Showing posts with label d20. Show all posts
Showing posts with label d20. Show all posts

Friday, May 20, 2022

Review: Traveller20 (2002-2007)

Traveller20 (2002, 2007)
We are now in another new decade. In fact a new century and a new millennium in fact. And of course another new edition of Traveller.  Interestingly enough we are now 25 years out from the Little Black Books. But we are now nearing the end height of the d20 boom.

Traveler, for the first time in its history, is now using the same system as Dungeons & Dragons.

Traveller for d20, also called Traveller 20 or even T20 used the d20 system under the OGL and d20 STL.

Since this is the 20th day of SciFi month, let's do Traveller for d20!

There are two versions of this game, one out in 2002, which I remember was a single hardcover book.  The other, available from DriveThruRPG is the 2007 edition and made up of three books (and a handbook).  I had the 2002 version briefly but ended selling it off in an auction. Why? I can't recall. I had a baby and another one on the way, I bet I needed money.

Both versions have similar cover art.

For the purposes of this review, I am going to consider the 2006-7 version from DriveThruRPG and from Far Future Enterprises where I got my copy from. 

Traveller20 Core Rules Set (2006-7)

PDF. Four files. Color cover art, black & white interior art.

Traveller20 (2006-7)

Ok. I want to start with this. I like d20. I do. My favorite version of the Star Wards RPG is Wizard's Revised d20 version. I know that sounds like blasphemy to so many, but I don't care.  Star Wars and D&D are so wrapped up into my childhood that bringing them together under one system was a no-brainer for me.  Now if I can add some Traveller bits?  Well I don't know if I can just yet, but the idea is so tempting, so tantalizing I just can't help it.  Seriously what could be more Summer of 1977 than Star Wars + D&D + Traveller?   What does that mean for you?  Well.  I am likely to cut this edition a lot of slack. Maybe even to the point of excusing some things I shouldn't.  Forewarned is forearmed.

The Traveller's Guidebook
The Traveller's Guidebook

PDF. 234 Pages, Color cover, black & white interior art with blue accents.

This is the "Book 0" OR the Book 4 of the 2006-7 Traveller d20 line.  This book covers all the basics for the Traveller Player. 

We get out Introduction which tells us what we are in for here.  It is written for the point of view of anyone new to RPGs or new to Traveller (any version). 

We get brief overviews of the d20 mechanic. How to set your Difficulty Levels (DCs) and even a little on success levels.

Character Creation is next.  What follows is pretty standard for all d20 games.  Roll abilities, choose races, select classes, set skills, add feats, roll up hitpoints.  This is Traveller so there is a bit more added on.

D&D/d20 has six Character Abilities. Traveller has six.  T20 has nine. These are Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Education, Wisdom, Charisma, Social Standing, and Psionic Strength.  Ok a mix of both systems.  Not exactly what I would have done, but hey.  Ability scores are d20 standard, modifiers are as well.   

Hitpoints are split between Stamina and Lifeblood. Or what other games might call wound points and health points.  One slows you down the other represents how much you have till you die. Loosing either is not good.

Races are discussed and the standard humans are given with variations. You can also choose Vargr, Aslan, Ursa, and Virushi. 

Since this is Traveller you have your homeworld to consider.  There are plenty of random tables to help you figure this all out.  Tech Levels from previous editions remain here. It's a nice touch of course.  Also you have your prior history, or what you did before you decided to live the glamorous life of a Traveller.  Turns of service enter here with various paths and what that all means in terms of your character (background, credit earned, and skills).   I am not sure but it seems like there are a lot of careers here. More than other editions.

Once that is figured out you can choose a class. XP values are the same as D&D 3.x so that is easy enough. There are 12 core classes: Academic, Athlete, Barbarian, Belter, Entertainer, Martial Artist, Mercenary, Merchant, Noble, Professional, Rogue, and Traveller.  Nine "Service" Classes: Army, Convict, Corsair, Flyer, Law Enforcement, Marine, Navy, Sailor, and Scout. And eight Prestige Classes: Diplomat, Engineer, Medic, Ace Pilot, Ancients Hunter, Big Game Hunter, Psionicist, and TAS Field Reporter.

Skills are covered and as expected there are a lot of them. A lot. Nearly 30 pages worth.  Same goes for Feats (this is d20 after all).  Now I prefer a smaller list of skills myself, but I see why the authors did what they did.

Equipment and Starting Funds cover the next 40 pages or so.  Imperial Credits are still good here!

Combat is the d20 system with a few twists, but nothing the average D&D 3.x+ player couldn't figure out.  The covers personal, vehicle and ship combat.

Adventuring covers quite a lot from what the characters do, living expenses, environments and their dangers, weather dangers, movement, vision, and on to Psionics (which really should be it's own chapter).

We now get into what could be reasonably called the Traveller Black Books of d20.

Book 1: Characters and Combat
Book 1: Characters and Combat

PDF. 209 Pages, Color cover, black & white, and color interior art.

I will admit I am confused. This book looks older than the "Book 0" above.  No problem.  Ok. So I get the idea these textbooks are actually separate from the first one. Not sure what the logic here is, but works for me.  I'll take these three books as a group, like the Little Black Books of old.

We start out with some game fiction. Move right on to an introduction from Marc W. Miller, but I think that is all he did for this particular version.  This moves on to the Introduction to RPGs section and about Traveller in particular.  So while it is similar to the book above it also goes into far more detail.

Characters cover character creation.

There is an overview with page references to where they are detailed later in this book.  Most interestingly there are now eight (8) Abilities.  The standard d20 ones plus Education (EDU) and Social Standing (SOC).  

You generate your abilities first, examples are given of how EDU and SOC work in the game.  Determine your race/species included here are humans (with sub-types), Vargr, Aslan, Luriani, Sydites, Ursa, and Virushi.  Mentioned ar the Droyne, Hivers, and K'Kree.

As always your homeworld stats are determined and character adjusted as needed.  This also helps with skills and what classes are available to you. 

Classes are next and there are a lot of them. This time they are better explained.  We have the core classes: Academic, Barbarian, Belter, Mercenary, Merchant, Noble, Professional, Rogue, and Traveller.  The  Service Classes: Army, Marine, Navy, and Scout. And Prestige Classes: Ace Pilot, Big Game Hunter, and TAS Field Reporter.  Classes work like the d20 standard. 

I do admit I have a desire to run a game with TAS field reporters.  If nothing else this is giving me a load of ideas for my Star Trek: Mercy campaign. 

Skills are up and we also get a note that this section is Open Game Content. Nice touch.  There are quite a lot of skills here, more than the d20 standard of the time.  A lot of these are also limited to particular classes or backgrounds.  Unlike standard d20 and more like some other games, some skills can be used with more than one ability. Pilot for example can be INT or DEX.  I think my favorite addition though is the "Dealing with Bureaucrats" DC table.   As expected this section is rather large.

Feats (this is d20 after all) is also a long section.  There are also some Final Details to figure out like age, height, and weight. 

Oddly, but maybe it makes sense, Prior History is after all of this.  Reading through is does actually since it modifies what the character is like. In truth it is like a rather robust "Backgrounds" from D&D 5th Edition, just 10+ years before that.

Combat is up. The book says that combat is pretty much the same as d20 standard except in a few   cases.  Mostly Traveller universe specific examples.  Where things are different it is noted.

After combat, the Prestige Classes are covered.  And at the end as always (more or less) is Psionics.

The Appendices follow.  Their page numbers start as if all three books are combined.  Nice really. So Appendix I starts on page 426.  The last page is the OGL and Product Identity information.

Book 2: Equipment and Design
Book 2: Equipment and Design

PDF. 164 Pages, Color cover, black & white interior art.

I just want to say right now that I am loving this Classic Traveller presentation of the Traveller 20 rules.  I wish I had a POD of this. 

This book continues, page numbers and all, from Book 1. 

This book covers all the Technology and Equipment (about two dozen pages), the design of vehicles and starships, and some standard designs.  All of it is largely what you would expect it to be.

Technology and Equipment.  This discusses various TLs (Technology Levels) and the character "shopping list" so lots of weapons.  We do have sections of drugs, medical care, food and living expenses, as well as cybertechnology (somewhat that started in Traveller just a decade ago) and cloning.  Interestingly enough I did not see a lot on robots save that they can be built like vehicles.  I do appreciate the conservation of rule space here, but more might have been nice.

Computers are more advanced, but you are all sick of me harping on that.

The Appendices repeat here as well as the OGL information.

Book 3: Worlds and Adventures
Book 3: Worlds and Adventures

PDF. 107 Pages, Color cover, black & white interior art.

Ok, I have to admit I am enjoying this system. 

This is the smallest of the three. 

