Showing posts with label review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label review. Show all posts

Friday, October 30, 2020

5e Witch Project: Witchcraft: Magic of Hereva (5e)

This one is a last-minute find.  I am going to have more to say on all my 5e reviews and how they might work together.  But for now, let's look at this one on its own merits. 

Witchcraft: Magic of Hereva (5e)
From Xacur

This one caught my eye with its very striking art. Downloaded and the art continues throughout the book and the layout and design are top-notch.  I do want to get into detail about the art, more so than other products I have reviewed, but first I want to talk about the 5e content.

The PDF is 121 pages for $13.00.  That might sound like a lot, but given my guidelines of 10 cents per page that is only a buck more.  So that is fine.  You also get a mobile version for your phone or tablet.

This looks like the first OGL book for this author, prior to this they have had some DMsGuild Titles. 

This witch appears to be based on the Web Comic "Pepper & Carrot" which helps explain the art. Again, more details on that in a bit.  But for playing purposes this is part class and part world guide. The world of Hereva to be precise. 

The Witch Class

The witch class presented in this PDF is a full 20 level caster.  They do get spells up the the 9th level, but they do not have the normal spell progression as say Wizards or Clerics. They have known Cantrips (max 4) and known spells (max 15). It is the same as the warlock, without the Invocations. They do get Spell Research starting at 11th level and something called Rea ("Reality") Points starting at 1st. Rea points to power your spells.   Doing some quick mental calculations this means that there are many spells that will tap out your Res points quickly.  This makes this spellcaster a bit underpowered compared to others. They do have some other powers though.

I supposed here it should be noted that this is not a generic Witch class, but rather a Witch of Hereva. 

This witch gets 1d8 hp per level and is a Charisma-based spellcaster.   You do get familiars, and they have a mechanical benefit to the characters.  

Witches of Hereva's archetypes or subclasses are known as Houses. A nice change from the others I have reviewed all month.  You get your House at 2nd level.  

These witches also can brew potions (3rd level) and get Broom riding at 5th level. 

There are six Witchcraft Houses. Each provides an additional list of spells and powers. Each also has its own special niche to cover in the world. 

There is a chapter on Player's Options. This includes a number of backgrounds. Most are specific to this world, but all can be altered as needed and easily done.  There are some Feats as well that fit both the world and the witch in general. 

The magic chapter has the witches' spell lists as well as 43 new spells. It also 74 new magic items for witches. Making this chapter a step above many of the other witch classes I have reviewed all month long. 

There are also two Appendices. The first covers Familiars. The second monsters. Both feature creatures that are unique to this world. 

We end with some art credits and the OGL.

The Art and Artist

I grabbed this product because of the art. It has a cool "Kiki's Delivery Service" vibe about it and that is something I have been wanting to play lately. I thought this might be the product to do that, but I was prepared to like it anyway if it wasn't.  

Since this is based on a webcomic I thought I should check it out. After all, the art here is fantastic.  The webcomic is "Pepper & Carrot", Pepper is the witch and Carrot is her cat familiar. It is created by David Revoy.  You can find him at davidrevoy.com and the comic at peppercarrot.com.

It was here I discovered that Revoy releases his comic into the public free as Open Source!  I mean wow. The comic is supported by his Patreon who charges per comic released. That is seriously cool. The comic looks fantastic and I am going to have to start reading it.   I went to his story to see if there was a paper/dead tree version of his comics, there are, and to see if there was a paper or even PDF version of this D&D 5 supplement.  There wasn't.  Ok, no big. Did some digging.

So according to this post the Witchcraft: Magic of Hereva (5e) was a Kickstarter project (again, no big deal) BUT the comic creator didn't know anything about it. He was not consulted or asked.  Now that all seems to be fine with Revoy, he released the comic as Open Source after all, so it fits with his overall philosophy.  There is a bit about how any new art created will be released back into the public domain via Creative Commons. That sounds nice and Revoy seems to take that as good enough.   The author of this game supplement Xacur did in fact do that.  But it was only two pieces of new art; a broom and a wand.  The Kickstarter for this PDF raised a little over $3,100.00.  You would think that most of that money would go for art, as typical for a Kickstarter, but all of the art was free/open source.

I can't help but think that this PDF adheres to the letter of Revoy's Open source philosophy while violating the spirit of it.  No mistake, the class is fun and the spells and magic items are very nice, but I was drawn to this product based on the art and style. That all belongs to someone else's vision.   Strip away what started with David Revoy and what is left?  Well. Mostly an underpowered warlock with some powers I have seen in various "Hedge Witch" products.  I mean the author didn't even have the decency to list Revoy as the artist on the DriveThruRPG page. Note: He is listed on the supplements for this class. 

Is this a playable class? Yes.  Is this a fun playable class? Absolutely.
Could have Xancur created this class without the influence of the webcomic? I don't think so.

But there is something here that I feel is a bit distasteful. I know that David Revoy is likely ok with all of this. But it feels a little off to me. 

Here are the links to David Revoy's sites.

In the end, you have to decide if this product is the one for you. 


Thursday, October 29, 2020

Witch Week Review: Charm

Ok, this is not a witch RPG per se, but that is not going to stop me.  

Also, this one appeared on my doorstep and I have no idea if I ordered it, if it was sent to me, or what. I looked back and I have no interaction with the author or the company Strange Machine Games (SMG).  

So let's get into it.

Charm RPG
by Jeff Mechlinski, illustrations bt Yimi Jian "Meammy"

Charm is a "universal" RPG designed to be quick and usable across any genre or playstyle.  It advertises itself as being portable enough to keep your character sheet in your pocket and use a dice roller app to play.

For this review, I am considering both the softcover physical book and the PDF.  The book is 158 pages, 8" x 8" format. The covers are color, the interior art is black & white.

A quick note about the art. I like it, it does have a comic-book, almost anime style to it, but it also fits the game well. 

The first 40 pages cover the basic rules and the remaining 100 or so cover the seven different sample "worlds" you can play in.  

The rules are pretty simple, roll a d20 (sometimes with a d6) to get over a particular Target Number set by the GM.  Greater levels of success or failure result in added effects.  Rolls can be modified.  You add the d6 when your character is particularly good at something. 

Characters regardless of the Power Level of the game are assumed to be good at what they do.  So out of the gate this game is going to have a more "Cinematic" feel to it.  A thief will almost always be able to break into a place or steal something for example.  Rolling occurs only when there is a chance of failure, combat (or other opposed rolls) or the GM needs it.  

The Challenge Threshold, or target numbers, are pretty easy to use and memorize, so players and GMS will catch on very quickly.  The levels are all multiples of 3, so abstraction of the rules is easy.

Characters are built using some basic abilities in a way that reminds me of Fate, but a little crunchier.  To me this is a GOOD thing. I find Fate a little too fluffy for my needs. This includes the use of a similar term, Aspects. At first level you have three aspects rated at 4, 3 and 2 points.  As you level up you can add points to these or gain new aspects. A list of sample aspects is given with guidelines on what else can work.

And that is it.  Not difficult to learn and certainly very easy to play the first time.  Get together with some friends, decide on a world and then make characters with various aspects. You are ready to go.

