Friday, January 8, 2016

Friday Night Videos: Happy Birthday Elvis & David Bowie!

Happy Birthday to two great kings of rock, Elvis and David Bowie.

Birthday Witches

Today is a special day for two of my friends. Not only do they have new witch books out but it is also their birthdays!

Amber Benson's new book in the Witches of Echo Park series came out this week.  "The Last Dream Keeper" continues the story of the Echo Park coven and the discover that one among them, Lizbeth, is the last Dream Keeper.  In this book their enemies outnumber their friends and the coven will need to protect Lizabeth no matter the cost.

+Elizabeth Chaipraditkul also has a birthday today.  Her new game is "WITCH: Fated Souls".  I am still reading this one, but enjoy what I see so far.  I supported her Kickstarter for the book and I am quite pleased to have done so.  From the book:
You are a member of the Fated. An entire new world has opened up to you. This new world is filled with different planes to explore, each more beautiful and terrifying then the next. It has magical creatures, beasts woven from dreamstuff and monsters wrapped in nightmares. It is filled with a deep and beautiful history, some which only seems like a fairy tale. Your world will never be the same.

Together with your coven, other witches and warlocks who have been Fated, you will explore all the world and planes have to offer. Your coven will protect you, share in your joy, but also be the group of people who understand the harsh realities the life of being Fated brings. You’ll deal with the society, other Fated who have formed groups and government, ruled over by a group of Fated called the Council.

It *seems* like to me you could use Elizabeth's game to play in Amber's world.  I need to read more of each book to know for sure.  But I do know I will have a great time trying to find out!

Please wish these wonderful ladies happy birthday today by buying their books.  I consider them both to be freinds and I know the time, energy and love they put into their writing.

Happy Birthday to you both!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Game of the Year 2015: White Star

For me it really is no contest what last year's biggest and best game was.

It was +James Spahn's White Star.

Not that it is faux-Star Wars in a year of Star Wars (but that helps).
Not that it is a Swords & Wizardry reskinned (but that also helps).

No, it is because it is just so damn fun.  You can tell that James must have been having a great time writing this. It shows in his work.  Plus it is such a good seller on RPGNow and DriveThruRPG others must find it fun as well.

I also give it this nod for all the great supplements that have been coming out for it. You can find some of them in this nifty little guide, The White Star Catalog.

White Star isn't just a cool set of rules, it is also a nice sandbox with some minor assumptions on a game universe.   The best elements are left open for others to play with and develop further.

Between Star & Void is a great example.
This book covers the Star Knights and their enemies, the Void Knights, in greater detail.  +Matthew Skail has done a great job of showing us what both groups of Knights can do.  I came away not so much wanting to run "Jedi" or "Sith" but something more akin to the Green Lantern Corps.  At 109 pages it is a pretty full (101 pages of content) of material for Star Knights and Void Knights.  This book also includes Mystics, Star Pilot, Way Adapt and Alien Star Knight, and of course, Void Knights and an extra special group, the Eclipse Knights.
There are plenty of new Meditations for the Knights and Mystics and new Empowerments for Void Knights.  The Void Knights really kind of steal the show here a bit.  I think everyone loves a  good bad guy.  Though the Star Pilot will get a lot of love in some game groups I am sure.
We also have a chapter on Star Knight Martial Styles and a chapter on Star Sword construction.  They really put the "Tao" in "Way" here.  I have to admit reading this feels just like playing games in the late 70s early 80s when sci-fi was king and everywhere. I had toys from various franchises and freely mixed them all together is a crazy, and mostly incoherent, whole.  But I didn't care, it was fun.
This book is like that.  Not crazy and incoherent, but certainly a lot of fun.
There are some great Appendices here too. There is an alternate Meditation system in Appendix A.
Appendix B includes some "Fantasy Conversions" for Swords & Wizardry, Labyrinth Lord, Adventurer Conqueror King, or higher level White Star games.  This includes higher level Meditations

The art is a mixed lot, but I love the cover.
There are some obvious typos and the text needs some cleaning up here and there, but nothing that impacts readability or use.  There is a lot of fun in this book and I can't wait to try it out.

Even given my long complicated relationship with Sci-Fi RPGs, I think I may have found my game.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Class Struggles: Race as Class

My love for D&D Basic era play is well known and well documented, but my love is tempered and not complete.  I have a confession.  I really am not a fan of B/X or BECMI style Race as Class.

In the D&D Basic rules Dwarves and Halflings are basically fighters with level limits.  Elves are multiclassed fighter/magic-users, also with level limits.   While this certainly works, it also seems rather, well... limiting.  I mean really, the archetypical halfling/hobbit is a thief.  This was one of the reasons I think so many people went over to AD&D.  I know it was true, partially, for me.
Over the years of game-play I have worked around this, but I never quite got used to it.

Now one thing I do like is the idea that different races should different class expressions.  So not a "theif" per se but a "burgler" would be cool.  Something special.

The ACKS Player's Companion does a great job of this really. This includes such new classes as the dwarven delver, dwarven fury, dwarven machinist, elven courtier, elven enchanter, elven ranger, and the gnomish trickster.  While these could, at the surface level, be viewed as mere renaming of the basic four classes, there is a little more to play with here in terms of special abilites.
As mentioned in the past, this is also the book you need when you want to create new classes.