This book covers Travelling (Chapter 14), Starship Encounters (Chapter 15), Universe and World development (Chapter 16), Campaigns (17), and Traveller Adventures (Chapter 18).

The design here is one of characters living in a giant Galactic Imperium that is full of adventure and lite on the details of the Imperium itself.  Oh there is information here on it anyone with any knowledge of Traveller can easily fill in the blanks.  The focus of this game though is more like Classic Traveller, on the characters and what they do.  There is more here than Classic Traveller, but not as much as say MegaTraveller.

I can gather from reading that this takes place sometime prior to the timeline of the LBBs, before 1000. But not much more.


Ok so this bundle has two separate versions of the T20 game. For my money, I would rather the Three Books and add in details from The Traveller's Guidebook where needed. 

The Three Books cover the same material as The Traveller's Guidebook save for where the TGB goes into additions (more classes, more abilities).   I am not 100% convinced that the additions to TGB are better. 

I am not going to lie. I like the 3.x d20 system, warts and all.  I like the idea of a huge Galactic Empire.  So if I am going to play a non-Trek game then some flavor of d20 is likely going to be my choice.

Call me crazy, but I like this one. 

Part of me wants to find a copy of the Traveller d20 dead tree book online to buy another part of me wants to print out what I have to put into a binder with other d20-based SciFi games.  I know there is d20 Starfleet Battles / Prime Directive and more. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Kytarra Bane, the Witch Queen and Mixing Books

I am often asked if one witch book can be used with another or with a game I didn't overtly design it for.  Say for example using The Warlock with Basic-era D&D, or The Amazon Witch Tradition with AD&D or S&W.   Well, the short answer is YES!

My goals for every book are simple. Make it a fun class. Make it compatible with every other book. Make it so the someone can pick one up and play it.   Any book I have can be and will be, someone's first book in the series.  So I want maximum playability.

So what can you do to mix them?  Well like I said I spend a lot of time trying to make it easy and avoid any potential issues.  In all things your GM has the say (and you or they can also always ask me) but here is an example.

Today I want to rebuild a character from Necromancer's Fane of the Witch King.
The character is Kytarra Bane, the "Witch Queen" of the adventure.  In the D&D3/d20 is a half-fiend/half-nymph 4th level druid.  Here nymph and druid levels "stack" in d20 so she ends up something like an 11th level druid.  But I don't want a druid. I want a witch.  So how could I build her using my books?

Well, given that she is half-fiend I am going to opt to make her part of the Mara Tradition.   To handle her handful of druid spells I will also grab some material from the S&W Green Witch book.  Finally, to deal with her half-nymph side I am going to use the multiclassing and use any race rules from the Classical Tradition book.  That book also has a large variety of nymphs to choose from.   Her bonus spells due to high Charisma (from The Mara book) and her Occult powers will help cover her nymph and fiend abilities.

Since I have all the books I can choose from a wider variety of spells for her.  There is some overlap in spells, that can't be helped. All witched get a Curse spell of some sort, but it makes for a nicer variety all the same.  I will also grab some cantrips from my original The Witch for Basic-Era Games book.

Kytarra Bane
Kytarra Bane, The Witch Queen
From Fane of the Witch King
11th Level Witch, Mara Tradition

Strength: 19
Intelligence: 20
Wisdom: 20
Dexterity: 17
Constitution: 17
Charisma: 20

Saves (unadjusted)
Death Ray or Poison:  9
Magic wand or devices: 10
Paralysis, Polymorph or Turn to Stone: 9
Dragon Breath: 12
Rods, Staffs, and Spells: 11

Hit Points: 52
Alignment: Chaotic (Evil)
AC: -1 (-2 dex, -1 natural, -3 bracers, Death Armor +1)

Occult Powers
Familiar:  Fiendish Dire Tiger
Herb use
Lesser:  Blinding Beauty (as per Blindness spell, once per day)

Cantrips (6): Black Flame, Chill, Flare, Mend Minor Wounds (x2), Object Reading
First (4+3): Bewitch I, Endure Elements, Fey Step, Häxen Talons, Mend Light Wounds, Obedient Beast, Obscuring Cloud
Second (3+3): Burning Gaze, Burning Hands, Defiling Touch, Fury of the Sun, Produce Flame, Stunning Allure
Third (3+2): Bewitch III, Brave the Flames, Contagion, Continual Fire, Witch Fire
Fourth (2+2): Dispel Magic, Dryad's Door, Elemental Armor, Rain of Spite
Fifth (2): Death Curse, Flame Strike
Sixth (1): Fire Seeds

Magic Items: Bracers (+3), Death Armor

I am pretty pleased with this build. I grabbed unique spells from all my sources listed about and it made for a nice witch. The mixing worked well and I ended up with a character very close to that of the original d20 product.  Since she is not part of an organized coven, or any coven really, I opted NOT to give her any witch Rituals.  That is not a hard and fast rule in the books, but one I use in my own games.

The are more ways to combine the books.  I should have a few more NPC witches coming up.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The Witch of Loch-Durnan

One of the things I love about GenCon are the booths selling cheap games.  There are lots books from the dismal 90s and a ton from the dawn of the d20 boom.

The Witch of Loch-Durnan was from the d20 dawn published by Mystic Eye Games who had a lot of cool books back then, some I still use.

This book though has vexed me.
First look at that Jhoneil Centeno art.  I can't recall seeing his work before or since.

Then I could never find it online at a decent price and there is no PDF to be had for money or love.

The 72-page adventure was written by Andrew Thomson. It is for four characters 5th to 7th level for the 3.0 flavor of the d20 system. There are some new monsters or more to the point a system of generating new mutations of monsters like scorpion dogs and goat men.

Then there is the eponymous witch herself.

Mellie, is the witch of Loch-Durnan.  She is also the central figure of this adventure.   Reading this makes me realize that this might in fact be the missing piece of my War of the Witch Queens adventures.  She certainly is worthy to join their ranks.

Mellie - The Witch of Loch-Durnan
for The Witch: A sourcebook for Basic Edition fantasy games

Female Half-elf
Witch 4th-level, Chaotic Neutral
White Witch* Tradition
Flock of the Moon Sisters Coven

Strength: 14
Dexterity: 14
Constitution: 10
Intelligence: 10
Wisdom: 16
Charisma: 17

Saving Throws
Death Ray: 13
Magic Wands: 14
Paralysis or Turn to Stone: 13
Dragon Breath: 16
Spells: 15

+2 to magic based saves

Hit Points: 12
AC: 8
To hit AC 0: 19

Occult Powers

Cantrips (5): Dancing Lights, Detect Magic, Ghost Sounds, Mend Minor Wounds, Message
First (2+2): Charm Person, Mend Light Wounds, Protection from Spirits, Speak with Animals
Second (2+2): Augury, Evil Eye, Knock, Mind Obscure

*The White Witch is a type of witch featured int he Hunt the Rise of Evil campaign from Mystic Eye Games.  It is pretty much what you think a white witch is. Non-evil, focused on healing, protection, and divination magic.

Pretty close to her d20 counterpart.  I like it! Can't wait to use her as a Witch Queen!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

PWWO: Mighty Protectors

Time again for another edition of "Plays Well With Others"!

Mighty Protectors is a new game, but it has a long history and some solid Old-School DNA.  Because of this, there is a lot of ways to tinker with the game.

It is no secret that there is D&D DNA in Villains & Vigilantes.  That DNA carries over to V&Vs offspring, Mighty Protectors.  While there are still plenty differences in these games, there are enough similarities to build on.

Mighty Protectors and Villains & Vigilantes 2.1

Total cheat really. These games are less "Mix and Match" as they are "ideas to be shared". They are basically two slightly different expressions of the same world.  Now V&V 2.1 has better, or at least, more explicit rules for magic and psionics. Plus converting between MP and V&V 2.1 is easy; there is a section in the MP book on converting V&V 2.1 over.  Using this V&V 2.1 becomes a Rosetta Stone of sorts for d20 based games.

This conversion key is really helpful for me for the next two games.

Mighty Protectors & d20 Silver Age Sentinels / BESM d20

Alas, Guardians of Order.  You were a not a well-run company, in the end, but you did have some fun games.  Two of GoO's games are of particular interest to me.  Big Eyes Small Mouth d20 (BESM d20) and Silver Age Sentinels d20 (SAS d20).  Both had great breakdowns of the d20 system (circa 2002) into Level-Based Point buy systems.  Using our V&V translation you can now have a translation of BESM/SAS d20 to V&V and MP.  In particular, the book Advanced d20 Magic for BESM d20 is a great resource for point-buy spells.   I have not worked out the mathematical translations or crunched the numbers just yet, but there are there.  My initial guess is that 1 CP (MP) = 2 Points for SAS/BESM. 
This would give me a great point-buy spell system with some well-defined familiar spells.

