Showing posts with label books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label books. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

SPI's Demons (1979)

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

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

I found this little gem, SPI Demons.

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

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

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

Contents of the SPI Demons boxed game

Contents of the SPI Demons boxed game

Contents of the SPI Demons boxed game

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

Contents of the SPI Demons boxed game

Contents of the SPI Demons boxed game

Contents of the SPI Demons boxed game

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

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

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

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

DragonQuest & Demons

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

DragonRaid vs. Demons

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

Warlocks & Warriors & Demons

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

Demons from Mayfair and SPI

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

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

Friday, June 11, 2021

#FollowFriday Ravenloft Giveaway!

I can't believe it is Friday AND the Friday before my Birthday.

So let's do something fun.

I am really enjoying the new Van Richten's Guide to Ravenloft. A lot.

I played through the first Ravenloft module on my birthday so many years ago and now I want others to have the same joy.

So I want to give away a copy, shipped by me anywhere in the contiguous United States.  Sorry Europe and the rest of the world, but I need to work out the logistics of that first.

So here are the rules.

I am going to share this post on Twitter.  

To enter I need you to do the following:

  1. Like the Tweet. 
  2. Retweet it. In the Retweet tell me your favorite villain/big bad from any edition of D&D.
  3. Follow me on Twitter.
  4. (Bonus) Follow me on Instagram and Facebook for extra chances.

Do those three things (or four!) and I'll put your Twitter ID into a spreadsheet and pick a winner.

I will also pick two runners up who will each get one of my witch books of their own choice.

Winners agree to send me their mailing address to ship the book.  I'll send out one of the standard covers as pictured above.

I am going to be out over the weekend but I will pick the winner Sunday, June 13th before 11:00pm Central Time.

So let me know on Twitter and GOOD LUCK!

Thursday, June 10, 2021

OneBookShelf / DriveThruRPG Price changes

Quick one here.

One Book Shelf

So last week I got a note from OneBookShelf about changes in their prices.  This will not go into effect until July, but I wanted to make you all aware.

This means that some prices might be changing for some of my books.

No idea which ones yet.  My inclination is to leave the prices of older titles the same and take the hit on the increase, but I need to figure out how much that is.  

Also, while I am still picking away at my High Witchcraft book as the last of my "Basic Era" witch books, I have also been mulling the idea of a "Complete Witch" for the new Swords & Wizardry boxed set.

It would be for Swords & Wizardry. 1-20+ levels and contain all the material from all my S&W books. I would put a big disclaimer on it to let people know what they are getting. It would be the class, all the traditions and spells, and magic items.  No monsters unless they are needed (like for a spell).  Same digest size as the S&W boxed set.  Maybe, maybe, some new content.

Thoughts?


 

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Going Back to Krynn

Dragonlance is back in the news (and not for great reasons) now and it got me thinking about the original trilogy.   I thought maybe in this Covid time I would return to Krynn and see how well my memory of it holds up.

Cover of the Dragonlance ChroniclesDragonlance Chronicles signed

There is an old saying, "The Golden Age of Sci-Fi/Fantasy is 14."  That rings truest for me here since I was 15 when Dragons of Autumn Twilight was released in November 1984.  I devoured these books back then.  I had been on a steady diet of Tolkien and Moorcock and others that I thought of as "near-D&D", since these books actually had real D&D terms and spells in them they had to be better, right.  RIGHT?

Well...even then I could still "hear dice being rolled in the background" as it were.  

I'll be blunt. The books are not great and a lot of my fondness for them has more to do with the time in which I read them and nostalgia. This was never brought into sharper focus than when I tried to reread them about 12 years ago.  The icing on the cake was the terrible direct to video movie of Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight.  

I like Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. They are very good people.  I like their adventures. Ravenloft by Tracy is one of my all-time favorites. The Legends Trilogy is good as far as my memory goes.  So I am rereading this again with a more open frame of mind. 

Instead of complaining about these stories for what they are not, I am going to enjoy them for what they are.  I am not sure if I'll post much about them here.  Covid-19 is doing a number on the Universities and I have never been busier, so my free time to read is limited to a couple of minutes over lunch. But if something comes up then yeah, I'll share.

I can say this, I am three chapters in and I am enjoying what I am reading. There is heart here and that is something some other books seem to lack. 

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 26 Strange

Again a couple ways to go.  

I could comment on these strange days, but I have other social media outlets for that.

