Showing posts with label basic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label basic. Show all posts

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Current Works In Progress: Basic Bestiary & High Witchcraft

Work has me really busy right now, so I have been slow on getting new material out.  Either in book form or for this blog (except for Halloween).  But I wanted to give an update on what I am working on now.

I recently went through all my research notes, books, and files.  This has been a good thing and something I like to do every so often to keep me grounded in what sort of game I want.  It is far, far too easy in game design to drift away from your core principles into something else.  One example of this power-creep in games, though there are other reasons for power-creep too.  The other is scope-creep and that is when a project gets too unwieldy and becomes much larger than intended. 

Both types have hit my latest two works in progress, so I have been taking a step back to see what I really have.

Basic Bestiary

This is the "Big" project that has my focus now.  The project began with collecting all the monsters from all my witch books, plus all the monsters for Monstrous Mondays, and additional ones I have but have not published.  Once I pull them all together I had over 220 pages with 300 or so monsters with no art (yet).  For me that felt like a "good size" but I got to thinking.  Even if I edit them all and standardize them all, which is no small amount of work, these are all essentially "re-runs" material people have already seen and in some cases paid for.   That didn't feel right to me.  So I started adding more (power and scope creep!) and that is where the issues began.

For starters, I publish most for Basic-era (B/X, BECMI, OSE, LL) and Swords & Wizardry games.  Add in all the other games I post about here I have monsters in six to seven different but still largely compatible systems.  I needed to standardize my monster stat block.  You have seen it's evolution here on my blog. The current and most stable version can be seen in yesterday's Fenodyree.  Essentially a Labyrinth Lord stat block with some other information thrown in that I like to use in my games.   If you go back and look at something like the Wendigo then you can see that there are three different, similar but not the same, stat blocks.   So there is that process now going on.  Some stat blocks like S&W and OSE are great, but far too minimal for me. 

Also since the hardcover of The Craft of the Wise went over so well I decided that the Basic Bestiary needed softcover (Basic) and hardcover (Advanced) options.  Here are the covers as they sit now.  These very likely will change again.

Basic Bestiary cover, version 1 Basic Bestiary cover, version 2

For these covers, I made two changes.  First I switched to Goya's "The Witches' Sabbath" to reflect the feel that this book is mostly witch related monsters.  It also fits better with the quote I use in the Preface, "El sueño de la razón produce monstruos." or "The sleep of reason produces monsters."

I am also going with my own compatibility logos on these since they really have gone beyond one system or the other.  They are still largely "Basic" in nature, but as you can see from my stat blocks they have a little bit of everything in the OGC. 

Switching from Fuseli to Goya also was an outward sign of another issue.   I had WAY too many demons.  Not just demons, but devils and all sorts of fiends.  I also had my own demonic families of Baalserph, Lilim, Eodemons, Calabim, and Shedim.  I mean you can't do as much reading, researching, and writing about witches like I do and not collect some demons.    There really was only one solution.

Split them into two books. 

This actually works well since in my discussions with people there are decidedly two camps. The ones that use demons in basic-era games and those who don't.   This gives both groups buying options.

Basic Bestiary II, Basic coverBasic Bestiary II, Advanced cover

Regardless of whether you buy the "Basic" softcover or the "Advanced" hardcover, the material inside will be the same.  The Basic Bestiary I will be heavy on undead, vampires, fey, hags, and other witch-related monsters.   The Basic Bestiary II will cover demons, devils, and all sorts of fiends.

Right now there is no projected publication dates.  BUT I want to get BBI out and follow up with BBII maybe three or six months later.

Between those two I will also publish my "Last Witch Book,"  The High Secret Order Witchcraft book.


Going back to Rosetti for this one, a perennial favorite of mine.  The piece is "Astarte Syriaca" which harkens back to the first witch coven I ever wrote, the Coven of Astártē Queen of Heaven.

All three books (five covers) will be under my "Basic-Era Compatible" banner to indicate greater compatibility with each other and my desire to use what I consider the best or best of all the systems along with my own additions. Compatibility is key, but innovation is the driving goal here. 

The weakest link right now is The Secret Order book.  I have a ton of material and none of it put together the way I want yet.

Personally, I am really excited about all of these. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

It's Free Witches!

 OR...Make that a Free Witch.

Right now DriveThruRPG (and all the OneBookshelf "DriveThru" sites) are having their Halloween Sales.

Now, normally I would be telling you which one of my Witch books are on sale.  And I will, but I have something EVEN BETTER.

Right now if you go on to DriveThruRPG's site you will find witches hats, jack-o-lanterns, ghosts and more to get a free download.

One of those free downloads is my The Basic Witch: The Pumpkin Spice Witch Tradition!


I could tell you where, but that would ruin all the fun!  Trust me it is there and the Basic Witch, the Pumpkin Spice Witch Tradition is now FREE until the end of this month November 2nd.

Grab it and see what I do.

Also, there are plenty of great sales going on.


In addition to the Pumpkin Spice Witch being free several of my other books are on sale.

Help me celebrate my FAVORITE holiday by adding something witchy to your games.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

BaF - The Muse from Basic Witch Games

If you name your publishing label "Basic Witch Games" you are going to get my attention. 

So last night I got a new PDF from a just-as-new company.  The PDF is The Muse and the company is Basic Witch Games.  Now full disclosure, I knew about this class a while back and gave the author a tiny bit of advice about it and encouraged her to add a bit and publish it.  

So ethically I can not provide you all an unbiased review. 

Also, the book uses some of my own OGC, so there is another reason.

But I do want to tell you this is a fun class. It's not for every group, but that is true of all classes really, but for the right group this can be a lot of fun. 

