Showing posts with label Johan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Johan. Show all posts

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

#RPGaDAY2022 Day 24 - When did you start playing this character?

Again, more than one character means more than one date, but that is cool.

For Sinéad and Nida it was in January of 2021 that I rolled them up, making them some of my newest characters. Though both had concepts prior to this and Nida at least had a name.

For my others, well I got in the habit early on to put the date I made the character on their sheets.

Johan I was 1/9/1980
Johan II was 1/30/84
Johan III was 1/2/86
Johan IV was 9/13/2000
Johan V was 6/13/2008
Johan V Pathfinder version was 2/19/2011
JohanVI D&D Next PlayTest 8/17/2012, converted to 5e proper on 9/13/2014

Larina, despite all that I post about her, was not my first character.  She was created on October 25 (or 26), 1986.  I have been saying October 25th forever, but some details on her sheet lead me to believe that it was more like the 26th. 

Larina's first sheet

While every new edition means the next in line for the Weprers, Larina moves between the editions.  Advantages of being a quasi-immortal witch.


RPGaDAY2022


Monday, August 22, 2022

#RPGaDAY2022 Day 22 - Who is your current character?

Johan VI
One thing I never quite understood was the assumption that anyone has just one character at a given time. I have dozens!  I might be playing them all, but they are there.  Here are some of my favorites.

D&D 5e

This is my current 5e character, Johan Werper the VI. He is a cleric/paladin. He is the great-great-great-great-grandson of my first ever D&D character Johan Werper, the Cleric.  Johan the First was followed by Johan the II (Paladin), Johan III (Cavalier), Johan IV (Cleric, Prestige Paladin 3e), Johan V (Paladin, multiclassed feat Cleric, 4e) and to the new generation.

It has been a real joy to have a multi-generational arc for my characters and great to play with this concept of the Lawful Good paladin across all generations of the D&D game.  Each has given me something slightly different and all have been a blast to play.

Some of my other characters for 5e that jump between PCs and NPCs are Tayrn Nix,  Half-elf Warlock (Fey Pact), Celeste Holmes, Human Wizard (Sage), Cassandra Killian, Human Sorcerer (Divne Soul), Jasic Winterhaven, Gnome Bard (College of Lore), Sasha, Cleric (Knowledge Domain), and Áedán Aamadu, Human Druid (Circle of the Land).

Old School Essentials

Some of my OSE include the druid couple Asabalom and Maryah and my Pagans Lars and Siân.  

AD&D 2nd Edition

I have two I have been working with. I was just telling my oldest last night I need to pull them out again and do more with them.  Both are AD&D 2nd Ed interpretations of a Witch, Goodwife Sinéad (Witch Kit) and Nida (witch of Hala/Witch of Rashemen kit)

DragonQuest

My character for this game is still Phygor

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Of course, I do have to mention my iconic witch Larina, who gets stated up in every game I play.

Larina by Djinn



RPGaDAY2022


Tuesday, June 7, 2022

D&D Edition Wars: Why CAN'T I Play a B/X Paladin?

All D&D
It's June and I have mentioned that it is D&D month around here. 

The natural question then is, "Which D&D?" All of them! "Even that one?" Yes. Even that one.

I was going through a bunch of material I need to review and Review (reading for my own benefit vs. a full review) and it got me thinking about a bunch of topics.  Should I play more Castles & Crusades? What should I do with all this Pathfinder stuff? Where did my copies of Dungeoneer's and Wilderness Survival Guides go? (seriously. where are they??).

This got me thinking about the various editions and edition wars.  I want to share the story of my first skirmish in the never-ending edition wars, but first I want to talk about the latest side battle in it and my point of view on this in general.

D&D Edition Wars

I am not sure if this will be a regular feature or not.  Typically I avoid edition wars and find them remarkably pedantic to be of any actual use. Don't like a particular edition? Fine. Don't play it.   BUT every so often something bubbles up that takes my notice and I want to comment on it.  The latest one comes to us courtesy of Stranger Things.

If you have not seen the new Season 4 of Stranger Things, please do. It is back to form and good drama.  Sure there are a LOT of characters now and no one is getting the spotlight for very long, but the last episode of Part 1 did a great job of tying together many of the seasonal arcs to set us up for the epic finale.  

They also get to play some D&D.  There is a bit where they deal with the Satanic Panic of the 80s.  I would talk about that now, but I have done that already and most recently back in April. So no real need for me to do that. But in the same milieu of edition wars we are getting some nagging from older gamers like myself complaining that Erica Sinclair's character should have been a Thief and not a Rogue. Well. That is technically correct yes. It was supposed to 1986 and the Rogue does not come into play until 1989. Lots of people are claiming this is a mistake.  Here is my point of view on that.

The Duffer Brothers did not make a mistake. 

Look in the very next scene of their game Dustin (played by the wonderful Gaten Matarazzo; seriously this kid is going to be a hell of an actor someday) drops lines about Vecna (the focus of their game and the season) having been destroyed by Kas. They already mentioned the lack of an eye and hand.  This is not deep lore to us, but to the causal viewer, it is.  And that's the thing. This show has to appeal to all viewers. Those that know D&D but mostly the vast majority that do not.  Here is her line.

"My name is Lady Applejack, and I'm a chaotic good, half-elf rogue, Level 14. And I will sneak behind any monster you throw my way, and stab them in the back with my poison-soaked kukri."

Remember the character is Chaotic Good (which we all understand) and supposed to be a heroic character.  IF she had said "Thief" it would not have the same level of understanding to the causal viewer as "Rogue" does.  Han Solo was a rogue. Robin Hood was a rogue. The normies get what a rogue is. A thief is someone who steals. Yes, yes, it has a different connotation in D&D but that is not the majority of the audience.  I posit that the Duffers knew exactly what they were doing. 

It reminds me of when my main character at the time was a Paladin.  I'd explain to others, who I was trying to get into the game, that my character was a Lawful Good Paladin. Which would ALWAYS be followed by "what's a Paladin?"  Eventually, I gave up and just started saying "Knight."  This is the same thing.  Also it is a nice segue into my next section.

Why CAN'T I Play a B/X Paladin?

