Thursday, January 6, 2011

It's all in the (Fortune) cards

Back when I was experimenting with d20 games to play with my son I spent some time with Big Eyes, Small Mouth d20.  In that game there is a character class call Pet Monster Hunter, which is supposed to mimic the anime tropes of various monster fighting shows. Think Pokemon, Yugi-oh! and others.  My son, being a huge Pokemon fan opted for this class right away, and since he was very young at the time most of his pet monsters were various Pokemon critters.  Now I am not sure about you, but I have not run into many stats for cute fuzzy fighting monsters.  To me it was just easier to use Pokemon.  One day my son wanted to bring his actual Pokemon cards and use them in play, sort of a game within the game.  I knew that A. it would work, but B. I needed to limit the cards he brought to the table.  So based on the power level of his character (the book tells you how many monsters you can have) I said he could bring in X number of cards.  It worked out well.
We later discovered that it worked just as well for his small collection of Yugioh cards, some deck of monster cards I got free at a Con sometime back and nearly everything.  The cards did their own damage (as dictated by their own game) to each other it worked great.

When playing C. J. Carella's WitchCraft I have a deck of Tarot cards I use sometimes in place of dice.  The cards are shuffled and drawn instead of rolling a d10.  If a suit card comes up then we play it like the "Rule of 10" plus something extra.  If a Major Arcana comes up then something weird and special happens.

Where am I going with this?

Well WotC has announced that they are going to start implementing a new set of "Fortune Cards" to D&D. And of course people are complaining.

Man, somedays I swear dealing with gamers is worse than dealing with 3-year olds.

Fortune cards, briefly, are sold in packs of 8 for about 4 bucks.  The cards basically detail something that can happen in an encounter.  The example they give is when you or an ally adjacent to you fails a save, you can pull a card for a re-roll.  Game shattering to be sure.

I also should point out that these cards are designed to be used with "Wizards Play Network programs and other D&D organized play games in 2011" and "It's important to point out that Fortune Cards are not a requirement for D&D play".
But that has not stopped the cries of "Oh noes! Its teh death of D&D!  Wizards is ruining it!!"

I hope Wizard's makes an absolute ton of money on these.

I might allow them in my game, I might not.  I'll have to buy a couple packs to be sure (see there, WotC is at least getting 8 bucks from me and I am not even sure I'll use them).  It's just a funky little edition to the game.

Who knows the text on the cards might even be worded generically enough that they can be used with ANY version of D&D.  Miss a saving throw in the Tomb of Horrors?  Not now! I have my "Re-roll a save card" who is to say that save is a D&D4 style death saving throw,  a D&D3 Fortitude save or a Save vs. Poison?

Just like Pokemon, I'd limit the number of cards a player could bring to the table.  And is this such a big deal? I mean who am I talking about here?  My "players" are my kids and I have control what they the rest of the time as well and that includes what they buy and how often they get to the game store.  But even if someone new comes in I can still say "house rules are no Drow and only 1 Fortune card for every 3 levels".

And it is nothing new. Paizo has their Plot Twist Cards and didn't Torg have some sort of fate card as well? And according to some, Dave Arneson even used something very similar.

Much ado about nothing I say.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Tarot Witch of the Black Rose for Mutants and Masterminds 2nd Edition

Continuing on my Tarot builds, I wanted to take a step back and see how the character would shape up as a PL9 using M&M 2nd ed.  I am hoping it will be similar enough to the 3rd Ed build I did last week.  Plus I got some feedback on the build, so I'd like to give her a go.

Here is Tarot for M&M 2nd Ed.

