Thursday, June 27, 2024

From Imirrhos to Mystara: The Known World

 Been rather busy this week, but this one came across my feed, and I thought it was interesting. I love the Known World, also known as Mystara, so any details about it's history.

The video is about 2 hours long, so pop some popcorn and settle in.




Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Dracula, The Hunters' Journals: 25 June, Jonathan Harker's Journal (Cont.)

 Johnathan goes exploring.

Dracula - The Hunters' Journals


25 June, morning.—No man knows till he has suffered from the night how sweet and how dear to his heart and eye the morning can be. When the sun grew so high this morning that it struck the top of the great gateway opposite my window, the high spot which it touched seemed to me as if the dove from the ark had lighted there. My fear fell from me as if it had been a vaporous garment which dissolved in the warmth. I must take action of some sort whilst the courage of the day is upon me. Last night one of my post-dated letters went to post, the first of that fatal series which is to blot out the very traces of my existence from the earth.

Let me not think of it. Action!

It has always been at night-time that I have been molested or threatened, or in some way in danger or in fear. I have not yet seen the Count in the daylight. Can it be that he sleeps when others wake, that he may be awake whilst they sleep? If I could only get into his room! But there is no possible way. The door is always locked, no way for me.

Yes, there is a way, if one dares to take it. Where his body has gone why may not another body go? I have seen him myself crawl from his window. Why should not I imitate him, and go in by his window? The chances are desperate, but my need is more desperate still. I shall risk it. At the worst it can only be death; and a man’s death is not a calf’s, and the dreaded Hereafter may still be open to me. God help me in my task! Good-bye, Mina, if I fail; good-bye, my faithful friend and second father; good-bye, all, and last of all Mina!

 

Same day, later.—I have made the effort, and God, helping me, have come safely back to this room. I must put down every detail in order. I went whilst my courage was fresh straight to the window on the south side, and at once got outside on the narrow ledge of stone which runs around the building on this side. The stones are big and roughly cut, and the mortar has by process of time been washed away between them. I took off my boots, and ventured out on the desperate way. I looked down once, so as to make sure that a sudden glimpse of the awful depth would not overcome me, but after that kept my eyes away from it. I knew pretty well the direction and distance of the Count’s window, and made for it as well as I could, having regard to the opportunities available. I did not feel dizzy—I suppose I was too excited—and the time seemed ridiculously short till I found myself standing on the window-sill and trying to raise up the sash. I was filled with agitation, however, when I bent down and slid feet foremost in through the window. Then I looked around for the Count, but, with surprise and gladness, made a discovery. The room was empty! It was barely furnished with odd things, which seemed to have never been used; the furniture was something the same style as that in the south rooms, and was covered with dust. I looked for the key, but it was not in the lock, and I could not find it anywhere. The only thing I found was a great heap of gold in one corner—gold of all kinds, Roman, and British, and Austrian, and Hungarian, and Greek and Turkish money, covered with a film of dust, as though it had lain long in the ground. None of it that I noticed was less than three hundred years old. There were also chains and ornaments, some jewelled, but all of them old and stained.

At one corner of the room was a heavy door. I tried it, for, since I could not find the key of the room or the key of the outer door, which was the main object of my search, I must make further examination, or all my efforts would be in vain. It was open, and led through a stone passage to a circular stairway, which went steeply down. I descended, minding carefully where I went, for the stairs were dark, being only lit by loopholes in the heavy masonry. At the bottom there was a dark, tunnel-like passage, through which came a deathly, sickly odour, the odour of old earth newly turned. As I went through the passage the smell grew closer and heavier. At last I pulled open a heavy door which stood ajar, and found myself in an old, ruined chapel, which had evidently been used as a graveyard. The roof was broken, and in two places were steps leading to vaults, but the ground had recently been dug over, and the earth placed in great wooden boxes, manifestly those which had been brought by the Slovaks. There was nobody about, and I made search for any further outlet, but there was none. Then I went over every inch of the ground, so as not to lose a chance. I went down even into the vaults, where the dim light struggled, although to do so was a dread to my very soul. Into two of these I went, but saw nothing except fragments of old coffins and piles of dust; in the third, however, I made a discovery.