The 80s were an amazing time for a lot of reasons. Even in my small home town there were multiple independent D&D groups and clubs happening all the time.  I got invited to a game by a friend one evening. This had to have been either very late in Jr. High I am guessing summer of 82 or 83.  In any case, I was going with my regular DM, he got to play for a change, and a bunch of people I never met. The DM called me ahead of time and asked if I would be willing to play a Lawful Good Paladin. I said sure! I was already playing a Lawful Cleric in my other game so this seemed like a good fit (and it was, but more on this).  Now is the time to be pedantic.  See I was playing a "Lawful Cleric" as in B/X D&D. My regular DM played AD&D and we ran our games as an unholy mix of the two. Not uncommon from what I know now and we had a lot of fun. My first experience with D&D was Holmes Basic and the AD&D Monster Manual.  My new DM just told me to bring my Expert book.

D&D Expert vs AD&D

Well...that was a mistake. I brought my Expert D&D book to an Advanced D&D game and you would have thought I had brought a D&D Coloring book instead with the reactions I got.  Thankfully my DM was still cool about it, even if the other players held their noses in disgust.  

Nowadays of course people talk about their B/X days with pride and fond memories. Especially me.  But that was a contributing factor to me not picking up the BECMI sets when they came out soon after.  I was all in on AD&D from that point on.  No "kiddie" D&D for me! 

That was the first salvo in what I would later come to know as "The Edition Wars." There were many skirmishes between the Basic and Advanced folks back then. Nothing major, I can recall though.  The next battle was fought over the fields of "Unearthed Arcana" and then the "Proficiency Battles" connected with Dungeoneer's and Wilderness Survival Guides (seriously, where the hell are mine??) 

I still have my Paladin from that game. He went on to great glory in the Bloodstone series. I would also roll up my own paladin later, he was the son of my B/X Cleric. 

Now thanks to the OSR scene I have a lot of options to play a B/X Paladin.

B/X Paladin

If Johan II was my Advanced D&D Paladin and son of D&D Cleric Johan I. Then maybe I need to make a Kara Foke II as an OSE Paladin, son of Kara Foke that AD&D Paladin I played so long ago. 

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

#RPGaDAY2021 Day 4 Weapon

RPGaDAY2021 Day 4

Excalibur, Stormbringer, Mjölnir, the Sun Sword, Blackrazor, Narsil/Andúril, the Bessy Mauler, the Sword of Kas, Needle, Elbe the Heartbow.  All worlds, whether ours or fantasy have fantastic legendary weapons.  

Quasi-artifacts to quest for or be granted to those that are worthy. 

Day 4 Weapon

Like all good game worlds, I have a number of unique and special weapons.

Demonbane

Demonbane is a bastard sword from The Treasure Trove found in Issue #91 of Dragon Magazine.  The sword is described as "a great, many-hued blade of which the origin has been forgotten, but which was wielded by the great paladin Nord in his single-handed destruction of the Citadel of Conjurers."  Created by Ed Greenwood it would later go on to be called Dornavver in the Forgotten Realms.   In my games, though it became one of the weapons of my paladin Johan II and used to defeat Orcus in module H4.  IT was lost in the Astral Sea and it has been the focus of all my paladins for the last four generations to recover. 

The "forgotten origin" has been changed to a drow savant, Sharis Val, that created it along with his adoptive father a dwarf cleric of Moradin. The multi-hues come from the variety of metals used in its construction.

Ebonblade, the Sword of Black Flames

Ebonblade's history is tied up in that of Demonbane's.  The story of Demonbane's construction is not as forgotten as reported.  Among blacksmiths, the tale of the swords construction and its use to defeat the Citadel of Conjurers is a tale told by masters to apprentices all over the world.  One such apprentice found where the Demonbane was made and used the leftover materials to make a sword to avenge the death of his killed master.  The materials used in making Demonbane responded to Sharis Val's desire to rid the world of evil and in particular demons.  Ebonblade responded to the hate and desire to kill others and thus became an evil weapon.

The Star Sword

This weapon was made from bit of a "star" the fell to the Earth. Longer than a bastard sword, but not quite as long as a two-handed sword. This sword focuses the magic energies of the wielder into the blade to add extra damage.  

The Mace of St. Werper

Admittedly not all that different than the Mace of St. Cuthbert, in my defense I made mine before I ever read about it in the DMG.  This one though was specific to my first cleric.

The Death Staff

This weapon is the very first Staff of the Warlock used by my character Magnus. It can blast a humanoid with its necrotic power and turn them into a zombie under the wielder's control. 

 What weapons populate your world?


RPGaDAY2021

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft, Part 2b. Do You Wanna Build a Darklord?

Darlessa, the Vampire Queen
Wait.  Shouldn't this be Part 4?  Yes, but everything I am talking about here deals perfectly with the material I reviewed in Part 2 and very little of Part 3.  

One of the shifts in design goals of the new Ravenloft book is a move to focus more on the Darklords you can create for your own game. 

While several updated and new Darklords and Domains are detailed, the fun comes creating your own, and in particular, one that has meaning for your players and characters.   Chapter 2 covers this well and comes before Chapter 3 on the existing Darklords and Domains to get the readers and potential DMs to think about what the domains mean to them.

So let's take the advice of the book and create a new Darklord and Domain.  Now my first horror game likely happened as soon as I got my Moldvay Basic set if not before.  I dig horror. A lot. So I have at least 40+ years' worth of horror gaming to draw on.  And while such D&D campaigns I have run in the past, The Shadow War, Ogre Battle, or even The Dragon and the Phoenix had horror elements to them, but none really rose up to the levels of Ravenloft worth horror, though the Shadow War back in 1991 came close and even featured some Ravenloft game sessions.  My own Ravenloft campaign was essentially a tour of the then Domains ala "The Fantastic Journey" only horror and not sci-fi.  I imprinted on a lot of weird shit as a kid. While a lot of fun, it does not give much in the way of "new" material.  Sure there is a lot of old material I could bring back, but that's not what I want to do here now. 

So let's start with Chapter 2 and build a Domain. And do that, we need a Darklord.

Who is My Darklord?

It's going to be a vampire. Why? I like Vampires. I played a cleric as my first class ever so I could be like Van Helsing. My goal what to fight vampires and undead.  Let me put a pin in that idea for a moment. 

