Showing posts with label WotWQ. Show all posts
Showing posts with label WotWQ. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

Mail Call: More Mayhem from Dark Wizard Games

 Nice little surprise in the mail today.  Two new adventures from Mark Taormino's Maximum Mayhem adventures from Dark Wizard Games.

Adventures from Dark Wizards Games

Again there are 5e versions (for my kids) and classic OSR versions for me.

The OSR maps are in classic blue and the 5e are in full color.

Seven Golden Demons

Slime Pits of the Sewer Witch

Legend of the Seven Golden Demons is his highest-level adventure to date at levels 14-18.  This will stretch my ability to use these for OSE-Advanced, but I am sure I can do it.

Maximum Mayhem Adventures

Slime Pits of the Sewer Witch is a low-level mini-adventure that honestly looks like a lot of fun. Normally I would put this one in with the others in my Maximum Mayhem box to run as a gonzo campaign. But my box is getting full, and I can add it to my War of the Witch Queens adventures instead. 

War of the Witch Queens

 Right now I have WAY too many adventures to run, so I should maybe be more selective on what I get.

Friday, April 19, 2024

#AtoZChallenge2024: Q is for Queens

 I have an inordinate amount of Queens in my games. I am going to talk about two groups in particular, the Vampire Queens and the Witch Queens.

Tea with the Witch Queens by Brian Brinlee
Tea with the Witch Queens by Brian Brinlee

Both groups are near and dear to my heart and make up a lot of my game worlds' backgrounds.

The Vampire Queens

The vampire queens have a special connection to my early days of gaming. They are:

I have been using vampire queens in my adventures for as long as I can remember. I recall reading lurid tales of Erzsébet Báthory and watching movies like "Daughters of Darkness" and "Countess Dracula." I had worked on a very early vampire queen, who was going to be called "Miriam" thanks to "The Hunger" for my Ravenloft games (see tomorrow), but I kept coming up with so many ideas. Miriam is still out there, even if many of her aspects are now part of Darlessa. The non-vampire parts of Miriam survived as my Witch Queen Miriam

In truth I kind of use them all interchangeably, with some emphasis on Darlessa. As they have all evolved in my games, I am slowly sifting out which traits belong to which queen. 

Interestingly enough, both Darlessa and Xaltana are also both Witch Queens. Xaltana combines Iggwilv (a witch queen) and Drelzna her vampire daughter.  

The Witch Queens

While the Vampire Queens are here to challenge the characters as adversaries, the Witch Queens play a much different and far more wide-reaching role. 

This began as an idea of me finding and then stating up every witch ever mentioned in the pages of a D&D or related game. The premise here was that every 13 years the witches of these worlds would meet in one place to discuss what they are up to in their worlds and plan to generally stay out of each other's way. The gathering, known as the Tredecim, became a big part of my games. At the Tredecim, the 13 ruling witches then choose a new High Witch Queen to serve over the next 13 years.  In my campaign, War of the Witch Queens, the then-current High Witch Queen is murdered before a new one can be chosen. This sends the witches into war against each other, but due to their pacts with Baba Yaga, they can't outright fight each other. So, all their worlds get dragged into the conflict.  This includes the characters.

The characters learn first that a once-in-a-century storm has destroyed their home, and they are refugees helping move their fellow town folk to a new home in East Haven. While their first obvious goal is to stop all the weird happenings going on in their own world, they discover these events are playing out across the worlds. To stop it, they need to stop the all-powerful Witch Queens, but to do that, they will need to discover who murdered the High Queen, how, and why.

Since I started working on this and developing it more and more, I have gone over 13 Witch Queens and my planned 13 Adventures. I am using Basic B/X D&D as my rules of choice here, which limits the levels characters can achieve to 14. 

I am running it with my family now, but I'd also like to run it for a dedicated group someday.  I think for that I would take all the adventures I am using for it and edit them all a bit. 

If I keep the levels 1-14 then the obvious choice is D&D Basic B/X.  If I expand it all to level 20 then my choice will be Castles & Crusades.

Either way, I have a lot to look forward to!

Tomorrow is R Day, and I am going with the campaign setting I ran for all of the AD&D 2nd Edition era, Ravenloft.

OH? Like the art of my Witch Queens up there? The artist is Brian Brinlee and he has a Kickstarter of his new art book going on now! Check it out.

The A to Z of Dungeons & Dragons: Celebrating 50 years of D&D.


Tuesday, April 9, 2024

Mail Call: Black Magic Ritual Kit (1974)

 Well, I finally picked up another "Holy Grail" item. It makes me glad I didn't spend a lot at Gary Con.

This is the "companion" game (I am not sure that is what this really is) to the Witchcraft Ritual Kit (1974) I talked about back in 2020. Both are from Avalon Hill.

Black Magic Ritual Kit (1974)

Let me just start off with this. Man, the '70s were weird. 

This "game" has a board that looks like an altar set up from an occult bookstore's own manual of rituals. There are a lot of pieces here with various names of demons and angels on it. There is a "Rule book" and a "Manual of Interpretation," just like the Witchcraft Ritual Kit. It is also written by the same "Dr. Brooke Hayward Jennings," whom I still have found nothing of.

Manuals of Interpretation for Black Magic and Witchcraft

What I said about the Witchcraft Kit holds true here, too. It's 1974. The biggest movie in the world right now is "The Exorcist." Time Magazine is talking about the Occult Revival and the Return of Satan. An maybe, just maybe, Avalon Hill knows about a game featuring fantasy magic and wizards coming up. Well, they do know about it; they rejected it just a bit back.  Hippies have not yet become the Yuppies and they are searching for "alternative experiences."  What is a game company known for its war games and battle simulations to do?