The Muse is the first in what I hope will be more Basic era content from Basic Witch Games.
The class is something of a tempter or even a seducer.  I am immediately reminded of the old Houri Class from White Dwarf.  

The class itself is 14 level B/X style class.  The cover has a nice visual transition from red to blu to cover the red and blue of the beloved Basic and Expert books. In addition to the spells from my witch classes, there are new spells too.  There is also a new magic sword.

Basic Witch Games will be coming out with more material and even a Dark Fantasy / Romantic Fantasy setting. So I am looking forward to seeing what they do. 

So check them out. Spend a buck for this.

They can also be found on Twitter at, @BasicWitchGame

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

The Craft of the Wise, now in Hardcover

The customers asked for it and so I am going to deliver.

The Craft of the Wise: The Pagan Witch Tradition is now available in A5 Hardcover version.


The Softcover version is Letter-sized, 8.5" x 11".  This works with your B/X, BECMI, or other OSR books.

The Hardcover is A5 sized, 148mm X 210mm, (8.3" x 5.8").  This is the same size as the OSE books and roughly the same size as my Warlock book (which is Digest size 6"x9").




The content and art are the same for each, so the layout is different.



This is an experiment.  If the sales on this are good then I will consider A5 or Digest sized versions of my other Basic Era Witch series books.

You can get it now at DriveThruRPG.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Week of Shadow Begins Today

The Autumn Equinox draws near.  Today we have slightly more light during the 24 period than tomorrow.  On Tuesday this all changes and we begin that slow descent to the Dark.

This week I am going to be looking at and doing reviews on the Shadow Fey, Shadow Elves, and other creatures of shadow.  


Think of it as my prep for Halloween!

Friday, September 11, 2020

Monday, September 7, 2020

Monstrous Monday: Galley Beggar

My thoughts are still on Halloween.  So time to bring back another monster from my younger days.

Galley Beggar

Medium Undead (Incorporeal)
Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (0)
Alignment: Chaotic (Chaotic Neutral, Chaotic Evil)
Movement: 120' (40') [12"] (Limited to 100' from bones)
Armor Class: NA [NA]
Hit Dice: 1d8 (1 hp)
Attacks: 1 scream
Damage: NA (see below)
Special: Can't be hit by physical weapons (Mundane or Magical); immune to charm, hold, and sleep spells.
Size: Medium
Save: Monster 1
Morale: 12
Treasure Hoard Class: See Below
XP: 5 (50 if bones destroyed)

The Galley Beggar, also known as a Bull Beggar, is a type of ghost found in crypts, dungeons, and even old cellars.  They appear as a thin, skeletal looking ghoul in the poor light of dungeons, but are semi-transparent.  They are incorporeal (ghost-like) and are immune to physical attacks of any sort and any mind-affecting magics.

The Galley Beggar has only one attack, a scream that causes fear (as per the spell) in all who hear it.  Everyone with 100 feet of the screaming monster must make a Save vs. Spells or come under the effects of the fear.  Creatures greater than 6 HD are immune.  A favorite trick of the Galley Beggar is to pull it's own head off of its body and then scream.

The only ways to defeat a Galley Beggar are with Clerical Turning, they will turn as Skeletons (1 HD) or via any magic like Bless, Remove Curse, Dispell Magic, or similar enchantments.  If the bones of the Galley Beggar are found and destroyed (with fire or given a proper burial) then the creature is also destroyed. 

It is believed that the Galley Beggar is formed when a novice spell caster is killed on an adventure and their bodies are not returned for burial.  The Galley Begger will not form until the body has decayed to bones.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Review & Class Struggles: BX Options: Class Builder

Over the Summer Erin D. Smale released his BX Options: Class Builder book as a guide to how to build custom classes for the B/X, Basic-era, style games.  Of course, I had to grab it. I love making new classes and anything that involves a little number crunching is great in my opinion.  

Though I will admit I was at the same time worried that this would just be a rehash of the formulas used in Dragon Magazine #109.  Well, I am happy to report it is not, and there is more to this book than just that.  In fact, the author even points out in the book the original system.   My back-of-the-napkin calculations tell me that for levels 1-14 they both should give you the same numbers.  But more on that in a bit.

I am going to break this up into a normal review and then follow with a Class Struggles.

Review BX Options: Class Builder

The BX Options: Class Builder was released originally has a special edition print version via The Welsh Piper's website over the early part of Summer 2020.  The book later came to DriveThruRPG in a 2nd Editon mid Summer 2020. I will be covering the DriveThruRPG version only today.

The PDF is 82 pages, full-color art covers, with black, white, and blue color inside.  The interior art is all b/w from various stock art publishers from DriveThruRPG.  The advantage of this is the style of the book is very likely to fit into all the other books you might have in your collection.

The book is broken down into two larger sections. First is the class builder itself and the calculations for it. Second is a collection of Classes and Sub-classes for B/X D&D and clones, with the math worked out.  There are also a few Appendicies.

The layout of the book is very, very clean, and easy to read.  The PDF is bookmarked and the table of contents is hyperlinked.

After the Introduction, we get right into the builder itself.  There is a single page of explanatory notes (that is all that is needed) and then a worksheet (a plus for the PDFs!).  


After this, there are descriptions of basic abilities (armor, weapons, prime requisites), special abilities (thief abilities, spells, powers), restrictions and "Locked" abilities.  All with associated XP costs.

These numbers are then added up.  The Base XP is then plugged into one of the four base classes (Cleric, Fighter, Magic-user, Theif) for experience levels 1 to 14 (B/X standard).

Simple really.  And that is only the first dozen pages.