There, in one of the great boxes, of which there were fifty in all, on a pile of newly dug earth, lay the Count! He was either dead or asleep, I could not say which—for the eyes were open and stony, but without the glassiness of death—and the cheeks had the warmth of life through all their pallor; the lips were as red as ever. But there was no sign of movement, no pulse, no breath, no beating of the heart. I bent over him, and tried to find any sign of life, but in vain. He could not have lain there long, for the earthy smell would have passed away in a few hours. By the side of the box was its cover, pierced with holes here and there. I thought he might have the keys on him, but when I went to search I saw the dead eyes, and in them, dead though they were, such a look of hate, though unconscious of me or my presence, that I fled from the place, and leaving the Count’s room by the window, crawled again up the castle wall. Regaining my room, I threw myself panting upon the bed and tried to think...


Notes

Moon Phase: Waxing Crescent

Harker spends his time investigating the castle. The bit about the 300-year-old Turkish coins is a nod to Dracula's real-world origins. 

We see more about the 50 boxes of earth Dracula will take to London. What is he doing with wives? Obviously, he doesn't take them with him. 

The "second father" is Peter Hawkins, his employer. 

Jonathan is wrong in one sense, he says he only has seen Dracula at night, but that is not true. When he was shaving and Dracula breaks his mirror it was morning.

Mail Call: Vecna Returns

 It's Tuesday, let's see what I have in the mail from the week. It was my birthday two weeks ago, and Father's Day, so I splurged and bought myself some Print On Demand titles from DriveThruRPG.

AD&D 2nd Ed Vecna Adventures

I am starting an AD&D 2nd Edition game with my oldest and I thought these might be fun. He is running the 5e Vecna adventure for his own group and he has used Vecna, or at least the Critical Role version, in his Tal'Dorei campaign as well.

The adventures make for a loose trilogy that spans the 1990s and AD&D 2nd Edition. From Greyhawk, to Ravenloft, to system agnostic (more or less).

Again, I am reading these and thinking of a universe-spanning adventure. Add in some elements from the 5e adventure and then bits from 3e and 4e for the hell of it.

The Vecna adventures

OR. I could put the same effort into my "Necromancer" adventures. The Necromancer largely fills the same role in my games as Vecna. 

In any case, I am happy to have all of these now.

Monday, June 24, 2024

Dracula, The Hunters' Journals: 24 June, Jonathan Harker's Journal (Cont.)

 Johnathan sees more of Dracula's power, and evil, on display.

Dracula - The Hunters' Journals


24 June, before morning.—Last night the Count left me early, and locked himself into his own room. As soon as I dared I ran up the winding stair, and looked out of the window, which opened south. I thought I would watch for the Count, for there is something going on. The Szgany are quartered somewhere in the castle and are doing work of some kind. I know it, for now and then I hear a far-away muffled sound as of mattock and spade, and, whatever it is, it must be the end of some ruthless villainy.

I had been at the window somewhat less than half an hour, when I saw something coming out of the Count’s window. I drew back and watched carefully, and saw the whole man emerge. It was a new shock to me to find that he had on the suit of clothes which I had worn whilst travelling here, and slung over his shoulder the terrible bag which I had seen the women take away. There could be no doubt as to his quest, and in my garb, too! This, then, is his new scheme of evil: that he will allow others to see me, as they think, so that he may both leave evidence that I have been seen in the towns or villages posting my own letters, and that any wickedness which he may do shall by the local people be attributed to me.

It makes me rage to think that this can go on, and whilst I am shut up here, a veritable prisoner, but without that protection of the law which is even a criminal’s right and consolation.

I thought I would watch for the Count’s return, and for a long time sat doggedly at the window. Then I began to notice that there were some quaint little specks floating in the rays of the moonlight. They were like the tiniest grains of dust, and they whirled round and gathered in clusters in a nebulous sort of way. I watched them with a sense of soothing, and a sort of calm stole over me. I leaned back in the embrasure in a more comfortable position, so that I could enjoy more fully the aërial gambolling.

