Showing posts with label play. Show all posts
Showing posts with label play. Show all posts

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Running the Classics

I don't consider myself to be one of those GMs/Players with "Gammer ADHD".  I like to make a plan and stick with it.  My BIG PLAN for some time now has been to run my kids through all the classic D&D modules in some form or another.

I have detailed my attempts here and here. Since that time we have gotten new reprints from WotC and the DNDClassics PDF store opened up.  My kids also dropped 4e in favor of 1st Ed Ad&D.

So I have an embarrassment of riches here.  I have the systems, I have the modules and I even have the willing players.  What I lack is time to do it all.

I guess the only thing for it is to make the time. That and stop buying games.

In my kid's 3.x game we are going to do the Tomb of Horror and I'll talk about that one later.
In their 1st ed game they are still investigating the Caves of Chaos.  After that that we are doing T1 and L1 before moving on to the A series, to eventually do the GDQ series.  I'll work other classics in there where they fit.

Here is my plan so far.

  • B1 In Search of the Unknown, levels 1-3 (played at Gen Con 2012)
  • B2 Keep on the Borderlands, levels 1-3
  • T1 Village of Hommlet, Intro-levels
  • L1 The Secret of Bone Hill, levels 2-4
  • A0 to A4, levels 4-7
  • A5, The Last Slave Lord, levels 5-9
  • G123, levels 8-12
  • D12, levels 9-14
  • D3, levels 10-14
  • Q1, levels 10-14

The trouble is that living in a post-Drow world the impact of GDQ is just not the same unless I make them very different.
Also while Queen of the Demon web pits is fun, it lacks the final confrontation that I would like to do with a "big bad".  Plus I'd like to go to 20th level.

I could scale everything up a little and stick I1, Dwellers of the Forbidden City in there before the A series.
Other candidates are X2 (I already took them through X1), C1 and C2.

That would round out the classics really.  Here is how they stack;

  • X2 Castle Amber, levels 3-6 (after L1)
  • I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City, levels 4-7 (after A but before G)
  • C1 The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan, levels 5-7 (after A but before G)
  • C2 The Ghost Tower of Inverness, levels 5-7 (after A but before G)

Not to bad really.
It's not too difficult to turn the GDQ series up anyway, but are the drow and Lolth interesting enough?
Since this is the "NextGen" game after my 3.x one maybe Lolth is taking some revenge for her ally Tiamat, or moving into the recently vacated "most evil goddess" role.

While I don't need it a huge Lolth figure would be nice.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Play? Ghosts? Me?

My wife just pointed out to me that I have never actually played Ghosts of Albion (not Angel, not Buffy) as a player.   I have played the rules before. But never as an honest to goodness, made in 1839 player.

How in the heck did I manage that???

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Fortune Cards, Critical Hit Decks, Tarot Cards all in my game!

Heck with it.

One day I am going to going to let my players in whatever D&D-type game I am playing at the time use WotC's Fortune Cards, Paizo's Game Mastery card decks and maybe I'll through in some Tarot/Tarokka Cards and the Deck of Many things all in the same game.

And I'll let my "Boss" or "Big bad" monsters have the same.

What the hell right?  It should be a blast.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Willow and Tara: Season of the Witch

So what is "Willow and Tara: Season of the Witch"?

Well for starters Season of the Witch had three major purposes. First was to show that Willow and Tara could hold a series on their own. I think I showed that well enough in "The Dragon and the Phoenix", but I really wanted to emphasize that here. So to that end there was a format change from the Original Series. To force our hand I decided that we could not even say the words "Buffy" or "Vampire", though vampires I was not so successful with. I have a cut scene near the end of the series when a witch hunter comes to town. She is surrounded by a pack of vampires, then with out a word at all she cuts them all down. I figured in that case I was also further distancing myself from the Original Series since I showed that slaying vampires was no big deal. The other was one I just couldn't help doing and that was Vampire Tara. More on those two though when the time is right.

The second major purpose of this series was to have no big bad.

That's right, none. The Big Bad formula was getting old. Every season on the Original Series was a Big Bad that had to up the ante on the last one. What was next? Galactus? So instead I came up with this idea of the Awakening. Now I kept the Awakening vague for most of the series simply because I also didn't know what it was! I knew it was something that all the magical factions in the world were looking upon with fear, uncertainty and doubt. I knew that Tara's parents discovered the most recent clues about it in 1976. And I knew it dealt with Willow and Tara directly.

In the end, like some of these kinds of things it was a convergence of many ideas into a whole. Which gets to my third major purpose.

The third thing I wanted to do with the series, and this is mostly tangential, is I wanted to work in features from other games. You saw this as my big conversion efforts. Season of the Witch began with elements from WitchCraft and Ghosts of Albion, but I began working in the concepts from other, mostly supernatural horror, games into it. This was not part of the plot, only as a means to give a fuller experience of a much larger world. The Original Series was very narrow in it's focus, something I did not realize till I started to take the series apart. Like in The Dragon and the Phoenix, I wanted the players to feel they were part of a larger world and they did not live in a vacuum. In Season of the Witch there are other things going on, there are other factions, other players and other threats and allies. To help me out I borrowed from other games. There are factions from Mage the Awakening, SAVE from Chill. The Bureau is loosely based on various government bodies found in Conspiracy X, DarkMatter, Bureau 13 and Delta Green. This helped shape the world they lived in, not just some small corner of Southern California.

