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

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The NPCs of "The Wild Beyond The Witchlight"

Skylla, my ex
While "The Wild Beyond The Witchlight" has a lot going for it the reason, well one of the reasons, I really wanted it was because we were getting some official D&D 5th Edition stats to some classic NPCs, in particular, Skylla and Kelek two "iconic" characters that I am using in my War of the Witch Queens campaign. So I want to look at these old friends and maybe a couple of new ones too.  I'll leave poor old Thaco alone with his pipe and bitterness today.  Plus it is October and Horror month, so I really just want to talk about my favorites, the bad guys.

Who Are These Characters?

Long before the use of the term Iconic Characters to refer to reoccurring D&D characters in publication, there were names like Warduke, Strongheart, Ringlerun, and Kelek.  They appeared in the AD&D toy line from LJN and in other media including coloring books, stickers, adventures, and sometimes even the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon.   It is also one of the reasons why I have to laugh when people today will see a stuffed Owlbear and complain that "WotC is selling out and ruining D&D."  They must have forgotten the Official Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Yoyo or Sunglasses.

Of all of these characters, there were a few standouts who got extra attention.  Ringlerun, the Good Wizard would be the cover boy for the Jeff Easley recover of the AD&D Player's Handook, although many at the time did not see the connection.  Kelek and Warduke would go on to get a guest spot on the D&D cartoon.  Warduke in particular would go on to be a minor celebrity in D&D iconic circles, getting 1st Ed (well...Basic really), 3rd Ed, and now 5th Ed Ed stats.

LJN D&D Toys

We would get all their official D&D Basic and Expert set stats, not AD&D, in the product AC1 The Shady Dragon Inn.  This was sort of a Rogues Gallery for BECMI D&D. You can read my review of it here

What I would like to do here today is compare these characters from the Wild Beyond the Witchlight to their Shady Dragon Inn and Quest for the Heartstone counterparts. 

Bad guys

The League of Malevolence

Heroes are great, but give me a "good" villain any day of the week.  Here are five iconic D&D villains. I will compare them to their D&D Basic versions to see what has changed and what has stayed the same.

Kelek

First up is the leader of the League of Malevolence, our Legion of Doom for D&D.  All these characters are Chaotic Evil which tracks well to their original alignments of Chaotic.  

In Basic D&D Kelek was an "Evil Sorcerer" of course at this time a "Sorcerer" was the level title for a 7th level Magic-user.  In 5e his class has become a Sorcerer.  This actually make a lot of sense and I approve of this change.  His stats are pretty much the same from edition to edition with the exception of his Charisma which goes from 7 to 17.  Charisma is the "prime" stat for sorcerers. Here he is described as a sociopath. That tracks with how I have seen him in the past

Part of this adventure is searching for a lost Unicorn horn. Well that was more or less the plot of the only D&D Cartoon to feature Kelek.  If nothing else I am saying he is still after unicorn horns. 

Skylla

Ah. My beloved Skylla.  I was the most excited and the most worried to see what the Wizard's dev team was going to do to you.  I have to say I am not disappointed. In Quest of the Heartstone, she is listed as a 6th level Warlock. Again, this time "Warlock" meaning 6th level magic-user. I do note that the TSR team avoided calling her a "Witch" at the time. Likely due to the Satanic Panic (but Warlock is fine?).  Like her former boss Kelek, the level title is translated to Class here and she is a 6th level Warlock. It fits well if you ask me

Skylla's stats are mostly the same with some tweaks to improve what she needs to be a Warlock.  Though the best changes are in her background.  For starters, her patron is not a demon (like I did) but rather with Baba Yaga (like...I did).  Additionally they tackle the Skylla/Charmay art issue head-on as sometimes Skylla goes by the name Charmay.  It's different than what I do with her, but it works out fine in my mind.

For the record, they got Skylla as close to a "witch: as D&D 5e's rules will currently allow.  I think they did a great job with her.  Kelek too.

Warduke

I do have to ask. Why does everyone like this guy so much? I never quite got it, but hey someone out there is looking at my nearly 30 posts about Skylla and scratching their head. 

That all being said, Warduke here is fairly impressive. I think the fans will be happy.  His stats are all the same in both versions.  His Dread Helm in Basic gave him Infravision to 60'.  The D&D 5e version only makes his eyes glow red.  Well, as I have said many times, I have a pencil.

Zarak

The half-orc Assassin was just an odd dude in Basic D&D that didn't have half-orcs as monsters, let alone as a character race, nor did it have assassins.  Yet there he is on page 18 of my Quest for the Heartstone. In D&D 5 he also has some strangeness. He is a full orc here BUT he is a short one to fit the AD&D/D&D Basic orcs.  Though he is still a Chaotic Evil Assassin.  His Dexterity gets a buff in 5e, but he loses his "boomerang" dagger!

Zargash

The evil cleric is back.  He is 7th level, so that makes him an evil Bishop. Zargash is still Chaotic Evil and he worships Orcus. Stats are tweaked a bit, but otherwise he is largely the same.