I am going to comment on the #RPGaDAY2020 list itself in that these are a lot of strange words.  

Ok, I get it, Dave has been doing this a long time and maybe he is running out of words to use. but knowing and the work he has done in the past I highly doubt he is lacking in ideas. So I'll just put this here as my commentary and that's it.

Ok. Strange. Let's get to the meat of this.

Many of my contemporaries will point to Fritz Leiber, Robert E. Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Tolkien, Moorcock, and Lovecraft as their main sources of inspiration to D&D.  While I share the Tolkien, Moorcock, and Lovecraft influences, I also add Clark Ashton Smith.

But those were not my only sources.

Dr. Strange and Tomb of Dracula

The 1970s were a strange time to be sure.  The 70s Occult Revival fueled my tastes in games in ways I never knew at the time and only saw in retrospect.  Case in point. Dr. Strange comics and Tomb of Dracula.  Both were favorites of mine but when Strange, along with Blade, would battle Dracula? Yeah, THAT was an adventure.  I wanted my games to have these epic world-changing battles that start small but then go on out to the cosmic scale.  Strange didn't just defeat Dracula. He destroyed all vampires.

I was already a huge horror fan at this point and Hammer Horror in particular. So these comics sent me searching more and more strange ideas for my games. I think by 1982 I had read every book of occultism in my local public library.  Creating a witch class was an inevitable conclusion at that point. 

When the Ravenloft module was released it found a no more welcome home than mine.

I have mentioned this in greater detail here.

Strange Stories, Amazing Facts

My copy
My parents were voracious readers. Books filled every corner of my home growing up and every room had at least one bookshelf, some like the living room had three. 

They, like many people of their generation, had a lot of Reader's Digest books. One, in particular, was Strange Stories, Amazing Facts.

This book should not by any stretch of the imagination be considered good literature or even good research. It is however good fun and a fun read. 

While the book is divided up into roughly chronological sections including one on the future, it was the past and the monsters of myth that always grabbed my attention.  Though flipping through it now that section on the end of the world would be fun to use.

For my birthday about 10 years ago my family found a copy and gave it to me.  Complete with original dust jacket (I am book snob and prefer my dust covers intact).

I have been asked in the past to assemble my own "Appendix N".  Maybe I'll do that one day.

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 11 Stack

Well. Last night's derecho here in the mid-west left me without power for a while, so I did not get a chance to write today's post ahead of time.

Today is Day 11 and the word is Stack.

This is a pretty easy one.  I typically have two stacks I am working on.

My TBR, to Be Read, Pile, and my Research Stack.

I mentioned my research stack yesterday.  I am going through a lot of books and some older D&D material to research my High Witchcraft Tradition.

My current TBR includes a lot of philosophy. I am currently working through "The Modern Intellectual Tradition: From Descartes to Derrida" by Prof. Lawerence Cahoone.  I am likely to continue this path with "The Philosophy of Science" and the "Great Scientific Ideas that Changed the World" or I might take a break from this and go with this "Early Middle Ages" book.  Or I might reread Robert A. Heinlein's "Friday."

Hard call. Depends on how drained I am after Cahoone's book. While I read philosophy of science in grad school, I have not read any philosophy proper, unless you count John Dewey or Paulo Freire, since I was an undergrad.  

Normally when I start a new project, like the High Witchcraft book, I find a book that supplements it well.  I have not done that this time. I hope my writing doesn't suffer for it.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

That's So Raven! Raven Swordsmistress of Chaos for BECMI

Raven by Luis Royo
Back in 1987, I was a freshman in college. My then Favorite Local Game Store was also my Favorite Local Used Book Store.  They sold new books, used books as well as new and old gamebooks.  I got a copy of the first printing Deities & Demigods here along with scores of old copies of Dragon and White Dwarf.  

One book they always prominently displayed was the American versions of Raven Swordsmistress of Chaos.  

I never grabbed the book but as an 18-year-old guy, I always was attracted to the covers. I even had a character named Raven, who like the cover, was blonde and had a pet raven.  I was vaguely aware there were more books in the series, but never knew how many. 

Over the last couple of years, I have been on a quest to find and read all the Raven books by "Richard Kirk" who was, in reality, the pen name of authors Angus Wells and Robert Holdstock.  Both wrote Book 1 and then they alternated with Wells on Books 3 and 5 and Holdstock on Books 2 and 4.