I thought about maybe using my cavalier that I ran through Ravenloft as a player or one of my favorite NPCs I used as a reoccurring character that would torment the players because while she was a vampire she was not overtly evil. But my cavalier died in the Shadow War and the NPC, well she ended up the focus of a ritual to bring a vampire back to life.  She is human now, and given the history of that character, I kinda want to keep it that way. 

There is only one NPC that could really be my Darklord.  That is Darlessa the Vampire Queen.

Spend any time here and you will know about my history obsession with the various Vampire Queens.  I love them.  Blame Hammer Horror, blame 60's and 70's Giallo, but they are so great.  Darlessa comes to me via Small Niche Games and the Valnwall products where she is credited with killing St. Johan, my very first Cleric character. So the origin here is still Basic, B/X style at that, D&D.   Truthfully there is a multitude of reasons why this works for me, so I am not going to bore you with the justification and the details and just state "it works."  

So let's start with Darklord Creation.  Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft says:

A Darklord’s memories, desires, mistakes, and evil deeds shape the domain’s twisted lands, inhabitants, and features. You need not create these in a vacuum, though. When creating your own Darklord, consider the relationship that will define their evil in your adventures: their conflict with your players’ characters.

- Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft, p. 39

Well...I don't have any players, not just yet.  You all are my players now. The adventures you have had are reading this blog. 

One this is clear off the bat.  The Darklord is evil.  Darlessa might be a lot of things, but a misunderstood villain is not one of them.  This notion of evil and evil deeds is repeated many times in this section. So much for Ravenloft not having good vs. evil. 

What are Darlessa's evil deeds? She kills people. Well, lots of vampires do that. She used her evil and power and privilege to command others.  She tolerated no rivals. She kidnapped the granddaughter of Johan Werper and threatened to kill her. She caused Johan's death instead and this was her last act that damned her.  Let's consult this questionnaire from VRGtR, answers in parentheses:

  • Where was the Darklord before the Mists took them?  (In the swamp outside her castle)
  • Who was the Darklord’s family? (none, she had killed them all centuries ago)
  • How was the Darklord’s family oppressed, oppressive, or both? (domineering over her, killing them might have done the world some good)
  • What was the Darklord’s childhood like?  (oppressive. She was bullied and bullied in return)
  • Whom did the Darklord care about? (Only herself mostly, BUT I am willing to work on this)
  • Who cared about the Darklord? (Maybe a sister?  I will think about this.)
  • Who hurt the Darklord? (everyone, but usually only once)
  • Whose respect or love did the Darklord crave? (only those who had more power than her)
  • What did the Darklord value? (power)

So Darlessa is a vampire, not because she craves lives and blood, but because she craves power. Her desire to control everyone and everything around her was her undoing as a vampire and led her to become a Darklord.  But lots of vampires never become Darklords.  She has to be something else.

In "Corrupt Beyond Redemption" on page 40 we are given some ideas of what makes a Darklord more than your average villain.  The Darklord needs to commit Evil Acts, or "The Dark Powers consider an act to be evil if it is intentional, unnecessary, and successful, and most importantly if it causes significant harm."  Those Harmed have to be significant.  In this case, it was my first character trying to protect my first AD&D 2nd Ed character.  Maybe not significant to you but for me it has gravitas.  And finally, the act has to be Irredeemable.  Darlessa was about to drain the life out of a seven-year-old girl just to get to her parents and grandfather. She managed to cause the death of the grandfather and scar the granddaughter so much she was terrified of the dark.  (Role-Playing tip. Try playing an AD&D character who you have decided is afraid of the dark. All dark, all the time.)

Background

Darlessa always fancied herself as a Queen, which of course is impossible because she is from Glantri. She might have been an upstart Princess if fate had been kinder to her, but instead, the only magic she learned was witchcraft, a "lesser" form of magic to the Glantri ruling class.  Rejected by those she considered her peers and laughed at by those she considered underlings it was no surprise that she turned to evil.  She married a minor noble and soon had him murdered.  She moved up in social status by marrying one of the lesser Princes.  She could not kill him as easily so she had him locked away due to madness, which she of course caused.  She was always vying for more and more power, a better position in the social hierarchy. While she felt she was in control of her situation and had everyone else figured out in truth all the nobility saw through her ruse and were just toying with her.  When discovered this and was laughed out of court she sought out her demon to turn her into a vampire. But even then she chaffed under this yoke and sought to kill her new master. 

She managed to escape and had planned her glorious revenge on all who had mocked her, only to discover that everyone from the court was dead.  Not of some nefarious or evil plan, but of the natural progress of time.  She had taken decades to break free and now it was too late. All that remained were the offspring of those who had rejected her.  She reinvented herself as a noble and re-entered court, this time none knew her.  She would have been successful too had it not been for the cleric Johan.  Clerics had been banned in her day in Glantri, but Johan was distantly related to a noble and had proved a wise council on ecclesiastic and occult matters.  He quickly spotted Darlessa for what she was and thus began 40 years of open conflict between the two.  

Until the night she got what she had desired.  She was going to kill Johan and his granddaughter. Johan had taken his granddaughter to see the court. Her chance had come, everyone who had stood against her were all in one place. She had killed every servant in the castle to get to the girl and had taken her back to her own keep.  Johan followed. The ancient enemies fought and both died by the flaming holy oil.  Only the young granddaughter survived.  Johan was canonized and became St. Johan.  

Darlessa awoke to find herself in a finely appointed castle much like that of the court.  She was surrounded by servants and nobles, and all addressed her as Queen.

Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh from Pexels
Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh from Pexels
The Domain

The Domain of Darlessa is a small island, or at least that is what it seems to be. There is the island and it is surrounded by water, but they are on a lake and the island is in that lake.  Beyond are only mists.  Darlessa is the Queen, but she has no subjects. She has servants, the very ones she had killed to get to Johan, but they are mindless, repeating the same tasks every day, day in day out.  Members of her court have the exact same conversations over and over again.  Games of chess or cards always result in the same outcomes no matter how many times they are played. Everyone in the castle adores her and they tell her this, often. Every day. The exact same way.  She has tried to feed on her servants, but they provide her with no life and they are returned the very next day.  She has gone on berserk killing sprees, killing every member of her court, and they return the next day acting as they always have.

