Showing posts with label witch. Show all posts
Showing posts with label witch. Show all posts

Monday, November 23, 2020

Monstrous Monday: Wolf-Witch (A Wolfenoot Special)

Happy Wolfenoot Everyone!

What, you don't know about Wolfenoot, the holiday to celebrate all that is cool about the wolf and dogs?  Well get yourself over to Wolfenoot.com to find out more then come back here.

Back? Good.  Today's monster is based on an idea I have been kicking around ever since I read Pam Keesey's "Women Who Run with the Werewolves" which is a play on Clarissa Pinkola Estés' bestseller "Women Who Run with the Wolves."  

I had come up with a couple of ideas here and there including a "mother of werewolves" and a werewolf/hag cross.  But nothing I really liked.  Until that is I read about "The She-Wolves of Jülich" and their connection to various witch trials that were going on around Germany in the 1500s.  Often witches were burned on the suspicion that they would turn into werewolves.  This was not the charge in and of itself, the crimes they were accused of were often the inversion of what good women were supposed to be at the time.  They were accused of running wild, killing men and boys, eating babies, and killing livestock.  Given the living conditions for most women at the time I would have not have been surprised by an occasional expression of homicidal rage. 

Georg Kress's woodcut of the She-Wolves of Jülich, Germany, 1591, colored later.

Georg Kress's woodcut of the She-Wolves of Jülich, Germany, 1591, colored later.

There is something though compelling, even pagan, about the idea of shedding not just clothes but social mores and standards and running wild. Something that both Estés and Keesy know too well about.

Brundage 1933 03 Weird Tales
Margaret Brundage, Weird Tales 1933
Wolf-Witch

Medium Humanoid (Lycanthrope)
Frequency: Rare
Number Appearing: 2d6+1 (0)
Alignment:
Chaotic [Chaotic Neutral]
Movement: 240' (80') [24"]
  Human: 180' (60') [18"]
Armor Class: 6 [13]
Hit Dice: 3d8+3* (17 hp)
Attacks: by special weapon, claw/claw, or by magic or special
Damage: 1d4 x2, 1d4+1
Special: Silver or Magic required to hit, Witch spells
Size: Medium
Save: Witch 3
Morale: 8 (10)
Treasure Hoard Class:
XX
XP: 75 (OSE), 100 (LL)

By the light of the full moon, the Wolf-Witches gather.  For the three nights of the full moon each month the women of the wolf witch covens gather and partake in a ritual that transforms them into wolves, much like a werewolf. They roam the countryside causing havoc and mayhem wherever they can.  

The group requires at least one witch of 2nd level to cast the Summon the Spirit of the Wolf Ritual (qv).  The majority of the other witches participating will be lower level (2nd or 1st), if the gathering is large (10 or more) then there will be a 3rd level witch with two 2nd level apprentices.  The ritual begins after the sun has set and while the moon is rising. The witches dance around a bonfire and when the ritual is complete they transform into wolves. When the sun rises the next morning they will have transformed back into their normal human forms.

Unlike werewolves, wolf-witches are not necessarily evil. They also retain most of their mental faculties so they are able to cast at least one witch spell of 1st level per night.  Also unlike werewolves, true wolves will join with the wolf-witches on their midnight, moonlit runs.  Wolf-witches also cannot transmit lycanthropy via a bite.

Wolf-witches seek little more than the feeling of freedom being in wolf form gives them, though a little chaos is necessary. They will kill to protect themselves and their coven-pack.  

Presented below is the ritual used.  I am also experimenting with High and Low rituals for my next book. 

New Ritual: Summon the Spirit of the Wolf

Summon the Spirit of the Wolf 
Level:
Witch Ritual (Low): 1
Ritual Requirement: Two or more witches, one of at least 2nd level. Full moon.
Duration: From Midnight to Sunrise during the Full Moon
Range: All Participants

This ritual is only performed during the three nights of the full moon. The witches gather to cast the ritual but only one witch needs to know the actual spell, the others dance around a bonfire while the highest level witch cast the spell.  At midnight all participants will then transform into Wolf-Witches where they will run and hunt until the morning. 

At dawn, by the light of the rising sun, the witch will transform back into her normal form.   If she is killed then she will remain in wolf form until the sunlight hits her body, thereupon she will transform. 

During the "Wolf Moon" or the first full moon of the year (after Yule) there is a chance that anyone watching this secret ritual that they too will be pulled into the magic and become wolves.  There is a 5% chance per number of witches present that others will be affected.  Those unwilling affected must make a save vs. Spells or be transformed permanently.  A Remove Curse will return them to human form, but only if cast before the next full moon (the "Snow Moon").  

Friday, November 20, 2020

#FollowFriday: Tasha / Iggwilv on the Web

It is another Follow Friday here and since we are wrapping up Tasha's Week of Everything I thought it might be nice to detail some of the sites on the web and social media that feature Iggwilv, Tasha, and items from her history.

The Web

Tasha from HeroForge
Tasha from HeroForge
Lots of great stuff here really. 

Greyhawk Online has a wiki full of details.

Likewise, the Forgotten Realms wiki has some entries for her. 

She has even made appearances in Golarion from the Pathfinder wiki.  In particular as a former Queen of Irrisen.  According to the Golarion timeline, she ruled 4113 AR to 4213 AR (current year 4720 AR).
If you want some fiction about Tasha/Iggwilv then there is Tommy John Kelly's Greyhawk Stories Page
Greyhawk Online has a number of posts featuring S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth.