Well, I succeeded in my quest and I found them all and read them.
While they are not...good...they are fun little romp in late 70s Swords and Sorcery (and Sex, but not as much as the Corgi covers hint at). Sometimes described as a mildly ribald Red Sonja or a less ribald Ghita Of Alizar. The books however perfect for game fodder. 

Others have reviewed the books and I went back and forth on whether I should do the same.  So instead I am just going to link out to some of the better reviews and retrospectives for your own reading.

I figured there are five books in the Raven saga and there are five rule sets in the BECMI series.  
Seems like a good fit.  Plus it let's me try out each set of rules with a character.

I also did this with my very first character, the Lawful Cleric Johan Werper. While I find him interesting I figure you all would like to see Raven more. Also I wanted to get a good feel for how the fighter works in all sets AND the advanced fighter paths from the Companion rules.  So let's get to it!

Raven Swordsmistress of Chaos

Raven from Heroforge
The story Raven begins with that of a runaway slave girl named Su'ann. She is reduced by a mysterious warlock-like character named Spellbinder who recognizes that she is "the pivot on which the world turns" partially because she is also protected by giant Raven and he senses something in her.  Spellbinder and Su'ann, now calling herself "Raven" hook up with a band of outlaws and pirates.  They go from adventure to adventure but all the time Raven is training with swords, spears and what would become her "trademark" a set of throwing stars.  It was the 70s man.  Raven though is not training out of boredom, nor even for the higher purpose fate seems to have, but is very vague about, for her.  She wants to kill her former slave owner the Swordsmaster Karl Ir Donwayne.  
While Raven is the cover girl and the eponymous main character, the events are all narrated and told by Spellbinder many years after the fact. Even the scenes where he was not present.  

The story is one that is simple, but close to many FRP gamers. Raven wants to kill Karl Ir Donwayne. How is going to do that? Well, they need to Skull of Quez to appease this ruler to get to Donwayne. But they have to find the mysterious island first and then kill the beast-men. And there are shadowy loners, men with mysterious pasts. Raven jumping in and out of bed with Spellbinder, Gondar the Pirate captain, and even Krya M'ystral, the Queen and sister of the ruler they were trying to go see.  This is all in the first book.  There is a nice gory battle with Karl Ir Donwayne too, but he comes back in future books to bother Raven some more.

We never get a satisfactory end to Raven's story.  Book 5 just ends.  Though all the books are told from Spellbinder's point of view they could be out of order.  We do know that Raven met some sort of end between Book 5 and Spellbinder's remembering which seems to take place many years later. Maybe she became that agent of Chaos after all.

For this I am going to stat up Raven for each rule set in the BECMI rules, trying to feature what I feel are the best parts.  I am also going to try to feature what I can from what she was doing in the books.

Raven, ePic Character Generator


Sheets are from The Mad Irishman

Basic


Here is the Basic version of Raven.  The hardest this is always to guess at what any one character's numbers are going to be. I figure she had good strength and constitution as well as high dexterity since she favors the throwing stars.  Her charisma is very high, not because of her looks, but because she inspires a lot of loyalty from the cutthroats she usually hangs out with.

She is a fighter. No doubt. I also gave her alignment as Chaotic.  She is a force of chaos, but she is also a killer.  For this example, I thought putting her at level 3, or "Swordmistress" (no middle "s" like the books) was appropriate even for her first book.

You can see her full Basic sheet here (click for larger): 



Expert


Fighters don't get a lot in the Expert set. So for her 2nd book I just advanced her to 9th level "Lady" and gave her some magical chain mail.

You can see her full Expert sheet here (click for larger): 



Companion


Ah now here are some changes!

In the Companion rules, we have more going on.  First I wanted to have her become an Avenger or the Chaotic traveling Fighter.  She obviously has no lands to call her own and she is still going about killing things.  But the Avenger gives her some Clerical ability.

Magic is rare and dangerous in Raven's world.  But everyone seems to have some sort of supernatural sort of talent.  So for Raven, I choose spells that fit in with role as the "pivot on which the world turns" and other things like her raven companion.  So things like "detect magic" and "cause fear" made sense. She also got the 3rd level spell "striking" since that covers a lot of what could be a natural talent.

She also gets 2 attacks per round now at 18th level.

You can see her full Companion sheet here (click for larger): 



Master


Master level Raven is really Ultimate Raven.  This is the Raven that goes toe to toe with gods and spirits and comes out unscathed. 

