiary has over 330 monsters with 156 of them complete.  The others are various points. 

Basic Bestiary II, Basic coverBasic Bestiary II, Advanced cover

Basic Bestiary II has over 500 demons, devils, and related monsters.

I am also going with my own compatibility logos on these since they really have gone beyond one system or the other.  They are still largely "Basic" in nature, but as you can see from my Monstrous Mondays stat blocks they have a little bit of everything in the OGC.  I am going to use this month to experiment.

You can see others doing their theme reveal over at the A to Z Blog until March 20.


Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Current Works In Progress: Basic Bestiary & High Witchcraft

Work has me really busy right now, so I have been slow on getting new material out.  Either in book form or for this blog (except for Halloween).  But I wanted to give an update on what I am working on now.

I recently went through all my research notes, books, and files.  This has been a good thing and something I like to do every so often to keep me grounded in what sort of game I want.  It is far, far too easy in game design to drift away from your core principles into something else.  One example of this power-creep in games, though there are other reasons for power-creep too.  The other is scope-creep and that is when a project gets too unwieldy and becomes much larger than intended. 

Both types have hit my latest two works in progress, so I have been taking a step back to see what I really have.

Basic Bestiary

This is the "Big" project that has my focus now.  The project began with collecting all the monsters from all my witch books, plus all the monsters for Monstrous Mondays, and additional ones I have but have not published.  Once I pull them all together I had over 220 pages with 300 or so monsters with no art (yet).  For me that felt like a "good size" but I got to thinking.  Even if I edit them all and standardize them all, which is no small amount of work, these are all essentially "re-runs" material people have already seen and in some cases paid for.   That didn't feel right to me.  So I started adding more (power and scope creep!) and that is where the issues began.

For starters, I publish most for Basic-era (B/X, BECMI, OSE, LL) and Swords & Wizardry games.  Add in all the other games I post about here I have monsters in six to seven different but still largely compatible systems.  I needed to standardize my monster stat block.  You have seen it's evolution here on my blog. The current and most stable version can be seen in yesterday's Fenodyree.  Essentially a Labyrinth Lord stat block with some other information thrown in that I like to use in my games.   If you go back and look at something like the Wendigo then you can see that there are three different, similar but not the same, stat blocks.   So there is that process now going on.  Some stat blocks like S&W and OSE are great, but far too minimal for me. 

Also since the hardcover of The Craft of the Wise went over so well I decided that the Basic Bestiary needed softcover (Basic) and hardcover (Advanced) options.  Here are the covers as they sit now.  These very likely will change again.

Basic Bestiary cover, version 1 Basic Bestiary cover, version 2

For these covers, I made two changes.  First I switched to Goya's "The Witches' Sabbath" to reflect the feel that this book is mostly witch related monsters.  It also fits better with the quote I use in the Preface, "El sueño de la razón produce monstruos." or "The sleep of reason produces monsters."

I am also going with my own compatibility logos on these since they really have gone beyond one system or the other.  They are still largely "Basic" in nature, but as you can see from my stat blocks they have a little bit of everything in the OGC. 

Switching from Fuseli to Goya also was an outward sign of another issue.   I had WAY too many demons.  Not just demons, but devils and all sorts of fiends.  I also had my own demonic families of Baalserph, Lilim, Eodemons, Calabim, and Shedim.  I mean you can't do as much reading, researching, and writing about witches like I do and not collect some demons.    There really was only one solution.

Split them into two books. 

This actually works well since in my discussions with people there are decidedly two camps. The ones that use demons in basic-era games and those who don't.   This gives both groups buying options.

Basic Bestiary II, Basic coverBasic Bestiary II, Advanced cover

Regardless of whether you buy the "Basic" softcover or the "Advanced" hardcover, the material inside will be the same.  The Basic Bestiary I will be heavy on undead, vampires, fey, hags, and other witch-related monsters.   The Basic Bestiary II will cover demons, devils, and all sorts of fiends.

Right now there is no projected publication dates.  BUT I want to get BBI out and follow up with BBII maybe three or six months later.

Between those two I will also publish my "Last Witch Book,"  The High Secret Order Witchcraft book.


Going back to Rosetti for this one, a perennial favorite of mine.  The piece is "Astarte Syriaca" which harkens back to the first witch coven I ever wrote, the Coven of Astártē Queen of Heaven.

