Monday, July 20, 2020

Monstrous Mondays: The Wendigo for NIGHT SHIFT, BX RPG and AS&SH

Modern Wendigo by skeletoninadress
The Wendigo has always been a favorite monster of mine.  

The Algonquin (and Illiniwek) people had great mythology and SO underutilized in games or novels.  One creature that I always was fascinated with was the Wendigo. The Wendigo has been seen a lot in horror fiction, especially with the rise in popularity of werewolves and zombies.  But they are still very interesting.  The most famous one of course is The Wendigo by Algernon Blackwood, followed by August Derleth's Ithaqua.

This is a creature that possesses humans under conditions of extreme cold and hunger and gets them to become cannibals.  Also, people that engaged in cannibalism were also at greater risk of possession.

The Wendigo is a spirit most times, unable to physically manifest in the world or interact with it.  That is until someone in a cold part of the world begins to despair and go hungry.  There are plenty of places in the world that are cold and these have hungry people, the Wendigo though chooses someone though that has or will resort to cannibalism to stay alive. Once this is done the Wendigo has access to the victim's heart. 

With their heart frozen the victim becomes the physical Wendigo.  They appear lean and gaunt, but taller; as if stretched out.  Their hands become claws with vile blue talons.  Their entire appearance becomes more feral.  They appear to be something akin to a ghoul or even a starving were-wolf mid-transformation.  They are constantly hungry, eating all the flesh they can, though they never eat their fill.  Eventually, the wendigo strains the host body too much and they die completely in a number of weeks.  Though there are rumors of giant wendigo, whose heads reach the clouds that are thousands of years old.

I included the Wendigo and the more powerful Wendigo Matron in my The Winter Witch for Swords & Wizardry.  Here it is for other games. 

Wendigo
No. Appearing: 1-2
AC: 3
Move: 45ft.
Hit Dice: 8
Special: 3 attacks (2 claws, bite) + Breath weapon, Enhanced Senses, Immunity to Cold, Immunity to Normal Weapons, Requires Blessed weapon to hit.
XP VALUE: 1,280

This creature shares a number of characteristics with were-creatures and undead. Ancient people believed that only a tribal shaman could bless a weapon that would kill both the host body and the wendigo spirit. 

The wendigo is completely immune to all cold-based attacks.  It attacks with its claws and bite and can emit a blast of freezing cold air up 3 times per day for 1d6+5 hp of damage (save for half).

Ordinary World: Wendigos are known to exist in the Ordinary World, but few even among the supernatural community have encountered them.  They are generally feared to be unpredictable and very, very dangerous.

Valhalla, AK:  Everyone in Valhalla "knows" that there are "wendigos" north of the town.  The locals though will point out that the creature everyone thinks is a wendigo is actually the wechuge ("way-chu-gay"). Someone can become a wechuge by breaking a tribal taboo or becoming too prideful. 
Some of the indigenous locals still remember tales from their grandparents and great-grandparents of the horrible winters of long ago where you could hear the howls of the wechuge/wendigo. 

Wendigo

Armor Class: 2     
No. Appearing: 0 / 1d3
Hit Dice: 8
Save As: F8
Movement: 150/50 
Attacks: 3 claw/claw/bite 
Damage: 1d6/1d6/1d8
Special Attacks: Breath weapon (cold) 1d8+5
Special Defense: Immune to cold-based attacks, immune to normal weapons, requires a blessed weapon to hit
Intelligence: 4 (devious cunning)
Morale: 11
Treasure Type: None
Alignment: Chaos
THACO: 12
Experience: 1,750

This creature shares a number of characteristics with were-creatures and undead. Ancient people believed that only a tribal shaman/cleric could bless a weapon that would kill both the host body and the wendigo spirit. A cleric can turn one as a Special Undead. Once a person is infected with a wendigo they can not be cured.

The wendigo is completely immune to all cold-based attacks.  It attacks with its claws and bite and can emit a blast of freezing cold air up 3 times per day for 1d6+5 hp of damage (save for half).


