Showing posts with label Second Campaign. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Second Campaign. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Converting D&D 5 to Castles & Crusades: Character Conversion

Like my last conversion, this is not going to be a full conversion but rather a character with a high concept. While the OGL kerfuffle has more or less died down into a steady state of noise, the issues brought up then are still good now.  There are more games out there than just D&D5.

Today I am converting a major NPC of my Second Campaign to Castles & Crusades

Player's Handbooks

I have often said that Castles & Crusades is the spiritual descendent of AD&D, so let's see how that works out.

So in truth this one is likely to be very easy in terms of game system. The Second Campaign is made up of a lot of AD&D 1st ed and BECMI D&D adventures. Ones I enjoyed but were not part of the Gygaxian-cannon. Other adventures for it to help fill in some gaps are all solid OSR ones.  So converting the actual adventures was something I had to do anyway to make them work for D&D 5e. Now I am converting them to Castles & Crusades and that conversion is so much easier. 

The Second Campaign began, much like the Order of the Platinum Dragon/Come Endless Darkness, as an AD&D 1st Ed/OSRIC game and, for a brief moment, as a BECMI game. Over the years, it morphed into other things until it settled as a 5th Edition game. 

The next adventures for this campaign have been fairly well decided:

The Desert of Desolation series:
With the Desert Nomads/Temple of Death series:
And then the two stand-alone adventures:

My NPC going along with the group then is a traveling scholar. I wanted her to be something of a magical dabbler, an occultist, and lore expert. Given the desert theme here I was thinking of someone like Rachel Weisz's character Evelyn Carnahan from the 1999 movie The Mummy. I

The Character: Celeste Holmes

Celeste is a character concept that has seen a few iterations over the years. This current Celeste is as much Charlie Bradbury from Supernatural as she is Evelyn Carnahan.  There is also a bit of Poppy Kline in her from the Magicians series. Both characters, Charlie and Poppy, were played by Felicia Day, so it makes sense that she looks like her.  Given the Basic-era roots of the character giving her the last name of Holmes seemed to be the right thing to do. Very recently I also remembered that Celeste, as she is presented in D&D 5 for me, is also a nod to "Lady Nyctasia Selesqe Rhaicime brenn Rhostshyl ar'n Edonaris" of the Silverglass series, a witch and noble who pretends to be a student and bard. I always pronounced her "middle" name, Selesqe, as "Celeste."

Also, Celeste is not the firepower of this group. She is the translator and the one who sets up the shield spells and figures out what monsters will attack or talk.  

In D&D 5e Celeste is a Wizard/Bard multiclass. This gave her a lot of skills and some magic, but not as much as her level might suggest. She is not a combat character, so feats largely went to improving how many languages she knew. 

She has 5 levels in Wizard (Order of Scribes from Unearthed Arcana then Tasha’s Cauldron of Everything) and 1 in Bard (College of Lore). Again to get a few more cantrips and 1st level spells, but mostly for the skills. I see her Bardic inspiration as being able to urge the team on with her pep talks. 

What would she be like in Castles & Crusades?

Celeste Holmes

Castles & Crusades has a lot of "multiclass" options, and they would all work for her. But there is one I think is suited to her concept the best.  Celeste is a "Class and a Half."

I mean, it fits her concept well, and it is a uniquely Castles & Crusades option. She is a 5th-level Wizard/1st-level Bard, so in C&C Class-and-a-half, that will make her a 5th-level Wizard, giving her 2nd level in Bard (main class divided by 2 and rounded down).

She would need more experience points than a Wizard alone. So Wizard plus 1/2 of Bard per level.  

She gets all the same powers, spells, and abilities of a Wizard here, plus some bard. The C&C Bard is not a spellcasting one, but they get some powers. The half-class bard does not get the Fascinate or the Exhort Greatness powers.  Exhort Greatness is a 9th-level power, so it would not be an issue until she is 18th level anyway, and by then, I am sure she will have plenty of spells. The Fascinate one is a loss, but one I can deal with, to be honest. I really wanted the Legend Lore, Dechpire Scripts, and Exhalt powers. This also gives her slightly better HD and hp; d10 for the bard and d4 for the wizard gives us a d6 and +2 after "name" level. 

Wizard pretty much stays the same. Spells and some other cool stuff at higher levels.

Honestly, the concept is so much fun I do want to try other class and half combinations. But that is for another time. I have to look for a way for her to be able to speak all the languages I want her to be able to speak. In D&D 5e she can speak Abyssal, Celestial, Common, Draconic, Elvish, Infernal, and Primordial, thanks to Linguist Feat.  Her Intelligence is 19 so that is +3 languages in addition to "common." Thankfully the C&C rules are pretty open here. There are options from Amazing Adventures I could borrow from. For example, sacrifice a level for the ability to speak a lot of languages. I am not sure how to do it yet, but I know there is a way. Actually, there are a few ways I can think of. She could be Powered 1 (for the languages) and then the Wizard 5/Bard 2 which would give her the 6 total levels she has in D&D5. Hmm.  I think I will try that combination at a future date. Today I want to concentrate on the Class and a Half today.

Moving over to C&C from D&D5 is simple. So simple I went back to my C&C PHB just to ensure I did it all right. Yup. Everything looked good.

Celeste Holmes
Celeste Holmes
Human Wizard (Bard) 5/2 LG

STR: 12 (+0)
DEX: 13 (+1)
CON: 16 (+2)
INT: 19 (+3) *P (wizard)
WIS: 15 (+1) *P (choice)
CHA: 16 (+2) *P (bard)

AC: 11 (no armor)
HP: 23 (HD d6)
BtH: +1

Weapons: Dagger, Staff

Class Abilities
Wizard (5th): Spells and spellcasting, bonus spells
Bard (2nd): Decipher Script (Int), Exalt (Int), Legend Lore (Cha)

Spells
Cantrips (5): Arcane Mark, Detect Magic, Light, Mage Hand, Message
1st level (4+1): Burning Hands, Charm Person, Comprehend Languages, Identify, Magic Missile 
2nd level (2+1): Locate Object, Ray of Enfeeblement, Shatter
3rd level (1+1): Clairaudience/Clairvoyance, Tongues

Details
Height: 5'5"
Weight: 129 lbs
Age: 22
Gender: Female
Hair: Red
Eyes: Brown

--

Saves are largely the same in D&D5, and C&C. Primes help cover that. The spells are also very much the same drawing from the same sources. Weapons, armor, and the like are all virtually identical. Alignment and classes have the same names and work largely the same.

