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

Saturday, October 1, 2022

100 Days of Halloween: Octhorrorfest and Lost Classes: The Arnesonian Classes

Octhorrorfest
It is the first of October! It is the month of Halloween finally.  I am going to start this auspicious night with a treat from last year, Appendix N's Octhorrorfest, and some more.  For this month I am going to focus largely on D&D in general and material for my War of the Witch Queens in particular.

As always I will be following my rules for these reviews.

Octhorrorfest!

PDF. 50 pages. Color covers. Black & white interior art.

This book is designed for Old-School Essentials, so that is already a plus in my mind.

It is filled with some wonderful art that is both creepy and evocative. 

We begin with an introduction from author R.J. Thompson about Halloween, and all the things that make Halloween great.  

There is a bit on Samhain (with correct pronunciation) and All Hallows with ideas of how to add them to your game. This includes what classes can do and the effects on magic. 

There are new classes and since this is OSE there are race-as-classes.  The classes include The Jack-o-Kin racial class and race for Advanced OSE. A jack-o-lantern race is a really interesting idea. Maybe not one I would play myself, but I am sure I would use it as an NPC race.

The next class is the Witch. Ah. Now we are talking. The class is a Wisdom-based spellcaster. They are fairly close to the Cleric class. There are a lot of interesting features to this class like healing, cure poison, and my favorite the Dying Curse. 

There is also a Witch Hunter class. A fighter type that also can turn undead and detect evil.  Essentially like a less devout paladin.

Magic of Hallows covers the spells for the witch. There are some ones that are familiar from OSE or SRD sources and four new spells.  This section also covers Ritual Spell Casting which is adapted from the old d20 Relics & Rituals converted to OSE. It is rather good to be honest.  There are 11 "new" spells. They are familiar spells but re-presented as ritual spells.

There is a section on Curing Vampirism, Demons and Exorcism.  Another section on Turning the creatures of the Outer Dark (like Undead Turning). 

Up next, around page 40, we get some movie monsters. 

Since this Appendix N Entertainment, we get an Appendix N with new readings, music, and film. 

In its 50 pages we get a lot of fun material. Well worth the price.

Lost Classes: The Arnesonian Classes
Lost Classes: The Arnesonian Classes

PDF. 30 pages. Black & white covers and interior art.

This one is not really a "Halloween" issue, but given I am doing Octhorrorfest I figure I would add this one is as well. Plus, it is for Old-School Essentials so that is reason enough.

Plus I think today is the last day of Dave Arneson week, so there is that.

This book covers what is called the Arnesonian Classes. This includes the Merchant and the Sage, as standard classes.  We also get the Beastfolk. This includes Chimpanzee Folk and Duck Folk.  We get both Basic race-as-class versions and Advanced races.

I have to admit I want to make a Chimpanzee Sage. I think that would be rather fun.

This little book is a great addition to OSE.

Both books are great fun.


The Other Side - 100 Days of Halloween



Monday, September 26, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: Twilight Fables (5e & OSR)

Taking a break from Pathfinder for a bit on this first Monstrous Monday of Fall 2022 to do something a little darker.  There is a chill in the air here in Chicago. I have a flannel shirt on and my mood ever shifts more and more to Halloween.  A Halloween bestiary would be nice and thankfully Izegrim Creations has just the thing I need.

Twilight Fables

Twilight Fables

I swear the Kickstarter for this had just ended and I got my DriveThruRPG notification that the hardcovers were available. 

So for this I Monstrous Monday, I want to talk about both the 5e and OSR versions of this book, the Print on Demand and PDF versions, plus all the other material that makes up this line. 

OSR and 5e

Overview

Both books are huge volumes at 336 pages (5e) and 326 pages (OSR) each. The covers are full color as is all the interior art.  And the art is fantastic.  

Twilight Fables books

Twilight Fables books

Both books have a solid 5e aesthetic to them; colorful art and backgrounds, text describing the creature and its place in the environment/land/myths, and followed by a stat block.

art

The 5e book features a standard-looking 5e stat block, the OSR one is largely a modified Basic-era stat block. It includes everything you would expect along with descending and ascending AC, an entry for THAC0, and XP. The art for both books is the same.  There is a good reason for this, the OSR version was added on a little bit later in the Kickstarter.  The 5e version, with art, was done before the kickstart began (minus some edits I am told) so adding on the OSR version was a matter of adding the new stat blocks.  One nitpick there are listings for "DCs" in the OSR version for magic item creation (more on that later). I would have preferred something that felt a little more pre-2000.

Now in most situations, I would fear translation errors, but the author Roderic Waibel had already developed that very successful Chromatic Dungeons RPG (reviewed here) which is solid OSR.  So I know he knows OSR.  My only gripe is kinda wanted the OSR stat blocks to look as nice as the 5e ones!  But that is only a gripe for people that own both.

Like many of Waibel's publications we get nice sidebar discussions from the intelligent and rather civilized Gnoll "Fleabag." It is a very nice touch (I have done something similar with my 'From the Journal of Larina Nix') and it gives these (and his other books) character. 

Regardless of which one you get (get both!) you are in for a treat.

I grabbed both and will be using the OSR version in my Old-School Essentials game. My oldest grabbed the 5e version and is using it in his weekly 5e game. So far he says it is great and he loves all the different sorts of monsters it offers.

