Thursday, August 6, 2020

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 6 Forest

“A witch ought never to be frightened in the darkest forest, Granny Weatherwax had once told her, because she should be sure in her soul that the most terrifying thing in the forest was her.”

― Terry Pratchett, Wintersmith

From the primeval forests of our genetic race-memories to Sherwood to Mirkwood, to forest-covered moons in a galaxy far, far away.  The Forest has long been the boundary between what is civilized and safe to what is uncivilized, untamed, wild, and most definitely, not safe. 



The "Goblin" Forrest of Haven
The forested area outside of West Haven in the Haven Valley is an old-growth forest of ancient date.  The expanse westward left this forested area surprising untouched.  Located north-west of West Haven the forest has always had a reputation of being haunted by all sorts of unsavory creatures. 
In the mid to late 1600s when the Haven Valley was first settled, the local parish in what would become East Haven decried the forest, claiming it was the abode of Satan himself and set to burn it down.  A tree, that was by all claims to be healthy and sturdy, fell and killed three of the parishioners include the town's Calvinist priest.  Several other "bizarre" accidents and people began to claim that the forest was inhabited by goblins and other foul creatures.  It was here it earned the name "The Goblin Wood" or "The Goblin Forest."

Even when the Industrial Revolution hit in the 1800s and trees for miles around were fed to the Gods of the Furnace and Industry, the Goblin Wood remained untouched.  

Now in the 21st Century, the Goblin Wood remains but there is still an air of mystery and danger about it.  While the general population doesn't believe in goblins, ghosts or even witches anymore there are still plenty of strange occurrences.  

The local USGS office claims the area is rich in naturally occurring magnetic ore.  They claim that the particular features of both the forest and the Haven Valley, in general, disrupt cell phone coverage and GPS signals.  One surveyor even claimed he could see the laser he was using for measuring "bend," though no amount of ore outside one as massive as a black hole could do that.  People walking into the wood with cell phones or GPS devices will find themselves going in circles rather than a straight line.

While scientists, meteorologists, and geologists have all come up with interesting theories about why the Haven Forest is the way it is, the people of West and East Haven know the truth.  And staying out of the forest at night is the one thing both communities can agree on.



If you don't think I have witches guarding all my forests and wild areas in my games you have not been paying attention.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 5 Tribute

This is not the Greatest RPG in the World.  This is just a Tribute.


I have gone on record many, many times on how I feel that CJ Carella's WitchCraft is one of the, if not the, greatest RPGs I have ever played.  Yes. Even better than D&D.

I have also gone on record stating that my Ghosts of Albion game is really nothing more than an extended love letter to WitchCraft in Victorian prose.

Really, I would love to see an update to WitchCraft from Eden, but I am not holding my breath for it.

Another tribute is NIGHT SHIFT.

Night Shift is a tribute to the types of games Jason and I have been fond of playing over the years we have known each other.  So there are tributes here to Old-school D&D, to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, to Chill, to Call of Cthulhu and of course to WitchCraft. 


As much as I love Ghosts of Albion and Night Shift they can't take the place that WitchCraft has in my heart.  There are some things that both games can do better than WitchCraft, I did have the advantage of playing many games to add to my experiences, but still, WitchCraft remains.

Maybe one day some designer will write their tribute to Ghosts of Albion or to Night Shift!

And since we are talking tributes.



Which is, of course, a tribute to this, 



Tuesday, August 4, 2020

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 4 Vision

"I was raised by witches boy, I see with more than eyes and you know that."
- Frigga to Thor in 2013, Avengers Endgame

Call me biased, but I have always liked the idea that witches see things that other character types don't.  Not just in terms of "infravision" or "dark vision" but in just "other vision."

A couple of house rules that I always use are witches can see ghosts, spirits, and other sorts of magical creatures that are typically invisible to others.  They can see magical auras which they can tell something about the person they are looking at.  Most importantly they can recognize other witches on sight.


Mechanically it really doesn't add much to D&D.  I argue the kinds of ghosts and things the witch can see are harmless to everyone.  But if you can see them, then they can see you.  So they are not always harmless to the witch herself.

In Ghosts of Albion, this type of vision is known as "Lesser Sensing" and it is something all magical creatures, including magicians and witches, have.   

Witches and Warlocks in NIGHT SHIFT do this as part of their class.

I have extended it to my fantasy games where it is just called "The Sight."

In D&D3-5 or Pathfinder1-2, it could easily be a Feat.  For my Basic-era witches an Occult Power.

The Sight
Using the Sight requires a moment of concentration but then the witch can See.  She can see magical auras that will give her some basic information on what she is looking at.
She can See:
- magical effects such as active spells, charms, curses or compulsions on a person
- magical lines of force (ley lines)
- whether or not a person is a spell-caster* (she can always detect another witch)
- undead

With more concentration (1 round) she can See:
- Invisible creatures
- alignment 
- polymorphed, shape-changed or lycanthropes

The subject of the witch's Sight knows they are being Seen. They get an uncomfortable feeling and know it is coming from the witch, even if they do not know what it means.