Tarot, Witch of the Black Rose

Real name: Rowan
Gender: Female
Age: mid-20s
Height: 5'9"
Weight: 140 lbs
Hair: Red
Eyes: Green
Group Affiliation: The Black Rose Coven.
Base of Operation: Witches' Hollow, Salem, MA

PL: 9 (135 pp)

STR: 14 (+2) DEX: 14 (+2) CON: 16 (+3)
 INT: 16 (+3) WIS: 14 (+2) CHA: 18 (+4)

Acrobatics 4 (+6), Bluff 4 (+8), Climb 2 (+4), Concentration (+2), Diplomacy 4 (+8), Disguise (+4), Escape Artist (+2), Gather Info 4 (+8), Handle Animal 4 (+8), Intimidate (+4), Investigate 2 (+5), History 8 (+11), Arcane Lore 10 (+13), Theology and Philosophy 8 (+11), Medicine 3 (+5), Notice (+2), Search 2 (+5), Sense Motive 4 (+6), Sleight of Hand 6 (+8), Stealth 2 (+4), Survival 6 (+8), Swim (+2)

All-out Attack, Power Attack, Prone Fighting, Weapon Bind, Benefit (1), Attractive (2), Artificer, Equipment (2), Diehard, Minions (3), Ritualist, Connected, Contacts

*Magic [5], (Eye bite (Blast, does not require hands) [2], Dazzle [2], Flight [5], Impervious Toughness [3], Teleport [5]),
Magickal Senses [3],
Telekinesis [5],
Device [3] (Sword)

Attack 9 [Sword 3 (Lethal), Magic Blast 5 (Bruise)]
Defense 10 (10 flat-footed) Init 2

Toughness 6 (6 flat-footed) Fortitude 5 Reflex 6 Will 5

Rival: Raven Hex (sister), Enemy: Dragon Witches, Prejudice: Wiccan, Relationships: Jon "Skeleton Man" Webb (lover), Boo Cat (lover), Mother (mother)

Abilities 32 + Skills 19 (75 ranks) + Feats 17 + Powers 41 + Combat 18 + Saves 9 – Drawbacks -1 = 135 / 135

I noticed that I had more points to play with in this version, so some skills are higher than her 3rd Ed counterpart.   All in all, this was an easier build for me, since I have more experience with 2nd ed obviously, but it was very, very similar to building her in 3rd Ed.

As before I am also posting this on The Atomic Think Tank.

New Favorite Webcomic

I am not yet sure what this is going to be about.

But I can already say it is going to be my favorite web comic.
Info here:

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Tom Moldvay on Witches

When it comes to Basic D&D, the Basic set edited by (even created by I'd say) Tom Moldvay is my favorite.  Holmes has it's charm (and was my first exposure to D&D) and Mentzer has it's legions of fans (so the new D&D4 starter sets lead me to believe), but it is Moldvay's Basic (and the Cook/Marsh Expert) set that gets my geek-nostalgia into overdrive.  Most of it is because this was my first proper D&D game ever.  Also though, long before I knew of Arneson or really even Gygax, tom Moldvay was the "Name" for me.  His was the names on these boxes and on the adventure X1.  Later I would pick up Castle Amber and there he was again.  To me Moldvay is very much what D&D of 1980-1981 is.   I guess this is one of the reasons I was so geeked about the B/X Companion.

While I have been ruminating on playing a witch again in a B/X era game I could not but help recall somewhere in the deep dark parts of my memory an article that tom Moldvay had done on witches in D&D.  Sure enough, Dragon 43 from Nov. 1980 on page 8 had what I was looking for.

Tom Moldvay was a bit of scholar as well as a game designer.
Here are a few brief lists of his work.

He had a Master degree in Anthropology and was certainly acquainted with works of Margaret Murry.  Even if her ideas and theories have been discounted by modern anthropologists, they were still in vogue at the time Moldvay was in school and writing for TSR, and you can see this in his Dragon article about witches.

According to Moldvay a witch class should include the following:
1. The ability to use herbs for healing and magic.  2. The power of fascination, like a super-charm ability.  3. A combination of both Clerical and Magic-User abilities. 4. The ability to practice sympathetic magic.  5. Be worshipers, in secret, of a religion otherwise forbidden in a particular era. 6. Powers based on nature and the cycle of seasons, similar to Druidic* powers.

I want to look at each of these in turn.