So yes, I am quite pleased with this build, and I am eager to try other class-and-a-half combinations. With just the Players Handbook alone, I can see about 150 possible combinations. Less when you remove ones that don't actually work out, but still, that is a lot to try.

To extend my Felicia Day/Charlie Bradbury reference a step further, the D&D 5 version of Celeste is Charlie in the "normal" world and the C&C version of her is Charlie from the Apocalypse World

Celeste and Celeste

Edited to add: I was reminded that there is an official D&D 5 to C&C conversion document.  Get is here for free.

https://trolllord.com/bag-of-holding/

Thursday, January 19, 2023

More Updates: Home Games

Frantically working on a lot of updates behind the scenes here. But one I want to address that I am looking forward too is what am I doing with the games I run.

The Games I Play

Presently I am still in the middle of three different D&D 5e games. They are all part of my Come Endless Darkness mega-campaign:

All are presently 5e.

My plan is to convert one to Castles & Crusades and the other to Pathfinder 2e.

The obvious choice here is to convert The Second Campaign to Castles & Crusades since it has a lot of old-school 1st material. The next obvious choice is to convert my Into the Nentir Vale to PF2 since it is a broader mix, and I think it is funny that D&D 4 is once again losing out to Pathfinder.

I am not sure how much I'll talk about them online. BUT I do want to talk about how the conversions go.

So in each case, I will grab a PC or NPC from them and see how they convert. I will post that since that is something people will be interested in. In fact, as I am writing this, I am thinking of two PCs in particular that would really make good examples of conversions.

I also might post the Big Bad for each in their new stats. The Second Campaign is overtly about Demogorgon, but I had always thought they would not actually encounter him.  The Nentir Vale is all about Orcus.

In any case, it should be a lot of fun.

Sunday, October 30, 2022

100 Days of Halloween: Out of the Abyss

Sorry for the delay on this one. The perfect combination of a migraine and no internet all day conspired against me.

I have spent time with all the previous editions of D&D, let's do 5th today.  And for that, I think I want to spend some time with 2015's Rage of Demons adventure Out of the Abyss.

Out of the Abyss

Hardcover. 256 pages. Full-color cover and interior art.

This adventure was produced by Green Ronin and sold by Wizards of the Coast and is the third adventure made for D&D 5 if I recall right. I bought this one largely because I wanted 5e stats for demons and some places in the Abyss as this book has that.  I also was working on my Forgotten Realms campaign ideas, what would be come part of the Second Campagin

The adventure is an interesting one. For characters 1 to 15. You start in the Underdark and end fighting demon lords in the Abyss itself. That's the least interesting thing about the adventure. We get the aforementioned demon lords and a lot NPCs and a cool new feature of demons, madness. Not only are most demons a little (or a lot) insane and this insanity is contagious. 

We get some new monsters and some updated variants of older monsters.  For our demon lords we get Baphomet, Demogorgon, Fraz-Urb'luu, Graz'zt, Juiblex, Orcus, Yeenoghu, and Zuggtmoy. Interestingly enough, no Lolth. 

I found the adventure was a great introduction to the Underdark and to demons and, for me, a nice hook into the Forgotten Realms. 

I might run it someday, but I have cut it up (not literally) and used pieces of it in other places now so it would need to be with a new group.


The Other Side - 100 Days of Halloween


Sunday, October 16, 2022

100 Days of Halloween: Sepulcher of the Sorceress-Queen

Sepulcher of the Sorceress-Queen
Robert E. Howard casts a long shadow over Fantasy Role Playing in general and D&D in particular.  This is best seen in two different near clones, Adventurer Conqueror King and Hyperborea. So when ACKS did an adventure that was an homage to Taramis, well I had to check it out.

Sepulcher of the Sorceress-Queen

Print and PDF. 56 pages. Color cover and interior layout art with black & white art.

For Character levels 7th to 9th.

Ok. So another tomb with a sleeping undead witch. It is a powerful trope. This one features the Sorceress-Queen Semiramis of Zahar who has been dead, but sleeping, for 1000 years. She had been betrayed by a former lover (and having killed her first 100 lovers she should have seen this one coming) and is now waiting for her chance to rise and rule again.

The adventure is part of a loosely connected series but it is mentioned that it can be used as a stand-alone adventure and placed anywhere. 

The adventure involves going into her tomb, stopping her from rising, and maybe make off with some treasure. The tomb is full of undead horrors and other dangers. To make things more interesting there is a group of lizardmen in the tomb trying to do the same thing as the characters. 

It then becomes a race against time, times 2. Get to the queen before she gains her full power and get to the treasures before the lizard men do. 

The adventure gives us a bunch on new magic items, a new spell, and five new (ish) monsters. The adventure itself is cut from familiar cloth but the map is quite good and great for groups that like to explore old tombs.

Use with my War of the Witch Queens

For this campaign, this adventure covers more than just familiar territory. This will be the third or fourth "tomb of a long dead witch coming back to life" they have seen if I stay on current plans. So...what am I to do?

Well. I do love the map here and the tomb itself is an interesting place. Maybe...I can merge this with my other Howard/Hyperborea-influenced adventure The Lost Caverns of Acheron.  I mentioned all the pluses that using this adventure gives me when I reviewed the V series from BRW Games. There is one thing I failed to mention though. I have already taken my players through module S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth. Once they get to that spherical room they will remember they have been here already.