Knock together some vaguely occult-looking games, put them into their standard "bookcase games" box, and slap some softcore porny covers on them. Next step...profit! 

Maybe. I don't think these games ever sold very well. There are so few of them on the aftermarket and the ones I do find are really expensive. I got this one from eBay from someone who I don't think knew what they had (based on their other sales), but I was bidding against someone who did know. Thankfully, the amount I set aside for this was much less than my final bid.

I got it just over the weekend.

What treasures are to be found here?

Black Magic Ritual Kit
I love it for the cover alone!

Black Magic Ritual Kit box contents

Black Magic Ritual Kit box contents

Black Magic Ritual Kit box contents

Black Magic Ritual Kit box contents

Black Magic Ritual Kit box contents

Black Magic Ritual Kit box contents

Black Magic Ritual Kit box contents

AND, as a special bonus (and one of the main reasons I like buying these used games), someone included their own spell!

Black Magic Ritual Kit box contents New Spell!

It has the same production values as the Witchcraft Ritual Kit and the same head-scratching "What do I even do with this?"

Witchcraft and Black Magic kits
"Hey babe, come back to my pad, and I'll show you some magic."

Witchcraft and Black Magic kits

You've got to love the covers, though. It makes me wonder what Avalon Hill product 712 was. (ETA doesn't look like there was one.)

According to BoardGameGeek, quoting the company history, "Top management decided to leave the realm of games and produce a couple of do-it-yourself kits entitled BLACK MAGIC & WITCHCRAFT." These were both advertised for a short while as a "Leisure Time Game." Neither come with, or need, dice (an Avalon Hill staple) and candles and incense are not included.

Both of these "games" are very strange, and I am not sure what events led to their publication, except for the ones I have outlined in speculation above. Neither game appears in the catalog included in the box.

Avalon Hill catalog

Long-time readers know of a condition called "Traveller Envy," where I am constantly looking for board games to supplement my D&D experience, particularly my campaign "War of the Witch Queens." This is certainly why I bought it, but I am still stumped on how to add it. 

I mean, the demons all seem to be taken from The Lesser Key of Solomon, so I have that working in my favor since so many other games do the same thing. 

Honestly, just reading through it all is fun. It also gives me some ideas for my 1976 and 1979 campaigns. Though in different ways.

In any case, it is a wonderful curiosity from the 1970s Occult Revival and is sure to confuse anyone who tries to clean out my collection after I am gone!

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Character Creation Challenge: Aradia for Wasted Lands

 All month long, I have been giving you D&D characters of various editions I have converted over to the O.G.R.E.S.-powered Wasted Lands. Today, I am really putting my money where my mouth is and creating a new Witch Queen character native to the Wasted Lands' Dreaming Age. 

So I have presented several Witch Queens for my War of the Witch Queens campaign. The conceit is that every D&D-like world has a Witch Queen. I have presented several here and even converted a couple to Wasted Lands. But today's Queen began in the Wasted Lands and rose to power here. Will she be remembered later on? Obtain some level of divinity? Likely. The Witch Queen I am giving you today is Aradia, Queen of the Witches.

Aradia, Queen of Witches

Aradia is an interesting figure. "Aradia, or the Gospel of the Witches," was a book by American folklorist Charles Godfrey Leland. It makes the claim that Aradia was a historical figure from pagan Tuscany.  It is a similar idea that Margaret Murray's "The Witch-cult in Western Europe" would later adapt and adopt.

As fun as these ideas are, they don't hold up to the most basic academic scrutiny. Still, I like using them in my games, especially NIGHT SHIFT.  

Aradia is also great for Wasted Lands. 

Aradia, Queen of Witches

Aradia is described as the Daughter of the Roman Diana, who has many differences from her Greek counterpart, Artemis. Her father is Lucifer, who is described as a "Sun God" and is either Diana's son or brother. She seduces him and gives birth to their daughter, Aradia. In Leland's book, it is Diana, who is the Queen of Witches, and Aradia, who is akin to a witch Messiah. 

If we return to the Wasted Lands, Diana can be a Warrior/Sorceress from Minoa, and Lucifer would be a Warrior from Ashurii. Aradia learned her magic from mystics in Athenea and learned masters from Atlantis and Mu. She learned folk magic and the secret languages of plants and trees. She has traveled the world, learning magical practices. Her purpose is/was to spread beneficial magic, un-tainted by the Old Ones, to humanity. 

Aradia, then in the Wasted Lands, is the source of Witchcraft. 

Aradia, Queen of Witches
Aradia, Queen of Witches

Class: Sorceress (Witch)
Level: 20
Species: Human
Alignment: Twilight Good
Background: Sorcerous

Abilities
Strength: 10 (+0) 
Agility: 13 (+1) 
Toughness: 14 (+1) 
Intelligence: 17 (+2) N
Wits: 18 (+3) N 
Persona: 20 (+4) A

Fate Points: 1d12
Defense Value: 4
Vitality: 114
Degeneracy: 0
Corruption: 0

Check Bonus (A/N/D): +8/+3/+2
Melee Bonus: +2 (base) 
Ranged Bonus: +2 (base)
Spell Attack: +5
Saves: +7 to Spells and Magical effects (Sorcerer), +2 to Wits saves (Sorcerous Background)

Sorcerous Background
Enhanced Sorcery +10%, Mystical Senses, Bonus Arcane Power: Precognition