The rest of the book is dedicated to "rebuilding" each of the four base human classes and the three demi-human classes.  All seven also include various sub-classes.    For example, the Cleric is built first and the numbers match those found in most clones and the original sources.  Class variants cover new variant classes that add, change and/or remove abilities from the Base class.  In the case of the cleric different types of Gods they can worship are covered.  These are designed not to differ too wildly from the base class.  

After the Base class and Variant classes the Sub-classes, with calculations and full XP tables, are covered.  Again in the case of the cleric there is a Crusader (more combat, less spells) and a Shaman.

This is repeated for the Dwarf (Elder), Elf (Archon), Fighter (Barbarian, Beast-talker, Beserker) , Halfling (Warden), Magic-User (Necromancer, Sorcerer), and Thief (Assassin, Bard, Scout) classes. 

This covers the bulk of the book (some 50 or more pages) and really is a value-add in my opinion.  Some of those classes we have seen in other sources, but others are new or have new ideas.  The Necromancer for example can create golems.  Great if you think that the golems have the spirits of the dead in them or created Frankenstein-style.

Since this system is aimed at B/X level play, the obvious clone to support it is Old-School Essentials.  It is not an "Old-School Essentials Compatible" product as in with a logo, but acknowledgments to OSE are made.  So it would be fair really to compare the overlap of classes between this and OSE-Advanced.

The overlap is where you expect it to be, what I call the common Advanced classes (minus a couple); the Assassin, the Barbarian, and the Bard. There are some "near" overlaps as well. 

The OSE Assassin compares well to the BXO-CB Assassin.  Their XP values do differ, but not significantly so. BXO-CB Assassins have more HP. Both classes have the same skills. 
The Barbarians compare well enough with the BXO-CB Barbarian having more HP again.
Bards have the most differences.  BXO-CB Bards have more XP per level, less HP, and fewer overall spells.   I don't consider any of this to be "game-breaking" or even "game-stretching", just different flavors of the class.  Rename one "Bard" a "Skald" and there you go. 

Shamans are a little bit like Druids and Crusaders are bit like Paladins, but different enough to provide some nice flavor to the game.

The Appendicies cover a number of topics like adding various thief abilities, a break down of the core seven B/X classes, skills, equipment, spell failure, home terrain, animal special abilities and abilities for higher-level characters.

The book is very high quality and has a lot of utility for all sorts of B/X uses.  Working through the numbers it works great for levels 1-14.  If you extend it to level 20 this would affect the numbers for spell casters.  For example, Magic-users in BX/OSE gain spells to level 6, for a 2,400 XP addition.  If you take this to level 20 Magic-users gain up to 9th level spells, this would be 3,600 XP added to the base.  GRANTED this book does not claim to support above level 14, or more to the point, spell levels beyond level 6.

Class Struggles

How does this work in the real world? Or more to the point can it work with classes I have worked on.


Printing out the sheet, which is great thanks to the PDF, I worked out what my own Witch Classes would end up.  Now please keep in mind I am going to do some things beyond the scope of this book so any issues I might encounter are not due to the Class Builder but more likely my use of it.

I already mentioned there are differences in the Bard class. The author even points out that these differences are really expected and that is OK because it will vary on how each group decides to use a particular class.  So with that now as a given, going deeper into this and expecting some variation is fine.

I went through the math on this for my witch class.  I will not go into the details here because I created a Google Sheet you can see for yourself.  Note you will need the Class Builder book to know what these numbers actually mean.  I am going to talk about the cases that vary.




Long time readers might recall I did something similar using the Dragon #109 system a while back.  In fact the spreadsheet is the same with the Dragon #109/Thoul's Paradise test on the first tab and the BXO:CB test on the second tab.

If the Thoul's Test tab is displayed, click on the next tab arrow to go to the Class Builder Test tab.


The "Thoul's Test" goes back to a couple of posts made by Thoul's Paradise that I discussed: 
So a couple issues right away.  Witches cast arcane spells, but they are not quite the same as those a Magic-user can use, there are more divine spells really.  Especially for the Pagan Witch.  
What I opted to do was make the "Witchcraft" spells worth 200xp to 300xp per level. A nice split between what the Divine (100xp) and Arcane (400xp) spellcasters have.

The witch also has Occult Powers. These are spell-like abilities. Since they can be used more often I gave them a cost of 250xp each.  Though 300xp per would have been fine too.

In the end I came up with something pretty close to the numbers I have been using forever and published for close to 20 years.   The differences are so trivial as to be considered error or even "noise."

These are also very, very close to the numbers I got using the Dragon #109 system.   I have not compared it to the system used in ACKS Player's Companion, but my memory of the system and playing with it when it first came out tells me that I should also expect similar numbers.  Especially since the ACKs system and the Class Builder System both use the same BX base and assumptions of 1-14 (or so) levels of play.

Going back to a source the author and I both have used, Breeyark: Building the Perfect Class, I realized that the author of that resource IS the author of this book. The systems are different but are built on similar premises. Also, they should grant the same or very similar results.

The BX Options Class Builder is a very fun book with some great class choices as an added bonus of some worked out classes.   There are no spells offered for the new spell casting classes, but that would have been way beyond the scope of the book anyway.

Monday, August 31, 2020

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 31 Experience

And here we are at the end of another #RPGaDAY for August.   What new Expeiences has this given me?

From the start, this month has been about my reflection of a Summer with the BECMI rules and Basic-era rules in general.  I spent a lot of time here thinking about what these rules do that is different than what I have been used too over the last few years (read: Modern D&D) and what I was used too back in the 80s (read: Advanced D&D).

My lens for this #RPGaDAY was these experiences. Because of that reading what others had posted gave me a very different viewpoint.  It was not 2-3 blog posts and 5-7 tweets that were all identical and everyone talking about the same thing.  This was nice.  While I was not as responsive as I would have liked to have been to others on this, reading them all was fun.