Wendigo

No. Encountered: 0 (1d4)
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
Size: L
Movement: 50 
Dexterity: 12
Armour Class: 2
Hit Dice: 8
Attack Rate: 3/1 (claw / claw / bite) + breath weapon (cold) x3
Damage: 1d6 / 1d6 / 1d8 + 1d8+5
Special: Immune to cold-based attacks, immune to normal weapons, requires a blessed weapon to hit
Saving Throw: 12
Morale: 11
Experience Points: 1,000
Treasure Class: None

The wendigo are believed to have been first created by Ythaqqa.
They can be turned as undead type 13.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Friday Night Videos: Sounds of the NIGHT SHIFT

Copies of NIGHT SHIFT: VETERANS OF THE SUPERNATURAL WARS are going out to the Kickstarter backers.

You can order your own hardcover version at the publisher's website, at https://www.elflair.com/nightshift.html.

You can also buy the PDF at DriveThruRPG

One of the things that really motivated Jason and me while working on this is music.  Spend any time here and you know I am a big music fan.  



So I thought it might be great to share some of the music that reminded us of the stories we were telling with NIGHT SHIFT and the games we have ran.

Up first this Friday Night Videoes are songs from Jason's playlists.  Enjoy!






#FollowFriday Mystara Edition

It's late, but it is still Friday!

I thought it might be fun to do a Follow Friday Mystara Edition since Mystara and BECMI are still fresh on my mind. 


Of all the D&D worlds Mystara seems to have the most active fanbase of any I have encountered.  Edition change, but Mystara remains.  The amount of material out there lends a lot of credence to this.

Facebook
There is a lot here!

Twitter (and more)

The *in*famous Mr. Glen Welchhttps://twitter.com/Mystara9
He also has an extensive YouTube channel full of Mystara goodness,  https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLI27Za9sqyRVnc9-naoDIWQ_6MM6ONwQy

Justin Pfeil Draws, the mind behind the Keep on the Borderlands webcomic, https://twitter.com/comics_alert 

MeWe
Well this Facebook challenger / Google+ replacement didn't get as popular as they would have liked but there are still some groups there worth looking into.

Mystara

Share, Follow, and encourage others to do so as well.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, July 16, 2020

That's So Raven! Raven Swordsmistress of Chaos for BECMI

Raven by Luis Royo
Back in 1987, I was a freshman in college. My then Favorite Local Game Store was also my Favorite Local Used Book Store.  They sold new books, used books as well as new and old gamebooks.  I got a copy of the first printing Deities & Demigods here along with scores of old copies of Dragon and White Dwarf.  

One book they always prominently displayed was the American versions of Raven Swordsmistress of Chaos.  

I never grabbed the book but as an 18-year-old guy, I always was attracted to the covers. I even had a character named Raven, who like the cover, was blonde and had a pet raven.  I was vaguely aware there were more books in the series, but never knew how many. 

Over the last couple of years, I have been on a quest to find and read all the Raven books by "Richard Kirk" who was, in reality, the pen name of authors Angus Wells and Robert Holdstock.  Both wrote Book 1 and then they alternated with Wells on Books 3 and 5 and Holdstock on Books 2 and 4.

Well, I succeeded in my quest and I found them all and read them.
While they are not...good...they are fun little romp in late 70s Swords and Sorcery (and Sex, but not as much as the Corgi covers hint at). Sometimes described as a mildly ribald Red Sonja or a less ribald Ghita Of Alizar. The books however perfect for game fodder. 

Others have reviewed the books and I went back and forth on whether I should do the same.  So instead I am just going to link out to some of the better reviews and retrospectives for your own reading.

I figured there are five books in the Raven saga and there are five rule sets in the BECMI series.  
Seems like a good fit.  Plus it let's me try out each set of rules with a character.

I also did this with my very first character, the Lawful Cleric Johan Werper. While I find him interesting I figure you all would like to see Raven more. Also I wanted to get a good feel for how the fighter works in all sets AND the advanced fighter paths from the Companion rules.  So let's get to it!

