Showing posts with label Spirit of 76. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Spirit of 76. Show all posts

Saturday, April 2, 2022

#AtoZChallenge2022: B is for Bermuda Triangle

The A to Z of Conspiracy Theories B

The A to Z of Conspiracy Theories: B is for Bermuda Triangle

The Bermuda Triangle might not be one of the big conspiracy theories, but it is an important one for me. 

The Bermuda Triangle was a gateway drug for me for all sorts of quasi-normal, pseudo-scientific ideas.  I think it was a set of "documentaries" I saw in the late 1970s.  The one that comes to mind most often to me is 1978's Secrets of the Bermuda Triangle.  I remember watching it at the Times theater in my old hometown.

The movie was presented as a documentary and to my 8-9-year-old mind that meant that it had to have had some scientific rigor to it.    The movie was a collection of "true stories" like the loss of the Navy's Flight 19 and other tales.  Many that still get repeated today.  It also included a lot of conjecture as to why this area had so many disappearances.  My favorite was one about a malfunctioning energy collection crystal from Atlantis that would zap ships and airplanes and either destroy them or send them to alternate dimensions.  Like many documentaries of this time it tries to make connections to Egypt and even to the Maya and Aztec cultures. 

Statistically speaking, the waters of the Bermuda Triangle are no more or less dangerous than any others given the number of ships.  In a 2013 survey of the most dangerous shipping areas, it doesn't even rank in the top 10.

Bermuda Triangle

I have been through the Bermuda Triangle twice now.  Once while flying home from Jamaica (our flight was not allowed to fly over Cuba) and once on a cruise ship.


I am going with the crystal idea for NIGHT SHIFT.  The Triangle was the site of some ancient alien base that later had to be abandoned. There is indeed a giant crystal that charges "Vril" (more on that on V day) from sunlight.  Periodically it releases its built-up energy in a blast that discorporates whatever is in its path. Does it destroy the object or, as some scholars believe, does it transport it to somewhere else?

Some even believe that these crystals are pyramid-shaped and have the same dimensions of the Great Pyramid of Giza. 

The remains of the Bimini Road are also part of this base, but so far no one has figured out how they are connected. 

The biggest problems here are 1.) discovering the crystal and it's nature and 2.) getting down the crystal and turning it off. 

I would say that there are smaller crystals that are connected to it.  This can give the PCs some clues.  Especially if the crystals glow and pulsate in time with the larger one.  Someone would need to correlate the brightest flashes with disappearances.   

Given that reports of missing ships seem to have dropped off (that darn GPS!) and the height of the reports peaked in interest in the 70s I am thinking of setting this in my Spirit of 76 campaign. Another chance for me to use some ideas from "The Fantastic Journey."

The NIGHT SHIFT RPG is available from the Elf Lair Games website (hardcover) and from DriveThruRPG (PDF).

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Character Creation Challenge: Lee Jun-fan

Today's character could work with either my Victorian setting or Spirit of '76 for a lot of the same reasons.  

I have always been a big fan of Bruce Lee.  I first saw him on the old Batman series as Kato and then later in interviews.  I am not sure what the first Bruce Lee movie I saw was, but likely it was "Enter the Dragon."  Later I learned of his legacies of how Asian-American actors were treated in Hollywood, his invention of Jeet Kun Do, and his atheism.   He was in every respect of the word, an icon and all-around good guy. 

He was huge in the 1970s, especially after his death, and he was central, or at least he heavily influenced the TV series Kung-Fu.   That gives him an "in" to both eras I am gaming with this month.

So in the tradition of the series(es) Kung-fu I have a character idea that would work for both times.  This is an alternate world (NIGHT SHIFT) where Bruce Lee's "Jun Fan Gung Fu" (just Gung Fu from here on out) was a classical style (and totally missing the point of what Lee was trying to do I know...).  

Victorian Era

Here a young British Lord and his Chinese wife had a son, Lee Jun-fan.  But they were killed in the Taiping Rebellion. Their son, whom they feared would also be killed, was left with monks where he was raised to learn Gung Fu. Here he trains for his first 30 years of life.  He returns to his father's home in England where he deals with the racism of 1880s Victorian England.  He is protected by title and wealth, but still, things are not easy for him. He is also a master of Gung Fu and learns of the vast Occult Underground London has to offer.  

Think of it as "Kung Fu by Gaslight."

Spirit of '76

In 1976, Lee Jun-fan's great-grandson, also named Lee Jun-fan, but going by "Lee Young" (yes, I know Lee was a family name) now lives in America, but his legacy will soon be tested.

Here he is (both versions use the same stats) for Night Shift. NIGHT SHIFT is available from the Elf Lair Games website (hardcover) and from DriveThruRPG (PDF).

Lee Jun-fan (Lee Young)
6th level Mystical Martial Artist (Human)
Archetype: Martial Artist in a Strange New World

Strength: 18 (+3) P 
Dexterity: 19 (+3) S
Constitution: 16 (+2) 
Intelligence: 13 (+1) 
Wisdom: 14 (+1) 
Charisma: 16 (+2) S

HP: 33
Alignment: Good
AC: 5
Attack: +3
# Attacks: 2

Fate Points: 1d8

Check Bonus (P/S/T): +4/+2/+1
Melee bonus: +3 Ranged bonus: +3
Saves: +2 to Constitution and Dexterity saving throws

Martial Arts Powers
+3 to Dexterity; Free Running; Instant Kill ("Gung Fu Death punch"); Lightning-fast; 
Danger Sense, Supernatural Attack, Pneuma Blast

Athletics, Steady Hands, Body Control, Insight


In both campaigns, the emphasis for this character is he is close enough to the world he living in at the time, but still an outsider.  But he is also an outsider with this amazing power.

In both cases, I would want to feature his sense of humor. Bruce Lee had a wicked sense of humor and my Lee Jun-fan would also.  I also want a character who despite all the hardships and reversals he has faced wants to believe that people, in general, are good and they act how they do out of fear.  

Want to see more of the #CharacterCreationChallenge? Stop by Tardis Captain's Blog and the #CharacterCreationChallenge on Twitter for more! 