The night she was rejected by society plays over and over again as it did in her mind when she was subservient to her demon lord. Now it plays out for real and she holds the place of power and honor. Her every desire has been given to her. And she is tortured by it all. 

This Domain has treated Darlessa everything she ever wanted and she is sickened by it all.  The fawning courtiers, the sycophants, the hangers-on. They all disgust her and there is no release.  The sun remains behind dense clouds and is never bright enough to kill her.  She thirsts constantly, but no one inside her domain can satisfy her.  Even her small cadre of warlocks (of the Undead) who do her bidding are revolting to her.  Though they do leave the island to gather new souls for their Queen.  In truth, she longs for a great Paladin or Cleric to come to destroy her to end her endless torment. Sadly, for her, those were outlawed. 

For the Darklord Connections (p. 44) we have the following:  1: An adventurer reminds the Darklord of their bond, desire or loved one.  OR in this case as the clerics Johan or his granddaughter Celene.  Darlessa is convinced that only Celene would be able to free her. 

Genres of Horror

This Domain is pure Dark Fantasy with bits of Gothic Horror and Psychological Horror. It should feel like a D&D world (Mystara in particular) in the movie Groundhog's Day.  The same day repeats over and over in an endless cycle. It is Dark Fantasy with the trappings of Gothic Horror.  The castle is haunted, but not by ghosts, but by memories.  Psychological horror comes from the "Repeat" and not knowing who is on repeat or not.  Also, how does one get out of it all?

Arevenir
Domain of the Vampire Queen

Darklord: Queen Darlessa
Genre: Dark Fantasy, Gothic Horror
Hallmarks: Undead ruler, same day repeats over and over.
Mist Talismans: Invitation to the Royal Court, a book of beginner spells from the School of Magic, a single candle.

Arevenir is a depressing domain consisting of a small island, a castle on the island and the surrounding village.  The locals are glum and speak no language the characters will understand right away.  The populace will claim the woods nearby are haunted with evil fae creatures and wolves with eyes that glow with balefire. 

The castle offers a respite from the cold, uninviting village. Inside the events of the same night play over and over again. The PCs will find they are trapped inside with no hope of escape except from the evil Queen herself and her warlock acolytes.

To escape they have to find the proper talisman. 

--

I am sure I can develop more if needed. But this is a good start.  With this setup the PCs do not need to fight Darlessa at all. So while I have stats for her I don't need stats for her.  Even if they did like everything else in the castle she would just return the next day. 

What I want here is a land influenced by the French and Italian horror of the mid 1970s.  Similar to the most recent October Horror Movie marathon I just did where I focused on Pre-Exorcist European Horror.

It would be fun little diversion. 

Now if I were making a new Domain for players well I get more player input.  Every successful horror game I have ever run has had one thing in common; Player's buy-in.  They have to want to play it in order to make it work out fine.

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Character Creation Challenge: Swords & Wizardry Boxed Set

Swords & Wizardry Boxed set
Is it really June 1st??  Spent my Memorial Day weekend the same way I always do; grilling a bunch of food and spending all my time helping my wife in her garden.  So far we have 61 tomato plants in, 3 tomatillos, 74 peppers ranging from sweet to "Satan's Kiss,"  untold numbers of onions, potatoes, celery, squash and I have no idea what else.  Sadly we ended up losing all of our okra plants due to a late-season frost.

But today is a new month and that means a new character.  Although today's character is not new, per se, it is new since this is the first time I have presented this character before she became a Vampire.

The Game: Swords & Wizardry Boxed Set

I got my Swords & Wizardry Boxed set in the mail over the weekend from the Kickstarter.  It is a great-looking set and I want to spend some more time with it.  Getting a set of dice inside was a nice touch.  The books are top-notch really. Though I fear that my old-school itch is now being scratched by Old-School Essentials. Still, my oldest saw my set and admired it so maybe he will do some running with it.

There is a lot to like about it.

Old School Boxed sets

The Character: Darlessa

Long-time readers know of my love for the various "Vampire Queen" adventures out there and my own history with them.   Darlessa is one of the Vampire Queens I most often use.  She has a nice personal history with me and my characters and she is 100% OGC so others can use her too.

I am going to be using her in another project very soon, so I thought it might be nice to talk about her today before she became a Vampire.  Since I have this new rule system here that mimics the oldest RPG in our hobby, I thought it might be nice to go back and see her as a human witch. Right before her humiliating betrayal and her seeking out her demonic patron to turn her into a vampire.

Darlessa as a human witch
Darlessa

Chaotic Female Human Witch, 13th level

Strength: 10
Dexterity: 12
Constitution: 13
Intelligence: 15
Wisdom: 14
Charisma: 18

Saving Throw: 5
Hit Points: 43
AC: 1

Occult Powers

Familiar (Raven)
Evil’s Touch
Devil’s Tongue

Spells by Level

1st (4): Burning Hands, Cause Fear, Minor Curse, Read Languages
2nd (4): Agony, Bewitch II, Enthrall, Rite of Remote Seeing
3rd (3): Clairaudience/Clairvoyance, Danse Macabre, Toad Mind
4th (3): Arcane Eye, Bewitch IV, Phantom Lacerations
5th (2): Death Curse, Greater Command
6th (2): Death Blade
7th (1): Wave of Mutilation

Magic Items

Bracers of defense, ring of protection, ring spell storing.

Background

Darlessa always fancied herself as a Queen, which of course is impossible because she is from Glantri. She might have been an upstart Princess if fate had been kinder to her, but instead, the only magic she learned was witchcraft, a "lesser" form of magic to the Glantri ruling class.  Rejected by those she considered her peers and laughed at by those she considered underlings it was no surprise that she turned to evil.  She married a minor noble and soon had him murdered.  She moved up in social status by marrying one of the lesser Princes.  She could not kill him as easily so she had him locked away due to madness, which she of course caused.  She was always vying for more and more power, a better position in the social hierarchy. While she felt she was in control of her situation and had everyone else figured out in truth all the nobility saw through her ruse and were just toying with her.  When discovered this and was laughed out of court she sought out her demon to turn her into a vampire.

Darlessa, S&W character sheet

That is the sad tale of Darlessa. One of jealousy, anger, and hubris.  What happens to her next?  Tune in tomorrow and see!

