Showing posts with label reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label reviews. Show all posts

Monday, May 16, 2022

Review: 2300 AD Traveller: 2300 (1986)

2300 AD Traveller: 2300
A new week and a new set of rules to read over.  This week I am going for a span of 20 years. Traveller, in its first 10 years, stayed pretty consistent and took me about two weeks to work through.  The next 20 years are going to be much faster.

I am going to start off with one today I only know very little about.  Traveller: 2300 also known as 2300 AD.  

Before getting into any books or research here is what I do know.  This was supposed to be the start of a new line for GDW.  It dealt with the earliest time in the Traveller Universe, specifically 2300 AD on Earth. There was a tie-in with their Twilight 2000 game line.   In 1986 I was very deep into AD&D to exclusion of all else save for college prep. 

So this one is 100% new for me.

2300 AD or Traveller: 2300

Ok. Let's do this one right from the start.  This is not really a Traveller game.  While I am sure many people worked it out so it could be the past of Traveller, my very, very limited understanding of the history of Traveller's Imperium suggests that likely isn't.  But I am sure people with better knowledge than me can say for sure.   Since I have a sci-fi game set more or less in the 2300s I figure why not pick this up to see what it is like. 

For this review, I am only considering the PDF available from DriveThruRPG.  I *thought* I had bought it from FFE years ago, but I can't find my copy.

PDF. 131 pages. Color cover, black & white interior art.  The scan is OCRed and bookmarked.  The scan of the cover is rough, but the interior looks better. 

The Introduction reads like many RPG books. "This is an RPG", "here are some expectations." And so on. 

Player's Manual

History covers the history of this setting with the horrible nuclear war in 2000.  I must have been sleeping. I am kidding of course, RPGs are great fun but they have not been great at predicting the future really. Now I have no way of telling, but I think this is basically the same history as GDW's other game Twilight 2000. It certainly feels the same. I never played the game myself.   This history section covers the fall and rise of humankind as they venture out into space by the year 2300.  Wars and geo-political rivalries are also covered and how they still affect the day-to-day lives of humans on Earth and in Space.  This flows into the next section.

Political Geography talks about Earth and beyond of 2300.  America is split up (ok that one is not so far-fetched) with Texas as its own republic (which seems to be a reoccurring theme in a lot of things I am reading right now) and other "American" nations. Mexico is split up. Europe ie, well Europe.  I think the authors overestimate the older rivalries a little.  Germany reunited long before 2000 in a largely peaceful integration and the European Union has been going pretty strong if you ignore Brexit.  

In space we colonies at L-4 and L-5 (LaGrange Points), Mercury (not likely, but I'll go with it), Mars, the Asteroids (much more likely), the moons of Jupiter, and just beyond Saturn.  No mention of Lunar colonies at all here. 

The chapter on Technology is interesting. By 1986 we had seen nearly 10 years of Moore's Law in effect for computers, so the authors of this game give computers a bit more power.  I would argue it is not really enough still, but getting there. There is a bit about AIs and psychosis that feels like something I just read in Robert A. Heinlein's Friday.  There is some detail on transportation and medical sciences as well.

Colonies cover the fifty-five colonies on twenty-nine inhabitable worlds.  Since these colonies are largely extensions of Earth-based interests they are classified by which "Arm" they are in (American, Chinese, French) or which "Finger" of the Arm (Canadian and Latin for America or the French Frontiers).   This is followed by Foundations that provide services for citizens after the collapse of the governments in 2000.

Twenty pages in we finally get to Character Generation.  If you didn't know this was "not Traveller" before then you learn it here.  There are four physical attributes: Size, Strength, Dexterity, Endurance, and four psychological ones: Determination, Intelligence, Eloquence, and Education.  You roll a 4d6-4 (generating a score between 0 and 20) and you can re-roll one physical and one psychological attribute.  Strength and Dexterity are altered by homeworld and gravity type.

Like Classic Traveller you have skills that can be determined by Background and Career.  But no hint of dying in Character Gen (is this even Traveller then???).  

This all takes us right to Skills and Careers.

The "Shopping sections" Equipment, Weapons, Vehicles, and Armor follow.  Weapons cover all sorts of guns (as expected) and a few laser-based ones. Vehicles does not cover starships.  The currency of choice is the French Livres (Lv). 

We get some star charts and tables of the nations of the systems.

Referee's Manual

While this is all one file, it was obviously once a boxed set with separate books.  Pages 54 to 105 cover what was the separate Referee's Manual.  I will also point out that the Bookmarks in my PDF stop working well at this point.  There are bookmarks, but they don't always go where they should and are indented oddly.

What would have been the back cover of the Referee's Manual has some really great insight.  It credits Marc W. Miller (Traveller) and Frank Chadwick (Twilight: 2000) as two of the "big name" designers of 2300.  The implication here is that 2300 was something of an in-house game combining elements of Traveller and Twilight:2k.  As a designer myself, I find that fascinating.  Maybe, just maybe, more fascinating than the actual game!  Internally they called it The Game. And it sounds like that played it out from 2000 to 2300 in turns of 5 or 10 years to get us where we were then.

Life on the Frontier covers the implied setting of the Traveller 2300 game. 

Tasks and Combat are largely the same sorts of sections, with combat a special case of task resolution.  Clue #2 that this is not your father's Traveller: 1d10 for task resolution and not a 2d6.  Here you need to roll higher than a 7 with every 4 points above or below that as a target number difficulty. You add your plusses from skills to your roll and if needed an attribute divided by 4 (+0 to +5) range. 

Both Tasks and Combat have charts of successes and failures and what you do with each.

Star Travel finally gets off of the Earth and out into the colonies.  The stutterwarp is travel mode of choice to get to distant stars. There are limitations.  The drives of these ships can travel great distances but have to jettison their spent radioactive fuel in the gravity well of a system.  This process takes some time.  So there is a limiting factor on how far a ship can practically travel.  There is some detail on tinkering with your starship, but not at the level I have come to associate with Traveller.  Space Combat follows right after this.  What is nice about this one is there are some photos of ships on a space hex-grid.  

Ship Listing is the "shopping list" of Starships.  It lacks the "used cars" feel of Classic Traveller. 

World Generation is next.  It covers quite a lot of detail to be honest. More than I expected.

NPCs are next, followed by World Mapping and Animal Encounters

There are some star maps, star charts, and some blank forms for Star Data, World Data, and Colony/Outpost Data.

Also included is a sample adventure, The Tricolor's Shadow.  It has maps, adventure ideas and two scenarios to run. 

Two alien species are introduced in the end, The Kafers and The Pentapods.  They are presented as NPCs only, not as playable species.


Traveller 2300 is not a bad game to be honest, it just isn't really Traveller is it?  I would be better with it IF I could try to figure out a way to make it work with more up-to-date history. But by that point, I could instead use it as a guide and run a Classic Traveller game and limit it to this time period and location.  

