Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Sinéad O'Connor. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query Sinéad O'Connor. Sort by date Show all posts

Monday, July 23, 2018

Five Albums, Five Days: Sinéad O'Connor - The Lion and the Cobra (1987)

Creativity still at a remarkable low.  But I figure I should type something.
Gaming stuff likely to comback around Gen Con.

I finally got tagged in one of these so I am supposed to post five albums (or was it supposed to be 10) that have deep meaning to me.
Instead of me tagging others to do this, I want to tag/mention people that share that meaning with me. Up first, and no surprise given the time.
The year is 1987.  I am in college and I just met this girl who was going to become in roughly this order, someone I could never beat at cards, my best friend, my girlfriend and as of yesterday July 22, 2018 my wife of 23 years.  So tagged here, for oh so many reasons, Natalie Brannan

The album: Sinéad O'Connor - The Lion and the Cobra (1987)

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Character Creation Challenge: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 2nd Edition

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 2nd Edition came on the scene to much anticipation back in the Spring of 1989.  I was in college at the time but I still managed to get the books very close on release day.  The game was largely an update and cleanup of the AD&D 1st Ed rules.  Gygax had been gone from TSR for a while at this point and the rules lacked his "voice" but they were a significant improvement in many ways.  

But today no one talks about the 2nd ed rules as much as they talk about the settings.

The Game: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 2nd Edition

There is no doubt that the 2nd edition made many improvements to the AD&D ruleset. While Basic-era D&D moved on with the BECMI series, AD&D came here.  With the streamlined, but not simplified, rules in place TSR focused on what they believed to be their cash-cow, settings.  And to be fair the settings are what we all recall today.  There were also tons of splat books and eventually an update that was called AD&D 2.5 by some, but never by the company.  

This was also the edition that caved under the pressure of the religious right and bowdlerized demons and devils right out of the system.  It would not be till later with Planescape that we got them back in the forms of Tanarri and Batatezu. 

Since the Splats and Settings are so important to the identity of 2nd Edition it behooves me to mention a couple and my relationship with them. Not to mention the witch options they gave me.

The Complete Wizard's Handbook

Among 2nd Eds features were the "Kits" or archetypes you could apply to various classes to customize them.  Sadly like many splat books you see power creep in these. The Complete Bard's Handbook was one of the worst offenders along with the Elves book. But today is not the day to discuss those. Today I want to talk about the Witch Kit.

The Witch-kit appeared in the Complete Wizard's Handbook and was a mere 3 or so pages, but it was the first official witch class in AD&D.  She got powers every odd level and had a lot of role-playing potential.  This might seem more powerful than your average wizard, but at the time everyone was assumed to have a kit of some sort.


My world of choice in the 2nd Ed era was Ravenloft.  The gothic horror tropes were too much of a lure to avoid. Interestingly enough it would not be until Spring of 2000 when Ravenloft would get their first witch class/kit and by this time they were owned by Wizards of the Coast.

This class/kit gave us the Witches of Hala, which is a kit that any non-magic using class could use, so only Fighter and Theif. But the witches did gain some spell abilities.  To differentiate between the two witches Van Richten's Monster Hunter's Compendium, Vol 3 calls the Complete Wizard Witch Kit the "Sorcerous Witch." To further distinguish them I took to calling the Witches of Hala "Hedge Witches."

Forgotten Realms

During the 2nd Edition years, Forgotten Realms was the undisputed King of the Campaign Worlds.  I largely ignored it.  I have made up for lost time since then and been spending more time in the Realms, but that is another post.  I did however know all about the Witches of Rashemen and Spellbound was one of the first Realms products I ever bought. This setting also uses the wizard kit and the Witches of Rasemaar kit.

Due to the amount of material I have here I am also going to do two characters.

The Character: Sinéad

Following my Celtic-influenced witches, I give you Sinéad.  Of course, she is named for Sinéad O'Connor whose album "The Lion and the Cobra" pretty much changed everything for me in 1988/1989.  

Sinéad is built using the Witch Kit from the Complete Wizard's Handbook. Now the witch kit says they can't be multi-classed, but the concept I want to try is. So I am going to do it anyway, but not choose a kit for the Bard class.  Some of the restrictions on this kit feel the same as the removal of the demons and devils; giving the players in-game reasons not to use it.

Sinéad is not a character I played back then, but this build is pretty close to what I would have created back in 1989 while living in Room 109 of the Wright I Hall Dorms.

Goodwife Sinéad
(Goodwife is how you address a witch whose marital status is unknown)
Half-elf 7th level Wizard (Witch Kit)/7th level Bard
Chaotic Good

STR: 12
DEX: 16
CON: 15
INT: 17
WIS: 14
CHA: 16

AC: 1 (Bracers of Defence)
HP: 50
THAC0 (Base): 17

Saving Throws
Paralyzation, Poison, Death: 12
Rod, Staff, Wand: 9
Petrification, Polymorph: 11
Breath Weapon: 13
Spells: 10


Herbalism, Spellcasting, Artistic Abilities (Singing)
Climb Walls (30%), Detect Noise (40%), Pick Pockets (25%), Read Languages (90%)

Special Abilities
Half-elf: Resist Sleep (30%)
Bard: Spells, knowledge
Witch: Read Magic, Detect Magic, Secure Familiar (3rd), Brew Calmative (5th), Brew Poison (7th)

Bard: (1st) Light, Faerie Fire, Protection from Evil (2nd) Charm Person, Hold Person (3rd) Dispel Magic
Wizard (Witch): (1st) Audible Glammer, Magic Missile, Shocking Grasp, Identity (2nd) Continual Light, Spectral Hand, Ray of Enfeeblement (3rd) Lightning bolt, Fly (4th) Dimension Door

The Character: Nida

Nida is a character I have been playing around with for my War of the Witch Queens.  She is supposed to represent the "other" witches of 2nd Ed, the ones I didn't use but the ones everyone else did. That is the Witches of Hala and the Witches of Rashemen.  She is not a starting character because I need her to have some history.