Since I also spent a lot of time talking about my BECMI/BX campaign, War of the Witch Queens, maybe I'll use that map as a simple dungeon crawl.  Maybe using ideas from my various posts here and when those don't work, well, I am sure I'll think of something. 

Hopefully, next year when this starts I'll be at Gen con again with my kids. That would be really great.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Kickstart Your Weekend: Wilderlands, Witches and Advanced Fantasy

HUGE Kickstart Your Weekend today. So let's get to it!

Old-School Essentials: Advanced Fantasy

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/exaltedfuneral/old-school-essentials-advanced-fantasy?ref=theotherside

Old-School Essentials is becoming the game of the year, and the Advanced Fantasy rules are only going to add to that.  There are different pledge levels to join depending which books you already have or which ones you want. Already funded it hardly needs me to sell you on it. Gavin did a fantastic job with his last Kickstarter and I see this one being even better.

The Majestic Fantasy RPG

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/batintheatticgames/the-majestic-fantasy-rpg?ref=theotherside

Rob Conley has been a fixture in the Old-School scene for a while now. He is pulling together all the work he has done for a new ruleset compatible with Swords & Wizardry.  It has a solid late 70s vibe to it and it looks like it will be quite a lot of fun.

The Great American Witch

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/greyauthor/the-great-american-witch?ref=theotherside

This one is a bit different, but it really hits all my buttons.  Based on The Great American Novel RPG this one deals with the secret world of witches.  Honestly, that is all I need to know.  Funded quickly it is also way above their goal.  It just looks like a lot of fun.

There you have it! So much great stuff coming out!

Monday, August 10, 2020

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 10 Want

When it comes to RPGs I really don't have a lot of "Wants."

I have been successful in my career so many daily needs of home, food, and health are all covered.  
I certainly don't *need* any books or games. I have enough here to last me the rest of my life and then some.

Though I do think back to a time when a combination of my low income, lack of access and lack of choice produced some Wants in my RPG life.  

The biggest examples of these are my various witch books.  

I have often said that the main drive behind everything I write and publish is a reflection of the wants I had of growing up in the 80s. 
I write the books I wanted to buy back then, but couldn't.  Sometimes that couldn't was because I could not afford it or didn't have access to a good Local Game Store. But most often it was because the books I wanted didn't even exist. 

So really nearly all my "wants" are in the form of "I want to write this book." or "I want to run this game."
And there are a lot of those.

I am currently working on two separate projects (well...more than two, but these are the two I am talking about today).  I have alluded to them both in passing, but I guess today is a good day to make them official.

First, and since today is Monstrous Monday it is good to mention it, is my book on monsters.

The Basic Bestiary: Monsters from the Other Side is my homage to the Fiend Folio and the source of many of those monsters, The Fiend Factory from White Dwarf magazine. 

This book takes monsters that have appeared in my various witch books and monsters that have been featured on Monstrous Mondays.  So very much like the Fiend Folio.  I have even retained the alliteration of the original monster books.  Like the Fiend Folio I am including some new, never before seen monsters as well.  Also like the Fiend Folio/Fiend Factory relationship not all the Monstrous Mondays monsters will go into this book. I am going to leave some of the sillier or snarkier monsters out.

It was the original Monster Manual that got me into D&D all the way back in the 70s.  This also stands as my homage to that.

Presently the book is 220+ with 300+ monsters and no art yet.  So far on par with the original monster books.  The final art for the cover is not yet set and there will be a soft-cover version for fans of "Basic-era" D&D and a hard-cover for fans of "Advanced-era" D&D. While I love the Fuseli art, it predates my beloved Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood art by about 80 years.  But, given the source material, it is quite apropos.  Though I might look for something that works better as a full cover. I am just loathed to not use this somehow.  Unless I can find something from say, Hieronymus Bosch. but he is even further outside my Pre-Raphaelite time period.

Second I have what I have been calling my "Last Witch Book."

The High Secret Order: The High Witchcraft Tradition is going to be the culmination of everything I have written about the witch to date.

Every witch book under the Basic-era Games banner I have written was designed to capture a particular Zeitgeist of playing.  Daughters of Darkness captured the witch as an evil temptress vibe.  The Children of the Gods: The Classical Witch captured that Fall/Winter of 1979 when I was heavy into mythology and picked up the Monster Manual for the first time and my experimentations with the Holmes Basic book.  The Basic Witch: The Pumpkin Spice Witch was not going for any particular time save for the fun of Halloween.  The Craft of the Wise: The Pagan Witch was made to capture the time playing Moldvay/Cook & Marsh B/X D&D game and my times discovering both Norse and Celtic myth as an alternative to Greek myths.

As the last Basic-era Witch book this book covers the time of me moving away from Basic-era D&D towards Advanced D&D. Though it is less about a "time" and more about a "process."  I can go with the process of moving from Holmes Basic (and their promise of a witch class) to AD&D.  I can go with the Greyhawk supplement for OD&D as the first real springboard towards what would become AD&D. Or I can go with my own process of moving from B/X Basic to AD&D and a time when we all mixed all the above freely and without concern that we were "doing it right."

Such things might not matter to you, or they might. I just want to capture that time/feeling and make it solid just for a little bit. My gift to that young teen in the middle of the mid-west who could not get his hands on the books he wanted. Let alone books with witches and demons in it in the 80s in an extremely White-Christian small town.  My book is the book form of the Santana song "Hold On" which consequently is from the same time period.