There is another issue with playing this sort of game.  Traveller 2300 suffers from our collective inability to really predict the future.  That is no slight on the designers, that is just human nature.  Compare the tech in this game to that of The Expanse RPG.  Both cover humanity's first step to the solar system and beyond.  Both cover roughly similar time periods (2300 vs. 2359) and both can play the same sorts of games.  In Traveller 2300 you have the stutterwarp to get to extra-solar planets and int he expanse has the ring gates.  The differences lie in the subtle predictions.  Computers are much more powerful in the Expanse, but FTL tech is non-existent (save for the ring gate).  Traveller 2300 has FTL (in a limited fashion by design).  Compare both to say Star Trek of the same period, neither has anything at all like the Ambassador Class Enterprise-C. 

Still this is a good game for a grittier version of Traveller, if you don't mind the system change, or for an advanced version of Twilight 2000.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Review: Traveller Alien Modules (1984 - 1987), Part 1

Alien Module 1 Aslan
Before I get into the next phase of Traveller evolution I thought it behooves me to spend some time with the major Alien races we encounter in Traveller.  Indeed, it was the aliens and the ads for the first three books in Dragon Magazine that made me want to go back and check out Traveller some more.

All of these are available via DriveThruRPG and Far Future Enterprises.

Alien Module 1 - Aslan

PDF. 44 pages, color cover, black and white interior art. 

While not the first Traveller alien I encountered, this is the first module or data file for the various aliens Traveller has to offer.  This one seemed like a no-brainer to me at the time.  I had read Joan D. Vinge's "psion" earlier that year and between the Caitian and Kzinti (introduced to me by Star Trek) I was primed to want a Cat-like race in space. 

The book covers the basics. Aslan physiognomy, which includes some evolutionary details and how it plays into their current civilization. Their political structure (or almost lack thereof) is also discussed. While the Aslan (named such by the first human explorers to make first contact) are described as proud warrior race, they are not really a unified one. 

We are given a bit of their history and their forays into space and their encounters with the Imperium. We get a bit on their psychology, which includes the territorial nature of the males (explained the loose confederacy) and their ritual duels.  

The next large section is Aslan character creation. This covers the basic character creation going back to the 3 LBBs and "Expanded" character creation for other types of characters. 

We are also given background on the Aslan homeworld, worlds within the Imperium, and a bit on starship design.  There is even some detail on the Aslan language, at least in terms of names.

For 44 pages it is pretty well packed.  There is not a lot of "fluff" here, mostly all "crunch."  So no fiction from the point of view of an Aslan mercenary or a human living on an Aslan world.  Just the basics and enough to get you going on to your own adventures. Honestly, it is all you need. 

This was the Alien Module I wanted the most back in the day.  Researching it now I see that a lot of people did what I was going to do with it; mix in liberal amounts of Kzinti and some Caitian as well.  Plus I was going to have psionic ability be a bit stronger in Aslan women. A nod to a lot of the scifi I was reading at the time.  I also noticed just as many people complaining about others doing exactly what I wanted and described!  Yes, the Aslan are fine just as they are but I also like my ideas too.  Thankfully this book lets me do all of that.

Alien Module 2 - K'kree
Alien Module 2 - K'kree

PDF. 44 pages, color cover, black and white interior art. 

These aliens were very alien to me.  While I could relate to the Aslan and the Vargr, these centaur-like aliens were very different and thus pushed a lot lower on my "wish list."  I don't even think I had read any of this book until I picked up the PDF ten years ago.

This book is set up much the same as the Aslan book and the future books in the line. I found the bits on K'kree psychology most interesting. As herbivores, they tend to be peaceful (ETA unless you are a meat eater). This combined with the race's inherent claustrophobia goes to explain that while they had Jump technology they had not expanded as fast as other races.  

We do get the sections on history, politics and governments, space travel and starship design, and the language section on creating K'kree names. There is a section on character creation as well.

This Alien Module also gives a few pages on adventures with or about the K'kree.  So a little bit more background here than on the Aslan, but I think needed since this species is so different.

Reading this 10 years ago I was not overly impressed I think.  Today I am of a completely different mind and would like to see these guys used more.

Alien Module 3 - Vargr
Alien Module 3 - Vargr

PDF. 50 pages, color cover, black and white interior art. 

While I knew about the Vargr, they were the big three alien races GDW was advertising back in the day, my first *real* interaction with them was way back in the early 2010s when I was looking for new ideas for Ghosts of Albion adventures.  I stumbled on one from White Dwarf #62, "An Alien Werewolf in London" about a Vargr in Victorian London.  It was an odd adventure, but I gave it go for Ghosts and always wanted to try it again with Doctor Who Adventures in Time and Space. 

This book is a bit larger than the previous two, largely because there is a lot you can do with these guys.  Also they are the most fun in terms of history.

Vargr look like Terran wolves because generally speaking that is what they are.  They were transplanted from Terra (Earth) to their homeworld by the Ancients over 300,000 years ago.  Now 300k years is not enough to evolve any stock into something like the Vargr so they had been artificially engineered for intelligence and survivability.  They share a number of physical characteristics of both humans and canine stock but have some minor differences as well.  They still have the psychology of pack hunters following a charismatic leader and working in small, but somewhat unstable, groups.  Pack membership can change and leaders can be followed or discarded at any time.  This has had two effects on the Vargr. One their history is a confusing affair with no one narrative of what happened.  Most of their 300,000-year history is largely unknown to them.  Also it leaves them with no central government nor even any type of government that could be considered "typically Vargr."   See why these aliens can be fun!

We get the now usual sections on character creation along with a brief language update for names. Some basics on the Vargr worlds and space travel.  

We also get a section called "Gvurrdon's Story" which is given to us from the point of view of a Vargr.

This makes up the "Big Three" in my mind.  I know more were introduced soon after (and I will get to them) but these are the ones I associate the most with Traveller.

Friday, March 18, 2022

Review: Castles & Crusades Codex Egyptium

Castles & Crusades Codex Egyptium
Today I present the last (so far) of the Castles & Crusades mythological Codices.   This one takes away from Europe and back further in time to antiquity.   It was also one I was really, really looking forward to and I am not disappointed.  

Castles & Crusades Codex Egyptium

Nothing gets people excited quite like Egypt.  A kingdom that began at least in 3,100 BC to the time of the Romans, it has missing time where "nothing really happened" (according to one Prof. used to joke) that lasts longer than the entire history of the United States. It is an impressively long amount of time and even one that seems incalculable. There is the old saying. "Man fears time, but Time fears the Pyramids." 

This codex takes on the "newer" Codex format.  This is one makes the new format a little clearer. The "Chapters" covers history and mythology with some game material while the "Appendicies" are game material proper. 