Raven Swordsmistress of Chaos

Raven from Heroforge
The story Raven begins with that of a runaway slave girl named Su'ann. She is reduced by a mysterious warlock-like character named Spellbinder who recognizes that she is "the pivot on which the world turns" partially because she is also protected by giant Raven and he senses something in her.  Spellbinder and Su'ann, now calling herself "Raven" hook up with a band of outlaws and pirates.  They go from adventure to adventure but all the time Raven is training with swords, spears and what would become her "trademark" a set of throwing stars.  It was the 70s man.  Raven though is not training out of boredom, nor even for the higher purpose fate seems to have, but is very vague about, for her.  She wants to kill her former slave owner the Swordsmaster Karl Ir Donwayne.  
While Raven is the cover girl and the eponymous main character, the events are all narrated and told by Spellbinder many years after the fact. Even the scenes where he was not present.  

The story is one that is simple, but close to many FRP gamers. Raven wants to kill Karl Ir Donwayne. How is going to do that? Well, they need to Skull of Quez to appease this ruler to get to Donwayne. But they have to find the mysterious island first and then kill the beast-men. And there are shadowy loners, men with mysterious pasts. Raven jumping in and out of bed with Spellbinder, Gondar the Pirate captain, and even Krya M'ystral, the Queen and sister of the ruler they were trying to go see.  This is all in the first book.  There is a nice gory battle with Karl Ir Donwayne too, but he comes back in future books to bother Raven some more.

We never get a satisfactory end to Raven's story.  Book 5 just ends.  Though all the books are told from Spellbinder's point of view they could be out of order.  We do know that Raven met some sort of end between Book 5 and Spellbinder's remembering which seems to take place many years later. Maybe she became that agent of Chaos after all.

For this I am going to stat up Raven for each rule set in the BECMI rules, trying to feature what I feel are the best parts.  I am also going to try to feature what I can from what she was doing in the books.

Raven, ePic Character Generator


Sheets are from The Mad Irishman

Basic


Here is the Basic version of Raven.  The hardest this is always to guess at what any one character's numbers are going to be. I figure she had good strength and constitution as well as high dexterity since she favors the throwing stars.  Her charisma is very high, not because of her looks, but because she inspires a lot of loyalty from the cutthroats she usually hangs out with.

She is a fighter. No doubt. I also gave her alignment as Chaotic.  She is a force of chaos, but she is also a killer.  For this example, I thought putting her at level 3, or "Swordmistress" (no middle "s" like the books) was appropriate even for her first book.

You can see her full Basic sheet here (click for larger): 



Expert


Fighters don't get a lot in the Expert set. So for her 2nd book I just advanced her to 9th level "Lady" and gave her some magical chain mail.

You can see her full Expert sheet here (click for larger): 



Companion


Ah now here are some changes!

In the Companion rules, we have more going on.  First I wanted to have her become an Avenger or the Chaotic traveling Fighter.  She obviously has no lands to call her own and she is still going about killing things.  But the Avenger gives her some Clerical ability.

Magic is rare and dangerous in Raven's world.  But everyone seems to have some sort of supernatural sort of talent.  So for Raven, I choose spells that fit in with role as the "pivot on which the world turns" and other things like her raven companion.  So things like "detect magic" and "cause fear" made sense. She also got the 3rd level spell "striking" since that covers a lot of what could be a natural talent.

She also gets 2 attacks per round now at 18th level.

You can see her full Companion sheet here (click for larger): 



Master


Master level Raven is really Ultimate Raven.  This is the Raven that goes toe to toe with gods and spirits and comes out unscathed. 

She gets three attacks per round now and I implemented the Weapon Mastery Rules to give her mastery over the sword and her throwing stars. 
She gets more cleric spells, this time to the 10th level of ability.  Some spells are easily explained by her connection to her bird, fate, and chaos.  Others can be explained by natural ability. "Commune" for example is with her bird and the forces of Chaos only.  "Speak with Animals" can be roughly explained by her time with the animal men. Others could be when she was dealing with weird supernatural forces.

She also gets 3 attacks per round now.

You can see her full Master sheet here (click for larger): 



Immortal


This sheet is largely incomplete.  It is also the most different of the other four (printed from my DTRPG copy) and interestingly enough the only book in series that I don't have an American (Royo cover) edition of.  I do have the British Corgi version with the Chris Achilléos cover.  