I could use this as a base and bring notes from The Lost Caverns of Acheron. I certainly do not need to run both adventures no matter how fun they are. But I also really love the idea of using Xaltana.

Do I go with Xaltana or Semiramis? 

I thought maybe the unnamed Witch-Queen of Yithorium from Hyperborea might be a good substitute. Both come from the same sources. Semiramis has a name, the Witch-Queen does not (even though I named her Miriam). Semiramis is a Zaharian Sorcerer which reads a lot like a warlock or a witch and has a strong Howard/CAS vibe. Same with our Witch-Queen of Yithorium. 

Yithorium is surrounded by the Zakath desert. Zahar is now described as a desolate wasteland like a desert. Ok, that's a stretch but you see where I am going here. 

Why mix or merge them at all? Simple I want to get as much of all the great material out there I can for this adventure campaign and knowing full well I can never run everything. Also by picking and choosing different OSR systems, publishers, and products, I am naturally going to get similar results; we all draw from the same wells. 

So in my campaign, the Sorceress-Queen Semiramis of Zahar and the Witch-Queen of Yithorium become the same person. 

Semiramis

Maybe I'll keep Miriam around as the descendant of Semiramis. She is every bit as evil as her forebearer. Maybe Miriam leads them to the tomb in order to gain her ancestor's power but ends up getting possessed in the process.  I do like this idea.

Use with my Second Campaign

My original idea for this was to run it mostly as is for my Second Campaign. I'll have to see how that one develops when the characters get to the right levels.


The Other Side - 100 Days of Halloween


Monday, August 16, 2021

#RPGaDAY2021 Day 16 Villain

RPGaDAY2021 Day 16

Having a hero is great, but a hero is only as good as the villain they battle.

Day 16 Villain

Villains are great.  I have talked about villains and big bads, and all sorts of bad guys over the years. 

Who have been my favorites?

Yoln, the Shadow Reaper & Hand of Leviathan

Yoln, the bad guy so nice I used him twice.  He was a human general that rose up through the ranks to become a Pit Fiend and the general of Hell's Army in the Dragon Wars from my 1st Ed AD&D game.  He was defeated there and cast out of Hell into the Astral where he was recruited by the Mad God Leviathan where he became the big bad of my Buffy RPG campaign, the Dragon & the Phoenix.  Is he really dead now?  Who knows. He might be back someday.

But after that I decided that no big bad of central villain would work for Season of the Witch.

Cult of the Dragon

The cult that gave my first campaign with my kids so much trouble. 

Come Endless Darkness

My favorite villains though are demons.  In my interconnected Come Endless Darkness the demons are overtly the bad guys with Lolth and Grazzt giving the Order of the Platinum Dragon so much trouble.  Demogorgon is behind all the cults in the Second Campaign.  And Orcus is challenging all the characters into my Into the Nentir Vale campaign.  But all are being deceived by Asmodeus, with the help of Grazzt.  Asmodeus in turn is being deceived by Tharizdûn.  In the end, Tharizdûn hopes to reign supreme with the devils under his control and the power structure of the demons destroyed.

War of the Witch Queens

My newest campaign deals with the death of the ruling Witch High Queen and the power vacuum that creates.  The villains of this piece are Kalek and Skylla.  I talked about their involvement last year's #RPGaDAY.  I am also thrilled to see that they are getting new minis for the next D&D 5e book.  That set also includes the fan favorite, Warduke.  Maybe I should add him in for nostalgia's sake.

Looking forward to that set as well as all my players coming up against all these great villains.


RPGaDAY2021

Friday, July 30, 2021

Kickstart Your Weekend: Necropolis

Dangerous Journeys Necropolis
Gary Gygax's Necropolis is an odd bit of my personal RPG history. About 25 or more years ago, before I had kids I was working downtown Chicago, this gave me access to the transit rail system and dozens of libraries.  While Wizards of the Coast was scanning and putting up old AD&D modules for free on their website the number of scanned PDFs was non-existent.   So I did what anyone with my resources would do. I checked out all the RPGs books I could from various libraries.  I was young, just married, working on my Ph.D., and had no money.  

In my searches, mostly for books written by Gary Gygax, I found Dangerous Journeys. While the game system was terrible (sorry, it is) I loved the background fluff.  So much so that I add his Ægypt to my own world. I read the Dangerous Journeys and Mythus version of Necropolis many times over. I even finally got my own copy (which I frustratingly can't find right now!!).

It became a central part of my desert region, the Deserts of Desolation and Death, and merging it with bits of Dark Sun is has become the capstone adventure for my Second Campaign.  Though instead of using the DJ version I am using the d20 version from Necromancer Games, published some 20 years ago.   I should note that The Mystical Trashheap blog has a nice conversion of the DJ version to AD&D.

So imagine my excitement when Fog God launched their newest Kickstarter!

Necropolis: An Epic Adventure in the Desert Sands

Frog God Necropolis

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/necromancergames/necropolis-an-adventure-in-the-desert-sands-for-5e-and-sw?ref=theotherside

So this is for 5e and S&W.  While both are nice, it is the 5e version that I am going to use the most since the Second Campaign is a 5e game.  Since it is the capstone I am going to have to make it a bit deadlier.  I am just not sure if I need the hardcover version since I want to print it out to write notes on.  BUT I also don't want that wear and tear on my printer.

Delivery is scheduled for the end of the year, so that works fine for me, even if it is a little late. 

I just need to figure out which level to pledge at.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Retrospective, Review and Refit: X6 Quagmire (BECMI)

Not just a review today, but I want to spend some time today with an adventure that fueled my imaginations...or at least I thought it did.  I also want to talk about what my plans are for it now.

So come with me to Quagmire. Its a journey of half-remembered ideas, Lizardmen characters, Dragonborn, and special guest appearances by Ulslime and Mary Pickford.