For this review I am considering the PDF from DriveThruRPG and the hardcover edition.  Again our author and designer is Brian Young.  Color covers, and black and white interior art. 

Chapter 1 The Black Land Arose (Geography and Worlds)

This chapter begins with a basic map of the lands around the Nile and even up to the Mediterranean Sea and out East to the Fertile Crescent.  This chapter covers the geography of these lands and a bit on the people. To call it brief is a massive understatement.  We are talking about nearly 3,500 years of history and people and change.  While the Egyptians were notoriously resistant to change and very xenophobic, there is still a glossing over of history here.  Of course, this is again a gamebook and not a history text.  No problem then, there is more to come. 

Chapter 2 From Early Darkness (History and Mythic Background)

This covers the history, real and mythical, of the lands. This covers the stone age (Paleolithic) to all the Dynasties up to the Fall of Rome in terms of real-world history.  The remaining covers the mythical history of Egyptian creation and gods. 

Chapter 3 Presided over by the Divine (Gods, Goddesses and Supernatural Figures)

This chapter opens up with some spiritual concepts like priests, mummification, souls, and the afterlife.  For the Egyptians, the afterlife WAS life. Everything they worked for the afterlife.  The gods and their place in the afterlife is also discussed.

Chapter 4 Rife with Charms and Spells ( Magic in Egypt)

As with many ancient societies, magic was not "Supernatural" but a part of nature and that has never been more true than with Egypt. Various words of power are discussed and listed. Descriptions of the Egyptian "wizards." 

Chapter 5 Neter and Netert - The Divine

Egypt is the land of Gods.  Lots and lots of Gods. Here only some of the Gods are detailed. Since Egyptian history is so long that even the gods changed.  There are 40 pages of gods here.  Some are listed more than once as their roles changed over the centuries. Young has a Sisyphean task here, trying to catalog all the gods that Egpyt has had.  Even if it not complete it is the most complete one I have seen in a game.

Chapter 6 Using Egyptian Mythology In Airhde

For the first time the Codex covers the Troll Lords' homeworld of Aihrde.  Parallels are drawn between the gods of Aihrde and the gods of Egyptian.   The advantage here, beyond the page, gives a nice mixing pot (Aihrde) that all the other Codices can be mixed. 

Appendix A Names This covers names for all sorts of people, PCs, NPCs, Gods and more.

Appendix B Social Classes The various classes in ancient Egypt.  Note that social class was ironclad; you didn't move around between them. 

Appendix C Defended by Fierce Warriors (The Military and Soldiers) Covers the different sort of warriors.  None are different from the Fighter game-wise, but there are a lot roleplaying ideas here.

Appendix D Chariots The high tech of the ancient world. It could not be understated that this was the implementate of war for the time. 

Appendix E The Sphynx A little bit of background on the creature.

Appendix F Where Monsters And Demons Dwell The creatures of ancient Egypt. 25+ creatures here and each one is more interesting than the last to be honest.  I am hesitant to say this is the best chapter, but it is really fun.

At the end is a really nice bonus map.  The map is included with the PDF.

Map of of the Universe

While there is a lot of information in this book, it still makes me want more.  I have a feeling that to do this topic justice we would need a 500+ page book. I can't even begin to imagine what Young had to do to pare it down this much. 

Eygpt is just so damn interesting.  There is so much here to play with that my cup runneth over with ideas. I honestly don't even know where to even start to be honest.

With all of these Codecies, one would be tempted to combine them all.  Build something akin to Lands of Adventure or Man, Myth, & Magic.  While I could see this working somehow in Aihrde or a homebrew campaign, I would avoid it for a purely mythic Earth where I feel this would work best. 

For my money and time, play these various codices in their own times and their own places.  For me, that would be the best way to really get the feel for them. Nicely they are written in such a way to allow pretty much anything. 

I understand that Dr. Young is working more of these.  I am really looking forward to them! 

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Review: Castles & Crusades Codex Celtarum, 2nd Printing

Castles & Crusades Codex Celtarum, 2nd Printing
If there was any doubt where Dr. Brian Young's true love lies in this series, the new second printing of the Codex Celtarum should dissolve those.   This new book brings the original Codex in line with the other codies in terms of style and feel.  This new book is also expanded to 256 pages, up from the previous 178 pages.  It is without a doubt also my favorite of the codies. 

Castles & Crusades Codex Celtarum, 2nd Printing

For this review, I am considering both he PDF and hardcover copies.  256 pages with color covers and black & white interior art. 

The Codex Celtarum is written by Brian Young.  He is a gamer and an academic in Celtic history and languages and an all-around nice guy.  Honestly, he is the kind of person I want writing this sort of thing.  You talk to him and get the feeling that he could immediately tell you a story from the Mabinogion and it would roll off his tongue like the bards of old.  This is the guy you want working on your Celtic game.


The first thing I noticed in his introduction was his acknowledgement of the differences in legend and in history and where he was putting his cards.  For me, as someone that has had to have the same tug of war, the value of this book went up several degrees.   

Before moving on to the book itself I spent a lot of time with Castles & Crusades again, this time from the point of view of a Celtic-themed game.  Like the others in this series, it could be used with any D&D-like game.  Now at this point it should be noted that the design of this book is to play in a Faery realm, so it is something you can drop into any game world.  There are some game-based assumptions made, but nothing to keep you from making this your own.

This section also talks a bit about the changes from the 1st to 2nd printing.

Chapter 1: In Lands Far Away

This covers the lands of the Celts and how the Castles & Crusades player can drop their game into this world.  The advantage here is this 2nd Edition does talk about how you can use the Codex Germanica along with this.  This covers not just the expected British Isles, but all (mostly all) Celtic Europe. 

Chapter 2: Mythical Locations

This brief chapter discusses mythical locations like Hyberborea and the Hercynian Forest.  These lands were assumed to be real just "over there."

Chapter 3: Once Upon A Time 

This chapter covers the history of the Celtic real-world universe including the various wars that happened at the dawn of time and various involved countries/lands in Europe.  

Chapter 4: Otherworldly History

This is the "myth" part of the mytho-historical background of the Celts.  It overlays the stories of the gods and other powerful beings on top of the history of the Celts.  This chapter is rich in storytelling and follows a tale very familiar to me, but there are always new things to read and learn.

Splitting Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 into two separate and distinct chapters is good since for most books on the topic they are intertwined so much that it is hard to tease out the "myth" and the "history" from the mytho-historic events. Certainly one has had a profound effect on the other and I think Young demonstrates this well.  

Also while I am 100% behind his enthusiasm here (and I share it) we have yet to see anything game-related and we are 75 pages in.

Chapter 5: The Otherworld of Faery

This chapter covers the various "otherworlds" (yes plural) of the lands of Faery. Usually tied to a physical location in the real world.  It reads like an unreal Gazeteer of Europe to be honest, a mist-shrouded tour into a land that is similar but still very different. The faery lands don't have the same rules of nature as the mortal realms. So there are some tables about the odd passage of time or the nature of the land.  

