Sunday, June 9, 2013

Ravenloft / Glantri connection

This post might not be all that interesting (I know the WRONG way to start a post) but I have been digging up some old information on an old campaign I ran at the end of the 2nd ed era.

Many, many years ago while I was still deeply involved in the online Ravenloft community I postulated that Barovia, the home of Strahd in Ravenloft, is a domain taken from the Known World of Mystara, and Glantri in particular.
I was very active on the old MYSTARA-L and RAVENLOFT-L listservs.

Here is a post from 2001 where I talk about it.  This might be the first time I even mention it.

Hold on a sec I have my combined Ravenloft-Mystrara-Greyhawk Time line here.

Now keep in mind that Ravenloft has funky time.  So Ravenloft uses the
Barovian Calendar (BC) and the present day is 751 (according to the books)
or 753 (according to the kargatane).  That would make it 1,346 AC.  On *my*
time line.
This also coincides with 1,370 DR in the Realms (but who cares about that!).

I am correlating my dates based on the "fact" that the two Blackmoors are
the same in Greyhawk and Mystara and were destroyed at the same time,
possibly splitting Mystara and Oerth (and D&D from AD&D!).  Then I use
Azalin from Ravenloft since we know when he entered the mists and when he
was a king on Greyhawk.

Barovia is founded in "an unknown world" in year 1 BC, or 596 AC.  So what
areas were still ripe for conquest or settlement then?
Strahd is born in 299 BC (894 AC)
The "Tergs" invade Barovia 320 BC (915 AC)
Strahd pushes them back 321 BC (916 AC)
Strahd kills his family, Barovia is "cloned" and sucked into the demi plane
351 BC (946 AC).

So the world that Barovia is from, never knows it is gone since an exact
copy with out people is left behind.  Well, some of Strahd's family remains.

800 AC to 1000 AC is a fairly well documented period of time.

Castle Amber (X2) has some amazing "Ravenloft like" elements.  After all,
Old Averoigne *IS* from Gothic Earth! ;)
As does the Glantri Gazetteer.
Other modules from Mystara also have a very heavy Ravenloft feel to them,
more so than other worlds ("Death's Ride" anyone?)

There is an adventure where the character go to the Prime Material Barovia
around 740 BC (or 1,335 AC). Barovia of this time and place is rules by a
"King Strahd".

If I go with my "Holy Lands of Glantri"  future Time line, 1,335 is a blank
period of time for me. A time between the "true" kings in which a regent sat
on the throne.  It was an attempt by the mage guild to bring back the rule
of the Princes.  They had assassinated the true king and his heirs, but one
escaped not to be "discovered" again till 1,496 AC.

SO, given my time line, I'd say Barovia is/was a principality of Glantri.
Granted this is not conclusive evidence, but it fills the holes I have.

What else do we have?

Web Warlock,
Author, the Netbooks of Witches and Warlocks
The Other Side:
The DnD Community Council:
Yeah I was still going by "Web Warlock" online all the time is a vain attempt to keep my academic persona (Timothy S. Brannan) seperate from my gamer geek one.  Finally I said screw it and embraced my inner and outer geek.

There is more here and elsewhere.  With James Mishler online now I should ask him what his theories were.

Here is something I posted years ago that I can't find the original of online anymore.  Though it was quoted at Dragonsfoot.  I have the original Word doc here at home still.
Barovia is from Mystara
While Ravenloft may be my favorite game world, it is not my first. No that (dubious) honor belongs to Mystara. So here is how I have used my two worlds together. We really don't know what world Strahd's homeland came from. Other lands are clearly defined as being from Oerth (Greyhawk), Toril (Forgotten Realms), Athas (Dark Sun) or Krynn (Dragonlance). That leaves both Barovia and Mystara obvious by their absence. So. I speculate that Barovia is a darker version of one the Principalities of Glantri. Of course this long before the Princes ruled. We know that from the adventure "Roots of Evil" that the original Barovia still remains on it's home world. Well Glantri has a principality called Boldavia that is surprisingly like Barovia. It is possible that they were nieghbors, but when Strahd and his Barovia was pulled into the mists, the lord of Boldavia took over the unprotected Barovia.

There are plenty of other clues of a Ravenloft-Mystara link.