Sorceress Abilities
Arcana, Arcane Powers (7): Empathy, Enhanced Senses, Beguile, Detect Thoughts, Teleknesis, Telepathic Transmission, Astral Projection

Sorceress Spells
First Level: Armor of Earth, Bless, Command, Glamour, Predict Weather, Sleep
Second Level: Animal Summoning, Conjure Flame, Invisibility, Lesser Renewal, Subtle Influence
Third Level: Clairvoyance, Cure Disease, Curse, Fly, Speaking Corpse
Fourth Level: Befuddlement, Conjure Fire, Plant Speech, Metamorphosis, Plant Speech
Fifth Level: Banishment, Cornucopia, Restore Life, Shadow Armor
Sixth Level: Dispel Evil, Evoke Weather, Invisible Servant, Reincarnation
Seventh Level: Ball of Sunshine, Call the Restless Soul, Wave of Mutilation, Widdershins Dance
Eighth Level: Mind Shield, Prophesy, Wail of the Banshee
Ninth Level: Breath of the Goddess, Feedback Barrier, Sleeping Village

Heroic/Divine Touchstones 
1st Level: Plus 10% to Spell Casting
2nd Level: Additional Spell: Damage Undead
3rd Level: Familiar: Raven
4th Level: Magical Recovery
5th Level: Grant Spellcasting
6th Level: Immunity to Spells/Magic
7th Level: Cult
*7th Level: Cease to Age
8th Level: Bestow Blessing
9th Level: Heal Corruption

Heroic (Divine) Archetype: Magic

Gear
Staff, Dagger

Aradia in the Wasted Lands

This is the start of Aradia she was the first mortal witch, and her actions are the beginnings of witchcraft in the world. She will be remembered after the Dreaming Age end, and the Age of Humans begin. Later, scholars will claim to know of her, but those memories are something deeper and much older.

Aradia in NIGHT SHIFT

This is the Aradia that Leland wrote about and the one Murry wished was true. She is still a force in the modern world, especially when it comes to witches, whom she sees as her progeny. 

Aradia in Thirteen Parsecs

Will Aradia make it beyond the Earth and out into the Solar Frontier? Who is to say, but the Sisters of the Aquarian Order would argue that she is still a force to be reckoned with in their lives.

Aradia in Dungeons & Dragons

In my OSR/BX/D&D games she would be a Classical Witch, but she would also be a Witch Queen Patron to various Warlocks. 

You can get the Wasted Lands RPG and the NIGHT SHIFT RPG at Elf Lair Games. Thirteen Parsecs is coming soon.

Character Creation Challenge

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Character Creation Challenge: Kersy the Sea Witch for Wasted Lands

 Both the Wasted Lands and the "I" of D&D BECMI offer paths to godhood and/or immortality.  While the Immortal rules have some, well, issues they are still a fascinating glimpse into one possible end game for D&D characters.

The path to immortality is better defined in the pages of the Wasted Lands, but no less complicated for the character (the player has an easier time understanding). Indeed, there are very, very few characters that can make it to immortality. One of my own immortal characters, Johan I, got his forever-ever-after as a Saint. 

But I do have another immortal character, one that "went through the hoops" in BECMI to get there. Granted, not a Player Character but rather an NPC.  The Witch Kersy.

Kersy's character sheets

When my characters meet Kersy for the first (and likely last) time she is already an Immortal. She is from the adventure, M1 Into the Maelstrom, so I guess that makes her Bruce Heard's character, but even he admits she is just a thinly veiled version of Circe. That's where I come in. 

Kersy's Background

In the module, we are introduced to a nascent Immortal, Kersy.  She is using her human guise as a 30th-level magic User, and she is the ruler of the Island of Turkeys.  If you think she sounds a lot like Circe and her Island of Pigs, then you are correct.  But.  Doing some deeper research into Kersy gives me a stranger tale.   Over at the Vaults of Pandius, they have expanded on her background a bit more. 

She is described as the distillation of the would-be immortal Koryis's own unwanted thoughts, urges, and feelings.  

Koryis is the Immortal Patron of Peace.  While on his epic quest, he sought to purge himself of evil in impure thoughts. He was successful, and that "impurity" manifested itself as Kersy.

At least, that is what his mythology says. 

We learn from M1 that she is a "beautiful maiden" and a "30th level magic-user." But other details are scant. From the Vaults of Pandius, we learn that she is beautiful with long raven-black hair and amber-colored eyes.  She is the Patroness of Witchcraft and Charms.  Certainly, she is more than just some cast of skin of evil.

She is also described as having "milky-white skin" (boring!), but I have been looking for an excuse to use Vanessa Williams as a witch since 1997. 

Back in 2020 I got her stated up as a 31st level Witch, just on the cusp of her own immortality.

Today I am going to try her out as a starting witch with Immortality very, very far away. Now, in canon Kersy likely started out "life" as a 31st level witch or whatever it was that Koryis was. But here I recast her as a lower level witch and working her way back up to power. She has no idea who or what she is save she is drawn to the sea and to Koryis, whom she both hates and loves. 

Once again, I can only see a young Vanessa Williams as Kersy. Halle Bailey (from the live-action Little Mermaid) would also be great.