Nida was a Rashmi girl born to poor parents.  She was playing when she was taken into the Mists and found herself in the lands of Ravenloft.  She became a thief to survive the world on her own until she tried to pick the pockets of a Witch of Hala. For the next ten years she trained with this witch and learned the secrets of Hala and her magic. One night she was hunting a particularly nasty Annis Hag when she found herself back in her homeland of Rashemen.  Unable to return, she tried to pick up her life before she left only to discover her family had long since died.  She began training as a Wychlaran, or a Witch of Rashemen.  Like the witches of her homeland she adopted a mask and changed her name to "Nida" which means "voice."

Note: Since Nida is a dual classed character, a Thief/Mage, there is no reason to assume she can't be a Thief (Witch of Hala) / Mage (Witch of Rashemen) even though the Witch of Hala can't be taken by a spellcaster (she is a thief at the time) and the Witch of Rashemen has to be a spellcaster (she is a mage at the time).

Lady Nida
Human 4th level Thief (Witch of Hala Kit) / 9th level Wizard (Witch of Rashemen kit)
Chaotic Neutral*
(Witches in Ravenloft can't be chaotic, but this is the character concept I have.)

STR: 11
DEX: 16
CON: 16
INT: 17
WIS: 13
CHA: 18

AC: 1 (Bracers of Defence)
HP: 48
THAC0 (Base): 18

Saving Throws
Paralyzation, Poison, Death: 13
Rod, Staff, Wand: 9
Petrification, Polymorph: 11
Breath Weapon: 13
Spells: 10


Herbalism, Spellcasting, Artistic Abilities, Ancient History
Pick Pockets (35%) Open Locks (35%), Climb Walls (30%), Detect Noise (40%), Pick Pockets (25%), Read Languages (90%)

Special Abilities
Half-elf: Resist Sleep (30%)
Bard: Spells, knowledge
Witch: Read Magic, Detect Magic, Secure Familiar (3rd), Brew Calmative (5th), Brew Poison (7th)

Witch of Hala: (1st) Combine, Reveal the Weave, Luck (2nd) Arcane Insights, Master Coven Magic (3rd) Water Walk
Wizard (Witch of Rahemen): (1st) Circle, Alarm, Magic Missile, Shocking Grasp (2nd) Dazzle, Protection from Poison, Blindness, Tasha's Uncontrollable Hideous Laughter (3rd) Firelance, Lightning bolt, Suggestion (4th) Negate Magic Weapon, Magic Mirror (5th) Teleport

I like these builds. I certainly want to use Nida somewhere.  Maybe see what she is like with another system. Both are 14th level and have a similar range of abilities.

Character Creation Challenge

Tardis Captain is the originator of this idea and he is keeping a list of places participating.  When posting to Social Media don't forget the #CharacterCreationChallenge hashtag. 

RPG Blog Carnival

This month's RPG Blog Carnival is being hosted by Plastic Polyhedra. They are doing Characters, Stories, and Worlds, so that fits right in with everything we are posting this month.

Check out all the posts going on this month at both of these sources.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Dragon and the Phoenix: Episode 12

Episode 12: No Other Troy

Yoln: You brought an army to stop me Slayer?
Buffy: No. I brought two.

- Willow and Tara: The Dragon and the Phoenix, Episode 12 “No Other Troy”

Episode 12: No Other Troy by ~WebWarlock on deviantART

Why should I blame her that she filled my days
With misery, or that she would of late
Have taught to ignorant men most violent ways,
Or hurled the little streets upon the great.
Had they but courage equal to desire?
What could have made her peaceful with a mind
That nobleness made simple as a fire,
With beauty like a tightened bow, a kind
That is not natural in an age like this,
Being high and solitary and most stern?
Why, what could she have done, being what she is?
Was there another Troy for her to burn?

- William Butler Yeats, No Second Troy

Oh, I love you
God, I love you
I'd kill a dragon for you
I'll die
But I will rise
And I will return
The Phoenix from the flame
I have learned
I will rise
And you'll see me return
Being what I am
There is no other Troy
For me to burn
- Sinéad O'Connor, Troy

No time, no date (Cast returns on May 19, 2003. Monday)

The cast leads an army of demons and an army of angels to Leviathan’s plane, but they discover it may require the death of one of their own to seal the portal forever. Release the souls of all the Slayer’s Leviathan has been feeding on for years. Buffy must defeat Yoln, but Willow and Tara must find a way to stop a God on his home realm.

Story Arc Elements: Willow and Tara are shown their pasts and futures by the Mouth of Leviathan, how everything they have done was constructed to bring them to this point to allow Leviathan to enter this realm. Leviathan had meant for Willow to be his instrument to be powerful enough to allow him to enter this realm. Tara was the factor he did not count on, her influence was turning Willow away from the path she was on to one more in balance with magic. Without Tara, Leviathan will enter the realm through Willow at anytime he chooses.

Game Mechanics:
Stats for various Slayers from the past. Dragons.
Sinead O’Connor “Drink Before the War” and "Troy".  Megadeth “A Tout Le Monde”, Sarah Maclachlan “Elsewhere”

Notes and Comments:
This is the big one. The finale. Designed to be both the series finale for “Buffy” and the start of a new spin-off series “Willow & Tara” and there is a lot going on.

Let’s start with the big stuff. The Cast comes through Dawn’s rift using the Spear as a guide. It takes them to a cave in an outcropping overlooking a valley. A valley filled with demons (40,000 to be exact), when they see Buffy they all begin to shout “Slayer! Slayer!” It was quite a visual.

The first act of course is to get a grip on this new demonic army. The leaders are the Mormo demons from before. The cast is also joined by a smaller, but no less effective, army of angels. Among them is Kara, who has taken Tara’s place in the armies of Heaven. In fact she has surpassed even Tara’s previous achievements. Once the cast can convince the demons and angels to fight together against the forces of Leviathan then the action begins.