Missing Evil Characters include, Grimsword (Evil Knight aka Anti-Paladin), Zorgan (Evil Barbarian) and Drex (Evil Warrior) all from Quest for the Heartstone. Fox Fingers (Thief) and Raven (Evil Cleric) from Shaddy Dragon Inn.  In might be fun to make Raven. She is evil (but maybe not totally), and in love with Warduke. She was once friend with Mericon. Who is up in the next batch.

Valor's Call

Our group of good hereos had the real chance of being boring on one hand and overly sanctimonious on the other.  Thankfully were spared the worse.  They are not as interesting as our bad guys, but they are still fun and there are still some tweaks that make them worth reading and using.

Elkhorn

Our Lawful Good dwarf might have been one of the more popular figures right behind Warduke.  His stats are the same in both versions.  I do like how they took an essentially blank canvas and made a dwarf that is not a Flint Fireforge clone or a Dime store Thorin and gave him some goals.  He is a staunch enemy of evil.  If Strongheart is the founder of Valor's call, then Elkhorn is its heart.

Mercion

Ok. She is no Aleena, but Mercion is the cleric of the group. Her stats are tweaked a bit to give her better Strength and a higher level, but the Mercion in 5e is much more interesting.  In what I feel is a real homage to her Basic D&D roots, she does not worship a god but rather an ideal. She believes that truth gives life to artistry and beauty.  It's kind of a cool concept. If I were to use her as an NPC I would make sure she never lies about anything, ever. In fact, the brutal truth is better for her than a sweet lie. 

Molliver

Molliver the good thief was not in the Shady Dragon Inn product but can be found in the Quest for the Heartstone. In Quest no gender is given for Molliver, so in the 5e book their pronouns are "they."  I like it. I like it because a.) it works for the character and b.) it will certainly piss off the ones that need pissing off.

Molliver is also the only Chaotic Good member of the party. A "Lawful" thief does not make much sense really. Stats are largely the same with a buff for Dex. They even have their boots of levitation, handy for a thief.  

Ringlerun

Our Lawful Good Wizard from Basic remains a Lawful Good Wizard in 5e.  Never as interesting as Kelek, Elminster, or Mordenkainen he was on the cover of the Player's Handbook and a popular figure. 

Ringlerun
His arm must be tired

He is still largely a generic wizard. He has kind of a James Randi in his later years look about him.  In my games he is dead; died of old age, but that doesn't really make sense for a wizard I guess.  I have some ideas forming that I might explore later.  Or not. After all he was never very interesting.

Strongheart

If I have one purely AD&D gripe it is that I rarely see anyone playing a paladin a good way.  "Sanctimonious Asshole" is not a Paladin. Neither is "Grim, tortured because there is so much evil in the world" isn't either.   I was worried that Strongheart was going to fall into one of those two camps. Or even worse, weak Sturm Brightblade clone.

Thankfully, that is not what we got. Instead, 5e Strongheart is the kind of paladin who is all about "we should get together to defeat evil because there is so much good in the world to enjoy!" He makes a good leader.  Again his stats are slightly tweaked to give him a better Strength (13 to 15) which, by the way, his D&D Basic stats were not good enough to make him an AD&D Paladin!

He was the character I was prepared to dislike the most (I have played paladins in EVERY version of D&D) and his actually was pretty cool.

It is mentioned that there are more characters in Valor's Call, off doing Good elsewhere.  They do have a solid feel of "The Superfriends" here. Not s big surprise I guess. Potential other members from Quest of the Heartstone include Peralay (Elf Fighter/Mage), Figgen (Halfling Fighter or Fighter/Theif), Deeth (Fighter), Hawkler (a totally NOT the Beastmaster Ranger), Bowmarc (Good "Crusader") and Valkeer, a half-giant warrior.  Of these Valkeer might the most fun to update to 5e.  Of these Peralay also appears in The Shady Dragon Inn.  

Strongheart and Warduke

Other NPCs

There are plenty of other really interesting NPCs in this book.  Many I plan to lift and convert back to D&D Basic for use in my War of the Witch Queens campaign.

Burly the Hobgoblin

Before D&D, a hobgoblin was more a trickster as exemplified by Puck or Robin Goodfellow. In Witchlight we have Burly a Neutral Good Hobgoblin.  Ok, I'll go with that. My favorite bit is he is a hobgoblin who wears a pumpkin on his head.  Now, where have I seen that before?

Pumpkin head

Bugbear. Hobgoblin.  The differences are largely academic.

Likewise, Chucklehead is a goblin with a  head shaped like a taffy apple.

Iggwilv the Witch Queen

Yes! Getting Skylla was one thing, getting a new Iggwilv?  That's just crazy good.

This is Iggwilv after she has left the Abyss and has been hiding out in the Feywild for centuries. Here she is also known as Tasha, Natasha, and Zybilna.  There is an interaction here with Kelek that plays so well into my plans it is hard not to use it all.  There is an interesting Maiden-Mother-Crone aspect of Iggwilv here in the form of Tasha-Zybilna-Iggwilv.