She gets three attacks per round now and I implemented the Weapon Mastery Rules to give her mastery over the sword and her throwing stars. 
She gets more cleric spells, this time to the 10th level of ability.  Some spells are easily explained by her connection to her bird, fate, and chaos.  Others can be explained by natural ability. "Commune" for example is with her bird and the forces of Chaos only.  "Speak with Animals" can be roughly explained by her time with the animal men. Others could be when she was dealing with weird supernatural forces.

She also gets 3 attacks per round now.

You can see her full Master sheet here (click for larger): 



Immortal


This sheet is largely incomplete.  It is also the most different of the other four (printed from my DTRPG copy) and interestingly enough the only book in series that I don't have an American (Royo cover) edition of.  I do have the British Corgi version with the Chris Achilléos cover.  

I made a lot of guesses as to what sort of Immortal she would be and just cheated and made her an Initiate. I might try this again with one of my own characters that I know better. 

You can see her full Immortal sheet here (click for larger): 


All in all I rather pleased with these. I am curious to hear from anyone that has also read these books.
As far as BECMI character I am happy with it.

Links

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

The OSE Warlock, In Print

I interrupt BECMI Week to give you something decidedly B/X.

It took a bit, but now you can get The Warlock for Old-School Essentials in print, both in hard-cover and soft-cover!


I am very pleased with how they came out and they look fantastic.




The contents of both versions are the same, so no need to worry about which one to get.


They look great with the Old-School Essentials books.


The hard-cover even fits into your OSE box!


It is 100% compatible with my Swords & Wizardry Warlock book.  Combine them for even more warlock powers, pacts and spells.


Or combine it with my Craft of the Wise Witch Book for Old-School Essentials for even more spells.


It is the latest, but not yet the last, of the books in my Basic-Era Games line of Witchcraft traditions.

Back to BECMI posts later today.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Origins of the Witch: Early Research Edition

One question I constantly get is "why witches?" To which I usually reply, "why not witches?"
I have talked here about how it has been a subject that I have been fascinated with since even before my D&D days.

Well, a few things have gone on this week to make me want to look back at why I am interested and to try to capture some of the initial excitement.

First up was, of course, my coverage of the classic adventure B1 In Search of the Unknown, and what I started calling my First Witch Marissia. Not a lot of information there, but still a lot of fun while going back to look over my history.

I also talked about the first time I started putting a visual image to my iconic witch Larina from Dragon Magazine #65 from September 1982.  I am sure to talk more about her in this series in the future.

Another interesting bit is a new series of posts on the illusionist from Jonathan Becker over at B/X Blackrazor

He talks about the spell color spray (one I am including in my Pagan Witch book) and how it is kind of a wreck.   But that was not what got me thinking today. It was his inclusion of some Bill Willingham art from the module D1-2 Descent into the Depths of the Earth.  Here it is:


That Illusionist was the art I used for another one of my early witches, Cara Niemand (German for "nobody" since her last name was supposed to be a secret). She was a witch I tried to build using just the PHB "by the book".  I didn't like how she turned out, but she was a great character all the same.

Part of what is really extended navel-gazing under the guise of *serious research* is my work on the Basic-Era witch books I have been doing lately, with the Pagan Witch due out soon.

Last night though I got a HUGE piece of my pre-D&D witch past back. 
For years I could not remember the name of this author who had written a lot of children's books about monsters, ufos and all sorts of stuff.  Well, thanks to my sister I finally remembered.  Daniel Cohen.  Yesterday I got a few of his books in the mail.


Not all the books, but these were the big ones.


That Hodag! (from "Monsters")  Seriously I have been dying to put him into a game since forever.



From the witch book. Look at all that great woodcut art!  If you ever wanted to know why I have so much of these woodcuts in my books, well it started here.   I have one more of his books on the way, but after that the re-writes start.

My plan is to go over all these old books and my old notes from the time and make sure my Pagan Witch book is something that would have been on my shelves then.   Yeah, these are "kids books" but the point is not to provide you with Ph.D.-level work (I can do that if you like) but instead capture that feel of the early 80s by reading the same books I did then and in the late 70s.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Review: Brimstone Angels: A Forgotten Realms Novel

Back in 2011 Dungeons & Dragons 4e Essentials was out and Wizards of Coast was putting it's full efforts behind it.  To help expand on their 4e and Neverwinter properties WotC turned to relatively new author Erin M. Evans to turn in a tale about tieflings and warlocks, two of 4e's more popular additions.