Another great thing about SAS (Tri-Stat or d20 versions) is the excellent history of comics and the superhero in modern culture. The Silver Age sensibility of the "how to play" sections fit Mighty Protectors to a tee.

Mighty Protectors and Mutants & Masterminds 2.0

One can't talk super-hero games and not mention Muntants and Masterminds.  While now in the third edition, it is the second edition that concerns us here and now.  M&M2 shares a lot in common with MP. I could detail it here, but this link, Converting Mutants & Masterminds 2.0 to Mighty Protectors, does a far better job.   I have gone over the list of Powers and Abilities for both games to see what one has that the other doesn't, But I can say that between these two nearly every power likely is covered.

Plus Green Ronin has an absolute ton of material for M&M.  Personally, I like to put the supers of each game into their own cities and if you go to that city that's where you will find them.

For my next round of characters, I am going to take some notes from these other games to get the characters I am really looking for.  It should be a blast.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Star Wars

I feel the need to make an obligatory Star Wars post today.
But yet I am not quite feeling the excitement.

Don't get me wrong. I love the Star Wars movies and had a blast with all of them.  I loved everything Star Wars growing up too.    I still have a couple of Boba Fetts (one I had to save proof of purchases for, one I bought) sitting on my desk.  I went from being a hard-core fan to a more relaxed one.  I did like the newer movies despite HUGE plot holes (the first movie was about a trade agreement?? really??) and my kids love them.  My adult tastes went more for Star Trek.

I really enjoyed the d20 Star Wars game.  I know "heresy"! How dare I say anything was better than the d6 West End Games version.  I have (or rather my son has) the Revised d20 version.  It is a bit like D&D 3 and so we have been adding it off and on to our regular D&D game.

To me, d20 and Star Wars seemed a perfect match.  I think back to the late 70's and early 80's and what my obsessions were; Star Wars and D&D.  Having played the game a bit I can see why some people don't like it and why some still prefer the WEG d6 version (I don't), but to me it just works. Stars Wars and D&D share history, they share a common place in the Gen X collective sub-conscious right there next to video games.  To me, D&D/d20 and Star Wars just belong together.

Not only was it out at the same time (more or less) I discovered D&D. It became so much a part of my experiences as a kid that is hard to tease out where one influence begins and the other ends.

This movie has: A boy who would be the hero, a swashbuckling rogue, a princess to rescue, a wise old man/wizard/jedi, an evil warrior, an impenetrable fortress, magic, fights, side-kicks, monsters, sword fights and epic battle.  Everything here IS D&D.  They even meet the rogue in a bar!

Yes this another retelling of the monomyth or The Hero with a 1,000 Faces.  That's why it works so well.

Also, I have a long history of dissatisfaction with Sci-Fi games.  It's odd really.  I love Sci-Fi, but the RPGs I have tried (Traveler, Star Frontiers, Alternity) have left me feeling flat.  Star Frontiers was my favorite.   So I guess to me then, the perfect Sci-Fi game would have elements of Star Wars, Star Frontiers and Alternity all powered by the d20 system.  That is also easy to do.  I am a touch surprised I have not tried that yet.

I was talking about this with my wife last night in fact. We are not going to see Star Wars right away, but we are much more excited for the new Star Trek movie to be honest.   She also suggested I pick up the hardcover of White Star and play with that for a while, or even stick with Starships & Spacemen.  Though it is more "Trek" to White Star's "Wars".

Maybe what I need is a solid hook first for some good Sci/Star Wars/Star Trek gaming.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Seven Wonders - Examining the Witches of the d20 Era

Strange Brew: The Ultimate Witch & Warlock Kickstarter will go live again tomorrow.

Today I want to spend some time talking about the Seven (yes, 7!) Witch classes that have appeared for the d20 game in various shape and forms. I want to discuss their pros and cons, and why Strange Brew: The Ultimate Witch will be all the better for it.

Witch #1: The DMG Witch – Wizards of the Coast
Let's not forget that the very first witch was a "sample" character in the 3.0 edition DMG. She was basically a sorcerer with a different spell list. She dropped some of the iconic damage spells of the wizard in favor of some minor Cleric spells. I always considered this the baseline witch. Though since it was not in the SRD, I avoided reading about it. When working on Liber Mysterium back in the day, I was very, very strict about what I would read. In fact, I have a spreadsheet full of spells, and I would have discussions on what was and was not a witch spell. In the end, I ended up with a list that was not too unlike the witch spell list in the DMG, but I have tons of documentation of how I got to that point—we were more concerned back then that WotC was going to stomp out any d20 infraction they found. Still glad I did all the work, though. I was able to go back to it for all my other witch books.
I still use that very same spreadsheet. Maybe I could share it someday, if people are curious about how I go about doing this sort thing.

Witch #2: Liber Mysterium - Timothy S. Brannan
Back when d20 and OGL was still new (2001), I began updating all my notes on witches for publication quality book. This book became known as Liber Mysterium, and was released in 2003. There are a lot of things I REALLY liked about this book. There were a few things I really wanted to do with witches that became a lot easier with the d20 rules. In particular, I had a bunch of “Kiss” spells that had more effectiveness because they were delivered with a kiss. With d20, that became a metamagic feat. Coven spells were covered well, as were occult powers. Though 10 years later, I can admit it was not perfect. There was my own overriding opinion that most witches were going to be good. My bias. While there are tons of spells, some were redundant or a little over- or under-powered, 10 years of playing witches in my ongoing 3.x game has helped me work out a lot of the bugs.
One of the coolest things from the this project though is it really taught me how to work with a team of designers.  I carried over these lessons to Buffy and to Ghosts of Albion.

Witch #3: The Witch's Handbook - Green Ronin; Author Steven Kenson
This one is certainly a great effort. There is a lot I really like about this book. The gems of this book are the ideas for skills, and, of course, the fantastic cover art by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law. Like my own Liber Mysterium, this witch uses Wisdom to cast arcane spells. I still kinda like that, to be honest. There are a lot of nice prestige classes here. In particular were the Witch Priestess and the Witch's Champion, which was similar to something I  was calling the Cowan in my games. The Diabolic Witch and the Witch Hag were also nice and gave some balance to the "mostly good" Witch Priestess. There are new spells, and like Way of the Witch below, it uses the Ritual Casting rules from Relics & Rituals, which were very much in vogue at the time. Covens in this book were covered, but not as much as in Liber or Way of the Witch.
What this book lacks in page count, it makes up for in utility; there is something useful on every page. More to the point, there is something I wanted to use on every page.

Witch #4: Way of the Witch - Citizen Games; Authors Janet Pack, Jean Rabe, Megan Robertson, Christina Stiles
Style-wise this is the best of the lot of the early witch books for d20. Hardcover, with some of the most beautiful art I have seen in a book. I mean, go look at that Thomas Denmark cover.
The witch is basic and has a lot of really nice features. The prestige classes are simple, but functional, dividing the witch into white, black, grey, and brown witches. There are some other nice ideas, as well including how witches lived in this world and their much greater affinity to the magical rhythms of the world. The authors really took their time and care with this one, and it really shows.
There is so much I love about this book that it made want to make my own books better. The nice flow between the art and the text made this feel much more like a single creative endeavor. Even if the material wasn't good (and the material was good) it was a joy to look at. I bought this one before I was done with Liber Mysterium, but I put it up until Liber was out the door. I remember sitting in my car one afternoon to pick up my kids from daycare and wishing I had done some of the things in this book.
Alas, Citizen games did not make it out of the d20 boon alive. They were going to come out with a second witch book, Seasons of the Witch, and I had heard a little about it. I had high expectations really.

Witch #5: The Quintessential Witch – Mongoose Publishing; Author Robert Schwalb
I am not a huge fan of the older Mongoose books. There are number of issues with the classes being all over the place, odd editing, and art that runs the gambit. This book is not any different. The witch class is pretty typical of the time (early days of the d20 boom). There is a wide variety of prestige classes such as the Caller to the Veil, Diabolist, Gypsy Matron, Witch Doctor and even a Witch Hunter, which is nice, but not all of them are usable. For example I am not sure why the Medium has a Charisma loss, or why the Occultist spells are the way they are. The book also tends to be full of a lot clichés. The art for the Vamp prestige class comes to mind, actually the entire Vamp prestige class is pretty much a huge cliché. An evil woman scorned by a member of the opposite sex using her "feminine whiles" to corrupt others. Oh and lets show her in bed with an innocent looking girl. Not really forward thinking there.  Though the material that was good (Patron of the Five Sprits, Puppet Mistress), was very good. There is a good section on new uses for skills, including telling fortunes and a good section of feats. There are new spells and new magic items, as expected, but the coolest thing might be the Places of Power. I also liked the Times of Power and the very detailed Herbal section. What made the Herbal so nice was not all of the herbs used, but that the ones they did included art. It looked like an old-school herbal.