Character Creation Challenge

Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Character Creation Challenge: Megan O'Kelly

Going to a character today that was one of the first (though not the first) Spirit of '76 characters I came up with.  

Megan O'Kelly came to me from a variety of sources, but the main one was the idea of this college girl wearing a Led Zeppelin U.S. Tour 1975 t-shirt, oversized sunglasses, old hiphugger bell-bottom jeans, and carrying a burlap messenger bag where she kept all her witch gear.   She was a young, recent UC Berkely grad with a freshly minted degree in Psychology and she was going to change the world.

Until that is, she discovered the supernatural.  Or more to the point, the supernatural discovered her.

"Megan" began as "Stephanie" in an older game back when "Spirit of '76" was "Summer of Love" and took place in 1968.  I wanted to keep Stephanie where she was but I wanted to do the Summer of 1976 as well, so Megan was "born."  Eliza Roberts, the actress to "play" her, was suggested to me by my NIGHT SHIFT co-creator Jason Vey.   Megan would go on to have more adventures in other games, namely Chill (from last year) and the Buffy RPG.

Here she is for Night Shift. NIGHT SHIFT is available from the Elf Lair Games website (hardcover) and from DriveThruRPG (PDF).

Megan O'Kelly
4th level Witch (Human)
Archetype: 70s Occultist Witch

Strength: 11 (0) 
Dexterity: 14 (+1) 
Constitution: 15 (+1) 
Intelligence: 18 (+4) P
Wisdom: 17 (+1)  S
Charisma: 17 (+2) S

HP: 14
Alignment: Lawful
AC: 8
Attack: +0

Fate Points: 1d6

Check Bonus (P/S/T): +3/+2/0
Melee bonus: 0 Ranged bonus: +1
Saves: +3 against spells and magical effects

Witch Abilities
Arcana, Supernatural Senses, Spells, Arcane Powers

Arcane Powers
Precognition, ESP (Clairvoyance)

First Level: Detect Evil, Detect Magic, Protection from Evil
Second Level: Cause Fear, Suggestion

Research, Insight, History, Science (Psychology)


Megan is my gift to that younger version of me that discovered witches in pop psychology books and magazines and always had crushes on girls older than himself. She is the "psychic witch woman" of the 1970s.  She has crystals, she always consults her horoscope, she has "feelings" about things, and she can be a lot more powerful than even she gives herself credit for.  

She has more history in my games later on, but this is college grad Megan. This is young Megan. She is excited, and eager and wants to take on the world. Her future is so bright right now that she needs those knock-off Marlo Thomas sunglasses.   Is it possible to love an NPC? Because I think Megan is great.  I almost feel bad for all the shit she later goes through by the time the 80s roll around.  Almost. Swords are forged in fire and magic is forged in pain.  But that's not till 1979 at least and Megan here has a lot to do before then!

Want to see more of the #CharacterCreationChallenge? Stop by Tardis Captain's Blog and the #CharacterCreationChallenge on Twitter for more! 

Character Creation Challenge

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Character Creation Challenge: Virginia Dare

Continuing my "Spirit of '76" mini-campaign I want to get some more details on who my "big bad" might be.  I say might, because I am not 100% sure yet what I want to do with her save for being the mastermind behind the plot.  I know I want to make what she wants to do sound reasonable and something that most people would want to support. That is if her plan didn't involve the death of millions. 

Given the name of the series, I figure she would fit in fine as the first person of European descent born in the colonies.  She is also the reason I have scrapped many of the ideas I had for Spirit of 76 (including other NPCs) in favor of newer ones.  Still planning on four adventures, but I only have the first two figured out.

I spoke about Virginia Dare briefly before. She is the immortal enemy of Valerie Beaumont. Though their relationship is quite a complicated one. She wants to kill Valerie, but Val doesn't really want to kill her.  I liken their relationship (as it is growing in my mind now) as similar to Holmes and Moriarty or The Doctor and the Master.  

Here she is for Night Shift. NIGHT SHIFT is available from the Elf Lair Games website (hardcover) and from DriveThruRPG (PDF).

Virginia Dare
Virginia Dare in London, 1976

Virginia Dare
14th level Survivor (Supernatural, Immortal)
Archetype: Immortal Mastermind

Strength: 12 (0) 
Dexterity: 14 (+1) 
Constitution: 16 (+2) 
Intelligence: 19 (+4) S
Wisdom: 17 (+2)  S
Charisma: 18 (+3) P

HP: 77
Alignment: Neutral (?)
AC: 8
Attack: 4

Fate Points: 1d10

Check Bonus (P/S/T): +6/+4/+2
Melee bonus: 0 Ranged bonus: +1
Saves: +5 to death saves. +2 to all others.

Immortal Abilities
Immortals regenerate 1d8 hit points every minute. 
+3 to Intelligence
+5 to all saving throws against magic, poison, disease, and death-based attacks.
Arcane Powers: Charm Person, Empathy
Unique Kill: Can only be killed by Valerie Beaumont

Survivor Abilities
Stealth skills; Climbing; Danger Sense (1-5); Sneak Attack +4, x2; Read Languages 80%, Ritual Magic

Survivor Skills (8th level)

  • Open Locks: 145%
  • Bypass Traps: 140%
  • Sleight of Hand: 150%
  • Move Silently: 150%
  • Hide in Shadows: 140%
  • Climbing 105%
  • Perception: 105%

Research, Insight, History (x2) 


Virginia Dare has survived some of the worst times this country has seen.  She is brilliant and her own special abilities to understand and charm others to get her into positions where she can leverage her intellect the best.  She learns what people want and she finds a way to get it to them, for a price.  

She prefers to work behind the scenes but she has amassed a powerbase that when she decides to play her hand it will have devastating effects. 

I just need to figure out what that is.  I have an idea, but not sure how to make it work just yet. Both in-game and for the game. 

Want to see more of the #CharacterCreationChallenge? Stop by Tardis Captain's Blog and the #CharacterCreationChallenge on Twitter for more! 

Character Creation Challenge

Monday, January 17, 2022

Character Creation Challenge: Carl Kolchak

Going forward in time to another campaign I have been tossing around for a while.  This one is set in the Summer of 1976.  I don't have much planned yet save that it involves an increased upswing in demonic and supernatural attacks and related phenomena.  