But this got me thinking, how is that all these games where "magic is real but hidden" work? How is it that magic can stay hidden when there are so many vampire related killings? Are all cops on the take? What is happening? How can this keep going on? And then the answer became clear. It can't. If you read Chill and WitchCraft you get the idea that long ago magic was more common. Then something happened that caused it to be less common. Now something is happening again to make more common. Both Chill and WitchCraft say supernatural occurrences are on the rise. But even the average 2-3 games of WitchCraft have more supernatural things going on than an entire campaign of Chill. Which is fine IF you consider there is 20 years separating them. Then look at Armageddon, 2018 magic and the supernatural are out and in the open. I had my answer.

The Awakening is the falling of the Veil between our world and the magical one. After the awakening we will be living in a world were magic is real and everyone knows about it.

The characters have to decide whether or not this is a good thing and which of the factions working for/against them they can trust if any.

But I also needed to stay true to my first major purpose; Willow and Tara. So if the world was going to go full on magic, or not, something needs to happen to these two as well. Given the research I was doing, and again taking an idea from my contributor and playtester Lisa Countryman, I decided that Willow and Tara were also going to become the first Mages.

Exactly what a Mage is will detailed soon.


Obviously Willow and Tara, but that is almost too small of a group. But still all I had them in was Bob's '67 Ford Thunderbird. I needed to be very clever or lucky. I was both.

The other main character was Robert Maclay, Tara's father. He was a ghost ala Ghosts of Albion (I'll post his stats soon). He had been the team leader back in '76 so his insight was needed. He also had the whole repentant thing going, he needed to prove to his daughter that he was not really a heartless bastard. Well. He was, but he had his reasons, and those reasons are the same ones why he did not want Tara in Sunnydale, that he lied to her for years and inventiblly why her mother died.

Plus if you were a young lesbian on a road trip with your girlfriend who is the last person you want tagging along? That's right the ghost of your strict and very conservative father! He made it in on comedy alone!

I also needed another character. For this I needed someone with fighting ability. I love Willow and Tara, but in physical combat they suck. Bob is fine, as long as whomever he is hitting is also a supernatural creature. A mundane can't be hit by him, hell they can't even see him. So I needed some one with some firepower, some physical ability to fight, and someone that could fit in a convertible with two other people.

I considered using Ms. Kitty as High Bast, but truth be told, I dismissed it as soon as came up with it. No good reason, and even while typing this now I can't think of a reason not to do it. But it wasn't what I wanted really.

In the end I went with another character I felt got shafted, Cordelia, as a Charmed style White Lighter. It fit really. I had a Charmed crossover coming up. I had already used her once in "Will We Burn in Heaven?" and the Ascension quality I gave her was not very different than the White Lighter one. She could pop in and out as needed and then didn't have to be in the car the whole time. I gave Cordy other "charges" to explain why she could not get them out of every mess. And the girls needed to drive to recreate Bob and Megan's (Tara's mother) original mission. Plus, and lets be really honest here, Charisma Carpenter is hot.

Willow and Tara get Bob's car and Megan's journal/Book of Shadows (things that can help them or be stolen if I need them to be) and the adventure is ready to begin!

Here is my original outline for the season:

Main plot is witchcraft and magic. With seasonal issues of family.

Season of the Witch - Cinematic game set in 2003-2005. Set in the same universe as "The Dragon and the Phoenix". Heavy WitchCraft RPG elements (with many elements from "Ghosts of Albion").

Willow and Tara travel back to Tara's home town for the funereal of her father. While there they discover that Robert and Megan Mclay (Tara's parents) were involved with a secret society of hunters of the supernatural. Visited by Robert's ghost, Willow and Tara retrace the steps of Robert and Megan's failed 1976-1980 mission. Tara's mom had a vision of the world in Chaos, magic open and running amok. Thousand's kill themselves in crises of faith, others began to hunt down and kill witches.

Watching them are the Government (the Bureau), SAVE, the Daughters of the Flame, the Witches Committee and Lilith. All know about the "Awakening", or a fundamental change in the nature of magic. Most believe it means magic will be exposed (it has already begun).

The Awakening: Magic is going to be exposed. The various groups, Cleaners, Guardians, Protectors all know this and there is nothing they can do to stop it. But Willow and Tara are going to give it a try.

This will certainly throw society into chaos. To stop it the girls need to shut down several key portals. Willow & Tara stumble on this reality and learn that Tara's mother and father, while working for a small team of psychic investigators discovered this in 1976. Now 30 years later the prophecies are coming true.


The Witches' Committee wants this to happen and are poised to take control in the ensuing chaos. Human witches.

Lillith wants to keep the status quo since she knows that the mundanes will turn on witches and slaughter them. Lillith runs "L Enterprises". (have a report of how W&H were destroyed by her). She is running the auction in San Francisco. Approached by Lillith. Anya is there, she is now divorced and working for Lillith. Lillith does not reveal all her plans yet.

