Showing posts with label black rose. Show all posts
Showing posts with label black rose. Show all posts

Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 A Look Back

Well, 2017 was an interesting year.

I managed to get a few PDFs out. Mostly for Swords & Wizardry:
And some more Strange Brew for Pathfinder:

So naturally, my blogging took a hit. This was my least productive year in terms of posts since the start really.  But that is cool.

Like last year D&D 5 dominated my play.  Though I did play some other games.

The big game of my year was not Starfinder as I expected, but rather Blue Rose.

I spent a month or so on it back in June and my adoration of it has not lessened.  Looking forward to some more Blue Rose in 2018.

Later in the year I also spent a lot of time with Mighty Protectors.

It was also a joy to review and play. Looking forward to some more.

Hope your 2017 was good. Here is to a better 2018.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Red, White and Blue Rose

June may have been "Blue Rose month" but I have so much more to say and do!

I am going to have a couple of upcoming "Plays Well With Others" coming up.  More details later, but here are some teasers.

First, something that was inspired by my old "Black Rose" game (Blue Rose + Ravenloft) and something that came to me in a flash on a recent run.  Something I am calling "Blood Red Rose".

Blue Rose + Vampire the Masquerade (2nd Edition).

Next is less of a Plays Well With Others and more of a "Campaign Model".
I give you my "White Rose"

Blue Rose + Swords & Wizardry White Box.

This is going to be great.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Review: Blue Rose 2nd Edition, Part 2

Yesterday I spent some quality time with the Blue Rose Character Creation rules. Today I want to move to the next section of this huge book and cover The World of Aldea section.

Now when it comes to game-changing events I can make due with changes in power or in the way certain rules have been handled.  It is the events in the next few chapters that will have me scrambling for the pencils to re-do my campaign!  Well, Green Ronin never asked me what I was doing in my game and I never reached out to them to make sure they were not invalidating several sessions worth of my games ( +Chris Pramas, we will just have to talk in future! ;) ).

Chapter 5, What Has Gone Before, is still roughly the same as what we saw in the True20 version. If anything things are clearer now.  The art, of course, is better and some things, like the rise of the Darkfiends, are clearer.
As before we get a history of the World of Aldea, from the Mythic Age (when the Gods were created) to the Old Kingdom (the “Golden Age” of the world), the Empire of Thrones (or the rise of the evil Sorcerer Kings) to the present age in The Rebirth of Aldis.  The history of the world is given from the creation of the world by the four greater gods and then into the creation of the lesser gods, demons, and mortal races.

I think it is the goal of every RPG writer, either professional or just sitting at home, to create a mythology for their world.   These myths feel more like The Silmarillion than it does say the Bible or Greek Myth.  Though there is a fair appreciation for Greek Myths and Pagan beliefs in this.  In makes for an interesting world to say the least.  It has been asked more than once in my groups what gods do they believe in in the other parts of Aldea. Are they same with different names (likely) or they different ones altogether (a tantalizing idea)?  We see bits of how this could work in Chapter 7 where the different lands worship different aspects of these same gods.

The biggest changes do not come till much later in the chapter.  At some point between the True20 timeline and the AGE timeline. Queen Jaellin decided that she was "officially done with Jarek's shit" and invaded Kern via the hidden ShadowGate under the palace. The present day of the True20 version was 310 (Aldin calendar) to the new current day of the AGE version of 320.   A lot has happened in ten years.
I read this and was like "whoa" what happened here?  Personally, I'd love to have some scenarios where the PCs/Cast are part of that battle and raid.I think that would be a blast.
Also this was the last time anyone has seen the Golden Hart.  The mystery here, of course, is whether or not it used up all it's magic in this last battle.  We come to the "present day" in the game with political factions in an uproar, relations within and without in question and a Queen that has made some choices that many of her own court and people do not agree with.
Basically, it is like Valdemar at the end of the Winds of Fury.
Expanded from the True20 book this new chapter also talks more about the Great Rebellion that started Aldis in the first place.  I mean wouldn't that also be a great time to play?  The years leading up to Queen Seltha's reign.  Heck, the art of the Undead armies is enough to make me want to give it a try.

Chapter 6, Kingdom of the Blue Rose then picks up with Aldis proper and discusses what is going on.  We get background on the various races living in Aldis; human, sea-folk, vata, night people, and Rhydan.  Why do all these people get along? Well... they try to. The Rhydan wanted a land that all were equal and free and queen Seltha ran with that.
We get a section on the Royal Court of Aldis.  I REALLY wish I was good at running Court Intrigue. This would be the game for that.  A carefully balanced dual of wit, manners and subtle backstabbing.  This game makes me want to be better at it.  There is just too much potential here and frankly it is not my strong suit.

Anyone who ever thought that a Kingdom that was accepting of all peoples lacks intrigue has never really read or played this game.  Aldis is not just the idyllic land that some have depicted it.  It is “enlightened” but there are still internal strife, crime, the odd sorcerer or even a leftover gates from the time before the Sovereigns, and the ever-present threats from inside and outside. A number of threats to Aldis and Aldea are detailed. Various unscrupulous merchants, a very effective criminal organization known as “The Silence”, fallen nobles, bandits, defective shadow gates,  and the remains of various shadow cults.   In a handful of pages we get plenty of ideas for characters to do.  Plus we now have a Queen that may or may not be trusted by all her people. And the Golden Hart? Gone. Hasn't been seen since the raid on Kern.  Something new is happening here.
There is a section on gender, sexuality, and marriage. Much less that you have been lead to believe mind you. Frankly, it could do with a bit more in my mind. This is Romantic Fantasy after all.
Religion gets expanded a bit as well.  I like the new art for the Gods of Light, but I had to number them on my print out to keep track of them. I still rather like the Exarchs of Shadow. It helps solves the age old philosophical question of "From whence comes evil?" It gives a good explanation of how good gods such as these would have created evil beings. Plus in this version, they are more detailed with each exarch equated to a deadly sin.   I might not be able to do court intrigue, but I can do horror like nobody's business.
The real expansion though comes in the form of the City of Aldis. Note if you are used to the map in the True20 World of Aldea book (page 18), this one (page 161) is rotated 90 degrees clockwise. It also looks like the city has grown some more in the last 10 years.
Other areas of Aldis are detailed as well. These include the Pavin Weald (Magical Forest) and refugees from Kern that have not quite integrated into Adlean society known as The Trebutane.  If you want your spot to create Aldea-as-Valdemar and need a place for Holderkin Talia to be from, this is it.

Chapter 7, Lands Beyond deals with the lands and countries surrounding Aldis.  This includes the Theocracy of Jarzon, the Khanate of Rezea (the Kaled'a'in/Tayledras from the Valedmar books, or the Kingdom of Damar from The Blue Sword), the Roamers (also Kaled'a'in Shin'a'in), the Shadow Barrens (just a bad place), The Forest Kingdom of Wyss (a new place, not in the True20 version), the Pirate Isles (more information here, can Freeport Blue Rose be far behind?), Kern (the really, really bad place. Mordor to Aldis' Gondor) and the Matriarchy of Lar'tya (basically Themyscira.)

Each section of the nation/land deals with the history of the lands, their rulers, religion, and people. Larger cities are discussed but never in the detail we got with Aldis.  Some important NPCs have sidebars and their history, but no stats, are given.  The lands also all have rough equivalents to the organizations found in Aldis.  For example, the counterpart to the Rose Knights in Jarzon are the Knights of Purity and in Kern are the Knights of the Skull.