While not as crunchy as say GURPS it is crunchier than Fate or FUDGE.  I'd put it just south of True 20 and Unisystem in that regard.

The seven sample scenarios are:

  •  Action 5 News: You are the city's most elite local news team! It isn't easy staying on top. You'll need to pull together all your guile and charisma to keep the number 1 spot.
  •  Temporal Raiders: Travel time, seeking the ultimate heist. Ally with powerful historical figures, change history, be your own grandfather. What could go wrong?
  •  Dustbound: Take on the role of a god-touched gunslinger in a bleak world of dust and decay. Fight Oni, rival gunslingers, and vengeful townsfolk.
  •  Mystery Incorporated: Jeepers, guys.  Play as a gang of kids, or possibly a lovable pet, who solve mysteries using their astonishing meddling abilities.
  •  Pact of Night: Small town woes meet big monster drama. Play a Vampire or Werewolf as you balance your life with the humans during the day and beasts at night.
  •  Onitech: You exist in a high-tech world ruled by demon masters. Civility has superseded morality, leading to a perverted and deadly state of affairs.
  •  Asylum Reflections: In Victorian London, people are being replaced with mirrored doubles. Uncover the duplicitous mystery in this dark world.  
Actually, these all sound like a lot of fun.  I have to admit it was the Action 5 News that really grabbed me at first.  In this one, you are not likely to get into deadly combat, but your social "hit points" could take some damage.  No they don't call them "hit points" but that is my translation to my readers.  I will admit, years ago I tinkered with a True 20 idea of newspaper reporters, tabloid writers and news bloggers as a game. When Fate came around I tried it in that too.  Never really got it to jell the way I wanted.  Action 5 News though does this now for me.  A few EASY tweaks, and to be fair all tweaks in this game are easy, and I can run it like I was planning some 20 years ago.

Mystery Incorporated practically jumps off the page and begs me to run something with it. 

If I had a complaint at all it is that book makes me jump all over the place to get the information I need.  For example there are lot of "see page XX" (no actual xx though, they do have page numbers.)
So reading about Power Level on page 11 I need to jump to page 25 to get information on aspects. There are a few of these. Now to be fair you quickly figure out where things are and how to get to them fast.  But maybe a character creation flowchart might be nice for first time players.

Still, there is a lot to like about this game.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Witch Week Review: Kids on Brooms

Let's go with one I have had since the Summer.  I love the concept and can't wait to see what I do with it.

Kids on Brooms

Before I get too far into this review I want to start off by saying how much I love the art by Heather Vaughan.  It just fits, or more importantly sets, the tone of this book.  This could have been a cheap "Harry Potter" knock off, but Vaughan's art makes it feel darker and more dangerous.  The kids in her art have power, but they also have fear, and even a little hope. So kudos to Vaughan for really setting this book up for success from the cover and into the book.

Again for this review, I am considering the PDF from DriveThruRPG and the physical copy I picked up at my FLGS.

The game is 96 pages, roughly digest-sized. The art is full color and used to great effect.  The layout is crisp and clean and very easy to read.

Kids on Brooms (KoB) is a new (newish) game from the same team that gave us Kids on Bikes. Authors Doug Levandowski and Jonathan Gilmour with artist Heather Vaughan. New to the team is author Spenser Starke.  If Kids on Bikes was "Stranger Things" inspired then the obvious inspiration here for Kids on Brooms is Harry Potter.  If it were only a Harry Potter pastiche then there would be nothing to offer us.  

The game follows in the footsteps of many newer games in that narrative control is shared. The players help decide what is going on.  So our Session 0 for this game is to have the players come up with their school.  This can be just about anything to be honest, Harry Potter's Hogwarts is the obvious model, but I also got some solid Night School from Chilling Adventures of Sabrina as well. Also, I could see a Breakbills Academy easily being created here, though the characters in Magicians were older.  These students are very much of the 12+, highschool age, variety. 

The players create their school and even provide some background history and some rumors. It all looks rather fun to be honest.  This section starts with the first of many questionnaires to do your world-building.  None are very long, but they are rather helpful to have. I should point out that prior to this school building you are tasked with setting the boundaries of the gameplay. What is and what is not involved.  A LOT of people think this is a means to stifle creativity. It is not. It is a means to keep everyone at the table comfortable and playing what they want.  I mean a drug-fueled sex party prior to a big magical battle is not something you would find in Harry Potter, but it is the exact sort of thing that happens in Magicians or Sabrina.  

Something else that is a nice added touch is talking about the systems of power in the game world. So figuring out things like "This form of bigotry exists (or doesn't) in the game world and is different/same/better/worse than the real world."  To quote Magicians, "magic comes from pain." Happy people in that world are not spell-casters. Quentin, the star, was depressive and suicidal. The other characters had their own issues, or as Quentin would say "we are fucked in our own ways, as usual."  To ignore this page is to rob your game of something that makes your world fuller.

Character creation is equally a group effort, though the mechanic's piece of it is largely up to the player. The player selects one of the Tropes from the end of the book, these are only starting points and are more flexible than say a D&D Class. You introduce your character (after all they are young and this is the first day of class) and then you answer some questions about your character to build up the relationships.

Mechanics wise your six abilities, Brains, Brawn, Fight, Flight, Charm, and Grit are all given a die type; d4 to d20, with d10 being average.  You roll on these dice for these abilities to get above a target number set by the Game Master. 

As expected there are ways to modify your rolls and even sometimes get a reroll (a "Lucky Break").  The "classes" (not D&D, but academic levels) also gain some benefits.  You also gain some strengths and flaws. So if it sounds like there are a lot of ways to describe your character then yes! There is. 

There is a chapter on Magic and this game follows a streamlined version of the Mage-like (as opposed to D&D-like, or WitchCraftRPG-like) magic system.  You describe the magic effect and the GM adjudicated how it might work.  Say my witch Taryn wants to move a heavy object. Well that would be a Brawn roll, but I say that since her Brawn is lower and instead I think her Grit should come into play.  So that is how it works. Rather nice really.

At this point, I should say that you are not limited to playing students. You can also play younger faculty members too.

 Filling out the details of your character involves answering some questions and getting creative with other ideas. You also fill out your class schedule, since there are mechanical benefits to taking some classes.


The mechanics as mentioned are simple.  Roll higher than the difficulty. Difficulty levels are given on page 45, but range from 1 to 2 all the way up to 20 or more. Rolls and difficulties can be modified by almost anything. The first game might involve the looking up of mods and numbers for a bit, but it gets very natural very quickly.  As expected there are benefits to success above and beyond the target difficulty numbers and consequences for falling short of the numbers. 

Some threats are covered and there is a GM section.  But since a lot of the heavy lifting on this game is in the laps of the players the GM section is not long.

There is also a Free Edition of Kids on Brooms if you want to see what the game is about.  It has enough to get you going right away.

This game is really quite fantastic and there is so much going on in it. Personally, I plan on using it as a supplement to my own Generation HEX game from NIGHT SHIFT.  

Plays Well With Others, Generation HEX, and my Traveller Envy

I am SO glad I read this after I had already submitted my own ms in for Generation HEX in NIGHT SHIFT.