1. Ability to use herbs.  Well to me this reads like a skill, but certainly at the time it was meant to be a class-feature.  How would a witch do this in game?  I would say herbal healing is a natural ability.  The witch would need to find the herbs and then prepare them in a way to heal, say 1-4 hp +1 hp every other level.  She could have some healing balms prepared ahead of time, say no more than 3 plus her INT or WIS modifier (4 to 6 for most PCs).   I would argue that these balms are also of a nature that they can spoil if not used.  So no matter how many are made the witch can only start the game with this number, never more.  When these are exhausted she could look for herbs in the wild (requiring an INT check) and prepare them (requiring a WIS) check  Game mechanics wise we don't want to rob what is a central element of the Cleric class, the ability to heal.  Herbal healing needs to be non-magical; so great for wounds, not great for magical afflictions.  Witches can take cure and healing type spells for that, but not so much to negate the need for a cleric.
I would extend this to include brewing of potions too and other forms of alchemy.

2. The power of fascination, like a super-charm ability. Again, this could be a spell, but it is worded like a class ability. If the ability is greater than the spell Charm, then it also needs to be a spell.  The witch should be able to add her Charisma modifier to any charm-like spell.  If this is a class ability then it behooves the witch to have a high Charisma.

3. A combination of both Clerical and Magic-User abilities. Again, not so much to make either class obsolete.  The Basic Magic-User is as much Morganne le Fey and Circe as it is Merlin and Gandalf. The trick is not to give the witch powers that the Magic-User already has, but to highlight how they can be similar and still different.  If you can be a class that can throw magical spells around and still heal like a cleric then why be a magic-user?  The trick is to have enough overlap, but not too much.  They will all have some spell in common, but keep some signature ones to themselves.  Which I think is a good tie in to point 4.

4. The ability to practice sympathetic magic.  Witches need to have something to make their magic more "witchy" and what is better than "Wool of bat" and "eye of newt"?  Witches, regardless of what magic-users might be doing, HAVE to use material components.  This can even be a good in-game difference.  Clerics need their faith, Wizards rely on their intellect, but a witch needs something, either a small piece of the object she wants to affect or something that was in contact with it or somehow related to it.  She wants it to rain? She needs to pour out a little bit of water to stimulate the elements to do her bidding.  So control dolls, fetishes, strange and sometimes hard to some by items are needed by the witch to make her magic work.  You can imagine that Clerics and Wizards look down on the witch and her "low magic" for needing such "props".  I think that regardless of what is used as a spell component this will make the casting time of any witch spell longer than a similar wizard or cleric spell.

5. Be worshipers, in secret, of a religion otherwise forbidden in a particular era.  This one is harder to pull off as it is written. Think about it, the D&D worlds are FULL of gods. Good ones, bad ones, greater ones, lesser ones, new gods, old gods, gods everywhere.  One faith's cleric is another's witch if you get right down to it.  So who are the witches worshiping?  They need to go with things that are not gods.  Demons, devils, ancient primordials, titans,  even lords and ladies of the Fey courts, or maybe they believe in one Goddess and one God and all others gods and goddesses are only aspects of this great pair.  This is what makes the witch different than a cleric.  Clerics are granted power because they serve their deities purposes in the world.  Witches are granted power, though not the same way, because they serve their patrons directly.  While the origin of these power may be extra-planular or even divine, witches are essentially arcane spellcasters.  They just don't learn this in mage schools.
This is something I tried to do in the 3rd Ed version of my witch class and what WotC does fairly well with their 4th Ed version Warlock.  I called them Patrons, they call them Pacts.  Pacts with Patrons.  Works, more or less, but the idea is the same.  You are giving up something of yourself to serve a "higher" power in exchange for magical power.

6. Powers based on nature and the cycle of seasons, similar to Druidic* powers.  Now here is a tricky one.  What Druid is Moldvay talking about?  Do we mean the popular neo-pagan druids that most people think of when the word "druid" is mentioned?  Does he mean the AD&D Druid with it's animal shape abilities? Or the semi-historical druid of legend that we still only know a little about?  I have seen it mentioned that Druids are male and Witches are female, which is fine if one only is thinking of the neo-pagan versions of each.  This would preclude archetypes like the Bandrui and Warlock.  Plus when you look at it, the AD&D druid had some elemental focused spells, but nothing really on the cycle of seasons.  I would conclude though from this that like the druid the witch would never have access to a Raise Dead spell, but only Reincarnate.  Raise Dead would break the cycle of Life-Death-Rebirth and thus be an taboo.   I would argue undead are the same way, but witches of Orcus would have little to do.