Of the lands, Jarzon and Kern are the most interesting.  Jarzon is an interesting place where it could have been just like Aldis save for the intolerance of the Theocracy.  I suppose then it is no surprise then that it lies south of Aldis.  I could see a Jarzonni based game dealing with various heretics.  Heck a fun game would be to play part of the Jarzonni Inquisition to discover a new threat to the whole world!
Kern is Ravenloft. Or maybe it is Thay. or Iuz. Or "The North" for the "Blue Sword" fans.  I KNOW I can't be the only one to have thought in reading this new version of the game that when Jaelin killed the Lich King that the "Shadowed Seven" would be an even bigger threat.

Think of Thay without SzassTam or Apokolips without Darkseid. There is a lot of adventure ideas here. Play these evil regents off on each other. Or imagine their machinations if they ever decided to team up.   I'd love a game where characters need to face off against these foes.  That might be too "D&D" or even too "Buffy" but it would still be a lot of fun.

So advancing the timeline and story by 10 years is cool but it completely WRECKED my older Blue Rose game I was calling Black Rose. Eh. No worries. I can come up with some new ideas and maybe even resurrect some of the Black Rose ideas.   Plus it will give me a good chance to pull out one of my old NPCs, Zenaida a Rezean Witch.

If you had the old True20 World of Aldea book then a lot in this section will feel familiar.  There is a lot more material in the current AGE book and of course moved up 10 years.

Next up is the Narrator's Section.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

It is an AGE of Heroes

Too nice here in the Mid-West to be inside. But I did pick up a couple of books this weekend.

I already had the PDFs, so getting these was a nice little addition to my collection.

Plus it is 100% compatible with Blue Rose.

I just need a cool campaign idea now.  My previous Blue Rose games wrapped up to a point where I don't feel the need to bring them back.  So something new. Something really, really new is in order here.

I might have some thoughts on resurrecting bits of Black Rose later in the week and there is something else I have been thinking about.

More later. Gotta get back outside.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

PWWO: Blue Rose

Continuing my deep dive of Blue Rose, it's systems and world I want to see how well it Plays Well With Others.  I think for the sake of argument I refer to Blue Rose when I mean the campaign world and True20 when I mean the system.

Blue Rose and d20
I am mentioning this one just to get it out of the way.  Yes, you can mix and match Blue Rose/True20 with just about any d20 system.  I have done this in the past but I feel something unique is lost. Much like the Borg assimilating other cultures to where their individualism is lost, d20 sucks up other games and makes them a pale imitation of D&D. Or at least D&D 3rd Edition.  This is a real valuable lesson though. For something to work for my PWWO posts the uniqueness of both games, systems, books, whatever need to be retained.  The d20 conversion appendix in the back of the Blue Rose core book helps a lot and it also guides how other d20-based/derived games can be converted.  Just remember that "conversion" isn't the only thing I am looking for here.

Blue Rose and Ravenloft
Ahh.  My original Peanut Butter and Chocolate. Also what could be one of the first, in spirit, PWWO style posts I have made here.  Ravenloft was one of my favorite game worlds for 2nd Ed D&D. Heck it was my only game world for 2nd Ed.  The then new 3rd Ed Ravenloft was great, but left me underwhelmed.  Mixing in Blue Rose to the Ravenloft world gave me something new. Not totally new mind you, but new enough to highlight what made both games really shine. The darkness of Ravenloft made the brightness of Blue Rose even brighter and visa versa.
You can read more about my Black Rose exploits in these posts and here, Count Strahd Von Zarovich for Blue Rose / True20.
In this case, I want to convert everything Ravenloft to Blue Rose/True20.

Blue Rose and D&D 5
A lot of what Blue Rose/True20 did was revolutionary. A lot of D&D5 is evolutionary.  Both games though can be brought together to build something that is truly fun.
Character creation in D&D 5 is not all that different than D&D 1 when it gets right down to it.  I say keep the general rules for D&D 5 but adapt some of the Blue Rose True20 ideas. For starters, use Blue Rose's Callings to replace Backgrounds.  Sure there can still be an element of Background to this, but now these Callings of the characters are something that continues on.  A Background in D&D5 is sometimes relegated to the "oh that was what I used to be, but I am a <<insert class>> now."  Which is too bad really.  Callings can, and should influence what a character does all the time.

In this case I want to convert everything over to D&D 5 with plenty of Blue Rose material still intact.
This is going to be the basis for my "Monster Naturalists" game, but I need to figure out how to use Blue Rose's/True20's non-lethal damage track with D&D5 so the monsters can be brought in alive.
+Mark Craddock over at Cross Planes has already made some conversions of various races.
Atlantis: Second Age (OmniSystem)
Atlantis: Second Age by Morrigan Press (now +Khepera Publishing) was/is very interesting update of the old Bard Games "Atlantis" and the “Arcanum” books which were written to be used with "any fantasy role-playing game" but the obvious choice was AD&D.
This game uses the Omni System. It is a bit like True20 and this can be used with True20 with a bit of tinkering.  The differences are largely on of True20 having DCs and the OmniSystem having a table of Successes.   The author of the game mentioned online that he was a little surprised when he saw True20 but it was an obvious case of parallel development.  The natural idea is to keep True20's DCs, but use the Omni Table for Critical successes.
The book is titled “Atlantis, the Second Age” so it is Atlantis, after the Flood. A bit odd, but I’ll go with it. Plenty of information on the world and despite the name you could run it as a pre-flood/pre-sinking Atlantean empire. Tons of new races, spells and magic, all pulled from the old Bard Games books ad updated to the OmniSystem, and naturally True20. Great as a game in it’s own right or as a guide to an antediluvian time for any other game.
Now what exactly does this have to do with Blue Rose? Well the worlds are very different, but not so different that commonalities can't be found.  Atlantis (sunken or not) can most certainly lie to the west of Aldis.  Atlanteans share a certain level of egalitarianism and progressive social awareness with the folk of Aldis as well.  It could be that Atlantis was there all this time but forgotten after the Shadow Wars.  Hesparia (from Atlantis) is almost like Lar'tya (from Blue Rose) turned up to 11.
Atlantis:SA provides a larger world for Aldea and Aldis. Is it a perfect fit? By no means. But it is a fun fit. Atlantis:SA adds a number of races that are not really what Blue Rose is about (Elves, Dwarves, Goblins, Hobgoblins) but others such as the Andaman (animal headed humanoids) are close enough to the the "Change Children" of the Valdemar book by Mercedes Lackey that a strong case can be made.  In A:SA they are said to be created by Atlantean Sorcerers. Ok. Or the Sorcerer Kings of BR.  Tritons (A:SA) are jsut another form of Sea Folk (BR).  Skills are largely treated the same way, I would just use Blue Rose's skills myself.  Talents in A:SA are a lot like the Feats in BR/T20.  Many of these Talents can also be used as alternate forms of Arcana.   Callings in A:SA are not exactly the same as Callings in BR. They are however very similar to the Paths introduced in the Blue Rose Companion.
Magic in A:SA is a treasure trove of ideas for any BR game.  While some could properly called Sorcery in BR, others are all together new, like Alchemy and Witchcraft.

If one wanted they could take all the OGC from Blue Rose and what little OGC from Atlantis that is open and create something that would work well with both.  Though that is a lot of work for two effectively dead systems.  Though I still enjoy this Atlantis book.  The new Atlantis book from Khepera Publishing is much more polished, but is further removed from the basic Omni System (now Omega System). Plus the book lacks some of the charm of the earlier books.

