Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Ghosts of Albion: Corn Goblins

Corn Goblins

“I was in the Nebraska Territory once, lovely place really, nothing but fields of grain as far as the eye can see, but it is still wild out there. I was walking, couldn’t have been more than five or so minutes after dawn and I saw them running in the corn rows. They were really small, and really fast, but unmistakably fae. I followed them, though I suspected that like all other fae they would be long gone. To my surprise I saw them in a spot where the corn had been trampled down, maybe by some dog. They were no taller than pixies, but they didn’t have wings. Their hair was blonde, nearly white, their faces were wrinkled and hands were tannish I think; but they could have been dirty too. Their eyes were the brightest robin’s egg blue I have ever seen. Their clothes were simple, greens and browns. It was a little family. They looked at me and looked at them for many long seconds. They were so ugly that they were cute! Like an ugly puppy. There was a man, his wife I suppose, and two little ones. One was a baby and was sleeping sucking his (or her) thumb. Then the largest crow (a Rook – TS) I have ever seen landed and they climbed on a flew away.”
- From the Journal of Tamara Swift, as told to her by John Haversham, circa 1860

Name: Corn Goblins
Motivation: To live unbothered
Creature Type: Faerie
Attributes: Strength 2, Dexterity 3, Constitution 3, Intelligence 3, Perception 4, Willpower 2
Ability Scores: Muscle 10, Combat 9, Brains 12
Life Points: 30
Drama Points: 1
Special Abilities: Animal Empathy (Crows), Faerie, Reduced Size (freakishly small), Unattractive (1)

Name Score Damage Notes
Dodge 9 — Defence action
Grapple 11 — Resisted by Dodge
Punch 9 4 Bash

Corn Goblins are one of the very few of the faerie races encountered in former colonies (America). First the name is a misnomer, Corn Goblins are not goblins at all, but rather ugly faeries. They have some similar features to the Bendith Ý Mamau of the Welsh, but have not (so far) displayed any type of magic. Nor are they unpleasant like their Welsh cousins.

Corn Goblins though are named for their preferred habitat, the endless fields of corn and other grains that proliferate across the States. They rarely, if ever interact with humans but have been known to befriend crows and even use them as transports.

Very little is known about them but to date they have shown to be benign. The earliest recorded mention of a corn goblin like creature is from the records of the Salem Witch Trail. One girl described consulting with a “foule imp” that matched the corn goblin description given by Haversham and other American Occultists.

“I am quite convinced that we have them here in England as well, but the power of the Seelie Court is such that they remain hidden. They spend a great deal of time hiding in America as well from what I understand. Corn Goblins maybe related to the “little men” of the Hopi Indians, but my understanding of American geography tells me that these creatures are not in the same lands as the Hopi. If this is the case there may be more faerie races in the vast lands of the New World just waiting to be discovered.”
- Addendum, The Journal of Tamara Swift

Monday, January 4, 2010

I Have a Plan…

It's not a great plan, or even a well thought out one, but it is a plan. I am going to be taking my two sons (and now it seems, my wife) on a massive 4th Edition D&D campaign. Yes I know this will take years, but that is fine, I have those years. I am going to place it in my "Mystoerth" world.

Given my penchant for all things horror, I am going to set up the campaign to focus on the ascent of Orcus to godhood. Orcus is a great enemy to have. He is unrepentant evil, his minions are undead and he is full of rage, horror and violence and everything a good upstanding hero would want to stop.

I'd use some of the "new" mythology of Orcus and Raven Queen, plus a bit of my own. But not all would be railroaded plot-driven arcs. My oldest son loves to fight dragons so that would also be there. Plus I want to make this very, very relaxed. The unfolding meta-plot is my extra enjoyment, but I want to do it in such a way that we all have fun.

I am going to place it in my world's version of Glantri. Glantri is from Mystara and in that world was a Principality, now I have at as Theocratic Monarchy where the King is also the head of the Church of State. So basically, Fairy Tale England, or more to the point Fairy Tale Western Europe, since I also have influences of France and Italy here. The Princes are gone, defeated in a coup, but their lands remain ruled by nine dukes under the King. The Dukes are mostly the old family of the Princes, looking for a chance to reclaim power. So I have political intrigue if I want it, but I am going to be keeping my good and evil mostly easy to spot, at least in the beginning. The Dukes allow me to use older Glantri material, I just swap out the terms. Under the Dukes are various landed nobles, typically retired adventures, known as Barons and Counts. My thinking here is to give my boys all the full D&D experiences; so there are knights and dames, courts of intrigue and chivalry, and the way for brave adventurers to return home as heroes. Sure it is not "grim-dark" or even "points of light", but it can be part of the "oncoming darkness".

My world has a Blackmoor, a Desert, a Hyborea, not mention Greyhawk, Glantri and Kara-Tur all in one world. So, more than enough to keep me and my family busy for years to come really. Though there are only four of us, I might have to bring in some others, maybe some of their friends as well. This is one of the main reasons I am going with 4th Edition as opposed to say an older version (the D&D Rules Cyclopedia would be so awesome for this) or another game (like Ghosts of Albion). I am more likely to find others that play 4E than some other game AND it just makes the most sense really given all the tools for 4E out now.