Again. Like Basic Bestiary above the art is not 100% final. I like Daniel Gardner's painting, but again he is outside of myPre-Raphaelite time period. The "compatible with" designation is not on yet since I am not 100% sure which game I want to make this compatible with.  I have a few choices, but the idea is to capture the proper feel of the time and I need to look to a clone ruleset that does the time in mind well.  Just like Children of the Gods was my time with Holmes, Blueholme Rules was a perfect fit. Basic Bestiary will go with Labyrinth Lord

So far my research into my last witch book is moving ahead, but not a lot of writing yet.

I keep saying "last witch book" because there are other things I want to do. I'd love to write some 5e material and I even have a good idea for a 5e series.

I have a Blue Rose book coming out soon which I am pretty happy with and I have had a desire to write some more for BESM4 after picking it up earlier this summer.

So there is a lot I want to do.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 9 Light

Hmm. Light. Light has not been on my mind very much lately.

Shadow has.

Often when talking about light one also brings up dark as in the opposite of, or the absence of, light.  If you pay any attention to what is going on in the world of D&D publishing now there has been a strong push to change, or alter, the nature of certain "dark" races like Drow and Orcs.  I am not going to get into that today, nor do I even find the topic particularly interesting.  Want "good" Drow? Ok. Fine have them. Want good orcs? Sure! They existed in 2nd Ed, nothing new here. My Desert Orcs have been portrayed as "good" since I came up with them.

But if an "evil" race or species can be good, then a "good" race can also be evil.  I pretty much play elves as xenophobic assholes who really don't give two-shits about humans and frankly are just hoping they all kill themselves off.  Are they evil? No, but they are not "good" either.

But extremes are dull. They are cartoon versions of the people I want to represent.  Give me nuance. Give me flaws AND strengths.  Good and Evil. Light and Dark.  

Give me Shadows.

I got to thinking back in June when I was doing my BECMI work I picked a copy of the Shadow Elves guide for the BECMI system.   The Shadow Elves of Mystara are more interesting than Drow.  They are little more nuanced than the Drow are, and this was back in the late 80s.

While reading this I could not help but think of the Shadar-kai from newer D&D. The Shadar-kai from 3rd and 5th Edition D&D are a type of elf/fey, but they were more human-like in D&D 4 where they got the largest treatment.  

There is also the Shadow Fey from Kobold Press which are also interesting.

Between all these treatments there is something I am sure I can use. 


Friday, August 7, 2020

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 7 Couple

I could go a number of places with this one, but I think I know what, or more to point, who I want to talk about.

Back when I was working The Craft of the Wise: The Pagan Witch Tradition I wanted to go back through my years of notes, not just on witches and witchcraft or even my notes on playing a B/X-style game, but on who were the Pagans I was trying to represent.  So I took a two-pronged approach.

Lars and Siân from HeroForge

First. I looked to the rules I was going to be using.  In this case, it was the Old School Essentials from Necrotic Gnome, in particular, the Advanced Fantasy: Genre Rules. That was the feel I was going with.  

I wanted to create some characters to mimic the feel of a "pagan world."  At the same time I was organizing my other RPG books and was thumbing through the game Keltia and it's companion game Yggdrasill.  Both really captured the feel I wanted in a "Pagan World" game.   So I took two character concepts from here, one from each game, and looked to translate them into OSE, Rules As Written.

What character types fit this notion of both Celtic and Norse/Scandinavian Paganism?

Simple. The Druid and the Bard.  Both classes have their roots in Pagan Europe and might even be two of the most "pagan" classes out there save for the Barbarian. 

Since my iconic witch Larina is often used to test my new witch classes once they are written, I wanted these two other characters to be my tests for the materials I was still writing.  I like to keep my variables to a minimum when playtesting, so starting with established classes is always my first choice.  If Larina is my witch, then these are the parents of the witch.  Who they were now was easy.

Introducing Lars & Siân

Since I was playtesting a Pagan game I used our world circa 350-500AD.  Lars is a Bard from Denmark. He was a member of a raiding party heading towards the British Isles.  I choose to ignore the Romans there for this since it worked out better for me.  The ship that Lars was on was beset by terrible storms (same sort that would bedevil King James over a 1000 years later) and his ship, and all the raiders were lost.  
He washed ashore in Wales (they had gone through the English Channel.  I never said they were good or even smart raiders) and was encountered by the locals where they nursed him back to health.  They recognized that he was a bard (or a skald in his own language) and thought it would be ill-advised to harm him.  He was given over to the protection of Siân, a druidess.  If this sounds familiar then I essentially ripped off the story of Amergin Glúingel and his journey to Ireland. Though Lars was not a Milesian.
There was some initial mistrust, but soon they fell in love and consummated their relationship on Beltane night.  Some 38 weeks later, Larina was born.

It amused me to use these characters, ones really brand new to me, to be the parents of a character I know so well. 

Lars
Lars, son of Nichols 
Lawful Male Human Bard, 12th level

Str: 13
Int: 17
Wis: 16
Dex: 14
Con: 13
Cha: 18

HP: 42
AC: 5 (leather armor, ring of protection)

Spells
First: Detect Danger, Predict Weather, Speak with Animals
Second: Cure Light Wounds, Obscuring Mists, Produce Flame
Third: Hold Animal, Protection from Poison, Water Breathing
Fourth: Cure Serious Wounds, Summon Animals

Lars, despite his name, is not based on Lars Ulrich. If anything he based on a combination of Donovan and Van Morrison. 


Siân
Siân nic Stefon 
Neutral Female Human Druid, 12th level

Str: 10
Int: 16
Wis: 18
Dex: 12
Con: 12
Cha: 17

HP: 38
AC: 5 (leather armor, ring of protection)

Spells
First: Animal Friendship, Entangle, Faerie Fire, Predict Weather, Speak to Animals
Second: Barkskin, Create Water, Cure Light Wounds, Obscuring Mists, Slow Poison
Third: Call Lightning, Hold Animal, Protection from Poison, Tree Shape, Water Breathing
Fourth: Cure Serious Wounds, Dispel Magic, Protection from Fire & Lightning, Temperature Control
Fifth: Commune with Nature, Control Weather, Transmute Rock to Mud, Wall of Thorns


I once said "I don't explore dungeons, I explore characters" and I had a great time exploring these two.