Something made me start up, a low, piteous howling of dogs somewhere far below in the valley, which was hidden from my sight. Louder it seemed to ring in my ears, and the floating motes of dust to take new shapes to the sound as they danced in the moonlight. I felt myself struggling to awake to some call of my instincts; nay, my very soul was struggling, and my half-remembered sensibilities were striving to answer the call. I was becoming hypnotised! Quicker and quicker danced the dust; the moonbeams seemed to quiver as they went by me into the mass of gloom beyond. More and more they gathered till they seemed to take dim phantom shapes. And then I started, broad awake and in full possession of my senses, and ran screaming from the place. The phantom shapes, which were becoming gradually materialised from the moonbeams, were those of the three ghostly women to whom I was doomed. I fled, and felt somewhat safer in my own room, where there was no moonlight and where the lamp was burning brightly.

When a couple of hours had passed I heard something stirring in the Count’s room, something like a sharp wail quickly suppressed; and then there was silence, deep, awful silence, which chilled me. With a beating heart, I tried the door; but I was locked in my prison, and could do nothing. I sat down and simply cried.

As I sat I heard a sound in the courtyard without—the agonised cry of a woman. I rushed to the window, and throwing it up, peered out between the bars. There, indeed, was a woman with dishevelled hair, holding her hands over her heart as one distressed with running. She was leaning against a corner of the gateway. When she saw my face at the window she threw herself forward, and shouted in a voice laden with menace:—

“Monster, give me my child!”

She threw herself on her knees, and raising up her hands, cried the same words in tones which wrung my heart. Then she tore her hair and beat her breast, and abandoned herself to all the violences of extravagant emotion. Finally, she threw herself forward, and, though I could not see her, I could hear the beating of her naked hands against the door.

Somewhere high overhead, probably on the tower, I heard the voice of the Count calling in his harsh, metallic whisper. His call seemed to be answered from far and wide by the howling of wolves. Before many minutes had passed a pack of them poured, like a pent-up dam when liberated, through the wide entrance into the courtyard.

There was no cry from the woman, and the howling of the wolves was but short. Before long they streamed away singly, licking their lips.

I could not pity her, for I knew now what had become of her child, and she was better dead.

What shall I do? what can I do? How can I escape from this dreadful thing of night and gloom and fear?



Notes

Moon Phase: New Moon

More time has passed. It seems Harker and Count are still having their meetings, but what are they talking about. He is also moving about in Harker's clothes, presumably to conduct business as Harker. Dracula is going out of his way to make sure no one comes looking for him.

His brides can manifest out of moonbeams, not so much as mist. We also see this from the count himself later on. 

Here we see the count summoning wolves to deal with the mother of the baby he stole for his brides. Why did she take so long? I am sure there is a story there. What language is she speaking that Johnathon can understand her. German maybe?

Monstrous Mondays: A Monster of a D&D Book!

The Making of Original Dungeons & Dragons
Something a little different today. Instead of talking about a monster, I have a monster of a D&D book. The Making of Original Dungeons & Dragons.

I picked up this massive 576-page book last week. The pages are glossy, full color on heavier stock so this book is massive. When I picked it up at my FLGS I was reminded to "lift with me knees."

This book covers the evolution of original D&D from its Wargame birth to the dawn of what would become the Holmes Basic set and the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons game.  

The book is divided into four large sections with a Preface, Foreword, and Afterword.  Let's look at those first.

Our Preface comes to us from Project Lead Jason Tondro. I freely admit I have no idea who he is. He gives us an overview of what this book is about. There is section mentioning that D&D originally catered to middle-class (and even mid-west) white men. This is not in debate really. He also mentions some of the more problematic issues with early D&D, from plagiarism to cultural appropriation to sexism and a bit of slavery. Look. All of this is true and things we have known for a very, very long time. To pretend they were not there, or clutch our pearls because someone brought it up is laughable at best. Acknowledge the past and move forward.  In truth this takes up less than 1/3 of a page of 576 pages. If this section bothers you, then you are looking for things to be bothered by.

The Making of Original Dungeons & Dragons

The Foreward, though, is far more interesting. It comes from Jon Peterson who has the credentials and bonafides to back up all his claims. While he is credited with the forward his fingerprints are all over this book. The sad truth is there are few of the original old guard left. Peterson's dedication to the history of RPGs and D&D in particular is well known and respected. 