Iggwilv

Now I am perfectly happy with the formerly Chaotic Evil Iggwilv becoming more Chaotic Neutral as time goes on.  What I am not 100% sure about is her desire to abandon all her research on the Abyss and Demons in favor of learning about the Feywild instead.  But...I can live with it.

The Hour Glass Coven

I like them. Very interesting bunch of witches and hags.

The Minis

This is such an interesting group of NPCs it makes sense that there is also an equally interesting group of minis to go with them.  Sadly the supply chain breakdown has pushed many of these minis till 2022.  But I am really looking forward to them.

Kelek
Kelek

Skylla
Skylla

Zyblina
Zyblina


Looking forward to them.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Sagarassi, Witch Queen of the Seas of Krynn

Sagarassi, Sea Witch of Krynn
It is not a stretch of the imagination to list Krynn as one of the top three D&D worlds behind Greyhawk and the Forgotten Realms. Even my own favorite Mystara does not have the publication history behind it that Krynn and Dragonlance has.

So when collecting all the Witch Queens of D&D I wanted to be sure Krynn was represented.  

We do know Krynn has Witches or at least use of the word "witch."  The High Theocrat in Solace (Dragons of Autumn Twilight) calls Goldmoon, a true cleric, a witch.  This gets enough of a response and reaction that the locals know what a witch is. We know from the story of Jilani that villagers will burn suspected witches.  Hedge Witches were known to elves near Lord Soth's Dargaard Keep. 

The problem is that wizardry and magic in Krynn are very, very regulated.  There are the three main Towers of High Sorcery which cover Good (White), Neutral (Red), and Evil (Black).  Wizards, regardless of alignment do not step out of line. Even back in the AD&D1st ed days a wizard/magic-user never got past 20th level.  The entire second Dragonlance trilogy was all about Raistlin trying to get power beyond what was allowed. 

To find a magic-using character who would fit the description of "Witch Queen" I would need someone powerful and working outside of the established wizarding roles.  Anyone like that usually gets smacked down by the Gods of Krynn.  If possible I would also like to find someone that uses "witch" as a title.

There are a few that might fit the bill.  There is Weird Meggin, the old woman that a young Raistlin Majere first learned about magic. She had a grey wolf that could have been her familiar. She knew herbs and talked to trees.  She certainly "feels" like a witch, but everything we know about her I just wrote.  So not enough even for me.  There is the black-robe wizard Iolanthe, she calls herself a witch and has a lot of solid witchy qualities to her.  But a lot like Meggin, there is very little (though more) out there about her. Though I would like to find out more about her, to be honest. 

After searching and asking around I finally stumbled on a wizard who fits the bill.  Sagarassi, The Sea Witch.

Sagarassi, The Sea Witch

Not much is known about Sagarassi.  So little in fact it has taken me a while to collect this information. But here is what I have pieced together.  The best (ok only) primary source for my information is the AD&D 2nd Edition product Otherlands.  The rest comes from the Dragonlance Nexus and Dragonlance Fandom wikis. 

She was a Silvanesti Elf but was changed into a sea creature by the Sea Goddess Zeboim whom she worships.  Both Sagarassi and Zeboim are known as the "Sea Witch."  Sagarassi also serves Takhisis, the mother of Zebiom. 

She is not fond of humans.  Nor is she fond of her own sister, Daydra Stonecipher.  This relationship parallels the one between Zebiom and her twin brother Nuitari, who is the god of Evil Magic in Kyrnn. It is not much of a stretch of the imagination that Zebiom would want her magic-using disciple to go against the established rules of magic. Especially since Nuitari is regarded as Lawful Evil and Zebiom is Chaotic Evil. 

We know she is old. She waged a war undersea around 1320 PC (Prior to the Cataclysm), the Dragonlance books take place in 348 AC, making her over 1670 years old. Good thing she is an elf. 

She lives in an underwater tower called Khegar, also known as the Death Tower.  It is in the seas near Taladas.

Sagarassi, Witch Queen of the Seas of KrynnSagarassi, Witch Queen of the Seas of Krynn

I have been using the present tense. But there is some speculation that she may have died in the last war with her sister.  Who is to say.  I am pulling together scraps of content to try to make a whole.

If I want to use her in my Mystara/Greyhawk games (and I do) I have to find some fixed points in time. Krynn, for various reasons, is removed from the other D&D worlds, but we can find a fixed point in time with The Wizards Three articles in Dragon.   We know that Dalamar met with Elminster and Mordenkainen in the post Legends time frame. With Raistlin "dying" in 383 AC We can put their meeting sometime after that.  We know from other sources (Wizards Three, Castle Spulzeer/Ravenloft) that this is about the same time as 1365 DR (Forgotten Realms) or 581 CY (Greyhawk).  

So. What does this all mean?  Well for me it means that if Sagrassi is still alive her age would be about 1,720 years old.  Fairly old for an elf, but maybe not so much for an elf/witch/"chosen" of a Goddess. At that age, I am going to say that Sagarassi is tired of fighting her sister and is looking for conquests outside of Krynn.