Blogs

Iggwilv from HeroForge
Iggwilv from HeroForge
Lots of people have had some words about Iggwilv in the blogging circles too. Here are some of them

James over at Grognardia gives her an uncharacteristically brief mention in his post about The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth.

Sean McG has written up an extensive post on the publication history of Iggwilv, which he keeps updated at the Power Score.

Mike Bridges at Greyhawkery also has a few posts.

And of course, Greyhawk Grognard has some posts. Though he is not as enamored with the adventure as I am. 

Blogger Trent over at The Mystical Trash Heap has some thoughts on S4 as well.

Paleologos at the OSR Grimoire has a post on Drelnza the Vampiress Lord and talks a lot about the original Lost Caverns of Tsojconth

Social Media

Baba Yaga from HeroForge
Baba Yaga from HeroForge
There is a ton of social media out there. What places are best for Iggwilv and Tasha?

Facebook


MeWe


YouTube

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Classic Adventures Revisited: S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth

One of my all-time favorite adventures is S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth.

A solid two-level dungeon crawl, filled with new monsters, dangers, and the promise of great treasures. Additionally, there are rumors of an ancient witch/archmage and her battles with demons and even the threat that some of those demons are still around. There is plenty of wilderness area as well. A wide expanse with a gnome community nearby and a raging blue dragon.

With its "Booklet 2" filled with new spells, magic circles, and demons it made me think that a witch class with ritual magic could be something that would work for D&D. 


There is so much great stuff in and around this adventure it is hard to know where to begin.  So let's start with the adventure itself.

S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth

The adventure, S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, was published back in 1982 by TSR. It was written by none other than Gary Gygax himself. It is listed as "S4" and was the last of the labeled "S series" or Special modules.  This includes some of the most popular adventures ever written; S1 Tomb of HorrorsS2 White Plume Mountain, and S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

The adventure itself is comprised of two 32 page booklets. The first book is the adventure itself, which I will get into detail in a bit.  The second booklet covers all sorts of new magic, monsters, and more. 

Book 1: The Adventure

The adventure is of the classic sort; the rumor of treasure and a vague threat coming from an area of the map known as Iggwilv's Horn.  The adventure is designed for characters level 6 to 10.   I have found over the last 40 years that it can be adapted to a variety of levels, though higher levels are better. Though the original tournament adventure featured slightly lower levels. Likely due to the addition of the wilderness adventure. 

The wilderness adventure is actually well put together and not the older crazy random monster encounters.  The encounters make sense for the area. Among the encounters are the Hermit, and I could not help make this the same hermit from Keep on the Borderlands (also a Gygax creation) and the Blue Dragon.  The Blue Dragon, in particular, became so much a hit the first time I ran this that in future runnings of this I changed the dragon to Korbundar from CM2 Death's Ride to have a reoccurring villain.   A lot of adventure is packed into 12 pages.

The second part of the adventure covers the Lost Caverns themselves, which includes the Lesser and  Greater caverns. This features a large variety of new monsters, some living here, some just wandering around. Even encounters such as "The Garden of One Thousand Earthly Delights" have a good (enough) reason to be there. 

The final encounter is in the center of the Greater Caverns and it is not for Iggwilv's Treasure, but rather against Iggwilv's Treasure; the vampire Drelnza.  She is a bit more powerful than your average vampire and she has magic to help her out.  Eventually, she will succumb to heroes and the treasure will be found including the infamous Demonomicon of Iggwilv, Daoud's Wonderous Lanthorn, and the Prison of Zagig.

Book 2: Monsters and Magic

This second booklet, as I have mentioned, grabbed my attention as much as the first, if not more.  Listed inside were new monsters, only some appeared in the adventure, including new demons and demon lords. There were the mysterious Xag-ya and Xeg-yi, the Derro and the awkwardly named (for the early 80s) Valley Elf. All these creatures would later be reprinted in the Monster Manual II for 1st Edition. This is fitting since the original tournament adventure introduced monsters that would become part of the first Monster Manual.  There are some magic items including some wonderful artifacts mentioned above.  Of these The Demonomicon of Iggwilv capture not just my imagination, but that of hundreds of others. The Demonomicon became a feature in Dragon Magazine and even a 4e book of the same name. Iggwilv went from a "long-dead archmage" to "The Mother of Witches" and the premiere demonologist in D&D.   This little booklet also contains plenty of new spells.  

This was classic AD&D at the end of its 1st Golden Age.

The adventure is extremely playable and I have adapted it over the years for AD&D 2nd ed, D&D 3rd, and 5th Editions as well.

If you want to play it for 5th Edition D&D then the team over at Classic Modules Today has made a 5e conversion

There are also maps you can print out with DM's notes.

And other realistic maps also for printing

The Sequels

The first true sequel to this adventure was WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun (though no WG1-3 were made*). This was published the same year and dealt with a Temple of Tharizdun. It was designed to be played right after S4 and used the same wilderness map.  The adventure fits in well enough. I justified in my games by saying that Iggwilv, like Tsojcanth before her, chose this area due to its arcane and eldritch properties.  The adventure also has a wealth of information on the World of Greyhawk and Tharizdun.  All of these will be explored later in Gary Gygax's novel series about Gord the Rogue

S4 and WG4 would also get a review in White Dwarf #44 and both get 9/10 from Jim Bambra. He calls them the last of the Golden Age adventures.