Kersey, the Sea Witch
Kersy, the Sea Witch

Class: Sorceress (Witch)
Level: 14
Species: Human
Alignment: Twilight
Background: Sorcerous

Abilities
Strength: 12 (+0) 
Agility: 16 (+2) 
Toughness: 14 (+1) 
Intelligence: 18 (+3) N
Wits: 17 (+2) N
Persona: 18 (+3) A

Fate Points: 1d10
Defense Value: 1
Vitality: 60
Degeneracy: 1
Corruption: 1

Check Bonus (A/N/D): +6/+4/+2
Melee Bonus: +2 (base) 
Ranged Bonus: +2 (base)
Spell Attack: +7
Saves: +7 (+8) to Spells and Magical effects (Sorcerer), +1 to all saves

Sorcerers Abilities
Arcana, Arcane Powers (5): Beguile, Detect Thoughts, Enhanced Senses, Pre-Cognition, Subtle Influence

Sorceress Spells
First Level: Arcane Darts, Beast Speech, Command, Predict Weather, Sleep
Second Level: Beguile Person, ESP, Invoke Fear, Paralyze Person
Third Level: Breathe Water, Cure Disease, Curse, Dispel Magic
Fourth Level: Befuddlement, Control Temperature, Illusory Landscape, Metamorphose Other
Fifth Level: Comand Winds, Dominate Other, Summon Elemental
Sixth Level: Evoke Weather, Invisible Servant, Part the Seas
Seventh Level: Mass Metamorphosis, Widdershins Dance

Heroic/Divine Touchstones 
1st Level: 1st Level Spell: Glamour
2nd Level: Control Water, Minor
3rd Level: Mode of Movement: Water Walk
4th Level: Magical Recovery
5th Level: +1 to all checks, attacks, and saves
6th Level: Immunity to Spell damage
7th Level: Increased Glamour

Heroic (Divine) Archetype: Magic, Witchcraft

Gear
Wand, Bracers of Defence

Wasted Lands as D&D BECMI

If I were to ever run a pure BECMI game again, I would use Wasted Lands as part of it. Much like Hyperborea yesterday, BECMI and Wasted Lands feel right together.

Kersy, here in this version, makes for a great Sea Witch and growing in her power on her track to immortality. For these reasons I gave her a Heroic/Divine touchstone every other level. 

You can get the Wasted Lands RPG and the NIGHT SHIFT RPG at Elf Lair Games.

Character Creation Challenge

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Review: The Last Sabbath RPG

The Last Sabbath RPG
 It's Halloween, and of course, I am always looking to add more spooky games to my collection. If they are witch-themed, then all the better.  Today, I am reviewing the Last Sabbath RPG.  I featured the Kickstarter last year and received my books this past summer.  It is a gorgeous piece of work, but is it a good RPG? Let's find out.

Last Sabbath RPG

Design by Atropo Kelevra and Valentino Sergi. Art and illustrations by Loputyn (Jessica Cioffi). The game was based on Loputyn's artistic vision. Paperback, saddle stitched book. Black & white (with red foil covers). 48 pages.

This is the English translation of the original Italian RPG. 

Last Sabbath is a Masterless, Journalling RPG for 1 to 7 players. Masterless in that no one player is the game master and journalling since the players will write down what their characters (all witches) will do in each scene.

Now, I am not overly familiar with playing Journalling RPGs, but I know what they are in concept. 

In this game, the players all play new witches who have gathered together in a Coven. Why? Well, that is what everyone will find out together. I say up yo seven people since that seems to work well with the structure of the game, but 4 might be more wieldy. It can also be done as a solo RPG experience.

The game offers many aids to move the players (and the characters) along. If this is the Coven's first time playing or this is a solo effort, then the authors suggest using the Scene Prompts instead of the divination techniques. That is a good idea, but the divination techniques add a bit of randomness to the game that I quite like.  So, at this point, what is required of the players are these rules, notebooks to journal in, a d6, and maybe some divination tools. More on those later. While a fancy journal would be a nice touch here, a regular notebook is also good. Since you will be sacrificing memories here as part of game play it is somewhat cathartic to write them down and then tear out the page.

The game setting is whatever you want it to be. That and the nature of the witches involved are entirely up to the players. 

Safety tools are recommended because this game encourages you to push the boundaries. It is all part of the idea that magic is both a gift and a curse. Bad things are going to happen to your character. 

Last Sabbath RPG

Game Play

The game is divided into Seven Scenes. The Call, Initiation, Danger, Investigation, Revelation, Threat, and Epilogue.  Each scene is then divided into 3, 5, or 7 turns (players' choice). When all players have done their Turn, you move on to the next one.

At the end of every scene, one of the Records (what the player wrote down) becomes a Memory. Memories can be sacrificed for Power to fuel their magic. But removing the wrong memory can cause a witch to forget why she is part of the coven. 

Turns are covered with some examples of a 3-round game plane for a Scene. 

Guidelines for play follow. Witches can ask one question of a fellow witch once per turn or answer a question on their turn. If a Power is used, then the affected witch must respond to that power on their turn. 

Power

Without magic, the characters are just people sitting in a circle. And while that would be a fine game, not one I would review here. Power is what makes witches witches.  Power comes in the forms of a Charm, Spell, or an Incantation, each with great effects and greater costs. Some incantations, for example, can cost the witch her life. So yeah, power comes at a cost. Some examples of powers are given, including origin and types. But the details are left to the players to figure out. 

Divination 

This just gives us a brief idea on how they are to be used. Details are given later with the various types of divination tools.

The Scenes

Half-way through the book we reach the Scenes, or how the game progresses. Anything can happen in a scene including the death of a witch. Players should not worry about that since they can introduce a new witch in the next scene.   Each scene is given some guidelines in the form of leading questions and some prompts. For example, for Scene 1: The Call, one of the prompts is "A call for help is heard in your mind" (paraphrasing). Witches can choose or they can roll a d6. 

