Friday, May 31, 2013

QotA: Elvyra Queen of Witches

While re-reading Quest of the Ancients I thought a good way to bring one of the few stated up characters back over to D&D via The Witch.   I also it might make for a nice homage if one of Vince Garcia's signature characters lived on with my rules.  Like I mentioned in my review of Quest of the Ancients it was obvious to me that we had read a lot of the same books, watched a lot of the same TV shows and listened to a lot of the same music to get to our respective witches.

Plus Elvyra has a connection to the Daughters of the Flame/followers of Brigit. So she has a "hook" in both games.

Here she is in both sets of stats, Elvyra (pronounced "EL-veer-uh" according to the book) the Queen of Witches.  In Vince Garcia or anyone with a copyright claim wants me to remove this then of course I will.

Elvyra -- Queen of Witches (25th level witch)
Gypsy Elf Li 57 by =Falln-Stock
Quest of the Ancients stats
Armour rating: 0 (-5)
Tactical move: 10' or as applicable in different form
BAR: 17/10/54
Stamina paints: 70
Body points: 13
Stots: St 12; Ag 20: Con 14; IQ 20; Ch 20: Ap 20: Lk 19
Attack 1
Dmg: 1D4+5 (dagger) or by spell
Ethics: I
Size: 6' tall
Special note: Shape change at will; possesses Artifact of Power-the Scarlet Flame: her symbol is a 4-armed spiral, eagle or hummingbird.

Elvyra appears as a tall elf with flaming red hair, typically attired in blue and white with a red sash but her waist. Upon her head she wears a silver crown over which floats large emerald acting as a device that doubles her 1st-3rd rank spell slots. She thus possesses 40 slots of each of these spell ranks, and 20 slots each of ranks 4th-7th
The flame removed from the temple was later enchanted into her wand focus, creating an Artifact of Power known as the Scarlet Flame. It appears as a wood and silver scepter with a huge ruby set into its tip, containing a burning name within. The wand absorbs all spells directed at the possessor, converting their ranks into potential that regenerates any stat loss, similarly to the Mind Sapphire of Serpen. In addition, the wielder is able to use any fire-based spell at the 35th level of skill at a cost of 1 charge off the wand per spellrank, castable in a single phase.
Elvrya's rarely used melee weapon consists of a BF 5 unicorn horn dagger, which provides the further benefit of making her immune to poison and disease of any sort.
One interesting fact about her relates to her ability to shape change (as per the witch spell) at will. When she remains in a single form, her eyes change color each minute.
The Queen has existed in legend since the dawn of time, and most believe that if she yet lives, she and her followers no longer remain on the Nexus, but instead dwell with their goddess, the Queen of Faerie, within Her enchanted realm. Nevertheless, some have claimed to have encountered the Witch Queen in the midst of isolated sylvan woodlands, and in a rugged area of volcanoes in Naz-Al. It is even been reported that she frequents the Witchwood, a forest in Avalon, but this story is given little credence.
If she is encountered, she will either be accompanied by her familiar, her chief handmaiden or both (20%/30%/50%). Last of all, Elvyra is believed to know lost spells that are vastly more powerful than many used today.

Elvyra - Queen of Witches (25th level witch)
The Witch stats

Strength: 12 Death Ray, Poison 5
Dexterity: 18 Magic Wands 6
Constitution: 14 Paralysis, Polymorph or Turn to Stone 5
Intelligence: 18 Dragon Breath 8
Wisdom: 18 Rods, Staffs, Spells 7
Charisma: 18

Hit Points: 55
Alignment: Neutral
AC: 1 (Bracers of Defense)

Occult Powers (Faerie Tradition)
Familiar: White Dragon Tiger
7th level: Speak to Plants/Animals
13th level: Fae Shape
19th level: Curse
25th level: Shape Change

