Showing posts with label adventure. Show all posts
Showing posts with label adventure. Show all posts

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Review: Forgotten Realms Campaign Set

The Forgotten Realms Campaign Set
 I have asked this before, but it bears repeating here and now. How does one review a classic? Better question. How does one review a genre-defining classic?  Because that is what I have sitting in front of me now. A genre-defining classic. Eighteen-year-old me back in 1987, ready for his first year at university, would not have thought so at the time, but that is what much older me thinks now. 

The Forgotten Realms was the foundation of the "new" TSR, the one without Gary Gygax and many of the other founders on which they would build their new home. We can debate the merits of this and financials ad nauseam, but by any stretch of the imagination, the Forgotten Realms were very successful. So successful that the biggest video game of 2023 is set there.

This review will cover the Forgotten Realms Campaign Set, the Boxed set from 1987. Written by Ed Greenwood and Jeff Grubb and edited by Karen S. Boomgarden. But any insight to this product knows that the genesis was with Ed, and he first brought it all to life in the pages of Dragon magazine. At least that is alive to us. Many other authors have contributed to Realms over the decades, but here is where it begins.  

How do we begin? Let's take Ed's own words, which he scribbled into my Cyclopedia of the Realms as our opening.

Welcome to the Forgotten Realms

"Welcome to the Forgotten Realms!" - Ed Greenwood

Forgotten Realms Campaign Set

by Ed Greenwood, Jeff Grubb and edited by Karen S. Boomgarden. 1987. Boxed set. Full-color covers and maps. Cyclopedia of the Realms 96 pages. DMs Sourcebook of the Realms 96 pages. Maps and clear hex overlays.

Forgotten Realms box contents

For this review, I am considering the physical boxed set from 1987 and the PDFs from DriveThruRPG. There has yet to be a Print on Demand version.

The DriveThruRPG PDF combines all this information into a 230-page book. Maps are broken up and scanned in at letter size.

Cyclopedia of the Realms
Cyclopedia of the Realms

96 pages. Color covers. Sepia-tone pages and art.

"Let's start at the very beginning. A very good place to start." - Maria von Trapp nee Kuczera, Bard/Cleric

This book is an introduction to the Forgotten Realms, and maybe the most important bit here is the introduction by Ed Greenwood/Elminster and the About this Product.  We start immediately with the "voice" of the Realms, Elminster. He is no ersatz Gandalf, nor is he a more approachable Mordenkainen, and certainly, he is more interesting than Ringlerun. He is our guide, but sometimes I still like to think of him as an unreliable narrator. These are the Realms in his eyes. More (if the not the most) knowledgable, but there are still "small stories" to tell that are beneath his notice. Those are the stories (aka games) I want to know about.

This book covers the timeline (I do love timelines!) and ways of keeping time in the Realms. The date for this set is the end of 1357 DR (that's Dale Reckoning or Dalereckoning). For full context, the Baldur's Gate III video game takes place in 1494 DR, with the current year of the D&D 5e titles at 1496 DR. There is a bit of discussion about holidays and how the "weeks" are grouped as Tendays (3 a month). It feels different and I like it.  The money system is rather AD&D standard, with some proper names to the coins. This is fine because this IS supposed to be an AD&D world, and the authors want people to feel familiar with it all, if not right at home.

Languages and scripts are up. Some of these are still being used in current versions of D&D. 

The Gods are next. These were already familiar to me, not just because this is an old product, but because Ed talked about them in Dragon magazine back in 1985.  See "The Dragon Connection" below. While these gods have "Earthly" sources, it actually works out great and ties into the mythology of the Realms as one being connected to Earth. Something it shares with Greyhawk's Oerth. The connection between Greyhawk and the Forgotten Realms is strong. They share almost all the same demi-human gods. By extension of the rule-set they also share all the same demons and devils. This makes moving between worlds a little smoother. The gods and their relationships are detailed well here and there is just enough unknow to keep them interesting.

Next section is about Adventuring Companies. So here is one thing that the Realms does better than Greyhawk (well there are more, but the first thing in this book). Adventurers are baked into the system. The world doesn't just need adventuring parties, it demands them. These parties can be used as models for your own adventuring parties. All these parties have names as well. I'll have to think about how Sinéad and Co would fit this format. Plus, the back cover of this book has a grid for the adventuring party! Room for 10 characters even.

Adventuring Party Roster

We get into the "Cyclopedia" part of the book now. This is an alphabetical listing of major topics within the Realms. These include things like the various character classes, races, countries, towns, areas of interest and other topics. There is a narrative piece describing it, Elminster's Notes for the point of view of the most knowledgeable native (even when he admits to not knowing much), and Game Information.

I rather like it, to be honest. Hit me with facts, and let me build some adventures around it!

DMs Sourcebook of the Realms
DMs Sourcebook of the Realms

96 pages. Color covers. Sepia-tone pages and art.

One of the best things in this book is the Introduction. We get words from Ed (as Ed) talking about the World of the Forgotten Realms and how it is now our world too. Yeah it is trademarked by TSR and now WotC/Hasbro, but this is an open invitation to do what you want with this world now. This is a foreshadowing to all the great Ed Greenwood content we would get over the next almost 4 decades. Honestly reading Ed's own words make me excited for all the exploration ahead of me. This is followed by words from Jeff Grubb, who also had a hand in shaping the AD&D version of the Realms. And more by editor Karen S. Martin who adds her experience and excitement to this world.