Ideally, I'd love to be able to use a lot of weird shit that made the 70s one of the best decades for occult happenings.  My goal here is to try to figure out what this campaign/set of adventures is all about.

So let's start with the character that made me want to do something in this decade;  Carl Kolchak, The Night Stalker.  Besides, it is the 50th Anniversary of the Night Stalker TV series.  

Here he is for Night Shift. NIGHT SHIFT is available from the Elf Lair Games website (hardcover) and from DriveThruRPG (PDF).

Carl Kolchak 
3rd level Survivor (Human)
Archetype: Corespondent

Strength: 10 (0) 
Dexterity: 13 (+1) S
Constitution: 16 (+2) 
Intelligence: 13 (+1) P
Wisdom: 14 (+1)  
Charisma: 15 (+1) S

HP: 15
Alignment: Light
AC: 9
Attack: +1

Fate Points: 1d6

Check Bonus (P/S/T): +3/+1/0
Melee bonus: 0 Ranged bonus: +1
Saves: +4 to death saves. +2 to all others.

Survivor Abilities
Stealth skills; Climbing; Danger Sense (1-4); Sneak Attack +4, x2; Read Languages 80%

Survivor Skills (8th level)

  • Open Locks: 35%
  • Bypass Traps: 30%
  • Sleight of Hand: 40%
  • Move Silently: 40%
  • Hide in Shadows: 30%
  • Climbing 75%
  • Perception: 50%

Research, Insight, Notice (x2)


Want to see more of the #CharacterCreationChallenge? Stop by Tardis Captain's Blog and the #CharacterCreationChallenge on Twitter for more! 

Character Creation Challenge

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Character Creation Challenge: NIGHT SHIFT

Welcome to 2022!  Last year I participated in TardisCaptain's Blog of Holding's Character Creation Challenge. It was a lot of fun and I got to do a lot of really cool witches.

This year I am going to do something a little different.  This year I want to explore just one game, but show how versatile the system is and what I can do with it.   That game is obviously going to be my own NIGHT SHIFT.

The Game: NIGHT SHIFT Veterans of the Supernatural Wars

NIGHT SHIFT Veterans of the Supernatural Wars is a modern supernatural monster hunting game written by Jason Vey and myself.  We took all of the work we have collectively done with Old-School RPGs along with all the experiences we had while working on Buffy, Angel, Army of Darkness, Ghosts of Albion, and All Flesh Must Be Eaten and poured it into this new game.  My personal goals here were to make a game that I could play any type of witch I wanted and to fill the Buffy-shaped hole in my life.  I feel I succeeded in both.  

NIGHT SHIFT is available from the Elf Lair Games website (hardcover) and from DriveThruRPG (PDF).

For this challenge, I am going to focus on characters you can use in any sort of campaign.  I am going to draw from a couple of different campaigns I have been playing around with for a few years.  The first is a Dracula-focused one I have picked at for a number of years decades. Dracula is always fun and I have a blast using him in an adventure.  

The others will be NPCs from my Spirit of '76 game, set obviously in 1976.  I'll also include some modern ones.   In all cases, I want to show off how well NIGHT SHIFT can do these characters and even show off some of the features of the new Nights Companion for NIGHT SHIFT. Coming Soon. 

16th level Veteran (Supernatural, Vampire)
Archetype: Master Vampire

Strength: 22 (+5) P
Dexterity: 18 (+3) S
Constitution: 18 (+3)
Intelligence: 13 (+1)
Wisdom: 14 (+1)
Charisma: 22 (+5) S

HP: 120
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
AC: 5

Check Bonus (P/S/T): +7/+5/+3
Melee bonus: +12  Ranged bonus: +8
Saves: +5 to all

Vampire Powers
Veteran Abilities


Monday, January 25, 2021

Character Creation Challenge: Chill 3rd Edition

Chill RPG, 3rd Edition
Jumping WAY ahead to the future today; at least in terms of the Dark Ages, to the magic time of the 1970s!  All my campaigns share a link in one way or another.  Adventures like "All Souls Night" may start with D&D or other FRPG, they eventually make their way to "Blight" (Ghosts of Albion) and "The Dark Druid" (Buffy).  Spirit of '76 is another good example.  It begins, oddly enough, in 1976 and with Chill.

The Game: Chill 3rd Edition

Spend any time here and you know I am very fond of Chill.  The first edition from Pacesetter came out of Minnesota. Second Edition from Mayfair was right here in the Chicago burbs.  Chill is Midwestern horror.  Not East Coast horror with it's ancient houses and older bloodlines. Not West Coast horror with new-wave vampires. Nor is it Southern Gothic, while very enjoyable, is not the same. 

No Chill is backwoods horror. Old decrepit house horror. Horror found on darkened roads between small towns. The horror I grew up with.  

My campaign for Chill was/is my Spirit of '76 game.  It was designed as a Chill mini-campaign over 4 days.  It was built up while I was playing a lot of WitchCraft and Buffy.  The idea was that supernatural occurrences, once rare, were picking up in intensity and frequency the closer we got to the new Millennium. This would later change to 2012 and then 2018 as real-time overtook these "future" events.  You can see some of that in my "Generation HEX" Nightworld in NIGHT SHIFT.   Originally this was going to be for Chill 2nd Edition, but even that time got away from me so now it is for 3rd Edition.  Thankfully the narrative in the new game follows the one I was creating.

Chill RPG all three editions

The Character: Megan O'Kelly

"Megan" began as "Stephanie" in an older game back when "Spirit of '76" was "Summer of Love" and taking place in 1968.  I wanted to keep Stephanie where she was but I wanted to do the Summer of 1976 instead, so Megan was "born."   She is a young grad student at UC-Berkeley. I imagined her with long straight hair and wearing bell-bottoms.  Something of a post-hippie 70s girl.  She called herself a "Craft worker" or a "cleanser" but never a "witch."  Her inspirations come from the Eric Clapton song "Bellbottom Blues" and Eliza Roberts from Animal House.  I changed the character because I wanted to bring in an older Stephanie at some point but I never did.

Megan is assigned to SAVE in 1976 to help a small band of operatives investigating the rise of supernatural occurrences in the South West to the Deep South.