Cantrips (7): Alarm Ward, Daze, Detect Curse, Object Reading, Open, Spark, Warm
First (7): Bewitch I, Cause Fear, Command, Faerie Fire, Minor Fighting Prowess, Sleep, Spirit Dart
Second (7): Alter Self, Biting Blade, Blast Sheild, Enthrall, Evil Eye, Hold Person, Phantasmal Spirit
Third (6): Astral Sense, Bestow Curse, Continual Fire, Feral Spirit, Fly, Improved Faerie Fire
Fourth (6): Air Walk, Betwitch IV, Dance Macabre, Neutralize Poison, Spiritual Dagger, Withering Touch
Fifth (5): Anti-Magic Candle, Blade Dance, Dream, Primal Scream, Song of Discord
Sixth (5): Break the Spirit, Control Weather, Find the Path, Moonbow, True Seeing
Seventh (4):  Ball of Sunshine, Breath of the Goddess, Etherealness, Serpent Garden
Eighth (4): Astral Projection, Greater Mislead, Mystic Barrier, Wail of the Banshee

In my games Elvyra didn't steal Brigit's Flame, but rescued it.   There is still a long standing cold war between the Queen of Witches and the Daughters of the Flame covens (the Eula want to forgive her, the Brenna want her to pay for what they still feel is the theft of the flame), though both factions of the coven want a better accounting on how she made the wand the Scarlet Flame.

Oh and if you don't have this song going through your head while reading this then you are not as old school as you think you are.

Blogfest: The WIP It Good: EW Cover reveal!

Today is the The WIP It Good Blogfest

We are supposed to talk about our current WIP or Work in Progress.

I am going to be talking about Eldritch Witchery! big cover reveal.

Eldritch Witchery is my next book for role-playing Witches.  In this case the game is Spellcraft & Swordplay.  The book will include a Witch AND a Warlock class.

And without further ado here is the new cover!

Lilith by Isra2007
I was able to get this wonderful piece of art of Lilith from Isra2007.
It will be updated in the Spellcraft & Swordplay trade dress, but nothing else will be done to the image.  It is too perfect as is.

Like the Witch, Eldritch Witchery will have new spells, magic items and monsters.  It will have traditions, but all new ones, different from the Witch, so new Occult Powers too.   Warlocks also have Lodges they belong to.  The biggest addition is the inclusion of all the demons and devils to the Spellcraft & Swordplay game.  If you were around for my April A to Z posting then you have an idea what will be included.

The book is done, more or less.  The first part with the witches, spells and magic items is being reedited.  The demons and devils are wrapping up.  I know this one has been delayed, but we are looking for a Halloween or earlier release.

So yes if you have the Witch then there is still plenty of new material here even if you don't play Spellcraft & Swordplay.  It can be played with OD&D as well.

It is a big piece of work. Maybe larger than The Witch.  I hope you all enjoy it.

EDITED TO ADD: Forgot the template.  Been one of those weeks.

WIP Title: Eldritch Witchery
Word Count (projected/actual so far): 150,00 projected 117,588 right now
Genre: RPG
How long have you been working on it?:  Seriously about 2 years. Of on on though for only the first 6 months

Elevator Pitch (if you came across an agent in an elevator ride, what couple of lines would you use to summarize your book):  EW is the follow up to The Witch for the Spellcraft & Swordplay game.

Brief Synopsis (300 words or less):  The witch and warlock classes are detailed along with hundreds of new spells, magic items, monsters and tons of demons and devils.

Are you looking for a Critique Partner?  Not really that kind of book.

Are you looking for a Beta Reader? Same.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Quest of the Ancients: The Obscure Fantasy RPGs Appreciation Day

"Look upon this, old-schoolers, and know that this path has been tread before." -  Jeff Grubb

Today is The Obscure Fantasy RPGs Appreciation Day hosted by Mesmerized by Sirens.

On this day I want to go back over some ground I have tread before.  Today I want to talk about Vince Garcia's magnum opus Quest of the Ancients.

QotA was the topic of one of my A to Z posts a few years ago. It seems I was not the only one to use it for Q, Jeff Grubb posted about it the same year and Charlie Warren the year after.   There is surprisingly little information out there about this game.  The Wikipedia article is sparse and the RPGNet database entry only has the basics.  There is very, very little else on the web and the author, Vince Garcia, seems to have no net presence I can find.  Plus there is no legal pdf of it out there. In fact if you search for "Quest of the Ancients"  + "legal PDF" you will only find me asking for it on RPG.Net.  I would also like to find a copy of the 2nd edition print.  It has different (and better) cover art but that is all I know for sure.  I have heard it was never printed and in other places I have heard it is longer by a few pages.  No idea.