Here is the "Hero Tier" to borrow a phrase. These will be local and be the Mystara flavor of the epic.
  • T1 The Village of Hommlet, levels 1-2. I do have the 4th Edition update for this.
  • B1 In Search of the Unknown, levels 1-3 (can run this one in my sleep)
  • B2 The Keep on the Borderlands, levels 1-3
  • B3 Palace of the Silver Princess, levels 1-3 (using bits from both the "Green" and "Orange" versions).
  • L1 The Secret of Bone Hill, levels 2-4
  • X1 The Ilse of Dread, levels 3-7
  • X2 Castle Amber, levels 3-6 (place it in the Shadowfell, which is the new Ravenloft anyway)
  • C2 The Ghost Tower of Inverness, levels 5-7. Though I won't run it as a tournament module and that is if I don't use it as a converted Doctor Who adventure.
  • I6 Ravenloft, levels 5-7. That is if I don't use it as a convert Ghosts of Albion adventure. Use some of the Ravenloft campaign/world setting stuff here too.
  • S2 White Plume Mountain, levels 5-10
  • I10 Ravenloft II, House on Gryphon Hill, levels 8-10 (maybe. They might be burned out on undead by this time.)
Now begins the "Paragon Tier" and I will start with the Gygaxian canon.
  • S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth (with some of the info from the 3.5 update), levels 6-10
  • WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun, levels 5-10
  • S1 Tomb of Horrors, levels 10-14 (though some of the instant kill traps changed, more skill challenges)
  • S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, levels 8-12
  • G123, Against the Giants, levels 8-12
  • D12 Descent into the Depths of the Earth, levels 9-14
  • D3 Vault of the Drow, levels 10-14
  • Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits, levels 10-14
  • CM2 Death's Ride, levels 15-20. This sets up the next tier, or I could even make this the start of the next tier and keep the Epic levels nothing but Gygaxian Greyhawk. I like that idea.
I can also fit Gary's "Dungeon Land" and "The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror" adventures here as well to complete the Gygaxian saga. But I need to re-read those to be sure.

Now here would also be a good spot for the DA series Blackmoor adventures for made for the Expert D&D set, but there is a lot of high tech stuff mixed in with those. I might pick and choose things, but I think I am more likely to go with the newer d20 Blackmoor stuff.

The "Epic Tier" is harder, but here some ideas.
Some of the Master level modules (M2, M3 and M5 in particular) look like they would work well. Plus they have the Mystara high fantasy feel that some of the Greyhawk modules don't have.
Of course I would do the Bloodstone series here, just make them harder, maybe even pair them up with the Orcus related adventures for 4e (the new "E" series), though old H4 and new E3 cover a lot of the same ground. I would want to add some other planes adventures here too. So to follow my rule of thumb I should try to find at least 6 more adventures for this tier.
  • H1 Bloodstone Pass, levels 15+
  • H2 The Mines of Bloodstone, levels 16-18
  • H3 The Bloodstone Wars, levels 17-20
  • H4 The Throne of Bloodstone, levels 18-100
I could also do a sub-campaign in my desert area using:
  • B4 The Lost City, levels 1-3 (though I am using this one now in 3.5)
  • I3 Pharaoh, levels 5-7
  • I4 Oasis of the White Palm, levels 6-8
  • I5 Lost Tomb of Martek, levels 7-9
  • X4 Master of the Desert Nomads, levels 6-9
  • X5 Temple of Death, levels 6-10
  • I9 Day of Al'Akbar, level 8-10. Useful for the Cup and Talisman of Al'Akbar.
Now granted these levels are all for AD&D and Basic D&D and might not translate well into 4E. But I have a lot of tools at my disposal to help with that. I have a load of maps, a DDI subscription, monsters and even some third party stuff to make it all work. If I plan everything out correctly I can have them go up a level at the end of every adventure. I like that too. Also I can set up a titanic army of the undead using all the previous "bosses" from these adventures. So Strahd, Drenzula, Korbundar, Acerak, and more I know I am forgetting. Plus some GM PCs I'd love to try out that I know I'll never get to play in a 4th Ed game.

To borrow a Klingon quote, "It will be glorious!"

Sunday, January 3, 2010

My first new Game of 2010: BASH

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Best (and Worst) of 2009

Normally I avoid these thing, since they are nothing but subjective opinion at best and ego-wanking at worst. But 2009 was a good year for RPGs and RPG fandom and I wanted to share my thoughts on that. So yeah. Ego-wanking.

Best RPG of 2009: Doctor Who Adventures in Time and Space

An easy call really. The system is simple, the art and layout are the new high watermark for RPGs and it comes in a box with dice! In a year all about Retro- and Old School gaming, this is very cool. Of course Doctor Who and RPGs have had a long history together, even outside of the FASA game. Many of us became Who fans and gamers at the same time. Playing AD&D and watching Doctor Who on PBS was close to a geek universal for the early 80's. The new Who game is very much a product of this time. Newer easy to use mechanics, slick presentation and top notch design and layout. Course with the premise behind Who, time and space travel, then nearly anything can be played. Though I am hesitant to put outright magic in my Who game.
I hope to have more to say about this game in 2010.

Honorable Mention: Best RPG, Witch Girls Adventures
Prior to Doctor Who coming out, this was my favorite new game of 2009. There is a lot to like about WGA. Whatever I can't (or won't) do with Who I can do with this game. It has a great little magic system that you can port over to Savage Worlds or Cortex (both in a dire need of a good magic system), You can play a Harry Potter like game, or it can be played as is. I have blogged a quite bit out it already this year as you can see here.

Best Blogs
2009 was a year I stepped up my own blogging and was reading others. Some of the best were Hero Press for a solid rundown of a little bit of everything in fandom. Grognardia for EVERYTHING related to old school gaming, not just retro-clones mind you, but the genuine articles. Others worthy of note are Geek Othodox for a run down all sorts of geek culture related items such Mexican bootleg action figures. Playing D&D With Porn Stars which has to have the best name of a blog ever. Space: 1970 dedicated to all things Sci-fi from the 70's (and sometimes early 80's). And finally, Lair of the evil DM, which lives up to its claim as "Maxim Magazine for Gamers", which I think has shown more porn stars than PD&DWPS has.
I am sure there are others that are great as well, so if you have a blog and are reading mine, please feel free post a free advertisement here.