Megan O'Kelly 
SAVE Operative

Attributes (80 pt build)
Agility AGL 50
Strength STR 40
Stamina STA 45

Focus FOC 60
Personality PSY 50
Willpower WRP 55

Dexterity DEX 40
Perception PCN 70
Reflexes REF 55

Sensing the Unknown STU 14

Skills (Specializations)
Movement (T) 50, Long Distance (E)
Prowess (T) 40
Close Quarters Combat 23

Research (T) 60, Academic (E), Occult (B)
Communication (T) 50
Interview 28

Fieldcraft 20
Investigation 35
Ranged Weapons 28

Edges and Drawbacks
Attractive (2), Highly Attuned (1), Naïve (-2)

The Art
Protective School
Sphere of Protection (E), Mental Shield (B)

Sensing School
Clairvoyant (E)

To Know the Truth

So Megan is a recent UC Berkeley grad.  She is a clairvoyant and specializes in seeing ghosts and putting spirits to rest.  Her background is psych grad student so her academics are already at Expert (but not yet Master) and she ran track in High School, so she has some athletics, but not a lot. She is still a bit naïve about the world around her but she is not stupid. 

Third Edition Chill is really better at PCs learning "The Art" (magic) than previous editions, so I think this version really works out much better than previous incarnations of Megan/Stephanie.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Review: Colonial Gothic

Last night was the Fall Finale of the TV show "Sleepy Hollow".  It is a fun show and has a great premise and lots of great monster. But the joy of the show is Tom Mison's fish-out-of-water Ichabod Crane and Nicole Baharie's no-nonsense cop Lt. Abbie Mills.  It is a great mix of action, horror, humor and cop procedural formulas.  There are also some great supporting roles from Katia Winter as witch Katrina Crane (nee Van Tassel), John Nobel as Harry Parish aka Jeremy Crane and Lyndie Greenwood as Jenny Mills, Abbie's sister.

Watching the show has got me psyched for my "Spirit of '76" game for Chill. It has also sent me back to an old favorite of mine, Colonial Gothic.

I was introduced to Colonial Gothic at Gen Con a few years back by the authors at Rogue Games.  They were easily the friendliest people I talked to that day and their enthusiasm for their game was infectious.  I know every game company loves their own games, but these guys were over the moon with Colonial Gothic.  I can totally understand why too.  It is, too my knowledge, a fairly unique time period to be gaming in.  Maybe I am reading too much into it since I am a fan of the time period, but it was still great to talk to them.

They have great web support for their games and a ton (ok, a little more than a dozen) of pdfs for sale.  Honestly it is a game I wish I played more of.  Which is a shame since +Richard Iorio II actually lives fairly close to me.

Colonial Gothic Rulebook 2nd Edition
The best thing about this book right out of the gate is it compatible with the older, and out of print, Colonial Gothic Rulebook.  So all the books I have from Gen Con are still good.
CG uses the same d12 based (I remember the guys at the Rogue Games booth going on with glee on how they used the often neglected d12!) system that you find in Shadow, Sword & Spell (I am not 100% sure, but both games look like they are completely compatible with each other).
The core book comes in at 282 pages, plus covers. The second thing I noticed that this book is much better looking than the first core book. No slight against that book, but this one is a gem.  The first book had a nice hip "indie" feel about it. This book manages to pull off "indie" and "big time professional" between it's two covers.  I like that.
But what is Colonial Gothic? From the book:
Colonial Gothic is a supernatural historical roleplaying game inspired by the history and setting of the American colonial period, from the founding of Roanoke in 1568 to the end of the War of 1812 at the Battle of New Orleans in 1815.
Pretty cool if you ask me.  For me Colonial Gothic continues the story that Mage: The Sorcerer's Crusade began and Ghosts of Albion continued to the industrial age; science and reason over superstition and magic in a world filled with horrors.  But CG is more than just that.  In this game the "Americans" are on new soil, but it is only new to them.  There are horrors native to this land and their are the horrors they brought with them.

The game mechanics are rather simple, which is a good thing, most often it is 2d12 +/- mods vs. a Target Number.  It is called the 12° System. Often the Target Number is your Ability + Skill and rolled under.  In other cases, such as an Ability test, you roll 1d12 and roll under the ability. Opposed Tests include things like combat. There are also Critical Success (double "1"s) and Critical Failures (double "12"s).  Also the degrees of success (or failure) are important.  In combat for example your degree of success is a multiplier to the damage.  So is you need a 15 and roll a modified 10 you have 5 degrees of success.  Simple.
Chapter One covers all the basic rules from Abilities and Skills, to combat, to movement and even common ailments (and uncommon ones) to fear and sanity.
Chapter Two is Character Creation.  You get 45 points to divide out to your abilities (7 is human average).  You can then choose a background ("class" for you class and level types; archetypes for everyone else) and then you get 45 points for your skills.  These point totals can also be shifted up or down depending on the nature of the game.  40 for more grit, 50 for more action-adventure types.
The new aspect is the choice of 5 character hooks.  These provide your character with more detail and background and help explain why your character is an adventurer and not just a common Joe or Jane.
Chapter Three goes into more detail about Skills and Hooks.
Chapter Four covers magic, the magical arts and common spells and Alchemy.  Magic has a price in CG and not everyone is cut out for it.  Witches presented here are mostly evil, but there is some wiggle room.
Chapter Five covers weapons, currency, equipment and trade. This is actually quite an important chapter since goods or the availability of them is not just part of the real Colonial history, but makes a great plot point.
Chapter Six is a guide to the Colonies. It is a nice mix of history, geography and the occult conceits of the game.  If you know some of the history of this time then you have an edge up, but there is a lot of great information here.  Obviously some liberties have been taken, but it is less alt-history than I feared.
Chapter Seven covers enemies and monsters. Both mundane and magical.  At this time even a mundane bear is a threat.
Chapter Eight covers advice for the game master and campaign ideas.