Blue Rose & Birthright
Two other games that work well together, and fit the Mercedes Lackey Valdemar feel well, is TSR's Birthright campaign setting for 2nd Ed. AD&D.  Whether you use the countries in BR or the ones in BR (err..that won't work) Birthright, the political intrigue between the rulers is now the main story telling element of the game.  Birthright also has a lot to offer players of Blue Rose in terms of inter- and intra-court affairs.  I would limit the races to Blue Rose ones; Birthright already limits races from the menagerie that was 2nd Ed AD&D.
I will say that this combination really is the ONLY time that the Golden Hart will effect what the characters could or could not do in a game.
Birthright also has that "built in maturity" factor I associate with Blue Rose. That is there is a certain audience that will enjoy playing at this level of social interaction and that audience tends to skew older.  Neither Blue Rose nor Birthright are about killing things and taking their stuff.  Unless of course, you are a king. And the things you kill are armies of other kings.
Makes me want to pull out my old Birthright materials! Have not even cracked them in years.

Consequently, I'd also throw the Basic adventures B11 King's Festival and B12 Queen's Harvest as intro adventures to this mix-up.  Just downplay the combat aspects and change the orcs to humans.
I have one other PWWO that I want to try out, but I am thinking of posting that one by itself tomorrow.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Retrospective on Blue Rose

Cover for the new AGE version of Blue Rose
Blue Rose was always one of those games I felt people talked more about than played.  I remember running into it at Gen Con in 2007. I had wanted to go over to the Green Ronin booth since I was already enamoured with Mutants & Masterminds and thought Green Ronin seemed like one of those “cool companies”. Like Eden was in in the early 2000s and Cubicle Seven is today.  Green Ronin is still cool, but they are no longer the scrappy little upstart, they are elder statesmen and stateswomen now.

Blue Rose attracted me from the start. The Stephanie Pui-Mun Law art, whom I had known from her days at the Elfwood art website so long ago, was so eye catching and so different than anything else I had ever seen.  The game inside lived up to that art.
I picked up the book and saw the names. Of course I knew who Steve Kenson was (and he was standing just right over there too), I had played M&M and of course had his Witch’s Handbook from GR.  There was also John Snead, who only the most uncouth plebeians didn’t know.  I had worked with John on the Magic Box for the Buffy game and he was a great guy and great writer.  I saw other names that were unknown to me then (not now), but picked it up on the (substantial) merits of the first two authors.   Jeremy Crawford is now one of the people behind 5th edition D&D and he did quite a bit of work on 4th edition D&D as well.

Now I had an idea what “Romantic Fantasy” was.  I had read Diane Duane, Mercedes Lackey and Marion Zimmer Bradley, but years ago.  Reading through the rules then I was struck by how much was here that I wanted to work into my own worlds.  By 2007 I was weary of d20 and the True20 of Blue Rose seemed like such a breath of fresh air.  It was almost a Cinematic d20 to me.

I played a few games of Blue Rose.  I ran a few others.  I found that converting some of my old WitchCraft RPG plots to Blue Rose was actually quite easy. For example my “Vacation in Vancouver” under Unisystem became “Vacation beyond the Veil” under True 20/Blue Rose.  The story was essentially the same; gifted individuals were being kidnapped for a demonic sex trade. The problem in both cases was that some of the victims didn’t want to be “rescued”.  It looked into issues of slavery and sentience and what people do for pleasure.  In “WitchCraft” there is a serious horror over tone, but in Blue Rose the horror shifts away from the demon to the victim.  What if a victim is sentient and a slave, but in return lives in a lap of luxury and pleasure. Are they different than the “Companions” of Valdemar or the Blue Rose analogues, the Rhy-Creatures? It became an interesting story to unfold.  When I took a turn as player (because that is something you can do in touchy-feely story telling game) I want to explore this and have my witch (hey...gotta be me) “go native” and go from would be rescuer to something needing rescued.  Sadly like many games and most online chat games we never finished the story arc.

I went back to Blue Rose in 2009/2010 to try again with my “Black Rose” idea.  This was a merging of the Blue Rose and Ravenloft games I detailed a while back.  Now there was a fun game.  Also one that did not see a terminus, but that is fine.   In Blue Rose I felt there were a lot of the same things I liked about Ravenloft.  Emphasis on character development and storytelling, less on combat.  One by nature the other by choice.  In BlueRose/True 20 I saw the answer to a lot of the problems I had with Ravenloft.  Ravenloft as an idea was Gothic Horror stapled onto a fantasy action adventure game.  True 20 at it’s core was systemless.  It was much easier to represent more people with combinations of the Expert, Warrior and Adept classes than the standard D&D ones; or worse the 36 some odd classes we had in the d20 Masque of the Red Death.  For me the match was so good that I have considered to see what bits of both True 20 and Ravenloft are OGC to try it on my own.  I never went that direction, other games have since done it.  Some of the ideas from this game lived on in my current D&D 5 “Come Endless Darkness” game.

Some binders of notes for my various Blue Rose games.
“Kingdom of Rain” was game I ran inspired by Lovecraft.  My attempt to bring a little Innsmouth to the World of Aldea.  It was an intentionally short lived arc dealing with the Sea Folk and how some of them were becoming more like Deep Ones.  I will openly admit I based it more on the 2001 movie Dagon than the story “Shadows of Innsmouth”.  I wanted to continue the game dealing with some winter-related ideas, but I only got one session in.  This was also the first time I used a Wendigo as inspired by August Derleth.

I later went back to Blue Rose after reading the works of Barb and J.C. Hendee and came up with a “prequel” to Black Rose that I called “The Guardians of the White Rose”.  I went back to fertile ground and converted some ideas from a 2001 WitchCraft/Buffy game I was running at the time called “Coming Up Roses”.  The Guardians of the White Rose was the Queen’s special cadre of adepts used to fight the many supernatural threats to Adlis.  Their motif was a White Rose intertwined with a Blue Rose.  There were two characters, Helyg and Bryn, two new adepts.  Helyg had been a scholar in Jarzon and Bryn was raised with the Roamers.  They both were also caria daunen, just to add to the in universe feel.  Only got a little bit into that one, but played it out over a long course.  The lessons learned here? There is a LOT to do in Adlis that doesn’t require any form of “Murder-hoboing”.

More recently I have been going through the newer books of Mercedes Lackey. I picked up a bunch at a local library book sale and managed to Half-Price Book find the ones I was missing.  It has put me in the mood to try out some more Blue Rose.  This time I would feature the Guardians of the White Rose, but they are background.  This would be my monster hunter game.  The non-lethal damage track in BR/T20 makes this mechanically easier.  The idea is that the great Magerium is opening in Adlis. Rare and nearly extinct creatures are going to be brought in for study and give them a place to live.  Ah now if you are at all savvy to the Blue Rose world or many of the books that it is based on you will see a problem with this.  I want to see if my players do too.

I am now coming up on 9 and half years of personally playing Blue Rose. Nearly 10 years and four (or five) different and nearly unrelated campaigns.  I have read the background material and other books that would fit the definition of “Romantic Fantasy”. I think I am in a good place to provide a nice comprehensive review of the game.

Now I am going to be looking at the True20 version of the game, which I am sure is going to be sunsetted in favor of the new AGE version.  Well. When the AGE version comes out I'll have to review that one as well.

So until the new one is out, let's get to it.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Gaming Weekend

Did a little bit of gaming this weekend. My son got to play some Mongoose Traveller with his other group.  Here at home we started up a new D&D 5 game set in the Skyrim universe that my oldest is going to run.  So far it's a lot of fun. We are hunting down the murderer of the Emporer and have managed to hit level 2 already.

I also got a desire to dust off an older game and give it another go.  It was a lot of fun back in the day and I have been itching to do some more with it.

Should be fun.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

RPG a Day 2015, Day 27

Day 27: Favorite idea for merging two games into one

I have had a few to be honest.  In fact they get their own label here, Plays Well With Others.

My favorite though is "Black Rose", my mixing of Blue Rose with Ravenloft.

Here are some of the posts from back then.