Year of the Retro-Clones
Spent a good part of this year playing, reading and working on retro-clones. My favorite was Spellcraft & Swordplay, a nice little take on OD&D with the original combat system in place and not the "alternate" d20 resolution that became the defacto means in later years. Other great ones were Basic Fantasy and Labyrinth Lord, two takes on Basic D&D. I also was able to get myself a Christmas present last year and got a near mint D&D Rules Cyclopedia, so it was a good year for playing like it was 1981. All my posts regarding all the Retro Clone posts can be seen here. It was a good year for Retro Clones, I hope that 2010 proves to be as good.

The Worst: Outlaw Press
2009 also had it's share of "worsts" too. The worse of the worse had to be the massive theft of content by Outlaw Press, summarized here. It now seems that Outlaw Press is offline. It's website is down, there are no products on Amazon or Lulu. While I hate to see a small RPG company go out of business, Outlaw brought this all on themselves. I do hope that the artists that had their material stolen will get some satisfaction, but I am sure this will be pyrrhic victory at best.

Edition Wars
2009 opened with the latest round of Edtion Wars, namely 4th Ed D&D vs. Everything else. I am happy to say that save for some minor skirmishes this war is over. 2009 gave us more ways to play "D&D" than ever before. We had D&D 4th Ed, the new Pathfinder RPG (aka D&D 3.6), and all the Retro-clones, if there was a game you wanted to play chances are very good it was out there somewhere.

Games Not Published

In 2009 we still did not see publications of Ghosts of Albion or Chill. 

Looking forward to 2010
Looks like I am going to get some more Who gaming in and that is good. Going to try converting some of my Ghosts of Albion material to other systems instead of letting it languish on my hard drive.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Hex Girls

We're the Hex Girls!
And we're gonna put a spell on you.

- The Hex Girls Hex Girl

So I had this idea. I was washing dishes and thought that we need a sequel to Scooby Doo. My boys had just watched Scooby Doo and the Witch's Ghost and it featured a goth girl band called The Hex Girls. They later showed up in another Scooby Doo movie, Scooby Doo and the Legend of the Vampire and again in the Whats New, Scooby Doo? series episode The Revenge of the Vampire.

So lets take the original premise of Scooby Doo, a group of kids that solve mysteries but are also in a rock band. The end of The Witch's Ghost even pay homage to this with the Scooby gang playing backup for the Hex Girls. The members are playing the instruments they were going to originally play back in '69. Scooby is even on the bongos like the original concept.

Flip the concept a bit; the supernatural is real, but no one believes in it. Throw in the Hex Girls and faster that you can say spin off I had an idea for a new series.

The Hex Girls Animated Series

The basic premise is simple. The Hex Girls (Thorn, Luna and Dusk) are a group of young musicians touring America (Series 1) and then the World (Series 2). Secretly though they are all witches. Not very powerful ones yet, but they do have the talent. Given the laws of cartoon and RPG universes, every town they have a gig in something weird is going on. So in the 22 minutes they have they need to discover what is going on, put a stop to what ever supernatural problem is happening, work together while doing it, and still be on stage for their show that night. All the while keeping their Manager Jasper Ridgeway happy and avoiding paparazzi photographer/occult conspiracy theorist Flash Cameron.

Think of it as Supernatural or Charmed for kids. Since there is a wealth of popular culture to draw from starting with the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew all the way up to Ben 10 and W.I.T.C.H. coming up with episodes ideas is easy AND it works as a good way to bring kids into roleplaying.

The trick though is to keep this from turning into a newer version of Josie and the Pussycats. Or worse. A Goth version of JEM.

History of the Band

The Hex Girls were a local goth band formed by Thorn (aka Sally McKnight) and Luna (aka Kim Moss) in their hometown of Oakhaven, MA; the same hometown as horror/mystery author Ben Ravenscroft was from (and where the Hex Girls and the Scooby Gang defeated him and the ghost of his long dead ancestor Sarah Ravenscroft). It was here when Thorn first discovered her magical abilities. Luna and drummer Dusk, later discovered their powers returning from a video shoot in Transylvania.

Sally and Kim were friends in high school, both being artsy goth chicks. Dusk (she has never given out her real name, yet) is a couple years younger and was attending the local private academy when she auditioned for the band. She showed up in her school uniform, black lipstick and fingernails, sat down at the kit and blew everyone away. When asked about her past experience on drums, she admitted she never played before in her life but had practice in beating people up.

After winning the Unsigned Bands contest at Vampire Rock in Australia, the band was signed up by Warner Bros. and picked up manager Jasper Ridgeway.


Thorn (Sally McKnight)
22 (voiced by Jennifer Hale, who was on Charmed once)

Sally is the leader of the group, she plays lead guitar and lead vocals. She was also the first to have her powers manifest themselves. She is the groups defacto Occult Scholar, having her Great-Great Grandmother's spell book and a natural curiosity of all things occult and supernatural.

Thorn writes the bands more pro-activist songs like Earth, Wind, Fire and Air. She describes her self as a Wiccan and an Eco-Goth. She is very vocal about her points of view and belongs to many Pro-Earth, Pro-Animal, anti-pollution organizations. Since discovering her magic at the end of The Witch's Ghost she has also been very interested in her own family's legacy of magic. She knows her mother did not have the gift and she is sure her grandmother didnt but she wants to know more about her great-grandmother and her great-great-grandmother. Some episodes even deal with Thorn looking into her own past. She is usually the first to want to investigate the creepy house or the haunted graveyard or schedule her concerts around her horoscope.