That's the rough version, it would need to be tweaked for the respective games.  For example it would work with D&D 5's perception skill. 

Monday, August 3, 2020

Monstrous Monday: Astral Spiders

If you are feeling tired, lethargic, or otherwise drained then you could have been attacked by an Astral Spider.  


As their name suggests these demonic creatures are native to the astral plane, but they are attracted to people with psychic or empathic abilities.  The spider, which is normally invisible, attaches itself to a victim and drains Wisdom at the rate of 1 point per day. The Astral Spider stays attached and draining until it's victim reaches 0 Wisdom. 
Magic that can detect a curse or detect evil creatures can let you know that an Astral Spider is attached to someone or attacking. 

The Astral Spider is immune to physical attacks, including magical and blessed weapons.  They can only be affected by magic.  A specially worded Remove Curse spell will remove an Astral Spider.  A banishment or exorcism will also remove the spider and force it back into the Astral.

Astral Spiders only move in the Astral plane. The only time they are manifest in the real world when attached to a victim and then they do not move. 

Astral Spider
Vermin (Demonic)
Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic (Chaotic Evil)
Movement:  Special
Armor Class: 9 [10]
Hit Dice: 3d6+3* (10)
Attacks: 1 special 
Damage: 1 point Widom per day
Special: Immune to physical attacks, affected only by magic
Size: Small
Save: Fighter 3
Morale: 12
Treasure Hoard Class: None
XP: 125

Astral Spider
No. Appearing: 1
AC: 9
Move: Special (Astral only)
Hit Dice: 3
Special: Wisdom drain. 1 point/day
XP VALUE: 120

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 3 Thread

Over the weekend two game-related thoughts kept going through my head.  Frist Gen Con and how we were all missing it and the adventures I was going to run for my family and the theme of Thread.

Since D&D 5 had come out I have been running my family through the "Gygaxian Classics." while we technically started with B1 In Search of the Unknown with AD&D 1st ed, we quickly moved to D&D 5.  From here we did B2 Keep on the Borderlands and moved through the Great Greyhawk Campaign.  We have been calling the group The Order of the Platinum Dragon


Our order of games has been:

T1 Village of Hommlet (forgotten by the characters, played as a flashback after I6)
B1 In Search of the Unknown (Gen Con Game)
B2 Keep on the Borderlands
L1 The Secret of Bone Hill  (Gen Con Game)
X2 Castle Amber
I6 Ravenloft (Gen Con Game)
C2 Ghost Tower of Inverness
A1-5 Slave Lords
C1 The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan
G123, G4 Against the Giants  (Gen Con Game)
D12, 3 Descent into the Depths of the Earth, Vault of the Drow
Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits (Gen Con Game)

I wanted my family to have the "Classic D&D Experience) with this.  Communities are often defined by the stories they share. These are the stories we all share.  How did you defeat Strahd? Did you shout 'Bree Yark'? What did you do in the Hill Giant's dining room?   Did you survive the Demonweb?

One of the things I have been doing differently than the original narrative is thread everything together with a massive conspiracy.  Someone, or something, killed all the Gods of the Sun.  
The characters (and the players) have come to the conclusion that this something is the Elder Elemental Eye.  But they don't know who or what that is.
They have learned that Eclavdra betrayed her Goddess, Lolth, and has incited a civil war within the city of Erelhei-Cinlu.  The followers of Lolth vs the followers of the Elder Elemental Eye.

What they don't know yet is who has been manipulating these threads.  Behind the scenes, the Demon Lord Graz'zt has been scheming.  In my world Graz'zt has always coveted the Drow. He wants their devotion and is jealous of the iron hold Lolth has on them.  So he has been stirring her up into more and more desperate attacks on the Prime Material.  He is using Eclavdra and her devotion to the EEE to get to Lolth.  Eclavdra thinks Graz'zt can free the EEE from his prison in the Temple of Elemental Evil.  To this end Elcavdra has been using what is left of the EEE former followers, or rather their descendants, the Giants.  Titans and Primordials followed the EEE back in the Dawn War.  Graz'zt thinks he can control the EEE once he has the worship of the Drow.

What Elcavdra doesn't know is Graz'zt has no intention of releasing the EEE from the Temple of Elemental Evil, save as far as he wants that power too.  Graz'zt is not a demon at all, but rather a devil sent by Asmodeus to infiltrate the demon hierarchy and discover the source of pure evil for Asmodeus.  Graz'zt has gone too deep into the cold though and now he thinks like a demon lord. Asmodeus suspects this of course.  Both of these powerful evil creatures will betray each other on the first chance.