It was a lot of fun.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Kickstart your Weekend: Blue Rose for the AGE System

Green Ronin has Kickstarted the newest edition of their groundbreaking game, Blue Rose for their in house AGE Adventure Gaming Engine.

I have not played much with AGE to be honest.  I have the first two Dragon Age sets and they look like fun.  I like the system, but it is one of those things I have not found an audience for.

I will pick this one up.  I really want to see what they add new to it.
I might even play the AGE system or back-convert it to True20.

In any case I am quite looking forward to this.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Strahd Von Zarovich for Blue Rose / True20

True20 might be dead, but that's doesn't mean I have to like it.  So to celebrate the new version of Blue Rose AND the start of my month of vampires here at the Other Side.   Here is D&D's first "Vampyre", Strahd as he appears in my Black Rose games.

Type: 15th level Undead (Adept 4/Expert 1/Warrior 9)
Size: Medium
Speed: 30 ft
Abilities: Str +8, Dex +7, Con -, Int +3, Wis +1, Cha +3
Skills: Acrobatics 18 (+25), Bluff 7 (+10), Climb 8 (+16), Concentration 6 (+7), Diplomacy 10 (+13), Disable Device 2 (+5), Disguise 2 (+5), Escape Artist 2 (+9), Gather Info. 7 (+10), Handle Animal 2 (+5), Intimidate 13 (+16), Jump 2 (+10), Languages 5 (+5), Medicine 4 (+5), Notice 2 (+3), Ride 6 (+13), Search 4 (+7), Sense Motive 2 (+3), Sleight of Hand 2 (+9), Stealth 5 (+12), Survival 7 (+8), Swim 0 (+8), Knowledge (History) 2 (+5), Knowledge (Arcane) 2 (+5), Knowledge (Religion) 2 (+5)
Feats: Iron Will, Menacing, Leadership, Armor Training (Heavy), Armor Training (Light), Weapon Training, Armor Training (Heavy), Weapon Training (Long Sword), All-out Attack, Canny Dodge, Attack Focus (Long Sword), Defensive Attack, Diplomatic, Improved Strike, Dedicated, Influential, Fascinate, Uncanny Dodge, Power (Imbue Unlife), Smite Opponent, Greater Attack Focus, Power (Suggestion), Power (Summon Beasts), Power (Corrupting Shadow)
Traits: No Constitution, Dark Vision (60ft), Proficiency (Natural Weapons), Immunity (Mind Influencing Effects), Immunity (Sleep,Poison,Paralysis,Stunning), Immunity (Critical Hits,Fatigue), Immunity (Fortitude Saves), Unhealing, Healed by Harm (Harmed by Heal)
Powers: Imbue Unlife 7 (+10) DC 15, Suggestion 7 (+10) DC 15, Corrupting Shadow 7 (+10) DC 15, Summon Beasts 7 (+10) DC 15
Combat: Unarmed +18, Damage +8 (20/+3), Longsword +18, Damage +11 (19/+3), Defence +18/+19, Initiative +7
Saving Throws: Toughness +7, Fortitude +5, Reflex +11, Will +10

Not too bad I think.  Poor Queen Jaellin isn't going to know what hit her.

The Return of Blue Rose

Green Ronin has announced the return of Blue rose for the AGE system.

And as you can imagine there are posting of varying degrees of interest.

I am on the record many times over on the side of liking Blue Rose. I liked the idea, I liked the play and I liked the system.  Sure I ended up doing some very different things with it, but there was something there that I really enjoyed and never quite understood why the masses hated it so.

I have seen some people complaining about this new game and others praising it.

Currently I am in a "discussion" with RPGPundit. His stance is that most people praising it have never played it.  I take something of the contrary position: most people that criticize it have never played it.  We might be the exceptions to each other's claims, but I do stand by mine.

Here are my thoughts.  While I get why they want to use AGE (and it might even be a great fit) I am going to miss True20.

I hope that Green Ronin puts more support into this version of Blue Rose.  There Dragon Age products are very nice, but as a licenced product they can only go so far with it.  Blue Rose gives them a campaign background and a world to play in.

You can still find all the True20 versions of the books on DriveThruRPG

I hope Green Ronin does not pull these.  I still hope against hope that the True20 system will resurge one day.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Campaigns I'd Like to Run: RPG Blog Carnival for May

I am participating in my very first RPG Blog Carnival.  The topic this month is Campaigns I'd Like to Run, and is being hosted by Lowell Francis over at Age of Ravens.

In truth there is a lot I'd love to run.  But there are some that stick out.

Black Rose
Black Rose is my Ravenloft/Blue Rose mash-up.  I detailed it in a series of posts back in the early days of this blog.  Black Rose takes place in the same world as Blue Rose, but only after it had been pulled into Ravenloft.  I am using more of the 2nd Ed and 3.x versions of Ravenloft, not the 4e revisions. I played the hell out of Ravenloft during the 2nd Ed era.  I loved it, but there were things about it that I wanted to do that didn't quite mesh with the "kill things and take their stuff" mentality of AD&D.  The True20 system, while it still has the same roots, can go a little bit beyond that.  True20 is also quite good for doing horror as I discovered.

Generation HEX/Ordinary World
Both of these campaigns would be in the same world and preferably use the same system(s).  Both come out of my enjoyment of modern supernatural books and TV shows.
GenerationHEX is a game focused on kids in a magical school.  Somewhat like Smallville meets Harry Potter.
Ordinary World is a game about supernatural types trying to live in a world full of humans.  sort like Being Human, but also a bit like Charmed.
Unisystem seems like the logical choice here, but I also considered using a different system each time to get a real feel for the characters.  This would be character focused, not plot focus.
Given the character focus of these games I also wanted to try something different.  I wanted to use a different system for the different eras in the character's life.  So Little Fears for when they are all children, Witch Girls Adventures or Monsterhearts for high school, and then Unisystem or World of Darkness for adulthood.  I would sprinkle in other systems for one shots as needed, like ChillCall of Cthulhu or Mutants and Masterminds.
This is something I tried with Season of the Witch and I liked it.

Greyhawk 3000
This one is D&D in SPAAAAAACE!  I'd mix up D&D 3.x and Star Wars with ideas from Gamma world, Star Frontiers, Planescape and Spelljamer.  Have all the D&D worlds as planets and the planes as something like solar systems.  I'd also use some ideas from Starships & Spacemen and some other games.  A bit of Traveler too cause I like that.
I do want to use the D&D mythology, just advance it to something like Star Trek Next Gen level tech.  I think it would be a blast to be honest.

Those are the ones I'd love to do that I don't see me doing anytime soon.  Have too many games going now.

One though I am very likely to run is my Celtic-theme Fantasy Game.

This game has gone through a lot of changes over the years. Unisystem, True20, Spellcraft & Swordplay.  I think with the release of the Codex Celtarum I might start adapting it to Castles & Crusades.  This is one I would really like to play and am working on getting it done sometime soon.  While I'd love to play this one with my kids, I would also enjoy a more mature approach.  Not "Adult" per se, but a group that appreciates Irish myth and willing to play in a world like that.

These are the campaigns I'd like to run.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Witch Appendix N

I have used many books in researching this class and all of it's related topics. Here are some of those books that I have found most helpful. I have used these books to get more at the witch of myth and history, rather than the modern witch of today.

Keep in mind that these books have nothing to do with RPGs, they are books of belief. Witchcraft is a real religion and people take their religious beliefs seriously and personally.

These books have been helpful for a variety of reasons. If for nothing else to get me to think about witches differently than other game authors have.

Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology by Russell Hope Robbins 
This book has been long out of print, and I got mine at a used book store, but it is the indespensible work on witches, the witch craze and demonology. The book takes a very pro-witch point of view as it frankly discusses the murder of women, children and even men in the name of god. Not to be missed, this book has been THE source for most of my writings. Several editions are out there, mine is the 1959 edition. I have seen them on Ebay as well.

The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft by Rosemary Ellen Guiley
It would be unfair to compare this book to the work above it, because this book is very good. More a modern spin, it still deals with a variety of topics that are of interest to the witch or occult scholar. I used this book a lot when writing Eldritch Witchery. This book also has the advantage of being much newer and still available. All around a good mix of topics, witch myth is mixed in with modern Wicca, making difficult for the unlearned to know what is what. But for those who know a bosom from a common broom, then you will enjoy this book. If you have your own Bosom, then you might even find this book a little simple, but I found things there I did not know about, so I enjoyed it!

The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism by Raymond Buckland
Another encyclopedia  This one though covers less but goes deeper on it's topics.  I like Buckland's writing style more than some of the others listed here.  Gave me a lot of insight on various witch traditions.

Encyclopedia of Wicca & Witchcraft by Raven Grimassi
Another encyclopedia of all things witchy. This one focuses on more modern practices, has a very large list of contacts, email and websites. Some overlap with Guiley's book. If you are interested in the nature of the religion of witches today, then this is your book. Or at least it is a good place to start.

Covencraft : Witchcraft for Three or More by Amber K
A nice a well written book for witches and lay-people (cowans) to understand what a coven is and does. This is not a primer to witches, witchcraft or wicca, this book assumes you know what you need to know and works on what you may not know. It is concise and intelligent and a good read, even for non-witches. Maybe especially for non-witches, so that others can finally learn what witches do. From Llewellyn Publications.

Witchcraft, Sorcery and Superstition by Jules Michelet, A. R. Allinson (Translator)
A good book that deals with the wicth craze of the middle ages. Discussion range from early "faerie stories" to pagan religions, to the church sanctioned murder of thousands. Sometime muddled, the book has a few rare gems. Plus it delves into the socilogy of fear, why these people did what they did. Gets as far as the Salem witch trials. Very little to do with modern witchcraft.

Cassell Dictionary of Witchcraft by David Pickering
Another in a series of encyclopedia/dictionaries about witchcraft. A very good beginners guide.

Witches by Erica Jong
More of a coffee table book than an indepth treatsie on witches or witchcraft. Heavy on the feminist side, but not man-bashing (it is an Eric "Fear of Flying" Jong book) it is visually stunning. An oversized book, so if you look for it in the library you might have to check the oversized selves. My local library cut out some of the more risque pages. So I bought my own copy.

The Modern Witch's Spellbook, Book II by Sarah Lyddon Morrison
I read this, along with Book I, years ago, towards the first drafts of my witch class. It has spells that can supposedly really cast. Never tried. But it is a good insight on how some witches view or can view magic. A picture of me reading this over the top of my glasses (Thomas Dolby style, there THAT's long ago it was!) made my High School newspaper!.

Man and His Symbols by Carl Gustav Jung
I alway's liked Jung. His psychoanalytic theory always sat better with me than Freud's. This book deals with many of the archetypes we deal thing at an uncounscious level, the witch is one of many type of female, or anima, archetypes. Jung is one of the greatest thinkers of the modern era, and this is one of his masterpieces (along with Synchronicity).

Drawing Down the Moon : Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshipers, and Other Pagans in America Today by Margot Adler
This is the book on modern pagan practices. Since it deals with a real world religion i only used it as inspiration to the Witches Netbook I wrote. But if you want to know what is going on in the world of paganism today, then this is your first stop. It is very telling for the foresightedness of this book when you consider that it was first published in 1979!

To Ride a Silver Broomstick : New Generation Witchcraft by Silver Ravenwolf
Similar in nature to Adler's book above, this book deal with modern wicca and witchcraft. Ravenwolf is very much a witchcraft supporter and her point of view shows through in this book, for good and ill. A good place to start and then return to when you know a little more.  Generally speaking I am not a huge fan of Silver Ravenwolf, but at the same time I am not really her target audience, so my opinion should be taken with a grain of salt.
She has similar fare in her other books, To Stir a Magick Cauldron and To Light a Sacred Flame.

The Penguin Book of Witches & Warlocks : Tales of Black Magic, Old & New editied by Marvin Kaye

I have enjoyed the anthologies of Marvin Kaye for years. Ghosts, Vampires, Demons & Devils, and now witches. I found this in the library and had to get a copy from Ebay. It is a collection of short stories about witches, warlocks and witchcraft. The quality varies, but gems are true gems.

I will post more soon.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Black Rose, Replies

It's reader participation day at The Other Side.  Here are some replies to my "Black Rose" posts.

Rhonin84 said...

The land that the Queen rules over is the last bastion of light besieged on all sides by the encroaching darkness, all of her allies are gone defeated in the wars to stave off the darkness.

Her dreams at night are haunted by a figure that is intoxicating and terrifying, this Dark Lord wants her for his queen, it's a dream that she has had for some time and the fortune tellers tell her that she has lived this before....

Just a thought with some imagery for you to chew on!

Greg: I agree. Aldea is the last bastion of light in an otherwise dark world.  But more importantly to the plot it is something for the characters to fight for, as opposed to fighting against the darkness.  Of course I like the idea of the Dark Lord haunting her dreams.  It can easily be anyone, but the best choice is obviously Strahd.

seaofstarsrpg said...

Very interesting, sounds like a good match.

Though I think I would make dark dreams and nightmare a constant sub-theme in this campaign

Agreed.  In order to do this well there would need to be a slow build up of darkness. Punctuated by increasingly dark dreams and nightmares.  There is so much that can be done with this.

 Ka-Blog! said...

I'm not that familiar with Blue Rose (I was more intrigued with the True 20 aspect), but I understood the romance influence on it.

I am a fan of Ravenloft, but was always stymied by:
- what the PCs do during the day time (sleep, I suppose); and
- isn't it monotonous to know that the big bad is someone you can't defeat (because he's a dark lord) and you live on his land?

The merging of the two gives some space for PCs to retreat and recuperate, and allows greater contrast when PCs must fight the dark lord on his own turf..
Yes.  Though in most cases I do not want them to fight the Dark Lord of the land, instead maybe figure out how to undermine their power.   In some cases I would want them to "free" the land's Dark Lord, to find out what is the source of the evil and stop it.  Thus freeing the lord to go on to whatever afterlife awaits them while their lands slowly dissolve back into the mists.  I want this to be more of a thinking game than a fighting one.  Not that there won't be fighting. There will.  The big issues are going to need a different tactic.
Like Rhonin said above, Aldea would be a "safe haven" for the PCs, but the mists might not always let them return.

 P. S. Mangus said...

This is a very cool idea. Personally, I never gave Blue Rose a proper chance. In hindsight I should have taken a harder look at the system, and over looked the problems I had with the background of the game. Ravenloft has always been a favorite of mine. I especially liked Masque of the Red Death, and felt it was a stroke of genius when it came out. Of course I could never get anyone to actually play it. Looking back at it now, MotRD was ahead of its time.

I never had the problems others did with Blue Rose.  I always felt it was like a dreamscape setting.  Yes there was this too-good-to-be-true kingdom with modern sensibilities and an extremely accepting culture.  But everything around them was dark and sinister.  They thing is that is a perfect backdrop for a Ravenloft game.  I am not wanting to do "Grim Dark Blue Rose", I am keeping pretty much everything in Blue Rose intact and I want characters to explore interpersonal relationships.  I want loves and loss and love again.  I think that this is an important part of what makes Blue Rose a good game.  Ravenloft though gives me something else and something that is not wholly incompatible with Blue Rose.  The Dreamscape is still there, but now it is tainted, a blacker on the edges.  This is done to make "Blue Rose" parts of the game shine even more.
The fictional tradition behind Blue Rose is struggling to discover yourself in the world and your own inner strength.  The tradition behind Black Rose would be struggling to discover yourself in the world, beset by horrors, and your own inner strength to defeat them.