I think this is a good list and certainly one to consider if ever building a Witch class for any version of the game.  But there are couple I think I would like to add.

7. Covens.  While some witches have appeared by themselves there are others that have always appeared together. The weird sisters of Macbeth, the Stygian Witches all the way up to Piper, Phoebe and Paige, witches work together in a coven.  Usually three, sometime more.  A game mechanic needs to be in place to allow this to happen.   It can even be as simple as some spells requiring three or more witches in order to work, or other spells that work better if more than one witch is casting.  Not quite the Ritual Magic of d20 or even Ghosts of Albion, but something.

8. Ritual Magic. I think this is also a must.

I'll be posting more thoughts soon.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Justice is Blind

One of my favorite comic series is Kingdom Come.  It deals with the future of the DC Universe and the growing violence of the new heroes compared with the older heroes of the past like Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman.  There are a tons of great nods to comics of old and the art is fantastic.  One thing it did though was have a widowed Superman get involved with Wonder Woman at the end of the story.  It was all "off page" but Bruce was able to tell that Wonder Woman was pregnant.  I had often wondered since reading it what would the child of Superman and Wonder Woman be like?  What would she be like if she were raised by Bruce Wayne?  Well last year my normal group got together to make new heroes for a supers game.  One of my fellow players, a fan of the old "Spider-man and his Amazing Friends" cartoon, came up with the son of Firestar and Iceman.  I came up with Astra aka Justice.

The basic idea was to come up with a next generation hero that would be living in Freedom City.  Gotham, Metropolis, Empire City, and all the superhero cities would be there from Marvel, DC and games we had all played in the past.  So it was quite a mash-up.  But we never got to play.  Maybe we will one day.  But in any case here is the introduction to Justice.  I'll have some stats for her soon.

Issue 1, Vol. 1
"Justice is Blind"

When Lois Lane-Kent was murdered not just Metropolis was in shock, but so was the world. Not that anyone was surprised when the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist was targeted for murder, Lois had a way of making enemies, but that Superman, the man who had been a constant at her side since he arrived in Metropolis couldn't save her.

After Lois' funeral Superman met with members of the Justice League and told them that Clark Kent was dead. He would never assume the role of Clark Kent again. He left for the Fortress of Solitude where he spent the next five years in self imposed exile. Over the years various heroes attempted to contact him, even try to go to him. Batman was rebuffed. Steel was sent home with a broken arm. Finally one day Wonder Woman returned from the Fortress saying that Kal-El was leaving Earth, maybe forever.

Nine months later she gave birth to a daughter.

Diana had passed the mantle of Wonder Woman over to her sister Donna, she was now the UN Ambassador of Themyscira. The birth of her daughter made her return home. She named the girl Astra after the Goddess of Justice Dike Astraea, but also for its meaning, from the stars. Astra grew strong, tall and proud like any Amazon. Though it was obvious from the beginning she was not an ordinary Amazon. She was much stronger and faster than her sisters, though unlike them she had difficulty with magical weapons. Even in close proximity to her aunt's Lasso of Truth effected her.

When Astra turned 12 her grandmother Hypolata died in battle. Diana became queen of the Amazons. She decided that her daughter, already finding life among the Amazons difficult, would live among humans to learn their ways. She sent her to the only person she could trust with the thing most precious to her in life. Bruce Wayne.

Bruce accepted Astra Kal-El as she was known and crafted a human name and identity for her, Astra Kent, daughter of the late Clark and Lois Kent. Bruce was a good father and teacher to Astra, teaching her history, civics, law and most importantly justice and the value of a human life. She had received training in various combat styles from the Amazons, but Bruce took it to the next level. He taught her not only to how fight, but how to more effectively use her own powers. Where she excelled though was in her studies of the criminal justice system.

She entered Gotham University as a Justice Studies major with a minor in Ancient History. She graduated and was set to enroll in the prestigious Gotham Center of Legal Studies at GSU to get her degree in law. Bruce even arranged for her to work as an intern with State Attorney General Barbara Gordon. This is when Astra met her destiny.