All the scenes are handled in similar fashions, with Scene 7: Epilogue as the adventure conclusion. 

Divination Tools

This section covers various divination tools which are broken down by tool with examples for each scene. These include Tarot, Rune stones, Mikado, and Tea Leaves.

Tarot is likely going to be the goto, but there is a certain charm to the Tea Leaves, especially if you have plenty of tea on hand while playing.

Last Sabbath - Grimoire

by Atropo Kelevra and Valentino Sergi. Black & white art with red. 36 pages.

This is a Kickstarter add on for the Last Sabbath RPG. It has additional thematic prompts for the LAst Sabbath RPG. At first I was curious why it was not added to main RPG. But reading through I see why, the prompts are great but should be used sparingly since they could force the game into a direction not set by the players. They are perfect when the players might want some advice on what to do nest, or even for a second play through.

The art of this book is not from Loputyn, though it is good in its own right.

Last Sabbath RPG

Thoughts on this Game

My experience with games like this are a little limited. But this looks like fun and would work great in the hands of the right group. I see this as a good way to spend a rainy afternoon with some like mind friends over pots of hot tea. Save the Dr. Pepper and Doritos for D&D night. This is for orange zest scones and black tea. 

If you are the type that wants really crunchy rules, then I would say this not the game for you. But I recommend you at least check out something like it. 

Thoughts on the Art

The art is striking, evocative and perfect for the feel of this game. This is expected since the game grew out of the artistic vision of Loputyn (Jessica Cioffi). The art might be considered risqué to American audiences, but for European ones, I am sure this is just slightly above comic book fare. 

Art of Last Sabbath

Use as a Session 0

Back when I first talked about this game, I mentioned it as a possible Session 0 for my War of the Witch Queens. I am more convinced about that than ever. 

In fact, I can see this game being interspersed with War of the Witch Queens adventures. Since the overall arc of that campaign is to discover who murdered the High Queen of Witches. 

Tea with the Witch Queens by Brian Brinlee
Tea with the Witch Queens by Brian Brinlee

I have some major NPCs (all posted with stats) that enter into the tale/campaign. For my play test of this I took them and put them all through a couple of scenes of this game to figure out what their motivations will be. It was quite fun, to be honest.

I can also see it working as a Session 0 for a NIGHT SHIFT game consisting mostly of witches. 

While I have the Smith-Waite Tarot deck pictured above, the perfect deck for this will be released next month: the Loputyn Oracle. It is published by Llewellyn Publications, pretty much THE publisher for all things mystical and witchy. Though it only has 32 cards, it should be fine for this game to be sure.

There is a lot of things I can use this game for, and I am looking forward to trying them all.  Now. time to put the kettle on.

Links

Where to buy

Creative Team

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Alcastra and The Illhiedrin Book

Alcastra the Fairspoken
I have not been talking much about the various Judges Guild books in a while because of how racist current stewards Bob Bledsaw II and III have been. Really put a sad blemish on what I had always enjoyed as a "local" company.

But that also, unfortunately, did Bob Bledsaw the First and all the other fine authors (like Daniel Hauffe and Jennell Jaquays) a huge disservice.  So I want to revisit some of the Judges Guild books of my youth and see how they could play into my current games. In particular, my War of the Witch Queens or my 1979 Campaign.

Since I always look for witches, I will start with Alcastra and The Illhiedrin Book. 

I don't have the cover as the top image. The reason is simple, when this post gets shared on social media, whatever image is first is used as a thumbnail, and the cover was suggestive by 1981 standards and likely to get me into Facebook jail by 2023 standards.  Shame, really. It is one of the more recognizable covers. 

The adventure is a rare example of an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons adventure from Judges Guild (not just a Dungeons & Dragons one) and a low-level adventure at that.

Like many older adventures, much detail is given to Alcastra's tower and its occupants, but only a little on the spell-caster herself.  In fact, this is all we really know about her:

Alcastra the Fairspoken

This is a pity.  Though it is interesting (to me anyway) that her class is "Wizard" and not "Magic-user," as expected. 

The Illhiedrin Book
Why is she naked on the cover? I am going with it is hot where she is at.

Of course, I would instead use her as a witch. Given her general appearance, I am tempted to make her into an Egyptian witch of the Classical Tradition. For this, I will use my syncretized Greco-Egyptian Gods and use my Classical Witch Tradition book. I would swap out some of the Classical Witch spells for some others, likely from my Witch book for Basic-era games though I should also look into some of my other books.

Alcastra the Fairspoken
Alcastra the Fairspoken
13th level human Witch, Classical Tradition (Greco-Egyptian)

Strength: 11
Dexterity: 13
Constitution: 10
Intelligence: 15
Wisdom: 14
Charisma: 18

Saves
Breath Attacks: 12
Poison or Death: 9
Petrify or Paralysis: 9
Wands: 10
Spells and Spell-like device: 11

Hit Points: 33
Alignment: Chaotic Good
AC: 3 (Bracers of defense)
To hit AC 0: 16

Occult Powers
Familiar: Hawk (+1 to Wisdom and Dexterity checks)
Lesser: Gift of Prophecy
Minor: Drawing Down the Moon

Spells
First: Cause Fear, Charm Person, Read Languages, Sleep
Second:  ESP, Hold Person, Invisibility, Spell Missile
Third: Dispel Magic, Scry, Spark of Insight
Fourth: Fate, Polymorph Other, Witch Power
Fifth: Flame Strike, Teleport
Sixth: Anit-Magic Shell, Bones of the Earth
Seventh: Sirocco

Equipment
Bracers of Defence
Dagger +2
Staff of Ra. Acts as a Staff of Striking and can cast the following spells:
  3/day: Color Spray, Light
  1/day: Flame Strike, Fury of the Sun, Sun Blessing

--

Witches

A good build to be honest. She also has two apprentices, Mirranscheim (human) and Rhall (half-elf), both 3rd level.  The only stats we get for them are their Charisma scores. I am tempted to make Rhall a desert elf. Just to give her a more interesting background. But in my game, desert elves don't have anything to do with humans if they can avoid them. Rhall could be an outcast. 