Governmental Bodies. The Bureau (introduced last season) is working on a "final solution" for the problems with magic and demons. Bob knew of them, but never trusted them. Of course they want to stop the awakening as well, but have other plans too.

Daughters of the Flame. This group of witches has a different view on what the Awakening means and they are convinced it has to do with Willow and Tara specifically.

RESOURCES: Cordy, Bob Mclay, Megan's journal.

NOTE: I do not remember who originally did that image above. It was a desktop image that I most certainly downloaded from the Kitten Board. I added the text myself later. If the creator sees this then please contact me for your proper credit or removal of the pic.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

It's all in the (Fortune) cards

Back when I was experimenting with d20 games to play with my son I spent some time with Big Eyes, Small Mouth d20.  In that game there is a character class call Pet Monster Hunter, which is supposed to mimic the anime tropes of various monster fighting shows. Think Pokemon, Yugi-oh! and others.  My son, being a huge Pokemon fan opted for this class right away, and since he was very young at the time most of his pet monsters were various Pokemon critters.  Now I am not sure about you, but I have not run into many stats for cute fuzzy fighting monsters.  To me it was just easier to use Pokemon.  One day my son wanted to bring his actual Pokemon cards and use them in play, sort of a game within the game.  I knew that A. it would work, but B. I needed to limit the cards he brought to the table.  So based on the power level of his character (the book tells you how many monsters you can have) I said he could bring in X number of cards.  It worked out well.
We later discovered that it worked just as well for his small collection of Yugioh cards, some deck of monster cards I got free at a Con sometime back and nearly everything.  The cards did their own damage (as dictated by their own game) to each other it worked great.

When playing C. J. Carella's WitchCraft I have a deck of Tarot cards I use sometimes in place of dice.  The cards are shuffled and drawn instead of rolling a d10.  If a suit card comes up then we play it like the "Rule of 10" plus something extra.  If a Major Arcana comes up then something weird and special happens.

Where am I going with this?

Well WotC has announced that they are going to start implementing a new set of "Fortune Cards" to D&D. And of course people are complaining.

Man, somedays I swear dealing with gamers is worse than dealing with 3-year olds.

Fortune cards, briefly, are sold in packs of 8 for about 4 bucks.  The cards basically detail something that can happen in an encounter.  The example they give is when you or an ally adjacent to you fails a save, you can pull a card for a re-roll.  Game shattering to be sure.

I also should point out that these cards are designed to be used with "Wizards Play Network programs and other D&D organized play games in 2011" and "It's important to point out that Fortune Cards are not a requirement for D&D play".
But that has not stopped the cries of "Oh noes! Its teh death of D&D!  Wizards is ruining it!!"

I hope Wizard's makes an absolute ton of money on these.

I might allow them in my game, I might not.  I'll have to buy a couple packs to be sure (see there, WotC is at least getting 8 bucks from me and I am not even sure I'll use them).  It's just a funky little edition to the game.

Who knows the text on the cards might even be worded generically enough that they can be used with ANY version of D&D.  Miss a saving throw in the Tomb of Horrors?  Not now! I have my "Re-roll a save card" who is to say that save is a D&D4 style death saving throw,  a D&D3 Fortitude save or a Save vs. Poison?

Just like Pokemon, I'd limit the number of cards a player could bring to the table.  And is this such a big deal? I mean who am I talking about here?  My "players" are my kids and I have control what they the rest of the time as well and that includes what they buy and how often they get to the game store.  But even if someone new comes in I can still say "house rules are no Drow and only 1 Fortune card for every 3 levels".

And it is nothing new. Paizo has their Plot Twist Cards and didn't Torg have some sort of fate card as well? And according to some, Dave Arneson even used something very similar.

Much ado about nothing I say.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

DIY Minis

One thing I never quite understood was when people slam 4e (or even 3e for that matter) one of the things they point to is the use of miniatures.  Haven't we always used miniatures?   I know I have seen that somewhere before...

Plus minis are so cool to have.  I can imagine with the best of them and I have a pretty good visual memory.  But having a mini on the table is great fun.  I also happen to LIKE the collectible aspect of it all and the surprise of not know what you might get.  I got a Tiamat once out of regular old box of minis for 20 bucks.  You can't really beat that feeling.

But sometimes I want something special or sometimes I something laying around that I can use.  So here are some DIY mini ideas.  Yes you can use them with any version of the game.

This one you have seen before.

Orcus and Aspect of Orcus set me back quite a bit.  Destroyah and Aspect of Destroyah set me back about 10 bucks. Total.

Here are some others.

Some undead dinosaurs threaten the Dragon Slayers.  The one in the back even glows in the dark.  Some of these came from a teacher's supply store, one or two of them where attached to a dinosaur shirt I had bought for the kids at the mall.  The size looks about right to me.

Here the Dragon Slayers see if they can live up to their name.  A couple of HeroClix (or maybe some other similar game) dragons bought cheap at GenCon, a couple of fire breathing dragons bought at the Ren Faire a few years ago, a McFarlane dragon and Sea Dragon and a viper fish from Safari Ltd. a company that makes scientific models for schools of real (and fantastic) animals.  The McFarlane dragon has a sigil on it's wing so we decided that even though he is an evil red dragon, he cares more about finding more magic than hording treasure, or rather he hoards magical items and books.  Need to stat him up one day for you all.