The Fables

The name of the book is Twilight Fables.  So you can expect that these are monsters from various myths, legends, and tales. And you would be 100% correct. Waibel has done his reading and there are a lot of great creatures here.  Even ones that might be familiar get new life and feel "new."  

For example, I mentioned one of my favorites, the Basajaun who appears in three different monster books. 

statblocks

Each one is a little different and yet each one 'feels' right. Perfect for DMs that want a familiar, yet different creature.

The creatures largely come from the myths, legends, and folklore of Europe. This is also what is advertised and leads to the logical assumption of Twilight Fables of other lands for future volumes. One for Africa, one for Asia, one for the Americas, all are possible.

In addition to the monsters, there are various legendary NPCs like Baba Yaga, Beowulf, Cailleach Beira, Cú Chulainn, Guy of Warwick, King Arthur, Little Red Riding Hood, Merlin, Morgan Le Fay, Robin Hood, Scáthach, Queen Úna of Faerie, and Väinämöinen. So yeah. Lots.

Cú Chulainn

There is a section on Mythological Treasures and Magic items. This includes some rules on how to make magic items as well. It is a very nice value add.  You saw this sort of thing with the old Mayfair "Fantastic Treasures" and something you see Troll Lord Games do with their Monster and Treasure books.

Both books also have rules for new character species (wanna play a Pech? You can!) and for 5e there are class options such as Warlock patrons and cleric domains.

There is even a small adventure (20 pages) to introduce these new monsters. 

The Monsters

All that is gravy.  The real meat here are the monsters.

In both cases, the monsters take up full pages. This includes the background and descriptions, the stat blocks, and whatever else is involved with this particular creature such as "Lore & Rumors", any special treasures, habitat, behaviors, and more.  In some cases, the material bleeds over to another entry, but not so much as to be an issue. 

There are, by my count, nearly 220 monsters here ranging in HD from 1-1 to 30+ (OSR) and CR 1/8 to 30 (5e).  So plenty of creatures to challenge any level of characters.

I have to say these are great books and well worth grabbing for your games, 5e or OSR, or both.  There is a lot of material here and plenty to keep many groups engaged for some time.

Extras

When you get the digital copy from DriveThruRPG you also get a bunch of tokens that can be printed and used in f2f table games or digitally online. It is another value add this game offers. There is also an RTF version of the book, a printer-friendly/no background version, and maps for the included adventure.

If you love monsters like I do then this is a must-buy.

Twilight Fables 5eTwilight Fables OSR


Tuesday, September 6, 2022

I'll Take a Pumpkin Spice, A5 size

You have asked and I serve them up. It's September, it's almost the start of Autumn and that means Pumpkin Spice Season!

The Basic Witch: The Pumpkin Spice Witch Tradition

Pumpkin Spice Witch, Letter and A5

And I am so pleased with it!

Much like my Craft of the Wise book this one now comes in softcover and hardcover options. 

A5 Witch books

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. Despite the size, this is still designed largely for Labyrinth Lord; so 20 character levels, and 8 spell levels. Though obviously it can be used with any "Basic Era" sort of game.

A5 Books

Pumpkin Spice Books

Same contents, different layout

With only 55 days left till Halloween order yours now and enjoy the magic of Fall!

Friday, August 26, 2022

100 Days of Halloween: Wayne Robert's O5E Classes

Wayne Robert's O5E Warlock
Going a little bit old-school and a little bit new-school tonight.

Earlier in the year Wayne Robert released what he was calling O5E classes. His first batch includes the Warlock and Sorcerer for Old School Essentials.

Wayne Robert's O5E Warlock

PDF. 8 pages. 1 cover, 1 title, 2 blank, 1 back page. 3 pages of content. $1.50.

Presently this version does not have art. There was a version before this that did have art, but the author made the choice to remove it for now.

The class is done up in OSE style. There are obvious nods to the 5e Warlock, which is by design.  The warlock does have spells and which spell list you use will depend on the warlock's pact.  Four Patrons are detailed, The Archfiend, The Faerie Regent, The Whisperer, and the Primordial. 

In truth a very serviceable class. Though some new, Warlock-only spells, would have been a nice add.


Wayne Robert's O5E Sorcerer
Wayne Robert's O5E Sorcerer

PDF. 8 pages. 1 cover, 1 title, 2 blank, 1 back page. 3 pages of content. $1.50.

Presently this version does not have art. There was a version before this that did have art, but the author made the choice to remove it for now.

The class is done up in OSE style. Much like his warlock book this one borrows from the OGC Sorcerer (though there is no OGL page here). 

Sorcerer's gain their magic via their sorcerous bloodlines. These are Celestial, Chaos, Dragon, and Serpent. So a nice little switch-up. 

They cast magic-user spells and gain access to meta-magic powers.  Each bloodline also gains some powers.

A really neat application of the Sorcerer for OSE or B/X.


Of the two I rather like the Sorcerer a little bit more.


The Other Side - 100 Days of Halloween




 

Thursday, August 25, 2022

#RPGaDAY2022 Day 25 - Where has the character been?

I suppose for the purposes of this #RPGaDay I should have started out with just one character.  But where is the fun in that?