*The rumor is that WG1 was Village of Hommlet, WG2 Temple of Elemental Evil and WG3 was The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, or Tsojconth in the original.


Another sequel of sorts was The Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga. Published much later in 1995 for 2nd Ed AD&D and written by Lisa Smedman, this adventure was labeled "S5" but it never appears in any of the classic reprints of the S Series adventures.  While the connection is little more than any of the other "S" series, there is the connection of Iggwilv, then Tasha as the adopted daughter of Baba Yaga.  Lisa Smedman would also work on Ravenloft and ShadowRun. Some Ravenloft monsters make their way into this adventure.


Yet again another sequel, this time for 3.5 D&D, was published in 2007.  Iggwilv's Legacy was published in Dungeon Magazine in October 2007 and appeared for free on Wizard's of the Coast website well into the 4e era. Sadly no longer available, it added another level to the caverns to explore, The Hollow of the Horn, the areas left behind by Tsojancth himself with the implication that even Iggwilv was afraid of these areas. The adventure and the additions were converted and updated to 3rd Edition.  I ran this version for my family at their first Gen Con in 2009.  Here we meet the half-demon  archmage Tsojcanth and his vile witch mother Vilhara.


The Reprints

As part of the much-loved S-series, the Lost Caverns of Tsojanth has been reprinted twice.  Both times bundled with the other three S-series adventures.

The first reprint was called Realms of Horror and it was all the S-series adventures combined into a loosely tied together "Super Module" that was all the rage in the late 80s.  All the maps were reprinted in a small booklet and personally, I found them harder to read.

The second reprint was the more faithful reprint from Wizards of the Coast, Dungeons of Dread, in 2013. 


The Original Tournament Adventure

The original tournament adventure, the Lost Caverns of Tsojconth (note the spelling) appeared at the Wintercon V game convention in 1976.  This would have been akin to a playtest version of AD&D.  Also Iggwilv is described as being dead, and male.

While the adventure does not feature the wilderness areas, the caverns seem to have a more mystical bent to them, with the center "nexus" described as the connection point between worlds to help explain all the new and weird monsters in it.  It would make sense, to be honest, and help explain why Tsojcanth and later Iggwilv possessed it. 

Paleologos at the OSR Grimoire talks a lot about the original Lost Caverns of Tsojconth.

The era of 1976-1978 was an interesting time and lead to some interesting styles of play.  We had the Holmes Basic Set and the B1 In Search of the Unknown (1978) adventure out and we had the AD&D Monster Manual.  This Holmes + Monster Manual actually became the game of choice for many.  I would later play this same hybrid of D&D/AD&D in 1979.
Likely as a way to replicate that Demos Sachlas/Paleologos over at the Vaults of Pandius recreated the original tournament adventure, along with some descriptions from the full 1982 S4 adventure and reformated it to fit the style of B1 to give us a "Holmes version of the Lost Caverns of Tsojconth."  This adventure is a tight 16 pages with two more pages for maps.  It feels like a late 70s offering.  Reading through it I do get the feeling that B1 and S4 could be bookends of a classic 70s adventure series.  All it is missing a nice monochrome cover.  I might need to mock one up someday.

Greyhawk Online has a side-by-side comparison of the 1976 Tsojconth and the 1982 Tsojcanth.

If you want to buy your own Noble Knight Games has one on sale for only $7,195.50. If you are worried that is overpriced it does come with the original zip-lock bag. 

Playing in Hyperborea

Normally at this point in my Revisted posts I would talk about using this adventure with other games.  But instead, I think I just want to focus purely on Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.

A while back I posted about HS4 The Lost Caverns of Acheron, a Hyborian Age reskinning of S4 from the Hyborian Age site dedicated to the d20 Conan RPG.  They have a lot of adventures including some reskinned ones on their Adventures in the Hyborian Age page.  But it is S4 that interests me today.

Combining this idea with the Holmes flavored Tsojconth above you could have a perfect game for AS&SH.  The idea came to me while reading Eric Fabiaschi's Swords & Stitchery blog.   He even pointed to me that he had done exactly this. 

The pulp sensibilities of Gygax's adventures comes through in S4 with vampires in lost temples, ancient eldritch forces, and strange creatures from beyond.  Pairing this with AS&SH and the Lost Caverns of Acheron turns it up to 11 as it were. 


With its history of magic, archmages, witch queens, vampires, and demons it is no wonder that this is one of my favorite adventures. Like B1, it is one I like to come back to again and again. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Current Works In Progress: Basic Bestiary & High Witchcraft

Work has me really busy right now, so I have been slow on getting new material out.  Either in book form or for this blog (except for Halloween).  But I wanted to give an update on what I am working on now.

I recently went through all my research notes, books, and files.  This has been a good thing and something I like to do every so often to keep me grounded in what sort of game I want.  It is far, far too easy in game design to drift away from your core principles into something else.  One example of this power-creep in games, though there are other reasons for power-creep too.  The other is scope-creep and that is when a project gets too unwieldy and becomes much larger than intended. 

Both types have hit my latest two works in progress, so I have been taking a step back to see what I really have.