And of course this one.

The Dragon and the Phoenix.

So basically there are tons of great mini ideas out there.  Go read Zak's blog to see all the cool things they do with props and do-it-yourself stuff.  All I did here was raid the kids toys for a bit.  Sometimes we find a toy here or in the stores for cheap and say "we need that for D&D!".  And given my oldest loves to collect dragons, they usually serve double duty.

And not to let my Unisystem games go unloved,

Willow and Tara in the Charmed Ones' Attic during the events of "Semi-Charmed Life" where they also got to meet the Paradox versions of Willow and Phoebe.  Ok, these are a bit bigger than mini, but they are still pretty cool.  All of these I got from CineQuest, my favorite place to shop for little plastic people.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


How much back story do you like to have for your characters or for characters in game you run?

I get the opinion from many old school blogs that back story only comes up if the characters survive.  The proverbial "you meet an Inn" as if the characters were born there fully formed.  In other games I play  back story is more important.  Even with the same group of players I see differences depending on the game played.

Starting on my My Back to Basics posting, I wanted to get some basic ideas where the players want their characters to come from. 
So I talked to my boys today about it, about their characters and how sometimes the greatest heroes start out as small. So here is what my oldest came up with.
His characaters (I am lettting them play two each) are Dragonborn brothers that grew up on an orphanage/farm.  Farming is not considered to be a good choice for a dragonborn (even though they are raising giant boars) so the lowest members of society are left with the chore.  Dragonborn are used hunting their food, but they see the need for farmed food as well.  So farms are a bit of a necessary evil, but these farms are not easy work.
Liam's characters are dragonborn brothers working on this farm.  They don't know, at least not yet, that their father was a great adventurer who did from "Dragonitis".

I thought this was rather cool. AND it shows why I am loathe to indrisciminantly kill characters.  Could you have imaged a movie or book where you follow the hero for a bit only to have him die in the third scene/chapter only to die and have him replaced by another character.  The movie was named after Indiana Jones, not Sapito.

How much do you know about your characters before the game starts? Or is your character just a collection of numbers to you or do you figure it out as you go along?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Problem Player

So I play a lot of games.  It is cool really, it gives me the chance to meet all sorts of people and really get to know them.  I have made some great friends while gaming and I hope to continue to do so.

But this time I am not talking about any of that.

Today I want to talk about the problem player.
We have this guy in one of my groups.  I am not going to mention his name or which group he is in, but suffice to say he is just not working out.  He seems to be a nice enough guy.  He isn't a freak or psycho or anything like that. He just doesn't fit the group dynamic well.
So far through his actions at least two characters have died over the course of the game.  I am not sure what exactly he is trying to do half the time and he spends the session getting so jacked up on caffeine that it is hard to watch him.  No he is not running around like a squirrel on meth or anything, but there it is like his whole boody is vibrating at a frequency that only he and the Flash can relate too.

I think part of the problem too is there is a significant age difference between him and the other players.  The GM is ready to cut him, based on the "he should know better" principle, a couple of the players want him out now and the rest are rather non-committal.

I want to restate it is not that he is screwing up.  I am playing a different character type than I am used too (we all are really) and all of us have made silly rules mistakes that noobs would not make and some "type" mistakes (ie I keep thinking I can throw spells so I put myself in situations that would be good for that).

But he is not bringing anything to the table really.  He is a good guy, but he just doesn't "get it" I think. He throws off the group dynamic.

What are your opinions?  Have you run into the same situations?  How do you / did you handle it?

Monday, May 17, 2010

Reflection time!

Lot's going on around the ole' Other Side over the last few days. Let's recap.

New Followers
Welcome all new followers and thank you for your continued support to all!  If there is anything you would like to see me opine about, shoot me an email or a post.  I turned off moderation, which means I do get the occasional spammer, but I thought it would be better for ease of communications.

Ronnie Jame Dio
RJD died.  Truthfully he was as much an influence on my games as are names like Moorcock and Tolkien.  OK, maybe not that much, but he was still an influence.

Twilight the RPG
WOW. That struck a nerve.  I want to spend some more time on this one.  Just not sure what else I want to say yet.

Pathfinder weekend
Got to play Pathfinder with "the big kids" again this weekend.  I am just 125 XP for leveling up!   IT was a great time.  We were also just a table down from where Mike "Chgwiz" was playing his old school OSRIC game.  I didn't talk to him about his leaving the blog scene (I thought that would be rude), but it sounds like he has a hell of a game going.  So that is awesome.

More later today I think.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Pathfinder, Game 2: The Big Kids

We started what will hopefully be a long running Pathfinder game with the "big kids".  This is my normal play-test group of the last few years, plus some guys that my DM Greg knows.  So far it has been a lot of fun.  Some of our players are missing the over the top acrobatics and "cinematic fantasy combat" of 4e and we are still making references to 4e in the game, I think it will go over well.

Our DM Greg is posting the play reports over on his blog, Rhonin's Ramblings, so some of my discussion about the game might end up over there as well.