I might detail them since they could accompany the party on this adventure.  To make sure their mistress' plan is carried out.  Not sure if they run around naked as well. Let's say no.

MirranscheimRhall
Mirranscheim and Rhall

The adventure itself is pretty basic. It could be built up by making "The Creature" a bit tougher.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

The Witch Queens of the Basic Bestiary

 On Monday, I mentioned some plans for Basic Bestiary, namely to include many of my various Witch Queens with stat blocks.  I wanted to talk about it today.

As my Basic Bestiary project has grown (and grown, and grown) it has also morphed. I originally planned this to be a collection of monsters from my various witch books and monsters from my notes that never had a proper home. Later it morphed as a nod to not just the Monster Manual, the book that got me into D&D, and two of my favorite books the Fiend Folio and Deities & Demigods. What I liked about both was the variety of creatures and beings they included.

Tea with the Witch Queens by Brian Brinlee
Tea with the Witch Queens by Brian Brinlee

While I have a lot of Witch Queens, I can only include some of them. Many belong to other people and IPs. Great for a game here in my home, bad for a publication. Others would not work for the scope and design for Basic Bestiary.  

The idea started when I was trying to figure out what to do with Baba Yaga. Was she Faerie Lord? Some sort of Outsider? Something else? No. She was a Witch Queen, and in my worlds, that is something special.

Here are the ones I am thinking about so far. Linking to stats when I have them, but all will need to tweak all of them at some level.

I would like to include Ceridwen, Louhi, Lilith, and Sycorax. While I am at it, I would like to also include others like Bloody Mary, Grimhild, Mother Carey, Prättäkitti, and Sebile.

Others I have good substitutes for. For example, much of what I have been doing with Kersy of Mystara is close enough to the witch Urganda to work as a stand-in, much like Vasilisa works for Elena the Fair.

So far, my plan is to put them all in an appendix at the end of the book. They are not really monsters, even if myth and history have portrayed them as such.  I also don't think a major heading like Witch Queens (like how many books do with Demons or Devils or Elementals) will work because other than being witches and immortal, they are not allied and don't have a lot of powers in common.  Still, I might change my mind about that. 

Something fun to look forward to.

I also have to get art for all of them too. And...there is still the question of the cover art for all four books.

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

The Witch Babylon: Daughter of Eros, Mother of Harlots

So back at the end of September, I guess we had, and missed, another end of the world. Yup. I was reading that September 25, 2022, was supposed to be the Rapture. There were a bunch of videos on TikTok and YouTube that frankly I can't be bothered to link to it. Suffice it to say nothing happened.

But it does give me the excuse to post this picture from Spire Christian Comics

The GREAT SNATCH!!!

I know. I am a juvenile. 

BUT. In the process of looking for that image, I found this one from the same comic.

Babylon Mother of Harlots

Black magic? Witchcraft? Demon contact? Sorcery?

Someone has been reading my letters to Santa again! 

And she is such a groovy cool looking 70s witch too.  I learned that the artist, Al Hartley, had done "Betty and Veronica" comics and some softcore comics prior to being born again. 

This is supposed to be the Whore of Babylon, a character from Revelations. I get that she is supposed to be largely symbolic and not a real person, but sometimes it reads like she is. 

From Revelations Chapter 17.

  1. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:
  2. And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
  3. And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.

I don't pretend to know what all this is supposed to mean. But the imagery is fascinating like most of what is happening in Revelations. 

Of course, I am going to use her as a witch. Come on? 70s occult propaganda? That's my Appendix N!

Who is Babylon?

That art above is plenty to get me going. Given her role in Revelations, I am going to have to say she is a Witch Queen naturally.  But what kind? In my mind, each Witch Queen is head of a large coven and/or Tradition. She is not a Mara Witch, I have plenty of those. Nor is she a Pagan. And she is most certainly NOT a Pumpkin Spice Witch! No, she has a calling and it is not any of these. It could be close to the Classical Witch, but still not exactly right. No I think she is the Queen of a completely different tradition.

Daughters of Eros

Her tradition is something I have been mulling over for a couple of years now. In my recent reviews of the Love WitchThe Pantheon and Pagan Faiths, Sisters of RaptureJeremy Reaban's Beguiler and Enchanter, I have some more ideas of what a new tradition, The Daughters of Eros, could be.

Note I have nothing I am going to publish in a book yet OR even if there is any need/desire/want for such a book. 

