Saturday, March 9, 2013

Zatannurday: Bloodspell

A recent posting on Paul Dini's Facebook page got my attention.

A draft cover for the oft delayed Zatanna/Black Canary team up comic.

 Joe Quinones is doing the art and I have featured some bits from him before but here are a few more from his blog.

I like Zee's mystical robes here.

Hopefully we will get to see this soon!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Return to the Tomb!

I'll detail this more, but wanted to share this now.

I am going back to the Tomb of Horrors.

I got the new Dungeons of Dread today.
Here is the history of my S4 collections.

Back coverleaf (not the cover itself).

My hardbound editions.  Yes that is a hardbound version of Realms of Horror which was out in 87.  No you didn't miss out on something, it was only softcover.  I had it hardbound at a local book boundary.
The 87 Realms of Horror was a redo, the new Dungeons of Dread is the original modules in presentation.
The last is the 4th Ed update of Tomb of Horrors.

Again. More later.

Sympathy for the Succubus, Part 3

Image source, but I have this figure too. 
An update to my Part 1 and Part 2 of my Sympathy for the Succubus.  Been reading a bunch on the Succubus and how she fits into the D&D game specifically. She has an odd place really.  A sex-demon in a game that downplays sex in favor of violence.

Ecology of the Succubus
The succubus can play the ultimate temptress. Typically we see the succubus as an agent of power in the game and that is certainly true for the latest edition. For D&D 4, we have the Ecology of the Succubus and the authors' blog,

There is another the Ecology of the Succubus from the late lamented Kobold Quarterly Magazine #21.
For 4th edition.  This article is by Sersa Victory and feels slightly longer (hard to say given the different formats), but there is a still a lot of useful material here regardless of the game you are playing.

They both used similar elements tot he succubi I have presented here in my blog and in Eldritch Witchery.  No big surprise there, we are all drawing from the same myths and legends. Both try to do some mental gymnastics to cover the change of succubi from demons to devils. Both work rather well, but I took a different approach myself.

For Pathfinder there is Mythic Menagerie: Demonic Harlots
Six new sub-types of Succubi for your Pathfinder/OGL game. Plus new magic, feats and plot devices for using succubi in your games. No rules for Succubi PCs, but nearly everything else is here.

For D&D 5, it looks like Succubus might be headed back to being demons.

Good Succubi
Succubi have always been a favorite of many gamers.  So it is no surprise that every so often we get a "Good" Succubus.  From D&D 3 we had Eludecia, the Succubus Paladin.  I liked her story and wish WotC had done some more with her. This link for example makes her a Paladin of Heironeous. She appeared in the adventure, Legend of the Silver Skeleton. I would use her as something like a Kwai Chang Caine character.  Roaming the lands, maybe incognito, trying to do the most good she can.

Nobility and Eros: The Noble Succubus
Love is a disease.  At least that is how the succubi might feel if you use this supplement in your OGL games.  The Noble Succubus (not 100% sold on that name, but it does work and I can't come up with anything better) is a succubus that has become infected.  She is no longer a demon, but a creature with a soul that feels.  In a sense a "good" (if chaotic) succubus.  The role-playing options here abound.
There is plenty of background information that can be used and plenty of hooks into various game worlds including modern, sci-fi and the standard fantasy.
The real meat though is in the crunch on what the differences between the Noble and Demonic Succubi and how to use Noble Succubi as characters.

Myself I would make them much rarer, and still have it be a process that maybe one in 100 Billion succubi could go through.  I also think it would be interesting to have a Noble Succubus and for whatever reason choose to remain evil.  That would be an adversary worth having.

Succubi and their Kin
I have also been doing a lot of generic demon research lately.
101 Greater Demons to Summon
101 Lesser Demons to Summon
101 Names of the Devil

For a buck you get a list of 100 demons. There is a name and description. Culled from a variety of sources such as the Lesser Key of Solomon, the Pseudomonarchia Daemonum and others.
It also has tables for various demon aspects and motivations. The information here can be found elsewhere, but for a buck you are getting it all in one place and formatted. Can be used with any game that has demons. There are no stats and nothing in the way of measure the power of one demon to the next, but that is not what they are advertising here.  Great if you need new, random demons.

One of the great things about working on so many projects it has given me the chance to recast the demons as I like.    I am very excited to get some of the things I am working on into your hands and I hope you enjoy them too.

Sympathy for the Succubus, Part 1
Sympathy for the Succubus, Part 2


I think. I just got out of a 4 hour long meeting to find a ton of email waiting for me and only a taco to help me deal with it.

Be back when I can actually think.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Reviews: Dragon Island and Magic

A few new products I picked up at the GM's Day Sale at DriveThruRPG.