Chapter 6: There Lived a People 

ALmost everything you want to know about the Faery races.  This includes traits faeries can have and their weaknesses.  This also includes a list of the giants of Wales.

Chapter 7: Great of Magic and Power 

This details, what else, magic.  If human wizards study magic and human priests pray for it then the Fae ARE magic. The distinction is not a subtle one.  The magical powers here are listed as spells. So they can be used by the fae as if they were spells, but that robs them of what makes them so interesting. Instead, go with the suggestion in the book that each member of the fae gets a number of special powers based on their intelligence.  And there are plenty of powers here!  If you are anything like me and love magic, spells, or powers for characters then this chapter alone is worth the price of the book.  

It is one of the largest chapters so far and has the most "game" material.

Chapter 8: With Great Gods and Lords 

This covers the gods, demigods, and named faeries of the lands. There are no stats for these gods or heroes.  Why? That is easy. They are not meant to be killed or even interacted with.  They are the legends of this land. If you have any familiarity with the gods of Celtic myth and legend you can find them here. 

Appendix A: The Druidic Order This covers the druid classes for Castles & Crusades within the Celtic world. There is the Druid (Wisdom), the Celtic Bard (Charisma), and the Druidic Seer (Wisdom).

Appendix B: The Secrets of the Druids This appendix covers the Ogham writing and runes.

Appendix C: Druidic Spells What is says, the spells the various druid classes can use. 

At this point, I wonder if all three could not have been combined into one Appendix. 

Appendix D: The Enchanted of Faerie Here we get a nice discussion on Faery Metals and how they can be used.  There is a list of divine items (artifacts in other games) listed by the owner; that's right the Gáe Bulga is not just lying around waiting for you to find it. No this +8 spear (!) is well in the hands of Cú Chulainn.

Appendix E: The Severed Head discusses the importance of taking the head of your enemy.

Appendix F: The Feast Hall details the Celtic hero's feast.

Appendix G: The Celtic Chariot. what it says on the tin.

Appendix H: The Celtic Warrior Society. Gives us a very brief overview of the importance of warriors and how they were organized.  I wish this one had been much longer. 

Appendix I: Accoutrements of War. Deals with the arms and armor of the celtic warrior. 

Appendix J: Strong Feats and Deeds. Covers the tales of the heroes of the Celtic myths and legends. 

Castles & Crusades Codex Celtarum
Honestly, Appendices E to J should be combined into a chapter on Celtic Warriors. This is what the other Codices have done. 

Appendix K: Holidays & their Customs.

Appendix L Celtic Themed Adventures.

Appendix M: Monsters

Also, this should have been a chapter. There are 30 pages of monsters here. Many are very familiar to me, but again are closer to their "roots."

Ok. So what can say here?

The book is fantastic and I loved every bit of it.  BUT, I find the new organization of the 2nd Printing to be inferior to that of the 1st Printing.  I felt some of the material could have been organized and combined a bit better. I still find it a delight to read, but is that due to this book or the subject matter?

Again, there is no doubt that Brian Young is not only an expert in this field, he also loves it.  That enthusiasm shows and I am sure he could have written a book twice this size.  I do love the expanded history and the raised importance of the continental Celts over the typically well-trodden lands of the Irish and British Celts.  Looking over my review of the First Printing this is exactly one of the things I thought was missing from that version. Though some of the material from the first edition (some classes) are missing from this edition.  I guess I should keep both on hand.

Still, if you are a fan of Celtic myth, Faery lore, or Castles & Crusades then I highly recommend this book.  Even if you don't play C&C, I would get this book.

Friday, September 17, 2021

#FollowFriday Pauli Kidd and 'Lace and Steel'

It's another #FollowFriday!   Today I'd like to draw your attention a new RPG review site from a great "D&D" author.   

Pauli Kidd gave us the great Greyhawk novels White Plume MountainDescent into the Depths of the Earth, and Queen of the Demonweb Pits.

Pauli is still writing, but now she has a YouTube Review channel, Lace and Steel.

Lace and Steel

In particular, she has done some great sci-fi reviews.

Great stuff really.   And I am looking forward to more.

You can find Pauli online at:

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Old-School Essentials 3rd Party Publishers

A new bundle of Old-School Essentials products has been released by Planar Compass and is now available on DriveThruRPG. 

Old-School Essentials 3rd Party Publishers by Planar Compass

It has some rather nice products included.

Here are a few of them.

BX Options: Class Builder

Build or customize your own OSE or Basic-era classes. I covered this book a bit ago. 

Hidden Hand of the Horla - T:1
From Appendix N Entertainment

A nice old-school-style adventure where you seek out the tower of the Hand Mage that has reappeared out of legend. It is from R. J. Thompson and is for characters levels 1 to 3.  There are some great new monsters here, the Goatfolk are my favorite, and some new to BX/OSE spells that Advanced players will recognize.  27 pages with maps by Dyson Logos. It is a really fun adventure and captures the spirit of the modules of the early 80s very, very well.  Buy it for the nostalgia, but run it because it is a great little adventure. 

The Chaos Gods Come to Meatlandia
From Knight Owl Publishing

I thought this was an adventure, but it is actually a mini-setting of Meatlandia and the opposing factions. There are meat mages (you really have to buy this to see them) and various types of bards (three in total).  So new classes, new magic (15 pages of meat mage spells), a city, new monsters, new magic items, and just some gonzo-level weirdness.  I have to say that it is not for everyone, BUT there is an audience that will absolutely love this.  Has a solid Dungeon Crawl Classic meets Lamentations of the Flame Princes meets 80s weird horror.  If it were a movie Roger Corman would have been the director or producer and Tom Savini would have starred and consulted on the monster effects. The whole thing is 90 pages long so you are getting a lot.  Not sure where I am going to use it, but it really begs to be used somewhere.  Retooled just a tiny bit could turn it from gonzo to some serious horror. That is the direction I am likely to go.

Barrow Keep: Den of Spies
From R. Rook Games

For starters, you get this product for OSE, 5e, Troika!, and Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells all in the same purchase! So kudos to the authors for that.  The main book covers the keep and a host of important NPCs. The characters are all assumed to be young adults living within the Keep. This covers 72 pages. There are also some new monsters in abbreviated stats that can easily be used by any game.  

The GM's Scenario packs vary from ruleset to ruleset.  5e is 43 pages and OSE is 55 pages.  As expected these GM packs give you scenario seeds, the relevant players/NPCs, and has you go from there.  The flexibility of this a crazy high. I can see an enterprising GM make this their central focus for dozens of adventures if not an entire campaign. If you don't want to do that then make it a home base for the PCs and have the occasional "stay at home" adventure.  Given how well it is multi-stated use it as a means of moving from one game system to the next.  It is extremely well designed.