Witch #6: Pantheon and Pagan Faiths – Mystic Eye Games
This was part of Mystic Eye Games: Hunt the Rise of Evil product line. It was also a great effort, and it captured my attention early on. I liked this one because it was the other end of the spectrum from the Green Ronin one, but still not quite Way of the Witch - the book had an implied world setting with witches as a part of it, but not quite as integrated into the fabric of the world as we see in Way of the Witch. The witch still existed in a rich world, and a lot was expected of her. She had the spells and the powers to meet these expectations, too.
This witch was a divine spellcaster, not an arcane one. This was also a nice change of point of view.
I also liked the prestige classes. They were a nice selection of orders with Divine backgrounds and really what I wanted to see in a Prestige Class. The Furies of Destruction were similar to my own War Witch, but far more deadly. The Beast Friend looked like a fun class to try out for a Druid, but it's alignment restrictions (Lawful Good only) didn't quite make sense to me. Slaughter Priests should be in every game.

Witch #7: The Pathfinder Witch (Advanced Player’s Guide)
This is the current Witch. I have spoken about the pros and cons of this witch many times. But I have to admit what I really like are the Hexes. These are such a nice addition to the witch class. The Patrons here are very, very similar to the Patrons I used. Also, if I made the error of assuming that all witches are mostly good, I think this book has the bias that witches are mostly evil. I also can’t get past how weak the covens are in this book.

All seven (and some others here and there) all offer me something fun and unique to the game play. What I want now though is something that allows me to play all these experiences.

Or, to put it another way, the Ultimate Witch.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Strange Brew Kickstarter is back!

The new video for my Kickstarter is now up.

I am re-kicking off "Strange Brew: The Ultimate Witch & Warlock" again soon.  This is going to be the ultimate book of witches, warlocks and pretty much everything I have been doing for the last 13 years.

But here, let me tell you about it.

This book with be for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.  It would be compatible with any 3.x d20 game you choose to play.

We have taken some time to trim the book down a bit, but it will still be a huge book.  I have a ton of material and I am not alone in this project.

What I want to do here is the same thing that was done for Wizards in Deep Magic and Psychics in Ultimate Psionics.  These are also massive books at 378 pages and 452 pages respectively.  So a book on witches, warlock, their prestige classes and spells will come in around the same size.

Also everything is written.  We have some careful editing to do to get down to our target size, but really if you have liked my work in the past then this will like this one too.

I plan on getting more video up, but vloging is really not my thing.

We are getting some great art and here is one of our firsts, the iconic witch Larina and her familiar Cotton.

This is going to be a great book!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Ultimate Witch & Warlock

Been sitting on this one for a little bit but now has come the time to talk about it.

I am currently working on a new project with Misfit Studios called "Strange Brew: The Ultimate Witch & Warlock" for the Pathfinder game.

You can read my first post about it over at Misfit Studios blog.

The idea with this began a long time ago as a way for me to update my old Liber Mysterium to D&D 3.5 and to include what I felt was some of the best OGC.  That project never materialized, mostly because I switched focus to instead produce The Witch and Eldritch Witchery.

Recently I began talking to an old friend Christina Stiles.  We had worked together on Buffy and a few other projects for Eden and generally ran in the same circles.  She was looking to update her old Citizen Games book Way of the Witch and thinking about "getting the Coven back together" and adding me on as an editor/designer.  I had mentioned to her that I had already done most of the work she was wanted to do.  We got to talking and soon The Ultimate Witch was born.

Again the idea was to take work I had done (now close to 500 pages), edit it, combine it with the best witch-related OGC out there, and recraft it all for Pathfinder.  The goal is to have a one stop book for all everything you need to play a witch character in Pathfinder.  Not just new spells, but hexes, backgrounds, new uses for old skills, magic items, feats and backgrounds.

I am not ready to release too many details, but this book would be the spiritual successor to both Liber Mysterium and Way of the Witch.  Neither of which are available in print anymore.  It would also update a lot of great d20 witch material, some of which has no equivalent for the Pathfinder game.

Now there are a couple of really obvious questions.
First what is in this book that is not in my other books? Simple answer is "a lot". When working on the first draft of what would become the Ultimate Witch I converted it over to "Basic" for The Witch.  What didn't fit or I could not convert I threw out.  All that stuff is back.  I don't want give the impression that it was thrown out because it was bad. Some of it, like feats for example, just didn't work. Others there were no good rules for with the way I saw the Basic Witch, like 9th level spells.   Plus the d20/Pathfinder system gives me a lot room to work on things too.  Some of the OGC I want to use did make it's way into The Witch and EW, but only the stuff I had used in playtests and my own games.  With the Ultimate Witch a lot more great stuff is going back in.  In particular the OGC from Way of the Witch.
I am also being joined by others on this, so the vision is not mine alone (that would be dull!)

Another question is why do this?  I mean I do have two books I am really, really happy with and proud of.  Why go back to well?  The answer here is again a simple one.  I like the Pathfinder witch, but she could be so much better.  As it turns out I have those things on my hard-drive.

So stay tuned.  I'll have more to say on this and how I plan to have a Witch and a Warlock classes.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Darwin's Guidebook of creatures, Mythical and Mundane for the Gaslight RPG

So I have been quietly working on this:

Art by Nolan Segrest

Darwin's Guidebook of creatures, Mythical and Mundane for the Gaslight RPG.

It is the first Victorian age monster book I have ever done.

The Gaslight RPG is a late Victorian Age Setting for d20 and Savage Worlds from Battlefield Press.
The Second Edition game will be out soon. along with another book I co-wrote, Dr. Challenger's Guide to the Unknown.  I did a whole bit on the Hollow Earth which was wicked fun.

Darwin's Guide was fun, but a lot harder than expected.
The design goal was easy enough.  Write a monster book with some common monsters, do it for the Victorian age, but write it in the style of Charles Darwin.

Since I am a fan of Darwin I went back to his most popular works, "The Voyage of the Beagle", "On the Origins of Species" and "The Descent of Man".  I also read his autobiography and a couple biographies.
Darwin was an interesting man and soon it became obvious there is no way he would have accepted a world that had magic in it.  He was too rational, too ordered.
Soooo I had to cheat. A lot.

In the end I hope the book is pleasing for Game Masters and players.  I hope that through this book you pick up one of his books.

Not sure when this will hit the shelves.  The publisher is in control of it now.
But expect a lot more from me on it when it comes up.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

May Monster Maddness: Monster Books

Monster Books

I can't beleive I almost forgot this today.  It is still Thursday where I am sitting.

So I am presently working three books with monsters.

Eldritch Witchery, which you all know about which includes all the demons and devils I have been talking about since February for the Spellcraft & Swordplay game.

Here There Be Dragons, is the book I am working on with my son.  It has all sorts of dragons, dragon like creatures and some new classes for Advanced Era Old School Games or OSRIC.

Lastly, and the one that I have been working on the most, is Darwin's Guide to Creatures.  It is for the Gaslight game, so both d20 (3.x era) and Savage Worlds.

Each one has a different focus, different feel and almost no overlap between the books.  I think there is one creature in both the Darwin's Guide and EW, but they are presented very differently.

So all in all I figure over the last 3 months I have written the stats and or backgrounds for some 400+ monsters.  I am getting a touch burned out by them to be honest!  But hey, you do what you can and I hope that all those years of reading monster books and my public library as a kid will now pay off.

Enjoy this? Please check out the other monster posts today!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Review: Amazing Adventures

Amazing Adventures RPG

I am woefully behind on reviews.  So I want to do one I picked up at Gen Con and it has been sitting on my desk, taunting me to review it.

First off some disclaimers.
* I do know the author Jason Vey and we have worked on projects together before.  This is not one of those projects.
* I did read a playtest version of this game some time ago.  This review is on the published version of the book.
* I did not get a free copy of this. I pledged in Troll Lords pre-order program and picked it up at Gen Con.

Ok.  All of that is out of the way.

Amazing Adventures (hereafter AA) is a new Pulp Action RPG based on the same SIEGE Engine that runs Castles & Crusades.  Unlike other SIEGE games, this one is 100% compatible with C&C.  So much so that I plan on using them together, but I'll get to that.  Right now let's talk about what the book has.

Upfront we get our OGL declaration including a lot of Open content.  This will make it easy to make "Pulp d20" supplements or use this for other sorts of games.