Name: Thorn (Unisystem)
Motivation: To discover her family's magical secrets; to make some great music
Creature Type: Human witch
Attributes: Strength 2, Dexterity 3, Constitution 3, Intelligence 3, Perception 3, Willpower 4
Abilities: Muscle 10, Combat 10, Brains 12
Life Points: 30
Drama Points: 20
Qualities and Drawbacks: Artist (Musician), Attractive +2, Contacts (Supernatural) +1, Magic +2, Occultism 4.

Name Score Damage Notes
Dodge 10 - Defense action
Grapple 12 - Resisted by Dodge
Punch 10 6 Bash
Kick 9 7
Magic 10 By Spell

Name: Thorn (Witch Girls Adventures)
Witch Outsider/Gothique
Body: d4
Mind: d6
Senses: d6
Will: d8
Social: d8
Magic: d10

Acting +1, Art +3, Basics +1, Dancing +2, Hear +1, Instrument +5, Leader +1, Pop Culture +2, Singing +6
Casting +2, Enchantment +1, Focus +2, Magic Etiquette +2, Mysticism +2

Talents: Calm, Entertainer (+1)
Heritage: Legacy

Luna (Kim Moss)
23 (voiced by Kimberly Brooks)

Kim claims her mother was descended from African slaves as they escaped New Orleans and brought their Voodoo with them to Massachusetts and that her father is descended from a long line of members of the secret Rosicrucian Brotherhood. Her parents are actually an elementary school teacher and an orthodontist respectively, but they encourage their daughter's stage persona. Her father even made the artificial, but very real looking, fangs they wear on stage.

Luna plays keyboards, bass, rhythm guitar and writes most of the music and lyrics for the group. She is also the bands best spell writer and has been experimenting with spells that can be played on instruments and spells that are sung. She formed the Hex Girls with Thorn when they were in Art School together. She is a walking encyclopedia of musical knowledge. Everything from Rock, to Rap to Reggae to Classical to Jazz and Country.

Also, Luna has a number 1 single. She did a cover track of Almost Paradise with then-boyfriend Matt Martigan (from "Legend of the Vampire"). This causes her a bit of embarrassment in interviews since the track was never supposed to be released.
One thing she is not embarrassed about is her mixed racial heritage. In interviews she has taken some jabs for her stage make-up, some interviewers even going as far to suggest that she is trying to pretend to be white. She usually responds with I am trying to pretend to be undead! Dusk has pointed out, much to Luna's chagrin, that Luna's dad is, in fact, white and an orthodontist; the whitest job on the planet.

Name: Luna (Unisystem)
Motivation: To have a number one band.
Creature Type: Human witch
Attributes: Strength 2, Dexterity 4, Constitution 3, Intelligence 4, Perception 3, Willpower 5
Abilities: Muscle 10, Combat 10, Brains 14
Life Points: 30
Drama Points: 20
Qualities and Drawbacks: Artist (Musician), Attractive +2, Contacts (Supernatural) +1, Magic +1, Occultism 3.
Name Score Damage Notes
Dodge 10 - Defense action
Grapple 12 - Resisted by Dodge
Punch 10 6 Bash
Kick 9 7
Magic 9 By Spell

Name: Luna (Witch Girls Adventures)
Witch Outsider/Gothique
Body: d6
Mind: d8
Senses: d8
Will: d10+1
Social: d6
Magic: d8

Acting +1, Art +3, Basics +2, Dancing +1, Hear +2, Instrument +6, Mythology +1, Pop Culture +2, Singing +5
Casting +2, Enchantment +2, Focus +3, Magic Etiquette +1, Mysticism +1

Talents: Entertainer (+1), Unshakable
Heritage: Legacy

Dusk (real name unknown)
19 (voiced by Jane Wiedlin, of the Go-Gos)

When their first drummer decided to go to college out of state the Hex Girls held an open audition at their art school for a drummer. Expecting to get other like minded college-age girls to apply they were shocked when 16 year old Dusk walked in. She was still wearing her private school uniform (she had just dropped out or was kicked out depending on who you ask), her hair was dyed three different colors and she was wearing her now trademarked cross and goth makeup. She sat down at the drums and blew everyone away. After winning the audition they asked her how long she had been playing and she said it was her first time ever at a drum kit. Dusk, and she has never given anyone any other name, has the amazing knack to play any instrument she picks up perfectly by ear. She can't read music and says counting to 4 all the time is boring, but she plays the drums because she likes to hit things.

Dusk is the sarcastic party girl of the group. Despite being younger she has had more boyfriends than the other two girls combined. She has a temper and has threatened to quit the band more than once. She is also the most musically talented of the group, she just doesn't care about writing music. As she says "I'm not a musician, I'm a Rock-star."

Dusk does take over as lead singer for the only song she wrote, We Do Voodoo.