I made a lot of guesses as to what sort of Immortal she would be and just cheated and made her an Initiate. I might try this again with one of my own characters that I know better. 

You can see her full Immortal sheet here (click for larger): 


All in all I rather pleased with these. I am curious to hear from anyone that has also read these books.
As far as BECMI character I am happy with it.

Links

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Plays Well With Others: BASSH, Basic Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea

I love my Basic-era games, Holmes, B/X, and BECMI and their clones.
BUT I also love Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.  The games are similar of course, drawing from the same sources, but there are also a few differences. 

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea (AS&SH) is more closely aligned with "Advanced Era" D&D, but its feel for me has always been more OD&D, though over the last few years I have been treating it as another flavor of Basic.  


I have mentioned in the past that I see AS&SH as a good combination of B/X and AD&D rules.  Essentially it is what we were playing back in the early 80s.  Where I grew up it was not uncommon to come to a game where people would have an AD&D Monster Manual, a Holmes Basic book, and a Cook/Marsh Expert Book.  The rules we played by were also an equally eclectic mix.
AS&SH is like that. It favors the AD&D side more, but there are enough B/X influences that I smile to myself when I see them.

In fact, it works so well with Basic that I have featured AS&SH with other Basic-era books in previous "Plays Well With Others."
I find the game that useful and that inspiring.

Class Struggles: Which Each Game Offers
Originally this was going to be a Class Struggles post, but with the inclusion of the monsters below, I felt it had grown beyond just that.  

If Basic-era D&D lacks anything in my opinion it is class options. Yes. I know the classes are supposed to be archetypes to play anything.  A "Fighter" works for a Paladin, a Ranger, a Barbarian, a Knight, and so on.  But I like a little game mechanics with my flavor.  I also like to have choices.

AS&SH achieves this in a beautiful way that can be adopted by any Basic-era game, but in particular, ones that cleave closest to the original sources and of course Holmes, B/X and BECMI.

So we are going to go beyond the Basic Four (Cleric, Fighter, Magic-User, and Theif) here.  I'll talk about demi-humans in a bit.

In AS&SH we have our Basic Four; Fighter, Magician, Cleric, and Thief.  Each also gets a number of subclasses.  Fighters get  Barbarian, Berserker, Cataphract, Huntsman, Paladin, Ranger, and Warlock.  The Magician has the Cyromancer (a new favorite of mine), Illusionist, Necromancer, Pyromancer, and Witch (an old favorite of mine).  The Cleric has the Druid, Monk, Priest, Runegraver, and Shaman (see BECMI).  Finally, the Thief has the Assassin, Bard, Legerdemainist,  Purloiner, and the Scout.  Each subclass is very much like it's parent classes with some changes. Every class goes to the 12th level.


Looking over at the Basic side of things we have a few more choices.  Holmes, B/X, and BECMI all cover the Basic Four in more or less the same ways.  BECMI gives us the additions of Paladin, Avenger, Knight, Druid, Mystic, and the NPC/Monster classes of Shaman and Wicca/Wokani/Witch.

Advanced Labyrinth Lord gives us the Assassin, Druid, Illusionist, Monk, Paladin, Ranger in addition to the Basic Four.

Old-School Essentials' Advanced options give us the Acrobat, Assassin, Barbarian, Bard, Druid, Illusionist, Knight, Paladin, and Ranger.  It also gives us the new race-as-classes Drow, Duergar, Gnome, Half-elf, and Svirfneblin.

The B/X RPG from Pacesetter has the Druid, Monk, Necromancer, Paladin, and Ranger along with the Gnome and Half-elf.  (Yes, a review for this is coming)


AS&SH classes go to the 12th level.  Basic classes, at least B/X flavored ones, go to the 14th level.  I like the idea of splitting the difference and going to the 13th level. 

Additionally, AS&SH has different cultures of humans to provide more flavor to the human classes.

All the Basic-era books have demi-humans that AS&SH lacks. Lacks is a strong word, the game doesn't need demi-humans by design, but they are still fun to have.  Combining these gives us the best of all worlds! Kelt Elves? Dwarf Picts? Lemurian Gnomes?!  This could be a lot of fun.