Get it for one system, but enjoy it with the other three as well.  This has made me want to look more into the Troika! RPG.

FULL DISCLOSURE: The author of this, Richard Ruane, is a co-worker and friend of mine, though I did not see that at the time I purchased this.

I should stat up an NPC Pagan witch that lives in Barrow Keep.

A Witch's Desire - Adventure for Old-School Essentials
From Earl of Fife Games

This is a fun adventure dealing with a bargain made by your village and the local Witch of the Wild.  She is protecting your village from the deadly winter of the Ice Queen.  Now she is asking you for a favor.  Great notes on surviving cold weather and exploring in the wilderness. Part hex crawl-ish, part quest adventure.  The notes say to make her an 8th level magic-user. I say why not an 8th level witch?

Witch of the Wild
8th level Human Witch, Pagan Tradition

Str: 10
Int: 17
Wis: 16
Dex: 11
Con: 13
Cha: 18

HP: 25
AC: 9
THAC0: 18

D: 10 W: 12 P: 11 B: 14 S: 13

Occult Powers
Familiar: Crow
Cowan: Meepa the Goblin
Herbal healing
Of the Land

First: (3) Call Spirits of the Land, Cure Light Wounds, Glamour
Second: (3) Animal Messenger, Pins and Needles, Seven Year Blessing (Ritual)
Third: (2) Scry, What You Have is Mine (Ritual)
Fourth: (2) Temperature Control, Wheel of the Year (Ritual)

I could certainly use this adventure as part of my War of the Witch Queens.

There are others that I have not purchased yet but plan to.  

And finally also in this bundle,

The Craft of the Wise: The Pagan Witch Tradition
From The Other Side Publishing

But I assume you know all about this one.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Pookie Reviews the Witches

Mathew Pook over at the Reviews from R'lyeh has taken on all my latest Basic Era Witch books.

His Which Witch series reviews my Daughters of Darkness: The Mara Witch for Basic Era Games, The Children of the Gods: The Classical Witch for Basic Era GamesThe Basic Witch: The Pumpkin Spice Witch TraditionThe Craft of the Wise: The Pagan Witch Tradition, and the Warlock.

In general I think his reviews are fair, but I tend to enjoy the Pumpkin Spice witch more than he did.

So give him a read and see what he has to say!

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

B/X Boxing Match: OSE vs. BX RPG

One question I have been getting since I purchased both the Pacesetter BX RPG and Necrotic Gnome's Old-School Essentials is "which one is better?"

Truthfully I am not really interested in "better" but instead "which is best for me" and "which one satisfies it's design goals best?"

Well, lets have a look!

Before I start let's agree on some terms and shorthand.

B/X refers to the D&D Basic and D&D Expert Boxed Sets edited by Tom Moldvay (Basic) and David Cook and Steven Marsh (Expert). 

BECMI while it might not come up, refers to the Basic, Expert, Companion, Master, Immortal sets edited by Frank Mentzer.  Unless a distinction needs to be made I am always referring to the B/X versions of Basic and Expert rules.

OSE refers to the Old School Essentials set from Gavin Norman and Necrotic Gnome. In truth I also mean OSE and the Fantasy rules.
OSE-Advanced refers to OSE with the Advanced add-ons; classes and spells.

BX RPG refers to the BX RPG by Bill Barsh and Pacesetter Games and Simulations.

The "Gold Standard" for any comparison is the B/X set.

I want to state unequivocally that I am very, very fond of all four of the above-mentioned games and they all have a place on my table.  Each one is used in my games. Sometimes separately, sometimes all at once.

Match 1: How well does the game emulate B/X?
So our first match is how well does each game emulate the source material of B/X.  
If we are talking "Rules as Written" then clear winner here is OSE.  If we are talking "Rules as played" then it can be a toss-up between OSE-Advanced and BX.  Both offer different takes on B/X + Advanced.  
I can recall my first paladin character was made in a mix of Expert and Advanced rules.  Eventually, BECMI would give us a Paladin, but mine was pure B/X.  Both sets offer a paladin class (among others) and they are roughly equivalent. 

Match 2: Layout and Art
The OSE game is a marvel of layout efficiency, modular design, and artistic expression.  There is not a ton of art in OSE, but what there is packs a punch.  Both OSE and BX feature "old-school esthetic" in terms of black & white art.  This is not a detractor, but rather a feature for me.
My biggest issue with OSE's layout is that it is TOO efficient and sometimes that leaves it feeling a little bit sterile.  Efficiency and modularity are two of the set's design goals so it is hard to fault them here.
BX RPG needs another round of QA check, but otherwise, it also meets their stated design goals.
OSE edges out here. 

Match 3: Options
Out of the box BX offers more options than core OSE. More classes, races, levels, spells, and levels. Here OSE's strength of emulation works against it.  If you have B/X and can play it without looking things up then OSE Core has little more to offer you.  
Adding the OSE-Advanced options makes it more attractive to the current B/X player looking for more but not wanting to dive deep in the AD&D ocean.  Still, even with these options in place, BX RPG edges out OSE.
Both games are promising even more options in the future so this one could be close for some time to come.

Match 4: Playability
OSE is so well organized it not only edges out the original B/X in this regard but even the well organized BECMI.  OSE though works best for players already experienced in B/X or any flavor of D&D. The modularity of OSE rivals that of 4e.  That is not a slight, but rather a compliment. The layout and modularity of 4e was a design masterpiece. 
BX RPG is less organized, but there is so much explanatory material that it is perfect for newer players or someone with no experience with B/X and wants to give it a try.
Verdict? If you have B/X experience then OSE is best. If you are new to B/X then BX RPG.

Match 5: Price per Value
This is much harder.  Both games are priced well. 

The physical BX RPG boxed set comes with books, adventures, and dice for US$50.  Though it is hard to tell exactly what is in the box from Pacesetter's website.  So I am not sure what is exactly in the box other than the rule books. This is just the physical books, no PDFs.

The OSE Boxed set can be configured in a number of ways on the Necrotic Gnome website. The Classic set, closest to the B/X game, is available in a box with hardcover digest sized books and PDFs for €60,00 (presently about US$68.50).  You can add on the OSE-Advanced options. 

OSE has a sturdier box and hardcover books and comes in a single volume option.
BX RPG has good box with room for dice and adventures.

So lower price entry for the boxed sets for BX RPG.  More buying options for OSE.

Which one is for you?
I hate to dodge this one, but that is really up to you and the games you are going to run.

For me? I am happy to have both systems. I think there is a slight edge on BX RPG for players and a similar edge for Game Masters for OSE.  The options of BX RPG make it more attractive to the player and the OSE-Advanced books work fine with BX and B/X (even BECMI).  The organization of OSE makes it a dream to run and find things.