Babylon, Mother of Harlots

Babylon
23rd Level Witch, Daughters of Eros Tradition 

Strength: 11 (0) Saving Throws (base)
Dexterity: 16 (+2) Death Ray, Poison 5
Constitution: 13 (+1) Magic Wands 6
Intelligence: 14 (+1) Paralysis, Polymorph or Turn to Stone 5
Wisdom: 17 (+2) Dragon Breath 5
Charisma: 19 (+3) Rods, Staffs, Spells 7


Hit Points: 55 (10d4+13)+10
Alignment: Chaotic (evil)
AC: 1 (Ring of Protection, Garter of Defence)
THAC0: 12

Occult Powers (Daughter of Eros Tradition)
Familiar: Familiar spirit (comes in the shape of a cupid cherub or an incubus)
7th level: 
13th level: Devil's Tongue
19th level: Curse

Spells
Cantrips (6): Analyze Fertility, Clean, Daze, Message, Object Reading, Warm
First (7+3): Bewitch I, Block the Seed, Burning Hands, Charm Person, Command, Drowsy, Increase Sex Appeal, Sleep, Soothe, Twisting the Heartstrings I
Second (6+2): Alter Self,  Bewitch II, Ecstasy, Enthrall, Fever, Hold Person, Rose Garden, Twisting the Heartstrings II
Third (6+2): Astral Sense, Bestow Curse, Betwitch III, Continual Fire, Fly, Mind Rash, Tongues, Witch Wail
Fourth (5+2): Bewitch IV, Elemental Armor, Emotion, Moonlit Way, Neutralize Poison, Spiritual Dagger, Drawing Down the Moon (Ritual)
Fifth (5): Anti-Magic Candle, Bewitch V, Bull of Heaven, Dream, Song of Discord
Sixth (4): Bewitch VI, Heroes' Feast, Mass Suggestion, Wall of Roses
Seventh (4):  Bewitch VII, Breath of the Goddess, Peace Aura, Serpent Garden
Eighth (4): Astral Projection, Bewitch VIII, Greater Mislead, Mind Blank

--

The Witch Babylon
Named for the city she was born in (Βαβυλών), Babylon is a near-immortal witch. Some say she is the daughter of Lilith, some say she is the bastard child conceived when the demon Astaroth forced himself onto his mother Astarte, but the majority claim she is the youngest child of Eros and Psyche.  She is beautiful like her mother, grandmother (Venus), and older sister, Hedone* (also known as Volupta) but was jealous of all three. 

(*Followers of Hedone are known as Hedonists and are also part of the Daughters of Eros Tradition. Though they tend to be more good and neutral in alignment.)

Whatever her origin she is the patroness of whores and debauched witchcraft. She has allied herself with the forces of evil and will stand as their herald of the end times.  She also represents the corrupting nature of civilization.

Babylon is the quintessential "lover, not a fighter" though she also has no problem charming, compelling, or wiping someone's mind to be her lover. She has an entire cadre of former adventurers that had been on a quest to kill her that are now her mindless slaves.

She shares many attributes with Nocticula and the two try to avoid each other when possible. There is an ongoing rivalry between the two. If Babylon hears that Nocticula is having a Midsummer's Eve party with 1,000 guests, then she will try to increase her own party to 1,100 or more.

She will act as a witch priestess, but to what Patron she will not divulge. All witches are welcome in her court.

Babylon in War of the Witch Queens

Babylon is not likely to change what she is doing during the War of the Witch Queens. Indeed she will remark on how neutral she is and will try to avoid the whole thing. In truth, she is trying to figure out who has done the deed and will figure out if she needs to ally with them or betray them. 

The 1979 Campaign

Come on! You know she needs to be in this! She is too groovy not to be.

Babylon in NIGHT SHIFT

As a nearly immortal witch, Babylon will still be active in the worlds of NIGHT SHIFT. Now she would be living in LA, New York, Paris, or some other large metropolitan city.  She will be involved in all sort of illicit dealings but most especially drugs and human trafficking. On the surface, she runs an "Adult Entertainment Empire" called simply enough, Babylon.


RPG Blog Carnival

This is my entry to this month's RPG Blog Carnival hosted by Campaign Mastery.

This month's theme is "Art-spiration." This is my entry for the Al Hartley art of Babylon above.  I am likely to have more since this is such a fun topic.

RPG Blog Carnival

Thursday, October 27, 2022

The Simbul, Witch Queen of Aglarond

The Simbul, Witch Queen of Aglarond
The Simbul, Witch Queen of Aglarond
I have been asked in the past why I have not stated up one of the greatest spellcasters in D&D lore before and the answer I have always given is this, I wanted to do it right.

That is partially true. The other part is that a character like The Simbul, Alassra Shentrantra Silverhand, Witch Queen of Aglarond has to be done with care and reverence.  Doing my review of The Seven Sisters has only raised this sense in me.  While at the same time filling me with excitement over the prospect of doing it.

I have known since the beginning of my War of the Witch Queens that The Simbul would be involved, and even for a brief time, I considered her to be the Witch Queen that was murdered to set this whole thing in motion. But in truth, I could not do that, even if this is my multiverse's Alassra I just couldn't. The love Ed Greenwood has for this character shines so brightly through every word he commits to paper about her that I just couldn't.  He loves her and made me love her as well.

So she will meet some other fate. In DR 1479 it is said she dies to save Elminster (cough*refrigerators*cough) BUT my Realms game is taking place in DR 1387 or so (using the 3rd ed book as my base which starts in 1372). So she is not dead and may not die.

Also in my Realms. She is a proper witch.

Putting the Witch back into Witch Queen

I always knew I was going to be. But it was Ed's own note in the Seven Sisters that gave me "permission:"

The entries on each Sister detail powerful characters that can easily be renamed and fiddled with for use in other campaigns, and that provide most importantly character motivations and aims for such NPCs of might.