Colonial Gothic: The Player Companion
This is the newest book (as of this writing) to the Colonial Gothic line. Mostly though this is related to the cover.  As the title suggests this is a set of options for players of the Colonial Gothic game.
We get a list of new skills and some additions to old skills.  Normally I prefer it when a game reuses old skills in new ways, esp. point buy games where the budget per skill is not likely to change. After all Character A created with the Core has the same 45 points as Character B created with this book.  In this case though it works both thematically and systematically.
Chapter Two covers Advantages and Disadvantages. Characters are given 4 points to buy advantages and can also take disadvantages.  Works pretty much like other systems in that respect, save there are not pages and pages of them (like for example GURPS).   Most in fact are story related and can be used in conjunction with the character's Background.
Chapter Three covers family and social status.  A must have really for playing in this age.
Chapter Four has a bunch of character templates.  So if you want to play a Native Shaman or emulate your Assassin's Creed character then this is a great place to start.
Chapter Five details more combat options and how to use them.  Think of these as advanced combat skills.
Chapter Six has more magic including Counter-Spelling and more Common and Arcane Spells.
Chapter Seven has more equipment.
All in all worthy, but not really required additions to the game. It is one of the books that if you don't know about it, you won't miss it, but if you do then you will wonder how you got on with out it.
If there is a 3rd Edition of Colonial Gothic then a lot of these rules should be folded into the main core rules.

Colonial Gothic: Gazetteer
This book calls itself a Gazetteer, but "Campaign Sourcebook" might be more appropriate. Written for the 1st Edition of Colonial Gothic it works just fine under 2nd Edition.
Chapter 1 covers the history of the colonies from early English and Dutch colonization right on up to 1775.  Principle wars are discussed and colonial growth covered.
Chapters 2 through 14 cover the original 13 colonies in detail including basic demographics and major towns.  Points of interest are also featured in each chapter as well as anything out of the ordinary.
Chapter 15 is devoted to the Native American people.  An overview of their history and cultures is given, but by necessity it is short.  In truth an entire Colonial Gothic book could be done just on the various Native american tribes and nations.
Te last chapter is a ready to run adventure, "A Surprise for General Gage".
There are two Appendices. First a Glossary and then a Bibliography.  I want to take a moment to point out that all of the Colonial Gothic books always feature a very robust (for a game book) bibliography.   This one is no exception to that rule.  This one includes books, game books and even some online resources.  Certainly worth your time to investigate a few of these.

Colonial Gothic Bestiary
I have said it many times. You can never have too many monsters.  The Colonial Gothic Bestiary satisfies that craving and then some.  At 110 pages it is full of monsters and many are illustrated.  The artwork varies.  Personally I am a fan of the older wood cut images, but I know those are are difficult to find perfect representations of various beasts.  The monsters themselves are a varied lot; some local monsters like the Jersey Devil and some "from back home" like the Gargoyle and Gorgon.
I think this is a good mix, but I am more fond of the local fauna than something I can find in any book.  I do have one nitpick (ok maybe two), first there is no Piasa Bird.  A local legend from here in Illinois that I am surprised didn't make the cut. Supposedly the first mention of it is in 1673 (or the 1920s),  Sure Illinois is way away from the Colonies. Though it was a very nearly a full state (1818) by the end point of the game, The War of 1812.  The other was that the Chupacabra was included. The Chupa, for all it's fun, is squarely a 20th century invention.  But these are only nitpicks, not criticisms.  There are plenty of American Indian monsters too that could have been included. Some like a naaldlooshii would be good too (I know, Navajo and not near the Colonies...). Maybe A Bestiary 2 is in the works.
The indexes in back are quite useful since they also include creatures from the core rule books.
Lots of great creatures here and fully worth the price.

Colonial Gothic: The Grimoire
This is an expanded and updated version of the older Colonial Gothic: Witchcraft book and the Colonial Gothic: Secrets book. Both of which are out of print. It also has plenty of new material as well.
Chapter 1 covers new spells, Common and Arcane. The advantage of adding new spells to this game is one can easily say that the knowledge was just rediscovered.  Some new book sent from overseas, an old book in the collection of a wealthy man or any other contrivance.  There are quite a few new spells here to be honest.
Chapter 2 follows with a discussion on spell books. Their uses and how to get them. A few sample books are also included.
Chapter 3 introduces magical talismans to the game. Sort of Spell storing or keeping magical power. Not a lot here, but plenty of ideas.
Chapter 4 covers the related chapter of relics, items that have magical ability to them due to divine providence or some other happenstance.
Chapter 5 is dedicated to Witchcraft. Like the book it replaces, there are no rules for playing "good" witches.  Fitting with the times all witches are assumed to be evil.  Personally I would like to see a good witch, but I can make due.
Likewise Chapter 6 deals with occult items such as cold iron and holy water.
Finally Chapter 7 deals with new magical creatures.  There is quite a Lovecraftian feel to this one.  Not generic "Lovecraft" but actual monsters from his mythos.
There is an appendix with the Create Talisman and Witchcraft skills.
There is also a combined magical index of spells between this book and the Colonial Gothic core.

Colonial Gothic: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
This is a great little book to be honest.  The first half is the story of Sleepy Hollow and the second half is how to use it in your Colonial Gothic Game. The geography of Sleepy Hollow, the Hudson and the Tapan Zee are discussed as well as Sleepy Hollow's role in history.  It reads like a small campaign guide.
This book is not very big, nor does it cost very much, but it is certainly punching above it's weight class in terms of content.

Colonial Gothic True20 Version
The world of Colonial Gothic using the True20 system instead of it's normal house system. Typically when a product is converted to a "generic" system some of the style and feel is lost. Though I will say that CG survived with much more of it's soul intact. The system is normally a very easy one to learn so the conversion here does not sacrifice complexity. The game is still same, one of a supernatural New World as it becomes a new country, America.
The conversion does highlight many of the pluses of the game including it's atmosphere and style of play. It also allows you know to bring other True20 that might be helpful. In some ways I prefer this to the original, but the original is still very, very fun.

Colonia Gothic is really just a fun, great game. There is just so much potential here that I want to pull it out and just run a few games with it.