So, obscure? Yeah. It has it in droves.
I don't even remember where I learned about it.  I am pretty sure I know how and about when though.
I was finishing up my very first netbook on Witches for AD&D 2nd ed and I wanted to collect all the AD&D  compatible witch classes that were ever made.  My idea was I was going to play test all the classes with the same character (same background and stats) and see how they all played out.  Something I still do to this day. I discovered the Judges Guild Witch Class and was not overly thrilled with it.  Somehow I discovered or was told about Quest of the Ancients. I picked up a copy on eBay and that was that.

Quest of the Ancients can be best described as an AD&D clone, an AD&D add on or as a collection of someone's AD&D house rules.  The author, Vince Garcia, had some publications before QotA came out including some material for AD&D2 and White Wolf magazine.  So he was not new to this. In deed the copyright date on this book lists 1982, so some form of these rules were around at least then.  Likely it was a collection of house rules.  What I noticed though right away was the Witch Class.

Let's be 100% honest here.  Vince Garcia loves the Witch class as much as I do.  Really.  The book is easily 70-75% class material and the class that gets the most attention and the most text is the witch.  Before I get into that let me talk about what the book has.

We start out with the title/author page.  He dedicates the the book to "Miss Stevie Nicks".  Ok. So let me be honest here.  I get this. No, I really do.  That doesn't not make it weird. But I get it.  He also thanks "Angelique".  Yeah, I did the same thing.

The QotA game (and I am unsure if this is intended to be a seperate game or as thinly veiled add-on to AD&D) characters have nine (9) stats.  They are rolled differently depending on the race of the character and sometime the gender.  Nearly everyone has the same mins and maxes (1-20), but the different dice and pluses usually mean different mean, median and modal scores.   The big stat is IQ (Intelligence) since it determines how high level you can go.  The ability adjustments for these abilities are D&D standard (+0 for average up to +3 for 18 and beyond). Our abilities are Strength, Agility, Conditioning, IQ, Charm, Appearance, Luck, Stamina, and Body (which is the average of Strength and Conditioning).
The book covers the standard races (human, elf, dwarf, half-elf, gnome) and some ideas on how to make other races like the ogre or a "furrfoot" (halfing) work.  This bit is not bad advice really and certainly expands on the ideas of races.

Chapter 2 covers the classes.  This is the reason you buy this book.
There are  Fighter classes. These include the Cossack, Gladiator, Knight, Legionnaire, Rouge (not a thief), Saracen, Viking, and Woodsman.  Another group are the Tricksters which are the Assassin, Bard (with some spell-songs), Cutpurse (this is the thief), and Gypsy.  The gypsy is interesting since there is a difference between male and female gypsies.  The males are more like a Bard/Cutpurse/Rogue while the females are more witch-like.  Lastly we have all the  Spellcasters.  Each class is presented and all their spells follow after.  This includes the Druid (different from the AD&D one), Earth Priest, Necromancer, Sorcerer, and Witch.    The Necromancer is more akin to the original idea of a Necromancer, one that speaks to the dead.  He does have plenty of death-related spells.  The Sorcerer is a "do it yourself" sort of spell using class.  No spells are even listed for this class assuming the GM will make their own or use some "from magazines".

Let's talk about the Witch now.
Like I mentioned the classes take up pages 13 to 157 (of 214),  the witch has 52 of those pages. Who does that remind you of?
 She has a lot of new spells up to the 7th level and about five new powers. The witch is also the only class to get a detailed NPC. Actually she gets three.  The "Queen of Witches" Elvyra, her familiar and her chief handmaiden. The rules limit advancement to 20th level; Elvyra is 25th and Night (the handmaiden) is 23rd.   Look. I am the last person that can throw stones at this one OK.  Part of me is face-palming over this, and another part is impressed with the shear bravado of it.
Notably the "iconics" from the cover are not stated up anywhere in the book.
The Witch and Gypsy are both pretty interesting classes.  I think what happened here is the author wrote all this material for the Witch and then had a bunch of spells and ideas left over that used for the other classes.  Or maybe I am projecting too much.  Hard to say.