Basic Bestiary

This is the "Big" project that has my focus now.  The project began with collecting all the monsters from all my witch books, plus all the monsters for Monstrous Mondays, and additional ones I have but have not published.  Once I pull them all together I had over 220 pages with 300 or so monsters with no art (yet).  For me that felt like a "good size" but I got to thinking.  Even if I edit them all and standardize them all, which is no small amount of work, these are all essentially "re-runs" material people have already seen and in some cases paid for.   That didn't feel right to me.  So I started adding more (power and scope creep!) and that is where the issues began.

For starters, I publish most for Basic-era (B/X, BECMI, OSE, LL) and Swords & Wizardry games.  Add in all the other games I post about here I have monsters in six to seven different but still largely compatible systems.  I needed to standardize my monster stat block.  You have seen it's evolution here on my blog. The current and most stable version can be seen in yesterday's Fenodyree.  Essentially a Labyrinth Lord stat block with some other information thrown in that I like to use in my games.   If you go back and look at something like the Wendigo then you can see that there are three different, similar but not the same, stat blocks.   So there is that process now going on.  Some stat blocks like S&W and OSE are great, but far too minimal for me. 

Also since the hardcover of The Craft of the Wise went over so well I decided that the Basic Bestiary needed softcover (Basic) and hardcover (Advanced) options.  Here are the covers as they sit now.  These very likely will change again.

Basic Bestiary cover, version 1 Basic Bestiary cover, version 2

For these covers, I made two changes.  First I switched to Goya's "The Witches' Sabbath" to reflect the feel that this book is mostly witch related monsters.  It also fits better with the quote I use in the Preface, "El sueño de la razón produce monstruos." or "The sleep of reason produces monsters."

I am also going with my own compatibility logos on these since they really have gone beyond one system or the other.  They are still largely "Basic" in nature, but as you can see from my stat blocks they have a little bit of everything in the OGC. 

Switching from Fuseli to Goya also was an outward sign of another issue.   I had WAY too many demons.  Not just demons, but devils and all sorts of fiends.  I also had my own demonic families of Baalserph, Lilim, Eodemons, Calabim, and Shedim.  I mean you can't do as much reading, researching, and writing about witches like I do and not collect some demons.    There really was only one solution.

Split them into two books. 

This actually works well since in my discussions with people there are decidedly two camps. The ones that use demons in basic-era games and those who don't.   This gives both groups buying options.

Basic Bestiary II, Basic coverBasic Bestiary II, Advanced cover

Regardless of whether you buy the "Basic" softcover or the "Advanced" hardcover, the material inside will be the same.  The Basic Bestiary I will be heavy on undead, vampires, fey, hags, and other witch-related monsters.   The Basic Bestiary II will cover demons, devils, and all sorts of fiends.

Right now there is no projected publication dates.  BUT I want to get BBI out and follow up with BBII maybe three or six months later.

Between those two I will also publish my "Last Witch Book,"  The High Secret Order Witchcraft book.


Going back to Rosetti for this one, a perennial favorite of mine.  The piece is "Astarte Syriaca" which harkens back to the first witch coven I ever wrote, the Coven of Astártē Queen of Heaven.

All three books (five covers) will be under my "Basic-Era Compatible" banner to indicate greater compatibility with each other and my desire to use what I consider the best or best of all the systems along with my own additions. Compatibility is key, but innovation is the driving goal here. 

The weakest link right now is The Secret Order book.  I have a ton of material and none of it put together the way I want yet.

Personally, I am really excited about all of these. 

Thursday, November 5, 2020

Plays Well With Others: Kids Games, Dark Places & Demogorgons

Last week I talked about an Other Side perennial favorite, Dark Places & Demogorgons and using it as a central feature of a generational game. Today I want expand on that idea a little more.  While this is a "Plays Well With Others" and I normally use that to talk about how the subject be used in conjunction with a lot of other, maybe unrelated, games.  Today I am going to focus exclusively on Dark Places & Demogorgons and NIGHT SHIFT: Veterans of the Supernatural Wars, but there is no reason why the same logic could not apply to say Kids on Bikes/Brooms and other modern supernatural games like Dark Streets & Darker Secrets.

Reminder: Dark Places & Demogorgons 5e is having a Kickstarter RIGHT NOW to update DP&D to the 5th edition of D&D.  Go. Pledge now and come back here. 

Playing Kids' Games

Dark Places & Demogorgns (DP&D) is fantastic. Full Stop. But, I should say a little more than that, and I have and I will. I have even dedicated other PWWO to their Cryptid Manual.

DP&D is a "Stranger Things" like game of playing kids in the 80s, early and mid-80s in particular, when the audience for this game was the age at the time their characters would be.  It is a great game that captures a time that many remember as simpler (though I also remember trying to get "online" with a 300 baud (bps) modem...nothing simple about that!) time. 

That is the main focus of the game, playing kids and 80s kids in particular.  But that is not all it can do.  It is a great game of "mild" supernatural terror.  A lot less than Call of Cthulhu, or even Chill, but greater than say Scooby-doo or Ghostbusters. For me, it is exactly the sort of shenanigans I wish I could have gotten in to.  You know, but minus all the death. 

But let's say for example you don't play DP&D (and why not?) you play something like NIGHT SHIFT that deals with more adult matters? Not R or X rated mind you or even bills and jobs, just people over 18.  What can a game like DP&D do for you?