For this character, given her age and abilities, I am using my original rules for The Witch. I also struggled with my desire to make a very high level witch and the restriction Krynn puts on high-level magic users.  I figure that Sagarassi, as a witch, flies under the radar. I suppose in AD&D terms I could make her a 20th level Magic-user and 16th level evil cleric of Zeboim.  Or whatever the level limits were back then.  I personally ignored level limits.  While that would give me a passable Sagarassi that would fit the AD&D 1st RAW, and it would give me a witch, it would not give me a Witch.

Her Tradition is Sea Witch, something new I am working on.

Sagarassi, Witch Queen of the Seas of Krynn
36th level Witch, Sea Witch Tradition*
Female Sea Elf, Chaotic Evil

Strength 13
Intelligence 20
Wisdom 18
Dexterity 15
Constitution 17
Charisma 20

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

Hit Points: 73
AC: 4

THAC0: 6

Occult Powers

Lesser: Familiar (Demonic eel)
Minor: Speak to plants/animals
Medial: Goddess Blessing
Greater: Control Weather
Major: Shape Change
Superior: Timeless Body

Spells
Cantrips (7): Alarm Ward, Arcane Mark, Chill, Daze, Inflict Minor Wounds, Message, Summon Vermin
1st (9+3): Bad Luck, Cause Fear, Charm Person, Darkness, Endure Elements, Far Sight, Ghostly Slashing, Glamour, Moonstone**, Minor Fighting Prowess, Silver Tongue, Tattoo
2nd (9+3): Agony, Alter Self, Biting Blade, Discord, Enthrall, ESP, Evil Eye, Hold Person, Invisibility, Mind Obscure, Phantasmal Spirit, Spell Missile, Suggestion
3rd (9+3): Bestow Curse, Circle of Respite, Dispel Magic, Feral Spirit, Lesser Strengthing Rite,  Lethe's Curse, Lifeblood, Toad Mind, Tongues, Witch Wail, Witch Writing, Imbue Witch Ball (Ritual)
4th (9+3): Abomination, Analyze Magic, Animal Growth, Arcane Eye, Charm Monster, Divination, Fluid Mastery, Phantom Lacerations, Polymorph, Spiritual Dagger, Tears of the Banshee, Drawing Done the Moon (Ritual)
5th (9+2): Baleful Polymorph, Death Curse, Dreadful Bloodletting, Endless Sleep, Greater Command, Hold Monster, Magic Jar, Nightmare, Song of Discord, Teleport, Waves of Fatigue
6th (9+1): Anchoring Rite, Anti-magic Shell, Break the Spirit, Eye Bite, Mass Agony, Mass Suggestion, Mislead, Moonbow, True Seeing, Dismissal (Ritual)
7th (9): Death Aura, Draw Forth the Soul, Greater Arcane Eye, Greater Blindness, Insanity, Wave of Mutilation, Binding (Ritual), Gate (Ritual), Vision (Ritual)
8th (9): Damming Stare, Destroy Life, Discern Location, Greater Mislead, Mystic Barrier, Pit, Trap the Soul, Imprisonment (Ritual), Protection of the Goddess (Ritual)

**Sagarassi prepares a Moonstone on the high nights of Nuitari's "light." This allows her to use her moon-based spells even underwater.

All in all a fun build.  I need to work a bit more on what a "Sea Witch" is and come up with some more spells for it. 

Friday, September 24, 2021

#FollowFriday: Ginny Di

It's Ginny Di!
I gotta admit I love the shirt!
Kinda burned out on Kickstarter right now.  So it's another #FollowFriday!

I will admit, I adore Ginny Di.  She has unbound enthusiasm about D&D and all things related.  I know she is young enough to be my daughter and I have characters older than her, but I still think she is great.

It is so refreshing to come to her Twitter or YouTube pages and see how excited she is over something D&D-related.  I'll read the posts or blogs of some of my contemporaries and wonder when the fun died in their lives leaving them as bitter old husks.

Plus she seems to irritate the right people, so that is a bonus all on its own. 

The fact that she also loves her witches has almost nothing to do with it. Well...maybe a little. 

I have already posted about her or her projects in the past.

This week Ginny is back with Morelia the Wood Witch in a POV roleplay. It is a fun little bit video, but it really helped me cement the idea that Morelia would be a great NPC in my War of the Witch Queens. 

Content Warning to Bitter Old Grogs Who Are Dead Inside: The video features a shop where an NPC Witch SELLS POTIONS! Gasp, the Horror! The audacity! The cheek of it all! 

Anyway. She is fun. She is funny. She has a ton of enthusiasm and I think she is great. In fact, I even sought out items she has been sponsored by at Gen Con because she made them look really fun.

So check her out. If you don't like her ask yourself, when did I die inside?

Ginny Di online

Give her a follow or a like or something.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Back Home from GenCon 2021!

I just got back home from GenCon 2021.  We had a great time.  We stayed in masks a lot and we spent a little more time playing games in our room and outside, but all in all, we took a lot of precautions, washed hands a lot, and of course got vaccinated a while back.  