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Mail Call! Minis, Blue Rose and Old Dragons

I got a bunch in the mail this past weekend so let's have a look!

Mail call items

HeroForge

Up first,  Some new minis from HeroForge.

Graz'zt in 25mmBold and True, Johan Paladin of Light

Graz'zt and my paladin Johan.  His sword, Demonbane, is on fire because it is a demon-hunting sword and Graz'zt is near.

You can get a better look at Graz'zt below.

Screenshot of Graz'zt

If you click on the HeroForge link here you can even see he has six fingers on each hand!

I forgot who made this, the post on Facebook is gone, but she did a great job.

He compares well to the official mini that was made for him.

Graz'zt minis

Graz'zt minisGraz'zt minis

And he looks good next to my HeroForge Iggwilv.

Graz'zt and Iggwilv minis

Blue Rose Adventure's Guide

The Blue Rose Adventure's Guide is out as a DriveThruRPG POD and it looks great!

Blue Rose Adventure's Guide

Pages from Blue Rose Adventure's Guide

Pages from Blue Rose Adventure's Guide

Pages from Blue Rose Adventure's Guide

Pages from Blue Rose Adventure's Guide

This allows you to play a Blue Rose game using the D&D 5th Edition rules. It is surprisingly complete.

Blue Rose Core and Blue Rose Adventure's Guide

You do not need the Blue Rose core rules to play this, but you do need the D&D 5th Edition rules.

A full review coming soon.

Dragon #20

And last, but not at all least, I finally got a copy of Dragon #20 with the Witch class and demonology guide.

Dragon Magazine #20

Witchcraft pages from Dragon Magazine #20

Witchcraft pages from Dragon Magazine #20

Expect a "This Old Dragon" post on this one soon!

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

BECMI: Immortals Set Review

“I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam.”
- Frodo to Sam, Return of the King


And here we are. 
June is drawing to a close and we are here in the last week of BECMI month.  Fitting too that the last week, as short as it is, is dedicated to the oddest set of rules in the set.  The Immortal rules set. We see some major changes here and in TSR as well.  So. Let's jump right in.


I am reviewing both my rather beat up and water damaged version of the Immortal set (I only have the books, not the box) and the PDFs from DriveThruRPG.

A couple of notes.  The set now lists Frank Mentzer as Author. No mention of Dave Arneson nor Gary Gygax here.  The year is 1986 and Gygax had been removed from TSR the previous October. Frank had been very closely allied with Gary so his time at TSR was also going to come to an end soon.  The Immortals rules and the module The Immortal Storm would be his last books for the company.  This had two rather obvious impacts on these rule books.  First, the art that had been getting more sparse with each set now hits an all-time low.  No in quality mind you! But in terms of amount. There is just not that much art in these books.  
Secondly, it also meant that the company focused more on its perceived cash cow, the AD&D line.  Gary had been talking about the AD&D 2nd Edition game, but now that project was turned over to Dave "Zeb" Cook of the B/X Expert Set rules.  Others have played the conjecture game of what might have been, so I will not go into that here.  What I will say though is it left Frank and the BECMI line alone for the Immortals set to go in some very weird directions.

If BECMI is the ultimate update of the OD&D rules, then the Immortals rules cover part of what Eldritch Wizardry and Gods, Demi-gods & Heroes introduced.

Players' Guide to Immortals
32 pages, color covers, black & white art.
Your character, now 36th level and has pretty much done everything from dungeons to the planes hears the call to become an Immortal! Certainly, this was the goal of those quests and battles. Immortality.  But now the game, both actually and metaphorically, has changed.  Just like when you moved from Jr. High/Middle school or Grade school to High School you go from being the most powerful of mortal kind to the least powerful of the immortals.
This book covers how your character now becomes an Immortal.  There are five spheres, four of which characters can access, detailed here.  These are the same spheres that have been hinted at since the Companion set and introduced in the Masters set; Matter, Energy, Though, Time, and Entropy.  characters choose one of the first four usually corresponding to the class they had in life; Fighter, Magic-User, Thief, and Cleric respectively.
Experience points gained will alive now become PowerPoints on a 10k to 1 basis.  We get our first hints at a proto-point buy system in D&D here since PowerPoints can be spent. Now the Initiate Immortal can begin to do some Immortal things. PowerPoints are used for a lot of things, but mostly for magical or spell-like effects.  Your sphere will determine which ones you can do easily and which ones are harder.
There are a lot of interesting rule changes along the way.  AC is now Ascending for Immortals; so Immortal AC 20 is the same as mortal AC of -20.  AC 0 is the same. Ability scores can be raised. First to a max of 25 (the AD&D max of the time) but also all the way to 100!   
In a lot of ways, the PP mechanic is similar to what we see in other Point Buy systems used for superheroes.  It makes sense really.  
Though for all of its detail there is very little information on what an Immortal should do. Right now they seem, at best, super-powered mortal characters.  There is some implicit ideas, but nothing spelled out yet.

DM's Guide to Immortals
64 pages, color covers, black & white art.
The DM's book spends some time covering the planes of existence.  While a lot on specific planes is left vague, there is a lot of details on how planes are designed.  The artwork and some of the notes appear as if the author and artists were checking on what the AD&D team was doing "down the hall" there is a unique feel to the BECMI multi-verse.  A lot of emphases is given on "doing it yourself" including room for the DM to pencil in their own % for monsters occurring.
There is a bit more here about the planes, in particular the Prime plane.  We learn that the Known World doesn't just look like Earth from 150 Million Years ago, it IS Earth from then.  This explains the map a bit better. We also learn that this Earth is the predecessor to our lands.  Though, in the spirit of everything else in the book, this can be changed.  The Solar system is the same, save for a few notable differences. Mercury and Pluto are not in their orbits yet and between Mars and Jupiter where the asteroid belt is there is a planet called Damocles. Fitting named for a doomed planet but doesn't fit with the names of the Roman Olympians. Damocles will be destroyed and the two largest pieces will fly off to become Mercury and Pluto.  Imaginative to be sure!  But Mercury is only 35 million miles and Pluto is closer to 3 billion miles from the sun. The asteroid belt is roughly 300 million miles from the sun.  So Damocles is not really in the middle of that.  No big deal, this is D&D, not Astronomy.  I DO however love the idea of a doomed planet in the current or future asteroid belt. Maybe a Mi-Go outpost or something like that.   I want to talk more about the Known World/Earth a little more in just a bit. Plus there is one more bit of information I want to collect.
It would be interesting to compare and contrast the multi-planuar mechanics and rules here with the various Manual of the Planes.
This is followed by the Immortal Campaign.  Or, what do Immortals do? There are some ideas given but for the number of rules on immortal characters and planes you would expect some more to be honest. 
Our "Monsters" section is now called "Creatures" since they "cannot be adequately called monsters."  All these monsters...creatures now have expanded stat blocks to cover their immortal statuses.  
One of the first things I noticed was the inclusion of demons to the roster of D&D BECMI monsters.  I am not sure why this surprised me since these are the same demons from Eldritch Wizardry.  Well...same in name but these demons got a serious upgrade.  Let's compare.  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.  Orcus and Demogorgon have 39 and 40 HD with 620 and 660 hp respectively!  Yikes!  We do get some art of them. 