Somewhere back in Jr. High or High School before I ever saw this adventure I had watched a movie. Likely on a local channel or maybe an old tape or laserdisc (my dad loved laserdisc!).  The move was Sparrows (1926) and it starred Mary Pickford.  To me the movie was a horror film. 

Pickford played Molly and she was the protector of a bunch of orphans being exploited by this old man named Grimes.   Ah, Grimes, you evil bastard.

Not since the Baron and Baroness Bomburst of Vulgaria in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang had I seen a character eviler in his disregard of children (my mom ran a Day Care, in my mind the evilest thing was to hate or harm a child).  He left a lasting impression to be sure.

In my mind, the dichotomous battle was set. Old, evil, Grimes versus the young, pure Molly.  And so help me if I didn't like Grimes better.  I really wanted the kids to rise up and just beat the living shit out that guy and his wife.  But they never did, worse, Molly keeps looking up to the sky like she is getting some private communique. Like that is going to help.

I think about this movie fairly often, to be honest.  Many things I wrote after I watched it will bubble back up in things I write today.  I still used swamps as my ultimate hideout of evil (but that could also be in part to the Legion of Doom).

Quagmire: Retrospective

Around 1984-85 I was at my Favorite Local Game Store, which then was Waldenbooks in nearby Springfield, IL.  I was looking over the new adventures they had there.  One was CM2 Death's Ride, which is getting a full review next week, the other was X6 Quagmire.  I read the back of the module and it sounded interesting. It dealt with a city, dangerous swamp and monsters.  All great stuff. But I bought CM2 death's Ride instead. I also gathered from reading White Dwarf #70 that the reviewer liked Quagmire, so it had to be pretty good.

Somewhere along the line I also learned there was a sinking tower (really a city, but it looked like a tower) and lizard men (seemed natural).  So I added it to my own version of the Known World.   A sinking tower, in a swamp called Quagmire.  I took the evil cleric Ulslime and made him into a Death Master (from Len Lakofka) and made him master of the tower.  He looked and acted an awful lot like Grimes from Sparrows.  I must have seen at least more of the insides of the adventure because "Ulslime" became "Magnus Ulslime." I combined two characters, one from CM2 and one from X6.


For decades THAT was my Quagmire.  It fit the cover art, it tied it in with CM2 Death's Ride and a bunch of other things going on in my Known World at the time.  It worked.

Imagine my surprise when I finally got the POD version of Quagmire from DriveThruRPG.

The actual module is...well...different than my ideas of what it was.  That is neither good nor bad, but it does color how I choose to use it.

Quagmire: Review
Quagmire is a 32-page adventure module written by Merle M. Rasmussen, of Top Secret fame, for the Expert Set.  Character levels 4-10.  Color covers and some maps, black & white interiors. Art by Steve Peregrine (cover) and Jeffrey Butler (interior).
For this review, I am considering the PDF and POD versions from DriveThruRPG.

Quagmire focuses on a city that used to be by the seashore but is now sinking into the sea.  The city is actually a large spiral tower that looks like a whelk shell.  The city leaders are moving the entire populace from their city to a nearby, identical one.  The PCs have been hired to clear out the wilderness area of lizardmen and goblins and help them get to the new city.

The module expands the Known World to now include the Serpent Penisula, which is just west of the Isle of Dread.   If the Isle of Dread is Jamaica or the Bahamas then the Serpent Penisula is Florida and Cuba.  All I need to do is add a "Bermuda Triangle."

This expansion of the Known World detail is the best part of the adventure.  This area would later be expanded on in future products and The Voyage of the Princess Ark feature in Dragon magazine.
Additionally, the city design itself is very interesting. Something very appealing about it to be honest and a giant tower as a city is the sort of thing I love to see in my games.

The adventure itself sadly a little lack-luster. The ending is a little anti-climatic and the wilderness encounters seem to be strung together to provide the characters something to do.
There are a lot of great parts to this adventure and there is plenty of potential, I am not sure the adventure itself lives up to all of that.  Still, the parts are good and there is no end of ideas for other swamp-based adventures or even the spiral cities.

The adventure, like all adventures of this time period, features new monsters and some new magic items.  There are also some pre-rolled characters.

The POD (Print on Demand) version is very clean and easy to read. There is some of the "fuzziness" I associate with a POD of a scanned product, but much less than some of the others I have purchased.  In fact, this might be one of the better scans I have seen.  At the time of this review, the POD is only $4.99 for both the POD and the PDF.  That is a fantastic price really.

So while the adventure is a little lacking, the material that comes with it is great and the PDF/POD is great.

Quagmire: Refit
So Quagmire the actual module and Quagmire how I *used* it are fairly different.  That's fine really, but what can I do with it now?

Well, one thing I have been wanting to do is add Dragonborn somewhere to Mystara/The Known World.  I have not given it a ton of thought, so I posted out to some Mystara groups on social media.
Now, of course, I got the one expected response, "Dragonborn don't belong in Mystara!"
Well. They do in mine.
The next responses seemed to be evenly split between Davina and the Serpent Peninsula. Both ideas have their merits.  I was all set on doing Davina. It's far enough away to be remote, but still close enough to be accessible.  But I was thinking about my kids' current game in Mystara, the Second Campaign, they just left the Isle of Dread and are headed south. It has taken them a long time to get this far; Davina might be too far still.

It also appears that the Serpent Penisula also has a lot of Lizardmen.  This is great for two reasons.
1. Lizardmen are the ancient enemies of the Dragonborn in my games.  Their relationship is like that of orcs and humans.
2. Anyone who tells me that Dragonborn doesn't belong as a PC race in D&D I remind them that Lizardmen were once accepted as a playable race in Holmes basic.  Maybe not explicitly, but certainly in practice.  Even Gygax himself said that this was fine when comparing D&D to AD&D.

So. If Lizardmen can be there, so can Dragonborn.
Dragonborn look different, but they are not really all that different from dwarves in combat.  They have a limited breath weapon that would do 1d6 for a while or save for half.  I'll play around with it.