The classic module, X2 Castle Amber, takes place in Glantri and the module reads like a proto-Ravenloft setting complete with mists and lands being pulled into demi-planes. X2 was based on the writings of Clark Ashton Smith, one of Lovecraft's inner circle, and both writers have contributed a lot to what makes up D&D and Ravenloft today.

Glantri has a very European feel to it. It is higher tech and higher magic than most of the other lands on Mystara and there is definantly a darker edge to it. Since Ravenloft also uses psuedo-European cultures, the ties fit rather nicely.

Demi-Plane or World
Ravenloft is a demi-plane. Or so they tell us. But this has never been a satifactory world for me. In my mind this only emphasizes the "weekend in Hell" feel of the world. So. With the latest edition of the Ravenloft rules, I have decided that Ravenloft is in fact it's own world. Granted it is a haunted world, but not much different than the "World of Darkness" of White Wolf. This has certain advantages for me. Worlds are easier to deal with. I can have a place that can seem real to it inhabitants and give me a reason to have native players. Plus if I want, I can use my Call of Cyhulhu, White Wolf, or Witchcraft RPG stuff to modernize the world, or give it a future. This is what I liked best about Gothic Earth. With 3E Ravenloft I could do a Gothic Mystara or a Gothic Oerth.

Personally I rather move the lot to Earth. But that is a topic for another time.

Plus this helps bring other ideas from the Ravenloft-list into line for me. Ravenloft has a mostly human population, but there are monsters. So a world can support a larger ecosystem. Monsters can run about. Another idea is move the mind flayers, Illithids, to the moon. This give them a more alien feel and ties in very nicely with Lovecraft. Plus I have the new d20 Call of Cthulhu book sitting on my self next to my Ravenloft one. So I am sure I can get something from their unholy union.

Another idea to flesh out this "world" is to use some of the new d20 products out there. Sword and Sorcery studios has some great books, like the Creature Collections and Relics and Rituals. The Scarred Lands of those books has the dark and gritty feel I like to inject into my games. I also have a few good official Wizards of the Coast products that also make a nice addition. Monsters of Faerun is a good example.

The Dark Powers
Who or what are the dark powers and what do they wnat? That is question that has been bugging players and DM of Ravenloft for a long time. We have had some clues. They could be evil outsiders, or gods. Or they could be Good and Ravenloft is a prison. Or maybe they started out as good and became evil. Who knows. The truth be told. I don't deal with them much in my games. While I dislike the idea of Ravenloft being a giant roach motel of evil, I also like to keep the players and the Dark Lords in check.

Plus there are the Dark Lords. Very powerful, not very mobile. I like to use a bit more flexibility with my Dark Lords and Powers. Granted this has not always worked out as well as I would have liked. But I'll keep experimenting. Normally I like to take a page out of the Masque of Red Death and not have Dark Lords at all. Or rather, they are there, but they are significantly weaker when they leave their area of control.

No Dragons?
How is it there are no dragons in Ravenloft, a Dungeons and Dragons game? Well I have added them. Yes they are evil and there is even a Dragon dark lord. The realm is Draconis, and it is also from Mystara. It is currently an island. It too has it's roots in Glantri. You can download it from Draconis.

If I continue the world metaphor then there are plenty of places for Dragon Dark Lords and Dragons. While Draconis is based on Glantri, it has it roots in the mystical "Dragon Isle" of so many fantasy stories, including the tales of Michael Moorcock's Elric.

BTW I still have Draconis laying around here somewhere.  I reused large portions of it for my Dragon Ilse in my kids 3.x game.

I'll have to see what else I have laying around.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Zatannurday: Villains & Vigilantes

Another post? Twice in one day?

Here is Zee's sheet for Villains & Vigilantes.

Zatannurday: The Doc and Zee Magic Show!

I have mentioned the Tower of Fate here before.  Here is a post from yesterday.

Tower of Fate: Fun Friday Post: The Doc and Zee Magic Show!: Found this awesome image on Tumblr.  It wasn't credited to anyone so I'm sorry for not giving proper credit to the artist.

Here is what I found:

The artist is Tom Bancroft.

Thanks again to the Tower of Fate!!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Willow & Tara: Villains & Vigilantes

I want to continue talking about Villains & Vigilantes today.