We move right into an introduction to what Pulp Roleplaying is.  I know Jason, I know he knows Pulp quite well.  Reading this then is like reading Steven Kenson on Supers Roleplaying; I know he gets it at a level above me.  In this case yes, but Jason still brings it down to the peasants like myself to understand.  For me I am constantly defining Pulp by old movies or, more to the point, what it isn't.  It isn't Victorian, it isn't 50's Atomic Sci-Fi (yet) or Ultra Modern.
There is a brief introduction on the use of magic.  Something I'll get to again in a bit.

Book One deals with Characters. Note, there are not multiple books, but divided withing the physical book.
If you have played, oh, ANYTHING in the last 40 years then you know what this is.  The same 6 attributes of all d20 games and C&C.  They are described with a little more information given to languages.

There are Classes. This is based on Castles & Crusades afterall.  The Arcanist (who reminds of the Harry Dresden covers), are our magic users.  What I like about them is that they choose how their magic works.  So a "wizard" may memorize spells and choose Intelligence as their Spell-casting Attribute. Or Wisdom if it is deep understanding or Charisma if it is force of character.  I like this. A lot.  The Arcanist is a bit tougher than your d20 wizard with d6 HD.  More emphasis is given to cantrips/0-level spells and less on really high level ones.  Makes sense really.
The Gadgeteer is used to make all sorts of high tech gadgets.  Your Howard Hughes-like characters.  You hard-boiled detectives are well represented by the Gumshoe.  The Hooligan is your all purpose neer-do-well, from street urchins to thieves and generally all purpose bad guys.  But that doesn't mean your character is bad, no he/she could have a heart of gold and be down on their luck. ;)  The Mentalist is a great addition given the fascination that the time had with Mentalism/Spiritualism. If the Arcanist is a "magical" character then the Mentalist is the "pyschic" one.  I also want to point out here that the Mentalist is a PERFECT class to port over to C&C if you want to do psychic/psionic powers there.  The Pugilist is your bare knucks fighter. We have these chaps in the Victorian era games too, but these have some nice features.  There is the Raider for your big game hunters or Indiana Jones types. Finally the Socialite.
There are some good rules on multiclassing as well, which is great for this Socialite/Hooligan I want to make.

The same Alignment system is in play as C&C.  Personally I would have liked something different. The nice thing is that it is completely optional.  I think for anything other than a D&D/C&C game I would drop it.

Next up are Fate Points.  These work like Drama or Hero Points.  The characters gain them at a level increase, but chances are they will spend them faster.  I have ported this over to C&C and other d20 games and they work great.  There is a lot you can do with these above and beyond normal "points" and they really add to the Pulpy feel of the game in my mind.  The main character doesn't die in Chapter 1 or Reel 1, and he doesn't die at Level 1 either.  Fate points are the "To Be Continued!" of the game.

The book on Characters ends with some equipment from the Pulp age including when they were introduced (good) and pricing for the times.

Book 2 is Advanced Character Customization
AA is not just about leveling up characters, there are other ways to advnace and customize your Pulp Hero.
Characters can have Abilities (like Ace), Backgrounds (like Scientist), Skills, and Traits.  Traits are bit like Feats and a bit like Qualities and Drawbacks in other games.

Since there is Arcana and this Pulp there is a chance the characters will run into something that will break their little minds.  So we have a section on Sanity.  These rules are simple and solid really.  There is not too much detail to read like the latest DSM but enough for a game.

There is also a section on Wealth which is dealt with not as money, but rating based on class.

Book 3 deals with the Paranormal
In particular this chapter details the differences between psionics and magic.  Again, this would be great to port over to C&C.   The basic mechanics behind using psionics and magic are also detailed.  Frankly I am really, really glad that Psionics are different from Magic.  They should be and they should feel different. One of my disapointments with D&D3x (and 4e) was Psionics were treated just like another form of magic and they shouldn't be.

Spellcasting is based on Mana points which is a good change really, and fits with the Pulp period more in my mind.   Spells are largely treated the same way as other d20 products so adding new spells is actually pretty easy.

What is interesting about both the magic spells and psionic powers is they both have associated Ability scores.  So a spell might require Intelligence or Charisma.

Book 4: Rules of the Game is next.
It is what you would expect it to be.  Maybe a little more information on non-lethal and unarmed and two-fisted fighting.  There are some more gadgets here, in particular modes of transportation.

Book 5 covers the Bestiary
In pulp literature there were still unknown lands to discover and many of those lands had never been seen by man before so who knows what sorts of beasts would dwell there?  Well not really dinosaurs or giant apes, but in your game you can.  We get a nice mix of classical monsters, atomic-horror giants, undead creatures and aliens.  It's crazy. But crazy in a good way.  Since the monsters are standard format you can even pull out any monster book for C&C (or d20) and use those monsters too.

Book 6 Running a Pulp Game is next.
Details the pulp 4-act adventure (for contrast I typically run 3-act adventures for Buffy and 5-act ones for Ghosts of Albion).  For your benefit a sample adventure is included.

We end the book with a Character Sheet.

There are plenty of support files from the author:

This is the errata for the first printing (dark cover):

A Character sheet:
And expanded Firearms.  These are in addition to what is found in the books:

Ok. Judgement time.

Science Fiction Double Feature
I like this book a lot.  I am not sure I would ever play in a pulp setting, but I think it is a great update/replacement for Modern d20.  Truthfully while reading this what I REALLY want to do with this is something along the lines of 50's and 60's monster movies.  So aliens attacking the earth, giant insects and kaiju.  "This Island Earth", "Forbidden Planet", "Them", "Day of the Triffids" and the like.  I know this is not what the book was designed to do.  But it sure works great for it to be honest.  Actually better than great.

I have a lot of Pulpish, 2-fisted  adventure, games.  This one is great for Pulp, but to ignore the flexibility in this game would be a crime.  Plus the 50s are an under-represented time in RPG games.

Stand and Deliver!
Another thing that this game is PERFECT for is as a supplement to Castles & Crusades.  Not only do you get an updated Arcane class, you get a perfectly workable Psionic class with powers.   Even if you don't use that try using the Fate Point system with C&C.

One of the nice features of this game is the use of just using a +5 for Primes.  Instead of a TN or 12 or 18 like C&C, AA gives you a plus to your roll.  We housed ruled this for C&C a while back and I understand it is fairly common.  I like it better than the core C&C rules and will use this instead.

There is something else that this game would be perfect for.  I have had this desire to do a game based in 16th to 17th Century England where I could cover such topics as Queen Elizabeth, The Stuart Kings and Queens, Shakespeare, Sir Francis Drake, Guy Fawkes, John Dee, Highway Men, sail and conquest.  This plus C&C minus many of the D&D trappings would be perfect.

I am thinking of modding the vehicle combat rules for Highwaymen on horse back and coaches-in-four.  Stand and deliver indeed!

What is missing from the book that I think would have been nice are some Archetypes/1st level NPCs.
Also a supporting cast might also be good.  What level and class is Police Officer O'Hara at Precinct 9 where you get all your good tips?

A couple of adventures from the publisher would also be nice.  You could put a few of them into one book.

Also missing, but something that I can easily find, is a map of the World circa 1930 with so travel times and costs. I would have liked some more information on the world too.  I guess that is the one thing that this book lacks.  Granted, these things are typically covered in a Game Masters' book or a Campaign book.   I ignored it up to this point because I was so drawn in by all the things I want to do with this that I never considered missing.  I am hesitant to count off for it since a.) I only noticed it now despite having had and played around with this game for a while and b.) I was not then and am not now likely to even use it.

So where do end this?
Well I really like this book.  Even if I never play it as intended there is just too much good stuff in it to ignore.

Buy this if... like Jason's other books.  This is his style through and through. like two-fisted pulp action adventure. like Castles & Crusades and are looking to turn it up a notch or add Psionics or a Fate Point system. want a flexible modern system built on a system that is tried and tested for years. want easy to use vehicle combat rules.

My imagination is really grabbed by this system.  I think there is a lot of potential here and a lot I want to do with this game.

Friday, November 30, 2012

TBBYANR: Two "new" blogs

Well they are new to me.

D20 Dark Ages

D20 Dark Ages is run by Stelios a writer and historian.  The blog mostly focuses on his one gaming exploits from the time period of 1989 to now.  There is a strong old-school vibe to his blog and details on what really were the Dark Ages in my mind as well, the period of the death of TSR but before 3.0.

Interesting site and I hope to see a lot more.


Coniccritique was turned on to me by an old friend.  It's not an RPG blog, but as the name suggests, a comic review blog.  There is quite a bit of good critical insight.  It is a work in progress, but the writing is good.
I enjoyed his reviews of Batwoman and Justice League Dark and honestly he reminded me why I was reading two of the best New52 comics.

So go out read them, follow them.  I am expecting them both to get bigger and better.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Review: Rogue Mage (2012)

What if someone held an apocalypse and nobody came?