I could still make them from Davina, but have an outpost or a colony on the Serpent Penisula.
I would change the people of Quagmire to Dragonborn.  That would be an interesting twist really, especially if the PCs get a letter asking for help and they expect humans or elves.  I might also swap out the mermen for Kopru, just so I can give those crazy fish people some more action.

Yeah.  This sounds great, to be honest.  BUT the events of the adventure were retconned to have taken place over 500 years ago.  Ok.  That still works.  The Dragonborn are in their new city of Thanopolis/Tanakumba, the Kopru are in the underwater city, and Quagmire?  Ah.  The city never sank all the way and now my necromancer/Death Master Magnus Ulslime is the master of that city and it is full of undead and surrounded by mud-men and mongrel-men, the victims of his magical experiments.  And maybe even an army of children digging in the nearby flooded mines to recover ancient Dragonborn treasures.  Just so I can work Grimes into the mix as well.  Maybe a name change to Magnus Ulgrimes should be in order. I never liked the Ulslime name, but I had used it too long to drop it back then.

It looks like I managed to get everything I wanted into a neat package! Sweet, and tomorrow is my birthday!

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

The *Other* Basic

I have been doing a nearly two-year-long dive into the D&D Basic game. I have been playing with, working with and talking about D&D Basic and the various retro-clones that emulate it.

My focus has largely been on the Moldvay/Marsh-Cook versions of the Basic and Expert games (B/X) and a little bit into the Holmes Basic. I also occasionally dip into the Rule Cyclopedia.

But there is a Basic set I almost never talk about and actually have very little experience with.  That is the Mentzer BECMI sets.

In fact I don't even own much of the BECMI sets save for a Basic Set (box and imported book).



Yes, the dice are still in their plastic, the crayon is intact and that is Frank's signature.

I do own them all on PDF from DriveThruRPG, and that has been great.  It's a D&D that a lot of you all know, but is somewhat new to me.

There are obvious reasons.  I have never really got into this edition and now seems like a good time.  Also, my kids' Second Campaign is now in the Serpent Peninsula in the Known World (Mystara), so reading these books gives me a good vibe on how I want to run those games.

Mind you, I am not going into these without knowledge. I have picked through my Basic set a bit and read over the others.  I do have printouts of my DriveThru PDFs, so I am not completely in the dark here.

I am not expecting to find some deeply hidden truths here, or even anything really new.  Though a gem or two of new knowledge would be welcome. I am sure there are things in the Companions, Master and Immortal rules that would be new to me.

It's not a quest for knowledge. To quote Clark Griswold, it's a quest for fun!

Obviously not my collection

Monday, March 23, 2020

Monstrous Monday: Sand Ghoul

We are on vacation this week.  Were supposed to drive down to see my wife's sister, but instead we are holed up here.  So I am starting my mini-campaign of "The Deserts of Desolation & Death" today.

Going through my books last night I figured I needed something new.  Everyone has seen all the old monsters.  Plus I wanted to up the feeling of necromantic dread.  So this guy popped into my head.

Besides. I like undead beasties.

So here it is for 5e D&D (what I am playing today).

Sand Ghoul
The Ghoul by Les Edwards
Sand Ghouls are formed when naturally occurring mummies in the desert are possessed with demonic or necromantic power.  They are stronger and faster than normal ghouls.  The drying process also robs them of their stench.
Elves are immune to the Paralyzing touch of the Sand Ghoul.  Desert Orcs living in a combined Desert Elven / Desert Orc community are also immune.

Medium undead (Desert), chaotic evil
Armor Class 16 (natural armor)
Hit Points 31 (7d8)
Speed 30 ft., burrow 40 ft., climb 20 ft.

STR 14 (+2)
DEX 16 (+3)
CON 10 (+0)
INT 10 (+0)
WIS 9 (-1)
CHA 5 (-3)

Saving Throws Str +4, Dex +5
Skills Acrobatics +5, Perception +1, Survival +3
Damage Vulnerabilities fire, radiant
Damage Immunities poison
Condition Immunities poisoned
Senses darkvision 60 ft., passive Perception 11
Languages Common
Challenge 3 (700 XP)

Undead Fortitude. If damage reduces the sand ghoul to 0 hit points, it must make a Constitution saving throw with a DC of 5 + the damage taken, unless the damage is radiant or from a critical hit. On a success, the sand ghoul drops to 1 hit point instead.

Keen Sight and Smell. The sand ghoul has advantage on Wisdom (Perception) checks that rely on sight or smell.

Actions
Bite. Melee Weapon Attack: +2 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 9 (2d6 + 2) piercing damage.
Claws. Melee Weapon Attack: +4 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (2d4 + 2) slashing damage. If the target is a creature other than an elf or undead, it must succeed on a DC 10 Constitution saving throw or be paralyzed for 1 minute. The target can repeat the saving throw at the end of each of its turns, ending the effect on itself on a success.


Stat block Generator: https://tetra-cube.com/dnd/dnd-statblock.html



Sunday, September 22, 2019

Deserts of Desolation & Death & More

It's a blah rainy day here in Chicagoland.  Great day to do some prep on my Desert portions of my Second Campaign.

I am currently re-reading all the desert adventures I own and working out a coherent narrative.

Right the idea is the PCs head out to the desert in search of the reptile cult that has been plaguing the land.

The adventures are:

The Desert of Desolation series:
and the Desert Nomads/Temple of Death series:
and then the two stand-alone adventures:
The adventures span several designers, worlds and even games, but all link back to the idea of ancient Egypt.  Known as Eyrpt on Oerth, Ayrpt on Mystara, and Aegypt in Gary Gygax's original Dangerous Journey Necropolis and then later Khemit in the 3rd edition version.  I combine them all into one place I call "Ærypt". The series is called "The Deserts of Desolations and Death".