There are some interesting rules on multi-classing.  It reminds a little of the D&D4 Hybrid class rules.  Basically you advance in two classes at the same time, taking the more advantageous options.  The experience points are a little more than 75% of the two classes added together.  So on the average a multiclassed character takes 1.5 times longer to level up than a single class character.  Neat idea on paper, not sure how it works in reality.

The rest of the book goes by fast, really just enough to call it a complete game.  There is a chapter on skills. only a couple of pages really but for an AD&D Heartbreaker it has some neater ideas.  A chapter on Equipment, one on "the Adventure" and another on Combat.  The Combat is a d30 deal which is again interesting, but not one I would ever use to be honest.
You might think the Chapter on Magic would be longer than it is. But it is only about 3-4 pages.  Though there is some interesting ideas on magical research for all classes.
There are chapters on Rewards and some Monsters.  The only thing that sets it apart is the listing of female vs. male unicorns.  One (female) is white and good and the other (male) is black and not as good.
There is also a chapter on the campaign world of Islay.  It is a typical game world where lot of quasi medieval and semi-mythical lands are clumped together Xena-style.
There is some historical  detail about the worshipers of Brigit and his witches which made me smile.  Vince Garcia and I read a lot of the same books it seems.

In the end I can't dislike the game and I admire the author intents.
I am not likely to use anything from it really,  but it is a fun book to pick up a flip through. Plus I kinda like that there is not a whole bunch known about it.  Gives me the illusion that I am some sort of occult expert in a very narrow field of expertise.  I can pull on my old professor clothes and have a snifter of age brandy; "Islay you say? Let me tell you about the lands of Islay. Her unicorns, demons and most of all about the Witch Queen.  Yes. You must hear about the Witch Queen Elvyra..."

Jack Vance

Unless you have not read all your blog roll today you know that Jack Vance has died.

Vance was one of the Godfaters of D&D to be honest.  The "cast and forget" spell system D&D has used since day one is called a "Vancian Spell system".  The Lich Vecna is an anagram of Vance.  Ioun stones and a whole host of other things I am not thinking of too.

To me though the great contribution of Jack Vance to D&D is his Dying Earth series.  There is a feel to those books are are so D&D.  Even more so than say the worlds of Connan or Elric.
If you want another good source of inspiration, try his Lyonesse trilogy.  I remember these from the 80s and thought they had a style and sophistication above and beyond the dross I was reading then.

Indeed we mark the passing of another giant.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Obscure Fantasy RPGs Appreciation Day

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Tomorrow is The Obscure Fantasy RPGs Appreciation Day hosted by Mesmerized by Sirens.

I am just about ready to go myself.

Looking forward to this one.  I love really obscure RPGs.

White Dwarf Wednesday #66

White Dwarf Wednesday #66 takes us to June of 1985.
Up first we have a more classical fantasy cover from Chris Achilleos. Interesting that this dragon has a lot of similarity to the kobolds of 3rd ed era.

Based on the success and popularity of Citadel Miniatures and the new Warhammer, Ian Livingstone is wondering about the return of the War Game.  I don't recall if it ever really happened, but certainly Warhammer in its various guises remain popular.

Open Box is up first and it does something interesting.  It brings in computer games into the reviews. Something that had been handled by a separate column.  Reviewed are:  Battledroids (part of what will become Battletech) by Trevor Mendham, 7/10.  The Talisman Computer Game for the Spectrum 48k.  Also a 7/10 by Trevor Mendham. The Halls of the Dwarven Kings is a generic game aid designed for many games (but AD&D in particular) B Y Rowe gives it 8/10.  Two Fighting Fantasy books are also reviewed, House of Hell and Talisman of Death.  Chris Mitchell gives them both 9/10.   Finally, we get a review of the Warhammer Fantasy Battle Second Edition.  Robert Alcock praises the changes, even if he does call them "predictable" and gives it an 8/10.

Critical Mass has praise for the "newest" Piers Anthony book "On a Pale Horse" the first part of his massive Incarnations of Immortality series.  I will admit a love/hate relationship with Anthony myself.  I loved the Immortality books, even if I thought the last book was actually kind of terrible.  I read his Xanth books and they became part of the backdrop of my gaming past.