DP&D is such a delight. It really is. I am very fond of this game and I still enjoy playing it.  On the surface it looks like DP&D and NIGHT SHIFT could be used to tell the same sorts of stories, and that is true to a degree, but that really underplays what makes both games special.  

NIGHT SHIFT covers adults in a very dangerous supernatural modern world.

Dark Places & Demogorgons covers kids in a very dangerous supernatural world of the 1980s.

Getting the Characters to Play Well With Others

It seems to be an unpopular topic among old-schoolers, but new gamers love this stuff. They want to know about their character's backstory, what they did when they were younger.  Even down to things like what their favorite foods are, who was their childhood crush, and more.  Personally, I think it is fun as hell and I love that these newer players have so much excitement for their characters and games.

But how can an old guy like me do that and still stay true to my own roots?

Easy.  Take my characters and play them as kids.  There are a few ways to make this work.

The Flashback

This is the technique used in the Stephen King movie "It" and a couple of times on Supernatural. 

Take your NIGHT SHIFT characters and re-do them as DP&D characters.  Something I mentioned before, and it is true here as well, do not try to make a one to one correspondence between the classes. Think about yourself, what you were, and what you were doing when you were 13 vs. now.  I would not be the same "class" at all.  In fact, this is part of the fun.  What was your character back then that made them who they are now?  Were the actions of the DP&D game what made your character into who they are now?  OR, and I will admit this is a favorite, was the event so traumatic that your adult character forgot it so you have to replay it as a kid.

The forgotten flashback is a good way to build some background and then they can get XP or perk once they remember.  So in a NIGHT SHIFT based game, I'd give a character some perk from DP&D related to their "kid" class.  Nothing to unbalance the game, but certainly something to add to each character. Making them something a little "more" than they were before.

Lifespan Development

Another great option is to start as a kid in DP&D and progress to the logical end (18) and then pick up as an adult, maybe a couple of years later even, in NIGHT SHIFT.

Again, there is not a good one to one class correspondence between the games and nor would I want there to be.  A Jock (DP&D) might end up as a Veteran (NS) or even as a Chosen One (NS).  In truth, I would give any DP&D kid character some "free" levels in Survivor but allow them to keep some of the perks of their original DP&D class.  So Goths still see ghosts, Karate Kids still kick ass, and so on.  

This is the option for people that want a rich backstory for their characters, but don't want to write it, they want to live it.

Age Regression

There are also a few ways to do this one. In Star Trek: The Next Generation there was a great episode "Rascals" where Picard, Ensing Ro, Keiko O'Brein, and Guinan were transformed into pre-teens due to a "transporter accident".  Their bodies were de-aged, but their minds were the same. 

In the third season of Charmed the episode "Once Upon a Time" did it the other way around; the cast stayed in their own adult bodies but their minds were like children.  They needed to do this because only children can see fairies.   In this case, it was a spell and this also makes it more useful for your NIGHT SHIFT game.  Your character stays the same, but not your mental attributes are DP&D.

Alternate Reality

Finally, one I have been using a lot lately is an alternate reality/timeline.  In this one the characters are children.  It's not necessarily the same character, but certainly the same character in a different situation. 

Case in point I run a "Sunny Valley, OH" game is an alternate version of my Buffy RPG.  Same characters (mostly) but the differences are the characters are all younger than they were in the show/RPG, they are set in the ironically names Sunny Valley, Ohio instead of Sunnydale, CA, and it is set in DP&D's proper 1980s instead of the late 1990s/early 2000s.

Pulling it Together: The Characters

One of my better examples and I have a few, would be my versions of Willow and Tara for both NIGHT SHIFT (my "The Dragon and the Phoenix" timeline) and DP&D (my "Sunny Valley, OH" timeline).

This split allows me to different things, have different sorts of adventures, tell different sorts of stories. 


Can I do this all in one system? Of course. Especially for a game like NIGHT SHIFT.  BUT changing the system allows me to do two things. It allows me to give the different times/ages a different feel via the system.  Do I feel the same way now as I did in the 1980s? No. Do I do things the same way? No.  The mechanics are a good way to reflect it. 

It also allows me to force the players to feel the experience as being different.  ESPECIALLY if it is a game that is similar but slightly different. Like NIGHT SHIFT and DP&D are.  Combat is largely the same for example, but saves are different. Skills are different.  This difference helps mimic the feel of being younger and not always knowing what to do or how to do it. 

I have always said a "rising tide raises all ships."  Other designers/games are not my competitors, they are my colleagues. Playing games from other designers gives me new insights into my own games. 

For more details and examples I am providing some links below to other posts.

And don't forget the Kickstarter!

Dark Places & Demogorgons

Sunny Valley, OH

NIGHT SHIFT Veterans of the Supernatural Wars





Saturday, October 31, 2020

October Horror Movie Challenge: The Craft Legacy (2020)

Managed to get one last one in for October 2020.  And this one is rather perfect for this week.

The Craft: Legacy (2020)

This one was released to much fanfare online on Wednesday.

The movie begins with three witches, Lourdes (Zoey Luna), Franky (Gideon Adlon), and Tabby (Lovie Simone) trying to get their magic to work.  They lament the lack of their "fourth."

Enter Lily (newcomer Cailee Spaeny) and her mother Helen (the always wonderful Michelle Monaghan) moving to a new town and home to live with Helen's new boyfriend Adam (David Duchovny) and his three sons.   