For the battles I used the Army of Darkness mass combat rules with Buffy as the general, but I made sure everyone had a chance to shine.
Upon entering the realm of Leviathan the cast notices that their Con and Wills are being drained. So, we have a time limit here. Both Faith and Buffy know that the realm is draining the source of their power, though they can’t figure out why.

Dawn has to hold the portal open, so she is given a group of angels to protect her. Spike has the Hand of Yoln as a weapon and Buffy has the spear.
We spend some time battling the armies of Leviathan. His creatures combine the worse aspects of dragon, snake and demon, for lack of a better word I called them Draconians.

The cast enters Leviathan himself, anyone with a soul takes another hit to Will. Anyone without a soul is absorbed into the walls, floor, everything. Thus newly re-re-ensouled Anya and recently souled Spike are fine. Well, fine as can be. I struggled with this for a bit, do angels have souls? In the end I decided no, they have spirits like demons. So the angels that went in with the cast are lost. This is done for the obvious reasons; the cast needs to shine here, not the armies.

Buffy fights Yoln. Until next season she is the star and the big guy is going after her. Now I don’t know how many of you all use the Original Slayer in games, but she is one deadly character. I had to up Yoln to obscene levels just to deal with her. Faith and Spike are fighting at her sides (I am sure there is metaphor here, but I am not going there) and these three can quickly mow down (and did) most opponents. Spike gets his arm chopped of by Yoln (yeah I did that first too) and dumps the ash out of the glove and puts it back on.

“You think you came here to stop me and my lord. You can’t. Everything is in motion, everything had been planned before you were even born. This is not my defeat, this is my apotheosis. You are not heroes.
You are sacrifices.”
- Yoln, the Shadowreaper
Yoln becomes fully human again (or at least as human as he was before), he tells them it is a trap and the attack start anew. Yoln is stronger now, but can be killed. Buffy does kill him, which just starts the whole place to start exploding.

There is truth in Yoln’s quote since this was an adventure I had planned to do for AD&D 1st ed back in 1987. It took place during the same battle as the “flashback” from Episode 5. Then, as in now, the story focused on a battle with Yoln and his Master, then known only as “The Whispering God”, and two lovers; Morganne (the Slayer from episode 5) and a young swordsman. So this adventure had been in the works long before Buffy and crew were ever “born”. Yoln was then a demonic-human that became a death knight.

Anya and Xander meanwhile are off to discover the reason why their “souls” are being drained. They discover that the spirits all of the Slayers that have died before are stuck on Leviathan’s plane. Literally. They are stuck in the wall of the dead god’s flesh and are slowly being consumed. Anya and Xander work to free them while fighting lesser minions (giant white blood cell things). They manage to free some of the Slayers who can fight (but are still dead, but at least now they can move on) till Spike come running up telling them it is a trap.

Willow and Tara confront Leviathan “himself” in the form of The Mouth of Leviathan played by Malcolm McDowell at his evil best.

From the Mouth of Leviathan we learn Leviathan worked through Set and other gods and demons to get things done. He empowered Willow when she first gave Angel back his soul. Willow was supposed to be his instrument, a force strong enough to bring Leviathan into this world, then he would feed on Willow. In a way she was working like another one of my old AD&D influences (or rather my DM’s), Raven from the Teen Titans. Though Willow is not Leviathan’s daughter, he does need her to enter the world.

What Leviathan never worked into his plans was how much of an influence Tara was having. Tara was pulling Willow away from the self-destructive forms of witchcraft (Sorcery) and too the more “natural” Magic. At first he worked on Glory and her minions to redirect Glory to a vulnerable Tara, but that was short lived. The Mouth shows the girls thousands of alternate realities where they are together, but in each one Leviathan manages to kill Tara (or somehow turn Willow) and consume the world. So Leviathan through his agents stopped the bullet from hitting Willow and instead redirected to Tara. The various realities shown are all various fan-fictions of my playtesters and our friends on the Kitten Board. There are also scenes of various alternate versions of Willow and Tara. Lots of ones on their past lives, including one where they both die in Atlantis; a pair of Chinese sorceresses; Liath and Bodhmal from Episode 5 and “The Dark Druid” and others. There are also alternate versions of Tara, the Tara that really was part demon, the nature sprite Tara that Whedon talked about doing, vampire Tara, even the “original” plan for Tara to make her what the Amy character eventually became; the dark magic junkie. The outcome for any alternate though is the same, the destruction of the world.

The mouth offers Willow a choice now, they can leave together, all she needs to do is drain all of her’s and Tara’s magic into Dawn. Then Leviathan will enter the world via Dawn. They can then live on Faith’s old magic dead world. Of course everyone they know or love will die.
Now at this point we had planned to go in a bunch of different directions, but the winning one, the plan that made the most sense won out.

Standing on spires (really his spine) of Leviathan’s plane Willow and Tara see their friends running back to the portal, being perused by devilish, dragon monsters, the armies still fighting. They see torn and battered Slayers limping to attack Leviathan’s creatures, even though they stand no hope of even slowing them down. Meanwhile with Yoln’s death the conduit to the mortal realm is breaking up. Dawn is fighting to keep the portal open and the land (which is really Leviathan himself) is reacting violently with “earth quakes” and volcanoes. The Earth can be seen (blocking out the sun) and rising. The Mouth tells the girls that all Leviathan needs now is enter the world through the gate, either through Willow now or Dawn (since she is holding it open) and then drain his “hosts” magic to manifest fully.

Seeing the death and destruction they realize there is only one way to keep it from getting worse. Grabbing hands, they jump into the gapping maw of Leviathan’s plane. Yup. I went for the “Thelma and Louise” ending.
Now everything goes berserk. Demons are running amok, trying to get out of the place. Angels find they are fighting the hordes of Leviathan AND retreating demons, the land is throwing fits more than ever, and then silence.
From the maw that Willow and Tara threw themselves in comes the reborn Leviathan. He was “force feed” all of Willow’s and Tara’s combined magic. Given the Anamchara rules that is quite a bit. He now stands over 200 feet tall and getting taller by the second, seven heads and full of anger. There is no way he can go through the portal now, so he is going to settle for killing everyone and everything on his plane. Time for the cast to run.