Name: Dusk (Unisystem)
Motivation: To have a great time
Creature Type: Human witch
Attributes: Strength 3, Dexterity 4, Constitution 4, Intelligence 3, Perception 3, Willpower 4
Abilities: Muscle 12, Combat 14, Brains 10
Life Points: 38
Drama Points: 20
Qualities and Drawbacks: Artist (Musician), Attractive +1, Magic +1 Occultism 3.
Name Score Damage Notes
Dodge 12 - Defense action
Grapple 14 - Resisted by Dodge
Punch 12 9 Bash
Kick 11 10
Magic 8 By Spell

Name: Dusk (Witch Girls Adventures)
Witch Outsider/Gothique
Body: d8
Mind: d6
Senses: d6
Will: d6
Social: d10
Magic: d8

Acting +1, Art +2, Basics +2, Fighting +1, Hear +3, Instrument +6, Plucky +2, Pop Culture +1, Singing +3, Urchin +2
Casting +2, Enchantment +2, Focus +3, Magic Etiquette +1, Mysticism +1

Talents: Entertainer (+1), Temper
Heritage: Legacy

Jasper Ridgeway, 63 (voiced by Jeff Bennett)

Jasper has nearly managed every great band there is. Nearly. He had a chance to manage the Beatles after the death of Brian Epstein. He nearly managed the Rolling Stones before Allan Klein took over. He passed on David Bowie saying that once Bowie dropped the Ziggy Stardust image his career would be over. Instead Jasper managed mediocre bands or great bands that just disappeared; His best band "Wildyinds" faked their own death while he was managing them and his other band "Bad Omens" just disappeared. So the fact Jasper landed the Hex Girls pretty much goes against more than 40 years of his previous behavior in the music business. Now Jasper has discovered what having a successful band really means. Work. He is their manager, bus driver, roadie, sound tech, and all around gopher for everything. Now that the girls are investigating the occult every week he also needs to come up with ways to help them there too.

Plus Jasper is a coward, though he would never admit it. Instead Jasper always has some medical reason why he cant help. Werewolves bother his allergies, haunted houses are too dusty and irritate his sensitive eyes, he can't crawl around in grave yards or sewers due to his sensitive skin. Whatever the situation, Jasper has a reason why he cant help them out. Of course Jasper also a thousand stories about other great bands. None of them involve him though, they were all told to him by other managers. They usually happened though while Jasper was nearby. For example he will talk about the time that he was at Montreux Casino the night it burned to the ground. He was not there with Frank Zappa or even Deep Purple, but rather demanding to get paid for his band that was supposed to be there the night before but had failed to show up.

Name: Jasper Ridgeway (Unisystem)
Motivation: To finally manage a great Rock and Roll band
Creature Type: Human
Attributes: Strength 2, Dexterity 1, Constitution 2, Intelligence 4, Perception 5, Willpower 4
Abilities: Muscle 10, Combat 8, Brains 14
Life Points: 26
Drama Points: 20
Qualities and Drawbacks: Contacts (Music Business) +3, Emotional Problems (Coward).

Name Score Damage Notes
Dodge 8 - Defense action
Grapple 10 - Resisted by Dodge
Punch 8 6 Bash

Name: Jasper Ridgeway (Witch Girls Adventures)
Mundane Human
Body: d4
Mind: d6
Senses: d8
Will: d8
Social: d10
Magic: d4 (no magical talents)

Basics +3, Drive +3, Fix-Mechanical +3, Gossip +2, Hear +4, Instrument +2, Mundane Etiquette +3, Plucky +1, Pop Culture +4, Streetwise +3

Talents: Entertainer (+1)

Flash Cameron,
26 (voiced by Jeremy Piven)
Flash is a notorious paparazzi photographer that normally sells his pictures to the highest bidder. He has no shame and no picture is too forbidden to him. He happily claims he was there for the fall of Brittney and Lindsey and he was carrying pictures of Baby Suri in his wallet long before anyone even knew the babys sex. Now Flash has his telescopic lens focused on the Hex Girls. Normally an up and coming band wouldn't get his attention, but Flash has seen the Hex Girls perform real magic and he is set on exposing them and the world of the supernatural. Used to a standard of living where one or two pictures would net him a few hundred thousand dollars a day, Flash is now reduced to living in cheap hotels while following the girls. He knows though that if he gets the pictures he knows he can get it will all be worth it.

The strain of the road and living alone is getting to him and now he keeps referring to himself in the third person.

Note: Flash is original though he is based on "Rock Rivers" from "Scooby-Doo in Where's My Mummy?" and "Cameron Flick" from "Scooby-Doo and the Stone Dragon"

Name: Flash (Unisystem)
Motivation: To get photographic proof of magic and the supernatural and make a ton of money for it.
Creature Type: Human
Attributes: Strength 3, Dexterity 3, Constitution 3, Intelligence 3, Perception 5, Willpower 4
Abilities: Muscle 12, Combat 14, Brains 13
Life Points: 38
Drama Points: 15
Qualities and Drawbacks: Attractive +1, Contacts (Media) +3

Name Score Damage Notes
Dodge 14 - Defense action
Grapple 16 - Resisted by Dodge
Punch 14 12 Bash

Name: Flash (Witch Girls Adventures)
Mundane Human
Body: d6
Mind: d6
Senses: d10
Will: d8
Social: d8
Magic: d4 (no magical talents)

Art +4, Basics +2, Drive +4, Fix-Mechanical +3, Gossip +4, Mundane Etiquette +3, Plucky +2, Pop Culture +4, Streetwise +4

Talents: Brave

Episode Ideas

Typically the episodes will follow the same basic structure. The girls arrive in town, hear of some sort of supernatural disturbance, investigate, solve the mystery, be back in time for the concert. All the while avoiding various problems. The supernatural mysteries can include all the stock and trade ones: Zombies, Vampires, Ghosts, Werewolves, rival Witches, Mummies from a museum, and so on. Take a Scooby Doo episode and work from the premise that the monster in not a fake but real.

Problems can include the following:
Thorn wanting to find out more about her family.
The girls lose their magic.
Wildwind shows up to a battle of the bands and they are using magic too.
Flash gets a picture of the girls using magic.
Dusks parents show up at a show! And they are stinking rich!
Of course, there are some standbys that were not used in Scooby Doo, but in other shows.
One of the girls falls in love with another musician who is a ghost by night!

