Monday, March 11, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Beasties II from Night Owl Workshop

Now I have gone on the record, many, many times, talking about how much I love monster books. My first glimpse into D&D was way back in 1978-79 when I first saw and read the Monster Manual.  Very few books have come close to that feeling of unlimited potential.  So when a new monster book comes out, I have to take a look and usually grab it.

Beasties II from Night Owl Workshop has something of a pedigree in my mind.  The art and text are from none other than Thomas Denmark.  He is responsible for some of my favorite art during the d20 boom, in particular, Citizen Games' "Way of the Witch".   Plus I LOVED Beasties I so grabbing this was a no brainer for me.

Beasties II is a digest-sized book. 90 pages with black & white art. According to the sales text on DriveThru the book contains:
27 Monsters
8 NPC's
40 Drawings
1 Map
Article on Goblinology

The book follows the same format as Beasties I. Like the first Beasties it certainly punches above its weight class in terms of monsters and content.  All the text and art is by Denmark himself. 

The book is designed for "Original Fantasy Rules" but plenty of conversion notes are given for OSRIC and Basic Fantasy.  There are also some conversion notes for Nite Owl Workshop's other games Colonial Troopers, GuardiansWarriors of the Red PlanetRaiders of the Lost Artifacts and Freebooters.

The definition of "monster" is certainly very old-school too, with some traps, "minor monsters", and NPCs included for good measure. 

But the REAL reason to get this book is goblins.  There are several goblin hybrids; Blorc, Bugbearzerker, Gnomblin, Hoblin, Hoblin (Cruel), Koblin, Zoblin and a whole article on Goblinology or the Ecology of the Goblin.  Frankly, the book is worth it for all of this alone. 
Seriously. If you like goblins then grab this now.

There are also some undead and some really fun fiends.  The Drumph gets a full publication so that is now.  A new aquatic humanoid race is introduced, the Shahatha.  I rather like them to be honest and will be porting them over to my 5e game.

The NPCs are also a lot of fun.  One, Isaina Lyd’ar, reminds me of the work he did for Way of the Witch.  So much so I might convert to a White Box Witch.   She looks like she would be fun to play. Maybe she is a Sinderan Witch tradition.



So a lot of great content for $4.  Plus the entire work is released as "Open" under the OGL so that is a nice touch.

Bookmarks in the PDF would have been nice as well as a PDF clickable table of contents, but that is a minor thing really.

If you love monsters get this book.
If you love goblins you REALLY need to get this book.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Kickstart Your Weekend Mega Post!

A bunch of new and really awesome looking RPG Kickstarters are out.  So here is a bunch of them. There has to be at least one her you will like.



DCC RPG Module: Reckoning of the Gods-Into the Shadow Realm

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/studio9games/dcc-rpg-module-reckoning-of-the-gods-into-the-shad?ref=theotherside

While I don't play Dungeon Crawl Classics the RPG, I do LOVE their adventures.  This is a 32-page adventure for 3rd level characters for DCC or any old-school game.  You know the production values will be high and the adventure will be deadly.

Rise of the Drow: Collector's Edition for D&D 5E and PFRPG



https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/adventureaweek/rise-of-the-drow-collectors-edition-for-dandd-5e-a?ref=theotherside

This is a big book!  In 2014 the original Rise of the Drow came out for Pathfinder.  While I didn't run it as written I used huge chunks of it when I ran Vault of the Drow last year and it was fantastic.  This book would have been welcome then since it is now going to be for 5e and Pathfinder.

Adventures Great and Glorious


 https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/brwgames/adventures-great-and-glorious?ref=theotherside

Joseph Bloch is back with another great sounding book for old-school games.  This one is for high-level campaigns, running kingdoms and intrigue. It sounds a little like "Companion Set for AD&D + Birthright", but I am sure it is more than that.
Joe runs a tight Kickstarter. He does what he says and gets things done.  To date he also the only Kickstarter creator to get me books BEFORE his stated deadlines.  This book should also be a great as his others.

Basic and Expert RPG Sets Remastered!