My boys are getting ready for their huge campaign finale.  The giant battle against Tiamat on the Island of the Dragon Empire.  Back in the dawn of time the Dragon and their Dragonfolk surrogates ruled the world from the Dragon Island.  Those days are gone and the Dragon Empire has fallen.  But the Island remains and that is where the characters will make their stand.

Fantastic Maps - Iconic Island
I am gearing up for the BIG finale of my years long 3e game.  The final battle where the forces of good battle the forces of evil happens on an Iceland-like island in my world.  I could have drawn anything, I could have even taken an older module and altered the island in Photoshop.  With this product I didn't have too.  It even looks almost EXACTLY like what I wanted.  The ZIP file contains maps of the island. Non-marked, marked and hexed variants. Plus a BW version.  There is no text or fluff to go with this, which is great, I have my own.  This is my new Dragon Isle!  I would love to see more products like this one.

My new island is going to need people too.

Archetypes of the Jade Oath (PFRPG)
I got this product for the new witch hexes but the rest of it is great as well.  There is a cool Eastern Flavor to this and I want to see if there is more in this series.  While I have a lot of cultures on my game world the one thing that has been getting the short end of my attentions are Dragonfolk/Dragonborn.  This book, while not explicitly designed for that, is perfect for my needs (and the cover kinda helps with that).
So what do we get? 20 pages (with cover, credits page, OGL statement and 2 pages of "Ads").  While there is an Eastern "flavor" to this, it is presented mostly context free.
The Barbarian is based on totem animals, which is a really awesome variant.  I normally don't play barbarians, but I would try one of these.  The Cavaliers are the Order of the Ancestors and Order of the Creed.  Monks, a natural fit, are presented as Kensai (one of my favorite classes back in the day). Imagine the typical unarmed monk, now armed.  And finally, the Witch, with a bunch of new and exciting hexes based on Elemental magics or Dragon magic (see it is a perfect fit!!). In fact these are some of the best Dragon Witches I have ever seen.  So this is worth the price of the book alone to me.
We also get plenty of new feats.  This was a nice surprise and I am very happy with this.

Midgard: Player's Guide to the Dragon Empire
I own a few of the Midgard products, but this one really called to me.  This Dragon Empire is very similar to the one I was crafting for my own game world, so this saves me some heavy lifting.
The 30 pages of this book is jam-packed.  What did I like in this?
Well I love the castes.  Dragons seem very arrogant and a caste system makes sense. I liked how the castes were set up as well.  Lots of great role-playing potential in these.  We get a bunch of new Traits and Feats.
Classes get a bit of an update as to be expected.  There is a Cavalier archetype, the Order of the Firedrake (which is a PERFECT with my world's own White Drakes). The Druids have the Elemental Exarch. Fighters get Edjet Warriors, and the Magus has the Dragon Magus.  We get a couple new monks, Monk of the Fiery Fist and Monk of the Wind Palm. There is also the Mystery of the Void, Greyscale and Void Elemeentalist for the Oracle, Rouge and Elementalists respectively.  There is also the Dragon Emir prestige class which I am sure my son would love. The book end with new spells, exotic goods and magic items, including magic the magic carpet.  Cool stuff.  I am going to have to look for more books in this series.

Midgard Bestiary for Pathfinder RPG
We always need more monsters. Over a 100 new monsters for Pathfinder.  Lots of really interesting ones too.  I loved the Shadow Fae, Ice Maiden and Red Hag and have hooks already for all of them.  The new dragon types are also very interesting and I can't wait to use a Mithril Dragon or Baby Yaga's Horsemen. In fact there are two completely separate campaigns I want to use this book in, a Dragon based one and a Witch-centric one.  Both need unique monsters that the players have never seen before, and there are a number of monsters here that are perfect for one or the other or both!
Also available for 4e and AGE.

Lineage Draconis
This 28 page (27 + cover) pdf features 6 dragon crossbreads including the oft stated Orange and Yellow Dragons. But you also get the Blade, Steel, Rust and Gray Dragons.  These dragons are pretty interesting and for the game I have coming up I need a lot of interesting dragons.  The book also includes the Dragon Blooded "class" though it is also sort of a race.  They are humanoid dragons.  Plenty of things you can do with this class as well as alternate versions depending one where the blood came from.
In a neat little feature you also get the art from the book in a seperate file.  So now you can show your players exactly what a Yellow Dragon looks like.