                                                                                                      - The Seven Sisters, page 4

Going back to the 3rd Edition Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide renewed my interest in the Realms and gave me some other insight.

But the final bit of information was reading through Ed's own writings in the pages of Dragon Magazine. In many cases, he clearly is using the word "witch" and meaning it to be the Witch NPC class from Dragon, in particular the one for issue #114.  This gives me all the cover I need really.

Ok. So. Let's say the Simbul is an actual witch, not a mage or wizard. We know (thanks to the Seven Sisters book) she trained with the Witches of Rashemen, so what Tradition would she be? A Rashemen Witch? A Chosen Witch?  I mean Mystra is very much her Patron she owes more of her magic to her involvement than the study of tomes.

I thought that a Chosen of Mystara might be right, but that is more of her birthright than a Trad. Also, there are other Chosen who are not witches. She still has access to wizard spells, so I think she would have to be one in my new High Witchcraft Tradition. This is my homage to a lot of the witches in D&D.

What about her level? Well, in my Basic Witch book the Queen of Witches is Level 36. Does The Simbul go this high? According to her official stats in 2nd ed, she is a Wizard 30 and Fighter 6, and in 3rd ed, she is Sorcerer 20/Archmage 2/Wizard 10.  So 36 and 32 total levels respectively. So yes,  I think 36th level is fine.

The High Witchcraft Tradition

The Simbul is the Witch Queen of the High Witchcraft Tradition.  This is the same tradition that is taught in the Magic School of Glantri, but as a Chosen, she comes on it naturally. Her familiar in this case is her connection to the Weave and the spirits of Magic. So much like a Sorcerer in D&D 3e she comes on her magic naturally, but she also has learned magic.  Witches of the High Witchcraft Tradition are also called The Secret Order and they can learn Arcane/Wizard spells as well. They gain them as other witches gain Ritual magic. 

I have not figured out all of the Occult Powers of this Tradition yet, so this is a work in progress. I am grabbing spells from all my witch books for her, but the base character build is based mostly on The Witch

The Seven Sisters and the Witch


The Simbul, Alassra Shentrantra Silverhand
Witch Queen of Aglarond
The Simbul, Alassra Shentrantra Silverhand Witch Queen of Aglarond
36th level Witch, High Witchcraft Tradition
Human Female, Neutral (Chaotic Neutral)

Strength 14
Intelligence 17
Wisdom 15
Dexterity 18
Constitution 16
Charisma 18

Saving Throws (Base)
Death Ray/Poison 2
Magic Wands 2
Paralysis, Polymorph 2 
Dragon Breath 2
Rods, Staffs, Spells 2

Height: 5' 10"
Hair: Silver 
Eyes: Gray

Hit Points: 87
AC: -2
(Bracers of Protection +3, Cord of Protection +2, Ring of Protection +3, Dex 18 -3)

Base THAC0: 6
(I know, THAC0 was not used in Basic D&D. You know what this means)

Occult Powers*
Lesser: Familiar (Familiar Spirit)
Minor: Witch Vision (see magic, invisible) 
Medial: Drawing Down the Moon
Greater: Witch's Blessing
Major: Craft Permanent Magic
Superior: Longevity/Timeless Body
(*these are not all well-defined yet)

Spells
Cantrips (6): Arcane Mark, Acid Splash, Daze, Mote of Light, Object Reading, Open,
1st (9+2): Analgesia, Bar the Way, Burning Hands, Burning Gaze, Charm Person, Comprehend Languages, Eldritch Fire (Silverfire), Glamour, Mend Minor Wounds, Pace Without Trace
2nd (9+2): Arcane Disruption, Agony, Alter Self, Burning Gaze, Continual Flame, Detect Charm, Dweomerfire, ESP, Evil Eye, Haunting Mists, Mind Obscure, Web 
3rd (9+2): Astral Sense, Bestow Curse, Clairsentience, Control Winds, Danger Sense, Dispel Magic, Expand Senses, Fly, Immunity to Normal Weapons, Lightning Bolt, Protection from Fire
4th (9+1): Analyze Magic, Ball Lightning, Cauldron of Rage, Charm Monster, Divination, Forest of Deception, Masque, Polymorph Others, Polymorph Self, Remove Curse
5th (9): Break Enchantment, Decimate, Enslave, Maelstrom, Nightmare, Private Sanctum, Sending, Telekinesis, Ward of Magic
6th (9): Analyze Dweomer, Animate Shadows, Cackle of the Winter Crone, Cloak of Dreams, Greater Scry, Heroes' Feast, Mass Suggestion, Mislead,  Rain of Fire, 
7th (9): Astral Spell, Breath of the Goddess, Chain Lightning, Greater Teleport, Limited Wish, Regenerate, Spell Turning, Wave of Mutilation, Wind Walk
8th (9): Demand, Eye of the Storm, I Am The Fire, Mass Charm, Permanency, Protection of the Goddess, Storm of Vengeance, Stormbolts, Vanquish

These are only some of the spells she has access to. She has a lot of "named" spells, but I have to find rough analogs in my own books for those. Besides, this should keep her with plenty of arcane firepower. 

While I say that witches of the High Witchcraft Tradition can learn Wizard Spells, the spells above are all witch spells. Some are cross-listed with Wizard, but they can be learned by other witches too. 

Larina seeks advice from The Simbul
Larina seeks advice fromThe Simbul on a magical problem.

Links

Fellow Witch Queens

Forgotten Realms Links