One thing for sure for me, if I were to run either game I would invest in about four or five extra player books for the players.

BX RPG Player books can be bought here, PDF and Print.
Old-School Essentials Classic Fantasy: Player's Rules Tome, PDF and Print/PDF.
(Note if you are outside of Europe you might want to go with this site for OSE products.)

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

BECMI: Expert Set review

Moreso than the D&D Basic Set it was the D&D Expert Set that defined what "Basic-era" games were for me.  So it is with great excitement that I delve into the BECMI version of the D&D Expert Rules.

I have reviewed the older, Cook/Marsh version of the Expert set and if you want to read that review it is here.  I will be comparing this set of rules to that, but also how it fits into the larger set of BECMI rules.  Let's begin.  Once again I will be covering the Print and PDF versions of this book.

D&D Expert Rulebook
The 1983, BECMI version of the D&D Expert Rules are "Revised" by Frank Mentzer, but "by" Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.  I would contend that once again there is a large amount of Frank in these rules. The book is 64-pages, softcover, with color covers and black & white interior art.  All art is credited to Larry Elmore.  Anne C. Gray is listed for "Editing."

So right away we are given a notice in my book that this version has been edited to be compatible with the D&D Companion rules with adjustments to combat, saving throws, spell acquisition and a new thieves table.  So right away this labels my print book as a Second Printing (or later).
This is interesting because the PDF on DriveThruRPG is a First Printing.  So there are differences.
I will point them out as they come up, but you can get some detail on them from Wayne's Books.

Like the previous Expert book, this one comes with a warning that this is not a complete game and you need the Basic Rules in order to play. There is some brief mention of their being older versions of the game, but to go with the rules printed here.

Unlike the Basic Set with two books; one for Players and one for DMs. This book is presented as a single 64-page volume with player and DM sections.

The introduction covers what an Expert D&D game looks like.  There are more options for the players in the classes, as well as exploring outside of the dungeon. That was a big deal to me back then! Also, character levels will go from 4th to 14th level! That seemed extremely high to me back then.

Player's Section
In the player's section, we learn that some classes, the demi-humans, will hit their max levels now.  Also, there are new features to spells such as affecting other things and they can even be reversed in some cases for a different effect. We also learn that spells not can cause damage but they can change saving throws, to hits, and even morale of others.  Spells are expanding!

Classes are presents and in the case of the Cleric and the Magic-user so are all the reversed spells and the new spells. Clerics can reverse a spell as they wish, Magic-users can't, they have to memorize the reversed version.  Now we are told that Lawful Clerics will not use a reverse version of a spell and in some cases, I see that, but when dealing with light or dark the effects of casting the spell into someone's eyes is the same; blindness.  So DM's be wary.

Clerics get an expanded table for Turning Undead including the ability to actually destroy the creatures! How freaking cool is that?  And the table gives us a spoiler, there are Vampires in these rules. As a young horror fan, this was great for me.

Level Titles are still used and that makes me happy.  Also having the saving throws with the class is great, no more having to dig for those.

The formatting and layout of the classes is still very clean and organized well.  Again the vibe I get is that the designers of 4th Edition D&D took their cues from this edition.
Poor fighter though only gets half a page.  Demi-humans, Dwarf, Elf, and Halfling, only get 1 pages in total.
Expert is not your ruleset if you like to play demi-humans.

The section on Adventuring covers a lot of new gear and the important factors about wilderness adventuring. First up, how you gonna get there? So horses and water travel become very important.

Dungeon Master's Section
This makes up a vast majority of the book, at 40 pages.
Again, like the Basic book topics are organized alphabetically.  In the B/X books there was a mention of cutting up your books and organizing them in a binder. Here you could cut out individual sections and organize those! But maybe copy them first or print out the PDF.

The next section for DM's is designing adventures, and in particular Wilderness adventures and town adventures. Humand and demi-human lands are also covered.   This is broken up by a "center fold" of tables and the maps of the Known World and the Grand duchy of Karameikos.  These maps though have something added, they have to locations of the then-current B and X series modules (B1-4, X1-5).  Interestingly it places B3 in Karameikos when previously it had been in Glantri.

This is the book that also gave us the BECMI version of Hommlet, the town of Threshold.

Next up are the Monsters.  Always a favorite.
The monsters here a largely the same as the B/X version of Expert. There are some monster missing, but I know (spoilers) that they will reappear in the Companion Rules. But what is really missing here is some of what I considered the most classic art of D&D.  From what I can tell some of the monsters have been rewritten for this version. Stats are the same but the text does differ.

We end with Treasure and Magic Items.

Overall the Expert set represents a huge leap forward for the BECMI game so far.  Taking the action outside is a, changer.

People often comment on how much gameplay is actually in this box, and they are not exaggerating. From levels 1-14 is some of the best gameplay D&D has to offer regardless of edition.

Once again we also have a collection of wonderful Larry Elmore art in this version. Though I wish there had been more.

D&D Expert really is where the D&D game is really built.  This is not AD&D and it is not the little brown books, this is really a different sort of game.  Yes, AD&D and D&D can cover the same sorts of games, and there are plenty of places where the rules are the same, but it is also here you see the most differences. This was true for B/X Expert and true for BECMI Expert.

The tone of the Expert rules feels different too than AD&D.  There is a lot that can be done with this game and the feeling is there is even more just over the next hill.  Maybe, maybe, more than AD&D, D&D Expert set really captures what is best about the whole D&D experience.

Like it's predecessor, the BECMI Expert set comes with a copy of Isle of Dread, which is just as much of a learning tool for DMs as anything in the rules.   I will discuss that adventure and it's  importance (it is the only BX to BECMI book to get the updated trade dress) to the D&D line next time.

Comparisons with the Cook/Marsh B/X Expert Set

Comparisons are naturals since the Cook/Marsh Expert set was such a big deal to me.

The two sets compare well and cover largely the same information.  There are some minor differences in some numbers and on closer inspection there are a couple more missing monsters than I thought.  But otherwise, the two versions are very, very similar. In fact, I do recall people using this version of the Expert Rules with the previous Moldvay Basic Rules.  But we mixed and matched our rules all the time.

There is a big difference here in how thief abilities work between the B/X and 2nd Printing of BECMI Expert as well as some of the spell progressions.  But this is more of an artifact of the changes between First and Second (see below) printings of the Expert book.

It should be noted that BECMI Expert promises us a Companion rule set that goes from 15 to 25, but B/X Expert tells us that Companion rules will go from 15 to 36!

Comparisons with First and Second Printing

Ah.  Now here there is a bunch more differences. Far more than what you would expect to be honest, but it had to be edited to be brought in line with the new Companion set.  Some of these have been mentioned, but it bears looking at in detail.