There is a full-color ad for a new game called GURPS from the American Steve Jackson.  Wonder if it will catch on?

Graham Staplehurst has a long form review/advertisement of the Middle Earth Role-Playing Game from ICE. He makes a case on how MERP is better at MERP than AD&D would be.  Ok.  Though he is quick to mention that he doesn't like the magic system and gives too many powers to characters.  I can see that.  That is actually the issue I have with most Middle Earth games.

Heroes & Villains details two powers not found in Golden Heroes, Webslinging and Darkness Control.
Crawling Chaos has some clippings of clues for investigators in Call of Cthulhu, but could work with any horror/pulp game.

A larger article on Ambushes in Warhammer is up.  One of the larger ones I can recall.  Warhammer is certainly making a name for itself in the pages of WD.  Wonder why...(not really, I know).

We have a nice long Call of Cthulhu scenario, The Horse of the Invisible.  Again I want to point out that CoC has changed so little in the years I could run this without much in the way of edits under my newest 6th ed rules.

A long AD&D scenario (not "adventure"), The Philosopher's Stone, for 1st and 2nd level characters is next. It also includes some ideas for alchemy in AD&D.  A nice touch really.

Fiend Factory looks like it is back to its old form with some interesting monsters and a short connected adventure.  Most are swamp and marsh related creatures.

Treasure Chest has a good article with an interesting idea. The five rings of Alignment.  There are rings of Law, Good, Evil, Chaos and Neutrality.   Each is an artifact and each is also guarded by a specific spirit.   This, of course, reminds me of Fred Saberhagen's Twelve Swords.  The idea certainly has some merit and could be fun.

We end with some ads.

In general, I felt this was a much better issue of White Dwarf than we had been getting of late.  The extended look into MERP was very interesting, the adventures all had some good utility and regular features like Fiend Factory and Treasure Chest were more enjoyable.

Hopefully, this is a trend that will continue for a while longer.

Kickstarter Roundup

Here are some of the Kickstarters I have been keeping an eye on.  Most of these are funded now so it is about the stretch goals. Most of these are also ending soon.

Tome of Horrors Complete - 28mm Heroic Scale Miniatures
For 200 bucks you can get close to 50 minis.  They are white metal, like the old days, but not (as far as I can tell) painted. They look awesome, but even in my 3e game I am moving away from minis.
Still though these are very nice.

Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary
This one should be well known to all in the OSR crowd.  900+ monsters in a format that should be easy to translate to any old-school game.
The more backer's this one gets the more art it gets.  See to me this is how to do a Kickstarter.
Joesph delivered on all his promises for his last Kickstarter and even got them in early.  The next book in the series he didn't even need a Kickstarter for.  So Bloch is quietly building his game, delivering quality books and supplements and generally just getting it done.  So backing this one is the right thing to do.  Really he kind of is the model of what you should do in a Kickstarter.

Cartoon Action Hour: Season 3
Loved Cartoon Action Hour: Season 2, so this one is a no-brainer for me.

Deluxe Exalted 3rd Edition
This one is just crazy.  First off it needs $60k for the book.  They go on to get close to half a million bucks!
I liked Exalted 2nd ed but I never got a chance to play it. 

Jeff Dee: Re-Creating AD&D Module Cover Paintings Part 1
This one has not met it's funding yet.  Some reproductions of some of Jeff Dee's module work. Featured are images from:
T1 Village of Hommlet (Back Cover) 
D3 Vault of the Drow (Back Cover) 
X1 Isle of Dread (Front Cover) 
S2 White Plume Mountain (Front Cover)
I'd love to see this one get funded too.

Adventure Maximus!
From Eden's George Vasilakos.  Funded, but still looks like a lot of fun.

And yesterday's newest one, Call of Cthulhu 7th Ed.

I was asked if I am going to back this one. I am not.  It's not that I don't like CoC, I love it. But to me this is not what a Kickstarter should be about.
CoC7 is funded. I like to fund Kickstarters though that look like they NEED my help. The ones that won't see the light of day without my input. Makes me feel like I am accomplishing something really.