So the Werper family began in Mystara, Glantri to be exact. I know clerics in Glantri. But when I moved over to AD&D 1st Ed my DM and I merged our worlds (me Mystara, him Oerth) Glantri changed a bit.  Since then Johan the III was trapped in Ravenloft and thought to be lost. Johan the IV was the first ever to travel to the Forgotten Realms. All of them have been to Abyss to fight demons, their sworn enemies and Johan II even ended up in London in the 1980s.

Likewise, Larina has been EVERYWHERE.

But I love a good plane-hopping adventure.

War of the Witch Queens will introduce my kids to my favorite playground, the Multi-verse. They have already been Krynn, but didn't know it yet.


RPGaDAY2022

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

#RPGaDAY2022 Day 23 - What situation are they currently in?

Going off of yesterday's post here is what is happening. 

Phygor is "exploring the world." That is code for I don't know what I am doing yet.

Johan is still in the Demonweb with the other D&D 5 characters.

The OSE characters are all NPCs in the "War of the Witch Queens."

But let's talk about my AD&D Second Ed characters, Sinéad and Nida.  These characters are still rather new for me.  The stats I posted are not the ones I am playing. They are still both 1st level, and they are not in the same game. Well. At least for now.

We are trying out all different editions of D&D here and these will be my return to AD&D 2nd Ed AND my first real introduction to the Forgotten Realms.

Of the two I have only played Nida once. Sinéad is 1st level, but I have not taken her on any adventures yet.  Right now there is not a lot to tell them apart save that Sinéad is a half-elf and might be the daughter of my last AD&D 1st ed character.  Not sure about that one just yet. Though I do think I am getting a grasp on who they might be.

Nida
Nida, Witch of Rashemen

Sinéad
Sinéad, half-elf Bard/Wizard

The current situation right now is me needing to move them forward. 


RPGaDAY2022


Monday, August 22, 2022

#RPGaDAY2022 Day 22 - Who is your current character?

Johan VI
One thing I never quite understood was the assumption that anyone has just one character at a given time. I have dozens!  I might be playing them all, but they are there.  Here are some of my favorites.

D&D 5e

This is my current 5e character, Johan Werper the VI. He is a cleric/paladin. He is the great-great-great-great-grandson of my first ever D&D character Johan Werper, the Cleric.  Johan the First was followed by Johan the II (Paladin), Johan III (Cavalier), Johan IV (Cleric, Prestige Paladin 3e), Johan V (Paladin, multiclassed feat Cleric, 4e) and to the new generation.

It has been a real joy to have a multi-generational arc for my characters and great to play with this concept of the Lawful Good paladin across all generations of the D&D game.  Each has given me something slightly different and all have been a blast to play.

Some of my other characters for 5e that jump between PCs and NPCs are Tayrn Nix,  Half-elf Warlock (Fey Pact), Celeste Holmes, Human Wizard (Sage), Cassandra Killian, Human Sorcerer (Divne Soul), Jasic Winterhaven, Gnome Bard (College of Lore), Sasha, Cleric (Knowledge Domain), and Áedán Aamadu, Human Druid (Circle of the Land).

Old School Essentials

Some of my OSE include the druid couple Asabalom and Maryah and my Pagans Lars and Siân.  

AD&D 2nd Edition

I have two I have been working with. I was just telling my oldest last night I need to pull them out again and do more with them.  Both are AD&D 2nd Ed interpretations of a Witch, Goodwife Sinéad (Witch Kit) and Nida (witch of Hala/Witch of Rashemen kit)

DragonQuest

My character for this game is still Phygor

--

Of course, I do have to mention my iconic witch Larina, who gets stated up in every game I play.

Larina by Djinn



RPGaDAY2022


Saturday, August 13, 2022

#RPGaDAY2022 Day 13 - How would you change the way you started RPGing?

I don't think I would change anything, to be honest with you.  Save for maybe hold on to some items longer.

Generally speaking, I am not one to have regrets or second guess my past. Things happened, I made the best choices I could with the knowledge I had and it made me what I am right now and I would not want to change that.

My struggles to figure out how Holmes Basic worked with the Monster Manual or Moldvay Basic/Cook Expert worked with the AD&D Players Handbook set me off into directions to understand these systems better. Which got me to write my own material. Which got me into writing my own material for online use. Then to working with real publishers. To produce materials that people buy now. 

It all goes back to that. I would not want to change any of it really.

RPGaDAY2022


Wednesday, August 10, 2022

#RPGaDAY2022 Day 10 - When did/will you start Gamemastering?

When did I start Game Mastering?  Right away to be honest.

It would have been with the D&D Basic Set edited by Tom Moldvay. I am sure I ran my younger brother and sister through some adventures.  I know I had made my own dungeons then and still have a couple of the maps. One, in particular, had a red dragon in one room and a green dragon in another.  No idea how they got through the doors.

I would like to think I got better.

RPGaDAY2022


Monday, August 8, 2022

#RPGaDAY2022 Day 8 - Who introduced you to RPGs?

That one is a little harder to figure out.  I feel like that in the late 70s and early 80s D&D was all over the place. I knew of it as far back as 77 or 78. I didn't read any of it until 1979 though.

I borrowed the Monster Manual from my classmate Geordie Herald. I got a copy of Holmes' Basic from someone. My first real DM was Jon Cook. 