Of course I gave them the chance to get to the portal. Leviathan is chasing them down, roaring in anger. Then I need to decide what I should do with the characters. Leviathan is not a stated out monster, he is pure plot device. But I want the surviving characters to well, survive. Yeah I really, really wanted to off Spike. I felt he was representative of everything that I considered wrong with the show. The plan was that he was going to take the remote detonator for his chip and wait till the armies got on top of him then he was going to blow his own head off. But Garner convinced me otherwise. Plus I was already working on “Season of the Witch” at this point and he never showed there, but I figured I’d need him later. I did in fact for a Ghosts of Albion/Buffy crossover. I wanted to make him into a ghost and said as much very early on, but he ended up being a ghost in Angel, so I figured I could do better than that. So his player and I agreed that Spike was going to buy the rest of the cast time. He stood and fought the on coming demons and draconians to keep them a little bit at bay. That way if I needed him back I could, or if I needed him evil again then I can say Leviathan had been whispering in his ear all this time, the same thing he did to Yoln. At this point anyway I was borrowing heavily from Charmed so Leviathan’s plan was the same as the Demonic Wasteland. There were plenty of powers laying around there for someone with the will to use them. Spike could have come back (and still might who knows) like Cole did in Charmed.

The remaining cast get through the portal. Beaten, broken, but alive. They leave the ruins of the High School (they are shot out of the Hellmouth) and Dawn says the mouth is closed completely.

Cut back to a grey void where Willow and Tara are. Luna, the Seraphim, returns and offers them a choice. They can go to Heaven together as their reward, or the Summerlands if they prefer, or they can be sent back to Earth. Tara will loose some of her divine power she had before (the aura around her that induced fear in demons), but they will let her keep the ability to heal by touch.

They come back and we wrap up the game. Scenes of Xander’s and Anya’s wedding (this time a small private ceremony), Giles ends up catching the bouquet. Buffy’s martial arts class is still a big hit, we see her going on dates with Tony, the cop from Episodes 6 and 7. There are a few demons left in town, but most have cleared off. The last scene is Willow and Tara enjoying themselves (not like that!) at home. I don’t have it my notes, but they talked about how their lives are theirs to do with as they please. At that point Dawn comes in to tell Tara the phone is for her, it is her brother.

This may be one of my most favorite cover of the series. The idea was to only going to get Willow and Tara fans to write the episodes, play test and do the covers, and in particular only members of the Kitten Board. This one was done by Chris Cook who runs a website devoted to Willow and Tara in every universe. Called “Through the Looking Glass” it has tons of art, stories, and even games for the Willow and Tara fan base. The premise really mirrors that of this episode. I showed the multiverse where Willow and Tara are together in every reality. I also showed that in realities that they are not together are doomed to destruction. Chris shows us the realities where they are together. Have a look, there is even some Dragon and the Phoenix art there as well. The various realities are all from various W/T fan fiction.  The sources for them were stories from the Kitten Board, Different Color Pens fiction board and the old Willow and Tara fiction site, Extra Flamey.

And of note. This is my 100th post tagged "witch".

Next time, DS al Coda.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Friday Night Videos: Women Rock!

Growing up I had a friend that knew every actress' name, movie she was in all these details about their lives.  In college I had another friend who did the same thing with all these supermodels.

When asked who I found attractive or "liked" I would always say names like Stevie Nicks, Deborah Harry or Joan Jett.  For me it was always about the rock girls.

It is also no surprise that most of the female PCs and NPCs I have or have had were based on the women whose albums, tapes and CDs I would buy.

So with the new Supergirl show on now and Jessica Jones on tonight in the US here are some of my favorite ass-kicking superheroines.

This should not be a surprise to anyone I have already featured great performers like Shirley Manson of Garbage, Stevie Nicks,  So here are a just a very few of my favorites.

I have always loved Joan Jett.  She is just so goddammed cool and can rock with the best of them.  She has SOOO many great songs, but this one always gets me going.  Plus it is the "theme song" for the Grazzt/Iggwilv love affair.  That's their dirty little secret...they actually love each other.

Ever hear a song and thought "man I need to do something with that!",  Pat Benatar's "Shadows of the Night" from 1982's Get Nervous was always that song to me. It is very, very likely that the "Midnight Angel" later became Nox.  I always loved her and yes I did have a witch character that looked like her in the 80s.   I never liked the video for it to be honest.  If had been thinking about this I should have made my own video with footage of her on Charmed.  Yes. She was on Charmed for an episode.

Speaking of Nox. "Because the Night" was written by Patti Smith and Bruce Springsteen thanks to the manipulations of Jimmy Iovine (who is immortalized in my games as well).   Patti Smith is such a powerful singer that most people can't do this song justice.  Bruce can.  Natalie Merchant did a good job, so did Shirley Manson.  But they can't compare to her version.   This is one of my favorite songs.

I was once asked if I thought Siouxsie Sioux was attractive. I said yes without hesitation and then I showed them the video for "Kiss Them For Me".  It's not the most iconic Banshees' song, but I really like it.

One of my favorite bard characters looks just like Aimee Mann. What can I say, she is so damn cute and more talented than a truckload of pop-princesses.

Even Darth Vader loves Blondie.  "The Tide is High" is not really related to any gaming, but damn. Deborah Harry in her prime.

What do a Gateway 486, an HP Desk Jet and Hormonally Yours all have in common?  They were the essential ingredients to the first time I sat down to collect all my notes for the Witch class.  I mention the printer because I still have that printout with a couple hundred hand written notes.
Hormonally Yours was the second album from Shakespears Sister featuring former Bananarama singer Siobhán Fahey.  "Stay" was a big hit with me in 92. I thought she was so hot back then, still do in fact.

Very, very, very few people (not just singers) have left such a mark on my psyche as Sinéad O'Connor.  Seriously. I can divide time into two very distinct and very different points. The time before I heard The Lion and The Cobra and the time after.  I have talked about Sinéad before, but the amount I have talked about her doesn't reflect what her music has meant to me.  "Troy" is not my favorite song on this album, but it is damn close.