For this Con, I did not continue the Order of the Platinum Dragon campaign.  I have been building something cool for it and taking it to Gen Con would have been a pain in the ass.  Instead, we continued on with the War of the Witch Queens campaign.  Everyone really took to Basic Ear D&D well and my son even bought his own copies of Old-School Essentials.

Basic D&D

We picked up our Old-School Essentials at the Games Plus booth. They had a bunch on Day 1 and were completely sold out by Day 3!

Games Plus' Booth

Games Plus' Booth

Games Plus' Booth

Oh. And despite some claims to the contrary, Gen Con was still full and there were plenty of people here.  We spoke to a few of the restaurant workers and a few owners and they were thrilled that Gen Con was back, even in this limited fashion.

Still crowded

Still crowded

Still crowded

People stayed in masks, for the most part. Though we are still going to quarantine for a bit just to be safe. 

We picked up some great games too.  The kids both work now so they were able to spend their own money. Which is great, cause I bought a lot for me.

Games

Games

Games

So far our favorite has been The Red Dragon Inn by Slugfest Games.  We had a blast with it. I have been wanting it for a bit now and I am glad we got it.

We played some NIGHT SHIFT and that was great.  While we were playing this guy stopped to see what we were playing. He mentioned he wanted to introduce his 10-year-old daughter to D&D.  Long story short, the drummer of the band Shinedown watched our game. I gave him a copy of NIGHT SHIFT, which he loved. 

Not sure what our plans are for next year, but we had a great time this year.  Glad to be back at Gen Con.

Monday, August 16, 2021

#RPGaDAY2021 Day 16 Villain

RPGaDAY2021 Day 16

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

Day 16 Villain

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

Who have been my favorites?

Yoln, the Shadow Reaper & Hand of Leviathan

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

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

Cult of the Dragon

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

Come Endless Darkness

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

War of the Witch Queens

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

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


RPGaDAY2021

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: Sarah Douglas Film Fest

I was working on an adventure for War of the Witch Queens this past week and I was thinking that my Witch Queen in this adventure had a lot in common with Queen Taramis from A Witch Shall be Born and the Conan the Destroyer movie.   I did my digging and discovered that yes, the look/vibe I wanting in my next Witch Queen (loosely based on Methyn Sarr from Barbarians of Lemuria) was based on Queen Taramis AND surprisingly enough "Lyranna" from Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time.

Both were played by the exquisite Sarah Douglas

So I figured I would have to do Sarah Douglas film fest since she plays a witch in both movies.  

Sarah Douglas in Beastmaster 2Sarah Douglas in Conan the Destroyer


Beastmaster 2
Beastmaster 2: Through the Portal of Time (1991)

Nearly a decade after the last Beastmaster movie we rejoin Dar in his battle against evil.  This time against his own older half-brother Arklon. The camp is WAY high in this one. Sarah Douglas plays Lyranna which sounds a lot like my "Larina" (but mine was 5 years before this).  Lyranna has a lot of language and speech that makes her sound like she is from L.A. from the late 80s.  There is a reason for that since she has been studying the land of "LA" where she has learned about a Neutron Detonator that she will give to Arklon, in exchange for ruling with him.

While she has the portal open Kari Wuhrer comes racing through in her red Porshe.  The poster showing the scene has a solid "Back to the Future" vibe to it. 

Ok. I am going to say this. Kari Wuher gets on my nerves. She is not so bad here, and she is actually supposed to be annoying here. 

Let's be honest. This is not a good movie.  I give Marc Singer a lot of credit here. The movie all around him is campy as all hell and he is playing Dar straight.  His earnestness from the previous movie holds over here. 

Wings Hauser chews up scenes as Arklon.  I can't if he is good at camp or bad. In any case, it works for him and this role.  Sarah Douglas is great, but I was inclined to like her anyway.  Even Kari Wuher was a lot of fun in it. 

The movie is not good, but it is fun. 

Conan the Destroyer
Conan the Destroyer (1984)

This is the second, and less well-liked Conan movie.  I personally thought it was a lot of fun. I had been a fan of Grace Jones since her Nightclubbing album so I was looking forward to seeing her in this.

This movie was also the second time I became aware of Sarah Douglas. I thought she was fantastic as Ursa in Superman and Superman II, and she was exceptionally great here.  Well. At least I thought so then.  I STILL think she was great, to be honest.

Queen Taramis (only a princess in the Howard story) gives Conan a quest to escort the Queen's Niece, Princess Jehnna, played the ever-lovely Olivia d'Abo in her first movie, to restore the horn of the dreaming god Dagoth (played by none other than André the Giant).  Sounds vaguely Lovecraftian. Jehnna is naturally a virgin.  Hey pro tip, girls who sleep around never get sacrificed to Elder gods. 

Going along with Conan is the Queen's guard Bombaata played by the NBA and College Basketball Hall of Famer, and future best-selling author, Wilt Chamberlain in his only film role.  I am sure you have all seen the photos with Arnold standing next to Wilt and André before.  Shared by Arnold himself, he commented that he had never felt so puny before in his life.

Arnold standing next to Wilt and André

There is a cool scene with Conan in a room full of mirrors and a creature that swear influenced Hordak.  The creature was neat, the scene however seemed really silly. Made even sillier now with such memes as this. 