So much better than any puff-piece bit of gamer fiction!

We get right into it. Information on how to use this as an AD&D campaign world is started from the word go. Overview again of the boxed set. How to set up campaigns for new players, new campaigns for experienced players, and bringing in characters from other campaigns. Hmm...I should try all of these to be honest. Maybe a character from one of my Greyhawk or Mystara campaigns could come on over. I DO like the idea that Elvish and Dwarvish and some others are mostly the same languages. Would really help bring the worlds closer together. 

A bit of coverage on the maps and how to use them. Nice comparison of the map of Faerûn compared to the continental United States. And a section of various wandering monsters. The Forgotten Realms may be Forgotten, but they are very much alive!

The next 20 pages detail NPCs of note. Any to drop in as background, enemy, or ally. 

Speaking of living. A really nice section on recent news and various rumors starting in DR 1356 to 1357 are presented. With or without your characters, the Relams live on. 

Another plus for this boxed set is the ready-run adventures for low-level characters. The first, The Halls of the Beast Tamers, is a nice dungeon crawl. Next is Lashan's Fall, which appeared in Dragon #95 as "Into the Forgotten Realms," and even the maps are the same! Mind you I think this is a bonus since that is the adventure I always wanted to use as an intro to the Realms. I still can come to think of it. 

Into the Forgotten Realms

The next section is a "Pages from the Mages" style entry.  Lots of spells books to be found with plenty of new spells. I think some of these were in "Pages form the Mages" to be honest. That's fine, they work well here.

Honestly, the ONLY thing missing here are some new monsters, and this would be complete.

Maps & Plastic Hex Overlays

There are four gorgeous maps of the content of Faerûn. While it doesn't quite live up to the artistry of the Darlene World of Greyhawk maps, they are more practical. The plastic hex overlays also make it easier to read the maps and then do your hex crawls in whatever area you like.

The Dragon Connection

One of the great things about doing my This Old Dragon feature and concentrating on the period between 1980 and 1987 is watching the Forgotten Realms develop and grow as an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons world. From Ed's musings on gods in Down to Earth Divinity to magical tomes and spells of the Pages from the Mages and The Wizards Three features to adventure Into the Forgotten Realms, all of which would find homes in an official Forgotten Realms product in some shape or form.

I mentioned already that Dragon #95's Into the Forgotten Realms makes an appearance here as an introductory adventure.

As I mentioned, all we were missing were monsters. Well, Ed penned enough monsters in the pages of Dragon Magazine that were explicitly for the Realms, so collecting them all is worthwhile. In addition to monsters, there are magic items, more spells, blades, shields, and even musical instruments, and I know I am nowhere near collecting it all. I do know I will run out of room in my box for them all.

Realms in Dragon Magazine

My Thoughts

There is a lot packed in this box. It's like a TARDIS really; bigger on the inside. In truth, nothing of what I thought was going to be here was here. Yes, there are NPCs, but they are background, and your characters may never ever run into them. They are the background noise of the Realms until the characters are the big noise. I certainly unfairly judged the Forgotten Realms. 

A lot of this stemmed from me thinking that Gygax had been done wrong. Yes, that was true, but the Realms really had nothing to do with that. The New TSR was working to relgate Gygx to the past and Ed was just the guy in the right place in the right time with the right idea. I was also unfair of me to judge the Realms on that.  If reading Ed's "The Wizard's Three" has taught me anything that Abier-Toril and Oerth have more in common than not.

Greyhawk and the Forgotten Realms

This is, of course, just the start. A big start, to be sure, but a start all the same. This is a canvas to paint on. This is a great set, not just for its time but also for now. Minus some of the stat blocks and spells, everything here can be used with any version of D&D or similar game with little or no effort. 

While I am somewhat overwhelmed by the task before me, I am also excited about it.

Honestly, I am going to pull out some dice and roll up some characters now.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Review: Module N4 Treasure Hunt

N4 Treasure Hunt
I knew my exploration of the Forgotten Realms would take me to new and unexpected places. I just didn't think it was going to be this soon.

In my exploration of the Forgotten Realms product Moonshae, I discovered an interesting bit of knowledge. In the back of that book it mentions that Adventure Module N4 Treasure Hunt can be used with the Moonshae Islands. I later discovered that the islands in N4 were moved over to the Forgotten Realms for this purpose.  So I had to switch courses and check out this module. I am really happy I did.

This module is not just an introduction module, but maybe THE introduction to the game module. Where you have an honest-to-Gary Session 0 and start with 0-Level characters in 1986. Given I am new to all things Realms, I might as well start at level 0!

N4 Treasure Hunt

by Aaron Allston, 48 pages (2 full color map pages, 36 pages of adventure, 10 pages of character profiles) black & white interiors. Art by Stephen Fabian. Cartographers: David F. "Diesel" LaForce, Stephen D. Sullivan, Bill Reuter, Stephanie Tabat. Cover art by Jeff Easley/

For this review, I am considering the PDF and Print on Demand version from DriveThruRPG/DMSGuild.

Treasure Hunt is a completely introductory adventure for players of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition game. I say "players" since I feel this adventure still requires a bit of rules savvy from the Dungeon Master, at least in terms of some of the lifts needed to work with the 0-level characters. However, reading this one nearly 40 years later, with honestly tens of thousands of hours spent on this game, there are nice gems here.