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/640360422/basic-and-expert-rpg-sets-remastered?ref=theotherside

Bill Barsh of Pacesetter Games has been out there producing some high-quality material and books for a long time.  This one is so far up my alley that it is practically in my living room.  I have gone on forever about my love of Basic-era D&D and B/X in particular.   Well, this looks like so much fun!

Witch+Craft, a 5e Supplemental


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/astrolago/witch-craft-a-5e-supplemental?ref=theotherside

Now this one looks like a lot of fun.  Tradecraft, magic and crafting for your D&D5 characters.  Exactly the sort of commonplace magic one would expect to see in a world filled with magic.  This one is on the opposite end of the spectrum than DCC and that is what makes it look fun.
Love the art.

Lost Classes and Cannibal Corpses - Two Original RPG Zines




https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/gamersandgrognards/lost-classes-and-cannibal-corpses-two-original-rpg?ref=theotherside

Back on to the old-school side of things, long time blogger Ryan Thompson has his first Kickstarter out.   Appendix N Entertainment gives not one but two zines; Lost Classes and Canibal Corpse. "Lost Classes: The Arnesonian Classes" features two classes played in Dave Arneson's games, the Merchant and the Sage.  It is worth it because of that really.
"Solar Sanctuary of the Cannibal Corpse" is an adventure module for 1st-3rd level characters.

And finally. Let's not forget the 8,000 lb (800 lb is not enough) gorilla out there.

Critical Role: The Legend of Vox Machina Animated Special


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/criticalrole/critical-role-the-legend-of-vox-machina-animated-s?ref=theotherside

Honestly, what do I need to say about this one? Hit 4 million in it's first few hours of opening.  At just under 6.5 million now and there are still 41 days of funding to go.  I am pretty sure this is the largest RPG-related Kickstarter ever. It is even more money that the recent https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/mst3k/bringbackmst3k/descriptionMST3k Kickstarter.
So yeah, Critical Role is a big deal. 

So get out your wallet or purse and get ready to slap some cash down.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Maximum Mayhem Mail!

Got home last night to a mail call from Mark Taormino.  This is always a good time.



The box came with his new adventure module #5 Palace of the Dragon's Princess and some dice in a bag.  The dice are actually quite nice.


The box is nice an sturdy.


It holds all five of the Maximum Mayhem adventures and the monster book, Monsters of Mayhem #1.  It will also hold a bunch of his characters sheets once I print them out on goldenrod paper and all the extra perks that came with the adventures (posters, 3D art).


There is also enough room in the box for a rule set.  While the monsters and adventures are overtly "Advanced" in design (OSRIC, Advanced Labyrinth Lord), the maximum level for the adventures is 14 and that screams B/X to me.   I'll have to find the right OSR rules that fits the feeling of these.

You can still get a box while supplies last directly from Dark Wizard.
The adventure modules, monster book, and character sheets can be found at DriveThruRPG/RPGNow.


I should spend some time and go through all of these in detail. Maybe look over different games to run them under.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Darlessa the Vampire Queen

I have had a long and sorted history with the "Vampire Queen" in my games.

One of the first adventures I worked on for OSR publication was called "The Tomb of the Vampire Princess" or "Vampire Queen" or "Palace" depending on my mood at the time.

I essentially saw it as a sequel of sorts to the original Wee Warriors / Pacesetter Games "Palace of the Vampire Queen".  But a few things happened. First Mark Taormino published his own "Hanging Coffins of the Vampire Queen" which was AWESOME.  Then Bill Barsh of Pacesetter Games produced some sequels of his own with Castle Blood and Crypts of the Living.
So the need for my own sequel dwindled.