From here the movie follows the same trajectory as the first Craft movie.  This is not an accident, nor is it sloppy writing.  There are a lot callbacks to the previous movie and a lot of nods.  When this movie comes to the point of climax of the previous movie it takes a turn. 

Spoilers follow.

The coven turns against Lily, not because they are abusing their power, but because she is.  They blame her for the death of Timmy. So the other members of the coven bind her and all of their powers.  

Before Timmy's funeral, Lily learns that she was adopted and she begins to suspect that Adam is not what he says he is.  We learn that Adam is some sort of warlock himself. He takes on Helen's form to get Lily to give him her powers.  When she refuses he decides to kill her.  While fighting she manages to freeze him revealing her powers were back and the other members of her coven were there.  Together they all manage to subdue and then eliminate Adam. 

The coven reconstituted Lily is taken to an institute to meet her biological mother, Nancy Downs from the first movie.  Yes, Fairuza Balk makes a cameo as Nancy. 

So. Yeah not quite as scary as the first, but it also keeps it open for future sequels.  There is the question of Adam and what he was doing all over the world.  There was certainly a vibe of "Warlocks vs. Witches" implied here.  I was expecting more horror given this is a Blumehouse flick. 

In truth, I rather enjoyed it even with its lack of real horror.  Nice nod to the first while moving ahead on its own path.

NIGHT SHIFT Content:  My NIGHT SHIFT co-author Jason Vey also watched this movie a couple of days ago and agrees it would make for a very fun NIGHT SHIFT setting. So expect to see some more from either or both of us on this. 

Watched: 60
New: 41


And that is it. Another October Horror Challenge in the bag. 60 total movies, 41 new. I am already looking at the movies for next year.

October Horror Movie Challenge: Season of the Witch (All)

ITS HALLOWEEN!  It's a Saturday. We get an extra hour after midnight and the moon is full.  

Again, today I am going to end with some movies around the same theme; or more accurately movies with the same title.

Oh no, must be the season of the witch!

Season of the Witch (1972 or 1973)

Ok, this is a repeat from 2012, but the topic and time period was just too perfect to ignore. While this month has largely been about European Horror prior to The Exorcist, this one from Horror Master George Romero could not be ignored.  

Besides, bored housewife turns to witchcraft? Yeah, that is great stuff, to be honest.  There is still a lot of fun in this movie. A nice slice of Occult Americana. Neat little bits on Rosemary's Baby, Voodoo, ritual tools, and Tarot Cards. Even an honest to Goddess coven and ritual initiation.  If anything this movie is better with another watch. The movie even has enough sense to know when to take itself seriously and when to not.  

The new special edition Blu-Ray art makes Joan look a little scarier than she is but hey, that is fine really. 

A wonderful example of the Swinging 70s and horror prior to The Exorcist. 

New View: No
Witches: Yes
Features the Donovan Song: Yes

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

Now I remember seeing this one in the theaters. I loved the poster and thought it was really cool.  But for the life of me when rewatching it I could remember any of it.  This movie is best watched as disconnected from the rest of the Halloween/Michael Meyers franchise.  It fits in with the original vision of the franchise as separate, unrelated movies in an anthology.  Much like "Creepshow" and "American Horror Story."

The story is. Well it's dreadful, to be honest. It wasn't well liked then and it has not aged well either.  I do like the idea of the masks being haunted/possessed/curse or whatever it was they were.  Though seriously, trying to get a chip from the megaliths at Stonehenge? Yeah, not likely.  Though I would totally use a bunch of cursed masks in a game.

I think I remember why I don't recall this one as well. It's kinda dull and I might have spaced out a lot while it was on.  

New View: I am going to say No, even though I can't remember much of it.
Witches: None, but it does have Dick Warlock in it. So that is something.
Features the Donovan Song: No


Season of the Witch (2009, 2014)

Did Halloween III leave such a bad taste in everyone's mouth that this title had to wait nearly 30 years to be reused? I guess. 

My first "first time view" today and one of my last (!) new movies of the season.  Make no mistake, this one is not good. It is a little indie film from England. The actors are mostly unknowns.  Mary Blackwell travels back to her hometown of Maiden Hollow to clear out her recently deceased father's house. There is a priest who becomes obsessed with Alice (Beth Kingston) who looks like his dead wife.

Or that's what I think. There are times when the music soundtrack overwhelms the voice track. Calling this a "slow burn" is charitable. Calling it boring might be closer. 

Which is too bad, because I had hoped for some English folk horror.  The "village justice" scene at the end is the closest we ever get to that.  Actually, I felt the whole scene was overdone to be honest. 

The movie was finished in 2009 but not released till 2014.

The tag line is "Don't look behind" which makes no sense. Given how times the question is asked the tag line should be "Did You Have Breakfast?"

New View: Yes
Witches: Not really
Features the Donovan Song: No

Season of the Witch (2011)

This one is pure horror-action cheese.  I saw it when it came out but I am a little surprised in never made it into my Horror Movie Challenge till now. 

So this one has a lot of good going for it on paper. Nicholas Cage and Ron Perlman star as Teutonic Knights.  There is a girl, Anna, played by Claire Foy in her first movie role, being accused of witchcraft and they need to take her to a monastery. 

It goes about as you would suspect. Knights take the witch in a cage. She protests she isn't a witch. Crazy shit happens on the way.