Speaking of which. I am not going to attempt to judge this adventure by the same yardstick as new Level-0 or the so-called "Funnel" adventures. That is not fair to the author nor the adventure itself. This has to judged on the merits of its time. But I will tell you this, I'd run this today, as is, with no changes to be honest.

There is a Player's Introduction and Dungeon Master's Introduction. 

This is the most interesting parts for me today since they cover the rules of rolling up and playing Level-0 characters.  For starters, you don't have a class yet. You are a Normal Human (or elf, or half-elf, or whatever), and you have 1d6 hit points and maybe a secondary skill. You don't even have an alignment. The plot revolves around your character, either one you make or use from the starting characters, being kidnapped by pirates, and then your pirate captors are shipwrecked and mostly all killed. Now, you are stuck in the Korinn Archipelago, later added to the north of the Moonshaes.

Korinn Archiipelago

From here the new PCs work out an escape plan and defeat their first enemy, the last pirate.

As the players play through the challenges presented on these islands they can build up what their character does and earn some XP. They are all 500 xp away from level 1. The adventure explains that even 1st level characters have some training. A fighter at level 1 is called a Veteran. A 1st level Cleric is an Acolyte. Even thieves and magic-users have some skills at first level that 0-levels do not.  Want to be a thief? Try picking that lock. Want to be a Cleric? What do you feel when you enter the Temple of the Goddess and how do you react? You won't know till the end (or near that) and you won't get there till you try.

0-level and skills

Frankly, it is great. A fantastic set of mini-mechanics to get the story going and flowing.  

The adventure itself is divided into six "episodes." And episode is a good word here since there is a bit of cinematic feel to this. It feels like Aaron Allston watched a lot of Raiders of the Lost Ark, or more to the point, Romancing the Stone. This is a good thing.

Each episode gives the new PCs something tangible to do. Defeat the pirate, stop the orcs and goblins, explore the Temple, explore the Sea King's Manor, and so on. While there is a great feel to all of this, add a bit of the Moonshaes to it, and thus some Celtic and Old Norse culture to it all, and it becomes a fun mix.

Even for the time, the adventure is a bit linear, but not in a terrible way. I mean, let's be honest, the plot is "I've been captured, now I am free, but how do I get out of here?"  At the end of each episode, there is a debrief for the DM on handling anything that went amiss, tracking the character's class and alignment progression, and so on. There are even contingencies if certain NPCs are not encountered or die before they are supposed to do something. So, linear but with enough branches to keep it fresh. 

Experience points are tracked all along the way, so there is a chance the characters will break the 500 XP threshold by the end of episode 5. 

There are appendices on "What if Things Go Wrong" or "What if the Character Dies?" and all are handled pretty well. There are some clever Player's Maps and the map of the islands. 

The character profiles in the back can be used as potential PCs or NPCs. A few are even worded to be male or female. Someone online would have screamed, "Woke!" at it, but it is presented here as just one of many options. I do feel more care was taken here to entice both male and female new players to the game.

This adventure is a good one for new players. The only thing missing here is some more guidance for new DMs. Something that B2 Keep on the Borderlands does rather well. Maybe the perfect starting trilogy is this adventure, then T1 the Village of Hommlet, and ending with B2 Keep on the Borderlands.

N4 Print on Demand

About the Print-on-Demand Scan

This is a print of a scanned image. So there is some fuzziness to some of the letters. It is obviously not as sharp as, say, a direct from digital print. It is still very readable.  Getting the PoD and PDF will give a book you can use and be able to print out the character cards and player maps as needed. 

Treasure Hunt in the Forgotten Realms

I already mentioned that the location of this adventure, the Korinn Archipelago, was dropped as right into the Moonshae Isles, which were already an addition by Douglas Niles to the Forgotten Realms, supplanting Ed Greenwood's own islands that were there. Already the Realms are evolving in front of our eyes and it is not even fully 1987 yet.

As an adventure, it is also a great start for Realms-centric characters. I had already planned to make my start in the Moonshaes, this just sets characters on the path of adventure in a different way. You didn't meet in a tavern or bar. You were captured and met your companions along the way. Something we will see again in Baldur's Gate 3 or even, to a degree, Skyrim. 

The Temple of the Goddess in Episode Three can easily become a Temple to the Earth Mother / Chauntea. Lots of different Goddesses are given as example, but I thought it might be fun if the Earth Mother appears as all of them. Playing into my fascination with "the Goddess is all goddesses" motif.

Sinéad for Treasure Hunt

Sinéad's Perspective

At the outset of these reviews, I said I wanted to explore the Realms through the eyes of a native, but one that was just as naïve as me. Sinéad is that character. She was chosen partially because she has a pseudo-Celtic background (so starting the Moonshaes was great). She was a Forgotten Realms native already, but mostly because she was just so much damn fun in Baldur's Gate 3. 

For Sinéad, I re-did her sheet as a 0-level character.  The DMG suggests using Method I for rolling up characters; 4d6 drop the lowest and arrange as desired. Well. I did that with Sinéad as a first level, so I opted to use a trick I used all the time in Unisystem's point build, I just knocked a few points off. 

Her "1st Level" abilities add up to 92, so I took 10 off and re-distributed the points among her six abilities. Then I added on back. My world. My rules. I also felt that since her main defining feature at this point is that she is a half-elf, I decided that was her class. So I used a Basic-D&D style sheet. The one I have above is from New Big Dragon Games Unlimited's GM screen.