A couple years back Small Niche Games produced Guidebook to the Duchy of Valnwall. I had the pleasure of working on that product.  I submitted a character to be "Saint" in the game, Father Johan Werper, my very first D&D character ever.  When I got my copy I was so thrilled. Something I had wanted to happen for ages was going to happen, Johan was going to be a real saint in a "D&D" book! I opened it up and I was not disappointed at all!  Moreover the book's main author and designer Pete Spahn had added this section:
He died in a tragic tale that is recounted in the Hunt for the Dark Mistress, where he tracked down and slew Darlessa the Vampire Queen who had abducted his granddaughter.
Unfortunately, Johan was himself cursed by the taint of the vampire's blood. Rather than remain an undead abomination, he bid goodbye to his granddaughter and used the last of his strength to douse his body with oil and set himself alight.
Pete never contacted me about this and I could not have been happier!  Without knowing it he included things that happened in my game; Johan dying and leaving his granddaughter, Celene, behind (Celene was my first 2nd Ed character, and afraid of the dark.  Now I know why).  The use of holy oil in my games (does 1d8 damage to undead; more when lit) and of course giving a name to an enemy that had been lurking in the back of my mind ever since I first read about Elizabeth Bathory.

It was like throwing a deck of cards into the air and having them land in a perfect house of cards.

So modules V5 and V6 combined will cover a lot of similar territory to what I was going to do in my adventure. So I'll just drop that and keep the elements that are new.  The opening of the crypts.

I have a stack of various notes, maps, ideas and going through them all I think I have something pretty cool here.  I'll have to get it all together in time for my annual Halloween horror game.

Right now the working title is Descent into the Crypts of the Vampire Queen. It will be my homage to the great adventures of the Golden Era but also a nod to the two Vampire Queen adventures that brought me so much joy.

Here she is for Advanced Labyrinth Lord.

Darlessa, The Queen of Vampires
Female Vampire Witch, Demonic Tradition
No. Enc.: 1 (Unique)
Alignment: Chaotic (evil)
Movement: 120’ (40’)
   Fly: 180’ (60’)
Armor Class: -5 (bracers of defense, amulet of protection, ring of protection)
Hit Dice: 13
Attacks: 1 (touch, see below) or spell
Damage: 1d10, drain 2 points of Constitution, witch Spells
Save: W13
Morale: 12
Hoard Class: XXII
XP: 11,400

Str: 18 Int: 15 Wis: 14 Dex: 18 Con: (18) Cha: 22

In addition to the powers of a vampire, Darlessa has the following witch spells and Occult Powers.  She casts as a 13th level witch.

Spells by Level
Cantrip (3+5): Alarm Ward, Black Flame, Daze, Knot, Mend, Mote of Light, Object Reading, Spark
1st (4+3): Burning Hands, Cause Fear, Everlasting Candle, Hecate's Spiritual Dog, Minor Curse, Read Languages
2nd (4+3): Agony, Bewitch II, Burning Gaze, Enthrall, Ghost Touch, Produce Flame, Rite of Remote Seeing
3rd (3+2): Astral Sense, Clairaudience/Clairvoyance, Danse Macabre, Toad Mind, Tongues
4th (3+2): Arcane Eye, Bewitch IV, Elemental Armor, Moonlit Way, Phantom Lacerations
5th (2): Death Curse, Greater Command
6th (2): Death Blade
7th (1): Wave of Mutilation

Occult Powers
Familiar (Undead Raven)
Evil’s Touch
Devil’s Tongue

Magic Items
Intangible Cloak of Shadows, Amulet of Protection* (also prevents cleric turning), bracers of defense, ring of protection, ring spell storing.

Links to Adventures
Links to my 'Vampire Queen' posts


Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Review: Shadowtide: A Blue Rose Novel

Shadowtide: A Blue Rose Novel

The trouble with most "gamer fiction" is you can practically hear the dice being rolled in the background.  Sometimes, and it doesn't matter how compelling the story, you can't bu help see or hear game terms being thrown about.
Thankfully that is NOT the issue here with Shadowtide: A Blue Rose Novel by Joseph D. Carriker, Jr.

Carriker gives us a story we can get into and characters we can care about, that is the job of all good storytellers; whether that medium is a novel, a play or a role-playing game.  In this case, we get a good novel that preserves what we like or want from the RPG but still satisfies as a novel.