If you are into American History, Horror, or even just the thrill of exploring something that is both well known and completely unknown  then this is the game for you.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Season of the Witch: Interlude

Interlude: When Robert met Megan

Sunnydale, June 1976

"I am telling you I don't like this!" The man said for what may have been the twelfth time that evening. He was young, early or mid twenties. He still had the hair and mannerism of someone who had spent a lifetime in the military. In fact that is how he, Robert Maclay, got his current job as squad commander for S.A.V.E. He lit his cigarette and handed the lighter to his companion who lit his own.

"Well, too bad. Her orders came in from Dublin HQ and a fat all good it does talking to them. Sorry mate, she is our problem now."

"Well I for one have not spent the better part of a year and a half fighting god-knows-what just so I can invite a witch into my group" Robert swore.

"Cleanser." Came a feminine voice. "Cleanser or Craft-Worker, but never a Witch."

Both men turned around to see they had been joined a small, rather unassuming, but attractive woman. She was dressed in hip-hugging bell bottoms, sandals, and a tattered Led Zeppelin concert shirt. Her hair was long and blonde. She looked every bit like all the other California girls they had seen since coming to this hellhole of a town. She carried a burlap bag on one shoulder and wore sunglasses that covered half her face. She took them off to reveal sparkling blue eyes.

"Great." Bob replied. "I ask for a spirit removal expert and S.A.V.E. sends me a kid."

"Hey. I just graduated from Berkeley, I'm no kid. Besides you're like not much older than me anyway." She shot back.

"Oi. Don't listen to him." The other man rose to shake her hand, "Nigel. Nigel Delamort. Don't let the accent fool you, I'm French, not English. I just had the misfortune of having to grow up there. That over there is our fearless leader, Robert Maclay. Don't let the rough exterior fool you, deep down inside he is still every bit the humorless bastard we all know and love."

"Megan" the woman answered back, "Megan O'Kelly. Here are my papers. So. What brings S.A.V.E. to Sunnydale?"

Friday, January 28, 2011

Season of the Witch: Episode 3

Episode 3: Strange Sort of Homecoming

Late Summer 2004
Willow & Tara go to Tara's home town in Alabama to attend the funeral of Robert Maclay, Tara's father. While there they discover more about Robert's past and how it is connected to Willow and Tara's future.

The girls return to Tara's hometown where they stay with her brother Donny, his new wife Leah and their new baby Megan (named after Tara's mother). Though without knowing Leah has set the girls up in seperate rooms as if they were "just friends". One of the themes of this episode was actually confronting the issues of homophobia as opposed to dancing around the issues. This was at the request of my player/testers who felt that the show never did a very good job of this.

The girls arrive in town. Go to the wake. Tara decides she needs a drink and heads to the local bar. She runs into a guy (Dan) that had a crush on her in high school who never quite understood she was gay. As well as cousin Beth. People in the bar begin to talk and whisper about Tara being back, and with a girlfriend no less.  To bust the tension of the moment my Tara player decides to break into a bit of dirty dancing with Willow to Prince's "Gett Off".  They of course get kicked out of the bar, much to Beth's delight.

During the funeral Tara and Donny get into a fight over the minister Donny chooses to speak. They get into a fight, Tara storms out, Beth comments on "Tara running away again".  Beth mentions that she cast a spell to set everyone against Tara for leaving her behind. Willow punches her.  Willow follows Tara, tells her about Beth's spell.  Discover that Beth did cast a spell, but it had no effect.    Next day things seem to be better, Donny apologizes. Beth has left town. Tara is given her mother's things including her journal that details this entire life she had working with her father as part of a covert ops group to take out supernatural threats.  Donny also gives the girls Robert's car, a blue 1967 Ford Thunderbird.  Tara, now feeling welcomed in her old home decides to head back to her new home.  On the drive back though the ghost of Robert McClay informs them they have work to do.

Notes: This was not an action packed episode, but rather one of interpersonal actions and reactions.  I wanted to delve deeper into Tara's past and her family life, plus fix some of the problems from the show (demons in female side of the family?? WTF?? yeah, I fix that too). Things learned in this episode:  Tara, her mother and grandmother are/were all power witches. Megan was a "Craft Worker" assigned to Robert's unit to aid his group in hunting the supernatural.  Her job was the "Cleaner", or the removal of spirits.  Robert didn't want to work with a witch, but orders are orders.  Now for their group I just used my old 1980's Chill game.  So Bob and Megan were part of S.A.V.E., but something happened back then and they never finished their mission and Bob and Megan left, never to talk about it again.  We also learn that Megan was from Sunnydale.  Donny is not an dick really, just a jerk that listened to his father's anti-demon, anti-witchcraft tirades a little too much.  He is after all Megan's child too, though he does not have any magic.  Beth though does have some magic, though hers never works.  Her role here is smaller than originally planned, but that is fine, she comes back in Web of Lies.

The big deal here of course is Bob, the Ghost.  He needs to lead Willow and Tara through his failed 1976-79 mission in order to find peace.  This mission is also tied to the what the girls are dealing with now and the Awakening.  They also are given Megan's journal which has the cut scenes of the action in the 70's. 

So you are a young gay woman on a road trip with your girlfriend in a cool convertible, what else could you want?  That's right the ghost of your ultra-conservative, way strict father hanging around.  That's got comedy gold written all over it!  Too bad that the trip is to discover what supernatural force might be taking over the world soon and may have had an impact on why your mother died and why your dad is such an asshole.

Now about Bob: Bob of course was on the show, but never given that name.  I named him that cause he looks like a Bob to me, plus it was a nod to a friend of mine author Robert Black.  Funny thing is Robert Black goes to the same church as does Steve Rankin who played Mr. Maclay in the episode "Family" (one of the highest rated Buffy episodes). This is my chance to try to redeem the character a bit instead of making him a two-dimensional cliche.  Since he played a number of military types on various shows (including multiple characters on various Star Treks) he is portrayed here as a Marine (he has played Klingons, Romulans and Cardassians, and as the infamous Col. Green, I think he can pull off a Marine too).  He was later convinced to work with SAVE after seeing something really scary.  In 1976, when he meets Megan O'Kelly he is in his late 20's

"Megan" was my Tara player's idea.  Originally she was named Deirdre (I had just read the Irish tale "Deirdre of the Sorrows" and thought that Bob should be much older than his wife), but in the end came to like Megan more.  Deirdre then became her grandmother.  Megan, who I figure was 22 in 1976 when she joined Bob's team was something of a California girl.  Long blonde hair, Led Zeppelin concert tee, and wearing hip hugger bell bottoms.  For Megan think of a young Eliza Roberts (Eric Robert's wife), though she does not make any appearnces here except in photos and flashbacks.
We learn that Bob had been in the military when he was younger, but left for an unknown reason.  He was getting followers and cards from people Tara had never heard of before from all around the globe.  Donny didn't even know them.