Thankfully I can see a game where I would use both systems to help expand my universe more.  The questionnaires here for both the school and the characters would also work well for a Generation HEX game.  In this case though everyone knows about magic and the school is AMPA.  OR Use the background of the hidden school like in KoB and then add in some GenHEX ideas.


So let me take another character today, Taryn, Larina's daughter.  Taryn is my "Teen Witch" and a bit of a rebel.  She was my "embrace the stereotype" witch, but has grown a little more since then.  Compared to her mother her magic came late (Larina was 6, Taryn was 12) so she feels like she has a lot to make up for. Her father is a Mundane and her half-sister has no magic at all.

Taryn is cocky, self-confident, but also a little reckless. Now that she has magic she is convinced it can solve all her problems.  She feels she has a lot to prove and is afraid there is some dark secret in her past (spoiler there is).

She spends her nights in an underground, illegal broom racing circuit.  She is very fast and has already made a lot of cash and a few enemies.  She is worried that one of her secrets, her red/green colorblindness, will affect her races. 

Her other weakness is guys on fast motorcycles. She is particularly fond of the Kawaski Ninja Carbon. Yeah, she judges people based on their bikes.  

Speed is her addiction of choice. Not the drug, the velocity.  Though that might be an issue in the future.


I find I am able to depict her rather well in Kids on Brooms, NIGHT SHIFT and Dark Places & Demogorgons.  I even gave her a try in the Great American Witch (she is Craft of Lilith).

This game has a bunch of solid potential and I am looking forward to seeing what I can do with it.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Witch Week Review: The Great American Witch

Let's start off the week with a game that is brand new.  How new? It was only two months ago that I was interviewing the author and designer, Christopher Grey, for the Kickstarter.

Last week or so I go my physical copy in the mail and codes for my DriveThruRPG downloads.  That was fast.  So such a speedy response deserves a review. 

The Great American Witch
by Christopher Grey

For this review, I am considering the hardcover, letter-sized book, and the PDF.  On DriveThruRPG you get two different layouts of the core book (1 and 2 page spreads), and several ancillary files for the covens and the crafts.  I was a Kickstart backer and got my products via that. Both the hardcover and the pdfs are available at DriveThruRPG.

The Great American Witch is 162 pages, all full color, with full color covers.  The art is by Minerva Fox and Tithi Luadthong. There are also some photos that I recognize from various stock art services, some I have even used myself.  This is not a criticism of the book; the art, all the art, is used effectively and sets the tone and mood of the book well.

The rule system is a Based on the Apocalypse World Engine variant.  Over the last couple of years I have had mixed, to mostly negative feelings about the Apocalypse World Engine.  Nothing to do with the system itself, but mainly due to how many designers have been using it.  I am happy to report that the version being used in TGAW is a stripped-down version that works better for me.

It is also published by Gallant Knight Games, who has a solid reputation.  So out of the gate and barely cracking open the book it has a lot of things going for it.

The Great American Witch is a cooperative, story-telling game of witches fighting against perceived injustices in the world.  I say "perceived" because of what injustices the witches fight against is going to largely depend on the witches (and the players) themselves. The framework of the game is built on Grey's earlier work, The Great American Novel.  TGAW is expanded from the earlier game.

Like many modern games, TGAW has a Session 0, for everyone to come together and talk about what the game should be about, what the social interaction rules are, and what the characters are.  The older I get the more of a fan of Session 0 I become. As a Game Master, I want to make sure everyone is invested in the game, I want to be sure everyone is going to have a good time. So yes. Session 0 all the way.  The first few pages detail what should be part of your Session 0.  It's actually pretty good material that can be adapted to other games. 

The game also wears its politics on its sleeve. Frankly, I rather like this. It helps that I also happen to agree with the author and game here. But besides that, there is something else here.  This game takes the idea, or even the realities and the mythologies of the witch persecutions and "Burning Times" and revisions them into the modern age.  It is not a bridge to far to see how the forces of the Patriarchy and anti-women legislation, politics, and religion of the 16th to 17th centuries can be recreated in the 21st century. After all, isn't "The Handmaids Tale" one of the most popular and awarded television programs right now? There is obviously something to this.


The main narrative of the game comes from the players themselves.  The Guide (GM) plays a lesser role here than in other games; often as one running the various injustices, NPCs, or other factions the players/characters/witches will run up against.  The system actually makes it easy for all players to have a character and rotate the guide duties as needed.

True to its roots games are broken down into"Stories" and  "Chapters" and who has the narrative control will depend on the type of chapter.  A "Story" is a game start to finish. Be that a one-shot or several different chapters over a long period of time.  A "Montage" chapter is controlled by the players. A "Menace" chapter is controlled by the Guide. A "Mundane" chapter is usually controlled by the player and the details of that chapter are for that character alone.  "Meeting" chapters involve the characters all together and are controlled by them. "Mission" chapters are the main plot focus that move the story forward. "Milestones" are what they sound like. This is where the witch would "level up."

The game uses three d6s for the rare dice resolution. Most times players use a 2d6 and try to roll a 7 or better. "Weal" and "Woe" conditions can augment this roll. The author makes it clear that you should roll only when the outcome is in doubt.  There are a lot of factors that can modify the rolls and the conflicts faced.  It is assumed that most conflicts will NOT be dealt with with a simple roll of 7 or better. The author has made it clear in the book and elsewhere that more times than average a conflict is not just going to go away like defeating a monster in D&D.  Conflicts are akin to running uphill, that can be accomplished, but they will take work and they will not be the only ones.

Once gameplay is covered we move into creating the player character witches. The book gives the player questions that should be answered or at least considered when creating a witch character. Character creation is a group effort, so the first thing you create is your group's Coven.  This also helps in determining the type of game this will be as different covens have different agendas.  There are nine different types of Covens; the Divine, Hearth, Inverted, Oracle, the Storm, Sleepers, the Town, the Veil, and Whispers. Each coven has different specialties and aspects. Also, each Coven has a worksheet to develop its own unique features, so one Coven of the Storm is not exactly the same as another Coven of the Storm from another city or even part of the city.  These are not the Traditions of Mage, the Covenants of the WitchCraftRPG, or even the Traditions of my witch books.  These are all very local and should be unique to themselves.  Once the coven is chosen then other details can be added. This includes things like how much resources does the coven have? Where does it get its money from? Legal status and so on. 


If Covens cover the group of witches, then each witch within the coven has their own Craft.  These are built of of archetypes of the Great Goddess.  They are Aje, the Hag (Calilleach), Hekate, Lilith, Mary (or Isis), Spider Grandmother, and Tara.  These are the Seven Crafts and they are the "sanctioned" and most widespread crafts, but there are others.  Each Craft, as you can imagine, gives certain bonuses and penalties to various aspects of the witch and her magic. Aje for example is not a good one if you want a high value in Mercy, but great if you want a high number in Severity and mixed on Wisdom.   All crafts are also subdivided into Maiden, Mother, and Crone aspects of the witch's life.   

Character creation is rather robust and by the end, you have a really good idea who your witch is and what they want.

The Game Master's, or Guide's, section covers how to run the game. Among other details, there is a section on threats. While there are a lot of potential threats the ones covered in the book are things like demons, vampires, other witches, the fey, the Illuminati, ghosts and other dead spirits, old gods and good old-fashioned mundane humans. 