The story opens with the disappearance (likely murder) of two envoys from the Sovereign's Finest.  The Sovereign is Queen Jaelin of Aldis and her envoys are tasked with helping out where they can and mostly fighting the forces of evil. The two envoys are tracking down a reported case of Shadow Sorcerery in the Veran Marsh east of Aldis.  Shadow is more than just black magic, it is a taint of the unworldly, of the unnatural.  Contrasts are turned up in Aldis, the evil are very evil and the good...well the good try to be very good, but as this book reminds us even the Envoys of the Queen, the very symbols of good, have to make hard choices.

The story begins with a trio of envoys.  I would say "unlikely" but in truth the envoys are a varied lot. We have Soot who is a Rhy-Crow, or an intelligent crow with the abilities of an Adept. Morjin Brightstar, a lovable rogue and rake who works best alone, but is constantly falling love with whomever he meets.  A note. Morjin is a character who in a lesser hand would have been VERY annoying.  But Carriker invests a lot of attention and dare I say love into Morjin that you feel for the guy.  He is a former Roamer, a nomadic culture similar to the Romany of our world, but he has been exiled from his clan.  So it becomes easy to see how his happy-go-lucky, devil-may-care nature hides a profound sadness of what would be a good heart.  Finally the last of our trio is Ydah (pronounced EE0dah). She is a Night person, or what might pass for a half-orc in other books. She is the fighter to Morjin's lover.  She is also recovering from recent grief and hides her sadness behind a gruff exterior and a desire to beat the living crap out of people. Which she excels at. 

The trio finds themselves in a hidden smuggler's town called Serpent's Haven.  Where basically everyone is a criminal or descended from a criminal of some sort.  Their mission here is to discover what happened to other envoys and figure out what the nature of the Shadow they were looking for.

I don't want to spoil the plot, but suffice to say it involves cults, crazed cultists, a Dark Fiend and the ever-present danger of Shadow to all that are around it, friend and foe alike.

Naturally, comparisons will be made to the Valdemar books by Mercedes Lackey, of which Blue Rose is inspired by, but those comparisons are mainly superficial here.  Sure one can tell a "Valdemar" story with Blue Rose.  One could also tell this story with Blue Rose.  The differences to me lie at the heart of what Shadowtide and Blue Rose are really about.  The characters of both the novel and game try to do Good with a capital G.  But often the only choices they have are goods with a little g.  They can't fix every problem.  The difference I think then between a Blue Rose character and say a D&D character is that it is the good they can't do is what bothers the Blue Rose characters, and this makes them want to do and be better next time.

That is certainly true for our trio of heroes here.  Morjin feels bad about how treats certain people when he knows he has worked towards the greater good.  Ydah feels bad about having to kill (and kill she does) cultists, but she needs to stop an even greater evil. Soot, well Soot has some problems all his own and shows us how dangerous the cult they are dealing with is.

In the end, the characters care about their actions. They care about how others see them as envoys and they care about how others are treated.  They know there is injustice in the world, even Ydah mentions the stares she still gets in "enlightened Aldis", but they are working to make things a little bit better.  Because they care they are not the "murder hobos" of other games or stories and we care more for them as well.

The book ends, but room for a sequel is left open. I certainly hope so. The characters are entertaining and the mystery they are delving into is a fascinating one.  Kudos to Carriker for giving us characters whose motivations I believe and whose stories are compelling enough to make me want more.

You can get this book in a lot of places.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Snakes. Why did it have to be Snakes?

A little something different today for MM.  I want to talk about snake people.


Snake people, serpent folk, Ophidians, Yuan-ti whatever you want to call them they have been a staple of fiction and D&D since ... well likely forever.

They were common enough in the pages in the Conan that even as a casual reader of the pulps I had heard about them.  They have had a prominent focus in AD&D with the Yuan-ti; so much so that there are one of the very, very few monsters that are IP and Closed to the OGL.
So yeah, they come with some history.

I think it is also that snakes seem so loathsome to humans.  There is just something "evil" about them in our collective subconscious.   That makes them a great old-school threat.