Since my concept of her is a proto-Bard at this point, and she is young, I figure she really doesn't have any secondary skills yet. At best, she can play the lute or flute. If she was captured by pirates, she likely lost whatever she had. This would be a bigger loss to her than however much gold she had. 

At the end of the adventure, she becomes a magic-user with her one spell, Burning Hands. The same spell she accidentally burned down the barn she was in back at home, which was why she was running and how she got caught by pirates. 

After this adventure, how could she possibly go home? There is an entire world out there. 

Besides, she survived pirates. What can be worse than that?

Oh. And since I have had friends do this exact thing, after her adventure here, Sinéad uses the dagger she found to chop off her hair and dye some of it. Seems like a perfectly reasonable trauma reaction to me. 

Sinéad at the end of N4

She is just a kid at this point.

Final Thoughts

If I had been smarter, I would have used this first when re-creating Sinéad on paper, but as it is, this worked out fine. This is also a great new-to-me adventure for a new-to-me world. While I LOVE B2 Keep on the Borderlands, it is too closely tied to Greyhawk and the Known World for me to really adapt it over the Realms. Would it even fit in the Realms? I am sure many online users have found a home for it. Maybe one day I could as well, but for now, this is a great adventure to start with. In fact, I want to go through all the N, aka "Novice," adventures and see how they fit my needs here. But for now, I am pretty happy with this.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Shrink Wrapped Orange Palace of the Silver Princess on eBay

 I have discussed my fondness for the Green cover B3 Palace of the Silver Princess. It is a fun adventure and great for newbie DMs. It came to me just as I needed it. For its ability to run and more lore to Glantri, and (for me) the ability to easily code it into a computer when I was trying to D&D on my little TRS-80 Color Computer. 

I like the adventure. A lot. But not this much.

B3 on eBay
https://www.ebay.com/itm/315023385002

Right now is it going for just a bit over $10k.  That is up $1000.00 from when I first saw it this morning.

The adventure is fun, no where near as good as the revised Green cover version. And it is certainly not with $10k except to a serious collector. 

Makes me wish I knew what dumpster they were dumped in at the time! I could pay my kids' college tuition with that. 

Friday, October 20, 2023

Kickstart Your Weekend: Vampire Queen 10th Anniversary Edition

 Now, HERE is a treat and a perfect time of year for it. Friend of the Other Side Mark "The Mad Wizard" Taormino is back with another Kickstarter to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of his first, and maybe my favorite adventure of his, Hanging Coffins of the Vampire Queen.

Vampire Queen 5E and 10 Year Anniversary 1E Softcovers

Vampire Queen 5E and 10 Year Anniversary 1E Softcovers

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/marktaormino/vampire-queen-5e-and-10-year-anniversary-1e-softcovers?ref=theotherside

At this point, do I need to tell you all about my love for all things Vampire Queen? No. I don't think so.

Do I need to tell you about how great Mark's Maximum Mayhem Adventures are? No. But just in case, they are great. Plus he runs a tight Kickstarter and ALWAYS gets his books out in time if not early.  I have not even gone too deep into his newest one and now this? Sign me up!

Ok so what do we have here?

There is the original OSR, overtly OSRIC, version of Hanging Coffins of the Vampire Queen with some new art. Additionally, there is now a 5e version as well. Which is great really. The first time I ran this was under 5e

Hanging Coffins of the Vampire Queen 5e

So am I getting this? I think I was one of the first to pledge, to be honest. Given his usual track record I'll get this in a month or so. I can plan on running it next year for Halloween 10 years after I ran the first one. Perfect!

I am going to need a bigger box though.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Mail Call: Village on the Borderlands

 It's Tuesday, and that means time to see what the postman delivered to me. This week it is a Kickstarter delivery from Mark Taormino and Dark Wizard Games.

Village on the Borderlands

An introductory adventure to his Maximum Mayhem series of over-the-top AD&D 1st Ed/OSRIC adventures. This one is an homage to both the Village of Hommelt and the Keep on the Borderlands.

Village on the Borderlands

Village on the Borderlands

Village on the Borderlands

Village on the Borderlands

Village on the Borderlands



Mark knows how to write a fun adventure and he runs a great Kickstarter too. 

I have run many of his adventures over the years. Sometimes with AD&D, often with D&D 5e and once with Castles & Crusades. But what I really want to do is run them all as a campaign using the Old-School Essentials Advanced Fantasy rules. 

Maximum Mayhem Campaign

The adventures run from 1st to 14th level, just like OSE-Advanced and I think it would be a lot of fun.

And there is more on the way! Mark is going to bring us the 10th Anniversary of Hanging Coffins of the Vampire Queen for both 1st Ed and 5e! Really looking forward to it.

Friday, September 22, 2023

Kickstart Your Weekend: Demons, Angels, and Serpent Queens

 A couple of new Kickstarters for this weekend.

Castles & Crusades Codex Infernum & Codex Exaltum

Castles & Crusades Codex Infernum & Codex Exaltum

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ckg/castles-and-crusades-monsters-the-unclean-and-pure?ref=theotherside

Troll Lords continues their Codex Series with two books. Castles & Crusades Codex Infernum and Codex Exaltum, this time covering Demons and Angels, respectively.

I really liked their Tome of the Unclean, which featured demons and devils, and I thought it was a great book. I love their Codex series as well.  No surprise then that I am looking forward to seeing these out. 

And to add icing on the cake the Codex Exaltum is being written by none other than my frequent partner in crime, Jason Vey!  Jaso really is the perfect person for that with his academic and game-writing background. So my expectations of this one are pretty high. 