Conan and Rose

Among other actors, the immortal Tracey Walter appears as Malak. I swear this guy has been in everything. How many thieves started swallowing gems because of this movie? The equally prolific Mako is here as Akiro, sounding like a gruff Iroh. 

Our virgin is captured. Found. Captured again. Put in jeopardy. And set to sacrificed.  

And like all sacrifices go awry, the angry god kills the one summoning him, this time Taramis. 

So will a fun little romp it is worse than I remember but not as bad as I feared.   I remember that is felt more "D&D" than the first movie did and pretty much every gamer I knew had gone to see it.

Gaming Content

For me,  I can use Lyranna as Queen Taramis as a nice bit of history for my own version of Queen Methyn Sarr.  She starts out as a witch, finds a ruler whom she seduces, and then ultimately betrays and takes his kingdom as her own.  Not 100% original, but it fits with the pulpy feel I want. 

Plus it will give me something to start from.  Though given tonight's movies I wonder if I should rename her to Methyn Sarah.  Doesn't sound quite as evil does it?

Methyn Sarr

Links

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Tim Knight of Hero Press and Pun Isaac of Halls of the Nephilim along with myself are getting together at the Facebook Group I'd Rather Be Killing Monsters to discuss these movies.  Follow along with the hashtag #IdRatherBeWatchingMonsters.


Tuesday, July 27, 2021

SPI's Demons (1979)

SPI's Demons game
I celebrated my 26th wedding anniversary over the weekend.  I have now been married for over half my life!  We went downtown to see the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit. I got us the Premium tickets, and glad I did, we sat through the whole thing twice!  It was completely amazing. We ate at a new fusion Thai place and of course, no date night is complete for us without a stop at a bookstore.

Since so many of the bookstores we used to go to over the last three decades are closed, we stopped at Half-Price Books.  

I found this little gem, SPI Demons.

At first I thought it was an add-on or supplement for the DragonQuest RPG.  They look rather similar really.  But closer examination revealed that it was really a board game.

In any case, I could not say no to this. Besides, look at that cover!  That demon is fantastic!

I got it home and since it was late I let sit on my dining room table for a bit.  I finally got around to looking at it yesterday.  Turns out that only is this game whole, and unpunched it looks like it is near mint condition!

Contents of the SPI Demons boxed game

Contents of the SPI Demons boxed game

Contents of the SPI Demons boxed game

Ah. Nothing says the late 70s like oil shortages. 

Contents of the SPI Demons boxed game

Contents of the SPI Demons boxed game

Contents of the SPI Demons boxed game

It is a rather attractive game in a late 70s War-Games-bleeding-into-RPGs way.

I posted some pictures of this over the weekend and I was reminded that TSR bought SPI back in the day and absorbed them.  WotC who now owns all of TSR's IP also owns SPI.  They could rerelease this if they wanted to.  Sadly there is really no reason to.  The cash cow in that arena is D&D and even DragonQuest, who could do well, suffers from comparison.   TSR, like them or not, straight up murdered SPI and the body is too dead to Raise Dead.

BUT that doesn't mean *I* can't perform a bit of Necromancy myself! 

This game could feed into my "Traveller Envy" quite well.

DragonQuest & Demons

The obvious thing to do here is use that Demons map of Albania and do it as a DragonQuest Hex crawl.  And I mean a proper Hex crawl that also just so happens to be filled with demons and wizard hunters.   The magistrate or wizard hunter's angle of the game also made me think of THIS unholy abomination.

DragonRaid vs. Demons

Maybe instead of "EdenAgain" the DragonRaiders are in the old country fighting demons?  That one is a bit of stretch really.  Also I would need some sort of converter to sit in the middle; likely D&D.  Though these both will contribute to my War of the Witch Queens campaign. 

Warlocks & Warriors & Demons

These two games share a lot of similarities in tone and publication time.  Both are essentially the bridges between war games and RPGs as board games. Both feature a wilderness area to explore, monsters (demons) to defeat, and treasure to collect.  Slightly higher on the complexity scale than Dungeon! but not quite full-blown RPGs.   You can read my overview of Warlocks & Warriors here

Demons from Mayfair and SPI

These two do not have a lot in common other than name and subject matter.  But both would be equally fun resources in my games. 

Like I say though I might not figure out how to get these to all work together (or even some of them) but it will be fun trying.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Review: Old-School Essentials Adventures

One of my fondest memories of gaming has to be the Summer of 1982 playing this weird-ass hybrid of AD&D first ed and D&D Moldvay/Cook B/X. I think I played every weekend to be honest.

While a lot of games have come really close to this feel, the one that now comes the closest has to be Old-School Essentials Advanced Fantasy

Old-School Essentials Adventures

There are a lot of great clones out there but right now nothing is scratching my old-school itch quite like OSE.  I got my Kickstarter package a bit back and while I was engrossed with the rules of the new books, I utterly failed to give much attention to the two included adventures. That is until I started hearing people talk about them more online.  I went back to them and you know what?  They are really kind of great.