Review: Serpentine - Oldskull Serpent Folk

Serpentine - Oldskull Serpent Folk from Oldskull, aka Kent David Kelly is a nice RPG for adding and using Serpent Folk, known as Serpentine here, in any old-school like game. The book is 41 pages with cover and OGL statement. Everything is 100% open minus the usual trade dress and some names.  The book is full color, but mostly public domain black and white art.
The purpose of this book is to bring together various mythos and stories together to present a cohesive whole narrative of a primordial race of serpent people.  In this respect, it works rather well.
History and Pre-History of the Serpent Folk. Drawing on the works of Dunsany, Lovecraft, Howard, and Smith Kelley weaves a history (or Hisssstory!) that combines the Hyborian Mythos and the Cthulhu Mythos, with other myths of the world added for good measure.  While overtly for the Oldskull world it can be added and modified as any game master needs.  One of the reasons it works so well here is that Kelley draws on some primordial myths and legends.  The same that influenced the authors of the stories being used.   Quotes from those authors are found throughout this book.
Up next we get a Serpent Folk Truename Generator.  A useful tool to help you name all those NPCs (or even PCs) you plan on using.  This is followed by Description or what your serpent folk looks like.  A section on Ability Minimums, Maximums and Modifiers is next. After that are sections on Behavior, XP modifiers, and views on Alignment.
There is a list of serpent folk deities from other myths.  It is a good list, but I have a few issues with some of the gods on it; for example Brigid. But the vast majority I see why they are there.  Mostly Serpent Folk are going to worship Yig and/or Tsathogga, though Set is a close runner up.
We get into a section now on Class Options for Serpent Folk. Most are going to fall into the various fighter classes and thief-related classes.  Also presented here is the new Soul Slaver class, which combines Cleric, Shaman, and Necromancer all in one serpent-related class.  It's a good class and it adds a lot of flavor to the Serpent Folk.  I might tweak it to be less Necromancer and more Shaman myself, but that is only personal bias, not a shortcoming of the class.  Basically, the class draws on the souls of the deceased to perform magical feats. There are spell lists, mostly from the classical B/X and Advanced sources.    They advance as Magic-Users, but have their own spell progression and, in a nice old-school touch, level titles.
There is also a section on Racial Powers serpent folk get and what kinds of snakes they are likely to summon.  This also included specail attacks and special limitations.
There is a nice section on how Serpent folk get along with Dragons (spoiler, they don't) that really sealed the deal for me.  I have been using various serpent-like races (Yuan-ti, Naga) as the ancient ancestral enemies of the Dragonfolk (Dragonborn) for years.
We end with a recomended reading list.
So for just $3 and a little over 40 pages this book packs a lot in.  There are so many cool ideas it is hard to figure out where I want to start with it.  I think that since Kelley tapped into some primal myths here that all gamers have an idea of these creatures, he just put it down in writing for us.

PWWO: Serpentine in Other Old-School Games

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea has been my obsession over the last few weeks. Given the background of both AS&SH and Serpentine, it should really be no surprise then that I see the two of them working quite well together.  With the addition of Serpentine you can really "punch up" the stats for Sanke People in AS&SH. Already an interesting monster, now with this addition Snake People go from "just another monster" in the Bestiary section to potential Big Bad material.  Growing cult activity? Serpent People. More dinosaur sightings? Serpent People.  Increased slave trade? Yup. Serpent People.   Plus AS&SH and Oldskull Serpentine draw from exactly the same sources. They just rearrange things in a different order.  Both books feature Yig and owners of one book should find it to be of positive use when used with the other book.

Serpentine features the often used Clark Ashton Smith god, Tsathoggua.  Here he is considered to be a god of the Serpent People. AS&SH has the god Xathoqqua, which is the same god.  There are some differences in how they are portrayed in each book, but gods are supposed to be mutable.  Of course, the best source for Tsathogga (yet another spelling) is from the Frog Gods themselves in their Tome of Horror Complete.  Here he is presented as a demon, but that is perfect for me really. The same book (and the Tome of Horrors 4) have the Inphidians, which are their versions of the Yuan-ti, save Open for the OGL. Speaking of the Frog Gods, in their Monstrosities book feature Ophidians, a name I have also used in the past, as snake men.

The OSR games Blueholme and Adventurer Conqueror King System both have rules within their systems to allow Serpentine player characters. All you need really is the Serpentine book.