She had been helping Barbara with a case to put away a known mobster. Carlos "the Shark" Diaz was the leader of Diaz crime cartel in Gotham. To date he had been arrested on hundreds of charges but never had they been able to make any of them stick. Then one night he was in his nightclub when in a fit of bravado he pulled out a chrome .44 and shot randomly into the night. His shot hit and killed a single mother of three coming home from working a double shift at a local drug store. A shift she was not supposed to have been working. The police were all over Carlos in an instant. He had been seen not only by dozens of witnesses, CCTV, his finger-prints were also all over the bullet. When he was let off on yet another technicality, Gotham raged. But Astra knew she had to do more.

She went home and crafted a costume similar to that of her father's and mother's, and with speed born in her Kryptonian blood she went after Carlos. It did not take her long to find his car which she blasted with her heat vision. She tore the car apart with her bare hands to get to Carlos. She grabbed him by the nap of his neck and flew so high ice formed on their skin. She dropped him, only to catch him moments before he hit the ground.

"Please!" the mobster begged. "I'll give you anything you want! Power, money! Please!"

"I want…" Astra began.

"Yes, I'll give it to you!" screamed Carlos.

"I want…I want Juanita Washington's children to have their mother back!" she yelled at him, she pulled him to her face and her eyes began to glow red with heat vision.

"ASTRA!" came a shout. It was Bruce.

"Bruce. I have too. He just keeps getting away. He kills, he murders, he gets kids addicted to drugs. We need justice!" She called back to him, tears in her eyes.

"This is not justice. This is revenge. Do this and you become him." Bruce said quietly.

She looked at the mobster a long time and finally tossing him to the ground, breaking his legs. She took off with such force that the sonic concussion broke windows eight blocks away.

Bruce called the police and returned home.

There he found Astra in the Bat-cave crying.

"I failed you Bruce." She said.

"No. I failed you. I forgot to teach you that the most important lesson is never too loose yourself. Your mother sent you to me not for my skills as a detective, or our past, but for something I still struggle with."

He looked over her costume. It was crude, but it had a certain style and flair.

"Who are you supposed to be?" he finally asked.

She looked up with an ironic half-smile, "Justice".

Bruce went to her cape and tore off a strip that had come loose. He took the strip and fashioned, not a mask, but a blindfold. He tied it around her eyes.

"Justice is blind." He said. "In the courtroom or the streets you must be fair and impartial. Pursue the guilty, protect the innocent and uphold the law."

After that night Astra packed her bags. Bruce didn't tell her she had to go, but he did not stop her either. She wrote a letter to Attorney General Gordon, apologizing for her actions and submitting a letter of resignation. She dropped out of GSU and by morning had already made arrangements to move to Freedom City. She feared she would not get into FCU so late in the term, but letters from the Gotham Attorney General, the US Ambassador to Themyscira, and not to mention a sizable endowment from Wayne Enterprises with a personal letter from Bruce Wayne brought her in as a mid-semester new grad student.

Astra has spent the last few weeks catching up on her Law School courses making up lost time. But it is rumored that a new hero has been spotted in Freedom City. Her blue, red and gold costume is reminiscent of a Greek tunic, or of superheroes that have not been seen in over two decades.

Though the oppressed, the downtrodden and criminals know…Justice has come to Freedom City!

PL: 10 (150 pp)

ABILITIES: STR: 30 (+10) DEX: 12 (+1) CON: 19 (+4) INT: 16 (+3) WIS: 10 (0) CHA: 16 (+3)

SKILLS: Acrobatics 4 (+5), Bluff 2 (+5), Climb (+10), Computers 4 (+7), Concentration 2 (+2), Diplomacy 4 (+7), Disguise (+3), Escape Artist (+1), Gather Info 4 (+7), Handle Animal (+3), Intimidate 2 (+5), Investigate 4 (+7), Civics 6 (+9), History 6 (+9), Notice 4 (+4), Search 4 (+7), Sense Motive 4 (+4), Stealth 2 (+3), Swim (+10)

FEATS: All-out Attack, Attractive (2), Power Attack, Defensive Attack, Connected, Benefit (1)