Part 1: Precursors is very interesting. It covers the games and the correspondence between Gygax, Arneson, and others between 1970 and 1973. While some of this in well known, it is great to have it all in one place along with copies of the letters and drafts sent back and forth. One thing is obvious from the start that Tolkien and Middle-Earth DID play a pretty large role in the creation of this game. 

Part 1: Precursors

Among the treasures here are copies of the Chainmail Rules for Fantasy.

Part 1: Precursors

Part 1: Precursors

Part 2: The 1973 Draft of Dungeons & Dragons is also a treasure since unlike OD&D and Chainmail (both of which I am familiar with) this is the first time I have seen this. It is a fascinating read in and of itself. Is it a *playable* game? I don't know. But that is not important really. What is important in the nascent RPG game design going on here. The maps and note alone will be enough for someone out there to go and attempt to play some sort of Ur-D&D for their group. 

Part 2: The 1973 Draft of Dungeons & Dragons

Part 2: The 1973 Draft of Dungeons & Dragons

Part 2: The 1973 Draft of Dungeons & Dragons

Part 3: Original Dungeons & Dragons is the most familiar. I have owned the Original set for a while now and even played a few games with it. What is most interesting here are the sections on the 1973 Draft vs. the Published versions and the Brown Box vs. White Box versions.

Part 3: Original Dungeons & Dragons

The biggest feature of this part is the scanned version of the OD&D rules, complete with Hobbits, Ents, and Balrogs.

Part 4: Articles & Additions covers the evolution of Original D&D via the published supplements and articles in Strategic Review/The Dragon. I covered some of this history here as well with my coverage of the Owl & Weasel and White Dwarf Magazines. This one is also quite interesting because of give and take between Gary's vision and others' input. This includes other writers, such as Dave Arneson, and the public.  It seems inevitable that AD&D would rise out of all of this.

Part 4: Articles & Additions

This part, the largest, has complete scans of Greyhawk, Blackmoor, and Eldritch Wizardry along with selections from the Strategic Review and The Dragon.

Part 4: Articles & Additions

Missing from this history is Gods, Demi-gods and Heroes. No real reason is given for this. I speculate it is due to one of three reasons. 

  1. Space. at 576 pages and a MSRP of about $100, this is already a massive tome. 
  2. Copyrights. A lot of the material in the original GDH belonged, or now belongs, to other companies, and reprinting was a problem. Of course they did still print the Hobbits.
  3. Moral Grounds. It is possible that the editors did not want to include it since it had stats for gods that you could kill. Gods still worshipped and honored by people today. 
Gods, Demigods and Heroes

I suppose it is also possible that it was not included (much like Swords & Spells wasn't) since it did not further the central thesis of this book; the evolution of D&D. 

A bonus is an original D&D Character sheet. I never owned one of these, so I made a photocopy of it to see how it would work; both in black/white and color.

OD&D Character sheet

Not too bad really. Maybe I use this for a character someday.

So. Who should buy this book?

Well, I guess anyone who wants to read more about the history of D&D and is willing to shell out $100 for a coffee-table-like book about it.

Friday, June 21, 2024

Kickstart Your Weekend: Working the (Other) Night Shifts

 Creating an RPG is hard work. You need to figure out what it is about. Choose the right mechanics. Write thousands of words, edit, re-write. Get art. Pay for all of that AND then figure out the publishing details.

But the hardest part? Finding a good name that hasn't already been used!

Take these two, for example; both began with the name "Night Shift." 

Nightbound

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/creativejamttrpgs/nightbound?ref=theotherside

This game began as "Nightshift" but it was so close to ours that everyone involved believed that a name change was the best course of action.

Nightbound does a lot of the same things that NIGHT SHIFT does, but it uses the "Powered by the Apocalypse (PBTA)" engine, so it will attract a different group of players than our NIGHT SHIFT. OR it is just as likely that there will be fans that play both games. 

There is certainly room on my table and shelves for both games.


Nightshift

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/exoticcancer/nightshift-0?ref=theotherside

This one is so different (and spelled differently) that we felt there was no chance of brand confusion. Plus, it looks like a lot of fun.

The designer is a former dancer and now an online personality, so she brings authenticity to the game and a solid artistic vision. 

--

I am backing both games. 