In truth, there was this critical mass of D&D in my town in the late 70s. I DO remember I almost didn't get involved with it due to my interest in video games. But reading mythology and "The Hobbit" and watching all sorts of horror movies I think made my involvement in the game at the time rather inevitable.

All roads lead to the Keep on the Borderlands it seemed.

RPGaDAY2022


Friday, August 5, 2022

#RPGaDAY2022 Day 5 - Why will they like this game?

I guess this is continuing on from Day 3's choice.

Why will they like this game? 

Well for Basic D&D you can get up and running really fast. Character creation is quick, you can be right into the action in under an hour.

I also use D&D Basic to sell people on the game by appealing to their sense of history, I talk about how many others have traveled the same paths they have. I appeal to their nostalgia.  With "Stranger Things" so prominent in the media now this is a good hook.

Gateway to Adventure

"So many heroes have walked this path, but so many more are now forgotten. Which one will you be?"


RPGaDAY2022



Wednesday, August 3, 2022

#RPGaDAY2022 Day 3 - When were you first introduced to RPGs?

I believe I have shared this story before, but it never hurts to re-share.

For me, it was the Winter of 1979.  It was "quiet reading" time at school and I had already read everything in our school's small library on science and my new fascination, Mythology.  So instead of picking up "D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths" for the 100th time, I borrowed a friend's book that also covered all the same monsters and creatures. 

The book was the AD&D Monster Manual.

D&D gateway

The rest is history.  I tried to figure out to play on my own, made up a bunch of stuff, and then finally got a copy of the Holmes Basic book. A poorly Xeroxed copy to be exact. Until I got my hands on the Moldvay Basic set this was how I tried to play D&D.  

RPGaDAY2022


Tuesday, July 26, 2022

In Search of the Unknown / Keep on the Borderlands as the 1979 Campaign

I have been going over old notes for the past few months, re-reading some monsters I created back in the day, and wondering which ones might be good for the Basic Bestiary.  One, in particular, jumped back out at me, the Schreckengeist, which lead down a rabbit hole of notes I had collected on the adventure B1 In Search of the Unknown

The 1979 Campaign

This got me thinking about an entire campaign, or even mini-campaign, that includes B1 but also B2 Keep on the Borderlands.  These two adventures are designed to work with each other.  To do a campaign though I would need a slightly larger (but not much larger) sandbox/hex crawl.

A while back Eric Fabiaschi posted an idea on using Judges Guild 'Wilderlands of High Fantasy' & Gary Gygax's B2 'Keep on the Borderlands' As Old School Campaign.  There are links to a discussion on the Piazza and a map for "The Borderlands" for the Wilderlands of High Fantasy. Additionally, Zenopus Archives (home to all things Holmes) talked about the Warlocks & Warriors wilderness map as a hex crawl.

These have a lot of merits, to be honest, and that along with my ideas of a "1979 Campaign" have morphed into something "new" and interesting. 

Looking back over my post The Enduring Appeal of Holmes Basic & B1 I can't help but think there is something here worth exploring.  

The 1979 Campaign

The idea behind this is a campaign, likely only using Holmes Basic (so levels 1 to 3), the AD&D Monster Manual, and B1 In Search of the Unknown to create a hex crawl style adventure campaign.  At least that is the start. Over time the characters (strictly Holmes Basic ones) would move on and out to the Keep and the Caves of Chaos.

D&D 1979

The idea is to be 100% old school, though I am free to grab newer materials that expand on these areas the core will be D&D circa '79.

I suppose I could be accused of trying to chase some sort of high or feeling from my youth. And that would...not be entirely wrong. But in truth, there is no way I can recapture the feeling of 1979 any easier than I can recapture the feeling of yesterday's lunch. What I can do is try to set up something that helps me recall how it all was.

This would obviously be some sort of limited-run experiment. Holmes tops out at 3rd level.  

My current debate with myself is whether or not to include module T1 The Village of Hommlet.

There are plenty of good reasons to add it.

  1. It was released in 1979 (August 16–19, 1979 at Gen Con XII)
  2. It is a great introductory module for first-level characters.
  3. It was written by Gary so there is a certain veneer of authenticity about it.

The only reason I would not use it is because it is so deeply tied to the Temple of Elemental Evil notion. It is the starting point of the TAGDQ series for AD&D.  All the other adventures I am considering are pure Basic D&D.  While I am considering other adventures, they all tie into the B1/B2 areas of exploration.  T1 is a little different.

The Adventures

Supplemental Adventure Material

I could take all of this and put into my three-ring binder format. Hell. There is even enough room for Holmes basic in this!

If, and that is a big IF, it goes well I would even consider moving on and up. Either via Blueholme rules or take the B/X - OSE route.  In truth though I would rather keep this one light and tight as it were. Levels 1 to 3 with the goal of exploring the local wilderness (hex crawl style) and clearing out the local caves.

I also can't help but think of my Traveller Envy and the three board games I have covered here also released in 1979; Wizard's QuestMagic Realm, and Demons.  While my original goal was to mine these for ideas for my War of the Witch Queens, there is no reason why I can't also use them here.  