The end of the book covers the worksheets for the various Covens and Crafts.  You use the appropriate Craft Sheets for a character.

The PDF version of the book makes printing these out very easy.  It would be good for every player to have the same Coven sheet, or a photocopy of the completed one, and then a Craft sheet for their witch.

While the game could be played with as little two players, a larger group is better, especially if means a variety of crafts can be represented.  Here the crafts can strengthen the coven, but also provide some inter-party conflict. Not in-fighting exactly, but differences on how to complete a Mission or deal with a threat.  After all, no one wants to watch a movie where the Avengers all agree on a course of action from the start and the plans go as though up and there are no complications.  That's not drama, that is a normal day at work.  These witches get together to change the world or their corner of it, but sometimes, oftentimes, the plans go sideways.  This game supports that type of play.

The Great American Witch works or fails based on the efforts of the players.  While the role of the GM/Guide may be reduced, the role and responsibilities of the players are increased.  It is also helpful to have players that are invested into their characters and have a bit of background knowledge on what they want their witch to be like.  To this end the questions at the start of the book are helpful.

That right group is the key. With it this is a fantastic game and one that would provide an endless amount of stories to tell.  I am very pleased I back this one.

Plays Well With Others, War of the Witch Queens and my Traveller Envy

I just can't leave well enough alone.  I have to take a perfectly good game and then figure out things to do with it above and beyond and outside of it's intended purposes.  SO from here on out any "shortcomings", I find are NOT of this game, but rather my obsessive desire to pound a square peg into a round hole.


Part 1: Plays Well With Others

The Great American Witch provides a fantastic framework to be not just a Session 0 to many of the games I already play, but also a means of providing more characterization to my characters of those games.

Whether my "base" game is WitchCraftRPG or Witch: Fated Souls, The Great American Witch could provide me with far more detail.  In particular, the character creation questions from The Great American Witch and Witch: Fated Souls could be combined for a more robust description of the character. 

Taking the example from WitchCraft, my character could be a Gifted Wicce.  Even in the WitchCraft rules there is a TON of variety implicit and implied in the Wicce.  Adding on a "layer" of TGAW gives my Wicce a lot more variety and helps focus their purpose.  While reading TGAW I thought about my last big WitchCraft game "Vacation in Vancouver."  Members of the supernatural community were going missing, the Cast had to go find out why.  The game was heavy on adult themes (there was an underground sex trafficking ring that catered to the supernatural community) and required a LOT of participation and cooperation to by the player to make it work. It was intense. At one point my witch character was slapped in an S&M parlor and I swear I felt it! But this is also the same sort of game that could be played with TGAW. Granted, today I WAY tone down the adult elements, but that was the game everyone then agreed to play.  The same rules in TGAW that allow for "safe play" also allow for this.  The only difference is that those rules are spelled out ahead of time in TGAW. 

Jumping back and forth between the systems, with the same characters and players, and a lot of agreement on what constitutes advancement across the systems would be a great experience.  

I could see a situation where I could even add in some ideas from Basic Witches from Drowning Moon Studios.  

Part 2: Traveller Envy

This plays well into my Traveller Envy, though this time these are all RPGs.  Expanding on the ideas above I could take a character, let's say for argument sake my iconic witch Larina, and see how she manifests in each game.  Each game giving me something different and a part of the whole.

Larina "Nix" Nichols
CJ Carrella's WitchCraft RPG:
Gifted Wicce
Mage: The Ascension: Verbena
Mage: The Awakening: Path Acanthus, Order Mysterium
Witch: Fated Souls: Heks
NIGHT SHIFT: Witch
The Great American Witch: The Craft of Lilith OR The Craft of Isis.*

There is no "one to one" correspondence, nor would I wish there to be. In fact, some aspects of one Path/Order/Tradition/Fate/Craft will contradict another.  "The Craft of Lilith" in GAW is a good analog to WitchCraft's "Twilight Order" and the "Lich" in Witchcraft: Fated Souls.  But for my view of my character, this is how to best describe her. 

* Here I am already trying to break the system by coming up with a "Craft of Astarte" which would be the intersection of Lilith and Isis.  Don't try this one at home kids, I am what you call a professional.  

Part 3: War of the Witch Queens

Every 13 years the witch queens gather at the Tredecim to discuss what will be done over the next thirteen years for all witches. Here they elect a new Witch High Queen.

One of the building blocks of my War of the Witch Queens is to take in as much detail as I can from all the games I can.  This is going to be a magnum opus, a multiverse spanning campaign.

What then can the Great American Witch do for me here?  That is easy.  Using the coven creation rules I am planning to create the "coven" of the five main witch queen NPCs.  While the coven creation rules are player-focused, these will be hidden from the players since the witches are all NPCs.  They are based on existing characters, so I do have some external insight into what is going on with each one, but the choices will be mine alone really. 

Looking at these witches and the covens in TGAW they fit the Coven of the Hearth the best.

Coven of the Hearth, also known as the Witches' Tea Circle (tea is very important to witches).  
Five members, representing the most powerful witches in each of the worlds the Witch Queens operate in.
Oath: To work within witchcraft to provide widespread (multiverse!) protection for witches
Holy Day: Autumnal Equinox. Day of Atonement: Sumer Solstice. Which was their day of formal formation as well.
Hearth: A secured build in an Urban setting.
Sanctuary: Lots of great stuff here, and all of it fits well.
Connections & Resources: Organization charged with finding those in need.

Going to the Coven Worksheet:

Resources: Wealthy coven (they are Queens)
Makes money? A shop.  Let's say that the "Home, Heart & Hearth" stores from my own Pumpkin Spice Witch book are the means to keep this operation funded.
Distribution: Distributed based on need.
Status: Mainstream.  They ARE the mainstream.
Importance? Witches need to come together.
Mundanes? Mundanes are important. but not for the reasons listed. Mundanes are the greatest threat.
Influence: Extraordinary.
Members: Five or six local, but millions in the multiverse.
Authority: Through legacy and reputation

Wow. That worked great, to be honest.

Here's hoping for something really big to come from this.

Monday, October 26, 2020

DMSGuild Witch Project: Wonders of the Witch

This is the last week on my DMsGuuild Witch Project Reviews. I am going to focus on some of the larger PDFs now. Also, all of these are full witch classes.

I am going to still follow my own rules and guidelines to make sure I am giving these a fair review. 

Wonders of the Witch
by Ryan Van Natter & Matthew Emerson

This PDF is 50 pages (front and back covers, legal, 47 pages of content) and runs for $9.99. 
It is light on art (save for a great cover) but high on design.  It is a very attractive book to look at and super easy to read.

I have not talked about PDF bookmarks so far because there has never been a need; all the other pdfs have been small enough to not really need them.  This PDF is larger and uses them. So another plus in their favor.

We open with a fiction section with Baba Yaga instructing a young Igwilv (sic) on the nature of magic and witchcraft.  Seriously are you guys just flirting with me now?  As someone that has spent a lot of time with both characters in my games, this one feels right.  Canon accepted.  Hell that cover could double as the young Iggwilv/Tasha really. 