We call it the "Big Kids" game since it is not the Pathfinder game I am currently playing with our kids; Greg's three boys and my two. In both games I am playing very different characters.  A witch in the "little kids" game and a paladin in the "big kids" one.  It is working out well I think.  I have made "mirror" versions of them in 4e and it will be interesting to see how they evolve together, but separate.  Or rather I made the 4e versions first and am now playing the Pathfinder versions.  One day I'll come up with a crossover adventure that involves all four characters in one world.

I still have my D&D 3.x (3.0, 3.5, BESM d20 and other d20 stuff mixed in) that I play with my two sons and we are supposed to get a 4.0/1st Ed cross-over game going sometime too.

That's a lot of D&D.

The cool thing is it gives me a chance to really get a feel for all the versions of D&D.  When my 3.x games ends I have to decide where to take it next.  The choices are continue with the hybrid 3.x game (throwing a bit of Pathfinder in), move up to 4e or even try something "new" like Labyrinth Lord or the D&D RC.

Our Big Kids game is once a month (or so) and the Little Kids game is about the same.  Advancement will be slow, but I am looking forward to it all.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

System Specialist or System Generalist?

So it should come as no surprise that I know a lot of gamers. A lot of a lot.

And while tags like "simulationist" or "immersion" or even "rollplayer vs. roleplayer" get thrown about like they are important, there is one classification that actually interests me.
System Specialist vs. System Generalists.

The System Specialist plays one system only and that is it.  So they only play AD&D 1st ed or d20 or GURPS. This is not to say they have tried other systems.  I am going to bet many have, but they have found one system that they have decided that is all they need.
I like the System Specialist because they usually become experts of their chosen system.  They in a sense achieve in their system that elusive "fade into the background" element that so many designers strive for, whether it was a design principle of that system or not.  Great system specialists seem like elder sages of their system, knowing rules or situations at such a higher level to even surprise the designers.

The System Generalist (wish I had a better name) plays a large number of systems and may have tried even more.  They are comfortable using True20, FUDGE or Rifts in any given situation and they can often give you informed opinions of why X system is perfect for Y situation.  A lot of game designers I know fall under this category.
I like the System Generalist because they are usually able to adapt to newer systems easier and transfer over concepts from one system to the other to improve their own game play.  Game play details are often rendered in short-hand, "oh it is like BLANK from Call of Cthulhu" or "BLANK from Kult".

There are negatives too, but I am not so much interested in those to be honest.

It should not surprise anyone, but I tend to view myself as a System Generalist.  I like having multiple systems laying around, I like reading new ones, playing old ones and even mixing them is strange and odd ways.
I come very, very close to being a System Specialist when it comes to Cinematic Unisystem.   But I still forget some esoteric bit during play, and sometimes even important ones.  For example, for the life of me I can never remember the formula for life points.  I know it is a function of Strength and Constituion.  I know there is addition in there, and some multiplication and 3 and 10 work into it.  I know you 3 extra points per level of Hard to Kill, but that is it.  Pathetic huh?  I have made what, a few hundred characters for CineUnisystem?
The nice thing though outside of that I can run a Cine Unisystem game without books.  If it Ghosts of Albion chances are I don't even need to look up the spells.  I used to be like that for AD&D first ed, but those memories have faded over the years, or more to the point supplanted by similar rules in other versions of the game.

Where do you see yourself?  Generalist or Specialist?  What do you think are the pros of being...well you?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Hard Core Gamers

Notice: I am not taking down this post because I feel it is more important to leave it up, but also update everyone on what is happening now as of February 11, 2019. Please see this newer post first.

In case you have been living under a rock all week, the new video version of the hit blog Playing D&D with Porn Stars is out now.

Called "I Hit it With My Axe" it features, well, porn stars, playing D&D.   It's actually quite a good blog and features not only some interesting insights to the game and how people play but also commentary from the likes of Mandy Morbid, Satine Phoenix (below), Zak Sabbath (blogger & DM) and special guests like Sasha Grey and Justine Joli.

It certainly busts a few stereotypes. Like that all gamers are geeky guys hiding out in their basements and all porn stars are sex craved but empty headed.

Looking forward to more!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Black Rose, Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now the in-game event that caused this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That's where I am at so far.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Pathfinder, Keep on the Borderlands and witches

So Saturday we started what we call "the kids game", this is our D&D game that includes me, my two sons (6 and 11), my regular DM and his sons (10, 10 and 5).
We started out as a 4e game and it went rather well.  This weekend though we switched over to Pathfinder.

And it was awesome.

It is not really saying much, but Pathfinder is closer to old school D&D than D&D 4 is.  We entered the goblin cave and had four encounters with goblins and "the big guy", an ogre helping them out.  It was a blast.  Our group consisted of a human witch (me), a human dragon-blooded sorcerer, a dwarf cleric, a half-elf ranger, a human ranger, and a human thief.   We figure that we need to make some tweaks, the sorcerer needs some different spells and I think my witch needs a cure light wounds spell to help out the cleric some.

So Greg (my DM) and I figured that under 4th Ed the characters would have been killed with these encounters.

We are going to keep going with 4th Ed in our "Big Kids" group.  So I am going to get a chance to do both games.