It's a fun romp and Cage never fails to amuse and Ron Perlman is always fun.  The demon effects are also really good. After spend so much time in the 1970's horror it is nice to see a really scary looking monster.

In some ways this movie could be considered part of a series along with Vin Diesel's "The Last Witchhunter." There is a similar vibe to them both.

New View: No
Witches: Yes
Features the Donovan Song: Sort of. It's on the soundtrack, but it is a symphonic instrumental. 

Judgment: If your "Season of the Witch" movie does not feature the song by Donovan, then your movie is going to suck.


I started early while waiting for Trick or Treaters.  I might be able to get in one more tonight!  The new Craft movie is out now!

NIGHT SHIFT and Old-school Content:  The "Season of the Witch" is a potent concept for me. 

I used it for the name of my Willow & Tara series (essentially "Buffy, Season 8") and it is coming around again in relation to my War of the Witch Queens

Watched: 59
New: 40


Friday, October 30, 2020

October Horror Movie Challenge: Witchcraft of the 70s

I want to get in some Witchcraft documentaries from the 70s.  These really cover what formed some of my earliest thoughts on witchcraft and the occult.

These movies are not really horror, but they good supporting movies for all the horror movies I typically watch. All these titles received an X rating when they were released but are really all pretty tame.  

An interesting note that all these films feature Alex Sanders and Maxine Sanders.

Legend of the Witches bluray cover
Legend of the Witches (1970)

This is a nice weird one and It is part of a larger DVD/Blu-Collection I grabbed from Amazon.  The first part is a slow narration over scenes of the moon and sun rising and setting in glorious black & white.  It reminds me a little of the start of Aradia, Gospel of the Witches.  We get to the creation of man and we see a number of neolithic shamanistic cave paintings. 
We get to the part about witches with prerequisite naked dancing under the moon.

We get to see a witchcraft initiation, which looks a bit Gardenarian or Alexandrian (checked it is Alex Sanders, so Alexandrian). We get some history of England including the notion that William the Conqueror was the son of a Witch, and Robin Hood had a coven. This leads to a bunch of material about witches including the witch hunts. 

Different witch rituals are shown from wicca to Luciferian with copious amounts of nudity (likely the source for the X ratings) but nothing even remotely shocking really.

Secret Rites (1971)

This one starts off with a "witches orgy" and a woman being dragged to "unspeakable obscenities" but fear not! Her lover "John Goodfellow" has come to rescue her brandishing a cross and rebuke witches as if they were vampires.  The scene freezes and our narrator continues in saying that this has been the perception of witches for years.  We cut to Alex Sanders who tells us it is complete rubbish. 

This covers the initiation of a new witch into Alex's coven. As well as a very brief look at his discussion group (likely brief since there is no nudity), a Wiccan handfasting, and even a Great Rite.

The following were included on the same DVD. 

The Witch's Fiddle (1924)
A man gets a fiddle from a witch that can make anyone dance. 

Out of Step (1957)
A documentary series that covers witchcraft in this episode.  Interviewed are Margaret Murry, Gerald Gardner, and Alastair Crowley's friend, Louis Wilkinson. 

The Judgement of Albion (1968)
From Robert Wynne-Simmons, the director of Blood on Satan's Claw.  Based on the poems of William Blake. It is a trippy little flick where faeries, in the guise of young college students, still roam "A Green and Pleasant Land" amid modern troubles.  Completely experimental and yet so utterly British. 

All of these movies and shorts reveal an interesting look at Britain at the end of the 60's.  While in the US we were moving headlong into the excess of the 70s and "left-over hippie shit", England seemed to be two different places at the same time. A country aware that it is slowing down even as new prospects are on the horizon and a country whose Pagan past was just a little bit below the surface. These two are likely related to each other.

Witchcraft 70 poster
Witchcraft '70 (1970)

This Italian "documentary" follows the lives of various real witches in England. I say "documentary" because it only details the most salacious elements of the neo-pagan movement in England.  It also conflates all witchcraft with satanism.  Now a few of the people they profile like Alex Sanders dabbled in "the Left-Hand Path" decades before and Anton LeVey who was a Satanist, others like Eleanor Bone and Maxine Sanders were Wiccans.  The Sanders in fact developed the Alexandrian Tradition of Wicca.  In fact, there are many times that what is depicted on screen and what the narrator is telling us is happening are complete conflict.   There is a hand-fasting between Alex and Maxine Sanders which is described as Maxine marrying the Devil in the guise of Alex.  They imply that in all of these "Satanic Weddings" that Alex, as the Devil, gets to have sex with the women first.  A lot of criticism has been laid at the feet of Alex Sanders and Alexandrian Wicca, but this is not one of them. 

Oh there is the implication too that Brazilian witches engage in incest.  If that feels like it came out of nowhere then yeah, I thought so too. In the middle of talking about proper British witchcraft we get this side trip to Brazil. 

Another unforgivable sin (if that word can be used) is that the Narrator (Alberto Bevilacqua) quotes Jacob Sprenger of the Malleus Maleficarum as an authority. 

Finnish witchcraft is shown to have a nubile nude witch submit to a cult leader as her future husband, chosen by the high priestess. 