All three books (five covers) will be under my "Basic-Era Compatible" banner to indicate greater compatibility with each other and my desire to use what I consider the best or best of all the systems along with my own additions. Compatibility is key, but innovation is the driving goal here. 

The weakest link right now is The Secret Order book.  I have a ton of material and none of it put together the way I want yet.

Personally, I am really excited about all of these. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

New Page: Appendix O and the Purpose of Research

I just published a new Page and you can see the link above. It is my version of the classic "Appendix N."  But mine comes after it and it is more about the occult, witches, vampires, and other horror related topics.

So I am calling it Appendix O.

Just a small portion of my library.

If you are interested in seeing the sites on the web that I found useful or have good witch content then check out my other page Witch Links.

If you want to know what movies I have been influenced by to write witch, vampire, and other horror-related content then check out my October Horror Movie Challange.

And occasionally I do make an Appendix N post. 

Nothing in the citations will tell you how to play a better game of D&D, Ghosts of Albion, NIGHT SHIFT, or any other RPG.

Nor will they allow you rebuild one of my books or classes from just the content they have.  They all however have lead me to a place where those books could be written. 

Current research pile.

Also, this is not scholarly-level research here. I did not come up with a thesis statement, a research question, or anything like that and then carried out a systematic literature review.  This is 100% books that were within my grasp at the time (eg growing up in a small midwest town with a larger than average personal and public libraries), then access to one of the largest open shelve university libraries in the state, and of course then the internet.  These are titles that captured my attention at the time and then left a mark on my RPG writing. 

As with all my Pages here, I'll update this one periodically. In fact looking at the pictures above I see there are a few entries that I missed.

The Purpose of Research

Back when I was getting my Ph.D. in Ed. Psych my advisor was going over my records and my Master's Thesis and asked me why I did not go into Cognitive Psychology, which is what my academic life had been up to that point.  I told him I was (and am) more interested in how people learn.  We talked about my Master's Thesis where I showed that it takes about 550 ms to activate a memory from long-term memory when it had been properly primed by a queue. It was situated in the current Information Processing theories of the time.  My advisor, who was one of the nicest people you could ever meet, looked at me and said "so what?"  I was floored. So what? I spent months working on that theory, and then more weeks writing the software to test it, weeks testing undergrads, weeks of eating nothing but popcorn and pineapple while writing a 180-page thesis.  So what??  And, he was right.  I was in an Ed. Psych program now, not Cog Psych. My research had to mean something. If I could not tell that Fourth Grade teacher at CPS what my research meant to her then why should I do it?

This page came about not because I kept getting asked for it. That is true and a good enough reason, but the real reason is I am constantly going back and re-examining my own work and research.

I love to research for research's sake. But that is not the degree I ended up with. Research is fun, but it needs a goal.  Appendix O started out without a goal in mind.  But that doesn't mean I can't have one now.

Presently I am working on two books for my "Basic-era Games" banner; "The Basic Bestiary" and "The High Witchcraft" books.  I wanted at least one of these to be ready by Halloween.  That's not going to happen.  The Basic Bestiary is moving along well, but not as fast as I would like.  High Witchcraft...that's another matter.

I have been calling High Witchcraft my last book on Witches.  I want that to mean something.  But I think I am setting up too many mental roadblocks for myself. So I am going back to my first assumptions. Back to my first "research questions" as it were.  It might take me a little longer, but I want something really good. Something that is worthy of being called my "last witch book."


Basic Bestiary is moving along fine.  I have a ton of material, I just need to edit it.

The Secret Order is a call back to the witches of Dragon Magazine (but not setting them up the same way, I gotta do my own thing) and to that very strange time between 1981 and 1983 when we freely mixed in both Basic and Advanced D&D concepts.  I am publishing it with my "Basic-Era Compatible" logo as opposed to "Labyrinth Lord" or "Old-School Essentials" (and either of those would be fine) because I do want a lot more freedom to express my witch how I want. 

For the cover art, I am a huge fan of the Pre-Raphaelites. So there was really only one choice for the high Witchcraft book and that was "Astarte Syriaca" by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.  Astarte was one of the Goddesses I researched the most in those early days of my first witch.  I even made my first version of Larina a worshipper of Astarte, and not the more obvious Hecate.

For the Basic Bestiary I wanted a Pre-Raphaelite, but "The Nightmare" by Henry Fuseli was calling to me. I always loved that painting. 

Back to the books!