I think this a good place to stop.  I can do a part 2 later!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Friday Night Videos: Vampire Music The 90s

Welcome back to Friday Night Videos as we continue the Vampire theme for Vampire Month here at the Other Side.

The early 90s were a great time for Vampires.  Think it is good now?  Back then in the RPG scene we had White Wolf's Vampire the Masquerade, Chill 2nd edition, Ravenloft and plenty of other games. We even had one of my most favorite Rifts books ever, Vampire Kingdoms.

We also had singers like Suzanne Vega with her "Blood Makes Noise".  Suzanne Vega also kinda looks like a vampire.

That the one song that always got me in the mood to do some writing or run a game was Faith No More's The Morning After from their epic album The Real Thing.

Sinéad O'Connor's second album I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got was without a doubt the most anticipated album of 1990.  Well. At least by me.  In 1988 I discovered Sinéad and The Lion and The Cobra.  My best friend at the time and I blew off class to pick it up.  I later bought her a copy of the EP of I Am Stretched on Your Grave.  It became one of my favorite songs on the album.

Was the woman singing the vampire in this? Or was the grave she was lying on?  (yeah I know it a song about a woman talking to her dead mother, but vampires worked better for me).

That best friend?  Yeah I ended up marrying her five years later.

Another artist that isn't normally associated with vampire or the 90s is Thomas Dolby. Many remember Dolby from "She Blinded Me With Science", but he had a number of later released that were critically praised but not great sellers. One was 1989's Aliens Ate My Buick with the haunting "Budapest By Blimp" a song I always thought was about a vampire returning to his ancestral home to only be sad by how much it had changed.

Dolby does have street cred when it comes to Gothic Horror. He worked on the soundtrack for the movie Gothic which recounts the tale of Lord Byron, John Polidori, Percy and Mary Shelly.  A weird little movie from the guy that gave us Lair of the White Worm, starring the Warlock, Wormtail., the guy who almost survived Keyser Söze, and the Handmaid.

In the early 90s nothing was bigger than Concrete Blonde.  I remember seeing them opening up for Sting on the last leg of his Soul Cages tour.  "Tomorrow Wendy" might not be a song about vampires, but it oozes pathos and thanatos.  Frankly it captured those early days of Vampire the Masquerade perfectly.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Dragon and the Phoenix preview

Ok. So this totally self-indulgent but this may very well be the only time this will ever see the light of day.

Back when we were working on the game I wanted to do a "comming soon" video for the "Sweeps Week" episodes. So there was one for Episodes 4 and 5 and then another for 11 and 12.
I never got the one for 4 and 5 started in time, but for 11 and 12 I did write the outline and even gathered up a couple people who's voices sounded like the casts enough for voice overs. I had the whole Macromedia suite at the time so I figured I'd do a video. Trouble was, never could find the scenes I wanted from external media and I discovered I also had no desire to watch Buffy anymore to even mine it for scenes. Plus life was getting REALLY busy again since we had a new baby in the house again (that was Connor).

So. Like role-playing you are just going to have to use your imagination on this one. ;)


Everything you know is about to end...

Tara (Voice over, Sinéad O’Connor’s “Drink Before the War” plays in the background throughout): I saw when he opened the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake. The sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became as blood… (fade out)

Buffy (talking to her friends): This ends. We sit here and wait for these maniacs to come to our homes to end the world (Flashbacks of the Master, Angeleus, the Mayor, and Glory). They threaten me, they threaten to kill my family (Buffy holding Dawn at the end of “The Gift”) my friends (Tara/Kara getting shot, Spike getting burned in “Will We Burn in Heaven?”). No more.
I am taking this fight to their ground, I am going to stop this before it starts. I am going to get that Spear (scene of Faith wielding the Spear of Destiny to kill a pack of vampires) and I am going to Leviathan’s plane (the Cast standing in a desolate gray plane, emptiness as far as the eye can see).

Dawn: What do you plan to do?

Buffy (after a beat): I’m going to kill a God.

Scene: An army of demons led by Buffy attacks Yoln’s army. Yoln swings his Hellforged blade but it is stopped by Buffy’s spear.

Yoln: So Slayer. You brought an army to defeat me? (another swing)
Buffy: No. (a parry. Then wielding the spear with both hands she swings and knocks Yoln back.) I brought two.
The army of demons continues running while a legion of angels flies up an over them to join in the attack.

An armored angel swoops down with a flaming sword, she removes her helmet to reveal Tara’s face.

A younger Willow looks up with the black magic eyes.

Yoln’s voice over while the following scenes playout in rapid succession.
Yoln: This has all been planned. You are not heroes. You are sacrifices.

Tara standing in a cemetery waiting while vampires attack her.

Yoln lifting off his helm with two hands.

Dawn’s eye’s glowing with green fire as she holds a portal open.

Spike (carrying an injured Anya): It’s a trap!

Willow and Tara holding hands jump into a gapping maw.

Silence. Then a titanic seven headed dragon approaches the cast and roars.

Darkness, then back to Buffy’s home.

Xander: So I guess the revolution won’t be televised? (laughs to himself)
Spike laughs with him and they fall silent realizing they just “shared a moment”. They uncomfortably move apart.

Coming soon…
Episode 11: Shadows in the Rain and double sized series finale Episode 12: No Other Troy

Soon. There will be nothing left to burn.


Excited yet? I am!

Friday, December 27, 2019

5 x 5: End of the Year Top Fives. Albums

Over on the old Facebooks I have been challenged or tagged in various top five lists. Five favorite books, favorite albums, things like that.  So I thought I'd end my year here with my Top Five favorite Top Fives!

For the next five days I'll post a top-five list.  These will be presented in no particular order and at least according to the rules of a couple of the challenges, with no explanations.

So today I am doing my Top Five Albums.