BlUsKrEEm said...

I'm very impressed with how well thought out the setting / rules for this idea are. I would play or run this in a heart beat (if my player would give it a chance that is.) Thanks for sharing.
Thanks,  It is something I have been thinking about pretty much ever since I picked up Blue Rose years ago.  I never liked the feel of the d20 mechanics for Modern games, and True 20 seemed to be a better fit.  Likewise I was not thrilled with the d20 Ravenloft, though I did enjoy both Ravenloft and D&D 3 a lot.  True 20 (and Unisystem for that matter) seemed to be a better fit for the kinds of things I wanted to do in Ravenloft.  Same with Blue Rose.

Thaumiel Nerub said...

Idea is good. I personally think, that Blue Rose is way too cheesy for me. Adding a bit "black" to the palette would suit me well. You could concider also characters. They must aswell melt in the world. Otherwise it's just this background story where heroes do their job. Character's must also represent this "Black Rose" theme. Character's aren't necessarily those knights in shining armors or they even could be, but in every character there must be something tragic. Sounds a bit emo, but well, goth is that. Dark secrets, revenge, lust, depression.
I think that usually in fantasy games character's biggest goal is to "win" the plot GM gives for players like killing the evil dude or something. But even if in this Black Rose setting there is that "big evil", I think you could get more out of it, if there is also personal problems within characters. Some might be touched by darkness what is infecting him slowly and he is hiding it realising, he would be Shadowspawn soon (no cure, or it wouldn't be tragic). Knight who was not betrayed but was betrayer himself. Wizard who is eager for power, and knows the best mojo is in evil magic.
They all are heroes, they save the world, but in the same time they are tragic characters and the line between good and evil is thin.
Again, I liked Blue Rose from the start, but I do see why others didn't.
You are correct about the characters.  But I think instead of darkness, the characters need to harbor that self-doubt and humility that is often absent from characters.  Yes it does tend to skew things towards Emo, but I am not trying to play a game full of self-doubts and dark personal secrets.  Characters should be more fully flushed out than a "barbarian, and I hit things".   For example a member of the Royal Guard trying to live up to her father's expectations.  Or a witch, pretending to be something else so she is not discovered practicing "foul" magics, even though she is Light aligned.

I think the take away from all of this is players in a Black Rose game would need to spend quite a bit of time thinking about who their characters are, what are their hopes and fears, and then ask the important question of "when the Queen calls on you to fight the darkness how will you respond?"

The other half of this though is also finding players that would want to play this style of game.  My kids are too young really to do this now and my semi-regular group might not find this all that interesting.  Plus we get a full amount of horror RPGing in with our Ghosts of Albion games.

Maybe I should try it as a one-shot someday.  Or use it as a prototype for some other games I have in mind.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Black Rose, Part 4

What sort of stories do we tell in a this mash-up of Romantic Fantasy and Gothic Horror?

Well lets start with the obvious.  Evil is out there and it needs to be stopped.  In the Gothic Horror tradition, the evil is always more powerful than the heroes and rarely if ever fully stopped.  Black Rose would to follow suit. The evil is out there and it must be stopped (because that is what heroes do) even if the odds are stacked against them.

In Romantic Fantasy and in Blue Rose in particular, we expect there to be more character driven plots than monster of the week ones.  Not to say we can't do both, but the plot must be focused on defeating the "Evil", whatever it might be, but at the same time growing the characters.

So what are the games about then?

I could start with the death or injury of the Golden Hart.  This is the catalyst that brings the characters together.  I think more so than any other game I would want the players to spend a lot of time telling me who their characters are and what they want.  Riches and Glory are fine for most D&D games, but for Black Rose, I think there needs to be something more.

I would then spend some time slowly building up the lpot elements.  Have encounters with the Vistani/Roamers, or even a run in with a wrongly accused Night Person/Caliban/Half-Orc.  Yeah that is a little cliched I know, but I think there is value in going over some of these tropes that make up the game.

Of course plenty of undead for the characters to fight, though not names dead.  In Ravenloft back in the 2e days the authors really took the time to, pardon the pun, flesh out the monsters.  A wight was not simply a monster from a barrow, it was an ancient warrior that was once a human and some of that human might remain.  Vampires are not just high level threats (they are)  but also characters in their own right.  Blue Rose/True 20 supports this type of play since all monsters are built as characters more or less.

So what is the ultimate goal?
"Defeat evil" is too vague to build a campaign on.  I think the first step is to find out who tried to kill the Hart and find out way the land is creeping into darkness.  These are related of course.  The ultimate goal then is to discover that the Dark Lord Sayvin is not dead (sort of) and behind all of this.  To do this there would need to be a lot of exploring of the lands to gather information.  The heroes would be the lone bringers of light and justice in a world creeping into darkness.  Sounds like it has a cool 70's genre vibe to it.

In Ravenloft there is no chance the heroes could defeat a Dark Lord.  In Black Rose though, I might let them. Or at least Sayvin.  But they can't do it with combat alone, given the feel of Blue Rose, there needs to be something more.  Something that the characters have to do to show growth and ultimate sacrifice for what they believe is right.   Not sure how to do that one yet that doesn't involve railroading the players.

If it works it would make for a great campaign only game, where after defeating the Dark Lord Aldea is pulled back into the light.  I think that is a good ending.  It's not a fairy tale one, the Queen is still a widow and the deaths that happened are just as real as before.

I think one thing is obvious.  I would have to include Strahd.  I would also like to see Azalin, Harkon Lukas and some of the other Dark Lords.  I would avoid the ones that are too far removed from the Quasi- Renaissance Europe.  I would also have to figure out how the weakening of the barriers keeping them in their own lands would work out.  Some of these Dark Lords hate each other more than anything.  That is a good place to put the heroes in between.  Maybe it is the presence of Aldea that is weakening the laws of Raftenloft.  Sayvin did not complete the ritual 100% (and he is still trying) so Aldea was not pulled all the way into Ravenloft.  That has the borders of the lands become weaker and maybe the Dark Lords want to use that as a means out.  Certainly Azalin would.  Strahd is more concerned with finding his Tatyana, so maybe this freedom is something he is only using to get to her.  All the time Sayvin is making attempts on the Queen's life, but only during the night when he is active.

Lots of potential here I think.

I picked up Troll Lords Tainted Lands in hopes that it might give me some ideas.  But they seemed to have taken Ravenloft and ran in the opposite direction than I want to go.  Too bad really.  But I think there are still some ideas I can use here.

Now to find a group that would want to play this.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Black Rose, Part 3

Sorry for the delay here.  Been really sick.

Now I want to look at the mechanics of how Black Rose will work.  I want to include as much of the Ravenloft feel as possible, so that means fear and horror checks.  To accommodate both Blue Rose and Ravenloft I also want to keep magic low.  In this respect I think the Adept role from True20 will work out fine.

I'll use the Revised True20 (T20-R) rules for this game.  I love the simplicity of the system and it "just works" well for me. Plus the Revised version allows you to craft roles to better suit your game world.  This would let me create a "Lesser Adept" that still has some spell casting, but also more skills or even combat.  I would use this for clerics and hedge witches or even PC magic-users.  Some of the Roles in the "Horror Adventures" chapter are a good choice.  I would in a sense try to re-create the roles found in Masque of the Red Death for Black Rose.