In addition to being able to summon other demons, Orcus and Demogorgon can summon Gargantua. 

We get more inhabitants of the nightmare dimension like the Diabolus which are...checking the description...well they basically tieflings. And they can take any human class. So all the Grognards out there complaining about "monster races" have no ground to stand on. Here are the rules from 1986. 
The Dragon Rulers are updated to Immortal stats and so are some of the elemental rulers.  There is the Megalith and it is ... WHAT???  More on that in a bit!
A few more creatures and some, ok a lot, of tables on magic.

Crisis on Infinite Urts
So there are a couple of new-to-me bombshells in the Immortal rules.  First, the world of the PCs, aka the Known World is Earth of 150 mya. Secondly, this Earth is in actuality a creature known as a Megalith ("big rock") and it is known to the Immortals as "Urt."
It's tucked away in two different places, but this is a revelation really.  The Known World as a living planet known as Urt.  Imagine what the "Mystara" line might have been about had this thought continued?  No Hollow World to be sure. Frank Mentzer pretty soon left TSR soon after this and the Immortal Storm were complete, so we never really got to see what his ultimate vision was.  We do know that Gygax considered his Oerth and later Aerth for his Dangerous Journeys to all be alternates of Earth. Aerth was a little more on the nose about it.  Frank was set to design parts of Oerth a few years back, but that project fell through.  It might have been the closest we would have seen to a fleshed-out Urt.  
At some point between 1986 and 1991 (the publication of the D&D Rules Cyclopedia), the world of Urt became Mystara.

So here at the end of all things what can I say about the Immortals rules? It is an inconsistent set of rules to be sure. There are a lot of really interesting ideas connected together with bits of fluff that may, or may not, work well.  The concepts of Immortals is a compelling one and D&D would come back to it in big ways at least two more times with Wrath of the Immortals and Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition where Immortally was the goal after 30th level. 

Still. One can be impressed with the scope of the rules and how it caps off a set of rules that began in 1983 but has roots going back to 1977 and to the dawn of D&D.  For that reason, it gets a few points more than it might have gotten on its own. 

Back in the day, I had only two characters gain immortality via a route similar to this. More like my DM read these rules and figured his own way of doing it. One would be my character Johan Werper the Cleric and bane of the Undead. 

Friday, June 19, 2020

Character: Magnus Ulslime, the Chaotic. Death Pact Warlock (BECMI Special)

Last week I talked about the adventure Quagmire for the Expert set.  Earlier I talked about the adventure Death's Ride for the Companion set.  What do these both have in common?  They were the genesis points of a reoccurring bad guy in my games, Magnus Ulslime, the Chaotic.


Magnus, as he was most often known in my games, is not just an awesome reoccurring bad guy, he was my testbed for all sorts of evil, death-priest, warlock style characters.

Anytime a new version of D&D would come around I would roll up a new Johan Werper as the son of the previous one, either as a LG Cleric or Paladin.  I'd attempt to make a version of Larina.  And I would make a version of Magnus.  But unlike Johan, who is a different character each time but always a LG holy warrior, or Larina who was a reincarnation of her previous version and always a witch, Magnus was always something different.  I would always go with the class that would give me the best evil traits.  In Basic he was a evil Cleric. In AD&D1 a Death Master, in 2nd Ed he started out as a Druid and then became a Necromancer.  When I switch over to 100% Ravenloft in my college years the cover of Ship of Horror and the evil necromancer Meredoth also had a huge influence on me.  As it turns out Meredoth would be revealed as an expatriate of the Mystaran country of Alphatia.
In 3rd Ed...well there were some many choices that I eventually made 6 different versions.  You can see some of that in my Buffy adventures The Dark Druid and The Dead of Night.  In 4e I used him as a test of the Death Pact Warlock that never saw the light of day under 4e.  It did, however, affect the writing I did for my warlock books.

Magnus Ulslime became my poster boy for warlocks soon after I got a copy of 4e.
I tried him out in several different ways mixing in bits of cleric, wizard, and especially necromancer.
In my Strange Brew: Warlock book for Pathfinder I introduce both Cthonic and Death Pact warlocks.  I expand on those ideas from a different point of view in my more recent book, The Warlock for Old-School Essentials.  In both cases, I made Magnus a Death Pact warlock.  It was a much better representation of how I saw the character.  He made a trade to Death for more power in the mortal world.

Magnus for BECMI
If I rerun Death's Ride again for any version of the game I'd like to replace Ulslime the Cleric with Magnus Ulslime the Warlock.  For 3rd to 5th Edition of D&D this is not a big deal.  But BECMI does not have a warlock.

No. But Old-School Essentials and Swords & Wizardry do.