So yes. Please expect a future "Plays Well With Others" to feature these two with our own NIGHT SHIFT.

Thursday, June 20, 2024

Converting D&D 5 to Blue Rose 2nd Edition: Character Exploration

 Ever since the Great OGL Debacle of 2022-2023, I have been looking for something to replace D&D on my table and in my development space. I have not always been successful on either front, but I have found many great contenders, including Castles & Crusades, Pathfinder 2nd Edition, and Wasted Lands. I have another one I wish to add to that list. Blue Rose 2nd Edition.

Blue Rose and Characters

I love Blue Rose. I love the game, the idea, the setting, the mechanics, everything. 

I spent a lot of time reviewing this game when it was released.

The game is an absolute joy, and I hope to continue it for a long time.

Unlike the three games I mentioned above, Blue Rose 2nd Edition's AGE system is not d20-based. It does have some d20 DNA via Blue Rose 1st Edition's True20 system. It is fairly trivial to convert D&D material over to Pathfinder, Castles & Crusades, and Wasted Lands. Blue Rose takes a little more work. However, the scaling is very similar with all of these games.

Blue Rose

The Characters

For this, I will do conversions of my main witch character, Larina, and two of my Forgotten Realms characters. Why these three? I want to play around with how adepts work. Plus, these are the three characters (well, them and Johan) that are most on my mind right now. Sinéad and Nida are part of my 2nd Ed AD&D Forgotten Realms game, so exploring who they are in this Blue Rose/AGE set-up is useful for both Blue Rose and the Forgotten Realms. And Larina, well, she is never far from my mind. 

Plus, it is the Summer Solstice, one of the pagan celebration days, so witches seem appropriate. 

Also, lately, I have been comparing and contrasting Larina and Sinéad. If Larina is my go-to witch, Sinéad is becoming my go-to sorceress or wild magic wielder. Though I am noticing I am playing Sinéad a bit like Larina so I need to find ways to make her (Sinéad) her own character. 

I have already explored a lot of characters for this game. Especially a lot of adepts and how they can feel different from each other. 

I have spent quite a bit of time with this over the years and I really love the characters you can make and play with this game.

Sinéad for Blue Rose
Sinéad
Female Human/Vata'an Adept, Level 5

Accuracy: 5 (Primary) Focus: Bows
Communication: 3 Focuses: Persuasion, Performance, Deception
Constitution: 3 Focus: Swimming
Dexterity: 3 Focus: Artisan
Fighting: 2 
Intelligence: (Primary) 3 Focus: Arcane Lore
Perception: 3 (Primary) 
Strength: 2
Willpower: 2 (Primary)

Speed: 13
Defense: 13
Armor: 3
Penalty: 0

Health: 56
Conviction: 5

Powers, Talents, and Specializations

Starting Talents: Lore (N), Performance (N)

Arcane Talents: Healing (J), Wild Arcane (J)
Skillful Channeling
Arcane Training: Shaping (N)

Specialization: Bard (N)

Arcana

Wild: Fire Shaping, Sense Minds, Visions
Shaping: Psychic Shield, Move Object, Second Sight
Healing: Cure, Sleep

Arms and Armor

Dagger, Melee (Accuracy) 1d6+1
Dagger, Ranged (Accuracy) 1d6 6/12 Minor

Leather (Light Armor)

Persona

Calling: The Moon: Discovery and Learning Secrets
Destiny: Queen of Rods, Curious
Fate: Jaded
Corruption: 0 

Goals: To discover the secrets and source of her magic

Relationships

Taryn (3), "She is my adopted sister. We will do anything for each other."
Larina (2), "She is Taryn's mother. I am not sure what their deal is, but I will respect her."
Nida (2), "I have never had a friend like her, and so unlike everyone I have met before."