The covers look great and will fit in nicely with my current in-use copies of Castles & Crusades.

Also expect these in a future One Man's God-style post.


Trails & Tales: Temple of the Serpent Queen

Trails & Tales: Temple of the Serpent Queen

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/trailsandtales/trails-and-tales-temple-of-the-serpent-queen?ref=theotherside

If you are on social media, in particular Facebook, you know that for a little bit now Danger Forge has been releasing some quality OSR-compatible PDFs for free. The production values are high and the content has been a lot of fun.  

This is their first Kickstarter. 

Personally, I can think of about three or four campaigns I could use this in, one of which is my Castles & Crusades conversion of my "Second Campaign."

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Baldur's Gate: A Barbarian in Hell

 My son and I have been enjoying the new game, Baldur's Gate 3. He is much further along than I am and so is his D&D 5e group. One of his favorite characters is Karlach, the tiefling barbarian. I admit, she is great. Karlach is this 6ft+ tall tiefling warrior goddess who is also one of the funniest, most optimistic characters in the game. My son calls her a "cinnamon roll" because of how sweet and fluffy she is.

When your character is idle she will be humming to herself and dancing in place. She says things like "fuck! It is great to be alive!" and when she runs into combat she laughs. She calls everyone "soldier" and loves it when you stick up for the underdog, kids or find ways to keep the innocents alive. She has every right to be angry and bitter; instead, she is cheerful and optimistic. 

And sadly...she is also dying.

Spoilers ahead for the Baldur's Gate 3 video game.

A Barbarian in Hell

Karlach has an "infernal engine" for a heart. It works great in Hell, where she was fighting in the blood war, but on the Prime Material, it is burning her up from the inside. One of your quests is to find a way to keep her from burning up. You can, for a while (and it is worth the effort!) but in the end...well the Devil has their due. 

There are a lot of different endings for all the "origin" characters, but Karlach's was particularly bleak. Her happy ending was to be able to say she loved everyone before burning up, leaving only ash.

What did Larian Studios do about this when players started complaining about it? Simple they did what any good studio would do.  They pulled back in the voice actress, reshot Karlach's ending with all new material, and patched it to the game in a matter of DAYS.

You can see her new "happy" ending here.

Personally, I love the idea that she and Wyll go off together since their backstories are so intertwined. If I do another run-through of this game, I want to do it as Wyll with the purpose of seeing what I can do to save Karlach. Karlach would never do it for herself; that is not who she is.

BUT. Even with the "they lived happily ever-after in Hell" ending my son and his group are less than happy with it. So we were talking about it one night while playing BG3.

He wants an adventure for his party where they go to Hell to rescue both Karlach and Wyll.  He wanted to know if I had anything.  

I told him that was a silly question.

A Paladin in Hell

I mentioned the adventure A Paladin in Hell does this, and it has somewhat the same premise as the newer D&D 5 adventure (and Baldur's Gate 3 prequel) Descent into Avernus.

I told him to use the basic outline of APiH, use details from BG:DiA, and make it a mission to rescue Karlach and call it "A Barbarian in Hell." However, in my current run-through, Wyll has rejected his warlock powers to become a Paladin. So I guess it still works.  I half-jokingly have called this "No Sleep Till Avernus" with my son.

In this adventure, Karlach and Wyll are defending a piece of Elturel that has remained in Avernus (let's say it was the temple in A Paladin in Hell).  The characters in Baldur's Gate 3 are limited to 12th level. "Descent into Avernus" takes the characters from level 1 to 13. The AD&D 2nd Ed "A Paladin in Hell" is for characters 15-20 level. So then A Barbarian in Hell is for characters 13th level and above. 

Paladins in Hell

The motivation for most D&D adventures is glory and gold. The motivation for A Paladin in Hell is "the greater good."  For A Barbarian in Hell, the motivation is "Save our friends."  And that is a good motivation, really. 

Besides, if the roles were reversed, you know Karlach would have saved your ass a long time ago.

Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Mail Call: Fright Night Classics Adventures

Nice new mail call. Especially when it is a book I worked on. I have to admit this never, ever gets old to me.

Fright Night Classics

My "The Nightmare" and a great one, "Medieval Mysteries" from Scott George set in a medieval monastery. 

The Nightmare

Yeah, I am pretty happy with this, to be honest.

You can get all the Fright Night Classics Adventures on DriveThruRPG.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

New Release: The Nightmare

I woke up to a very pleasant surprise today.

The Nightmare

An adventure I worked on was released in PDF on DriveThruRPG last night. 

The Nightmare

From the Back cover:

You wake up unable to move. There’s a presence in the room. Then you see it. You’re terrifified beyond anything you’ve experienced before. The dark shape with glowing eyes approaches as you lay helpless. You try desperately to move, knowing that you must in order to stop this evil, malevolent thing from attacking. Still the entity nears. A scream forms but doesn’t come out.

The creature is pressing down upon you. Its eyes are all the more horrifying, and now you can make out a hag-like face. “She” has a menacing smile, and apparently is whispering something.

You feel that if you don’t move soon, you will die from sheer fright...

Known by many names across many cultures, the entity commonly referred to as the “old hag” has been a literal nightmare for humanity for centuries. Now it stalks the streets of Stockton, California, returning to locations still haunted by its presence decades before. Spectral forces have incaded the Central Valley. Eliminating them from the community is up to you.