My warlock for Old-School Essentials is a B/X style warlock with Death Pacts.  But it only goes to 14th level.  My warlock for Swords & Wizardry goes to 20th level (the level I want Magnus at) but it doesn't have Death pacts.  No problem. I designed the books to work together like this.  By combining them I can get the exact warlock I want.  If I need more death or necromancy themed spells



Magnus Ulslime, the Chaotic
20th level Death Pact Warlock
Lodge: Sixth Circle, Masters of the Undying

Str: 10
Int: 18
Wis: 16
Dex: 10
Con: 15
Cha: 18

HP: 66
AC: 2 (mage armor, phantom shield, ring +2)

Invocations (10)
Arcane Blast, Agonizing Blast, Armor of Shadows, Aura of Fear, Claws of the Ghoul, Eldritch Sight, Form of the Undead Horror, Mask of Many Faces, The Wasting, Whispers of the Grave

Spells
Cantrips (6): Aura Reading, Daze, Detect Curse, Mend, Message, Object Reading
1st level (7): Arcane Dart, Corpse Servent, Häxen Talons, Feel My Pain, Mage Armor, Phantom Shield, Taint
2nd level (7): Augury, Aura of Chaos, Corpse Walking, Death Knell, Grasp of the Endless War, Speak with the Dead, Ward of Harm
3rd level (6): Bestow Curse, Black Lightning, Cackling Skull, Corpse Candle, Lifesteal, Rage
4th level (6): Animate Dead, Crystal Visions, Extend Spell (Lesser), Fear, Spell Storing, Undead Compulsion
5th level (6): Bad Luck (Run of Bad Luck), Death CandleDeath Curse, Dreadful Bloodletting, Song of the Night, Winds of Limbo

Magic items: Amulet of Chaos, Pentacle Rod, Ring of Protection +2, Staff of the Warlock,

Not too bad really.  I might have to go more "BECMI" and raise him to 25th or 36th level!

While I am playing around, here is a 5th Edition version to use in my 5e Converted Death's Ride.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Happy Anniversary!

No regular post today, it's my 24th Wedding Anniversary!
24 years ago I stood on a beach in Ocho Rios, Jamaica and I said "I Do" to my best friend.
It's been a wonderful ride so far.  Two houses, two kids, 8 different jobs, and 21 season of gardens (missing one due to a move and no gardens when we lived in an apartment).  I wouldn't change a thing.

To keep this RPG related I got a commission from one of my Featured Artist, Ben Honeycutt, to do a portrait of my wife's and mine D&D 5 characters.  Or, more closely, us cosplaying as our characters. ;)



These are our characters Johan IV (Paladin) and Lana (Fighter)



These were based on our minis and our engagement photo from 1995.




Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Darlessa the Vampire Queen

I have had a long and sorted history with the "Vampire Queen" in my games.

One of the first adventures I worked on for OSR publication was called "The Tomb of the Vampire Princess" or "Vampire Queen" or "Palace" depending on my mood at the time.

I essentially saw it as a sequel of sorts to the original Wee Warriors / Pacesetter Games "Palace of the Vampire Queen".  But a few things happened. First Mark Taormino published his own "Hanging Coffins of the Vampire Queen" which was AWESOME.  Then Bill Barsh of Pacesetter Games produced some sequels of his own with Castle Blood and Crypts of the Living.
So the need for my own sequel dwindled.

A couple years back Small Niche Games produced Guidebook to the Duchy of Valnwall. I had the pleasure of working on that product.  I submitted a character to be "Saint" in the game, Father Johan Werper, my very first D&D character ever.  When I got my copy I was so thrilled. Something I had wanted to happen for ages was going to happen, Johan was going to be a real saint in a "D&D" book! I opened it up and I was not disappointed at all!  Moreover the book's main author and designer Pete Spahn had added this section:
He died in a tragic tale that is recounted in the Hunt for the Dark Mistress, where he tracked down and slew Darlessa the Vampire Queen who had abducted his granddaughter.
Unfortunately, Johan was himself cursed by the taint of the vampire's blood. Rather than remain an undead abomination, he bid goodbye to his granddaughter and used the last of his strength to douse his body with oil and set himself alight.
Pete never contacted me about this and I could not have been happier!  Without knowing it he included things that happened in my game; Johan dying and leaving his granddaughter, Celene, behind (Celene was my first 2nd Ed character, and afraid of the dark.  Now I know why).  The use of holy oil in my games (does 1d8 damage to undead; more when lit) and of course giving a name to an enemy that had been lurking in the back of my mind ever since I first read about Elizabeth Bathory.

It was like throwing a deck of cards into the air and having them land in a perfect house of cards.

So modules V5 and V6 combined will cover a lot of similar territory to what I was going to do in my adventure. So I'll just drop that and keep the elements that are new.  The opening of the crypts.

I have a stack of various notes, maps, ideas and going through them all I think I have something pretty cool here.  I'll have to get it all together in time for my annual Halloween horror game.

Right now the working title is Descent into the Crypts of the Vampire Queen. It will be my homage to the great adventures of the Golden Era but also a nod to the two Vampire Queen adventures that brought me so much joy.

Here she is for Advanced Labyrinth Lord.

Darlessa the Vampire Queen



Darlessa, The Queen of Vampires
Female Vampire Witch, Demonic Tradition
No. Enc.: 1 (Unique)
Alignment: Chaotic (evil)
Movement: 120’ (40’)
   Fly: 180’ (60’)
Armor Class: -5 (bracers of defense, amulet of protection, ring of protection)
Hit Dice: 13
Attacks: 1 (touch, see below) or spell
Damage: 1d10, drain 2 points of Constitution, witch Spells
Save: W13
Morale: 12
Hoard Class: XXII
XP: 11,400

Str: 18 Int: 15 Wis: 14 Dex: 18 Con: (18) Cha: 22

In addition to the powers of a vampire, Darlessa has the following witch spells and Occult Powers.  She casts as a 13th level witch.

Spells by Level
Cantrip (3+5): Alarm Ward, Black Flame, Daze, Knot, Mend, Mote of Light, Object Reading, Spark
1st (4+3): Burning Hands, Cause Fear, Everlasting Candle, Hecate's Spiritual Dog, Minor Curse, Read Languages
2nd (4+3): Agony, Bewitch II, Burning Gaze, Enthrall, Ghost Touch, Produce Flame, Rite of Remote Seeing
3rd (3+2): Astral Sense, Clairaudience/Clairvoyance, Danse Macabre, Toad Mind, Tongues
4th (3+2): Arcane Eye, Bewitch IV, Elemental Armor, Moonlit Way, Phantom Lacerations
5th (2): Death Curse, Greater Command
6th (2): Death Blade
7th (1): Wave of Mutilation

Occult Powers
Familiar (Undead Raven)
Evil’s Touch
Devil’s Tongue

Magic Items
Intangible Cloak of Shadows, Amulet of Protection* (also prevents cleric turning), bracers of defense, ring of protection, ring spell storing.