Magic is known, but rare.  This would not be D&D where you can go to the local "magic shop" to buy magic items or even get them appraised.  So to use the T20-R this would be a "Rising Tide" game.  I would make necromantic powers more difficult to obtain.

With less magic I can see more gun powder being used.  But hardly anything beyond a flint-lock.  I am thinking this is 16th or 17th century at the most, with places still around 14th or 15th, in terms of technology.  I like this idea because it also builds up the struggle of tech vs. magic as well as good vs. evil.  In Dracula, the heroes all were using "state of the art technology" in order to defeat Dracula, a creature of darkness and magic.  It is a pillar of the Gothic tradition.   Of course the other pillar of the Gothic tradition is Frankenstein, or how technology has lead humans to even greater evils.

Fear, Sanity and Dark Powers
Sanity and Fear checks have been part and parcel of horror games forever.  Black Rose would be no different.  I would use the Mental Health track from T20-R since it is very, very close to what characters would experience in Ravenloft.  In this case I would use Sanity as it's own Save.  Give the game it's own feel.

I would not however do Dark Powers checks.  I never really liked them in Ravenloft and feel they have less of a place in Black Rose.  The PCs are supposed to be heroes, and heroes of the highest caliber. Now I know sometimes PCs (and players) mess up, so for that I will use the True 20 Conviction mechanic.  Evil acts result in less conviction, but heroic acts can build more.

So far everything I describe could be done in games that already exist.  Witchhunter, Solomon Kane, Rippers or even Ghosts of Albion, could all do this and do it well.  What then does Black Rose do for me these other games don't.
Well foremost there is the battle of good vs an unrelenting evil.  But this is not a fight alone in the darkness, the heroes have a home, Aldea, and it is good and worth fighting for.    If nothing else I need to instill in the players or the characters that an attack on Aldea or their Queen is worse than attack against themselves.
Also in Black Rose, everyone knows about magic and the supernatural.  It is an accepted part of life.  People don't fear the bogeyman because he has magic, people fear him because he is evil.

If this were an on-going game I would like to come up with something for the heroes to work towards.   Maybe the eventual defeat of the Dark Lord?  Or finding a way to keep Ravenloft from seeping into Aldea.  No idea yet.  But I would want it to be big and worthy of characters than have been heroes to the land for s long.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Black Rose, Part 2

Continuing on one of the things I need to figure out is how Ravenloft and Aldea come together.  This is a two-parter really.  I need to figure out game-wise how the fit; is Aldea pulled into Ravenloft, is Ravenloft slowly seeping into Aldea?  And I need to figure it out story-wise; what event caused this to happen.

To start with I want to go back into Aldea's shadowed past.

Dread Exiles
We have all been told the tale of how the Exarchs of Shadow had been defeated at the hands of the Gods of Light. We were told that they were locked away with their only means of accessing the world was via the Shadowgates or through subtle influences in the world. This is mostly true, but there is much that is unknown. Even in Kern, the greatest scholars of the Lich King had not discovered all of the Exarch's secrets, nor were they willing to give them up so easily.
But it is not the end of their story, but only the beginning.

So I have decided is that the Dark Powers of Ravenloft are the Exarchs of Shadow.
Sure it removes some of the mystery. I have them trapped here, physical forms destroyed, they can only pull in other creatures that have a significant amount of evil/shadow to them.
They are not able to be selective though, nor wish too, so they end up scoping all sorts of innocents in with them.

Their Goal? Escape of course. There are Shadowgates that lead to Ravenloft (often Mist shrouded), but very few that lead out. And even then the Exarchs have an even more difficult time leaving than do the Dark Lords. What is their plan? Use the likes of Strahd and Azalin to replace them in their prison? Or are they experiments on how to escape? Maybe even the Exarchs are no more than spoiled children and are pulling others to share their prison because they can? Who knows. Just because I have ID'ed the Dark Powers doesn't mean I need to detail their motives.

So now that I have established that the Dark Powers are part of Aldea, this opens me up to lot of tinkering. Since this is their "native" land they should be a bit more powerful and that power is translated down to the Dark Lords. Regardless of how Aldea and Ravenloft come together one of the side effects will be that Dark Lords can now leave their realms. They are not as powerful in other Realms and often at the mercy of the other Dark Lords, so even though they can "move about" few of them rarely do.

Now the in-game event that caused this.

The Lady and the Captain
Queen Jaellin in her first five years as Sovereign has become known as Queen Jaellin, The Beloved (3 years before the present day of the Core Book). Her temperament has been easy, her laws just and fair and her rulership everything that Aldisians would want. Though talk began, most likely rumors spread by the agents of Lord Sayvin that the Queen may be unfit to rule since she had not produced an heir to her legacies or even named her Consort. While an heir had no extra claim to the throne, as Sayvin himself could attest, it was considered to be proper behavior. In a dark jest she became known in some circles as “Queen Jaellin, the Unloved”.
The Queen was no fool. Her calm and rational demeanor disarmed most people and lead others to assume she was still a simple girl. Her mind was sharp and she knew of these rumors, the trouble was she was beginning to believe them herself.
During one of her outings to visit the outlying communities, she was joined by her royal guard. The Captain of the Guard, a young dashing rogue of a man that felt his duties to protect the Queen included disobeying her orders. They spend a long trek where they infuriate each other for days until their party is attacked by agents of Lord Sayvin. Her guard defend her heroically, but to no avail. She is though taken by her Captain and they are pursued through out the forest. They fight, fear and eventually come to fall in love. She is brought back safely, to surprise of Lord Sayvin and then to shock of all she names her Captain as her Beloved and Consort. They were happy for many years.
In this romance think Victoria and Albert. The young queen and the dashing prince consort. As their love grew, the land prospered and Sayvin grew darker. In a few years he discovered the means to get what he wanted.

Blood and Roses
Lord Sayvin had made a deal with the Dark Powers based on a scroll he found in Kern. The scroll gave him the means to enchant a crossbow arrow that would kill instantly whomever it struck (and deliver that soul to the Dark Powers) and give Sayvin what he most desired. This is Ravenloft, his displeasure at not being chosen Sovereign has turned into a blinding hate and jealousy.

Sayvin chooses the night of the Queen and her Consort's Anniversary, he crept into their bedchambers and prepared to kill the Queen. As fate would have it he missed the Queen in her lover’s embrace (yeah total symbolism here, but the ultimate horror in Aldea would be the horror of your beloved dying in your arms) and the arrow hit her Captain (yeah…I need to name the guy) instead. Jaellin screamed, Sayvin roared, and the Dark Powers laughed. Jaellin in a fit of insane rage summoned every ounce of power she had as an emerging Adept and as the Sovereign of the Land and struck down Lord Sayvin, blowing his body with blast of pure eldritch power. His body was never found with most claiming he escaped. Most claim that because the alternate choice was their Queen, Jaellin the Beloved, murdered him in a sorcerous rage.

That night the pact formed by Sayvin and the Dark Powers failed to complete. Jaellin was supposed to die but did not. The Dark Powers savored her pain and were allowed to come into the world just very slightly. As his reward, Sayvin was given what he desired. He was made the Dark Lord of Aldea and was cursed to the form of a Shadow.

During the day, when the sun is bright, Jaellin’s ministers rule the land in her name. But at night the land is ruled by Dark Lord Sayvin, only most people do not know this. They only know that the lands are more dangerous and evil seems to have the world in its grip. And the Queen? In the years since the attack she has said little and is rarely seen in court, and never outside the castle. She mourns and it seems the land mourns with her.