The Nightmare is an exciting new adventure for the FRIGHT NIGHT CLASSICS roleplaying game module series. Inside you’ll find character cards, a sleep lab map, and a fun night of terrifying gaming.

I really had a lot of fun with this one. 

When I was contacted by Richard Ravalli of Yeti Spaghetti and Friends to do a Fright Nights Classics adventure, I jumped on it.  

The game is designed for games like Chill and Cryptworld, but you can use it with almost any modern horror game. Yes, even NIGHT SHIFT.

I have wanted to write a Chill adventure for years so I was very pleased to get to do this. 

ALSO,

Fright Night Classics is currently in the middle of defending their trademark. So you can get the adventure AND help them out for the same price of the adventure alone. Just head on over to their GoFundMe page and donate $5 then tweet out your donation, tagging Fright Night Classics @chillcryptworld (tag me as well! @timsbrannan) and tell them you want a copy of "The Nightmare!"

Yeah, this won't help the standing on DriveThru, but the money goes to a good cause. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Class Struggles: The Necromancer, Part 2

The Necromancer
I have not done a Class Struggles in a bit. Let's change that today.

The Necromancer is fertile ground for gamers.  I featured the Necromancer as one of the first Class Struggles.  There is still more to be said. Also in the last few months, I have bought at least three new necromancers. So lets see what we have.

Dragon #76 The Death Master
I spoke a lot about this one when I covered Dragon #76 in This Old Dragon and in my original Class Struggles. It really is the model I follow when creating an evil necromancer type though Len's here was a bit of an arcane necromancer with a bit of a death priest of Orcus mixed in. As I became savvier in what I knew about necromancers and the various D&D worlds I decided that Death Masters were unique to the Word of Greyhawk's Oerth. 

The Death Master became a playable class in the 3.x era with the publication of Dragon Compendium Volume 1 (there was never a vol. 2). Here the Death Master got a full 20 levels and was based directly off of Len Lakofka's class. Personally, I think a Prestige Class would have been a better choice. In fact a Prestige Class with just 13 levels like the original. I'd structure the prerequisites to need 3 levels of cleric and four levels of wizard or something like that. Sadly the Dragon Compendium Volume 1 is not just out of print, it is also not available on DriveThruRPG.  But Amazon has a copy and sometimes Noble Knight Games has them too.  

The Genius Guide to the Death Mage
Speaking of the old Death Master by Len Lakofka in Dragon Magazine. Owen K.C. Steven remembers! it! And this 20-level class for Pathfinder "feels" like that class, but it is its own thing.

This class is a stand-alone class (like most of the Pathfinder classes) complete with new powers and spells over 14 pages. In truth, it is a lot of fun. The author compares it to necromancer wizards, death priests, and undead-bloodline sorcerers, and how it is different. A better comparison is to druids. But where the druid is dedicated to life, the Death Mage is dedicated to death and the spirits of the dead.

There are five "Sub-types" of Death Mages presented. Corpse Mages, Ghoul Mages, Tomb Mages, Reaper Mages, and Shadow Mages.

There are 11 new spells. I think an opportunity was missed here to have 13 spells.

One of the newest necromancers on the block and designed specifically for Old School Essentials.  This is designated as "Play Test Material" but it really is ready to go. There have been necromancers for OSE before and there is at least one necromancer for other B/X-Basic games written by Gavin Norman already. Here the Necromancer is a subclass of the Magic-user, as would be expected, and some notes are given about using these new spells for the magic-user.  But thematically they fit with the necromancer much better. The new spells are from 1st to 6th level and there are 12 of each. I see why there are twelve of each; to fit the style and layout of what Gavin does with his OSE games. But I would have been tempted to make it a nice 13 per level myself. 
The spells are good and fit well. Some we have seen in other forms and formats over the past few years, but that does not detract from this book at all. Do you want a great OSE necromancer? Well, here it is.
The format used here could be adopted for all sorts of other magic-user type classes or subclasses like the Illusionist or Enchanter for example.

Castles & Crusades Black Libram of Naratus
I am a huge fan of Castles & Crusades and frankly, I don't think the game gets anywhere near as much love.

So I grabbed this one since it deals with darker magic and was part of the Haunted Highlands campaign (which I also enjoy). There is also the cover which is a call back to the infamous Eldritch Wizardry of OD&D. The first part covers necromancers and necromancer spells. This includes a way for normal spell casters to gain a level of Necromancer. A nice little add-on for any CK really. There is also a great spellbook in here called the "Grimoire of the Witch Queen" that makes the whole book worth it to me all by itself! That's the first half of the book. Later we get into Ritual/Sacrificial magic, magic items, and some new monsters. Given the types of games I run and the magic I like to have this is a "Must Have" book for me. The book is a tight 38 pages.

I have to give special attention to my other "new" necromancer.  This one does not differ from the previous editions of AS&SH/Hyperborea. At least not that I can tell. The necromancer here is cut from the "evil cultist" mold like their warlock and has a lot of great spells and powers. It is still one of my favorites, but the new OSE one has a lot of great spells to go with their's so a combination might be in order. 

For Pathfinder we have a few choices. 

Mysteries of the Dead Side: Sacred Necromancer
This book is presented in landscape orientation for easier screen reading. We are given a 20-level base class for Pathfinder with six "Callings" (sub-types). I have to admit this got may attention since my cabal of evil necromancers is called "The Order of Six" so I could restat them as one of each type here. No new spells, but there is a fully...fleshed out...NPC. So it is worth the download really.