It is all very Mondo with plenty of blood sacrifices.  There is a bit on Ted Serios and his psychic photography.  Mediums. Krishna Consciousness (which is entrapping all of America's youth!) and some more on Brazil.  Oh. and they spend some time on LaVey.  Plenty of nude women hanging around including LaVey's own daughter and future high priestess of her own sect. There are a few scenes in the LaVey piece that I am sure got in front of some of the artists of White Dwarf

And it ends with Cryonics, or the freezing your body after death.  Cause why not.  Even the start of the 70s was weird.  I guess their issue was the artificial extension of life. 
It feels like some Christian scare tract/documentary.  Better watch out those English witches will get you!

It has an X rating, but there is nothing here that I have not seen in a "TV-MA" series on Amazon or Netflix. 

Reading other reviews online I just watched the Italian version "Angeli Bianchi... Angeli Neri" (White Angel ...Black Angel), not the redubbed, re-edited "American" version. 

NIGHT SHIFT and Old-school Content:  A few notes.

I have had this game idea for a while now, Spirit of '76, that takes place in the summer of 1976.  It has a solid Americana feel to it and it is inspired as much by movies like "Smokey and the Bandit" and "Convoy" as it is "The Omen" and "It's Alive".  But this got me thinking of a similar idea, only maybe set in England during the end of the 60s, 1968 to 1972 in particular.  Something very Mod but with horror and supernatural elements.   I'd love to set it in London. 

Watched: 55
New: 39



Willow & Tara: NIGHT SHIFT Veterans of the Supernatural Wars

It was really only a matter of time before I got around to posting this. 

One of my personal goals with NIGHT SHIFT was to be able to create any character, any situation, I could think of.  While I have dozens of characters I have created for NIGHT SHIFT I am only posting a few to show off the capabilities of the system.  Since we are getting to the end of Witch Week, this is a must post.

Following up on my 2018 Update of my witches I had them coming out of retirement to battle a bloated orange monster.   Looking over my recent posts of both NIGHT SHIFT characters and Baba Yaga from a couple nights ago, I wonder if maybe there is something else going on.  

What if Baba Yaga was targeting the girls of the Wayward Sisters so Jodie and Donna seek out the help of Rowena (who can't help them because she is in Hell) but instead gets them in touch with Charlie, who in turn leads them to Willow and Tara.   Feels like it could be a part of my War of the Witch Queens campaign set in modern times.  It would be appropriate.  I'd just have to figure out how to also work in the Charmed Ones!  

Why go through all that effort? Well to be honest it would take something this big to pull Willow & Tara out of their comfortable retirement. I honestly have not used these characters in anything of my home games in years. Baba Yaga, especially how I am thinking of revisioning her? Yeah. That is big.
Maybe that is one of the reasons the War of the Witch Queens starts, Baba Yaga is on some other world now. 

I digress.  Here are Willow and Tara in their 2020 versions.

Tara Rosenberg-Maclay

11th level Witch, Human

Strength: 12 (0)
Dexterity: 9 (0) 
Constitution: 12 (0)
Intelligence: 16 (+2) s
Wisdom: 18 (+3) P
Charisma: 16 (+2) s

HP: 34 (11d4)
AC: 9
Fate Points: 1d10

Check Bonus (P/S/T): +5/+3/+2
Melee bonus: +2  Ranged bonus: +2
Saves: +5 to spells and magical effects

Special Abilities: Arcana, Casting 105%, Telekinesis, Arcane bond (Willow), Innate Magic (Cure), Telepathic Transfer

Skills: Dance (Dex), Literature (Int), Research (Int), Theology (Int), Beast Whisperer (Wis)

Languages: English, Latin, Greek, Gaelic, 

Spells

1: Bless, Cure Light Wounds*,  Dancing Lights, Detect Evil
2: ESP, Locate Object, Produce Flame, Protection from Evil
3: Clairvoyance, Dispel Magic, Fly, Protection from Evil 10'
4: Cure Serious Wounds*, Dimensional Anchor, Restoration
5: Heal, Contact Higher Plane
6: Enchant Item


Willow Rosenberg-Maclay
12th level Witch, Human

Strength: 9 (0)
Dexterity: 11 (0) 
Constitution: 11 (0)
Intelligence: 18 (+3) P
Wisdom: 16 (+2) s
Charisma: 17 (+2) s

HP: 32 (11d4+2)
AC: 9
Fate Points: 1d10

Check Bonus (P/S/T): +6/+4/+2
Melee bonus: +2  Ranged bonus: +2
Saves: +5 to spells and magical effects

Special Abilities: Arcana, Casting 110%, Telekinesis, Arcane Bond (Tara), Enhanced Senses, Telepathic Transfer

Skills: Computers (Int) x2, Science (Int), Research (Int), Theology/Mythology (Int)

Languages: English, Latin, Greek, Hebrew

Spells

1: Chill Ray, Detect Evil, Detect Magic, Magic Missile
2: ESP, Invisibility, Produce Flame, Protection from Evil
3: Clairvoyance, Fly, Remove Blindness/Deafness, Speak w/ Dead
4: Arcane Eye, Daylight, Produce fire
5: Commune, Dispel Evil, Raise Dead
6: anti-magic Shell, Enchant Item

Yes. I can see these versions working out great, to be honest.  In fact, these versions feel just as "right" as the WitchCraft RPG versions and the official ones in the Buffy RPG (which I worked on anyway).  Looking over them again I maybe should have given them an extra level each.  They are retired, but I am certain they still managed to stay busy.


NIGHT SHIFT Characters

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. 


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