We start out with witch-related background details. There is the Dedicate, the Disciple, the Healer, the Hidden One, the Malefactor, and the Temptress (or Tempter). Each with associated Traits, Ideals, Bonds, and Flaws.   Eight pages of this and I want to figure out a witch for each one. 

Next is the Witch class proper. It is a full 20 levels with powers at many levels.  The archetypes/subtypes/subclasses for this are known as Covens and they are Hag, Grey, Elemental, and White.  Spellcasting ability is Charisma.   This witch has spell slots like all casters, and a max number of spells known.  Witches are Ritual casters and use arcane spell foci.  So yeah, everything I want to see in a witch really.

Witches gain a power at 2nd level (Beguile) and then a "Witch Craft" at levels 3, 10 and 17.  These function a bit like Hexes (Pathfinder) or Occult Powers (mine).  There is a list to choose from and these are independent of coven.

The covens are nicely detailed. They are all written in a manner that immediately makes you realize that the authors could add any number of extra covens as their imagination sees fit. This is yet another positive aspect of this class. The covens also feel different enough and cover a wide variety of witchy archetypes. 

Spell lists follow with the expected spells. There are also NEW SPELLS. This is the real gem of this book.   There are 27 new spells here. They are truly new spells. There are some that will feel familiar, but many that are new.

For clerics there is a new "Black Magic" Domain. 

We also get some new named covens.  There is the Daughters of Twilight, dedicated to Shar (and a new spell).  The Vistani get the Stravaneska Tasque, and a new spell. The Secret Shards dedicated to Selûne (and a new spell).  The Sun Sisters, dedicated to the Goddess of the Sun. The Blood of the Green, witches of the forests.  The Red Witches of Thay, a Lawful Good sect of witches in Thay!  So six more new spells.

There are some Tools fo the Trade which covers many new magic items. 
50 plot hooks for witch adventures. 

A bit on the Mother Goddess in the Realms, or bringing the Witch Goddess to the Toril. 

Finally a bestiary of witch related creatures.  These are the: Brownie, Gallows Hag, Rune Hag, Weeping Hag, Gilt Hag, Severed Hag, Daughter of Darkness (!) Witch, and Witch High Priestess.  They are organized by CR.

This really is a quality product. One of the best of the DMsGuidl Witches to be honest. 

Friday, October 23, 2020

DMSGuild Witch Project: 5e Witches, Part 3

Going to look at some more D&D 5 Witch classes today. Today and the rest of the week I am going to look at some of the smaller PDFs.  Usually less than 20 pages.

For these DMSGuild classes, I am going to still follow my own rules and guidelines to make sure I am giving these a fair review. 

Witch Class
by Todd D

This PDF is eight pages, all content. The PWYW price is set to $0.00, but following my guidelines $0.80 or even a buck would be good. There is no art but the layout is good. This is one of the earliest witch classes submitted to DMSGuild.

This witch is more like a warlock, but that is what it is advertised as. These witches appear to be manipulators of Fate. These witches also use Wisdom as their spellcasting ability. Instead of pacts or traditions, this witch has "Heritages"; the Traditionalist, the Blighted, and the Clairvoyant. Each one gives the witch some different sorts of powers. Ends with a spell list. At eight pages it seems a bit thin but does exactly what it said it was going to do.

It is less like a witch and more like a "Hedge Warlock" in my mind.  Granted, this is not a bad thing at all. 

Toss the author a buck and wish them "Happy Halloween."


Witch Class for DND 5e
by Dani Sankovich

This PDF is 8 pages, all content. The PDF sells for $0.50 PWYW, so under my 10 cents per page guidelines. Since it is also all content and no filler, so $1.00 would be appropriate here. 

The class is a full 20 levels with spell casting to the 9th spell level. There is a max Spells Known per level. The ability for spell casting is Intelligence. 

These witches have a "Binding Locus" that gives them their power. This also grants them abilities at certain levels. Binding Loci can be Arcane, Void, Wilds and Entity. The Entity is somewhat like the Warlock's patron and has a few more powers.

We end with the spell list. No new spells.

It's Halloween, go ahead and give them $1.00.


Witch Class (D&D 5e)
by Brian Barnshaw

This PDF is 11 pages (1 title, 1 legal, 9 content) and no art. The layout is clean but the background image makes it a little harder to read.  

There is some background given, relating the witch to the druid. It is fine, but I don't quite think it came over the way the author wanted it to. 

This witch is a full caster of 20 levels and to the 9th level of spell ability. This witch is also a wisdom caster and has ritual casting.  These witches also gain a familiar.

The archetypes are known as covens, as expected. There are two Creators and Hag's Disciple.  The Hag one is expanded based on the type of Hag. 

There is a spell list, but no new spells.

Again, each one gets at the witch from a different point of view and works well within that point of view. It might be interesting to build a Grand Coven with a witch from each of these.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

DMSGuild Witch Project: 5e Witches, Part 2

Going to look at some more D&D 5 Witch classes today. Today and the rest of the week I am going to look at some of the smaller PDFs.  Usually less than 20 pages.

For these DMSGuild classes, I am going to still follow my own rules and guidelines to make sure I am giving these a fair review.

Witch Class 5E
by Donald Armstrong

This pdf is 15 pages (1 title, 1 legal) and selling at $1.00 PWYW, falling below my 10 cents per page price threshold.  The PDF itself reminds me a bit of the style and presentation of an Unearthed Arcana article, but with art. I am sure that is the author's intent.

This class has a bit more flavor than others, with a little more background for the witch. It takes a specific point of view on witchcraft but is easily adopted or adapted.  Like most of the other DMSGuild witches, this one is a full 20 levels with casting to the 9th spell level ability. This one also has a limit on the total number of spells the witch can know.  The witch gets some powers common to all witches and some that specific to their coven.  The common powers are known as Witchcraft (naturally) and revolve around channeling life energy. 

The covens include the Celestial, Fey, and Infernal. There is a spell list and four new spells.  So this gives it an edge over many of the others. 

There are a lot of neat ideas here and many worth looking into deeper.

D&D 5e Witch Class
by Nils Kjesem

This PDF is 18 pages (1 title, 17 pages content). There is no art and no layout above what can be done in a simple word processor. It also only sells for $1.00, so that evens everything out.

This witch is at 20 levels, but only progresses to the 5th spell level ability. Interestingly enough this witch also uses a 1d8 for HD, so making her a little tough than other witches. This one also puts more details into the various familiars the witch can get.

The archetypes are referred to as "Teachings" here. There are Fortune Teller, Herbology, and Sigils. 

We get a spell list at the end.  

Some interesting ideas, but it feels a bit like a rough draft rather than a completed product. Then again for $1.00 you can buy it and detail it any way you like. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

DMSGuild Witch Project: 5e Witches, Part 1

Going to look at some more D&D 5 Witch classes today. Today and the rest of the week I am going to look at some of the smaller PDFs.  Usually less than 20 pages.

For these DMSGuild classes, I am going to still follow my own rules and guidelines to make sure I am giving these a fair review.

The Witch Class
by Spencer Dimmick

This one is 15 pages (1 title, 1 legal, 13 pages content) and sells for $1.99. There is no art.  This class is a full 20 levels, with spell casting to the 9th spell level ability.  This witch also has a number of spells known per level. Spellcasting is based on Intelligence.