I like 4e, I do.  It is fun and the material for it is top notch.  But Pathfinder is a lot of fun too and those books are really nice.  Picked up the monster book for it.  If Pathfinder had something like DDI I would be all over that too.

So where do I stand with my "D&D" games?

I am running a 3.x (mostly 3.0) game with my two boys.  I am playing in a Pathfinder game and a D&D 4 game.  And it looks like I might be running another 4e game here soon.

For doing all my old school stuff, well it looks like we are going to be doing that as part of Pathfinder and doing something different for 4e.

All in all it sounds like a win all around for me and everyone else.

Now on to my witch.
She has a cantrip, Daze, that she kept using in combat.  Worked out nice really.  Was able to keep a goblin distracted (and the Ogre once) pretty much every round.  Not getting hit goes a long way to help keep the party alive.  Found a scroll of "cure light wounds", since I have that spell on my list I could read it and use it.  So game-wise a nice mix of witchy offensive power with some good defensive buffs of a divine nature.  I totally under-used my familiar however, but that is the same as my last 4e game, so those are even.
Comparing her to her 4e counterpart, Daze was my "bread and butter" spell where "Arcane Blast" is in 4e.  Arcane Blast has the advantage of causing some damage.  And my 4e warlock has those teleports which are very nice.  Both characters had the about the same feel in terms of hitpoints for the foes they were up against and I compensated the same way; I hid behind tougher characters and fired off spells from a distance.

The Pathfinder witch uses Intelligence though as her main stat.  I am not buying that.
Warlocks use Charisma and I can see that and see it for the witch.  In the end though I still think that it would be best for the witch to use Wisdom as her main stat for spell casting.  In this respect the Pathfinder does come up short.

So in my judging for combat playability, Pathfinder Witch vs. 4e Warlock, it's a draw.
In terms of spell casting mechanics, the Pathfinder has more "witchy" spells, but the warlock spells do fit that concept well and work well in the game.  So in the end I am giving the nod to 4e.

Looking forward to the new Pathfinder book that has the witch in it.  Is there still time to have switch the spellcasting stat to Wisdom?  Anyone know if we are going to see some witch prestige classes?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Mirror, Mirror

So tomorrow I play my first Pathfinder game.
I am playing it with the kids, so it is not the same group as my 4e game.

But I am going to play the same character.

This of course will raise a cry from my GM saying "but you always play the same character".  This is true, to a degree.  Most often I am "playtesting" the same character and I hold it as my constant amid a sea of variables.  In this case I am not playtesting, but I am testing something, or somethings.

First I want to know exactly how this two versions of D&D differ from each other.  There are factions on both sides claiming that "Game X" is "Teh one true way!!"  I feel rather that they are two different interpretations of the same thing (that will get me comments).  But the only way I am going to get that is to play the same (or very similar) characters.  But which character to choose.

IF I were paying attention and planned this out I might have chosen a Paladin or Cleric.  Both have had rather large changes to them over the years and it would be a nice bit a symmetry to my first D&D character, who was a cleric and then I played his son, a paladin, as my first AD&D character.  
But in truth I wanted to play my witch.

I have written a lot about witches over the years and with me through all of that has been one character.  I use her in all my playtest and I have been using her a lot lately.  Plus both games offer, for the first time, a witchy-like character as a published choice and not something I have had to make up on my own.

In Pathfinder she is a witch, using the new witch class from their playtest.  Now I have a 3.x witch class and it is different than what Pathfinder has.    But I think it will work out well enough.

In D&D 4 she is a Fey-Pact Warlock.  Not a perfect fit mind you, but it is working out well enough too, for different reasons.

I am working making their skills similar to each other, taking similar spells, powers and feats.  Since these are all being driven from a central character concept this is really not that big of deal.  See, I can do high-level "role-playing" and the rules are only a manifestation of how my concept appears.

So if I am judging these games on how well they fit a concept I guess I could start now.
I am not ready to get into a lot of detail yet (no time today), but here are the basics.
- Pathfinder witch:  Has the mystery and background concept to fit the character well.
- D&D 4 warlock: Fey pact is a bit of a stretch really, but none of the other pacts are any better.  The powers though of the warlock are a better fit in some cases.  Maybe I need a new pact to make this work, but that violates the "rules" and making up for this (create nothing new).

So concept-wise the initial round goes to Pathfinder with only a slight lead, but D&D4 is rather close.
If I add some of the stuff from the newer books such as backgrounds then it is very, very close.  The biggest flaw in D&D4 is the Fey Pact is not what I wanted exactly.

Tomorrow is the true test.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Taking a new path

So. I had a plan. It was a good plan as far as these things go. That is till my regular DM decided to do something unexpected.

We have a few games going, I have one with my kids (3.x), he has one with his (4.0), we have one together with some friends (4.0) and one with both families (4.0).   I was going to finish out my game with my boys and start up a 4.0 game with them to go through all the classic modules.

That is till last night.  Turns out that my DM now wants to use Pathfinder.

Now don't get me wrong, I like Pathfinder, it is a nice book and really a good looking game.  I also happen to think that there is some life left in the D&D 3.x game too.  But this does mess up my master plan. ;)

We were talking today about what adventures he wants to do with this group (him, his three boys, me and my two) and it was very, very similar to my plan I had for 4th Ed.