The town the Tara lived in had been her family home for years.  Her father's family had been her for generations.  People talked about how Tara left AND also how Bob had left when he was roughly the same age.  Both came back with a strange new woman from California in their lives (Willow and Megan respectively).  This was the start of building a lot of parallels between Bob/Megan and Willow/Tara.  Each generation did something that the other generation could relate too.

We also learn about Tara's first crush. Tara had been in Jr. High and her crush had been a red-headed high school girl that worked at the "Tastee Freeze" (no, there are no Tastee Freezes in AL). Tara would go there to buy a small vanilla ice cream cone just so she could see her, even if she never actually said anything to her. The girl found out, thought it was cute, and began dipping her cone in that strawberry stuff that freezes when it comes in contact with the ice cream. We called them dip-cones. Of course, the girl had a boyfriend, which broke Tara's heart, but her taste for red-headed women remained. Not sure about the strawberry dip-cones though.

Strange Sort of Homecoming was also the first of the "Road Stories" sub arc.  We had planned this as the first series even before Dragon and the Phoenix.  The 67 Ford Thunderbird was our nod to Thelma and Louise, though we already did that ending in Dragon.

We now had our cast whole.  Willow and Tara, our two witches. Bob the ghost and Cordy the Whitelighter.  It was good that the last two could move in and out at will since the Thunderbird can only seat two.

Next Time: Willow, Tara, Bob, and Cordy get caught up in the crossfire of a voodoo war, meet an unlikely ally, and find what may be the most haunted house in the entire Western Hemisphere in "Under a Cajun Moon".

Friday, June 25, 2010

Willow & Tara: Chill

Willow and Tara in Chill

The world the girls live in is not exactly the same as the world described in Chill. A lot of what is “Unknown” in Chill is common knowledge to our girls. Let’s be honest even Tara has seen more vampires than the average 1st Edition Chill character would see in a lifetime.

So how do we explain the differences? I see the worlds as being the same, the different rules are just different ways at looking at it. Let’s steal a page from the WitchCraft RPG core book. Chill and S.A.V.E. were most active in the 80’s and early 90’s before their Dublin HQ was destroyed. So we only have records up till then. In WitchCraft it has been documented that as we approach the Reckoning supernatural occurrences have become more and more frequent. By the time the girls start their “career” in battling the supernatural in the late 90’s early 2000’s supernatural occurrences are far more common than 10 or 20 years ago.

This is even supported by the move from 1st to 2nd Eds of Chill. 1st Ed was lighter, a little campy, but emphasis was on things that go bump in the night. It was more Ghostbusters than Ghost Story. 2nd Ed was a child of the paranoid late 80’s and 90’s. Elements of X-Files were abundant and the same zeitgeist that gave us the World of Darkness, Kult and yes WitchCraft was at work in Chill as well. To further the “world is much darker than you think” idea, 2nd Edition Chill makes the (somewhat silly, somewhat crafty) claim that the Pacesetter version was propaganda by S.A.V.E. sent out as disinformation. And let’s be honest, a lot of people played Chill as “monster of the week” adventures anyway. Maybe it was years of “Dark Shadows” and “Night Stalker” or more likely years of AD&D, but that’s how we did it in my house.
Chill 3rd Edition looked darker still, but it did not come out so I can’t say.

Relations with S.A.V.E.
Willow and Tara’s relationship with S.A.V.E. (Societas Argenti Viae Eternitata, Society of the Eternal Silver Way) begins before either girl was born. In the “Dragon and the Phoenix” canon Robert Maclay had been an envoy of S.A.V.E. working in the southern part of the United States. They had discovered an area of reported spiritual activity during the Summer of ’76 and were ordered to investigate. They came to an old plantation that later been converted to a brothel after the Civil War and was rumored to be haunted by the ghost of the former owner. Realizing that Maclay’s team would need magical aid, S.A.V.E. assigned a “craft worker” to the team. This infuriated the young Robert Maclay. He was a devout Christian and the idea of working with a witch was as unacceptable to him as working with a vampire. The young witch, Megan Rose O’Kelley, was however more than a match for Robert’s head strong attitude. The mission would have been a complete failure had it not been for Megan’s magic, though it was not with out complications. The reported “ghosts” turned out to be demonic ethereal spirits. Megan had been possessed by one of the demons in the course of the fight, she fought off the demonic thrall (with Maclay’s aid), but she suffered reoccurring ill health and nightmares. These persisted into her courtship and marriage to Robert till the end of her life in 1997. The demons were banished, and Robert and Megan left S.A.V.E. soon after.

S.A.V.E. knew that any offspring of Robert and Megan Maclay would be a formidable witch in her own right, so they watched Donald and Tara for years. It was soon obvious that while Donny lacked the ability to even do a card trick, Tara was a different story. She began to manifest her powers very early in life. They even observed her display feats of power that would have been difficult for a witch three-times her age, though she was always very careful to not show her power anytime she felt her father or older brother were watching. When Tara was murdered, the remaining members of the fractionalized S.A.V.E. prepared to close the book on what would have been a promising recruit and recorded it as a profound loss for humanity. To their shock and surprise S.A.V.E. found themselves “re-opening” that book when Tara was discovered to be alive and well due to a rare occurrence of divine magics (S.A.V.E. was later made aware of the miscast Art that substituted Tara’s death record for a previously unmentioned or unrecorded twin sister, Kara).
In late 2005 S.A.V.E. operations in Washington DC approached Willow and Tara (after observing what they refer to as the ‘Leviathan / Pan-dimensional Incident’). S.A.V.E. had learned of the supposed recent activity of Erszébet Báthory (Elizabeth Bathory) near the girls’ new Boston home and hoped to make use of the girls unique understanding of vampires and witchcraft. That it was reported that Willow had encountered Dracula was only another bonus in their favor. The details of that encounter will be dealt with at a later date. Willow and Tara are not members of S.A.V.E. at this time, but their contact is Dr. Robert Samuels, Deputy Director of S.A.V.E.’s American Operations. (Geek Note: Dr. Robert Samuels was one of the pre-generated characters from the 1st Ed. Chill rule book.)