It's like reading the Superman stories that take place on Krypton before the planet explodes. Here I explored the Pagan world before Christianity took over (appealing) AND two characters that shaped one of my most important characters. 

I loved using HeroForge to make these as well.  Lars has Larina's face and hair color. Siân has the same body and staff as my first version print of Larina so many years ago.  This pleases me to no end.  Siân's face is that of a half-elf with human ears since I consider her to have a bit of sidhe blood in her, but that is true of all the Welsh I think. 

I might have to get these. They are two of my new favorite characters. Plus I am so pleased with how the different versions of Larina turned out I am going to have to get her mom and dad!

For those that are curious, yes, I am working on a Digest sized version of Craft of the Wise. Out very soon I hope!

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Troll Week Starts Tomorrow

I have been working from home since March 15th or so. It has been great really, work has provided me with all the tech I need. I wanted to make my life a little easier so I also set up my kid's old gaming computer in my office.  They still use for playing D&D online via Discord and Roll20, but I use it to test various things.  The computer still has CD-ROM and DVD-ROM drives.

While digging through some old back-ups I found a download folder I had thought had been lost.

On it was a copy of Ron Edwards' "Trollbabe" RPG. 
I was reading through it and forgot how much fun it was.  It also got me thinking about trolls, troll magic, and all sorts of related topics.

I remember back in the earliest days of my Dragon magazine reading and getting mail-order catalogs from Games Plus and the Dungeon Hobby Shop one of the products that always jumped out at me was Runequest's TrollPak.  

It was the exact sort of deep dive into a singular topic that appealed to me then and now.  Of course at the time I thought it might be related to Tunnels & Trolls.  When I discovered it wasn't I figured I could convert it and have a Troll-focused game.

You can't read a bunch of myths, legends, and fairy tales about witches and not run across the occasional troll.  They are all over the place.   Especially any of the stories of Northern Europe.

What I never liked though was how the trolls of myth and in particular the trolls from the Hobbit looked and acted nothing like the trolls of D&D.  Sure ogres are fine, but thin rubbery dudes that regenerate? Not so much.  As time went on I of course saw where the D&D trolls came from and why they were chosen; a stronger differentiation between ogres and trolls needed to be made.  But I still never really liked them.

In my games I made a new troll, the Earth Troll, that was more like the trolls I saw in the books I was reading.  These trolls were often the lackeys of hags, in particular, the Wood Hag.  These were much closer and I would later go one to make more trolls.  The idea here that trolls are highly adaptable to their environment.  They are Lamarckian Evolution played out in D&D.  Put a troll near water and in a couple of generations, they are adapted to it.  

But one thing I never did and will do this week, is adapt Troll Pak and Tunnels & Trolls to the Trolls of D&D.


Looking forward to seeing what I can come up with!

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

B/X Boxing Match: OSE vs. BX RPG

One question I have been getting since I purchased both the Pacesetter BX RPG and Necrotic Gnome's Old-School Essentials is "which one is better?"

Truthfully I am not really interested in "better" but instead "which is best for me" and "which one satisfies it's design goals best?"

Well, lets have a look!


Before I start let's agree on some terms and shorthand.

B/X refers to the D&D Basic and D&D Expert Boxed Sets edited by Tom Moldvay (Basic) and David Cook and Steven Marsh (Expert). 

BECMI while it might not come up, refers to the Basic, Expert, Companion, Master, Immortal sets edited by Frank Mentzer.  Unless a distinction needs to be made I am always referring to the B/X versions of Basic and Expert rules.

OSE refers to the Old School Essentials set from Gavin Norman and Necrotic Gnome. In truth I also mean OSE and the Fantasy rules.
OSE-Advanced refers to OSE with the Advanced add-ons; classes and spells.

BX RPG refers to the BX RPG by Bill Barsh and Pacesetter Games and Simulations.

The "Gold Standard" for any comparison is the B/X set.

I want to state unequivocally that I am very, very fond of all four of the above-mentioned games and they all have a place on my table.  Each one is used in my games. Sometimes separately, sometimes all at once.

Match 1: How well does the game emulate B/X?
So our first match is how well does each game emulate the source material of B/X.  
If we are talking "Rules as Written" then clear winner here is OSE.  If we are talking "Rules as played" then it can be a toss-up between OSE-Advanced and BX.  Both offer different takes on B/X + Advanced.  
I can recall my first paladin character was made in a mix of Expert and Advanced rules.  Eventually, BECMI would give us a Paladin, but mine was pure B/X.  Both sets offer a paladin class (among others) and they are roughly equivalent. 



Match 2: Layout and Art
The OSE game is a marvel of layout efficiency, modular design, and artistic expression.  There is not a ton of art in OSE, but what there is packs a punch.  Both OSE and BX feature "old-school esthetic" in terms of black & white art.  This is not a detractor, but rather a feature for me.
My biggest issue with OSE's layout is that it is TOO efficient and sometimes that leaves it feeling a little bit sterile.  Efficiency and modularity are two of the set's design goals so it is hard to fault them here.
BX RPG needs another round of QA check, but otherwise, it also meets their stated design goals.
OSE edges out here. 

Match 3: Options
Out of the box BX offers more options than core OSE. More classes, races, levels, spells, and levels. Here OSE's strength of emulation works against it.  If you have B/X and can play it without looking things up then OSE Core has little more to offer you.  
Adding the OSE-Advanced options makes it more attractive to the current B/X player looking for more but not wanting to dive deep in the AD&D ocean.  Still, even with these options in place, BX RPG edges out OSE.
Both games are promising even more options in the future so this one could be close for some time to come.