Plus the mix of cultures in AS&SH is second only to mix found in BECMI Mystara in terms of "let's just throw it all in there!"

I might let people choose one of the Basic Four and stealing a page from D&D5 allow them at 2nd or 3rd level to take "sub-class."  I'll have to see what the various classes all get at first level vs 2nd and 3rd level.

Monsters! Monsters!
It's can't be denied that AS&SH has some great monsters.  Not only does it give us demons and devils (Basic-era is lacking on both) but also Lovecraftian horrors.  Sure, "At The Mountains of Madness" took place at the South Pole, who is to say there is not a similar outpost in the North? 

BECMI does talk about "The Old Ones" a lot and in the Core Rules is never very clear on who or what they are.  But it is not a stretch to think that those Old Ones and the Lovecraftian Old Ones have a connection.  


Oddly enough these things feel right at home in a Basic game.  If one goes back to the Masters and Immortals sets with the original idea that the Known World is our world millions of years ago this tracks nicely with some Lovecraftian mythology of our world.

I have talked about Demons in Basic/Mystara already, but AS&SH offers us "The Usual Suspects" and then some.  While Labyrinth Lord has always been good about opening the "Advanced" monsters to the Basic world, the monsters of AS&SH are of a different sort.

Maybe more so than the classes these require a bit more conversion.  Here is a monster we are all familiar with (and one I am doing something with later), drawing from the same sources to give us three or four different stat-blocks. 




Well. Not that different I guess. They are left to right, top to bottom, Advanced Labyrinth Lord, AS&SH, OSE, and B/X RPG.

AS&SH looks like a "best of" stats, combining features from both Basic and Advanced. Bite damage does a bit more on the average and the XP value is higher.  But nothing I am going to call game-breaking.

So the AS&SH monsters can be dropped pretty much "as is" into a Basic-era game. 

Anyone that plays these games should have no trouble with this really.

Putting it all Together and then Putting it in the North
It's settled then, AS&SH is part of my "Basic World" and where to put it is easy.
In the Known World of Mystara, there is already a Hyboria. It is one of the features of both D&D (Mystara) and AD&D (Hyperboria, Oerth) just as Blackmoor is (Mystara, Oerth). but Blackmoor is a topic for another day.

While none of the maps can be reconciled with each other to make one perfect Hyperboria, the concepts certainly can. This is something I have been considering since I first got the 1st Edition Boxed set.
I know that my family of witches, the Winters, come from the Hyperborean area.  Likely closer to more civilized areas, but not too civilized.  This became the basis for my Winter Witch book. 

BASSH is Born
So take what I love from AS&SH, mix in what I love from Basic and I have Basic Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea, or BASSH.  Yeah. This will be fun.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Monstrous Mondays: Knockers, the Good* Kobolds for Basic-era and Night Shift

There has been some debate on the nature of good and evil when it comes to some monsters.  I plan on saying more about it later (spoiler: dropping alignment restrictions is a good thing!) but allow me to welcome D&D to 2,500+ years of organized philosophical debate and over 6,000 years of religious ones.  They have not worked out all the details yet so I don't expect D&D to do it yet either.

But that is not today's discussion.  Today I want to discuss Knockers.

Knockers are a subterranean species that frequent old mines.  They are common to Cornwall so they could be related to any number of Cornish faeries (and they have a lot of the Fey there) but in reality, they seem closer to the Kobold.  Or at least how the kobold has been depicted in German folklore.

Around the time of 2nd Ed Kobolds went from evil little dog men to evil little lizard men. Personally, I rather liked the change.  I love the idea of these scrappy little lizards running around. I am also fine with them being evil, or at least very, very self-centered as a species.  Their lizard brains only allow for survival in the most brutal ways possible. As such, they worship the things that look like them, only bigger, evil dragons.  If your god is evil then you probably are as well.  Do I leave room for a potentially "good" kobold? Of course, the world is vast, strange and wonderful, anything is possible.


But as it turns out I have good kobolds covered. 

Knockers are good* kobolds.  

I say good* because good ≠ nice.  