For this review, I am considering both the hardcover copies I got with the Kickstarter and the PDF copies from DriveThru RPG.

Both books are 48-page, full-color books. The maps are printed on the inside covers with encounter areas labeled on the maps.  The books are A5 format (5.8" x 8.3", 148mm x 210mm).

The Incandescent Grottoes
The Incandescent Grottoes
by Gavin Norman

This is an introductory adventure designed for characters level 1-2, written by OSE creator Gavin Norman with art by Nate Treme. 

The adventure could be considered a dungeon crawl along the lines of Keep on the Borderlands, but like so much of OSE it taps into how the games were played rather than written. The dungeons of IG *could be* like the Caves of Chaos, but more accurately they are played like Caves of Chaos were played back then.  What do I mean?  Well, there is a demonic cult here, The Cult of the Faceless Lord. There are factions within the dungeon and how they interact. Plus goals for the various groups of monsters. There are tables of treasures and random occurrences to make exploring this dungeon something players can keep coming back to. 

The rooms and areas a very nicely detailed and the whimsical art really adds to the dream-like qualities of the adventure.  There is even a dragon waiting for the characters at the end!  Ok, it is not a very powerful one, but to 1st and 2nd level characters it is powerful enough.  There are some new monsters (the aforementioned dragon) and lots of great encounters.

While there is no overt meta-plot here, one could easily see this as some sort of introduction to a cult of Juiblex vying for control of the Mythic Underworld. 

A bit about the name.  I can't help but notice that a 1st level adventure into the "Mythic Underground" can be read as "I(n) Can Descen(d)t."  I am sure this is intentional.

Halls of the Blood King
Halls of the Blood King
by Diogo Nogueira

Diogo Nogueira has been racking up an impressive list of RPG publications and getting him to pen an adventure for OSE is quite a score.  And the adventure is pretty much what I hoped it would be like.

This time the artist is Justine Jones. If the art of Incandescent Grottoes is dream-like then the art here is nightmarish.  I mean that in the most positive way. 

The adventure is set up in a manner similar to other OSE adventures. We get maps with major encounter areas, descriptions and relationships of the major factions/NPCs/Monsters.

The adventure itself is a castle of a vampire lord for characters of 3rd to 5th level.  

Detail-wise this adventure lives somewhere between the sparse-ness Palace of the Vampire Queen and the detail rich Ravenloft.  I don't want this to sound like there not a lot of detail here, there is, but there is no over arching epic here.  This is great since it allows you to take this adventure and work it into your world much easier.   For example with a tweak or two here and there I could make this "Halls of the Blood Queen" and add it rather nicely to my War of the Witch Queens campaign.  This would work out well since I am using OSE for that.  The only thing stopping me is I have so many Vampire Queens now!  But still, it would be fun and very, very easy.

The adventure is also rather good and looks like a lot of fun.

If these are examples of how adventures for OSE are going to be written in the future then OSE is going have a nice long shelf life.  While neither adventure is revolutionary in design or concepts they are really good adventures.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Review: The Runewild Campaign Setting

Putting the Hex into hex crawls.

A while back I mentioned the Runewild Campaign Setting Kickstarter. I was quite excited about it and happily backed it.   I got my books and my PDFs, but it was in the middle of my Covid-19 fueled busy summer last year. The book has been sitting on my desk, mostly ignored since then.

That is a damn shame.

With all the fun I have been having with Van Richten Guide to Ravenloft lately I wanted to revisit this book and see what I can add to it from this book.  The short answer? A lot.  So much in fact that while there are some great ideas in this book for Ravenloft, there is a TON more for my War of the Witch Queens campaign for Basic-era (B/X, BECMI, OSE) D&D. 

So for this review, I am going to refer to both the Softcover print and the PDF.

The Runewild Campaign Setting

Published by Sneak Attack Press, written by William Fischer, art by Joyce Maureira, and Cartography by Toy Fayen.  306 pages. Full-color covers and interior art. Available in PDF, Hardcover, and Softcover versions. For 5th Edition, recommended levels are 1 to 10.  Available on DriveThruRPG and at your FLGS.

The PDF is fully bookmarked with hyperlinked Table of Contents. 

The Runewild Campaign Setting (Runewild) is overtly a "Dark Fantasy fairy tale" campaign sandbox guide and a hex crawl in one volume.  That is it in a nutshell but does not really do it justice.  Best to break it up a little more.  

From the introduction,

This book includes:
  • A history of the Runewild and its surrounding settlements
  • 150 detailed encounter areas for player characters to explore 
  • 8 new Backgrounds and a new Feat: Fey-Touched 
  • 21 unique magic items (like witch embers and the staff of clarity and confusion) 
  • 32 new monsters (including clockwork dwarves, fey lions, giant forest sloths, and the terrifyingly beautiful Golden Bodach) 
  • Detailed descriptions of the histories, motivations, and weaknesses of the witches of the Runewild, including the Whitebone Sisters; Missus Switch, the swine hag; Korthsuva, the Witch of Hours; and the Hag Queen Griselda, Mother of Ogres 
  • New optional rules for exploration and resting 
  • Advice for running a sandbox campaign 
  • Dozens of random tables designed to help GMs make a Runewild campaign their own

That is quite a lot. Frankly, I was just happy getting the material on the Witches of the Runewild, the rest is gravy for me.  I turn the page and suddenly my "gravy" turns into another dessert course when I am introduced to the "Witch Wars."  Oh. This will be fun.