These stats represent Willow and Tara after the Dragon and the Phoenix, during the Season of the Witch, series but sometime before the Mid-Semester's Nightmare mini-series.  So about 2005.

Willow Danielle Rosenberg

Strength 30
Perception 67
Dexterity 33
Willpower 81
Agility 42
Luck 50
Personality 67
Stamina 50

Unskilled Melee 36 (1st Ed)* / 18 (2nd Ed)**
Sense Unknown 13%
Movement 34
Sprinting 92
Initiative 4

Name CIPs Notes
Ambidexterity 1
Attractive 2
Curiosity -1
Improved STA Rec 1
Improved Will Rec 1
Phobia (Frogs) 1
Psychological flaw 1 Addictive personality

Name Rank Score Calc
Armed Melee S 51 (STR+AGL)/2 +15
Crossbow S 48 DEX +15

Anthropology T 101 (PCN+WPR+PER)/3 +30
Biology T 104 (PCN+WPR)/2 +30
Computers M 129 (PCN+WPR)/2 +55
Investigation M 121 (PCN+WPR+LUCK)/3 +55
Language, Latin T 104 (PCN+WPR)/2 +30
Legend/Lore T 104 (PCN+WPR)/2 +30
Mathematics T 104 (PCN+WPR)/2+30
Mechanics T 80 (PCN+DEX)/2 +30
Occult Lore** M 116
Ritual Magic** M 116

Age: 23 (in 2004)
Ht: 5’3”
Wt: 115#
Hair: Red
Eyes: Green
Gender: Female

Nationality: American
Profession: Software Engineer
Education: B.S. in Computer Science, 2003 University of California, Magna Cum Laude

Name Score* Calc Base** Rank**Score
Telepathic Sending 67 (PCN+PER)/2 44 M 94
Telepathic Empathy 67 (PCN+PER)/2 44 M 94
Sphere of Protection 61 (PCN+LUCK)/2 39 T 69

* Indicates a 1st Edition Rule.
** Indicates a 2nd Edition Rule.

Tara A. Maclay

Strength 38
Perception 70
Dexterity 32
Willpower 65
Agility 36
Luck 40
Personality 65
Stamina 40

Unskilled Melee 37 (1st Ed)* / 19 (2nd Ed)**
Sense Unknown 14%
Movement 32
Sprinting 86
Initiative 4

Name CIPs Notes
Animal Empathy 1
Attractive 1
Destiny 1
Improved Will Rec 1
Pet (MKF) 1
Psionic Ability 1 Empathy

Name Rank Score Calc (1st Ed)
Armed Melee S 52 (STR+AGL)/2 +15
- Axe S 52 (STR+AGL)/2 +15 SR 2/4
- Sword S 52 (STR+AGL)/2 +15 SR 5
Crossbow S 47 DEX +15

Animal Training** T 87
Art T 98 (PCN+WPR)/2 +30
Calligraphy** T 81 (AGL+WPR)/2 +30
Horseback riding T 81 (AGL+WPR)/2 +30
Investigation M 113 (PCN+WPR+LUCK)/3 +55
Language, Japanese T 98 (PCN+WPR)/2 +30
Legend/Lore T 98 (PCN+WPR)/2 +30
Occult Lore** M 108
Painting** T 81 (AGL+WPR)/2 +30
Ritual Magic** M 108
Psychology M 123 (PCN+WPR)/2 +55

Age: 24 (in 2004)
Ht: 5’4”
Wt: 125#
Hair: Blonde
Eyes: Blue
Gender: Female

Nationality: American
Profession: Graduate Student in Counselling Psychology, working as part time QMHP.
Education: B.A. in Art History, 2003 University of Southern California, Cum Laude,
M.A. in Psychology, Counseling emphasis, 2005 University of Southern California. Thesis: “Daughters without Mothers: Long Term Depression and Survivor’s Guilt in Adolescent Girls and Young Women” ERIC Abstracts Online

Name Score* Calc Base** Rank**Score
Telepathic Sending 68 (PCN+PER)/2 45 M 95
Telepathic Empathy 68 (PCN+PER)/2 45 T 75
Sphere of Protection 61 (PCN+LUCK)/2 36 T 66

* Indicates a 1st Edition Rule.
** Indicates a 2nd Edition Rule.

Notes:  I advanced the characters to 2005 and have Willow and Tara graduated. Education level was a big deal in Chill; I am thinking this is because it was a big deal in Call of Cthulhu, so I detailed that here.  This is right before (game world here folks) Willow created a small company that wrote security programs for industries.  Her stock split many times and she sold off most of it and was retained as executive consultant to Red Witch Software.  This gave her a lot of freedom and a few million dollars.  That though is a detail for another time and game system.

The biggest issue with Chill and witches like Willow and Tara is one of power.  Chill simply does not handle PCs with a lot of power well.  Chill was designed as "normal people fighting the monsters" game, a role that is serves well.  Call of Cthulhu has the same issues, but again at least in Chill the PCs are expected to make a difference.  Willow and Tara are beyond what most humans can do.  Chill is great for "Supernatural" or even some episodes of "The X Files", but not the likes of "Charmed" or "Willow & Tara: The Series".

What I did do during "Season of the Witch" was have a flashbacks with Tara's parents, Robert and Megan, and they were perfect for Chill since it was the late 70's and the power levels are much less than they are today.  Like Harry Dresden said in "Storm Front" the world is getting weirder and darker all the time.  This is something I have used in my games quite a bit.

Chill was great to look back on, but it is not s substitute for a more modern game for me.  If I ever run another 70s-80s flashback game though I will pull it out.

Another note.  While the stats above reflect the girls in or around 2004, the Chill timeline above is 2005.  So there is one crucial element missing from Tara's stats.  In 2005 she gave birth to a baby girl.  That is also for another day and system.