Links to Adventures
Links to my 'Vampire Queen' posts


Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Class Struggles: The Cleric

Coming back to my Class Struggles series I wanted to look into the class that really got me thinking about this series to start with.  The Cleric.

There has been a lot of talk of clerics and their value in a D&D game.  This ranges from the old school of whether or not the Cleric is an appropriate trope for a fantasy game to the new school of whether a cleric is needed in a game that also has healing from long rests.

I am firmly in the camp of Clerics are as much a part of D&D as Fighters, Wizards and Thieves.

My first character ever was Father Johan Werper, Cleric of the God of the Sun, Hunter of the Undead. He was a bit of a generic cleric to be honest, and I choose the sun god because I thought that as a quasi-medieval priest  the sun would be a major feature of all the is holy, bright and good.  Plus I had been reading a bunch of Greek Myths and I thought Apollo would make for a good god.  But the real reason I choose the cleric; Turning Undead.  That was an AWESOME power in my pre-teen mind.   So that has colored my views of the cleric ever since.
(Father Werper, now St. Werper, lives on as an official Saint in COA04: Guidebook to the Duchy of Valnwall.)

In real life I am an atheist, but I like the play the religious character.  So clerics, witches, druids, all fascinate me.  But clerics are where it all started.

Clerics as Occult Researchers


In nearly every other game I have ever played there have been occult researchers.  There is usually someone that is the party's muscle, the magic-guy, the sneaky guy and the smart guy.  Sometime the magic guy and smart guy are the same, sometimes though they are not.  The Cleric takes on the roll of the Smart Guy or the Occult Researcher.  The books, the ill-fitting glasses, and the wisdom to know what to do is the role of the cleric.

It is fairly well known that the idea behind clerical undead turning  came from Peter Cushing's Van Helsing characters in the various Hammer Dracula films.  Why not extend the metaphor to include the rest of Van Helsing's portfolio.  As a class that puts a high value on Wisdom then the cleric should be a font of knowledge. Sure, this can also be done by the Magic-User / Wiazard,  but the cleric's input should not be understated.  Van Helsing is described as a meta-physian or what we might call a poly-math, or man of letters.  Wizards, even with schools, don't have the same "Academic" credibility as a cleric can have.  Sure the shaman could be considered a cleric in some games, and his schooling could entirely be natural or at least un-scholastic in nature.

In D&D 3, 4 and 5 knowledge of the undead fall within the Knowledge (Religion) or just Religion category.   These characters tend to have more training in this area than other characters.  While wizards are typically the font of magical knowledge, clerics should be the source of knowledge beyond the ken of mortal man and into the realm of the gods and other forms of the supernatural.

Clerics as the Party Leader
The cleric also can serve the role as the leader. While the cleric can run the gamut of influential high priest to crazy street prophet to diabolic cult leader, players typically take on the role of the cleric of the local church, usually good.  Certainly that is what D&D wants you to do and that is fine.  This type of cleric also works as the default leader, whether he/she is or not. So if this is the hand you are dealt, then play it because clerics make great leaders. Under most circumstances they access to power, money, a hierarchy and can expect a modicum of respect from the locals.  All this adds up to an instant authority figure.  Even if they are not.
While this role was stress fairly heavy in D&D4, all other versions of the game also give it tacit, implicit and even explicit lip service.  In D&D5 the divine domains of Knowledge and War make for pretty good leader types. Their better saves in Wisdom and Charisma make them less likely to charmed or otherwise controlled magically, so this can be role-played as a stronger than average mental fortitude.  Which fits the cleric well.

Cleric as the Party Medic
The obvious role.  Clerics have healing magic in earlier editions of the game, have spontaneous healing spells in the 3.x era and can activate healing surges in 4th. The clerics of 5th edition seem to take them back more to their roots in terms of healing.  The role of the cleric cannot be overstated.  Parties without a cleric die.
During my run between 1st and 2nd Ed I created a Healer class.  It shared a number of features that my Witch class did including the ability to heal by touch as she went up in level.  Completely unneeded in 3.x of course, but in 2nd Ed it was quite a game changer.  I also made an NPC healer a pacifist.  She would never raise a weapon to any creature unless of course it was undead and then she went all Peter Cushing on them.  But running that class and character (she was the only character I ever made for that class) showed me how important the healing aspect was.  There was not just the regaining hit points, there was the player morale.  Also, since the character was an NPC it was easy not to have her fight, but the Players really did everything they could to protect her.

BTW. Her name was Celene Weper and she was the grand-daughter of Father Werper above.  Yes clerics in my world get married and have kids, since it is a life-affirming thing.
Plus keep in mind that Clerics as Healers have a long tradition even in our own world.  If ever a character decided to become a pure healing cleric and take an oath of non-violence then I would give them XP for every hitpoint cured and a share of combat XP.  I would also give them 2x the starting funds (even though they would give what they don't spend back to the church) to represent the investment their churches/hospitals have made in them.  After all, can't send a healer out into the world with shoddy armor. Reflects bad on their organization.

Clerics as Combatants?
It almost seems counter to the above, but clerics are the second best major class when it comes to fighting.  Only fighters (and their related classes) are better.  The get good saves vs. magic due to their high wisdom, or Will saves for the same reason and their saves are pretty decent to start with.   Plus they have one thing fighters don't have, the  ability to use magic.  "So what" you say, "so can Wizards and even your favorite witch."  Yes, but can they do it in field plate armor?  Clerics can.  Sure they do not get the combat spells the wizard gets, but they have a few good ones too.  Creeping Doom is a nasty little spell for Druids.  Finger of Death and reversed Heal spells can also ruin someone's day.

In games without Paladins, Clerics are the "righteous fist of (their) god".  Wizards don't smite.
Clerics can also be one of the few character types that can actually kill monsters with-out the moral hangups.  Even fighters, who get paid, and thieves, that might be working as assassins, don't get the same kind of "get out of jail free card" as do clerics operating within the doctrines of their faith and church.  Think back to the Crusades and the Inquisition, the faithful got away with murder, torture and even more horrible crimes in the name of their God and the law had little to say about it or were in collusion with them.

Clerics might then be one of the more well rounded characters in the group.