That is an over-simplification, but it is the jist of what I get from reading a little bit of the Rogue Mage series by Faith Hunter. Now I need to be upfront here about a few things.

1. I have never read the Rogue Mage books, but they are something I have been aware of and I have been meaning to check out.
2. I know Christina Stiles and have worked with her (somewhat) in the past.

That out of the way, lets look at this game.

Rogue Mage is a new RPG from Christina Stiles and Faith Hunter, published by Misfit Studios.
It is a modern supernatural game, so I am already inclined to like it, but also inclined to be critical of it.  I will work to balance this for this review.

The game is a d20 based one, but not 100% d20.  There is a list of changes for those of us that pick up a d20 game and try to go as we always have.  So no attacks of opportunity, no hp, no classes, no levels and so on.  Mostly this resembles Mutants & Masterminds 2nd Ed quite a bit.  The damage tracker is similar, but  simpler. There is a Toughness save (like M&M) and Combat is a skill (like other games). So mechanics wise this is really an elegant system, but it doesn't add a lot of new material.
So like M&M all you need is a d20 to play.
Also this is the Player's book only.  The Game Master's Guide will be out later.

Chapter 1 covers the basic rules of the game.  I thought this was a touch odd, since we have not rolled up any characters yet, but I think the reasoning is that the rules are so simple that leading off with them allows you to read them once and then easily refer back to them as needed.

Chapter 2 covers the setting.  You don't need have read the Faith Hunter books to use this game, something I think is very important.  The books look good and I am looking forward to reading them, but I have this book now.  Briefly the world changed with the return of the Seraphs on June 12, 2011. Day before my birthday. The war that follows engulfs the world and leaves it in shambles; in fact it is known as the Last War. The present day is 2117 (or 105 PA, post ap).  Given Rush is in concert as of this writing 2112 would have been cooler for me, but hey.   Immediately I am drawn to the parallels between this game and Eden's Armageddon. Except in Armageddon the war is still going on and it's 2018 (that seemed SO far away back when I was playtesting the game). The world though in Rogue Mage is more messed up with the new Ice Age and all the plagues.   Tech is all over the place with advanced technology in the regions away from the ice to steam powered retro-tech.

Chapter 3 is Character Creation. There are abilities and skills familiar to most d20 games.  Characters though have points in which to buy these similar to many other non-d20 systems and M&M. In addition there are Talents, Drawbacks and Magic.  First up are the character races; neomage, third-generation kylen, human, seraph-touched, rogue daywalker, and second unforeseen (mule). These are detailed in the book and fit into the cosmology of the game.  Races can be bought with character points, or in the case of humans, character points are awarded back to you. Attributes and skills are bought with points.  Talents can either be normal, special or supernatural and have varying point costs. Drawbacks give you back points. There are also Luck points (think Hero or Drama points) and a virtue/taint tracker which is a new twist.
There is a character creation walk-through and many sample characters.

Chapter 4 deals with abilities; Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom and so on and saves.
Chapter 5 deals with skills. The list is a familiar one for anyone that has played a d20 game in the last 12 years.  Of note though, Combat is a skill now.  I rather like that to be honest.  A trainable skill instead of a built in aptitude.

Chapter 6 covers Talents.  Think of these as something similar to Feats or Qualities, or most like the Powers in True 20.  Many of these are Feats from the SRD, but that is fine because they still work here.  As you can imagine there are a lot of them here, a little more than 30 pages worth.  Then we also get the Drawbacks.  These are like negative feats.  They take something from you, but you get Character Points in return. We get 10 pages of those.

ASIDE: While this game diverts a bit from the d20 mainstream, there is enough here that is the same to make you wonder if your other d20 resources might work with it.  For that answer I would have to say I see no reason why not.  Sure you are deviating from the source material more, but mechanically speaking, unless it relates to levels, classes or HP I can't see why it wouldn't work.

Chapter 7 is Magic. There is a lot here, not just in terms of rules for magic, but the spells themselves. Over 46 pages.  Again some spells from other games could be converted and used here.  One would need to figure out the point cost for casting them.  I wonder if the spells from the d20 Call of Cthulhu would be compatible?  Or even BESM d20 Advanced Magic.  If so, then this game would open up a wealth of playing options.

Chapter 8 details Virtue, Money and Luck.  Virtue and Taint stand in for the basic alignment system, but this also has more in-game effects.  Virtuous characters are more resilient to some magics for example.
Wealth is a score, rather than a track-able resource like gold pieces.  And Luck Points, like I mentioned are like Hero or Drama points.

Chapter 9 discusses Secondary Characters, aka NPCS.
Chapter 10 has equipment. It is an interesting mix of future and past tech and high tech and magic.

Chapter 11 details combat.  Combat normally gets it's own chapter, but I would have figured it a little closer to skills.  No matter, it is here and it tells you what you need to know. Of importance here is the damage track and conditions rules.  Remember, there are no HP here, so this is how you know if you are good or about to die.  This combat makes this game a bit more deadly than your typical d20 game.

We end with some fiction from Faith Hunter (each chapter had some too) and an Index.

The layout is clean and easy to read.  The art is really good as well and really captures the feel of the game well I think.  It is all black and white so it won't kill your printer.

There is a lot I really like about this game.  First it has so much potential with things I am already doing.  Secondly the fact that is also seems to fit in mechanically with a bunch of books I already have is also great.

I think I would have loved to have seen this as a Unisystem game.  But I know there are a lot of reasons why that could not have been done.  Plus the rules from Mutants & Masterminds, as I have done in the past, can be tweaked to give you a Unisystem like experience.  To be 100% honest if there is anyone out there that could be trusted to do that it is Christina Stiles and Misfit Studios.

Something though is keeping me from absolutely loving this game though.  I think it is because I have not read the books it is based on yet.  I also think there is not enough information here on how to run a game.  That is not a big deal for me really, I have 100s of books that tell me that. I don't know how to run one in this universe.
But these are not the shortcomings of this book; only my understanding of the world of this book.
I do hope the Game Master's Guide comes with a sample adventure.

Here is what I do know.  Misfit Studios has done a a great job in the past with Unisystem products and Mutants & Masterminds ones.   This rule set seems to be a perfect middle ground for them and I hope that we get to see it for more games.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Celtic-themed Games

I have really been reading a lot of games based on real world myths, and mostly Celtic myths.  There are a lot of good ideas in these games, but none that felt perfect to me.  I am still looking though!

Slaine the RPG of Celtic Heroes
Mongoose has released their 2002 OGL game, Slaine to PDF for what I think is the first time ever.

To begin with this is NOT a game of generic Celtic myths and heroes, this is a game for the 2000AD comic Slaine which borrows a lot from Celtic myth, but takes a number of liberties as well.
It also diverges from it's SRD/d20 3.0 (NOT 3.5) roots.  So when reading, keep this in mind.

The book is very typical of a setting-type book.
We start with a number of classes. These have all be re-flavored to fit the mythos of the world better.  So Tribal Warriors and Witches join the ranks of Druids and Thieves. Also we only have 3 races, Human, Dwarf and Warped-Ones (humans changed permanently by their interactions with the Beast Folk).
Next we come to skills and there are some differences here than the d20 norm.
We also get a new honor system. Enech: Honour and Reputation is used to tell the value of a warrior (his Sarhaed or Honor Price). It is also used when someone it wronged or challenged in a battle. In a lot ways it should be more important than XP.  Tied to this are weirds (fate) and geas (taboos).
A strong collection of feats are presented. Including the fabled Warp Spasm and Salmon Leap.

Goods and Weapons is next and it deserves a careful read from the player.  Afterall you might know that 3 gold piece is worth 3 cows, but that won't help you when all you have to barter for your new sword are chickens and pigs.
Combat is given special attention. In particular we get one on one combat, chariot combat and larger army combat. Useful for any d20 game in truth.
Magic and Spells are handled in a very different way. With each spell costing EP. Details are given about how gain and get EP for magical use.

We get some information on Slaine's world including the mythic version of the British Ilses (Albion, Alba, Cambria and Eriu or England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland respectively).
There is a section on adventures which includes some very interesting Prestige Classes.
We also get a run down on the Goddesses and Gods of the Tir Nan Og, and the bestiary of normal animals and more fantastic monsters.
Campaign ideas and notes.

All in all a good book if you are a fan of the comic or in Celtic myths in general. My only disappointments in this is some of the art is a low res scan and it looks very pixelated, the other is that there is no character sheet included.  The character sheet for Slaine was one of the nicest ones from early in the d20 craze.