Match 4: Playability
OSE is so well organized it not only edges out the original B/X in this regard but even the well organized BECMI.  OSE though works best for players already experienced in B/X or any flavor of D&D. The modularity of OSE rivals that of 4e.  That is not a slight, but rather a compliment. The layout and modularity of 4e was a design masterpiece. 
BX RPG is less organized, but there is so much explanatory material that it is perfect for newer players or someone with no experience with B/X and wants to give it a try.
Verdict? If you have B/X experience then OSE is best. If you are new to B/X then BX RPG.

Match 5: Price per Value
This is much harder.  Both games are priced well. 

The physical BX RPG boxed set comes with books, adventures, and dice for US$50.  Though it is hard to tell exactly what is in the box from Pacesetter's website.  So I am not sure what is exactly in the box other than the rule books. This is just the physical books, no PDFs.

The OSE Boxed set can be configured in a number of ways on the Necrotic Gnome website. The Classic set, closest to the B/X game, is available in a box with hardcover digest sized books and PDFs for €60,00 (presently about US$68.50).  You can add on the OSE-Advanced options. 

OSE has a sturdier box and hardcover books and comes in a single volume option.
BX RPG has good box with room for dice and adventures.

So lower price entry for the boxed sets for BX RPG.  More buying options for OSE.

Which one is for you?
I hate to dodge this one, but that is really up to you and the games you are going to run.

For me? I am happy to have both systems. I think there is a slight edge on BX RPG for players and a similar edge for Game Masters for OSE.  The options of BX RPG make it more attractive to the player and the OSE-Advanced books work fine with BX and B/X (even BECMI).  The organization of OSE makes it a dream to run and find things.

One thing for sure for me, if I were to run either game I would invest in about four or five extra player books for the players.

BX RPG Player books can be bought here, PDF and Print.
Old-School Essentials Classic Fantasy: Player's Rules Tome, PDF and Print/PDF.
(Note if you are outside of Europe you might want to go with this site for OSE products.)

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Review: Pacesetter Games & Simulations' BX RPG

So far it has been a good couple of years for fans of the classic B/X version of the D&D game.  This is one edited by Tom Moldvay, David Cook, and Steven Marsh.  It is certainly one of my favorites.  This scene has been dominated by the success of Necrotic Gnome's Old Schol Essentials, but it was not the only boxed set dedicated to BX D&D to come out in 2019.

The other was Pacesetter Games & Simulations' BX RPG designed by Bill Barsh.  
This set had a different approach and design from OSE. Different enough that I happily back both Kickstarters for both products.  While BX RPG can, and does, stand on it's own, comparisons to OSE are natural and merited. But I will keep them to a minimum.



The BX RPG from Pacesetter G&S was Kickstarted back in March of 2019.  There were some delays, but there was also a lot of communications so I never really worried.  In December 2019 I got my boxed set and the PDFs were sent out a bit before.

The boxed set and books were only available via Pacesetter's own website, BX store,  but now you can get the PDFs from DriveThruRPG as well. 

For this review, I am going to consider the box set, the softcover books, and the PDFs.

The main design philosophy behind the BX RPG was "remaster" the B/X rules into a whole and then split the material between a Player's Guide and a Dungeon Guide for Game Masters. The boxed set also included some adventures and dice, depending on your pledge level.


Pacesetter has a fun esthetic that shows a love and appreciation for the old-school rules but still manages to differentiate themselves in a world where every publisher wants a bit of the nostalgia dollar.   

Ultimately Pacesetter, like many publishers these days, is a one-man shop of Bill Barsh.  This leads to a consistent vision but also slows things down when the guy writing the material is also the guy editing the material and the guy shipping the material.  Sometimes this shows.

104 pages. Color covers, black & white interior art.
The BX RPG is split into the Player's Guide and the Dungeon Guide.  The Player's guide has all the information a player needs.  The book is broken down into creating a character, the character classes, spells, and other abilities of the classes.  Following the basic design goals, the information in this book largely cleaves close to the original B/X game. So things like the ability scores and their bonuses work the same way.  There are some optional rule sidebars, like giving max hp at 1st level and so on.  Likely things we all did anyway.  They are not part of the core rules and are presented as options.

Classes
This is one of the larger changes to the standard B/X rules.  In the BX RPG we have the same "Basic Four" of Cleric, Fighter, Magic-user, and Thief.  We also get the Druid, Monk, Necromancer, Paladin, and Ranger.  Some classes get some additional abilities. Clerics have spell progression to the 9th level (but only up to 7th level spells are featured in the book).  Magic-users can use cantrips or 0-level spells in a fashion similar to what I have done with my Witch classes. Makes sense, it is an easy way to add minor spells to a Basic-era game. Druids, Monks, Paladins, and Rangers all get their expected abilities and powers.  They are a pretty good Basic interpretation of some standard Advanced classes. Fighters, Monks, Rangers, and Paladins all get extra attacks per round as they advance. 
The Necromancer is a truly new addition.  It takes the "place" of the Illusionist. Their XP totals are bit more than the Magic-user. While they do not get the ability to use cantrips, they control undead as a Chaotic Cleric might. Spell progression is a bit faster compared to a magic-user, but their selection is more limited.  It might be interesting to compare this Necromancer to the others I have seen in the past.
All human classes have a maximum of 18 levels.