Union of the Snake: The Second Campaign

The heroes of the Second Campaign, my D&D 5e nod to old-school gaming, have already had their first encounter with the Yuan-ti.  They have encountered other snake-like creatures and reptiles worshiping snake gods, but everything is about to go into overdrive when they hit their desert-related adventures.

While the campaign is 5e based there is a lot of old-school influences in it.  I plan to take a bunch of the material above, put it in a blender then bury it in a desert for 3,000 years and see what comes up.
For me a lot of it is leading up to the ultimate confrontation with Demogorgon.
Borrowing from Advanced Labyrinth Lord I am using Demogorgon as the cult leader behind the snakes and snake men.  This fits in with my use of the blood apes as one of the three factions the worship Demogorgon; with human cultists and Ophidians/Snake Men/Serpent Folk being the other two.  The campaign will take a solid desert/Egyptian turn here soon.  I just need to figure out the Set-Apep-Yig-Demogorgon connection.

Of course, there will be creepy ass snake-men and cultists. All part of the alchemy of my past. Yes. My influeces for this are an forgotten Dirk Benedict horror movie and Duran Duran.  My game, my weird ass childhood.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Kickstart Your Weekend: Old School Style Zines!

Got some great Old-school style Zines. So let's go!

The Isle of The Amazons - RPG Zine for #ZineQuest

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/ericfrombloatgames/the-isle-of-the-amazons-rpg-zine-for-zinequest?ref=theotherside

From friend of the Other Side Eric Bloat:
The Isle of The Amazons (TIOTA) is an optional setting designed specifically for Untold Adventures by Ennie Award winning author and designer, James M. Spahn. However, as such TIOTA, is compatible with Swords & Wizardry and really any White Box based game as well as easily convertible to be used with all OSR RPG games.

TIOTA showcases the island paradise of Elencia, the home of the Amazons. It also features Amazon City, the Amazons ways, their history, other inhabitants of Elencia, dangerous locations and monsters and much more.

TIOTA details the 7 new playable classes: The Aristocrat, Disciple of the High Priestess, Guard, Muse, Psion, Sorceress & Sungia.
It looks great!

Draugr & Draculas


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/joshburnett/draugr-and-draculas?ref=theotherside

Another Old Scool Zine!
Draugr & Draculas is a one-off zine for old-stye/OSR roleplaying adventure games. Dr&Dr focuses on vampires, undead, and spooky horror magic for use in your own fantasy RPG campaigns. The zine will be entirely written and illustrated by me, Josh Burnett. In accordance with the Zine Quest guidelines, Draugr & Draculas will be a 5.5” x 8.5” zine, staple-bound and printed in black-and-white. I estimate it should clock in at around 24-32 pages.

What's in the zine?
  • Count Dracula himself, as well as his origins and current motivations
  • Details on Dracula's lesser servants
  • Dracula's deadly rival, Elizabeth Bathory
  • Draugr—northern undead of varying degrees of power
  • The Draugr class
  • Rules for magic users striking a deal with the Devil
  • New magical items of perilous power
  • Pagan's Well, a small dungeon full of traps and treasure
  • And whatever else I can fit in this thing.   

Honestly, you had me at Vampires.

And of course a huge friend of the Other Side Justin Ryan Issac's offering.

Cade's Big Book o' Booze


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1988380379/cades-big-book-o-booze?ref=theotherside
Cade's Big Book o' Booze is a humorous zine designed to be used with the 5th edition of the world's most popular fantasy rpg. While the tone is jovial, the book itself will contain content useful for any fantasy game.
  • The "Intoxicated" condition and what it entails
  • New alcohols for your fantasy game to add some flavor (pun-intended) to your campaigns
  • New equipment and weapons, including the formidable dwarven battle mug
  • Cade's Bar Guide: a list of materials/ingredients found in the game world and how to use them to make the ultimate cocktails 
  • New magic: spells and magic items 
  • New monsters to face, including the b'ooze and the dreaded bad beer elemental
  • NPC stats for Cade Ashworthy, the titular planehopping halfling 
  • And more... 

At these prices, you can grab them all!