Last night I was less than thrilled about "going back" to 3.x, but today I am actually quite excited about it.

I have been on Paizo's website and there is a ton of fun stuff there. And the Pathfinder stuff is compatible with all my other 3.x stuff.   Plus I am going to get to play their witch (which is not exactly like mine for 3.x, but close enough).  So this could be very fun to be honest.  I can still use all my 4.0 stuff with my boys, I just might need a new plan on adventures.

So it looks like I'll be playing D&D 4.0 AND Pathfinder/D&D 3.65 (or something like that).
Anyone else playing Pathfinder? Any tips or advice?

Sunday, January 3, 2010

My first new Game of 2010: BASH

Well had my regular GM and his family over the other night for New Year's Eve and I was introduced to BASH, Basic Action Super Heroes. It is a simple supers RPG that I am sure I am going to be playing more of in the near future. But what has impressed me the most are the number of conversions that the BASH fan community has already put together. I converted one of my M&M characters over to BASH fairly quickly. I have another character I am working on now that started out in BESM 3.0, re-done in M&M (as PL 5), then converted over to Marvel Super Heroes. It will be interesting to see if the BASH conversion goes over well.

The system is really simple, a good thing these days, and looks easy to learn. I also looks pretty flexible too. There are BASH Fantasy and BASH Sci-Fi games too, which I will need to check out.

Like most Supers games, well pretty much every game, I look at the magic first. So far the powers look very Champions or Mutants & Masterminds like, i.e. I choose the "Blast" power and call it "Arcane Blast". I plan to look at Fantasy BASH for more classical, ritualized spellcasting. Given my GM's preferences, I also expect we will be diving into Sci-Fi BASH at some point this year as well.
Since that seems to be the thing to do I'll post some conversions for BASH myself, after I have read it a bit more.

Other games I want to play in 2010:
  • D&D 3.x (running) – I want to finish up my oldest son's campaign to defeat Tiamat. The characters in this game will the mytho-historical figures of our next, 4e game.
  • D&D 4e (playing) – I have at least four 1st to 2nd level characters that I have started on various games and I want them to progress.
  • Doctor Who (running or playing) – I am going to convert my Ghosts of Albion adventure "Obsession" over to Doctor Who. Fitting really since one of its inspirations was the 4th Doctor's "The Talons of Weng-Chiang". I thought about doing it for Victoriana, but part of plot is somewhat contradictory in a world where everyone knows magic is real.
  • Witch Girls Adventures (running or playing) – I have a few things I am working on for myself that look like they would be a lot of fun.
Otherwise here is to some good gaming in 2010!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Old School Horde, part 2!

Fellow blogger Eric over at Toyriffic, has posted a bit about my new toys here.  I thought that was cool.  You can read it at

Check it out and all the other cool posts he has!

Old School Horde!

So I spent Thanksgiving with my family and look at what my younger brother dug up for my kids.  A set of a bunch of the old Dungeons & Dragons toy figure monsters!  A couple of these were mine (the Ogre, neo-otyguh and Kalak, who is missing, and maybe one of the others), some were my other brother's (the Bullywugs and orcs I am sure) and some are my youngest brother's (Tiamat).  Of course my son LOVED them.

You can see all I have left of Kalek is his spellbook.  Maybe I'll put that in my witch figure display in my game room.  I really like the ogre and the hook horror.  That hook horror looks like he walked out of my Fiend Folio and I still prefer this look to the "revised" one we get in D&D 3.x.

Of course what my son is most psyched about is the Tiamat figure.  She does not have her wings anymore, but he quickly said "she is the god of dragons, she can fly without wings if she wanted to".  Plus he has been coveting my aspect of Tiamat D&D mini for a very long time.  So this is a nice little prize for him.

While I doubt I'll use these in any of our games, my "Dragon Riders" campaign with my son using D&D 3.x is so off the wall gonzo now that they certainly would not seem out of place. Certainly the Skeleton Warriors could pass for say skeleton Cloud Giants. The Chimera, while goofy looking, is probably more to scale than the D&D mini one.

Of course while my oldest son got these, my youngest had to make do with a bag full of Generation 1 Transformers.  My inner geek self is still smiling. 
And no.  Nothing is for sale. Sorry. ;)

Monday, November 30, 2009

Every Angel is Terrifying

Every Angel is Terrifying: The Secret and True Origin of the Slayer and Watchers

Note: This is a repost of something I did on the Eden Buffy boards a while back.  I have been working on collecting all my notes from my three-season run of "Willow & Tara: The Series" for the Buffy/Angel/Ghost of Albion RPG and thought I might share this.  I am not a fan of Buffy anymore for a number of reasons, but I do like this write-up.

I was never satisfied with the version of the Watcher's and Slayer's origins given in the show. Plus the demon connection and overt rape metaphor never sat well with me. So I decided it must be part of a propaganda agenda of the demons. Here then, is the true history of the Slayer and the Watchers. This version also makes Buffy more compatible with WitchCraft and Armageddon. It also allows multiple Slayers (or not) without worrying about what happened in the show.  It also addresses (a little) a shortcomings of the show; where are all the angels?