Graz'zt has long suspected that the Temple of Elemental Evil is the key.  Centuries ago he sent the Demon Lady Zuggtmoy into the Temple. He discovered she was essentially absorbed by the power of the EEE. Now her cults worship it. 

What none of the evil lords and ladies know though is that the EEE is really Tharizdûn. He is manipulating Graz'zt and Asmodeus to free him.  He tried with Graz'zt before and Graz'zt sent in Zuggtmoy.  Tharizdûn quickly overwhelmed, overpowered, and destroyed Zuggtmoy's form and spirit.  This gave Tharizdûn enough power though to put his final plans into action.  He needs the Temple of Elemental Evil open. Only Lolth has the keys to unlock the Temple.

And in my next adventure with the family, Graz'zt is going to get them.

That was supposed to happen this last weekend, but Gen Con shut down due to Covid-19 we did not get to do this.

One thing that never sat well with me, and many others, is that after this epic adventure of Giants and Drow and going to the Abyss the end antagonist is Lolth and her Spider-ship?  It seems a little anti-climatic. 

Instead of that my last layer of the Lolth Demonweb will be Skein of the Death Mother.  



The spider-ship will still be used in my ill-defined Q2 adventure, likely piloted by Eclavdra to invade the surface world, but starting with the houses still loyal to Lolth in Erelhei-Cinlu.

I am going to pull all these threads, and more, together with the grand finale, The Temple of Elemental Evil

Then I am looking forward to running my War of the Witch Queens.

Sunday, August 2, 2020

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 2 Change

Change, they tell us, is good. 

It is good in life and in games.  I feel in order to be good at running or playing any RPG you need to change your style of playing every so often and the best way to do this is to change your games.

It is no secret I really enjoy D&D.  But it is also not the only game I play, not by any stretch.

Mark Twain once said "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness."  The same can be said of "travelling" to other worlds.   

Want to make your D&D games scarier? Play Call of Cthulhu.  Want to give it more of a historical feel? Play Pendragon. Want to give your games a more magical feel? Play Ars Magica or it's half-sister Mage.  Occult conspiracies? Play WitchCraft and Conspiracy X. 

I honestly get confused when people tell me they only play D&D. Or even, just one version of D&D. 
That's like only ever reading one book your entire life (and yes I know those people too).


My interests in RPGs are horror, magic, Celtic-myths and legends, and Victorian-era gaming.  I bring these into my games when and where I can.  Ok, so Victorian era not so much in D&D, but there are ideas I like to bring over. 

My games are better because I have had these other experiences.  My game writing is better because I have had these other experiences.

So maybe when you need to improve your own games, try changing it out for a little bit. 

Saturday, August 1, 2020

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 1 Beginning

It is August.  Where did the Summer go? Plus I should be at Gen Con now getting my kids to breakfast for a day of gaming. 

It is an August tradition for David F. Chapman of AUTOCRATIK to host the month-long #RPGaDAY. 
Like last year, this year we are given one-word prompts for our reflections.


Here are this year's prompts.
  1. Beginning
  2. Change
  3. Thread   
  4. Vision
  5. Tribute
  6. Forest
  7. Couple
  8. Shade
  9. Light
  10. Want
  11. Stack
  12. Message
  13. Rest
  14. Banner
  15. Frame
  16. Dramatic
  17. Comfort   
  18. Meet
  19. Tower
  20. Investigate    
  21. Push    
  22. Rare
  23. Edge
  24. Humour
  25. Lever
  26. Strange
  27. Favor
  28. Close
  29. Ride
  30. Portal
  31. Experience
Some jumped right out at me with ideas.  Others might take a me a bit more to come up with a good idea.

So let's go with today's word Beginning.

I have told the story here of my beginning in D&D and RPG many times. So no need to go over that.

Instead, I want to talk about the beginning of my blogging.



Back in 2007 I had no real intention of starting a blog, let alone one based around old-school games.  My website, The Other Side, was dead and I was working on my 2nd Ph.D. and working full time.

I started the blog after reading online about some old-school games and thought it might be fun to try. 
There were not a lot of blogs in the old-school scene yet. I started in 2007 but did not get going till 2008.  Grognardia didn't get started till about a year after I did, but built up more steam.  Most of the blogs from then, like Grognardia, are gone. Tenkar's started soon after Grognardia and is still around and has become the hub of the Old-School and OSR movements. 

I did not really plan to get into the OSR even as it was rising up around me.  I just wanted a place I could talk about D&D one day, WitchCraft the next, maybe talk about some horror movies or comics and then go on a little about Mage or other World of Darkness books.

Well...that was over 4331 posts and 13 years ago.

Since then I have spilled a lot of words here. I would like to think this writing has made my games better or at least my own books better. Will I be doing this for the next 13 years? No idea. But it has been a great ride so far!

Make sure you check out all the #RPGaDAY posts at https://twitter.com/autocratik.