The Police Synchronicity

Thomas Dolby The Golden Age of Wireless

Sinéad O'Connor The Lion and the Cobra

Pink Floyd The Dark Side of the Moon

Stevie Nicks The Wild Heart

Thursday, September 14, 2017

This Old Dragon: Issue #156

It's April 1990.  I am a Junior in University at this point and working on my very first psychology study (I compared incidents of violent imagery vs. sexual imagery in heavy metal and rap videos.  Conclusion: they both love sex. Gave me a solid appreciation of rap and hip hop).  Twin Peaks is on the TV for the first time ever. On my play list though is the newest Sinéad O'Connor album "I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got". I even skipped Calculus to go get a copy of it and an extra one for my then best friend (and now my wife). What I didn't have and didn't want though was This Old Dragon Issue #156!

Ok. I didn't own this issue at the time. I knew about it of course. I believe, in fact, I am sure I first saw it at +Scott Thorne's Castle Perilous.  I didn't know how good I had it then, to be honest.

Does it feel like I am avoiding the issue? Yeah. I am.  It's an April Fools issue and not at all one of my favorite ones. Let's get into because there are some seriously nice gems later on.
The cover. Daniel Horne does some great work. This is not one of my favorites, but it is one is funny.  Besides, haven't we all made this joke or some form of it before?

Letters.  Ok, these are all fake letters in an attempt to be funny.  Yeah. Not so much really.

Ad for Dungeon magazine.  Man, I loved Dungeon.  Maybe when I am done with this I could something with Dungeon.

First up in the April Fools section is Not Necessarily the Monstrous Compendium. A collection of "funny" monsters.  Ok, some are fun and I would use them in a crazy adventure like an Expedition to the Barrier Peaks or something with a lot of mutants.

A cool ad for I.C.E.'s Cyber Space game.  Was anything more 90s than that?  Cyber Punk vampires maybe.

Razznarock! is an adventure.
Yet Even More [Gods Forbid] Outrages From the Mages is a Pages From the Mages spoof.

It's not that I don't like humor in my games, it's I just don't find these all that funny.

The Game Wizards covers the newest in computer games.  Mechwarrior from Activision, Champions of Krynn from SSI/TSR and Sword of the Samurai from Microprose.   This is less of a review and more of a "coming attractions".

Another ad, this one from TSR itself, from their book department.
They sponsored a Writing Workshop!  Looks kind of interesting.

I wonder if anything came of this?

Speaking of the book department. J. Eric Severson is up with Novel Ideas, featuring three new Forgotten Realms novels: Iron Helm, Horselords and the Wyvern's Spur.  Again this is half preview, half advertisement. In the 90s novels were TSR's big cash cow.  I personally never read any of the Forgotten Realms books (well, till this year) but I bought and read every single Ravenloft novel printed.  Hey some of those Ravenloft novelists went on much bigger and better things, P. N. Elrod, Christie Golden, Elaine Bergstrom, Tanya Huff and newcomer on the scene, Laurell K. Hamilton.  More on that when I cover those issues.

Other Side favorite Vince Garcia is up with Can You Swim? Juggle? At the Same Time? a new skill system for D&D.  Now this is for the D&D game. The BECMI version, not the new AD&D 2nd Ed game that had a skill system.  Like everything with D&D it is simple and easy to learn.
It is no where near as complicated as his magnum opus Quest of the Ancients might later imply.

Dale A. Donovan is up with the Marvel-Phile with a bunch of villains I have never, ever heard of.  They seem to be based on Alice In Wonderland.

Wrestling with Style is Greek wrestling adapted to AD&D by Janne Järvinen.  It seems to mostly be based on the Illiad, which of course is fine.  At this point I had read the Illiad about two years ago, but damned if I remember any of it.

Let see, a ballot for the Origins Awards for 1989.

Sage Advice is split by a program for the Gen Con Game Fair for 1990.

The whole thing is still really small.

TSR Previews has the "must buy" items for March and April 1990.

Characterization Made Easy: A little personality goes a long way for all characters comes to us from Scott Bennie and is a guide for giving your character some more personality. At three pages it is not exhaustive, but the tips are nice especially in what is essentially a Pre-Vampire the Masquerade world.

Interesting note.  All the adds on these pages for companies in Great Britain.  Made me wonder at first if I had a British edition of this magazine, but my CD-ROM version matches it.

Through the Looking Glass has some great horror minis to show off shading techniques.

Convention Calendar has a lot of cons to hit for the Summer of 1990.

Ken Rolston is next in Role-Playing Reviews.  There is something to notice here first.

The review is copyrighted by the author.   This comes up every so often when people ask whay can't Wizards do another Dragon CD-ROM (well, Blu-Ray ROM now) collection?  OR (and this is my least favorite) since TSR is gone all those old Dragons are in the public domain (no. they are not.)
In this case this little copyright hits on both of those.  WotC, just like TSR before them, does not have the rights to this article.  Sure they printed the first Dragon CD-ROM and they got into a LOT of trouble for it.
Also. If you are reading this right now the Dragon copyright will not "expire" till long after you are dead.  Sorry. I don't make the rules.

So back to the reviews.  These focus on City and Urban adventures.  Now I LOVED playing in cities at this time so this review was heaven-sent.  I grabbed Greyhawk Adventures: The City of Greyhawk and I totally ignored the Forgotten Realms: City System.  I should have gone the other way around.  Though both products have their positive and negative aspects.

The Role of Computers gives us a proper review of Champions of Krynn, saying it is the best AD&D computer game yet!

There are few pages missing from my issue so I turned to the CD-ROM to find that some barbarian had cut out +Bruce Heard's first installment of Voyage of the Princess Ark!  I think I am going to take one of my "This Old Dragon" days and do a retrospective on this.  I have been dying to see it all together in one place as a whole for some time now.  Alas for toady though I can't talk about it since it breaks my rules.  If it is not in the magazine I can't talk about it.

Missing is the first page of the Ecology of Behir. This would have been fun when my players ran into one recently.

Dragonmirth has a bunch of comics complete unfamiliar to me.  Well, I guess I know of Yamara and The Twilight Empire, but I really don't know anything about them.