Bardic Lore: The Fachan
Celtic myth and lore is full of strange creatures. Some that don't quite have an analogue anywhere else.  The Fachan is one such creature.  Their might be similar creatures in other myths (I bet the Japanese or the myths of India have something like this) but none I can recall off the top of my head.  This book gives us the background on the Fachan, 3.x style monster stats and some ideas to use it in your games.  There is also a Fachan NPC and some notes on using the beastie as a character race.  All in all not bad, and then when you consider the price then it is great.

Bardic Lore: Ogham
This is a well researched guide on Ogham, the written language of stones often seen near ancient Celtic settlements.  This product blends historical findings with mythology to give us something very cool indeed.  New ideas for Druids and Bards using Ogham are included along with a new feats, skill uses and revised spell lists.  What is nice is the chart of the Ogham characters with sounds, English letter equivalents, and tree names.  A lot of research went into all of this and the quality shows. Don't take it as a historical treatise on Ogham, but it is a great tool for a game.  Nominally d20/3.5 but really the most of it can be used in any game.

Treasures of the Sidhe
Not a bad product. 45 new magic items of various degrees; most I thought were fine.  It lacks art a lot of art, but for under 3.00 you are getting a lot of magic items and 1 new monster.  Great if you are running a 3.x game bases around the Sidhe or the Seelie/Unseelie courts.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Castles & Crusades updates

I want to thank everyone that gave me advice on C&C recently.

Here is what I now have:

My son owns the physical copies, I bought PDFs.  Because, well, I like reading on my tablet.
We are playing a C&C game at Gen Con and I am going to be playing around a bit with the PHB.

What I like so far is the ability to use 1st ed and 3rd ed material seamlessly.  Yeah I do that now, but I do it with 3e and a lot of prep.

Not 100% what I am going to do yet.  But it will be fun to figure it all out!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P is for Passages

I love Victorian Era games.   There is so much going on in the Victorian age, both in history and literature (esp Horror) that it is ripe for all sorts of gaming opportunities.  I also love being mix it all up; having Jules Verne and Capt. Nemo in the same world as Bram Stoker and Dracula.   So when I find a game that will let me do that (and do it in a cool way) then I am happy.

So today P is for Passages.

Passages is a rather interesting game.  First the premise is one that all the literature of the Victorian age is true...somewhere.  These stories exist in multiple parallel worlds that can be accessed via the Passages.  So in some ways it is like Victorian Age Sliders, or Stargate.  The mechanism for trans-versing these worlds is one of the more clever ones and wholly compatible with Victorian Age ideas.  This is my favorite part of the game; the magic of the Passages and the very clever means of how they can be employed.

The game itself is a Victorian Age one with the aforementioned twist.  It covers the time between 1837 to 1901, so a full Victorian time line is presented.  Though what it has in breadth it lacks in depth as compared to games that only focus on a few years or a decade of the Victorian era.  That being said though, that information is easily found anywhere.  Game Masters should instead focus on which tale they want to interact with.  Is this an Alice in Wonderland game?  Well then that is all you need plus this book.  Dracula? Likewise.
Passages does spend some time on character creation in a Victorian Age and that is a very nice touch.  In fact I found the character creation portion of this book my second favorite part.

The game system itself is a simple version of the d20 system, somewhere between d20 proper and True20.  I think I might have liked it more as a True20 system, but this is a nice middle ground.  The system does add Advantages and Disadvantages to the d20 character creation, but most everything else is skill based.  There are no classes, but there is HP.

There is a great section on the known world and again is a bit broader than other Victorian era games.  This is a game obviously about adventurers, since so many options of places to go and things to do are given.

I love the Sherlock Holmes and Prof. Moriarty sidebars.  Gives the game a really nice touch.

This is great game all by itself and one I am happy to own both the PDF and Print versions of.  Where I get the most use out of it though is as a means of going between different Victorian games.  Create characters and use the rules outlined here so they can move from game to game.

The layout is clean and easy to read.  The art is a nice mix of original work and select PD images from the time.

In truth the only way I would like this more is if it had been created for True20.  The "feel" of the book screams True20 to me and I think it would be a fantastic choice of a system.  Not that there is anything wrong with the system it is using now. This is just a personal thing.

I will probably not play Passages straight, but I will use just about everything in the book for my Victorian games.  It has the mechanics to allow me to cross-over Ghosts of Albion to Cthulhu by Gaslight to Gaslight to Rippers to Victoriana and Victoria.

DriveThru RPG link
Noble Knight Games

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I is for the Imperial Age

The Imperial Age from Adamant Entertainment  (who also gave me last year's I for Icons) is a great collection of Victorian Age source books.  Designed to support D20 Modern, they can be used with just about any Victorian RPG.

They are "out of the box" compatible with OGL Gaslight for example and there is even a True20 source book that combines the materails of many of the books listed below.
I have been using them with Ghosts of Albion, mostly the background information and some of the game-specific material.  But I find that stylistically they tend to support games like Victoriana a little bit more.

I bought a lot of these books when they first came out, but "sat" on them while I was promoting Ghosts of Albion.  I didn't want to get distracted.
Now Ghosts is out there doing it's own thing so I can talk more about the Victorian games I really enjoy.

All the Imperial Age books are all well written and features art from the age, either public domain art and paintings as well as some original art.  In all cases the art is very evocative of the time and very well done.
The books are all easy to read, with clean layout and font sizes.  They can be printed with ease without killing your printer cartridge.

The GameMaster's Guidebook to Victorian Adventure (31 pages with cover and OGL page)

A fantastic guide for running a Victorian Age game.  Plenty of background is given about societies, countries and people of the time.  Quick overviews of  Victorian thoughts on sex, the occult, and other countries  can add plenty of flavor to any game. As well as Alternate-versions of the Victorian setting such as Steam-Punk, Horror, Supers and Alt-Reality.
On the d20 specific side of things, a number of feats are given to be used (but can easily become backgrounds or qualities, depending on what your game needs) and even some advise on converting "Thrilling Tales" Advanced Classes over to Imperial Age.
The advice given is quite good, but the book almost pays for itself in terms of the near complete list of weapons (in d20 format) used.   There is a brief timeline and some references.
If you enjoy Victorian games like I do then this is a great product whether you play The Imperial Age, another d20 product or something else all-together.

Imperial Age Magick (36 pages with cover and OGL page)

I love Victorian era games and I love games with magic in them.  So this book was a no brainer for me to pick up.  Using the vernacular "magick" this book present magick as seen through the eyes of the Victorian.  There are rules to magick and there is heavy reliance of the lieks of Dee and Crowley.  But that is what makes this book cool.
Magick is presented in three different styles; the common d20 magic, a skill based magick, and a school based magick where there are many different types of magick being used at the same time.  The GM needs to decide how magick works and what level of magick is the game; everything from High (D&D like) Magic to Low or No magic at all.
Plenty of background is given for the various types of magic and the authors really did their homework in terms of reading Dee, Levi and Crowley (among others).
d20-wise there are new feats and new uses for skills.  All easily adaptable.
There is a section on magickal gear which I would have liked to see more of to be honest.
The chapter on "Running a Magickal Campaign" bears special mention since it is above and beyong the Imperial Age normal game, but it also has plenty of ideas for all Victorian RPGS.
There are some very useful Appendices, including a Hermitic Scholar class (why it wasn't in the main text I am not sure).
This book is not the end-all be-all of magick in the Victorian age or games, but it is a solid resource full of great advice, ideas and tips.  My only gripe is there could have been so much more added.  But this is balanced with the cover price I guess.

The Imperial Age: Advanced Class - Alienist (12 pages with cover and OGL page)

An Alienist is what we would call a psychiatrist today.  But in the terms of the Imperial Age game, he is a psionic parapyschologist.
The archetypical Alienist would be Dr. Seward from Dracula (sans psionic powers) or maybe even Hannibal Lector for an evil one.
This book also deals with the psychologically disturbed and how some of them can manifest wild psionic powers.  So not quite the crazy one sees in Cthulhu by Gaslight, but more so than Masque of the Red Death.
I give this book credit for coming up for something very original.  I think it is more closely tied the to campaign than say some other Advanced Classes like the Monster Hunter, but I can see this working quite well in say a Rippers game.

The Imperial Age: Advanced Class - Monster Hunter (6 pages with cover and OGL page)

A new advanced class for bumping back the things that go bump in the night.  The monster hunter here is a combination of Van Helsing and Alan Quatermain.
There are some good ideas here, but nothing new or earth shaking.  The class itself is solid and something any d20 character would take a level or two in.
I would have liked to see some monster hunting societies, but I am not complaining for the price.

The Imperial Age: Advanced Class - Scientific Detective (7 pages with cover and OGL page)

Playing Sherlock Holmes.
Having been re-reading a lot of Holmes lately I find this class spot-on.  If the Monster Hunter class is for fighting monsters, then this class is designed to stop crime.  The two work well together since they cover such different grounds.
There is a new feat and a repeated one from Monster Hunter (Gentry).
Again, great value for the price.