Races
Since this is a B/X remaster, races are classes as well.  This RPG gives up the same trinity of Dwarf, Elf, and Halfling, and adds the Gnome and Half-elf race/classes.  There are some changes to these classes as well. Dwarves are limited to level 15, Elves to 18, Gnomes 18, Halflings 15, and Half-elves 18.  Gnomes and Half-elves have magic similar to elves. In fact, not much differentiates the elf from the half-elf save that the half-elf gains the fighter's multiple attacks per round and elves are better with a bow.  Halflings though get some minor thieves abilities which are a great addition and something that should have been part of the B/X rules in my opinion. 

Spells
The next 50 or so pages of the 104-page book are dedicated to spells.  They are sorted by class and then by level.  Clerics and Paladins share a list. Magic-users, Elves, and Half-elves share a list. Druids and Rangers share a list. Necromancers have their own list. Gnomes have their own list as well.
Like B/X and BECMI some spells can be reversed.  
There are redundances in the lists. For example spells like Light and Wish appear on multiple lists and the spell is repeated each time for those classes at the appropriate level as opposed to the B/X standard of "See 1st level magic-user spell of the same name" or listing all spells alphabetically and including what class can cast it, like 3rd Edition does. The advantage to this is if you have the PDf you can print out all the spells for your class and have them all attached to your character sheet.  Nothing jumped out at me as being particularly new in the spell area. There are few non-B/X, non-BECMI ones ported over from Advanced and some logical extensions of spells, like Wall of Bone for Necromancers. Again this largely fits in with the design goals of this set.  

There is a somewhat plain, but very pragmatic (often the same thing) character sheet at the end. 



The art is very much old-school inspired though I think some may call it "anime-inspired."  I actually rather like the art and love the cover.  The halfling, in particular, is great and from now on thanks to this and James Spahn, all my halfling will have mutton chops. 

The book could have gone through another round of edits and QA checks. There are some typos and some layout oddities. I am only mentioning them because others have. I only found the ones I did because I was looking for them.  Though one sticks out.  The Cleric spell chart going to level 9.  Hard to say if this is a typo (or editing mistake) or if clerics really do get 8th and 9th level spells and those will appear in a future product. 

112 pages. Color covers, black & white interior art.
One of the best features about the BX RPG is taking the base B/X game and redoing it all to split the Player's and Game Master's material into two books.   Makes it great for when you have a group and can get extra Player's books.
The Dungeon guide covers the basic rules including adventuring, combat, poison and granting experience.  These rules go into more detail than their B/X counterparts and more akin to the detail we see in BECMI.  There are more examples given for situations as well.  If you were a brand new player of Game Master for the B/X system then this set is a pretty good start to get you going. 

Creatures
A large bulk of the book is dedicated to creatures.  Here is a good mix of both the Basic and Expert sets with a few more thrown in for good measure. A lot of detail is given to the creatures.  Additionally, the stat blocks are bit more robust than with other Basic-era games, but not quite the detail we see in the 2nd ed AD&D game. Monsters are grouped by type, Animals, Giants, Dinosaurs, Dragons, Undead, and so on.  So if you are an old hand at this the monsters are easy to find, if you are new it might take longer. There are new monsters sprinkled around here and there. Some are new-to-B/X and some are new new.  So it is nice to get a little more variety. 
Demons are mentioned and this is the first explicit notice to check out another product and to wait for future ones. It seems the universe is telling me that Demons are a good thing for Basic-era games.



Gods, Demons and the Planes
In the first bit of overt world-building, the BX RPG takes place in Pacesetter's Misty Isles setting (Print, PDF).  There is note stating that more setting material will be available in Fall 2020.  Some gods are mentioned and they seem to be practical "D&D" like gods.  There is not a lot here, but enough for clerics to jot down a god on their sheets.  Demons seem to be like the D&D standards so far. No stats or names are given here.  

Treasure, Charts, and Appendicies
This section follows the monsters much like day follows night.  The usual treasure is covered here with a lot of magic items. There are no intelligent swords. 
Monster to hit and save charts follow. Along with Cleric turning, and Object saving throws (nice to have).

A sample dungeon in next and it is an excerpt from the module BX2 the Haunter Tower which is included in the boxed set (print, pdf). It's a nice intro to be honest and I got a solid Basic Set vibe from this. That is intentional of course. 



There are also random tables of monsters, dungeon settings/encounters, random treasure and even curses and monster summoning tables.

There is a bit on demi-humans using other classes. This book falls on the side of yes there are dwarf clerics and elf thieves, they just don't go on adventures. Though Game Masters have the ultimate say.

In my review for the Player's Book I ended with a note on the typos and layout issues. The same problem exists here. Though this time there were enough that a new version of the Dungeon Guide was sent to the backers of the Kickstarter. 




 The differences are about 12 pages and the older version of the Dungeon guide is stapled (like the Player's book and the original B/X books) the newer one is perfect bound.  The PDF only has the newer content.

The Boxed Set
The Boxed set comes with both books plus four adventures and a set of dice.








The adventures are not bad, very "Basic" is all senses of the word, but that is a good thing in this case.

I have been including my copy of B1 Legacy of the Unknown and B2 Beyond the Caves of Chaos

While overtly designed for AD&D1/OSRIC and AD&D1/D&D 5 respectively, it would be a great fit for the BX RPG.  In fact, it might fit better.


One thing I did find odd about this set was the fact there is no OGL statement anywhere in the books.  These were not released under the OGL.  While this is not a concern for the average player it does strike me as odd.

In the end this set does what it set out to do. Remaster the B/X rules by splitting up the Player and Game Master sections while adding the material from other sources to round out the game.  The final rules could have used another deft hand at editing, but there are no deal breakers in terms of readability or playability. 

The box can hold more books so I am planning to go over the Pacesetter material I have and see how well it all fits inside the box. 

I am likely to spend some more time with this set.
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