Something to bide me over till I can get something new up.

Who, if I cried out, would hear me among the angels' hierarchies?
and even if one of them pressed me suddenly against his heart:
I would be consumed in that overwhelming existence.
For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror, which we are still just able to endure,
and we are so awed because it serenely disdains to annihilate us.
Every angel is terrifying.
- Rainer Maria Rilke*

The Council of Watchers of today bares little resemblance to powerful organization it once was, most due to machinations of the Great Beast Belial, but that is getting to the middle of the story first, let’s start at the beginning, which is in this case The Beginning.

Everyone knows of the War in Heaven. Lucifer rebels and the Angels are cast out. There was also a second war, and the Watchers and Slayers start here.

After Lucifer fell Man and Woman were created. Adam and Lilith. Lilith, either by her own designs or that of Lucifer also rebels and goes out to spawn demons with the Djinn. Adam gets a new helpmate, Eve, and they are fruitful and multiply. Seeing the Sons of Adam and the Daughters of Eve populating the Earth God sends Angels down to protect them and watch over them. These Angels are known as the Grigori, or “the Watchers”, and their leaders are Azazel and Samyaza. The Watchers though looked upon the Daughters of Eve and lusted after them. They taught them the secrets of divination, of the moon and of witchcraft. They also took them to their beds and begat upon them progeny known as the Nephilim. They were giants of their age, and most are monstrosities; Goliath may have been one of their number. The Nephilim war with both the demons and with other humans. Humans war with the demons and Nephilim. Demons kill everything in their path. All the while, Lucifer and his fallen angels laugh.

The actions of the Angels angers God who casts them into Abyss and sends a flood to destroy the wickedness of mankind. But before this happens the Watcher Shamsiel (in some versions it is Samyaza) goes to the one human woman who was never corrupted by Original Sin, the one who never ate from the Tree of Knowledge, Lilith. Shamsiel asked Lilith for one thing, an offspring. Someone that can fight the demons and the Nephilim while protecting the humans. Lilith laughed, but consented, after all she was giving birth to countless demons, what was one more. She gave birth though not to a monstrous son, but a perfect daughter. She named her Naamah and sent her to live with Shamsiel. Shamsiel in turn gave her to the human woman he had sleeping with and her husband. He instructed them to take on his role as Watcher, for this child would be the slayer of demons and the other spawn of darkness. Shamsiel went to his final battle never to return.

Naamah, daughter of Lilith, protector of Malkuth, grew strong, though she was never loved by her foster parents. They taught her the same lessons the Watchers had taught them, combat, the secrets of the occult, the arts of war and witchcraft. While the demons recognized her as kin she hung on to her angelic heritage. She fought them and the Watchers stood by her in the fight. Some even say that she stowed away on Noah’s Ark, knowing that that evil would find a way to survive. Some texts even still list her as Noah’s wife or sometimes his daughter. Even later when she died, she died fighting. One of her many daughters took up the fight and she too became known as the Slayer. In those days when the demons ran free over the Earth there were many Slayers and many Watchers. The original Grigori had spanned the Earth, and so had their progeny. It seemed that the battle was going well for humanity. Till Lucifer and his left-hand devil Belial took an interest in the Slayer. They had already begun a propaganda war against her. She was the spawn of demons they said, she was the patroness of whores. Indeed, the powers of the Slayer were related to her gender and even to her sexual maturity, so some of the ignorant believed this and forced the Slayer out. Some even began to feel she brought trouble with her. The pogrom against the Slayer had begun.

Even the Watchers, having spanned globe and taking up their cause with the Pagan faiths, were not immune. Here they meshed their beliefs with their own. They believed that they and their books were what were really holding back the darkness. They created their world headquarters on the mystical islands and listed in their charter the charge given to them by God, rendered in the local tongue.

Óir thug sé ordú da aingil i do thaobh:
tú a chosaint i do shlite go léir:

Iompróidh siad thú lena lámha sula mbuailfí
do chos in aghaidh chloiche.

Satlóidh tú ar an leon is ar an nathair:
gheobhaidh tú de chosa sa leon óg is a dragan.

That was not even the start for Belial and the Watchers. The Great Deceiver Belial tricked Lilith into revealing her offspring’s true nature. Knowing this Belial then worked on the Watchers. “Why should she be in charge?” he whispered in their ears. “Why would men of good faith follow the dictates of a demon-spawned female child?” It took him years, but soon he broke down their resolve, their myths and soon under the guise of “the good for all” he had them change their own histories. Gone was the story of Naamah and her sisters. Gone was the relationship between Watcher and Slayer as one of equals. And most tragic, gone was the link between the Slayer and the Divine. Instead only the demonic remained and Slayer but a tool, oft times a disposable one.

But Lilith had her own revenge. If they were to treat her blood so poorly, then she called back her own power only allowing one girl per generation to be born. She infused her other children, the Vampires, with desire to find this girl and hunt her down. Like brother and sister they were then, equal in their strength and parallel in their purpose. Soon the Slayer only became know as a killer of vampires and the Watchers, feeding on their own lies, degraded and rotted from within.

Thus it remained till the dawn of the 3rd Millennium.