The Modern Spellcaster Basic Class
This book is for the d20 Modern Game, Pathfinder and a few other d20 based games.   It presents a generic form of a spellcaster that isn't a wizard, cleric, witch or druid.  In a sense it is a throwback to the older "Magic User" class.  The basic premise here is to provide full powered (up to spell level 9) spellcasters from D&D like games to your Modern Games.  I am not sure how this works out in play, but the concept on it's own is interesting enough.  There are new feats and a fun "arcane death" table.  Frankly I would like to see that expanded into an "Arcane CSI" to be used in any modern game with magical elements.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

White Dwarf Wednesday #55

White Dwarf #55 comes to us from July 1984.  Our cover this month is what can only be called a "Space Marine".  The cover is good as in well done, but it doesn't fill me with anything.  I might have passed this issue up in the stores. Still though, I was a bit down on Sci-Fi games at this point, so I am sure that it would have been lost on me anyway.

Ian Livingstone's editorial is once again ripped from today's headlines.  The Gaming Hobby is DYING! But he admits that despite the shrinking market and layoffs the hobby is only changing.  He is right of course and the hobby will never hit the peaks it hit at this time, but it is, and was, changing.  Interestingly enough I did not  have this perspective back then.  To me it seemed like the gaming hobby would go on forever, if I thought about it all.

Marcus Rowland continues his Name of the Game series with Supers, Spies and Scary Guys.  Superhero games are covered with Champions claiming the top spot.  Spy games are next with Top Secret featured. Next are the "odd" games which includes a diverse lot of Call of Cthulhu, Daredevils and Gamma World.  Historical games end the article.

Spiderbite is next and it is a short scenario for D&D/AD&D, for 1st to 2nd level characters.  There are some interesting changes here. First thing you notice are the "DM's" sections to each room/adventure area. Canned text for the DM to read that began with B3.  Also are the "newer" non-orthogonal maps, ala Ravenloft (see next section). It comes in at four pages, but seems smaller than that.  The newer format certainly takes more text.

Open Box has some reviews. We get our first supplement to Warhammer, Forces of Fantasy.  I will admit I know very, very little about Warhammer except what is commonly known.  Jon Sutherland gives it a 7/10 and asks why was the Warhammer book so full of errors (glitches as he says) to need this book?
A bunch of TSR modules are next, X5, L2, I5 and the immortal I6.  Dave Morris goes over them in turn. He has the highest praise for X5, Temple of Death which he gives 10/10.  L2 gets 7/10, I5 9/10 and Ravenloft gets a 8/10.  He loves the plot and does call it a straight Hammer Horror yarn, but bemoans the puns.
Sherlock Holmes - Consulting Detective and an associated adventure The Mansion Murders are reviewed.  Nic Grecas enjoys it as a welcome diversion from dragon slaying or blasting aliens and gives it a 9/10.  I have been looking for a copy of this for a while.  Still haven't found one yet.  Finally Stuart Aston has a few books for Starfleet Battles; SSD Books 1, 2 and 3.  All get a 9/10.

Critical Mass has more book reviews. The only book in the bunch I can recall is Stephen Donaldson's Daughter of Regals.  I remember getting this through the Science Fiction/Fantasy Book Club (ok hands up, who was a member?) and I enjoyed it, which is interesting because I didn't really care for much of Donaldson's other works.  The reviewer here disliked the book mostly (but liked his other stuff from the sounds of it).

ICE breaks up the flow (eh) with a full color ad for the Fellowship of the Ring boardgame.

Phil Holmes has more undead for RuneQuest.  Now back in the day I was not into RuneQuest except as a way to get more Call of Cthulhu into my D&D.  These days I am trying to educate myself more on RQ and this is the sorta thing I enjoy.

Another full page, full color ad.  This time to let us know that Finieous Fingers is going to Fantasy Gamer Magazine.  One though has to wonder if the big selling point of your magazine is the appearance of a comic.  BUT this is Fineous Fingers, and while I never was a big follower of any particular magazine comic (with maybe the exception of "What's New!") even I knew of FF.

Crash Course, bi-monthly Car Wars column is next.  This one concerns punks in 2034.  While it is easy to read this now and think "that is only in 20 years", its still an interesting insight into 1984.

Animal cults and worship for D&D is next.   Tony Parry and Jerry Vaughn correctly point out that this is an area that has gotten very little attention in D&D. And they are still correct.

Castle of Lost Souls part 4 is next, finishing up the series. This seems to be the longest one yet.  I think I should give this one a try sometime.

Letters covers some of the same observations that I have had.  The magazine looks better than ever, but showing signs of slowing down and not being as cutting edge as it once was.  Other bemoan the lack of Traveller articles and the increase in RuneQuest ones. Additionally one letter states how they don't like Travellers (the comic). 

Speaking of, Thrud is next.

Tabletop Heroes gets the color pages again.  It is my memory that at this time Dragon was moving away from minis while White Dwarf was embracing them more.  I could be wrong though.

RuneRites has some really cool looking threats for RuneQuest. First we have a bipedal bat-like monster, a rather nasty spell and a magic ring that seems to be just as cursed as it is magical.