The result of her efforts was the first novel in the "Brimstone Angels" series, also titled Brimstone Angels.  The six-book series spanned two editions of the D&D game (4th and 5th) and help define what tieflings, warlocks, Dragonborn and even devils, succubi,  and Asmodeus himself.  But it all started with a tiefling girl named Farideh with mismatched eyes and her twin sister Havilar.

Farideh is a tiefling and since publication, she has become something of a poster girl for tiefling warlocks. But that is getting way ahead of myself.  Farideh and Havilar were abandoned outside of the walls of their village, they are adopted by a Dragonborn warrior (who has a past) Mehen.  Mehen is a good father to the two girls, although no amount of warrior training prepares him for raising teenage girls, especially tieflings and teens at that.  In the Forgotten Realms tieflings are new and twin tieflings are considered to be a bad omen.  That soon enough comes true as Havilar finds an old book and attempts to summon an imp.  Farideh has to jump in, she is more familiar with magic, and the girls soon realize they have bitten off far more than they can deal with.  They summon the cambion, Lorcan, the half-human and half-devil of the Invidiah, the leader of the Enriyes.   To send him off Farideh agrees to a pact with him and becomes his warlock.

Summoning the devil has other consequences, including burning down their home and getting them kicked out of their village of refugees (Arush Vayem).  They then go on an adventure where Evans treats us to a *new* Forgotten Realms.  I say new because unlike other Realms books where you can play spot the Extra Special Guest Star, this is a trip of normal folk, or in this case, three unknowns that happen to be a Dragonborn and his two adopted tiefling daughters.  Evans plays the family dynamics expertly.  Mehen obviously loves and worries about his girls.  Havilar is closer to his sensibilities having picked up the glaive and become and fighter like her father,  but it is Farideh that has him the most worried.

In addition to that dynamic, there is the Farideh-Lorcan relationship which gives us the best "Will they or Won't they" dynamic since Maddie and David (Moonlighting) or Ross and Rachel (Friends).  I won't spoil it, but I will say I am very satisfied with it.   Evans knows how to write characters, she would be fantastic in a game.

All this time there is a great story and impending apocalypse that could change the face of the Realms and a prophecy about the Brimstone Angels that will change the politics of Hell itself.  So no small stakes here, so no small feat for the first book.

The background story is great and a ton of fun, but truthfully it is the characters that will make you want to read the next in the series.  Lorcan is devilishly fantastic, Havilar just wants to beat things, Mehen wants to keep his family safe and Farideh is caught between them all.

As "gamer fiction" the book does a great job of explaining some of the quirks of 4e. Such as why are succubi devils now? Why did erinyes change? What happened to Hag Countess of Hell? Why is Asmodeus a greater god now?  What is the deal with Rohini? Well, not all these questions are answered right away, but they are dealt with.

What I loved about this book, other than the characters, of course, was that you didn't need a ton of Realms knowledge to enjoy it.  But in truth none of that matters, there is enough of Farideh, Lorcan, and Havilar to enjoy.    It is also a good introduction to the Forgotten Realms if you are like me and ignored the Realms for the last few decades.

It's a great start to a great series.

Legacy

Brimstone Angels was the first of six books that spanned from 2011 to 2016, and like I said, two editions of Dungeons & Dragons (4e and 5e).  The books had a huge effect on the direction of the game at least in terms of how warlocks could be played.

One needs to look no further than the Player's Handbooks for both editions to see the effects.


There in the Dragonborn names are Mehen, Farideh, and Havilar. 
There are other cases where text from the books, in particular interactions between Farideh and Lorcan, are used to flavor text next to the warlock entries. 

As I go through the other books I will try to remain spoiler-free, but apologies if an odd one slips by.

Links
https://smile.amazon.com/Brimstone-Angels-Forgotten-Neverwinter-Paperback/dp/B014S2IWTQ
https://dnd.wizards.com/products/fiction/novels/brimstone-angels
https://forgottenrealms.fandom.com/wiki/Brimstone_Angels
http://slushlush.com/
https://www.facebook.com/brimstoneangels/

Saturday, December 28, 2019

5 x 5: End of the Year Top Fives. Novels

Another Top 5 list.  Today, Novels.

Bram Stoker Dracula



JRR Tolkien Lord of the Rings



Douglas Addams Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy



Anne Rice The Vampire Lestat 



Umberto Eco Foucault's Pendulum