Wizard Quest has the players explore a wilderness area until they have collected enough treasure. In Demons the players are searching for treasure with the aid of various demons while avoiding local authorities. In Magic Realm...well I have not been able to play that one.  BUT I could incorporate the background as the past for this area. A bunch of wizards had a mighty battle here and the land is full of strange creatures and even stranger treasure.  All these wizards bringing in their bound creatures would also explain why the Caves are so full of them and so much magical treasure around. Maybe even Zelligar is the last of these great wizards.  It would also allow me to bring in weaker demons and devils from the monster manual. Though not too strong, these are only 1st to 3rd level characters.

It certainly would get me into the mood for all things 1979. Plus what is more 1979/early 80s for me than Traveller Envy? 

If I was really clever I'd collect the names of characters from people playing in 1979 and have them be some of the "named NPCs" for the background.

How about it? Were you playing in 1979? If so drop your character's name and class below!

Notes / References

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Old School Essentials: Eddie and Chrissy

Old-School Essentials Advanced Fantasy Player's Tome
Stranger Things is still making news and dominating all sorts of geeky-related culture and I think that is great.  While I do agree that Saddie Sink, aka Max, got absolutely robbed of an Emmy nomination this year, I am enjoying all the love that Joseph Quinn and Grace Van Dien, the ill-fated Eddie Munson and Chrissy Cunningham are getting online.

Spoilers for Stranger Things Season 4 follow.

Eddie is the metal-loving, D&D playing, "super-senior" and head of the Hellfire Club.  Chrissy is the popular cheerleader who goes to Eddie to look for drugs to help stop the visions she is getting.  Their few moment of screen-time have prompted the Duffer Brothers to come out and say they regret killing both characters because their chemistry was so good. This has led to the Internet's newest "ship" of Eddie/Chrissy, known online as #eddissy or #hellcheer.

Grace Van Dien has been on her Twitter account and is a huge #eddissy fan. 

It's cute. The metal head and the cheerleader find common ground and even become close. Hell back in, oh about the exact same time, I remember talking to a classmate when we were both outside of our high school social structures and I was very surprised and very pleased that this cheerleader I barely knew had such excellent taste in music (from my point of view).  Certainly opened my young eyes.

So yeah. I am not much of a shipper these days, but this is fun.  Then I got to see this artwork.

Well. Eddie and Chrissy might have fallen to Vecna/#1/Henry in Hawkins, but that doesn't mean a D&D version of them didn't survive somewhere!  So here they are for Old School Essentials - Advanced Fantasy.  And since I just got back from the Bristol Ren Faire I have some ideas. 

Chrissy Cunningham
2nd level Human Acrobat
Chaotic Good

STR: 12
INT: 16
WIS: 12
DEX: 17
CON: 11
CHA: 16

HP: 6
AC: 7
THAC0: 19 [0]

Saving Throws
D: 13 W: 14 P: 13 B: 16: S: 15

Acrobat Skills
CS: 88 FA: 25 HS: 15 MS: 25 TW: 65

Eddie Munson
3rd level human Arcane Bard*
Chaotic Good

STR: 14
INT: 14
WIS: 13
DEX: 15
CON: 13
CHA: 17

HP: 13
AC: 7
THAC0: 19 [0]

Saving Throws
D: 13 W: 14 P: 13 B: 16: S: 15

Powers
Bard skills, Lore, Spell Casting*

*Druid spells don't really fit Eddie, so he is getting Magic-User spells instead. The Arcane Bard from Carcass Crawler 0 is a better fit.

Bard Skills
CS: 79 HN: 1-3 PP: 30 RL: 60

First Level: Charm Person, Shield

--

Based on the wonderful art from JC above, this version of Eddie and Chrissy are street performers by day and thieves by night. I imagine they come into a town Eddie plays while Chrissy dances for tips all the while scoping out the locals.  They try to steal only from the very rich and corrupt. It usually doesn't take them long to figure out who their mark will be.  

They are not evil, so they steal what they can and give most of it away to the needy, keeping a couple of choice items for themselves. They also keep enough from their take and tips to live a comfortable, if nomadic lifestyle.

Since these characters are in OSE-Advanced, I might make them "blink and you will miss them" NPCs in my War of the Witch Queens campaign. I am going to say they have a small apartment above the tavern they perform at in the town of West Haven.  Here they just perform, no theft.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

I Am A Lying Liar from Liartown

I was cleaning up my office on Wednesday, waiting for a meeting to start when I started going through a bunch of binders I have.  In particular a few for notes on my witch and necromancer classes (maybe I'll do a necromancer one day).  Anyway, I sorted through all my notes and I found many treasures.

3.5" Floppy disk.  What treasures await??

The fruits of that labor are:

More Monsters!

And...I dug up enough information for not just two new witch books, but three.

For the last year or more, I have been talking about "My Last Witch Book" the High Witchcraft Tradition.  The High Witchcraft book is very much tied up in organizing all my notes and sources project, so I knew I was going to find new material for it today.

I knew I had a lot for it, it was just all over the place on whatever I decided to take notes on.  I thought I had maybe enough for it and another, smaller, book.  Nope. I have enough for three different books now.

I am not really ready to reveal what these other books are/will be.  I reserve the right not to do them if push comes to it.  

So. Yeah.  I guess I do have more books in me.  Though I think I am going to keep the High Witchcraft book as the Last book.

Now I just need to dig up a 3.5" floppy drive.