It seems like years ago that Tim Knight of Hero Press asked me to do V&V write-ups of Willow & Tara.  I actually remember it being almost exactly 2 years ago because I was sitting in the DMV getting my licensed renewed. I had my copy of V&V 2.1 on my tablet and jotting down some notes on powers.

The biggest issue with any supers game is magic. It really is the "break all the powers" power.  Especially in systems where you can take Magic and then take all the other powers as spells.

Here are the girls in their post Dragon and the Phoenix versions.

Tempting Fate and Pay What You Want

So Evil Hat has released their two new Fate game and also released a new model of how they would like people to pay for their games.

Fate Core System and Fate Accelerated Edition are now out.
And YOU decide how much you want to pay for them.

Think Fate Core is worth $20 (at 308 pages that is a steal for a core book) then pay 20.  You only want to pay 5?  Pay 5.

It is an interesting concept really and I am curious on how it will work out.
Tenkar has listed a number of OSR Pay What You Want books including the very popular Teratic Tome and his own Minor Magiks & Miscellaneous Arcana Volume I.

I can't wait to see how all of this plays out really. I think it will be a success.  You may say but won't people pay less than what you should be charging? Sure, but I think there will be more people buying. Honestly which one is better? Five people paying $5 for a pdf or 50 people paying a $1 for it?  And you will get people that believe in supporting authors and game companies, so they will spend $10.

How about you all?
Would you do "Pay What You Want" for you books (game or novels or otherwise)?

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Justice is Blind, Issue 6: Villains & Vigilantes

Today is the Heroes & Villains Blogfest  hosted by Jackie and Dani.  This is Part 2 of my post for that, Part 1 was posted earlier today.

I want to continue talking about Villains & Vigilantes I thought it would be interesting to bring back my superhero character Justice and introduce her new arch nemesis.

To bring everyone up to speed Justice is a character I created for the Mutants & Masterminds RPG for a game we were going to play that day.  Her real name is Astra Ka-el, aka Astra Kent and she is the daughter of Superman and Wonder Woman.  I based her off the last few pages of the comic Kingdom Come, which deals with the superheroes we know in about 20 or so years.  I won't spoil it all for you. Read it, it is fantastic (or watch this fan made trailer). But one of the futures they point to is the possibility of Superman and Wonder Woman having a daughter.  You can read the back story I did for her in "Issue 1: Justice is Blind".  The last time we saw Justice was Issue 5. In Issue 6 I wanted her to go to London where she could potentially run into the legendary, but retired, Acrobatic Flea.  This serves a number of purposes. It gets her to England to meet her new arch-nemesis, it ties in Villains & Vigilantes and it gives a shout out to +Tim Knight (the Flea himself!)  who has been wanting me to do more with V&V forever.

So I introduced my hero.  Here is my villain.