Again we see the thief abilities getting a radical change. Thieves of the First Printing are more like those of B/X.  Thieves of the Second Printing take a HUGE hit on their Open Locks rolls, 99% versus 72% at 14th level. Additionally, all the Hear Noise rolls are now percentiles versus a roll on a d6. Though they all seem to work out to be roughly the same.

Spell acquisition is different with generally all the spell-casting classes getting better at spells.
Saving Throws are different.

One thing I did not do was compare either to AD&D, I know there are a lot more differences especially when it comes to XP per level.

With the Basic and Expert now BECMI can go toe to toe with B/X.  Both iterations of the D&D game are still largely the same and that is good and by design.  A lot of new Basic and Expert books are coming out for the BECMI version of Basic/Expert that will still work fantastic with those of us who were still playing B/X and AD&D.

Both BECMI Expert and B/X Expert sets came with the adventure module The Isle of Dread, which is as much as a second rule book as one can get from an adventure.  I will detail the Isle in my post tomorrow.

Monday, June 1, 2020

BECMI: Basic Set Review

How does one go about reviewing a game I know so well but in a book I know very little about?  More to the point how does one review a classic?

Well as my oldest son says, "with determination."

In this particular case, I am going to review the actual boxed set I was able to pick up a few years ago, the PDFs from DriveThruRPG and I will compare it to the version printed in the UK.

Basic Set (1983)
The third set of books to be released as the "Basic set" was the Mentzer "Red Box" Basic that would become the "B" of the BECMI line.  So many copies of this set have sold that it has become synonymous with "the Basic Set" and "the red Box" in D&D circles.  The set itself contained two books, a Player's Book (to be read first) and a Dungeon Master's Book (to be read by the DM).

Already we have a departure from the previous Holmes (1977) and Moldvay (1981) Basic sets.  While those older sets had one book for rules (48 and 64 pages respectively) and an included adventure (B1 and B2 respectively) this set only has the two books.  This is not the issue it might seem at first since this set features a rather infamous solo adventure and a programmed adventure that can be used with a DM.

The box set also came with dice, a crayon for coloring in the numbers, and some information about the RPGA.

It is helpful to look at the books independently.

The Player's Book
The Player's Book is 64 pages, color art cover, black & white interior art.

This is the familiar D&D game. The title page tells us that this is Dungeons & Dragons created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.  The editor, though many will say the actual architect of the BECMI line, is Frank Mentzer.  He is so tied to this edition that it is also called the Mentzer Basic book.

While Holmes did a good job of organizing the Original D&D game into something that could be used as and introduction to the game (or too AD&D maybe), it was the Moldvay edition that really tried to make an introductory game to new players.  The Mentzer set takes this to the next level by giving us a true introduction to the game.

The target audience is 10-12-year-olds but it takes care not to talk down to the audience, there even seems to be a choice in language to try and educate as much as possible too.  TSR expected their target audience to be young, educated, and (for better or worse) male.  But I will touch on that later.

Up first you are taken on one of the most infamous solo adventures ever.  You are playing a fighter and you have to investigate a dungeon.  You meet a cleric named Aleena, and a goblin and an evil wizard named Bargel.  The rest is a tale told in many taverns across the known world. 
While I have a number of issues with the solo adventure, and I'll discuss those elsewhere, it is an effective tool for grabbing people and getting them into the game.  The adventure explains aspects of your character and makes them salient in the situation. In the education biz we call this "situational learning" and it is an effective tool.

After the adventure, we get to the part where your character is explained to you. What the ability scores mean, what the saving throws are for, how to hit with weapons.  It is the "what is Roleplaying" section of every other RPG book writ large.

There is another Solo adventure, with some nods to the two M series for solo dungeons.

So now that the player knows the basics of play the various character classes are introduced. Here we have the Cleric, Fighters, Magic-User, and Thieves for humans and Dwarves, Elves, and Halflings. The text is very, very explanatory.  Great for a brand new player but feels wordy to me now.  Granted, these were not written for someone with 40 years of experience.  Heck, no one had even a quarter of that yet when this was written so my point of view is out of sync with the design goals of this game.

Looking over the classes I notice a few things.  The class descriptions are very self-contained.  Everything you need to know about playing a Cleric for example is right there. Including the Saving Throw tables WITH the class.  A vast improvement over the constant flipping through pages we had to do with AD&D at the same time.   Also, I noticed how weak the thief was then. No comparison to the Rogues of later editions.

The design elements of the self-contained class pages is something we will see again in D&D 4e and 5e.  It is very effective and if you are like me and like to print out your PDFs then it also gives you flexibility in organizing your version of Basic.

There is a solid emphasis throughout the book on how playing together, and working together, as a group is the best experience.  There also seems a little extra emphasis on how the Players are not the Characters.  It feels wonderfully 80s when the was the moral panic that kids would start to act out like their characters and meet the fate of poor Black Leaf and Marci.  Today people online refer to their characters in first person and laud their achievements as their very own.  What a difference some time makes.

We get to alignment with a strong prohibition against playing Chaotic or Evil characters. Retainers and other topics.  There is even a solid Glossary (I mean really who does this anymore? I miss them!) to help in supporting my point of view of D&D as a learning tool.   There is even a small section on using minis, character sheets, and other aids.  There is even a nod to AD&D to remind players that this game, D&D, is not AD&D.

All the basics are covered. No pun intended. Ok. Maybe a little one.
Everything the player needs to get started.  They now just need a DM.  Thankfully the next book covers all that.

The Dungeon Master's Book
The Dungeon Master's book is 48 pages, color art cover, black & white interior art.
This book follows the Player's book in terms of layout and scope.

The title page here is largely the same as the Player's Book, but it is a chance for us to reflect on how this game is really the direct descendent of the Original D&D game. Though there is a reminder that Players are not to read this book! Only DMs!

We get right into the roles of a DM here, after covering some brief introductory materials and some common terms and abbreviations.  Looking over these were are still in a time that Pre-Dates THAC0 as a term.

There are checklists of things to do pre-game and during the game and during combat.  It's a nice clear and spelled out version of the same material seen in the previous Moldvay Basic set.  In fact, there is a lot of material here that looks and reads the same.  This is natural since both sets are drawing from the same sources.  It is a bit like reading something you are already very familiar with, but it is still somewhat different and new.  Like trying to read Danish after learning German.  Or maybe more accurately, reading American Spanish after learning European Spanish.

There is a built-in adventure for new DMs that serves the same purpose as the Solo one in the player's book. It is fine, but I think back to my time in running the Keep on the Borderlands and hoe much I learned from that.

The procedures and rules section is all laid out alphabetically. So "Elves" come before "Mapping" and "Time".  Again, I am reminded of the layout seen in 4e and it is obvious that the designers of 4e were fans of this edition.