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Review: Old-School Essentials Advanced Fantasy

Old School Essentials
Arguably one of the biggest success stories of the late OSR movement has been the publication of Old-School Essentials Classic Fantasy (2019) and Old-School Essentials Advanced Fantasy (2021).  Indeed I feel that OSE has supplanted Swords & Wizardry, the darling of the middle OSR movement as the old-school game of choice.  It is the old-school game of choice here in my home game, alternating between it and D&D 5e, and seems to be the most talked-about game in the old-school discussion areas. 

This is all with good reason.  OSE is well designed, superbly organized, and has wonderful art.  There is a minimalist approach to the rules and presentation that does not detract from the experience, instead, it rather enhances it.   You can see my enthusiasm in my review of the Old-School Essentials Classic Fantasy Boxed set back in 2020.   So imagine my surprise when I learned I had not given OSE Advanced a proper review yet.

I have detailed my introduction to D&D many times here. But briefly, my "first" D&D was a poorly copied version of Holmes Basic with an AD&D Monster Manual.  My first "true" D&D, the one I could properly call my own was Moldvay Basic/Cook & MArsh Expert (commonly referred to as "B/X").  I would over the course of a year or so add in elements of AD&D.  Most importantly the Deities & Demigods, the Fiend Folio, and a copy of Eldritch Wizardry.  *My* D&D was always a mish-mash of Basic D&D and AD&D.  I later discovered that my playstyle was not at all unique.

Old School Essentials Advanced Fantasy Edition really strikes at the heart of what this sort of play was like.  The familiar and easy Basic/Expert rules with AD&D layered on top.  Layered is the right word, AD&D had a lot of situational rules and rules used in tournaments and rules designed to cover what looked like medieval realism.  As real that is in a world where half-elves fought dragons with magic.  OSE-AF strips this down back to the B/X style rules found in OSE-CF and then adds in what people used the most from AD&D.  No weapon speed factors, no tournament scoring, just D&D-style play.  

OSE-AF is divided into two books, the Player's Tome and the Referee's Tome.

I am a sucker for a book with a ribbon

For this review, I am considering the hardcover books I got via the Kickstarter, the PDFs from DriveThruRPG, and extra copies of the Player's Tome I picked up at my FLGS.  All books were purchased by me and none were submitted for review purposes.

OSE-AF Player's Tome
OSE-AF Player's Tome

Hardcover. Black and White and color interior art and covers. 248 pages. Bookmarked PDF with hyperlinked table of contents and index. $40.00 for the hardcover print (retail). $15.00 for the PDF.

The Player's Tome covers everything an OSE-AF player needs to know. The book details a lot of the same rules that are found in the OSE-Classic Fantasy (or read: Basic) rules.  This new book though integrates the "Basic" and "Advanced" material together with some notes on the "Advanced Fantasy" sections. One might be tempted to say that this book is not needed if you have the OSE-CF book, but that is not really the case. While there are certainly more classes, and more monsters in the case of the Referee Tome, there is still quite a lot of new material here.  Enough to make AF twice as large content-wise as CF.   

The main feature of this book, and indeed all of the OSE line, is the layout.  All material is laid out so that everything you need to read is on facing pages.  So a character class always takes up two pages (even and odd) so that when laid flat everything can be read at once and easily.  There are very few exceptions to this rule and it gives OSE it's unique look and feel. Add in the art, sparingly but effectively used, the feel is elegant, if minimalist, efficiency.   This is the same design that made D&D 4e a joy to read.  The same feeling is here.

Advanced Fantasy follows its Advanced namesake and splits character race and character class into two separate things. Basic combined race and class so you got Clerics (always human) and Dwarves (always fighters).  Here is the option that most folks want in the "Advanced" game.  In addition to the four classes and the four races of Basic, this book introduces six more races and nine more classes.

In the OSE-AF book, we get: Acrobat, Assassin, Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Illusionist, Knight, Magic-user, Paladin, Ranger, and Thief.

There are also the "race as class" variants of: Drow, Duergar, Dwarf, Elf, Gnome, Half-elf, Halfling, Half-orc, Human, and Svirfneblin.  The level maximum is 14 for humans and variable for others. All race/class combinations are detailed.  This covers our first 80 some odd pages.

What follows next are guides for character advancement, equipment, animals of burden, transportation, and crews.

The next biggest section is Magic and this covers all the spells for the magic-using classes. Since the max level for any human is 14, spells are limited. Divine spellcasters are limited to the 5th level of casting and Arcane to the 6th level. The advantage here is the clerics and druids are on more equal footing with each other and so are magic-users and illusionists.  Unlike their Advanced namesake, this book does not require spell components nor are their other details given.  The spells are firmly in the Basic format.

The book wraps up with Adventuring, Hirelings, and building strongholds.  

The feel is solid B/X Basic with enough "Advanced" added in to make it feel just a little different. Or in other words, exactly how we used to play it from 1980 to 1983.

OSE-AF Referee's Tome
OSE-AF Referee's Tome

Hardcover. Black and White and color interior art and covers. 248 pages. Bookmarked PDF with hyperlinked table of contents and index. $40.00 for the hardcover print (retail). $15.00 for the PDF.

This book covers how to run an OSE-AF game.  Some of the details here are the same as OSE-CF but there are enough rules additions and clarification to make it worthwhile to anyone that has OSE-CF.