Maggie "Mags" Shaw nee O'Neill aka "The Iron Maiden"
Maggie O'Neill was a plain, if brilliant girl, who lived in one of the poorest areas in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Maggie hated being poor, she hate being scared all the time (the Troubles were at their height) and she wanted nothing more than to get away.  To her that mean London.  After a car bomb destroyed the bus she was supposed to get on for school that morning (no one was killed) she had haad enough. At age 14 she ran away from home and made her way to London a couple of months later.  The education she had on the road was a hard one, and it hardened her.  When she got to London she was "discovered" by a talent scout looking for young, and maybe disposable, girls for modeling. Mags, as she called herself now, quickly turned a would-be tragic situation to one where she was on the cover of every fashion magazine by 16 and a national and tabloid celebrity by 18.  She used her keen intellect, charisma and complete lack of moral center to get to the top of the heap.  Her looks, while plain as a child, transformed her into "The Face of London".  Her name even became so synonymous with magazine covers that people thought it was a play on words.
In her 20s her career took a dip when she tried acting and was terrible.  Same with pop songs. She quietly completed degrees in mathematics, engineering and robotics while people suspected she was out partying.
At 24 she stunned the world when she married multinational billionaire Halloran Shaw, depiste being nearly 40 years younger.  She took a keen interest in his business and became a full partner and soon rose (by much of the same combination of lack of ethics and keen intelligence) to a position of VP and a seat on the board.  Her enemies begrudged her polished public image and despised her ruthless private one.  When Shaw died he left everything to her including controlling stock in his company, locking out his own grown children.
Mags would have had it all had it not been for a PR stunt gone tragic.
Shaw International was responsible for making high capacity batteries for cell phones and small electronics.  Their factories though were located in India and were the worse sort of sweat shops.  Thousands, cramped into small spaces to build batteries with caustic chemicals.  Ventilation was poor, and deaths were common, but as they were the only employer for hundreds of kilometers she had all the workers she could want.  Protest groups caught news of this and were making a stink.  Mags herself went to the factory to hold a press conference. Most of the employees where cleared out (with out pay) so tours could be given.
In the midst of this pr stunt the factory exploded.   The death toll was high, but would have been much higher had it not been for Justice, who had been near by and heard the explosion with her super hearing.
One person though she didn't save, because she didn't know, was Mags.  Mags watched and Justice saved all these people, while she was pinned under tons of rubble while chemicals and fire burned her skin.
Mags was found, alive, but the damage was too great.  For a year she was in the hospital. She lost her legs, an arm, part of her face, some the fingers on her other hand.  She eventually recovered, but swore she would have her revenge.  The news (thanks to a healthy pay off) made the claim that eco-terrorists caused the explosion, so popular opinion was for the "poor woman" who had "lost everything".
Secretly Mags has built herself a suit of armor that not only keeps her alive, but also enhances all her physical stats.  She has been using it to steal what she can't buy or make herself.  She has killed and seems likely to do so again.  Though no one suspects that the armored thief the tabloids call The Iron Maiden is really Mags Shaw.  And no one know that she is building a weapon to kill Justice!

Here they are in their Villains & Vigilantes glory.  Justice and her arch nemesis The Iron Maiden!

There might be errors here.  It has been years since I played V&V.

See more posts here:

Heroes & Villains Blogfest: Villains & Vigilanties

Today is the Heroes & Villains Blogfest  hosted by Jackie and Dani.  This is Part 1 of my post for that, Part 2 is later today.

The idea is to talk about our favorite heroes and villains.  But I do that a lot here.  So I am going to do that today, but I also want to talk about about one of my favorite superhero role-playing games.  It is also the first superhero RPG I ever played.  Villains & Vigilantes.
The current edition is the 2nd edition and you can get the classic version from Fantasy Games Unlimited (the one I played) or the new 2.1 edition from Monkey House Games. They are functionally the same, even with the same text and some art.

V&V was written by Jack Herman and Jeff Dee.  Jeff Dee got his start on D&D doing some of the classic module art and book art for the 1st edition game.   So the game has some obvious D&D roots.
V&V was unique at the time (and still somewhat) in that in the game you play yourself.  You work out with the other players what your strength, endurance, intelligence and the rest are and then you roll randomly on a table of super powers.  It's a very interesting and fun concept that we completely ignored.  Back in the day we liked playing a "multi-verse" so our V&V characters were our D&D characters in a supers universe.  The stats were the mostly the same and both games had levels.  Plus it gave us excuses to have strengths of 50 or more (human max is 18).  I remember it being a very good time.

As typical of many old school games there are lots of random rolls, charts and a fair amount of math involved. I went back recently to make a character and was thrilled to see that Monkey House Games had an Excel character sheet.  The math isn't hard really, but Excel is still faster. Though such things have been around for a long time even with the older edition.

Powers are list by type.  So Power Blast is just a blast of some sort of power. It could be Superman's heat vision, Iron Man's repulsors, or even Zatanna's magical blast.   What is interesting is teh combat matrix of powers vs. defenses and how they interact. Again, the D&D DNA is here since it reminds me of the Psionic Powers Attacks vs Defenses in 1st Ed AD&D.

There is a V&V campaign world as well.  It is loosely defined in the core books, but much greater detail is given in the supplements.  It is also one of the few Supers games I can recall where the characters were working for the government at some level.  The ill-fated City of Heroes RPG was another.

There are a couple of great sections on Being a Superhero and Gamemastering that work great with any supers RPG.

IF you like old school RPGs and want to get into a supers game that feels like those, then this is a great choice.  The price is low and there are plenty of places on the web that support either version of the game with materials, character write-ups and community.

A little later today I'll have a write up of a hero and a villain.

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