Mix and match. The idea here is be simple and focus not so much on the plot or meta-plots or para-plots or whatever but on simple roleplaying fun. And a chance to become magical, monster fighting, ass-kicking, rock stars!

Episode Guide

Here are the first season of "Hex Girls" episodes!

Episode 1.1 “Our Lips Are Sealed”
Luna and Thorn express concern and a little bit of anger after a concert when once again they fail to learn anything about Dusk. Including her real name. When Dusk’s parents show up at a concert they learn that not only is her real name “Muffy” (“What kind of stupid name it that anyway?”) but her parents are stinking rich yuppies. The girls argue about what other secrets they are hiding from each other when a Sprite decides to use his magic to make them reveal all their secrets to each other. Can they stop the Sprite before he causes more havoc? Can they do it before they tell Dusk’s parents and Flash Cameron the whole truth about everything?
Monster of the Week: Pip the mischievous Sprite.
Musical number: “Our Lips are Sealed” – The GoGos.
Location: Boston, MA

Episode 1.2 “Girls on Film”
The girls dispatch a pesky ghost with a fairly routine spell but catch the attention of “extreme photojournalist” Flash Cameron. When the ghost’s bigger, and more dangerous brother comes looking for the girls for his revenge can they stop it and still not expose themselves to Flash?
Monsters of the Week: Two ghosts (maybe a riff on the Scooby Doo ‘Boo Brothers’)
Musical Number: “Somebody’s Watching Me” – Rockwell
Location: New York, NY

Episode 1.3 “American Witch”
Activists are making claims that Rock music turns kids into brainless zombies. But when REAL zombies show up can the girls use their magic and music to stop the horde?
Special Guest Star: Rob Zombie! (he is a big fan of the Hex Girls!)
Monster of the Week: Zombies and Fundamentalists
Musical Number: “American Witch” Rob Zombie
Location: Salem, MA

Episode 1.4 “The Voodoo You Do”

The ghost of the “Voodoo Queen” Marie Laveau needs a new body to continue her reign over New Orleans and she has chosen Luna!

Monster of the Week: The Ghost of Marie Laveau
Musical Number: “We Do Voodoo” – The Hex Girls
Location: New Orleans, LA

Episode 1.5 “Home Sweet Home”
Luna uncovers some information on her great-grandmother. Turns out that only was she a witch too, but her and Thorn’s great-grandmother were bitter enemies. Will the possession of Luna’s ancestors’ Book of Shadows, and Thorn and Luna being possessed by their great-grandmothers’, be the end of the Hex Girls? Will Jasper and Dusk be able to save them?
Monster of the Week: Luna and Thorn attacking each other.
Musical Number: “Sweet Home Alabama” – Lynyrd Skynyrd (sung at the beginning of the ep)
Location: Birmingham, AL

Episode 1.6 “Wild Wynd Blowin’”
The Hex Girls come to a gig only to discover that the guys from Wildwynds have stolen their spot. Bigger problems ensue when Wildwynds also start using magic! Bigger still Flash is back in town.
Monster of the Week: Wildwynds and Flash
Musical Number: “Shout it Out Loud” by KISS, performed by Wildwynds
Location: Dallas, Texas

Episode 1.7 “If Anyone Falls”
Having a relationship on the road is hard, harder if you are hiding the fact that you are a witch to your boyfriend. Thorn has decided to tell her new boyfriend the truth. The other girls don’t agree, but let it be her choice. But before she can tell him, something drains all of their powers!
Monster of the Week: Thorn’s boyfriend, a warlock.
Musical Number: “If Anyone Falls” by Stevie Nicks
Location: Wichita, KS

Episodes 1.8 & 1.9 “Ragnarök and Roll” (parts I and II)
“And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.” – Revelation 8:2

“Never underestimate the power of a full horn section.” – Jake Blues
, The Blues Brothers

It’s apocalypse time again, you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here. The girls enter a battle of the bands' contest and the prize is the entire world! The Devil has assembled a band of all the souls he has taken over the years; Robert Johnson (guitar); John Bonham (drums); Stevie Ray Vaughan (guitar), Cliff Buton (bass) and Janis Joplin (vocals).
The Hex Girls need the help of the only musician to ever cheat the Devil out of his due and still be alive; Jim “Mr. Mojo Rising” Morrison. Trouble is Jim is in hiding and going outside will clue the Devil to his whereabouts and he doesn’t want that to happen.
Monster of the Week: The Devil's Band
Musical Number: Hells Bells (part 1), God Gave Rock and Roll to You (part 2)
Location: LA, CA

Guest Stars and Guest Band
Jim Morrison – Went into something like an Occult Witness Protection Program (called "The Sanctuary") with the aid of his ex-wife and powerful witch Patricia Kennealy-Morrison.
Jimi Hendrix – Vampyre. Has more soul and more funk than most other show's vampires combined.
Elvis Pressley – living.  His battles with zombies, aliens, and Bigfoot are the stuff of legends.  You DO NOT +&!@ with The King!
Eric “Eggs, Eggman” Burdon – occult poet, one of only five people that know of all the most powerful psychic locations in the USA. Friends with Hendrix.
Jim “Big Jim” Martin of Faith No More  – occult investigator (left Faith No More to battle the occult), had an epic battle with a creature known as the Pumpkin King.
Richard "Magic Dick" Salwitz of The J. Geils Band.  – Uses his harmonica to focus his magical attacks to defeat evil spirits.
Stevie "the White Witch" Nicks - what can I possibly say her that you could not guess?  Still my first rock-girl crush. The "4th Hex Girl".