This witch has a number of special powers and more granted by their Practitioner's Path. These include The Hedge Witch, The Seer, The Maleficent, The Familial, and The Weaver. So a few more than average. Each has a nice solid witchy feel to it and can fill many niches for the witch class. 

Also detailed are more powers for the witch and the list of witch spells. No new spells are included.

For 2 bucks it packs a lot of punch.

Witch Class: Cackling Guidebook for lonely Spellcasters
From Ingo Könemann

This PDF is 9 pages and $1.00 PWYW. There is no art but the layout is nice. 1 page for the title and 1 page for legal and changelog, bring the content down to 6 pages.  This class is a full 20 levels, with spell casting to the 9th spell level ability. 

This one is interesting since your "Source of Power" determines your spellcasting ability. You may choose Intelligence or Charisma. This witch is also a ritual caster.

Covens grant the witch some "secret spells" starting at the 2nd level and special powers.

The Covens are Coven of the Beast, Coven of the Storm, Coven of Nature.   

There is a list of spells, but no new spells. 

Both have some good points but I'd like to see them expanded a bit.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

DMSGuild Witch Project: The Witch

Going to look at some more D&D 5 Witch classes today. These are all just called "The Witch." Since that was also the name of my first witch book back in 2012 I thought I should check them out.  As it turns out I have one for each primary spellcasting ability, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma. 

For these DMSGuild classes, I am going to still follow my own rules and guidelines to make sure I am giving these a fair review.

The Witch by Jeroen Boogaard

This pdf is 8 (6 pages content, 1 cover, 1 page of spells) pages at $0.50, so right under my ¢10 per page guideline.  The pdf is full color but light on art. Mind you, that is not a big deal here since the art it does have is used to good effect. 

Presented here is a full 20 level spellcasting class similar in feel to the Pathfinder witch, including minor (five of these) and major hexes (also five of these).  They get a full 9 levels of spell casting slots and Intelligence is their spellcasting ability.   These witches also get an herbalism ability.  Their subtypes are known as "Covens" so that is a good thing.  There are the covens of the dragon, the ancestor, and of the wild.  Each coven gets some special abilities and additional spells.

There is a spell list on the last page, but no new spells.  There are some minor typos, but nothing that impedes the understanding of the text.

The Witch by Dave Rich

This PDF is 15 pages (1 cover, 10 pages content, 3 pages of Appendicies, 1 legal). No art.  The pice is $3.00 PWYW.  So twice my ¢10 per page guideline. 

This one presents the witch class with four archetypes and a sorcerous origin.  We get a full 20 levels of the witch class. Spellcasting is based on Wisdom, and the witch gets a full 9 levels of spellcasting.  This class has a limit on the total number of spells known.  For example, the witch has a full 22 spell slots from 1st to 9th level, but only knows 17 spells.  you can choose to forget a spell of lower level when a higher one is available.  Witches gain familiars here and have a number of unique powers.

The Archetypes of the witch are called Entropic Spirals here. There are the Spiral of Life, Spiral of Fate, Spiral of Bewitching, and Spiral of Glamour. There is a list of spells, with an expansion to cover Xanathar's Guide.   

Appendix A covers a sorcerous origin for witches. Appendix B details the author's thoughts on the creation of this class; namely Terry Pratchett's Discworld and Mage: The Ascension. 

Some neat ideas and I like the sorcerous origin.

Class: The Witch by Calum Brough

This PDF is 11 pages (1 cover, 1 table,  2 pages of spell list).  I don't recall if I paid $1.02 for this or $1.27. Either way right around my ten cents per page.  There is no art. 

This class is designed to be an arcane variant or compliment to the Druid.  A full 20 levels (as expected) with spellcasting to the 9th level of spells.  This class is a Charisma-based spell caster. There are some witch powers here, some are copied over from the druid.

The Archetypes for this witch are the Maiden, Mother, and Crone.  Each archetype has some nice powers to go along with it.  There are no new spells.



Each of these comes close to the idea of the witch, but not the ideal witch. 

Monday, September 21, 2020

Shadow Week: Review, GAZ13 The Shadow Elves

Today is the start of my "Shadow Week" where I am going to spend some time with various Shadow Elves and Shadow Fey products. Today in lieu of a Monstrous Monday I want to talk about a classic Basic D&D (BECMI) resource, GAZ13 The Shadow Elves.

The world of Mystara/The Known World doesn't have Drow, but they do have Shadow Elves that fill the same ecological niche, but not the same mythological niche.  Like the drow, the shadow elves do live underground, are harmed by bright light and separated from the main, light elf, race many centuries ago. And that is where the similarities end.  

To understand the Shadow Elves best it is helpful to understand a bit about the world of Mystara and their Immortals.

For the unintiated Mystara does not have gods, but rather immortals, that help guide the affairs of mortals. The immortals in question here are Rafiel and Atzanteotl.  I will deal with them in the review, but sufice to say that Immortals of Mystara tend to meddle in the affairs of entire races.  Shadow Elves are a prime example.   This book is also one of the first introductions to the Hollow World of Mystara.

GAZ13 The Shadow Elves

This book is a 103 pdf, larger PoD book.  It was originally published in 1990 and it was written by Carl Sargent and Gary Thomas. Cover art is by the fantastic Clyde Caldwell with interior art by the equally fantastic Stephen Fabian.   The book was designed for the Dungeons & Dragons, aka Basic or BECM line.  I am reviewing the PDF and PoD version from DriveThruRPG.

The book is split up into a Player's Section and a Dungeon Master's Section. While each is numbered starting at "1".  The table of contents (printed) starts with the Players Section, but the book (PDF and POD, and hyperlinked bookmarks) start with the DMs section and then the Player's section. The Player's section does say "READ THIS BOOKLET FIRST!"  So I think I am going to star with the Player's Section.  This only makes sense since all DMs are also players.

Player's Section

This 32-page section introduces us to the book and to the Shadow Elves. This section also includes the very helpful "Other Books to Use" which gives some resources that would be helpful for a player dealing with the lands of the Shadow Elves, mostly GAZ 5, The Elves of Alheim and GAZ 10 The Orcs of Thar.  I also found that GAZ3 The Principalities of Glantri was also useful. 


Here we are introduced to the Immortal Rafiel and how he and his works have really guided the Shadow Elves to their modern state after their split with the Light Elves. This covers the history of the Shadow Elves as they know it. It is an interesting read and does exactly what it supposed to do, separates the Shadow Elves from the more popular Drow. You get an idea for the size of the Shadow elf realms (larger than any other country covered by the GAZ series.) and how the various settlements/cities are connected.  You get an overview/example of a day in the life a Shadow Elf. The importance of the Shadow Elf shamans (clerics) and the "Soul" crystals in the birth of a new Shadow Elf is covered and how important each birth is.  (This is something that is actually revisited in 5th Edition D&D Elves).  