But I am missing some bits.  Originally I thought that I could gloss over some of the missing ideas (at least in terms of my campaign plans) with B4 The Lost City, but there are some issues there.  One the module is too low of level to fit with what I want exactly, also I ran the kids through it years ago so likely they will remember it even with some changes.  But most of all the Elder Evil Zargon is a bad or more exactly problematic fit for the current game.  Besides if I do bring back B4 it will be as part of a game using Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea as Eric Fabiaschi often talks about.

No, I am going to need something else.  Thankfully something almost exactly like what I need dropped into my lap.

Cha'alt
Venger Satanis sent me a copy of his latest publication in exchange for a fair review, but it was on on my radar anyway.  There are a few reviews ok for it now, so I am going to gloss over some of the "reviewy" bits in favor of how I am planning on using it.

Cha'alt is 218 pages, full color, desert-themed adventure in Venger's normal gonzo style.  The rules are his O5R system which is a mix of OSR and 5e, so it works with just about any game. 
There is a "Campaign Map" of sorts with twelve areas, but only a few of them are heavily detailed.   The campaign map and the sandbox nature of this adventure gave me a few ideas for use in my own desert-themed games,  so that made the review worth it to be honest, but there is a lot more here than just that.

Like all of Venger's books there is a high-quality production value here.  He is not afraid to spend the money to get high-quality artists and layout.  Also, true to his style, there are plenty, ok LOTS, of tongue in cheek pop-culture references throughout the book. Ranging from 80s nostalgia to yesterday's internet humor. 

The adventure is gonzo as I mentioned, so there is a fair bit of science-fantasy thrown in for good measure.  Enough that is t makes me think it too is also a good fir for Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.  The levels are more in line with AS&SH than my current campaign, but that is fine. Though in either case, I'll need to figure out what to do about the giant sandworms, spider droids, and hunter-killer robots.

In true old-school fashion, there are plenty of random tables and charts. Advice for surviving in the desert and plenty of new monsters.

The Black Pyramid
The biggest feature of this book is the Black Pyramid. 
The obvious inspiration for this portion is the venerable Lost City, but again through a darker, slightly warped lens.  As with the rest of the book, this section is full self-referential humor and nods. So of it works, some of it doesn't. Adventure-wise the pyramid is full of eldritch weirdness.  At 111 rooms not all of them are great, but there is enough here to keep the players all busy and adventurers entertained.

There is a lot of fun to had with Cha'alt.  I have quite a lot of ideas of things to do with it, none of which are as it was designed.   Still, there is a lot of material here and plenty of ideas. For me, I am likely to remove many of the sci-fi elements if I run this as part of a campaign, or at least tone them down if I run it using AS&SH.

If you are familiar with Venger's work then you will find more of this here though this might be his best looking work to date.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

#RPGaDAY2019: Mystery

Today's topic is Mystery.

I think everyone loves a good mystery, especially in their RPGs.

Building a true sense of mystery though requires work and the subtle use of clues, hints, rumors, and innuendos.   I have found, more times than not, the best way to it is to involve the players right away.


Not in the way of getting them all to pitch in in some shared Game Mastering role.  That certainly works for some games, but not all.  No by this I mean take their speculations and let them run away with them. 

Here are some examples.

In my Come Endless Darkness 5e campaign, I am spreading te greater mystery over three different campaigns.  No one set of characters or players has the full picture.  At least not until I get them (or what's left of them) in a room once they reach 18th level or so.  The mystery right now is so vague as to not even be there. Yet.  Some of the players in the Order of the Platinum Dragon game are beginning to suspect.  Maybe some of the characters in the Second Campaign are as well.  But I know no one in the Into the Nentir Vale suspect the larger mystery.

Of course, each campaign has its own mysteries.
For the Order of the Platinum Dragon, it has been "what has happened to the Sun?" and then "who killed all the Sun Gods?"  And now it is, or soon will be, "there is no way Lolth could do this on her own!"
For the Second Campaign, the mystery has been "why are all these 'gods' of the lizard and scally folk rising up?"  A little less tangible, but it is getting them there.
And finally in Into the Nentir Vale it has been simply, "We know Orcus is rising as a power, but why?"

Clues in each one will add to the other.  Overly complicated?  Maybe.  Fun?  Definitely.

In fact, this is where my players came into it.  Originally I saw the Second Campaign's big mover and shaker to be the Mind Flayers.  THEY were going to be the ones behind the scenes.  BUT as the game went on and it became more distinct from the Order of the Platinum Dragon game and more and more lizardfolk, nagas and Yuan-ti showed up the players began to weave this huge conspiracy theory around them.   IT was so compelling and, really, so out there, that I had to reward them by altering my own plans to fit more of their elements.

I am NOT giving them everything, but I am giving them enough that their own enthusiasm is sending down a trail.  The ending will remain the same, the mystery still comes to the same conclusion, but now we go about it on a different path.

Other little tidbits that keep coming up.  On our "crazy board" above we still have listed "Where is Cynder".  Cynder was an elven elemental fire wizard that just stopped going with the group. We totally forgot about her, well at least I did.  Even though she was only one session of the Order of the Platinum Dragon, she will show up later in Into the Nentir Vale and maybe the Second Campaign.
There is something to her, I just don't know what yet!

Another hook I was going to use was the Ranger Elmo from T1.  He was going to show up in the Abyss when the Order got there (at Gen Con), but the players never really engaged with the guy.  HOWEVER they did engage a lot with this random elf woman that had been following them since the A Series.    They again decided she had to be important even if originally each of those encounters were with different elves.  My players decided she was the same person each time and figured she knew something.  A few quick jots in my notebook and Evelyn, the Princess Escalla was born!  She was an Elven Ranger/Enchanter and was key to the Elven resistance movement in the Underdark.

It has been a glorious set of mysteries and neither the characters nor the players have figured out the ultimate mystery.  That Tharizdûn, through Asmodeus, is manipulating the demons to get what he wants; his resurrection and freedom from his cage.

It's going to be great.