They are happy to work with each other, they get along fine with gnomes and the local pixies. They will even help lost miners find their way out of mines when they are lost.  But their reasons are hardly altruistic.  They feel that humans are big lumbering idiots and think they belong to the same species as ogres or trolls. They will lead miners out via a series of knocking or raps on stone not because they feel bad for the human but because one lost human brings in many more humans to look for them.

Knockers and kobolds share a history. Once they were the same people. Living in deep subterranean mines looking for veins of precious metals.  Their diggings brought them into contact with goblins, dwarves, gnomes, and even orcs.  All these encounters ended poorly for the kobolds as they were smaller in size. They grew to despise most other species.  As time went on the waters began to return as the last Ice Age began to thaw. When their homelands were taken by the sea, some moved west while others moved east and south.  The two peoples became distinct.  The kobolds of the south took on the worship of evil gods and dragons. Their lust for gold and power corrupted them into smaller forms and they took on more draconic features.  The kobolds of the west became more and more introverted and xenophobic.  Their distrust of others never abating but deciding that their best course of action was not to fight but to hide deeper and deeper in the Earth. 
The two sub-species of kobold barely resembles the other today, but there are still similarities if one knows how to look.

Knocker (Kobold)
Basic-era Games
Humanoid (Subterranean) 
Frequency: Rare
Number Appearing: 2-20 (2-4)
Alignment: Neutral (Neutral Any)
Movement: Basic 90' (30') [9"]
Armor Class: 6 [13]
Hit Dice: 1d6 (3 hp)
Attacks: 1 
Damage: 1d4 (weapon)
Special: Hide in shadows 95%
Size: Small
Save: Normal Human
Morale: 7
Treasure Hoard Class: I (XIII)
XP: 7

Knockers are a relative of the kobold. They resemble them in most respects save that these creatures appear to be more "humanoid" than their lizard-like counterparts.  Often described as "dog-faced" it is unclear whether that is a reference to their actual canine-like appearance or to their general ugliness.
Knockers speak their own variation of the kobold language, but either sub-species can understand the other given a little time.

Knockers are believed to have interbred with gnomes and goblins in their travels west, and this is used to explain their changed temperaments.  Knockers generally get along well enough the gnomes and local fae and even tolerate goblins. Consequently, their greatest enmity is with kobolds and humans. 

For the most part, knockers look to be left alone to continue to mine their mines.  They will defend their communities if attacked using group tactics. If left alone, they will often leave others alone as well.

One Man's God
Kurtulmak is the god of Kobolds, though in truth he should also be a Demon Lord like Yeenoghu.  He is described as being a bit reptilian as well.  In keeping with a theme the demon lord (lady) that evil knockers follow is Zsusr

Knocker
No. Appearing: 2-20
AC: 6
Move: 30ft.
Hit Dice: 1
Special: Hide in Shadow 95%, Pack tactics
XP VALUE: 7

Knockers are a subterranean humanoid people related to the fae.  They typically live in old mines and in the dungeons under old castles. 

Generation HEX: Some magical schools, particularly AMPA Cornwall in Great Britain, has a group of knockers living below the school. AMPA faculty have yet to decide what needs to be done with them if anything at all.

Ordinary World: Knockers have been known to live in the White and Adirondack Mountain ranges. They are believed to have migrated with English, Welsh, and Cornish immigrants. Here they have interacted with the local populations of Pukwudgie peoples.


Note: Want more information? Dump Stat goes into a Deep Dive of the Kobold across many editions.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Working the NIGHT SHIFT!

Early mail-call this week and I can't be more pleased.



Hard copies my Jason Vey's and my new game are appearing in the wild and I am so happy.  Here are my leather and standard copies.

The insides also look fantastic.  Better than I had hoped for really.




And of course, it has my favorite of my Night Worlds, Generation HEX.


You can get PDFs from DriveThruRPG and Print copies (not PODs!) directly from Elf Lair Games.

Can't wait to share more with you all including an Other Side exclusive Night Spot. 
Come back for adventures in Valhalla, Alaska.  A Night Spot that can be used in the Ordinary World setting or added to any game.

Been looking forward to this for some time now!