POWERS: Enhanced Strength [20], Enhanced Constitution [6], Flight [8], Blast (Distracting) [7], *Super Senses [4], Extending Sight, , Acute Hearing, , Extended Hearing, , X-Ray Vision, , Super Strength [2], Protection [6]

COMBAT: Attack 10 [Unarmed +10 (Bruise)] Defense 10 (10 flat-footed) Init 1

SAVES: Toughness 10 (10 flat-footed) Fortitude 9 Reflex 2 Will 5

DRAWBACKS: Vulnerable: Magic (High Freq, Low Severity) -2, Disability (Total) Kryptonite (Low Freq, High Severity) -3

Abilities 43 + Skills 14 (53 ranks) + Feats 7 + Powers 76 + Combat 4 + Saves 11 – Drawbacks -5 = 150 / 150


I figure the blindfold is cooler than a mask. With her X-Ray vision she could easily see through it. Plus she is 6'2", brunette and looks like a super-model, she is going to need something more than glasses to disguise who she is. Plus it is also used as a reminder to her not to use her heat vision, something she almost killed someone with. That Bruce is a thinker.

I liked the idea of Babs being the AG and Astra working for her.

One of the first things I had to figure out was the compelling reasons for Superman not to be in her life (he is gone) and he never knew she was there. Wonder Woman would see it as it being better with Astra living her life away with mortals. Plus as the new Queen of the Amazons she would be busy. Of course if supes ever found out he had a daughter he would be back on Earth as quickly as he could.

I had Donna Troy become the new Wonder Woman when Astra was born, but that is not to say that Cassie Sandmark is not the Wonder Woman now.

I wanted to remove her from Bruce's influence a little more than just she moves to FC. Nearly killing a mobster in revenge would put a big strain on their relationship.

The Bruce here is more of the Batman Beyond Bruce Wayne than the Kingdom Come one.  We initially thought that this would make Terry McGinnis the current active Batman (though that would make this series sometime after 2040 and I don't think we thought of it that far head).

Her costume looks like the statues of "Blind Justice", the Goddess whose name she shares, with elements of her mother's and father's costumes as well. I figure Supes has been out in space (or wherever he was during the whole DC 1,000,000 series) and would not have been around, Wonder Woman is retired so no one has seen the likes of her for a long time.

Shadow Girls Hardcover

One of my favorite webcomics Shadow Girls, is producing a Season 1 hardcover collection of the first round of comics that appeared on their site.

This massive 240 page comic deals with the story of Charon and Rebecca McKay and the powers they discover they have.  And none too soon really, since an ancient God is bent on rising and destroying the world.

The comic is described as "H.P. Lovecraft meets the Gilmore Girls" but there is a lot more to it than that.

One of the nice things about having a blog like this is my chance to introduce others to things I have found very cool.  Shadow Girls is very cool.

I have talked about them here before, but do yourself a favor and check out the collected works.  I get nothing from this, I just think they are cool and would love to have this myself.

Regular Edition:
Artist Edition:

Sunday, January 2, 2011

2011: What's New Pussycat?

So here is the first blog post of 2011 for the Other Side.   I saw a lot of growth here over 2010 and hope to have more interesting things to show you and talk about throughout 2011.

On tap I have some Mutants and Masterminds 3rd Edition stats I want to post, some more about my upcoming 4th Edition D&D game with my kids, and certainly more OSR stuff.  I plan to post the next Season of my Willow and Tara game "Season of the Witch" and maybe even have some all new stuff.

I pulled out BASH, Icons and Villains and Vigilantes 2.1 again to do some write-ups of some other characters including Willow, Tara, Tarot and some new ones like Justice.  I want to give the Smallville RPG another go as well and pull out Doctor Who again.  Maybe I'll do that when the new Matt Smith branded box comes out.

If you are reading this on my blog or Google Reader (or some other RSS feed) then I am very happy to have you!  If you are reading this on Facebook, then that is great too, stop by the Blog proper sometime at to see the site as it is meant to be.

Of course if there is any topic, game or whatever you want me to cover I am always open to ideas.

So here is to a great 2011.