There is a great section on Creating and Playing a Shadow Elf. This speaks to the strength of D&D BECMI. It can easily allow a new race/class without "breaking the rules" as it were.  Shadow Elves can advance farther than surface elves. This is explained by their unique nature.  New skills for Shadow Elves are also covered.  There are also many "new" spells for Shadow Elves.  I say "new" since many are from AD&D or alterations of other D&D spells.  Additionally, you can play a Shadow Elf shaman (cleric).  It is one of the best examples of playing a D&D / BECMI Shaman.  The Shaman has a few more spells, most of these are newer though there are some reused AD&D spells.  Note: I say "reused" not imply that these spells are somehow lesser, they are not.  They are all (for the most part) new to D&D BECMI, but players of other editions will recognize them.  

The player's section has a yellowish background. It does not make it difficult to read at all, but it does make it visually separate from the DM's section.

Dungeon Master's Section

This section is 64-pages with inserts.  The Immortal Rafiel is the primary focus of this section, or at least his importance is stressed.  He was not the genesis of the Shadow Elves, but he certainly shaped their evolution. He is the center of their religious life and since religion features so much in their everyday life, Rafiel is central to everything. 

While the Player's Section gives us the Shadow Elves as they see themselves, this section gives us Shadow Elves and their history as the Immortals see it.  Their story begins 6,000 years ago (5,000 BC) when Mystara was young and Blackmoor was a magical and technological global power.  The elves were living in what would become Glantri until 3,000 BC when Blackmoor was destroyed and the Great Rain of Fire happened. Mystara was knocked off her axis and ice caps melted and new ones froze.  The Shadow Elves sought safety and sanctuary underground.  

Here they encountered the followers of Atzanteotl, and evil Immortal, and some began to follow him, but most moved on and soon found Rafiel.   Now here is where things get uniquely "Mystara". Rafiel was a Nuclear Physicist in Blackmoor.  The explosion that nearly destroyed Mystara was his reactor. OR his reactor saved him when the Rain of Fire ( not to be confused with the Rain of Colorless Fire from Greyhawk) happened.  In any case, this former human now leads and protects the Shadow Elves. Back to history, there is a nice objective timeline that covers what the Shadow Elves have done in their time below the surface.  Including learning that others did survive (they thought all life had perished) and what they want to do about Alfhiem. Here you learn also that there are some false beliefs purposely put into the player's section that are corrected here.  For example, the "Soul Crystals" do not contain or house the souls of elves as all Shadow Elves believe, instead they are bits of the Radiance (from under Glantri) that are the nuclear equivalent of magic or the magical equivalent of nuclear energy.  Science and Magic get blended a lot when dealing with Blackmoor. 

Shamans and their roles are also covered in more detail here.  It is here since there are secrets that a Shama learns as they progress in levels that are supposed to remain unknown to them at lower levels. A really nice way of doing it if you ask me. This includes some new Shamanic spells. 


The geography of the Shadow Elves' lands is covered. Including the towns, major cities, and the passageways in between. Also covered are the possible location of more soul crystals and how many.  We also see the different types of animals living near or with the Shadow Elves including the "Skinwing" or a flying dinosaur they use for patrols.  This is reminiscent of both the Mahars of Pellucidar and the running lizards of the drow.  A couple of other monsters are presented, but I would have liked to have seen some more. Likely these would have been covered in other Gaz products. 

There is a neat little section on what everyone else thinks of the Shadow Elves include Glantri scholars, orcs, elves in Alfheim, and a dwarf.  Later on, we also get what Shadow Elves in other lands are up too. 

Several important NPCs are also covered including Rafiel and Atzanteotl. 


There is also a Shadow Elf specific character sheet.  I stress function over form. 

The PDF has maps you can print out and the Print version has the maps bound in the pages. 

The text is easy to read if it is a scan of a printed document. 

The PDF is $9.99 and the softcover POD + PDF is $18.00.  If you are getting the POD it is worth it to add the $2 to get the PDF to print out the maps and character sheets.

Using this Book and Shadow Elves

If you are unfamiliar with Mystara then some of the ideas mentioned inside will sound "out there" to other D&D players. Nuclear explosions? Post-Apocalypic Elves? Immortal physicists? Aztec like humans living in a Hollow Earth?  But they are all perfectly sensible in a Mystara campaign.  

The writing of this Gazzateer is top-notch, easily one of the best, and right up there with GAZ 3.  The Shadow Elves are also a little more interesting than Drow in my opinion.  Their lives make perfect sense once you see things from their own point of view. They would in fact make a fine replacement for the Drow in many games. 

The player's section would work "AS IS" for most versions of D&D.   Shadow Elf Shamans are easily converted to future D&D Clerics.  Adding them as a race or type of elf is also very easy.

Honestly, they are perfect for anyone that wants to play a Drow but wants something that is a little different. 

For my Week of Shadow, I want to come back to these guys a little later and see how they might fit in to other types of Shadow Elves / Shadow Fey.

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Review & Class Struggles: BX Options: Class Builder

Over the Summer Erin D. Smale released his BX Options: Class Builder book as a guide to how to build custom classes for the B/X, Basic-era, style games.  Of course, I had to grab it. I love making new classes and anything that involves a little number crunching is great in my opinion.  

Though I will admit I was at the same time worried that this would just be a rehash of the formulas used in Dragon Magazine #109.  Well, I am happy to report it is not, and there is more to this book than just that.  In fact, the author even points out in the book the original system.   My back-of-the-napkin calculations tell me that for levels 1-14 they both should give you the same numbers.  But more on that in a bit.

I am going to break this up into a normal review and then follow with a Class Struggles.

Review BX Options: Class Builder

The BX Options: Class Builder was released originally has a special edition print version via The Welsh Piper's website over the early part of Summer 2020.  The book later came to DriveThruRPG in a 2nd Editon mid Summer 2020. I will be covering the DriveThruRPG version only today.

The PDF is 82 pages, full-color art covers, with black, white, and blue color inside.  The interior art is all b/w from various stock art publishers from DriveThruRPG.  The advantage of this is the style of the book is very likely to fit into all the other books you might have in your collection.

The book is broken down into two larger sections. First is the class builder itself and the calculations for it. Second is a collection of Classes and Sub-classes for B/X D&D and clones, with the math worked out.  There are also a few Appendicies.

The layout of the book is very, very clean, and easy to read.  The PDF is bookmarked and the table of contents is hyperlinked.

After the Introduction, we get right into the builder itself.  There is a single page of explanatory notes (that is all that is needed) and then a worksheet (a plus for the PDFs!).  


After this, there are descriptions of basic abilities (armor, weapons, prime requisites), special abilities (thief abilities, spells, powers), restrictions and "Locked" abilities.  All with associated XP costs.

These numbers are then added up.  The Base XP is then plugged into one of the four base classes (Cleric, Fighter, Magic-user, Theif) for experience levels 1 to 14 (B/X standard).

Simple really.  And that is only the first dozen pages.

The rest of the book is dedicated to "rebuilding" each of the four base human classes and the three demi-human classes.  All seven also include various sub-classes.    For example, the Cleric is built first and the numbers match those found in most clones and the original sources.  Class variants cover new variant classes that add, change and/or remove abilities from the Base class.  In the case of the cleric different types of Gods they can worship are covered.  These are designed not to differ too wildly from the base class.  

After the Base class and Variant classes the Sub-classes, with calculations and full XP tables, are covered.  Again in the case of the cleric there is a Crusader (more combat, less spells) and a Shaman.