Thursday, April 25, 2019

Busy Day: Edits, Module Prep and oh yeah, the Day Job

I am trying to wrap up some edits now on Daughters of Darkness.  Some monsters and some spells did not make the cut.

Also, I am deep in helping launch a new graduate program in Social Work, so that has me REALLY busy.

But I also thought I'd share these.  Printed them out last night.




I like to print out my classic modules when running 5e so I can write notes on the adventure. Both in-game ones and conversion notes. 

I do have some notes from the Classic Modules Today team.


REALLY looking forward to running all of these as my huge "Deserts of Desolation and Death" campaign.  It should be epic.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

OMG: Egyptian Myths, Part 2

Wrapping up the myths of Egypt today for One Man's God.   A brief note about the objectives of these posts. I am trying to go through the various myths as presented in the AD&D 1st edition Deities and Demigods and trying to reconcile them with the implied cosmology as presented in the AD&D game and Monster Manual in particular.  Sure I can, and will, draw from many other sources from real-world mythologies and religion to other editions of D&D and even other games.

Ok back to the business at hand.
You can find Part 1 here.


Apep
Last week I talked a lot about Apep.  He has been a lot on my mind of late.  From the reviews I did of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea 2E to Serpentine - Oldskull Serpent Folk, snake gods are getting a lot of coverage on my blog of late.  This is really no surprise.  My Second Campaign is gearing up for the trek into the great desert of the world and it will have a lot of Egyptian influences as well.

Right now my plan is to take the big desert adventures of classic A/D&D and make the end of my campaign with them.

The Desert of Desolation series:
and the Desert Nomads/Temple of Death series:
and then the two stand-alone adventures:


The adventures span several designers, worlds and even games, but all link back to the idea of ancient Egypt.  Known as Eyrpt on Oerth, Ayrpt on Mystara, and Aegypt in Gary Gygax's original Dangerous Journey Necropolis and then later Khemit in the 3rd edition version.  I combine them all into one. I call my series "The Deserts of Desolations and Death".

Apep and Yig will play a big part in this.  If Apep/Yig (yes I combine them) is an Eodemon like Dagon, then also like Dagon he invests some power in Demogorgon.  Demogorgon is a Greek name, so maybe the Egypt of my adventures is similar and this represents the Ptolemaic/Greek rule era.

Aten
Not mentioned in the DDG is the god Aten, the god of the sun disc.

Already we are getting into something about the Egyptian myths that I will talk about more in detail later.  Aten is the God of the Sun. Ra/Re is the God of the Sun.  Who is the god of the sun here?
Well, both.  And for a while, it was also Osiris.   Egyptian gods were more fluid than say the Greek or Romans ones (but they still had this quality).  Gods could be subjected to Syncretism where two of more gods were fused together into one god, their beliefs fused.  We see this in Amun-Ra (the King of the gods and the sun god).

The biggest deal with Aten was his worship by the Pharaoh Akhenaten, who may have been the father of Tutankhamun, was the pharaoh that brought monotheism to Egypt in 1350 to 1330 BCE.  This predates the other big monotheistic religions including Judaism and Zoroastrianism (and obviously Christianity and Islam, thought the roots of all of these go back that far).

When working on my ideas for Sol Invictus I always wondered what it would have been like if Egypt had continued the worship of Aten.  Or if Aten instead of being wiped out of existence with the return of the original gods and Amun-Ra had been killed by Set or Apep.   Since my campaign deals with events of the Dawn War and He Who Was, maybe that is the same sort of god as Aten.

Aten is a great place to start if you want to make a monotheistic religion in D&D's otherwise polytheistic approach.

I have not looked at length but I think Kobold Press has Aten in some of their books.

Hermes Trismegistus
Now back onto the topic of syncretism. What do you get when you take Thoth the God of Knowledge and combine him with Mercury the Messanger of the Gods and a dash of Imhotep?  Let it stew for a bit in Ptolemaic Egypt?  You get Hermes Trismegistus or the Thrice Great Hermes.

From Hermes Trismegistus, we get Hermeticism; a pre-science esoteric way at looking at the nature of the world.  In many RPGs (Mage and Ars Magica are good examples, as it WitchCraft) this leads to the Hermetic Traditions.  These are magical and alchemical traditions.

Often the Hermetic Traditions are classified as "High Magic" with witchcraft and pagan practices as "Low Magic".  Disclaimer. This is a remarkably simplistic view of what would go on to be one of the largest movements in Western Esotericism. I am just going to the beginning and following one branch of this tree. 

In any case, Hermes Trismegistus is not a god you would find in the DDG.  If some he could be an Egyptian/Greek god of Alchemy and Magic eventually (as sadly these things happen) taking over the role of Magic from Isis and Hecate.  Maybe there is this God in my campaign along with Aten.

Library of Alexandria 
So from this, I am building a Ptomliac Egyptian area that is post-Aten-heresies where Hermes Trismegistus is the god of Alchemy and Magic and Apep is still a real threat.

Spoiler for when I do the Greek Myths (and I think I should do them next).
How are Heka the Egyptian God of Magic related to Hecate the "Greek" (and I'll explain that later) Goddess of Witches, Magic and the Underworld?

Next time on One Man's God.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Snakes. Why did it have to be Snakes?

A little something different today for MM.  I want to talk about snake people.


Snake people, serpent folk, Ophidians, Yuan-ti whatever you want to call them they have been a staple of fiction and D&D since ... well likely forever.

They were common enough in the pages in the Conan that even as a casual reader of the pulps I had heard about them.  They have had a prominent focus in AD&D with the Yuan-ti; so much so that there are one of the very, very few monsters that are IP and Closed to the OGL.
So yeah, they come with some history.

I think it is also that snakes seem so loathsome to humans.  There is just something "evil" about them in our collective subconscious.   That makes them a great old-school threat.