The first part covers running the game and adventures along with designing a dungeon and wilderness areas.

The next section, Monsters, makes up the bulk of the book.  All the old OSE-CF favorites are here and most of the Advanced era monsters.  In 107 or so pages we get over 320 monsters.  Again the art is light, but it is there.  We do not get any Demons or Devils, those are coming in a future book from my understanding, but it is still plenty.

The next largest section is Treasure which includes intelligent swords.

We also get sections on monster tables by terrain, strongholds, and NPCs.

The main feature of this book, and indeed all of the OSE line, is the layout.  All material is laid out so that everything you need to read is on facing pages. This is less obvious here as in the Player's Tome, but it is still a solid feature.

The two-volume set might just be the ultimate in expression of the time period in which I was doing my earliest D&D play.  There are other Basic/Advanced hybrid games out there and they all provide a good mix of their sources, but it is OSE-AF that is the closest to what I was playing then. All of the fun of Basic with the options in Advanced I loved.   The modularity of OSE also allows for expansion.  While the 1 to 14 level range covers most of what people will play there is no reason why there can't be an OSE-Companion to cover higher levels.

OSE-AF Carcass Crawler #1
OSE-AF Carcass Crawler #1

PDF only, 32 pages. Color covers, black & white interior art. $7.50 PDF.

The sometimes zine for OSE and named for the OGC version of the infamous carrion crawler.

This issue adds the new races to the Advanced Fantasy line, the gargantuan (like Goliaths), the goblin, and the hephaestan (logical, elf-like beings).  I am particularly happy with the Goblin.

New classes for Classic and Advanced fantasy are the acolyte (a type of spell-less cleric with healing), the gargantuan (race-class), the goblin (race-class), the hephaestan (race-class), the kineticist (psychics), and the mage (a spell-less magic-user with magical abilities).

There are new rules for fighters and thieves as well as black powder guns.  I like the fighter talents, help give it a bit more to do really.  They are at every 5 levels, but I might make them every 4 instead. 

OSE-AF Fantasy Reference Booklet
OSE-AF Fantasy Reference Booklet

PDF only, 32 pages. Color covers, black & white interior art. $4.00 PDF.

This handy guide covers all the major tables found in the OSE Advanced Fantasy line. For $4 it is a great little reference.

Through out all these books and the entire OSE line the art is both evocative of the old-school style and still modern enough to please new audiences.

This is the game of choice for me to introduce old-school style play to players of modern games. My regular 5e group took to it like ducks to water. They love it. They still love their 5e games, but they also like to do this one.  None of them had ever played B/X prior to this and it was a huge success.

I know that Gavin Norman and Necrotic Gnome have more material to give us for this, I hope it all lives up this new gold standard I set my OSR book to. 

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

Review: Comes Chaos

Comes Chaos
I am a complete sucker for anything B/X.  While I have many games I love, it is B/X era D&D that really gets my nostalgia going.  So anything made for it gets my attention.  While the products, both official and fan-made, can vary in quality, I am rarely disappointed.  

One publisher that has delivered well on the nostalgia factor is Jonathan Becker of Running Beagle Games.  Becker, known for his B/X Blackrazor blog, "gets" B/X D&D.  He has demonstrated time and again that he gets how B/X is different that AD&D and indeed other Basic-era clones.  His B/X Companion remains one of my top 10 favorite books of the published OSR books.  So when he came out with a new book I jumped on it!

And...promptly forgot about it!  Ok, in my defense October is like my high holy month and I had a lot going on.   So now it is February and I figure I should come back to this one.

Comes Chaos

by Jonathan Becker.  64 pages, black & white art by Kelvin Green.  

Comes Chaos is a combination rules addition/setting for use with B/X era D&D.  It can be used with other versions of Basic D&D and the various clones, but there is a focus here.  That is appropriate for a few reasons I will touch on in a bit.

Like the Basic and Expert books of old, and his own Companion book, this is a 64 page book.  Printed with it's black and red cover it would look rather nice sitting next to the other books.  At this point Becker has enough material (CompanionComplete B/X Adventurer, and this one) for a reasonable boxed set.  Maybe one with a "3" in the corner.

ARJADEM
PART 1: INTRODUCTION

Comes Chaos deals, naturally, with the forces of Chaos (capital C) and how to use them in your game.  There is an implied setting that can be used as-is or elements can be used in any game. 

The book is formated like that of the Basic and Expert (and Companion) books, so following the flow of information is straightforward.  The difference here is that these are alternate and additional rules. 

This section also introduces the "Four Great Powers" the Demon Lords ArjaDem, MorSolahn, SeiAhsk, and TeeGal.

PART 2: RUINED PLAYER CHARACTERS

Here we get alterations to the seven player characters classes. Clerics of gods of Law, for example, cannot use reversed versions of their spells. But their "Turning Undead" chart is not extended to include the demons of this game.  There is a new Magic-User "sub-class" (that word is not used) in the Chaos Sorcerer.  This class works a bit like the Sorcerer or Warlock of other D&D games. It uses Intelligence as a Prime, but I am going to change it to Charisma. 

The next part of this section deals with Corrupted characters and Chaos Champions.  Corrupted characters are ones that started out "good" and then fell into chaos.  Chaos Champions start out chaotic. These characters also gain the favor of one of the four powers. 