This is repeated for the Dwarf (Elder), Elf (Archon), Fighter (Barbarian, Beast-talker, Beserker) , Halfling (Warden), Magic-User (Necromancer, Sorcerer), and Thief (Assassin, Bard, Scout) classes. 

This covers the bulk of the book (some 50 or more pages) and really is a value-add in my opinion.  Some of those classes we have seen in other sources, but others are new or have new ideas.  The Necromancer for example can create golems.  Great if you think that the golems have the spirits of the dead in them or created Frankenstein-style.

Since this system is aimed at B/X level play, the obvious clone to support it is Old-School Essentials.  It is not an "Old-School Essentials Compatible" product as in with a logo, but acknowledgments to OSE are made.  So it would be fair really to compare the overlap of classes between this and OSE-Advanced.

The overlap is where you expect it to be, what I call the common Advanced classes (minus a couple); the Assassin, the Barbarian, and the Bard. There are some "near" overlaps as well. 

The OSE Assassin compares well to the BXO-CB Assassin.  Their XP values do differ, but not significantly so. BXO-CB Assassins have more HP. Both classes have the same skills. 
The Barbarians compare well enough with the BXO-CB Barbarian having more HP again.
Bards have the most differences.  BXO-CB Bards have more XP per level, less HP, and fewer overall spells.   I don't consider any of this to be "game-breaking" or even "game-stretching", just different flavors of the class.  Rename one "Bard" a "Skald" and there you go. 

Shamans are a little bit like Druids and Crusaders are bit like Paladins, but different enough to provide some nice flavor to the game.

The Appendicies cover a number of topics like adding various thief abilities, a break down of the core seven B/X classes, skills, equipment, spell failure, home terrain, animal special abilities and abilities for higher-level characters.

The book is very high quality and has a lot of utility for all sorts of B/X uses.  Working through the numbers it works great for levels 1-14.  If you extend it to level 20 this would affect the numbers for spell casters.  For example, Magic-users in BX/OSE gain spells to level 6, for a 2,400 XP addition.  If you take this to level 20 Magic-users gain up to 9th level spells, this would be 3,600 XP added to the base.  GRANTED this book does not claim to support above level 14, or more to the point, spell levels beyond level 6.

Class Struggles

How does this work in the real world? Or more to the point can it work with classes I have worked on.


Printing out the sheet, which is great thanks to the PDF, I worked out what my own Witch Classes would end up.  Now please keep in mind I am going to do some things beyond the scope of this book so any issues I might encounter are not due to the Class Builder but more likely my use of it.

I already mentioned there are differences in the Bard class. The author even points out that these differences are really expected and that is OK because it will vary on how each group decides to use a particular class.  So with that now as a given, going deeper into this and expecting some variation is fine.

I went through the math on this for my witch class.  I will not go into the details here because I created a Google Sheet you can see for yourself.  Note you will need the Class Builder book to know what these numbers actually mean.  I am going to talk about the cases that vary.




Long time readers might recall I did something similar using the Dragon #109 system a while back.  In fact the spreadsheet is the same with the Dragon #109/Thoul's Paradise test on the first tab and the BXO:CB test on the second tab.

If the Thoul's Test tab is displayed, click on the next tab arrow to go to the Class Builder Test tab.


The "Thoul's Test" goes back to a couple of posts made by Thoul's Paradise that I discussed: 
So a couple issues right away.  Witches cast arcane spells, but they are not quite the same as those a Magic-user can use, there are more divine spells really.  Especially for the Pagan Witch.  
What I opted to do was make the "Witchcraft" spells worth 200xp to 300xp per level. A nice split between what the Divine (100xp) and Arcane (400xp) spellcasters have.

The witch also has Occult Powers. These are spell-like abilities. Since they can be used more often I gave them a cost of 250xp each.  Though 300xp per would have been fine too.

In the end I came up with something pretty close to the numbers I have been using forever and published for close to 20 years.   The differences are so trivial as to be considered error or even "noise."

These are also very, very close to the numbers I got using the Dragon #109 system.   I have not compared it to the system used in ACKS Player's Companion, but my memory of the system and playing with it when it first came out tells me that I should also expect similar numbers.  Especially since the ACKs system and the Class Builder System both use the same BX base and assumptions of 1-14 (or so) levels of play.

Going back to a source the author and I both have used, Breeyark: Building the Perfect Class, I realized that the author of that resource IS the author of this book. The systems are different but are built on similar premises. Also, they should grant the same or very similar results.

The BX Options Class Builder is a very fun book with some great class choices as an added bonus of some worked out classes.   There are no spells offered for the new spell casting classes, but that would have been way beyond the scope of the book anyway.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Welcome September! Night Shift and Mages

It's September.  The start of Meteorological Fall; the actual Autumnal Equinox is still three weeks away. But change is in the air and there is a change at the Other Side as well.

I have a new banner up. I am planning to do a lot more with Night Shift in the coming months.  

Night Shift was designed to replace many games in my library, but that doesn't mean I am ready to stop playing or talking about those games yet. 

In fact last night I was reminded about a game I really love and I really should do more with.  

Satyros Phil Brucato had posted about a book he had done and it really reminded me how much I love Mage.  Both Mage: The Ascension and Mage: The Awakening.  Though I lean more towards Mage: The Ascension.   But the post was about his book, Mage Made Easy: Advice from That Damn Mage Guy.

Part of the Storytellers Vault (a bit like DMSGuild, but for White Wolf/Onyx Path games) this book is about...well...Mage, made easy.

Now. Anyone who has ever played any version of Mage is likely to be incredulous about now.  I mean, Mage is many, many, many things. Sometimes too many.  But easy?  No. Easy is never a word used with Mage.  But Phil is the Mage expert.  Mage: The Ascension 20th is close to 700 pages and he wrote the bulk of that.  So if he is telling me that MME is something I can read in 60 pages, well I am going to pay attention.

And I am glad I did.  

While I am conversant in most Mage matters, I do not by any stretch consider myself an expert, or even an advanced player.  I am quite enthusiastic though.  I found Mage Made Easy to be a nice breeze guide of solid advice that did two things right away for me.  First, it made me want to play Mage: The Ascension again and secondly it gave me solid advice that is good for many modern supernatural games. 

The book is very heavily focused on Mage and Mage: The Ascension 20th Anniversary in particular.  

It shows you how to use the vast Mage meta-plot OR discard it altogether (that's me!).  It gives you some fantastic archetypes to try out and even solid advice on Mage's biggest issue, Paradox.

Plus the art, as expected, is fantastic.

While I do say there is good advice for any modern supernatural game, the advice is also very Mage specific.  This means to use this book it helps to have a basic working knowledge of the Mage RPG.  Once you have that then translating this advice to your own game, be it Mage or something else, is pretty easy.  BUT that is going beyond the scope of the book and not the fault of this book if it doesn't work out.  But advice like "start small" or "start with the characters" is ALWAYS good advice.

While the focus is on Mage: The Ascension 20th Anniversary Ed. (Mage20), I found there was good advice here to apply to my particular favorite flavor of the game in Mage The Sorcerers Crusade

Makes me wish I had a Mage game going, to be honest!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...