New Paths 7: Expanded White Necromancer
This 17-page book gives a new perspective a, GOOD necromancer that protects the dead. I like the idea, to be honest.  It comes with a complete 20-level base class and six new spells. There are also feats and stats for various undead companions. It makes for a great companion piece and counterpoint to the 3.x Death Master from Dragon Compendium Volume 1.

Special Mention: Shadow of the Necromancer

Not a class, but an adventure from friend of the Other Side Mark Taormino. This is a short adventure for 1st to 3rd-level characters. And most importantly (to me) it comes in both Old-School/1st Edition and 5th Edition D&D versions!
The adventure comes with a map, in beautiful old-school blue for the 1st ed version and full color for the 5th edition version. The module itself is 16 pages (one page for title and credits, one page for OGL , one page blank).  The adventure is a simple "strange things are going on! The PCs must investigate!" situation. It turns into "stop the minion of the Necromancer from finishing his evil plans." It's tried and true and it works fine here.  The adventure, as with many of the Darl Wizard/Maximum Mayhem Dungeons, is a deadly affair. Not as deadly as the Hanging Coffins of the Vampire Queen, but it is not a walk in the graveyard either. It is a fun romp and really captures the feel of old-school playing. Both versions are great and I can keep the 1st-ed version for myself and give the 5th-ed version to my kids to run.

Shadow of the Necromancer


I certainly have enough here to do an "Against the Necromancer" sort of campaign. Or even bring back my Order of the Six.

Saturday, October 22, 2022

100 Days of Halloween: Fane of the Witch King

Fane of the Witch King
I have spent all month long so far on "Witch Queen" adventures, I thought maybe a Witch King might be nice. Spoiler. There is still a Witch Queen here. 

Fane of the Witch King

Print and PDF. 68 pages. Color cover, black & white interior art.

So this one goes all the way back to the 3.x days from Necromancer Games. It is an adventure for 4 to 6 characters of 10th level and higher. 

The adventurers investigate the site of an ancient and evil city where the minions of the now-dead Witch King reside and plot his return. Among them is his former lover, the Witch Queen Kytara Bane.

"Witch" in both cases just means "evil spell-caster" but I can work with it. So this is a Necromancer Games product so expect there to be plenty of monsters to kill, deep forgotten dungeons and everything that made 1st Edition adventures so much fun. The NPCs are also great in a "how can we make something so evil" sort of way. The Witch King Osenkej for example was the product of a Balor father and Red Wyrm mother. Kytara Bane, his queen, was/is a Half-nymph/Half-demon. There is the Ghul Legion a band of dark elves and gnolls working for a group of evil Stone Giants and their Black Dragon leader Ghul Lacronus. All who they have to fight to get into the Black Fane and then to get out they have to face Kytara Bane herself.  Along the way they can also run into the Covenant of the Claw, they are a half-elf/half-dragon, a half-human/half-dragon and a half-gnoll/half-dragon.  Really giving those half-dragon template rules a workout.

Not to mention all the demons and undead running around including a demonic triceratops! This adventure is a meat grinder and the characters are assumed to be level 10. I think they need to be a little stronger.

The appendices are full. A new spell. New magic items including new artifacts. Five maps.

The locations are great, and that is what the adventure gives top billing, but for me, it is really about these NPCs.

Fane of the Witch King - Print


Use in War of the Witch Queens

Again, it is the NPCs here that interest me the most. The locations are fun but I can put those anywhere, or re-do them as I need. The NPCs are just too much not to use. The adventure is fun as it, but what if I add this twist for my world/campaign. Kytara Bane learning of the death of the Witch Queen decides to make her move.

It could be fun really. Certainly near the end of the campaign.


The Other Side - 100 Days of Halloween


Friday, October 21, 2022

100 Days of Halloween: The Witch's Daughter- Adventure Module GSAM01

The Witch's Daughter - Adventure Module GSAM01
I have spent all month so far working with adventures from various systems, tonight I think I will try a systemless one tonight. 

The Witch's Daughter - Adventure Module GSAM01

PDF. 68 pages. Color cover, black & white interior art. 

This is a systemless adventure centered around a village where a witch was attacked and killed leaving her daughter behind. The adventure is a quasi-sandbox. There are 60 some-odd pages of backstory and details of the village, its people, and most importantly the NPCs.

There is a lot here to be honest, maybe more than needed for an adventure? This is more of a mini-setting. 

The strength of this adventure is the lack of stats. Why? I think by having go through the effort to stat ups the NPCs like Count Ducas Fellbane and the titular witch's daughter. For example, I might make Count Ducas a vampire. I know I shouldn't it would be so cliche, but I kinda want to do it to be honest. And the thing is. I can do this if I want. 

Again, like some of the other adventures I have reviewed this month I might use this one to shore up some of the others that are not as rich in background as this one is.  Yes. This adventure is perfectly fine on its own and it can be used anywhere.  But my time is limited on how many adventures I can run; 14th level is going to be the max level. 

I think I might try starting this up for a couple of systems to see which ones feel the best.


The Other Side - 100 Days of Halloween


Thursday, October 20, 2022

100 Days of Halloween: Vengeance of a Burned Witch

Vengeance of a Burned Witch
Tonight we have a slightly different take on the "Witch comes back for Vengeance" adventure. But is it different enough from what we have seen all month?

Vengeance of a Burned Witch

PDF. 15 pages. Color cover and interior art. 