+James Spahn's Barrel Rider Games has a number of demi-human classes in the Class Compendium.  These include various dwarven classes; Raging Slayer, Rune-Smith and the Warchanter. Some elves, Dark Elf, Greensinger, Half-Elf and the Sylvan Elf.  And as to be expected, Halfling classes, Burglar, Feast Master, Huckster, Lucky Fool, and the Tavern Singer.

I think there are a lot of options for race-specific classes or archetypes.

Back in the 2nd Ed days we had "kits" for various classes and some of these were racial archetypes. The Complete Book of Elves is a good example.  There is a lot of fluff and some backgrounds, but the real meat comes in when we get into the sub-races.  I was never a fan of the Drow-fetish that plagued much of post 1st ed D&D, but a sylvan elf or something stranger like a snow elf, would have been cool to play.  Heck I even created my own elf race, the Gypsy Elf, to fill this need.  We don't get to any of the class kits till Chapter 10. There are some nice choices but we also get the nearly 'broken'* Bladesinger.    *I say broken, but really I just don't like it all that much, and it was abused a lot in groups I was in.

The books for the Dwarves and the Halflings & Gnomes book are similar.  What gets me though is really how much we are lacking in race-specific classes.  Sure the entire idea behind "Fighting-Man" and "Magic-User" is so they can be generic enough to cover all possibilities. But I think after we got past 0e and certainly into AD&D we would be at a point where there should have been more race-specific expressions of class archetypes.
Something like what I did for the Dwarven witch, the Xothia.  Still a recognizable archetype (witch) but presented through the lens of a specific race (dwarf).    Honestly I would like to see a reason, given in a similar format, for the gnome illusionist.  Why are there gnome illusionists? What are they called?

The Companion Expansion from Barrataria Games does cover gnomes and wild-wood (sylvan) elves, half-orcs, half-ogres and half-elves as race-classes.  Wood elves share the same spell lists as do druids and gnomes share a list with Illusionists and bards.  All for the B/X system.  Maybe something +Gavin Norman and +Nathan Irving could look into for their updates for their respective spellcaster books.

I think in the end I would like to see more racial, or read that as cultural, applications of classes.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Against the Slave Lords Reprint now in PDF

2016 starts out with a bang as WotC gives us the reprint of Against the Slave Lords in PDF.

I just grabbed it (since that is the adventure my kids are now going through) and it looks exactly like the print copy.

I has the A1 to A4 adventures and the introductory A0 adventure.  Sadly not the A5 adventure, The Last Slave Lord.

I can now print out maps and mark them up all I like!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Back to Work

Today is back to work for most of us.  I took the time off from Christmas to now and spent it at home.

Got in a lot of games with my kids.  Mostly I worked on some projects I have needed to get done with.  Made good progress too.

Every Christmas we either watch all the Harry Potter movies or Lord of the Rings.
This year we opted for the Hobbit Extended Editions and Lord of the Rings.

I saw the Hobbit in the theaters.  Some of the new material I liked, some I didn't.  But what bugged me the most was not what was added, but what was missing.  These extended editions have added that material back in.  I can honestly say I enjoyed the Extended Edition far more than I thought I would.

Last year at this time I had worked out a vague-ish plan for the blog, but not so this year.
I do know one thing, with the increased demands of work and the need to get some other projects done I am likely not going to be posting as much here.
No worries.  I only mean that my multiple posts per day.  For the last 5 years I have been posting about 1.3x a day, or 9 to 10 posts per week.  Can't keep that up forever.

I am hoping that as quantity goes down, quality goes up. One can hope right!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Skylla: Compleat Spell Caster

The Compleat Spellcaster

Recently +Eric Fabiaschi over at Swords & Stitchery did a retro-review of the old Bard Games "The Compleat Spellcaster".   A book I have enjoyed for a number of years. A book that I will freely admit got me interested in doing my own witch class back in the day.  I played a witch using these rules rather briefly, but soon switched over to my own version.   Eric points out that the book is rich in ideas and magic.  What I personally liked were the spells and the variety of demons.  I still use Astorath, Shax and empusa demons.  

Eric did a fine review, so no need for me to go over the same ground.  Instead I want to see what sort of witch I can make with it.

In this book witches are a sub-class of the druid. Likewise necromancers and mystics are subclasses of the cleric.  I rather like this to be honest, I like that wisdom is the primary stat for the witch.

Skylla, 7th Level Witch
Chaotic Evil

Strength: 9
Dexterity: 11
Constitution: 10
Intelligence: 12
Wisdom: 14
Charisma: 13

Breath Weapon: 13
Poison & Death: 7
Petrify: 10
Wands: 11
Spells: 12

Hit Points:  25
AC: 4 (Ring of Protection AC 4)
Familiar: Imp (looks like a small dragon)

1st level: Detect Magic, Disguise, Eldritch Fire, Hex, Object Reading, Summon Familiar
2nd level: Circle of Darkness, Frost, Levitate, Youth
3rd level: Dispell Magic, E.S.P., Locate Object
4th level: Invisibility, Thunderbolt

There are a lot of great spells for the witch.  There some powers that the witch gains including some alchemy and gathering followers.  I think this is good version of Skylla, though the lack of 8th and 9th level spells reduces the overall power of the class.

In the end I will repeat what Eric said, "...the Complete Spell Caster has a lot to offer if a DM thinks outside the usual boxes."