So the April Fools stuff aside, this turned out to be a fun issue.
While it was published back in the Halcyon days of 2nd ed, it did not contain a lot of 2nd Ed material.  The Greater Behir was notable.

Even at 27 years old this Dragon, for some reason, still feels newer to me.  Maybe because I never owned it back when it was new or maybe because it was out in a time when I was not playing so much I don't attach a lot of nostalgia to it.

What are your memories of this issue?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Willow & Tara: The Dragon and the Phoenix

Note: Work still keeping me busy.  Here is one I have been meaning to post for a while. Enjoy!

A lot of what I put up here is based on my playtest of Buffy and Ghosts of Albion.  Those playtests were part of a larger series I ran featuring the characters Willow & Tara.  I started them out in a WitchCraft game back in 2001 which led to Buffy and then to Ghosts.  But I thought I'd post the game summaries, playtest notes and actual play reports here to give context to the crunch I have posted and for the crunch I'll continue to post.

These games ran between 2001 and 2006 and reflect a lot of what was going on in my life and in my own RPG freelance career.   I hope you enjoy.

Willow and Tara: The Dragon and the Phoenix

The Dragon and the Phoenix originally began as the means for my Buffy playtest group to tell a Willow & Tara centric story in a new way. Originally titled "Road Stories", it began with the death of Tara's father and then followed Willow and Tara in their cross-country trip across the Southern US in Robert Maclay's (Tara's father) old 67' Thunderbird.

There would be some strangeness along the way. That is of course till March 2002 came around and we heard that Tara was going to be murdered. Now I was (and still am) a huge Willow and Tara fan, but most of my playtesters were even bigger fans than I was. We were angry as all hell, so we changed course rather quickly. Road Stories was scrapped, and we worked to come up with a new idea. In our talks (and we were less concerned now with playtesting and more with providing ourselves with something we had lost) The Dragon and the Phoenix was born. We were going to bring Tara back. We decided rather early that there were not going to be any of the issues that plagued Buffy herself the season before. As Lisa, one of my playtesters and the brain behind the episode Heaven Bleeds, stated "without Willow even Heaven would have seemed like Hell to Tara".

The ideas flowed in pretty quickly. The name of the series, the "past episodes" of the demonic army and Yoln came from an AD&D game I had played in the 80s just before going off to college. One of my characters, Morgan, had been a character that I had set up to die and have regretted it nearly the instant it happened and ever since. So to bring her into this and make her death parallel to Tara's (and to some extent Buffy's) was poignant on a personal level but also because I felt I could do a much better job of it. In AD&D Morgan had been a Bard (1st Edition) with a particular hatred for vampires. In The Buffy game I retconned her into a Slayer.  The death Morgan was something that had bugged me forever.  I can even recall a time walking to class in 1994 thinking I had done her wrong and that had been 7 years ago at that point.

The choice of Leviathan as the big bad was also pretty easy. I loved old Godzilla movies and had this vision in my head of the Cast standing, looking up and facing a giant monster like that. I was also using the Armageddon Playtest docs in my game, so it seemed an obvious choice. Adding that Willow and Tara are the only ones to stop it was also my snarky remark that anyone playing in a world without a resurrected Tara was doomed to be consumed by the Mad God.

My playtest group was also watching a lot of Charmed, so quite a bit of those mythos entered into our games as well. The Demonic Wasteland influenced Leviathan's plane. Warlocks became more Charmed like with their quasi-demon heritage (and thus ok to kill by characters taking a Geas never to take a human life) and witches were given other choices as a secondary power other than just TK. As development in the Buffy game progressed, so did the Dragon and the Phoenix. Each adventure was designed to take advantage of the new rules in the books. Want to play the next adventure, well you'll need to pick up the next book. But we moved from that when Buffy development slowed down. Eventually we moved all moved on to Ghosts of Albion where we were joined by the kindred spirits of Amber Benson and Chris Golden. There are a number of new rules and things we wrote for Willow and Tara that later were tweaked for William and Tamara. Given the parallels, we all felt that this was very appropriate. Did we make Willow and Tara Protectors? No, that was never considered, plus given the Anamchara casting rules there was no need. Once Ghosts got into full swing The Dragon and the Phoenix had to take a back seat but when the core of the rules were laid out we went back to it. We dropped Willow and Tara into the Ghosts of Albion world and used their current stats with the magic-richer world of Ghosts. To quote my co-author of Ghosts and Dragon Garner Johnson the amount of power they could summon up was "just sick". We knew we had done good.

We tried out the other adventures with a mix of unpublished Buffy books and Ghosts rules. In "Enemy Within" we compared Thom Marion's revised Werewolves with the Ferals of Ghosts of Albion. We used Army of Darkness' mass combat rules to detail how an army of demons and angels could fight an army of tainted demonic dragonmen. Magics were mixed and matched. The episode Silent Lucidity added cinematic Bast, but while they were nice the rules for them never gelled for us.  A lot of things worked and they ended up in the Ghosts of Albion book and some I have posted here.  Other things didn't.

We decided to "release" the adventures for people to play since there was quite a bit of controversy over Tara's death and most of the people we knew gave up watching the show at this point (myself included), so this was our replacement. Outside of Garner and myself none of playtesters had ever gamed before, but all had written fan-fiction. I grabbed them for a few reasons, first if the Buffy game was going to work it had to appeal to non-gaming fans. The fact that they learned to play the game and even get to a point to where they were working on adventures is a testament to the game. Secondly I wanted fan-fic authors, and good ones at that, because they understood dialog and plot. Most RPG adventures make good dungeon crawls but terrible "books". I wanted people to feel like they were IN the show that the adventure and drama was now indeed their own. How well did this work? I was driving home one day after going to the store and I had just been given the first draft of "Identity Crisis". The main author, Sass, had pitched to me as an excuse for Tara to do a strip tease for Willow and the two of them get caught. I had read it and of course I was amused, the dialog was great the B-plot was snappy as hell and I was building up the A-Plot (the Buffy part) and then it dawned on me. Tara was alive and well and I soon could care less what was going on in the "canon", the Dragon and the Phoenix was the only thing that was "real", anything else was just a rumor.