Fiend Factory has the Gods of the Shapelings (from last issue). The gods seem more interesting than I recall the monsters being.  The trouble is they are presented as something along the lines of uber-archetypes to fit the psychology of the Shapelings.  Noble effort, but the result is the gods seem a little bland.  Though with some work I think they would work out well.

Treasure Chest has an interesting article about Arch Enemies in FRPs (and D&D in particular).  I like the idea.  The concept of the reoccurring villain is older than Lex Luthor or the Joker, and not something I think we use enough in fantasy games.  It is something VERY common in games like Buffy, or Ghosts of Albion sure.  But there is something to be said about having an enemy come back for more and more.  Keeping him alive though is the real trick.

Travellers is next followed by an article on variant universes in Traveller.

News is up. We learn about Mayfair's "The Keep" movie tie-in game/adventure.  Also from Mayfair are the Roleaids products.  RQ3 is on the way.  The Star Trek RPG from FASA will hit the shores of the UK soon.

We end with the usual rounds of ads.

Not much to say about this issue really. Nothing new or innovative from the last few issues to be honest, but serviceable material.  I think WD needs to shake it up a bit here soon.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Review: Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea

There is just something about a big red box for games.

I have not been able to get Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea in it's big red box form, but I do have it on PDF, and let me say it is really nice.
So what do you get with this?  Well there is a 256 page player's book, 240 page Referee's book, a map of Hyperborea and pdfs of the Box Covers.  So all in all about 500 pages worth of old school playing goodness.

Now there is a lot here that is old hat for the experienced role-player and some that is similar to many of the OSR games.  That all being said it does also make it a great intro game for anyone and there is a still so much here for the old-timers that I don't feel a page is wasted.

The Players Book focuses on making characters, magic and combat.  So ability scores are covered, alignment and classes.  Most of this is the same as say D&D or S&W, but there are enough little changes to make it worth your notice.
for starters the races of Hyperborea are all human-centric.  So we have Amazons, Kelts, Kimmerian, Vikings and Hyperboreans among others.  All what I call the "Conan" races.
Let's move to the classes. There are the four basic classes, the Fighter, Magician, Cleric and Thief.  But each also has 4 to 6 subclasses. Fighter has the Barbarian, Berserker, Cataphract, Paladin, Ranger and Warlock.  The Magician has Illusionist, Necromancer, Pyromancer and Witch. The Cleric has the Druid, Monk, Priest,  and Shaman.  Finally the Thief has the Assassin, Bard, Legerdemainist and Scout.
Each subclass is very much like it's parent classes with some changes.  The classes look pretty well balanced. I liked the bard as a single class option (nice to have and not something that we had in 1979).  I would love to try out the Necromancer, Witch and Warlock and I know my son would love to try the Pyromancer.
Each class has a "Fighting Ability" and a "Magic Ability" which relates to attacks. So yes, even magicians can get a little better in combat as they go up in level.  It's a great little shorthand and works great.  So a 4th level Fighter has a fighting ability of 4. A 4th level magician still only has a fighting ability of 1 and a cleric 3 and thief 3.  Sub classes can and do vary.

AC is descending (like old school games), BUT with the Fighting Ability stat it could be converted to an ascending AC easy. There are background skills and weapon skills.

The next 90 or so pages deals with magic and all the spells.  The max spell level is 6. Not a bad number really and that is still plenty of spells.

The last 60 pages of the Player's book deals with combat in all it's forms. So combat, mass combat, saves and conditions.  A great collection really of some of the "Best of" ideas I have seen in many games, but it all works really nice here.

The Referee's Manual is next.
It is nearly as big (240 pages vs 256).
The first half is fully devoted to monsters.  The format is most similar to Basic or Labyrinth Lord, and it is full of the usual suspects with some notable exceptions.  For starters this book includes the Demons (but not the devils).  It does NOT include any dragons. But to make up for it there are many of the "Lovecraft" races such as the Great Race, Elder Things and fish men.  Great inclusion.

The next 50 or so pages covers treasure. Among the magic items are things like Radium Pistols and other sc-fi artifacts. Very pulpy.

Finally we end with the Hyperborea Gazetteer. A great bit that I can easily drop into my game. The lands are a pastiche of Howard, Vance, Lovecraft and Smith.  If these names mean anything to you then you know, or have an idea, of what you are going to get here.

All together this is a package of such great ideas I can't wait to use it somewhere.

For me this would work perfect a "Hyperbora" in my own Mystoerth world.  I would include my own White Orcs in any AS&SH game though.  The witch is a nice class, I would supplement some of my own rules for it.

With the GM's sales going on this is a great buy. You can also buy the print version from their website (and find other goodies too).

This game is so full of potential. Whether you play it as is or as a supplement to your favorite old-school game.