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Piasa Bird

I have always been fascinated with the Piasa bird. I have been to the bluff (what left of it) many times, read a number of stories about it and remember finding it in a school history book from 1921. It is nice to know that some really cool myths and stories don't have to come from faraway lands with strange sounding names, sometimes it can come from your own back yard.

So for my 100th Blog post, I wanted to do something special, a monster from my childhood.

 The Piasa Bird

The Piasa (Bird of Piasa, Piasa Bird) resembles a mythical chimera in many respects. It has the head of a black bear with a man's face, large disproportionate teeth, and the horns of an elk. Its head and neck are covered with a whiskery mane, like the beard of a man. The body resembles a lion's or a bear's save that it is scaly like that of a large fish, and it has a bear's legs ending with an eagle's claws. Its tail is at least fifty feet long, wound three times around the body, and tipped with a spearhead thrust backward through its hind legs. Large bat-like wings extend over its shoulders. Overall its body is black with red horns. It stands over seven feet tall and is twenty feet long.

The Piasa makes its home in caves in the bluffs along the Mississippi river. Its favorite or most active spot comes from the areas North of St. Louis in what is now called Alton.

The Piasa is the only one of its kind, or rather it is the only one that has ever been seen. It is unknown that if this is the same monster that attacked Chief Ouatoga's tribe or an offspring. The Piasa seems to go through periods of activity and inactivity that can last for years. Again it is unknown if it is the same creature or some offspring of the original.

The Piasa lives on fresh meat. Its preferred food is man, in particular children and young adults. When humans can not be found the Piasa will eat any large game animal.

The Piasa attacks its opponents by swooping down on top of them. Its first attack is usually a high-pitched scream that causes fear. Anyone with a fifteen foot radius of the Piasa under must fear check. The Piasa will then rip into its victims with a claw/claw/bite routine using its horns and tail as needed. The Piasa can attack multiple opponents per turn. Due to its size, any bite attack doing more than 50% of a target's Life Points are considered to have swallowed the victim whole. When the Piasa does this it will break off its attack and fly to its lair to digest. The victim does not immediately die; the Piasa prefers fresh meat in its own lair. The victim can attack while inside the Piasa, but will fight at a penalty of -1 to hit. The victim also takes 1 Life Points of damage per turn.

The Piasa Bird lives solely on freshly-killed meat. It produces nothing that is otherwise useful to human-kind. Due to its rarity a captured live Piasa could command a king's ransom from some of the less-respected zoos in the world. Most scientists consider the Piasa a myth, or at best, an extinct creature from eons past. Scholars of a more arcane bent agree that the Piasa bird was once the terror of the Mississippi and Missouri valleys, but even most them believe it is now extinct.

Name: Piasa Bird
Motivation: Eat       
Creature Type: flying monster
Attributes: Str 16, Dex 8, Con 9, Int 1, Per 6, Will 3
Ability Scores: Muscle 38, Combat 20, Brains 9
Life Points: 125
Drama Points: 3
Special Abilities: Additional Actions +2 (3 total), Armour Value 8, Attractiveness –5, Cause Fear, Flight, Increased Life Points

Claw x2

Story of the Piasa Bird
The following story appeared recently (1836) in the Alton Telegraph by John Russel. It is claimed that this is story told to Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet by the Indian tribes of the valley.

When Marquette and Joliet came down the Mississippi river in 1673 they encountered a bluff on the east side of the river with the painting of a giant monster. When they asked the Indians what this monster was, they retold for them the story that had been handed down to them for generations. Marquette named the monster "Piasa," pronounced Pie-a-saw, which means "the Destroyer."

The Legend of the Piasa bird that was related to Marquette and Joliet went something like this. Many years ago a great bird roamed the land. Every morning the people would wake in fear to the shrill screams of the great Bird. The bird awoke hungry and would carry off dozens of boys and girls to its cave to be eaten. Chief Ouatoga [OO-wa-toe-ga] was getting old. He wanted to destroy this terrible killer before he died. He called his braves to a meeting and told them he was going to ask the Great Spirit what to do.

He went up on the highest bluff. He spoke with the Great Spirit. The Great Spirit told the Chief, "Dip your arrows deep into the poison of a copperhead snake and shoot them into the body of the Bird. They will cause its death." He returned to the camp and told his people what the Great Spirit had told him. He gathered up a small army of the strongest braves and set out to hunt the Bird. Chief Ouatoga told his braves that the plan was for someone to stand on the cliff to lure the Bird down. When the great monster swoops down they were to shoot it with their poison arrows.

The braves all begged their chief to be the one to sacrifice themselves. But the chief told them no, he would be the one, since he was older. While the braves practiced with their bows, Chief Ouatoga spoke with the Great Spirit. "Think not of my life," he said, "but the lives of the children."

The next morning the chief stood tall waiting for the great bird to come. Its screams could be heard as flew down the river looking for victims. The bird saw the old chief and swooped down on him with a terrible scream.

Just as the monster was ready to attack the braves shot their arrows and all 100 met their mark. The monster fell into the Mississippi river and died. The braves carried the broken and bruised body of their chief back to the tribe. The medicine man healed him and he awoke the next day surrounded by his grateful people. In remembrance of the act the returned to the site and painted a life-size picture of the monster. Every time an Indian went down the river after that, he fired an arrow at the bluff. In alternate versions of the story the youngest brave stands on the cliff instead of the chief. When he is healed the next day he becomes the new chief.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Scaring the Dickens out of Your Players: Ghosts of Albion

On this day in 1843 Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas, also known more simply as A Christmas Carol.

The story of Scrooge, Tiny Tim and the Ghosts is now a timeless Christmas classic retold in prose, stage, film (the 1951 version with Alistair Sim is my personal favorite), even animation and various parodies, homage and pastiches.