Today the Queen is still loved by her people and older residents remember the bright young girl she was and what promise she held for the land. But many feel like she has abandoned her duties and even life itself. Some, though not many but loud enough to be heard, say the Queen is a witch and this current situation is her fault.
There is unease in the land, monsters that were once only found in fairy tales are now found on the roads between towns. Strangers walk the lands now, with odd customs and accents. Once, such people would have been welcomed in Aldea, given a place to sleep in exchange for their stories of other lands. Now people turn their heads and no one is welcomed.

This in and of itself would be enough to get any character invested in the idea that Aldea is a beacon of light and hope motivated to find out what was going on, but this is Ravenloft and I have one more nasty dagger hidden in my sleeve.

The Company of the Hart
To do this I want characters deeply invested in what is going on. This is an "oncoming darkness" tale and things are not going to get better, they are going to get worse. Unless the PCs can do something about it. What can they do? That is the mystery to be solved. In the meantime they are also tasked with ridding the night of all the foul creatures of Shadow now invading the lands. I am imaging a small company of adventurers chosen by destiny to to Aldea's Champions. How? Here comes that dagger.

The characters are thrown together because some are in the Queen's court and others have found the Golden Hart in the woods with a black arrow in it's heart. They bring this to the Queen who immediately recognizes the arrow as of the same kind that killed her Beloved. The first task of the new group is to find the magical Rose that will heal it. After this quest they become an elite group answering only to the Queen and their job is to stop the oncoming darkness.

This allows me the court intrigue that I think/feel will be needed for this game, allow the Heroes to have access to various parts of the country they might need and give them first hand observation to the Queen's depression and the key to unlocking the truth; that this really began with the murder of the Queen's Consort by Lord Sayvin AND the fact that the Queen has withdrawn not just because of her lover's death, but because she herself feels tremendous guilt over using her own power to "kill" Sayvin.

That's where I am at so far.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Black Rose, Part 1

I had no idea people would like this one so much.  I mean to me it seems a no-brainer.   Let me roll back a bit and talk about why I think so.

I love Ravenloft.  It was *my* world for all of 2nd Ed.  I loved the Gothic horror feel, I loved that there were all these worlds and this was some sort of cosmic dumping ground of evil.  But mostly I loved the atmosphere, there was something about it that was different than all the other AD&D worlds out at the time.  Greyhawk was basically dead, I hated the Forgotten Realms, Planescape was cool but I hate stupid made up slang.
But I had a basic problem with Ravenloft.  A world drowning evil is not always the best one to play in.  Or as I used to say, Ravenloft was great at night, but during the day it was lacking.

Well I put Ravenloft away when I did my great D&D break of the late 90s.  When D&D 3 came out I purchased one of the limited editions Ravenloft core books.  After all it was being done by White Wolf and they know horror.  While it did make me interested in the lands again, the spark was gone.  Besides at this time the Kargatane was breaking up and Ravenloft was not as fun as before.

Then a new game came into my life.  Blue Rose.   In Blue Rose I felt there were a lot of the same things I liked about Ravenloft.  Emphasis on character development and story telling, less on combat.  One by nature the other by choice.  I know a lot of people disliked Blue Rose, but it did give us True 20.  And in True 20 I saw the answer to a lot of the problems I had with Ravenloft.  Ravenloft as an idea was Gothic Horror stapled on to a fantasy action adventure game.  True 20 was systemless.  It was much easier to represent more people with combinations of the Expert, Warrior and Adept classes than the standard D&D ones; or worse the 36 some odd classes we had in the d20 Masque of the Red Death.

Blue Rose also took on some of the same issues that Ravenloft did.  That of being an outsider for one, or working for a cause of light vs. darkness.  People criticized BR's morality, but that is a perfect morality for Romantic Fantasy or Gothic Horror.

In the last couple of years we have seen a surge of books that fall under the term "Urban Fantasy" or "Horror Romance" and even "Chick-Lit".   Typically these books feature a strong willed female protagonist who sometimes makes mistakes but in the end finds her own inner strength.  Sometimes she gets the guy (or girl, or both) all in a world where magic, vampires, werewolves and other horrors are real.  Maybe she is even one of those horrors herself.  Plus many of the authors of those early Ravenloft novels are now "names" in this market such as Elaine Bergstrom, Christie Golden, P. N. Elrod and Laurell K. Hamilton.  Modern urban gothic fantasy is in Ravenloft's DNA.   Blue Rose as a concept supports this type of roleplaying very well.

So I sat down with my Blue Rose book and my d20 Ravenloft book and I started to notice too all sorts of places where they were the same.  So I had this idea, blasphemous as it sounds, to mix in Ravenloft with Blue Rose. I wanted to cast a shadow of Aldea, something is not right any longer. The Queen still holds court, lovers still walk hand in hand, and there are still adventures to be had.   But I had questions I needed to answer. Why has Aldea and Ravenloft "merged"? Or were they always together?
If they merged what was the catalyst? Why now?
What is the effect on the populace with this new influx of evil and dread?

One of the things I have wanted to do is bring Ravenloft out of "mists" and into a real world. Yeah I know that looses someof what makes Ravenloft unique, but I also like the idea of "horror is everywhere" and not needing to go someplace remote to find it.
By bringing Aldea and Ravenloft together I can have "days" and "nights" covered.  Aldea becomes a near perfect landscape with some deep seated malaise over it.  A dark cloud on the horizon.  Or as I call it in my games, "the oncoming darkness"

Here are my first thoughts.

The Races and other Groups
Humans are humans and remain untouched.

I plan to keep Sea Folk for now, but given my Lovecraftian background I will certainly introduce some dark spawn that plauges them. Something like the Shadows out Innsmouth or something.

Night People are the easiest to deal with since their creation is basically to fill that game playing niche of half-orcs. But they also serve other purposes as well, as a constant reminder of the dangers of dark magics and in the case of good and noble Night People, to remind the players and characters that you cannot judge a person by their birth. In all these regards they are nearly identical to the Ravenloft Calibans.

Both games describe these ersatz Half-Orcs much in the same manner. They are products of dark sorcery; they are feared, hulking brutes. I will use the Night People racial modifiers from the BR Core and the backgrounds of both races into one since there is no conflict between them.

Roamers will be replaced by the Vistani from Ravenloft. There is just so much information on the Vistani that it makes sense to use them in place of the Roamers. I will keep the Roamer name, that is what native Aldeans still call them. I will still use most of the information on Roamers from the World of Aldea book, in particular the sayings. Where they contradict is simple. The Vistani are a large group with many Tasques, something that is true for one in not true for the other. Or true depending on where they are. Or, let’s face it, neither group is very forthcoming with information to the giorgios. I have to decide whether or not to use the “Half-Vistani” race. In the Vistani lore there is ample evidence that these children are different than their full blooded cousins. And not using them robs me of a plot device where a young half-blooded Vistani goes on an epic quest to discover “her father’s people” and ends up discovering herself instead. Plus I love the Tarot work on backgrounds. So I will see if it can be adapted to use the Tarokka deck. Maybe when adventures get ready to go on their first epic quests a Vistani vardo comes to town and reads their fortunes to them (using the Ravenloft rules) and then shows them their character (Blue Rose rules).

Vata are still more or less Elves, or more to the point, the Sidhe of Aldea. Ravenloft has elves and half elves, but not a lot of them. My solution then is to go with Blue Roses’ idea and have all the Elves (Sidhe, Vata) be extinct. I have not decided with domains to pull in, but I have figured out that the Ravenloft Domain of Sithicus was the last Vata/Elf country before they were destroyed. Now it is a sad, haunted land.
I might remove the Vata’an and Vata’sha as races and instead use a feat to represent “Vata Touched”. Still thinking about that one really.

Dwarves, Halflings and Gnomes exist as rumors or fairy tales only. They might have existed somewhere in the past, but no longer.

More on the lands and bringing these worlds together later.