The Imperial Age: Advanced Class - Gentleman Scientist (13 pages with cover and OGL page)

If the Scientific Detective book allows you make Holmes, and Monster Hunter make (a younger) Van Helsing, then this book allows you to make a Victorian fantasy Tesla.
If you are looking to turn The Imperial Age into a more Steam Punk style game, then you need to start with this book.
Plenty of new feats are included to allow your Victorian Weird Scientist to make their inventions.
Outside of the d20 realm this book is also a great guide for any sort of weird/super science for the Victorian Age.  While specifically that, it is a great start.

The Imperial Age: Anarchism (11 pages with cover and OGL page)

A little history is helpful here.  Anarchism was a big deal to the Victorians.  Not just in terms of a political movement, but in terms of what it meant.  Society was everything to the Victorians, Anarchy was the opposite of that.
So first off, major kudos for the authors for recognizing this.  It is an edited and thumbnail version, but this is a game book, not a textbook.
While this book is about anarchism, it is also full of things those other misfits of society might need: namely the adventurer.
The book has plot hooks, points of view and what anarchism means in a game world.  So all of this (the first 3/4s of the book) can be used in any game.
The Anarchist Advanced class is pure d20. The new feats are a good, useful bunch that other character might want to take.

The Imperial Age: British India (67 pages with cover and OGL page)

Most Victorian Age games give a paragraph or two about India, which is too bad really.  Victoria herself was known as the "Empress of India".
A good overview of the British involvement in India is given.  Again, this is not a textbook, but a game book.  There are plenty of places to get more detail, but I think what is here is a great start.
Since so much of the British involvement in India was political and military, overviews of the Government and Military, both in England and India is also given.
I like the authentic maps.
In an interesting addition, several Esoteric Societies are included. Obviously due to their ties with anything "Oriental".
A GM's section on running a campaign in India is presented covering Fantasy, Horror, Occult and Engine based game.
We don't get into any d20 specific information till about 46 pages into the book (almost 3/4ths through the book).
d20 specific info includes a section on creatures (wish there more, but this is good), weapons and feats.
The book ends with a set of reference books and films.
All in all I thought this was a great book for any Victorian-era game.  I would love to see more, but I think the book did what is set out to do.
What I can't get from this book I can get from here:

The Imperial Age: Engines (67 pages with cover and OGL page)

Rules and ideas to turn your Imperial Age game into a Steampunk or Gearpunk game.  This book goes beyond what is presented in Gentleman Scientist and presents a new campaign model.
More so than the other books in the Imperial Age line this one has more d20 information.  There is also less "history" than the other books.
Despite all of that, this is a good supplement to add all sorts of things to your game.  If you are a fan of Steampunk/Gearpunk and your current Victorian Game of choice does not support it, then this is a good choice.  If it does then this is a great source for more ideas.

The Imperial Age: Faeries (78 pages with cover and OGL page)

The Victorians loved faeries.  Even the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle loved them a believed they were real.  This book help you do that for your game as well.
Plenty of faerie races are given along with their d20 stats for playing them as characters.  These will work well in any d20 game regardless of the time period.
A new mechanic is introduced, Traits, but familiar if anyone has played Unisystem or GURPS.  In fact it is because of this that makes this book more easily ported over to games like Ghosts of Albion or Victoriana.
Traits and Drawbacks can be bought to customize characters.
Rules for Fey-Touched characters are also given.
There are some monsters stated, mostly these are fey creature that would not work well as characters.  Plenty of new feats and an advanced classes.
Advice is given on the Faerie lands and how to run games that involve the fey.

This might be my favorite of the Imperial Age books just in terms of material to be used.  The organization of the material is kind of all over the place and the art is not quite a good as the other books, but that didn't matter to me since I was most interested in the words on the page.

The Imperial Age: Fantastical Races (70 pages with cover and OGL page)

D&D style races in your Imperial Age game.
This book is a nice companion to Faeries in terms of expanding the fantastical elements of your game.  Also with a little bit of work they could also expand it more into horror.
In addition to the expected Dwarf, Elf and halfling, we also get Beastfolk (similar to the ones found in Victoriana and Gaslight), Celestial Blooded, Demon Blooded, Dragon Blooded, and Lizard Folk.
There are plenty of Paragon Classes for each race as well as feats.
Some campaign ideas are presented, but I feel some of them are getting farther and farther away from the Victorian norm.
Though it is a very fun book and has some great ideas.

The Imperial Age: Fisticuffs & Swordplay (25 pages with cover and OGL page)

Fightclub for Imperial Age.
Information on Fisticuffs, Bartitsu, and swordplay.  Plenty of background and history and bunch of new feats.
Very useful in a game where guns might be rare.

The Imperial Age: Grimoire (75 pages with cover and OGL page)

This book picks up where Imperial Age Magick left off.
The Imperial Age: Grimoire covers grimoires, or magickal texts.
Included is information on how to find these books, how to read and use them and what must be done to unlock their secrets.
There are some sample grimoires detailed, with their spells and some secret societies.  A lot of information is included here and could easily be adapted to any game.  I am thinking of Cthulhu by Gaslight in particular.
Some new and many old OGC spells are also included.  They are all by design d20, but can be converted.  This makes up a lot of the book, but it is needed.

All in all a great book.

The Imperial Age: Hell Hath No Fury (35 pages with cover and OGL page)

Hell Hath No Fury is a "Penny Dreadful", an adventure for the Imperial Age Game.  Designed for newer characters (2 to 4 1st level).
The author takes care to let you know that while the Imperial Age can cover a variety of Victorian game types, he had to make some assumptions to have a pre-written adventure work out, so this one is described as Occult Steam.  I like that.
The adventure is presented in Three Acts and moves at a brisk pace.
The mystery reads like a "Penny Dreadful" and has the feel and atmosphere of a Victorian mystery.   I don't want to spoil things, but this is a fun adventure for the first time players.

The Imperial Age: London (82 pages with cover and OGL page)

A history and overview of the greatest city of the British Empire.  What I liked were the inclusion of the real maps from the time, but improved over how they were presented in the India book.
There is even a brief description of some of the neighborhoods, Gentlemen's Clubs and important sites.  Background on the Peelers is also included.
The book is an overview and doesn't go into great detail in any subject.  Though it is not supposed to be a textbook or a history book, a little more would have been nice.
All in all though it is a fine book.  Perfect for any Victorian game since the d20 content is minimal.

The Imperial Age: Spiritualism (17 pages with cover and OGL page)

Spiritualism was a big part of the late Victorian age.  Not simply Occult, Spiritualism dealt specifically with the communication with those beyond death.
The first part of this book details this well.  The second part discusses how all of this plays out in the Imperial Age game, including the different sorts of campaign modes one might choose.
We are also given a new Advanced Class, the Medium and plenty of new feats, magic.
Again, most of this book is "system free" so it can be used in any game.  The d20 specific stuff is still quite useful.

The Imperial Age: The Price of Immortality (34 pages with cover and OGL page)

Another Penny Dreadful for The Imperial Age.
This one takes advantage of the material found in the London book, so having that on hand is helpful.
It is obvious that the author(s) have learned more about adventure design since "Hell Hath No Fury" since this is a more complex plot and a more detailed adventure (despite being the same size).
A very entertaining adventure that plays to "The Imperial Age's" strengths well.

The Imperial Age: Victorian Monstrosities (89 pages with cover and OGL page)

A monster book with more.  Many of the most frightening creatures we know today have their roots in Victorian literature and history.  Dracula, Carmilla, Jack the Ripper, Half-human mutants, cults.  All can be found in the pages of Victorian origin.
More than just a monster book (though it is that as well), this presents some "history" behind the monster.  I am reminded of some the more detailed Monster Hunter guides I have seen for other games.
There is so much here that it is difficult to quantify it all.  But there is a lot and a lot of it is very, very good.
The stats are all d20, but the backgrounds work for any game.

The Imperial Age: Victorian Occupations (16 pages with cover and OGL page)

This book has the distinction of being the first Imperial Age book I bought.
These are optional, alternate occupations for d20 Modern characters.  Though the background works for any game.
Not a lot of detailed material, but a lot of material all the same.
If you need a list of professions then this a good place to go.

The Imperial Age: True20 Edition (271 pages with cover and OGL page)

True 20 is a perfect solution for all sorts of Modern d20 based games for me and Imperial Age shows why. The rules are adapted from the Imperial Age supplements for d20, so a lot here has been seen before, but all of it looks new through the lens of True 20.

All the Imperial Age products ooze style and this one is no different. There may be better Victorian Age games out there, but one can't deny that this is a great product and a welcome addition to any Victorian gaming library.