Or more properly, "Gregorius21778: Vengeance of a Burned Witch" with Gregorius21778 the label of Kai Pütz. 

This is a tight little investigation adventure. The premise is simple, the PCs will stumble onto this village of Hillsgreen Crossing where last year they burned a witch, Ginniver by name, and now her ghost is back.

It is billed as a Halloween adventure, so perfect for this time of year.

I could go over the plot, but we have seen this sort before here. Instead I want to talk about what makes this one good.  The idea is the PCs know nothing. Zip. Nada. If they want to know anything they have to go ask the mostly terrified villagers. They need to investigate, ask around, and piece the history and the present together. Plus they will need to figure out how to rid the village of this pesky witch.

Ginniver comes back not just as one, but two creatures. The first his her burned skeleton (which needs to be destroyed) and as a "Witch-Wraith" the ghost of a burned witch. 

So to destroy this witch you have to destroy her skeleton and destroy the contract she signed, gives her something of what I would call a Unique Kill in other games. 

Note we are warned up front that English is not the author's first language, but I did not find that to be an issue really. There is some canned text, but I use that only as a suggestion anyway. 

All in all there is a lot of fun packed into just 13 pages of content.

It is PWYW with a suggested price of $1.00. Following my guidelines (which I haven't all year,b but whatever) a $1.50 is better. I say to encourage more like this toss them $2.00. 

Use in War of the Witch Queens

I like this one. I don't think I would run as is for the War of the Witch Queens though. One reason, and this is the easy one, it relies on the PCs coming to this village. Yes yes I know I can put her anywhere and with any village, but my point is that for this particular campaign it is a bit too random. But that is the small reason.  The bigger reason is I have already lost track of the number of dead witches coming back for vengeance adventures I have.  What I will do is take the best ideas this one has and overlay it with one of the weaker adventures in my collection. Maybe weaker is the wrong word. I have a lot of bare-bones adventures and maybe this one is something that could help the others. 


The Other Side - 100 Days of Halloween


Wednesday, October 19, 2022

100 Days of Halloween: The Dark Eye - Witch's Dance

The Dark Eye - Witch's Dance
Yesterday I reviewed The Dark Eye. Tonight I want to cover an adventure for it that I might want to make work for my War of the Witch Queens.

The Dark Eye - Witch's Dance

PDF and Print. 16 pages. Color cover and interior art.

This is actually a rather good adventure to introduce people to The Dark Eye game. 

Briefly, we have an evil warlock taking control of a small coven of witches. But one witch, Alevtia, refuses to submit. Luckily she finds the heroes. That's you all.

This is a detective story and wilderness adventure. So social skills are just as important as combat here. The characters will need to meet with the other members of the sisterhood to get all the details they need. But that also puts them in contact with the Warlock Codax, and he needs items from the heroes (hair, blood, saliva) to make his curses work.

There are plenty of interesting tables of rumors and various locations all throughout the area including a forest. There is even an ogre nearby (and stats for him) and "Predatory Mushrooms!" The adventure feel like a fairy tale. 

Of course, the goal is to stop the warlock. He doesn't have to be killed even, there is a potion to turn him into a toad for example.

It is perfect for a couple of afternoons and even better for new players.

Alevtia The Witch's Dance print

For My War of the Witch Queens

Well, you can set the village of Wireslhome anywhere. Well since I already have the characters popping all over the multiverse I'll even change the name to Westhafen.  But I would still keep it in the northern half of Aventuria, where witches are more common.

The plot here, a warlock taking over a coven, is nearly the same plot of the War of the Witch Queens writ on a local level.  One could even make parallels of what is happening here and to what is happing with the larger cosmos of witches. As above, so below.  Even our cover girl Alevtia's grandmother has just died. In parallel to the Witch Queen herself. 

For me, this adventure is to essentially tell my players what is going on but on a smaller scale.   

There are no stats for Alevtia, but I feel that NPC stats on page 148 of the Core book would be perfect.  In the adventure though, she is listed as part of the Sisterhood: Beauty of the Night or a Cat Witch (p. 146).  The art in the book is closer to 148, so that is what I'll use. I should point out that all the NPCs in the core do have a name attached to them, though in the case of the Toad Witch the description does not match the art.

She is listed in both the core and the adventure as "Inexperienced" so for my purposes that works as 1st level. 

So let's give her a go.  Described as an (Apparently) Simple Country girl (spoiler isn't simple or all that innocent), which would make her a good fit for the Pagan, Green, or even Classical traditions. I am more inclined to go Pagan. But she will get cantrips. This works well since my Pagan Witch book and my Warlock book are both for OSE. 

Alevtia
Alevtia

1st level Witch (Craft of the Wise tradition)
Human Female

Strength: 12
Intelligence: 15
Wisdom: 14
Dexterity: 12 
Constitution: 13
Charisma: 17

Saving Throws
Poison: (+1) 11
Wands: 14
Turn to Stone: 13
Breath Weapon: 16
Spells: 15

THAC0: 20
AC: 9[10]

Occult Powers
Familiar: Toad ("Kitty")

Spells
Cantrips: (5) Clean, Mend, Open, Palm, Spark
1st level: (1+2) Control Face, Glamour, Toad

Since I could not make up my mind whether she was a "Toad" witch or a "Cat" witch, I gave her a toad, as in the picture, but decided she treats her toad like it was a cat.

She could be a fun witch to come back to after she has gained some levels.

The Other Side - 100 Days of Halloween