--

Nida for Blue Rose
Nida
Female Human Expert, Level 5

Accuracy: 2 (Primary) Focus: Arcane
Communication: 4 (Primary) Focuses: Deception, Disguise
Constitution: 3 Focus: Swimming
Dexterity: 3 (Primary) 
Fighting: 2 
Intelligence: 4 Focused: Arcane Lore, Shaping
Perception: 4 (Primary) Focus: Empathy
Strength: 1
Willpower: 2 (Primary) Focus: Courage

Speed: 13
Defense: 13
Armor: 3
Penalty: 0

Health: 58
Conviction: 5

Powers, Talents, and Specializations

Starting Talents: Light Armor Training, Pinpoint Attack

Arcane Potential (N), Thievery (N)
Specialization: Shaper (Fire), (N)

Arcana

Fire Shaping

Arms and Armor

Dagger, Melee (Accuracy) 1d6+1
Dagger, Ranged (Accuracy) 1d6 6/12 Minor

Leather (Light Armor)

Persona

Calling: The Sun: Championing the Everyday
Destiny: Eight of Chalices, Daring
Fate: Stubborn
Corruption: 0 

Goals: To find her true path

Relationships

Sinéad (3), "Sinéad is a naive kid with her head in the clouds. And I love her for that. She reminds me of what I was."
Larina (2), "She honestly kind of scares me, but I know she has the answers I seek."

--

Larina Nix for Blue Rose
Larina Nix
Female Human Adept, Level 20

Accuracy: 2 (Primary) Focus: Arcane
Communication: 5 Focuses: Persuasion, Performance +2, Investigation
Constitution: 3 Focuses: Swimming, Stamina
Dexterity: 3 Focused: Artisan +2, Calligraphy +2
Fighting: 2 
Intelligence: (Primary) 5 Focuses: Arcane Lore +2, Research, Sorcerery Lore, Historical Lore, Healing
Perception: 3 (Primary) Focuses: Empathy, Visionary
Strength: 1 Focus: Intimidation
Willpower: 5 (Primary) Focus: Faith

Speed: 11
Defense: 11
Armor: 5
Penalty: 0

Health: 114
Conviction: 11

Powers, Talents, and Specializations

Arcane Talents: Arcane Training (M), Healing (M), Witchcraft (M), Psychic (M)

Linguistics (M), Performance (N), Contacts (J)

Specialization: Seer (M), Shaper (Fire) (M)

Stunts: Skillful Channeling (1), Disrupt Arcana (4), Lasting Aracan
Epic Stunt: Effortless Arcana

Add Willpower to Damage, Familiarity mod -2

Arcana

Fire Shaping
Enhancement, Heart Reading, Light Shaping, Ward, Second Sight
Cure, Sleep, Draw Vitality, Flesh Shaping, Body Control, Psychic Shield
Psychic Weapon, Psychic Contact, Calm, Illusion, Mind Shaping, Mind Reading
Visions, Scrying, Object Reading, Nature Reading

Arms and Armor

Dagger, Melee (Accuracy) 1d6+1
Dagger, Ranged (Accuracy) 1d6 6/12 Minor

Persona

Calling: The Priestess: Oneness with Spirit
Destiny: Queen of Rods, Curious
Fate: Jaded
Corruption: 1

Goals: To become a powerful witch

Relationships

Taryn (3), "My daughter. We lost so much time together in my service to Baba Yaga."
Sinéad (2), "Taryn's adopted 'sister.' I have watched this one from afar and subtly guided her on her path."
Nida (3), "It's...complicated."

--

Ok. Three different approaches to magic (arcana) in Blue Rose. The Wild Talent (Sinéad), the dabbler (Nida), and the Witch Queen (Larina).

Frankly, I am pleased with all three. Larina is scary powerful, and that is what I was aiming for. She has some corruption. I was also going to do Larina's daughter and Sinéad's best friend, Taryn, but I want to work some details on her first. 

I like that this world and this system allow me to bring out different aspects of these characters. 

In some ways I like to think of these as "parallel universe" versions. What these characters could be if the world they lived in was less horrible and had more light.  BUT...I don't even play Blue Rose as all "sunshine and kittens." The bright spots in this world are bright because there is still a lot of darkness out there.  I mean, even (especially) Larina has some corruption because she dabbles in Sorcery, or at least "Forbidden Knowledge." 

These characters compare very, very well to their Wasted Lands counterparts (Larina, Nida, Sinéad). They are not 100% the same, nor should they be, but I can see each (D&D, Blue Rose, Wasted Lands) are an aspect of the other. Given this I really should do Johan for Blue Rose. He would fit in rather nicely, really.