The book is split into four sections, Running the Runewild, Magic of the Runewild, A Runewild Gazeteer, A Runewild Bestiary.

Runewild Magic

Running the Runewild: This section covers what the Runewild is and a bit of its history.  It also introduces the idea of a Sandbox Campaign.  While many gamers of a certain age will already be familiar with the idea of a sandbox (and even where the term comes from) this might be new to the majority of younger D&D players.  No inditement of their experience; everyone learns something new at different times. This is a good overview of this style of play for the newer generation of players.  

The advice given about Sandboxes vs. Adventure Path is solid and there is even something here that warms the cockles of my old-school heart.  To quote page 10, "e of the greatest difficulties in running a sandbox-style campaign is balancing encounters. In short, there are no balanced encounters in the Runewild."  Players and Characters need to get used to the idea of running away. 

While this might be a shift for some 5e players, it is not a hard or difficult one.  In fact, it is presented in the light of the characters have the ultimate freedom to do what they want.  It is wonderful really and to quote Darkseid from the Synder Cut of Justice League, "we will use the old ways."

The Old Ways describes Runewild to a tee. 

Among the "old ways" are plenty of Random Encounter tables with brief descriptions of what is encountered.  Adventure Hook tables, Scenery tables, Fey prank tables, general Runewild strangeness, random animals, random NPCs, and more.  For new schoolers, this will make the area feel vibrant and alive. For new schoolers, this will feel strangely homelike. Note at this point, 30 pages in, there has been very, very little in the way of stats. An encounter with a Skeleton is listed for example, but where you look up your skeleton is up to you.

We do get into Runewild Backgrounds which are 5e backgrounds.  For 5e they are great really, lots of great information here, and none of them feel overpowering (they grant a skill and a tool proficiency and usually a language) for other games, you can use the native skill system (Trained would be the equivalent in 3e, free Proficiency in AD&D 1.5) or wing it. One of my favorites is a Polymorphed Animal.  You used to be a normal animal and now thanks to strange magic you are human-ish.  Really fun stuff.

Magic of Runewild: This section covers some more game-specific information such as some new feats, curses, and new magic items (lots of these).  But the star attraction of this section has to be the Goblin Market.  There is so much here and frankly, they could have published this on its own and it would have been a great seller.  There are random tables of trinkets, goblin charms, treasures, and of course a list of vendors and encounters.  

Goblin market
“We must not look at goblin men, We must not buy their fruits:
Who knows upon what soil they fed Their hungry thirsty roots?”

One thing that I felt was missing from this section? Spells.  There are no new spells here.

A Runewild Gazetteer. This starts out with the hex maps of the Runewild. Numbered just like all old-school hex maps too! The hex encounters are then detailed throughout the chapter with a corresponding Challenge Rating. An improvement from older Hex crawls to be sure.  So yeah the party of first-level characters can enter a CR 0 hex with no problem and come out ok. They can also enter into a CR 10 hex with the same level of difficulty (that is, none at all) but they are not going to leave it as easily!  That's a hex crawl. There are no signs saying "You Must Be Level 5 or higher to Enter" if the player goes there, then their characters will pay the price.

Each hex of course has different levels of detail, but they are all given some quick bullet points to help the DM out.   For example:

2. The Last Tower (CR 4)

  • A ghost haunts the tower 
  • Ten giant rats feast on bandit corpses in the tower’s basement 
  • The bandits carried stolen treasure

Then more details follow.  NPCs are noted ad are monsters. There are maps where needed (even a player's map in a few cases!) and yes more random tables. There are 150 such encounter areas and it covers a little over 200 pages. Some encounters are a paragraph or so, others are multiple pages. 

A Runewild Bestiary: Now you know I love this section.  There are over 30 new monsters, monster variants, and (and this is my favorite) listings of  The Witches of Runewild. This includes a bunch of various witches (mostly hags), new types of hags, and the two major and one minor covens.  Again, if they had sold this separately I would have scooped it up the moment it hit DriveThru.   

Here is an example of one of the witches.

Goodie Sharktooth

There is no Witch Class.  Part of me is disappointed, but another part is happy since I can now do what I want with them. 

The chapter and book ends with Monster Variants. 

The art in this book is quite great and helps give the proper mood for this dark fairy tale land.

Using this with Basic-Era D&D

The book feels like a BECMI Gazeteer.   I could set this outside of Glantri and it would feel right. There are 5e stats, but not a lot.  Most of the monsters have an analog in other games.  For example, if you run this with say, Old School Essentials, just swap out the monsters.  BTW this would work FANTASTIC with the Dolemwood products

Runewild OSE

This is a wonderful book and resource and I am very pleased with it. My only regret with it is I wish I had picked up the Hardbound version instead!