Review: Serpentine - Oldskull Serpent Folk

Serpentine - Oldskull Serpent Folk from Oldskull, aka Kent David Kelly is a nice RPG for adding and using Serpent Folk, known as Serpentine here, in any old-school like game. The book is 41 pages with cover and OGL statement. Everything is 100% open minus the usual trade dress and some names.  The book is full color, but mostly public domain black and white art.
The purpose of this book is to bring together various mythos and stories together to present a cohesive whole narrative of a primordial race of serpent people.  In this respect, it works rather well.
History and Pre-History of the Serpent Folk. Drawing on the works of Dunsany, Lovecraft, Howard, and Smith Kelley weaves a history (or Hisssstory!) that combines the Hyborian Mythos and the Cthulhu Mythos, with other myths of the world added for good measure.  While overtly for the Oldskull world it can be added and modified as any game master needs.  One of the reasons it works so well here is that Kelley draws on some primordial myths and legends.  The same that influenced the authors of the stories being used.   Quotes from those authors are found throughout this book.
Up next we get a Serpent Folk Truename Generator.  A useful tool to help you name all those NPCs (or even PCs) you plan on using.  This is followed by Description or what your serpent folk looks like.  A section on Ability Minimums, Maximums and Modifiers is next. After that are sections on Behavior, XP modifiers, and views on Alignment.
There is a list of serpent folk deities from other myths.  It is a good list, but I have a few issues with some of the gods on it; for example Brigid. But the vast majority I see why they are there.  Mostly Serpent Folk are going to worship Yig and/or Tsathogga, though Set is a close runner up.
We get into a section now on Class Options for Serpent Folk. Most are going to fall into the various fighter classes and thief-related classes.  Also presented here is the new Soul Slaver class, which combines Cleric, Shaman, and Necromancer all in one serpent-related class.  It's a good class and it adds a lot of flavor to the Serpent Folk.  I might tweak it to be less Necromancer and more Shaman myself, but that is only personal bias, not a shortcoming of the class.  Basically, the class draws on the souls of the deceased to perform magical feats. There are spell lists, mostly from the classical B/X and Advanced sources.    They advance as Magic-Users, but have their own spell progression and, in a nice old-school touch, level titles.
There is also a section on Racial Powers serpent folk get and what kinds of snakes they are likely to summon.  This also included specail attacks and special limitations.
There is a nice section on how Serpent folk get along with Dragons (spoiler, they don't) that really sealed the deal for me.  I have been using various serpent-like races (Yuan-ti, Naga) as the ancient ancestral enemies of the Dragonfolk (Dragonborn) for years.
We end with a recomended reading list.
So for just $3 and a little over 40 pages this book packs a lot in.  There are so many cool ideas it is hard to figure out where I want to start with it.  I think that since Kelley tapped into some primal myths here that all gamers have an idea of these creatures, he just put it down in writing for us.

PWWO: Serpentine in Other Old-School Games

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea has been my obsession over the last few weeks. Given the background of both AS&SH and Serpentine, it should really be no surprise then that I see the two of them working quite well together.  With the addition of Serpentine you can really "punch up" the stats for Sanke People in AS&SH. Already an interesting monster, now with this addition Snake People go from "just another monster" in the Bestiary section to potential Big Bad material.  Growing cult activity? Serpent People. More dinosaur sightings? Serpent People.  Increased slave trade? Yup. Serpent People.   Plus AS&SH and Oldskull Serpentine draw from exactly the same sources. They just rearrange things in a different order.  Both books feature Yig and owners of one book should find it to be of positive use when used with the other book.

Serpentine features the often used Clark Ashton Smith god, Tsathoggua.  Here he is considered to be a god of the Serpent People. AS&SH has the god Xathoqqua, which is the same god.  There are some differences in how they are portrayed in each book, but gods are supposed to be mutable.  Of course, the best source for Tsathogga (yet another spelling) is from the Frog Gods themselves in their Tome of Horror Complete.  Here he is presented as a demon, but that is perfect for me really. The same book (and the Tome of Horrors 4) have the Inphidians, which are their versions of the Yuan-ti, save Open for the OGL. Speaking of the Frog Gods, in their Monstrosities book feature Ophidians, a name I have also used in the past, as snake men.

The OSR games Blueholme and Adventurer Conqueror King System both have rules within their systems to allow Serpentine player characters. All you need really is the Serpentine book.


Union of the Snake: The Second Campaign

The heroes of the Second Campaign, my D&D 5e nod to old-school gaming, have already had their first encounter with the Yuan-ti.  They have encountered other snake-like creatures and reptiles worshiping snake gods, but everything is about to go into overdrive when they hit their desert-related adventures.

While the campaign is 5e based there is a lot of old-school influences in it.  I plan to take a bunch of the material above, put it in a blender then bury it in a desert for 3,000 years and see what comes up.
For me a lot of it is leading up to the ultimate confrontation with Demogorgon.
Borrowing from Advanced Labyrinth Lord I am using Demogorgon as the cult leader behind the snakes and snake men.  This fits in with my use of the blood apes as one of the three factions the worship Demogorgon; with human cultists and Ophidians/Snake Men/Serpent Folk being the other two.  The campaign will take a solid desert/Egyptian turn here soon.  I just need to figure out the Set-Apep-Yig-Demogorgon connection.

Of course, there will be creepy ass snake-men and cultists. All part of the alchemy of my past. Yes. My influeces for this are an forgotten Dirk Benedict horror movie and Duran Duran.  My game, my weird ass childhood.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Come Endless Darkness: Adventures in Coggle

The day is getting away from me. So my post for today will have to wait.   I am playing around with a new tool today at work.  Thought I might try it as a way to map out all my D&D 5 campaigns and games.



The tool is called Coggle and it used for multi-user mind-maps and flow charts.

You can click here to see the public version.

I'll add the characters then hyper-link everything to the proper resource (DriveThru, DMsGuild, D&D Beyond).  Build it up as I go.  It's a nice organizational tool and a way for me to keep track of various items, especially characters. Had a player lose his character sheet so we recreated what we knew but said he lost all of his equipment and magic items.

I can see a lot of uses for this.