The next big section is on Monsters.  This section reads very much like the same section in Molvay Basic, some even down to the exact same words.  I don't find this a problem though.  Some people went from Holmes Basic (77) to Cook/Marsh Expert (81) and some people will come from those earlier Basics to this.  There needs to be a continuity of rules. Minus some organization and some clearer directions these are supposed to be the same games.  Yes there are some differences.  I find them to be minor at worst.

Back to Monsters, the section seems to have all the Usual Suspects, give or take a couple.  I did notice that there is much less art here.  I would have loved to have seen more versions of these classic monsters.  An Elmore drawn Thoul? Yeah, that would have been great! Also, this has the only piece of recycled art I have found.  The dragon breath diagram looks the same here as in Moldvay.  That's actually pretty cool.  All new art?  TSR was putting their best on this.  I'll talk more about the art in a bit.

Treasure follows and it is every 1st level character's dreams come true.  Swords to hit those pesky magic monsters! Gold! Platinum! Potions of Healing!! 2-7  hp was all you needed back then to get back into the game.

A nice bit about creating and stocking dungeons with monsters and treasures.  More direction than we got in Holmes or Moldvay to be sure.

We end with some tables for random monsters, saving throws, and a combined index!

The art in both books is fantastic.  Larry Elmore, Jim Holloway, and Jeff Easley at the very top of their game.  They defined how millions view Dungeons & Dragons.  Yes, yes I am a fan of the older stylings of Bill Willingham, Erol Otis, and Jeff Dee, but this was at a new level.  The art was consistent throughout and all of it wonderful.  Sadly it is also a little sparse compared to Moldvay, but I guess there are more pages to fill here.

The UK Edition
The UK edition is a single book about the size of a paperback.  It has the same color (or should I say "colour") cover.  The illustrations are sparse and in this case, all the interior art is by Helen Bedford.

The content is the same, just put into 272 smaller (4.75" x 7.5")  pages. There is even a tiny character sheet that taxes the ability of my glasses.
It sold for £4.95 back in 1986 when my copy was printed.

I am going to spend a lot of time this month covering the legacy of the Basic Set and the BECMI series as a whole.  But this is the set. This is the one people think of when you say "Basic Set."
That's a pretty serious legacy.

Join me all month as I talk about all the BECMI books, boxed sets, and related topics.
This week is nothing but Basic.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

June is BECMI Month

Tomorrow is June 1st.  Crazy. Where did April and May go?

Well, I have been planning something like this for a bit now and I wanted to spend some time going over the D&D system I have the least familiarity with, at least in a proper sense.

The Basic, Expert, Companion, Masters, and Immortal Sets edited and written by Frank Mentzer.

Each week I will cover a different set with reviews of the main boxed set, associated products, and topics.  In my case I am also going to compare these sets with versions I am much more familiar with such as the B/X sets from Moldvay, Cook and Marsh, Holmes Basic, and the D&D Rules Cyclopedia.

Now I am not going into these reviews blind, I have had experiences with these books before, some experiences even going back to the time when they were published.

But I never played the game using these rules.

When the BECMI rules came out I was firmly in the camp of AD&D.  As the years went on I would adapt some BECMI products to my AD&D game and others I bought out of curiosity or interest.

So this will be a learning experience for me.  I am not expecting any great insights to the D&D game or any esoteric knowledge.  But who knows, maybe there is a tied bit here or there for me to learn.

Can't wait to find out.

Friday, April 17, 2020

PWWO: Calidar, Part 2

A while back I a did a "Plays Well With Others" for Calidar. It's pretty to do, there are a lot of great ideas and it has a system that lends itself well to easy conversion.  After doing a series of reviews I thought another go at another PWWO.

The Reviews
For this PWWO I think I am going to focus mostly on Calidar On Wings of Darkness and related products.  In particular the various magic schools featured in Caldwen.

Given the various conversion guides and the rules presented in the books, mathematical style conversions are less of an issue, the big factor is more how do I replicate the same feel of Calidar in a different game while still preserving what I liked about the original game.

Calidar and "New" D&D

These are the easiest of course.  The level limits for both D&D 5 and Pathfinder are a set 20. So follow along with the rules for 20 levels.  D&D 5 and Pathfinder characters tend to be more powerful than their same-level counterparts in older editions.  Cantrips really boost what a Wizard can do every round even at the lowest levels.  Plus the addition of cantrips can become an interesting element to the wizard school. 1st level wizards/magic-users have a lot more they can do.


These conversions are handled by various current products and upcoming products from Calidar.  Plus these mimic the games played by most of the people involved with the Calidar lines.

Calidar and Glantri

Let's address the obvious mix here.  Bruce Heard is fairly well known for his work on the Mystara lines and Glantri in particular.  You can use details from one mage school for the other, they are roughly compatible in style, and it makes either product a little more robust.  You do lose a little of the unique feel of Calidar this way if you set it all in Glantri.  Though what I have been doing is considering setting the caldera on the north pole.  The whole area is hidden away from the rest of the world.  Still playing with this idea.

I am using the "Mystoerth" map for this. I made a globe, and see there is some room up on top. Enough for Calidar?  I have not done the math yet, but it looks right.   I still to play around with it.

That is if my next idea doesn't take over.

Mage: The Sorcerer's Crusade

This idea has grabbed my imagination.  Calidar has a great early Renaissance feel to it.  So somewhere between Dark Ages Mage and Mage the Sorcerer's Crusade is a perfect time.  In this case I would use Calidar as is, but the game system would be White Wolf's Mage.
What I have not decided yet is if the various schools represent Spheres (which means Mages would need to attend to multiple schools) or Traditions (which would make the rivalries more intense).
So everyone in "How to Train Your Wizard" would be part of the Euthatoi.   I think just to have some fun I would keep the Verbena out of it unless I work in the Glantri Wokani.

There is a lot I would love to do with that idea.  D&D backdrop, Calidar setting, Mage/White Wolf rules.  The possibilities are staggering, to be honest.

Conversion though is a bigger issue.  The Calidar system is pretty flexible, but it is level-based to a large degree. Mage uses the White Wolf Storyteller system which is a dice pool system. So the conversion books won't be much help here save to figure out some guidelines.  Still maybe if I can dig up a copy of Monte Cook's d20 World of Darkness it might give me some ideas.


Nothing specific yet.  But if I can convert Mage I can convert this a lot easier.

Most likely I would combine a lot of these ideas to make the schools in Calidar a little less D&D and little more Scholomance if possible.

Blue Rose AGE

Ah.  Now here is something that would be a lot of fun.
I would need to make some changes to what kinds of magics could be taught at the schools, but AGE is level-based and so should convert well.  Green Ronin already did some of the heavy lifting for me with their converting for Fantasy AGE.

The bottom line is that Calidar gives me a great magic school that I really want to drop anywhere.

Plus it gives a Fantasy-era Breakbills and an excuse to do this:

And any excuse to put more Brakebills into my games is a good one.