The four powers and their gifts are covered last. The four masters are unique to this book but remind a bit of the sort of creatures one might find in the writings of Moorcock. Not quite demons, not quite Lovecraftian horrors, but a little bit of both.  There is also a desire, and this might just be me, to link them up with the old AD&D Elemental Princes.  Maybe because there are four.

PART 3: TAINTED MAGIC

Magic gets some changes in Comes Chaos.  Both Clerics and Magic-users now have some restrictions on what spells they can normally cast.  We also get some new Dark Sorcery spells used by Chaos Sorcerers, Demons, and Chaos Champions.  Additionally, some spells are "patron" spells for three of the four Chaos Masters.  The other Master, ArjaDem, forbids their followers from using magic. 

The spells are in B/X format and there are eight per level for levels 1 to 6.  Some are repeats of other B/X spells. There are enough new spells to keep players on their toes when dealing with a minion of chaos. 

Chaos at work
PART 4: EXPLORING THE WASTES

The Wastelands are areas that are corrupted by Chaos.  Spending time in these lands also leads to corruption and mutations in the living creatures here.  This section also has other hazards such as how long food and water will last, how much movement and time is changed, and what sorts of strange occurrences and creatures that can be encountered.   The section has a whole Colour out of Space feel to it. 

PART 5: BLOOD AND SOULS

This section deals with encounters and combat. Alterations are given for Champions of Chaos and demons as well as others dealing with these threats.

PART 6: BEASTS AND DEMONS

This is our monster section and it has 37 new monsters.  As expected 19 of them are demons and 4 are undead.  There are also corrupted versions of other monster types (elves, dwarves, etc) that can be used as guidelines for other corrupted monsters not listed.  

The demons depicted here are not the Demons of the AD&D monster manual. Nor are they the demons of Earth myth and legends.  These are new creatures unique to this book.  There are some interesting ones here and again the feeling is not quite demons and not quite Lovecraftian horrors, but a combination of the two.

PART 7: UNHOLY TREASURES

This section covers the treasures you can find with these creatures or in the wastelands.

PART 8: DEMON MASTER INFORMATION

The person running these games is called the "Demon Masters" which is just a way really to use "DM."  This section covers how to deal with corruption, magical research and chaos magic, and how to design a wasteland.

There is another class presented here, the Witch Hunter, from the Complete B/X Adventurer. Despite the success and dare I say universal approval of his own Companion Rules, this class only goes to level 14.  Though it is mentioned that levels 15-36 can be found in the Adventurer book. 

In fact the next section covers using this book with the Complete B/X Adventurer and the B/X Companion. 

PART 9: SLAVE-LORDS OF CHAOS

This section covers how to run an "evil" game including unique experience point rewards.

Comes Chaos is a great extension to any B/X style game.  Especially ones where "Chaos" is more of a factor than say "Evil."

Chaos in Comes Chaos follows the implicit guidelines originally set up in Moldvay Basic.  Chaos is not just a philosophy or moral outlook, it is a force and "thing" that must be dealt with. I feel this book does a good job in trying to expand on this notion and make it something to use in your games.

The ideas presented here are not all unique; Lamentations of the Flame Princess and Dungeon Crawl Classics cover similar ground in terms of Chaos as a Force to Fight and Realms of Crawling Chaos for the Lovecraftian Chaos is a Force.  Comes Chaos though combines these ideas into something that is uniquely B/X.  Yes both LotFP and Realms of Crawling Chaos have strong B/X roots, but this is explicitly B/X.  

Given this, Comes Chaos should work well with Old School Essentials as well.  Though one gets the feeling that OSE is more like "The Hobbit" than it is "Colour Out of Space."  Though I am not sure it would feel the same for Advanced versions of the Old-School games since there is a focus on Good vs. Evil there as well. 

The art by Kelvin Green is great and having one artist to do all the work gives the book a united vision. 

It is available at DriveThruRPG where it is currently just under $14.  The rule of thumb I have adopted over the years is 10¢ per page, which would place this at $6.40.  The price is twice that, but I still feel it is worthwhile.  Again this is a rule of thumb, not a hard and fast rule. 

There is no print-on-demand option on DriveThru for this.  Though none of Running Beagle's books have this.  You can though get print copies of this and all their other books from their website.  Print copies of Comes Chaos are $27.99 and handled via PayPal.

Comes Chaos also is not released through the Open Gaming License.  Not an issue to be honest, but I look at it as a way the creator/publisher "gives back" to the community.  Generally speaking, OGL products sell better than their non-OGL contemporaries/counterparts. 

Comes Chaos is a fun supplement.  I used similar ideas when running my B/X games in the past I will adopt some of these ideas to use in my current OSE game.  I am not likely to use the four demonic princes, my game has a solid cosmology, but I might adopt them for a 5e game I am running that could use Chaotic Evil figures like these.  

Who should get this?  DMs that want to add a little chaos effects to their games but do not want to go the full Dungeon Crawl Classics route.  DMs that play/run B/X and/or OSE in particular. 

This is also for DMs that enjoy the classical roots of the game but whose interests lean more towards Moorcock rather than Lovecraft.

For me, the price and the lack of the OGL keep it from being a perfect addition to my games.