Such is the timelessness of this tale that it is perfect fodder for a Christmas themed episode. Even it is good enough for Doctor Who it is good enough for us right. Given that is a quintessential English tale of Ghosts in the early Victorian age then it is perfect for Ghosts of Albion.

Jacob Marley
Motivation: To walk the Earth for his sin of greed, warn Scrooge of his fate.
Creature Type: Restless Spectre
Life Points: 30
Drama Points: 1

Str: (2)
Dex: (2)
Con: (2)
Int: 4
Per: 3
Will: 4

Ability Scores
Muscle: (10) Combat: (0) Brains: 16
Qualities and Drawbacks: Attractiveness -1, Cursed, Ghost, Telekinesis, Unique Kill

Name Score Damage Notes
Deflect 19 - Magic defence action
Telekinesis 17 varies Effectiveness Str 5

Jacob Marley is the former business partner of Ebenezer Scrooge. He had died seven years before on Christmas Eve and is now confined to Earth to pay for his sins of greed and not helping his fellow man. He wears the shackles of his sins in form of heavy chains attached to ledger books, money boxes and heavy keys.

Marley cannot be killed or dispatched by normal means. He is similar to a Poltergeist, but even the means to remove those troublesome spirits are not effective on him. Marley consequently will not attack, nor even reveal himself to others but Scrooge. Though anyone with Magic or Innate Magic will be able to see him and interact with him.


Zeitgeist is a German word meaning the Spirit of the Times, used to describe the general feeling or atmosphere of a particular period in time. In the Ghosts of Albion game Zeitgeist is quite literal. Each time can manifest as a spirit or ghost. This is not a ghost of someone that has passed as most spirits, but more of a collective consciousness given magical form. A Zeitgeist can have any power, quality or drawback that a ghost may have. Since they are more of reflection of a particular time a Zeitgeist also can't be destroyed, though many exist only under very specific conditions.

Ghost of Christmas Past
Creature Type: Zeitgeist
Life Points: NA
Drama Points: 5

Str: -
Dex: -
Con: -
Int: 5
Per: 6
Will: 5

Ability Scores
Muscle: NA Combat: NA Brains: 18

Qualities and Drawbacks: Archaic, Ghost, Manifest, Telekinesis, Unique Kill

The Ghost of Christmas Past appears to be both young and old at the same time. His hair is long and white, but his face is smooth. He speaks in a somewhat archaic manner.

This spirit shows their charge their memories of the past. A bitter old man like Scrooge is shown times when he was young and denied love from his abusive father and the loss of his sister. There are wonderful scenes in the 1951 movie with Scrooge and Marley that typify what this spirit does.

Ghost of Christmas Present
Quote: Come! You have never beheld the likes of me!
Creature Type: Zeitgeist
Life Points: NA
Drama Points: 5

Str: (4)
Dex: (2)
Con: (5)
Int: 5
Per: 6
Will: 5

Ability Scores
Muscle: NA Combat: NA Brains: 20

Qualities and Drawbacks: Ghost, Manifest, Telekinesis, Unique Kill

This spirit is the most living of the lot. He appears as large man wearing green robes. His image invokes comparisons to Father Christmas or even the Pagan Green Man or Winter King. Though his appearance can vary greatly from year to year. He tells Scrooge that he has over 800 brothers, implying that he will no longer exist after midnight on Christmas and next year there will be a new Ghost of Christmas.

His task is to show Scrooge what he is missing and what his own greed has wroght.

The Ghost of Christmas Present has two horrible companions with him. They represent the greatest sources of suffering in the world. A boy, Ignorance and a girl Want. The spirit warns Scrooge to beware them both but especially of the girl.

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
Creature Type: Zeitgeist
Life Points: NA
Drama Points: 5

Str: -
Dex: -
Con: -
Int: 4
Per: 4
Will: 7

Ability Scores
Muscle: NA Combat: NA Brains: 14

Qualities and Drawbacks: Chill of the Grave, Ghost, Manifest, Telekinesis, Unique Kill

This spectre is more horrifying than all the others. He is a grim Death-like figure shrouded in a robe and hood that never speaks but shows Scrooge visions of his future; the death of Tiny Tim, his own lonely death and callousness in which people view his passing.

Using the Ghosts in Your Story

Dickens used A Christmas Carol not only to pay some bills, but to address some serious social issues. The same set up can be used as a special Christmas episode in your on going game. The set up may seem a bit clichd now a 164 years later, but they still work. The trick is not adding the Ghosts to your game, but figuring out the proper character or plot hook.

Keep in mind that as Directors you are not likely to get the same change of heart Scrooge had out of your characters, so instead focus on using the Ghosts to tell an important tale or show the characters a brief glimpse into their (possible) future.

A good example for a modern Cinematic game would be a demon hunter who is dedicated only to her mission ignoring family, friends and loved ones, in a sense becoming like the monsters she hunts. The Ghosts then in order show her what her life has been like in the past before her calling, what her friends and family are doing without her around, and then her grim and dark future. Too easy? Yeah, the future is likely to dark and grim regardless, but this where the twist comes in. Our demon hunter is still alive, but everyone she loves is either dead or lost to her. She finds that she is becoming less human (metaphorically speaking) and have more in common than the monsters she kills. Maybe she breaks into nest of vampires and they have set up a small Christmas tree and are giving each other presents. Sure the presents might be live kittens, but it is the thought that counts.

The purpose is to show our chosen demon hunter that without family, friends and even love, none of what she does matters. You can kill a 1,000 monsters, there is another 10,000 right behind him. Loved ones are often all you really have.

Merry Christmas!