We also had some surprising help. Amber Benson  remarked that Garner and I now knew Tara better than anyone (except maybe for Chris). We even had a writer on the show that was sending us scripts long before the shows would film. So we worked spoilers for the other Season 7 into the narrative and mocked them. The writer has asked to remain anonymous and that is the way it will stay. This person agreed with us but was powerless to do anything. We were also hearing about how toxic the set had become and how most people were counting down the days till the show was over.

Similar to the authors I got Willow & Tara fans (collectively known as "Kittens") to do the covers for the adventures, you can see them all here.

There are a lot references to music and songs in the episodes. I do my best work to music. I wrote my dissertation while listening to the Ramones and "Ghosts of Albion" was written on a steady diet of Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden when I needed horror elements and Sinéad O'Connor, Enya and Máire Ní Bhraonáin (I guess we are distantly related), and Lorrena McKinnett for when I needed to write about the fae or ancient history. Dragon had a lot of influences, but mostly I listened to a lot of Linkin Park.

The Dragon and the Phoenix was a great success in my mind. Of the adventures we released, 1 through 5, it has been translated into German, French and Spanish. There are two "unauthorized" fan-fics by authors not related to the project set in the same universe not to mention the works of the authors involved from the dramatic ("Unexpected Consequences") to the silly (Willow and Tara's drunken adventures in a adult book store by Sass) to Lovecraftian inspired horror (Garner's "Those that Feed"). Plus two more series and a mini-series that comprise what we call "Willow & Tara the Series". "Road Stories" was later revived as "Season of the Witch" and the ghost of Robert Maclay is added to the cast. "Mid Semester's Night Dream" was a mini-series featuring a semi-retired (from monster hunting) Willow & Tara being asked to investigate a suspected vampire at a private boarding school. This lead to "Generation Hex" where Tara is still teaching at the school and they have help the next generation of hunters of the supernatural.

Series Details
The Dragon and the Phoenix - Buffy game with original cast set in an alternate season 7. Tara comes back to help the Cast defeat Leviathan. A mix of "Buffy" and "Armageddon". (2002 to 2003).

This Season is designed with the idea of bringing back the character of Tara Maclay who was murdered near the end of Season 6. This Season takes place in a different Sunnydale, though the history is the same, the future is new. The Cast must deal with the notion of what love is and what it means to be a family. Other issues are of course, working together and the handling or mishandling of power.

The following information is for all the episodes.

Special Guest Stars
Though the character of Cordelia Chase should be played as an NPC. Notes will also be given for playing Giles and/or Anya as NPCs.
Tony Foster. A rookie officer on the SD Police force who stumbles into the Slayer's world. Knows a little bit about what goes on in Sunnydale (ie not a dumb cop). Is attracted to Buffy.
Luna. A Seraphim that may be aiding the cast.
Kara Maclay. Tara's "twin sister".

Little Bads
The Knights of Elohim. These three fallen angels provide most of the problems for the cast in the first episode and reoccur in a later one. They seek to return the Earth to the demons so that they may be first in the eyes of God again.

Strawberry Switchblade. She was a friend of Dawns (introduced early) and was killed by the Vampire Chicas. Now she is pissed off at Dawn and Buffy for letting her get killed. Wants to kill or turn Dawn.

Yoln. The Hand of Leviathan. Yoln was a human general in the armies of Hell. He was part demon himself. During the Dark Ages he attempted to seize control of Earth, but during a pivotal able battle in Gaul (France) he met a girl. This girl was the only person who ever bested him in battle. They fought, but Yoln ran her through with his sword, Pillager. Though she knew she was dying, she took his sword from her body and she fought him back to his dimensional portal with his own sword. She even managed to wound him, cutting off his right hand and broke his sword in the process. This girl, Morgan, died after defeating Yoln. She was also a Slayer.

Big Bad Leviathan. Ancient. Colossal. Primordial. Leviathan is a dead god. But dead does not mean the same to gods as it does to mortals. "He" is being drawn into this world. Doing so destroys everything. The world, the cosmos, everything. He has cultists spanning the globe and there is a prophecy that he will reawaken and his birth will be heralded by the death of the Slayers. (Same Leviathan from Armageddon.)

Important Items
The Codex Albius - The White Codex. The spellbook Tara returns from Heaven with. Provides all the new spells in the series. Normally in exile Tara would have had to give this up along with her healing power, but the fact she still has both leads to Cast to believe that Tara's exile may not be exactly what they think it is. This sets up the tension of will Tara need to return when the adventure is over.

The Ankh - Given to Willow by Isis. This prevents her from feeling the effects of the dark magic. Believed to have been influenced by Set, it is learned in time that the "Dark Magic" is in fact Taint and set up by Leviathan centuries ago to use Willow as his portal into this realm. The Ankh can be later used to stop Nox in episode 11 (cast choice).

Pillager - Yoln's Hellforged Sword. His first task in the series is to find the pieces he needs to reforge it. Once he has this he goes on a killing spree, killing every demon (who he feels betrayed him in the 7th Century) and supernatural creature he can find.

The Hand of Yoln - A gauntlet from Yoln's battle with the Slayer Morgan. She had cut off his lower arm with his own sword before knocking him into a portal to the Astral. The gauntlet has been protected by an order of Witch Knights, an order blending both Christian and Pagan beliefs. The gauntlet appears as a clawed hand and may be used to kill Yoln (cast believes), in fact it is the last piece Yoln needs to fully manifest into reality.

The Spear of Destiny - Also known and The Spear of Cúchulainn or the Gáe Bolg. This is the weapon the cast must find to kill Yoln. Buffy, Willow and Tara's first quest for it takes them to 7th Century Gaul were it is being protected by members of the Church and the Ban-Drui. Yoln was leading an army of demons to take it by force but is defeated by the Slayer of that time. She dies, but passes a bit of her soul on to Tara (who tires to heal her).

I will give episode summaries and actual play reports in the future.