Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Best (and Worst) of 2009


Normally I avoid these thing, since they are nothing but subjective opinion at best and ego-wanking at worst. But 2009 was a good year for RPGs and RPG fandom and I wanted to share my thoughts on that. So yeah. Ego-wanking.

Best RPG of 2009: Doctor Who Adventures in Time and Space

An easy call really. The system is simple, the art and layout are the new high watermark for RPGs and it comes in a box with dice! In a year all about Retro- and Old School gaming, this is very cool. Of course Doctor Who and RPGs have had a long history together, even outside of the FASA game. Many of us became Who fans and gamers at the same time. Playing AD&D and watching Doctor Who on PBS was close to a geek universal for the early 80's. The new Who game is very much a product of this time. Newer easy to use mechanics, slick presentation and top notch design and layout. Course with the premise behind Who, time and space travel, then nearly anything can be played. Though I am hesitant to put outright magic in my Who game.
I hope to have more to say about this game in 2010.

Honorable Mention: Best RPG, Witch Girls Adventures
Prior to Doctor Who coming out, this was my favorite new game of 2009. There is a lot to like about WGA. Whatever I can't (or won't) do with Who I can do with this game. It has a great little magic system that you can port over to Savage Worlds or Cortex (both in a dire need of a good magic system), You can play a Harry Potter like game, or it can be played as is. I have blogged a quite bit out it already this year as you can see here.

Best Blogs
2009 was a year I stepped up my own blogging and was reading others. Some of the best were Hero Press for a solid rundown of a little bit of everything in fandom. Grognardia for EVERYTHING related to old school gaming, not just retro-clones mind you, but the genuine articles. Others worthy of note are Geek Othodox for a run down all sorts of geek culture related items such Mexican bootleg action figures. Playing D&D With Porn Stars which has to have the best name of a blog ever. Space: 1970 dedicated to all things Sci-fi from the 70's (and sometimes early 80's). And finally, Lair of the evil DM, which lives up to its claim as "Maxim Magazine for Gamers", which I think has shown more porn stars than PD&DWPS has.
I am sure there are others that are great as well, so if you have a blog and are reading mine, please feel free post a free advertisement here.

Year of the Retro-Clones
Spent a good part of this year playing, reading and working on retro-clones. My favorite was Spellcraft & Swordplay, a nice little take on OD&D with the original combat system in place and not the "alternate" d20 resolution that became the defacto means in later years. Other great ones were Basic Fantasy and Labyrinth Lord, two takes on Basic D&D. I also was able to get myself a Christmas present last year and got a near mint D&D Rules Cyclopedia, so it was a good year for playing like it was 1981. All my posts regarding all the Retro Clone posts can be seen here. It was a good year for Retro Clones, I hope that 2010 proves to be as good.

The Worst: Outlaw Press
2009 also had it's share of "worsts" too. The worse of the worse had to be the massive theft of content by Outlaw Press, summarized here. It now seems that Outlaw Press is offline. It's website is down, there are no products on Amazon or Lulu. While I hate to see a small RPG company go out of business, Outlaw brought this all on themselves. I do hope that the artists that had their material stolen will get some satisfaction, but I am sure this will be pyrrhic victory at best.

Edition Wars
2009 opened with the latest round of Edtion Wars, namely 4th Ed D&D vs. Everything else. I am happy to say that save for some minor skirmishes this war is over. 2009 gave us more ways to play "D&D" than ever before. We had D&D 4th Ed, the new Pathfinder RPG (aka D&D 3.6), and all the Retro-clones, if there was a game you wanted to play chances are very good it was out there somewhere.

Games Not Published

In 2009 we still did not see publications of Ghosts of Albion or Chill. 

Looking forward to 2010
Looks like I am going to get some more Who gaming in and that is good. Going to try converting some of my Ghosts of Albion material to other systems instead of letting it languish on my hard drive.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Hex Girls

We're the Hex Girls!
And we're gonna put a spell on you.

- The Hex Girls Hex Girl



So I had this idea. I was washing dishes and thought that we need a sequel to Scooby Doo. My boys had just watched Scooby Doo and the Witch's Ghost and it featured a goth girl band called The Hex Girls. They later showed up in another Scooby Doo movie, Scooby Doo and the Legend of the Vampire and again in the Whats New, Scooby Doo? series episode The Revenge of the Vampire.

So lets take the original premise of Scooby Doo, a group of kids that solve mysteries but are also in a rock band. The end of The Witch's Ghost even pay homage to this with the Scooby gang playing backup for the Hex Girls. The members are playing the instruments they were going to originally play back in '69. Scooby is even on the bongos like the original concept.

Flip the concept a bit; the supernatural is real, but no one believes in it. Throw in the Hex Girls and faster that you can say spin off I had an idea for a new series.

The Hex Girls Animated Series

The basic premise is simple. The Hex Girls (Thorn, Luna and Dusk) are a group of young musicians touring America (Series 1) and then the World (Series 2). Secretly though they are all witches. Not very powerful ones yet, but they do have the talent. Given the laws of cartoon and RPG universes, every town they have a gig in something weird is going on. So in the 22 minutes they have they need to discover what is going on, put a stop to what ever supernatural problem is happening, work together while doing it, and still be on stage for their show that night. All the while keeping their Manager Jasper Ridgeway happy and avoiding paparazzi photographer/occult conspiracy theorist Flash Cameron.

Think of it as Supernatural or Charmed for kids. Since there is a wealth of popular culture to draw from starting with the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew all the way up to Ben 10 and W.I.T.C.H. coming up with episodes ideas is easy AND it works as a good way to bring kids into roleplaying.

The trick though is to keep this from turning into a newer version of Josie and the Pussycats. Or worse. A Goth version of JEM.




History of the Band

The Hex Girls were a local goth band formed by Thorn (aka Sally McKnight) and Luna (aka Kim Moss) in their hometown of Oakhaven, MA; the same hometown as horror/mystery author Ben Ravenscroft was from (and where the Hex Girls and the Scooby Gang defeated him and the ghost of his long dead ancestor Sarah Ravenscroft). It was here when Thorn first discovered her magical abilities. Luna and drummer Dusk, later discovered their powers returning from a video shoot in Transylvania.

Sally and Kim were friends in high school, both being artsy goth chicks. Dusk (she has never given out her real name, yet) is a couple years younger and was attending the local private academy when she auditioned for the band. She showed up in her school uniform, black lipstick and fingernails, sat down at the kit and blew everyone away. When asked about her past experience on drums, she admitted she never played before in her life but had practice in beating people up.

After winning the Unsigned Bands contest at Vampire Rock in Australia, the band was signed up by Warner Bros. and picked up manager Jasper Ridgeway.

Characters

Thorn (Sally McKnight), 22 (voiced by Jennifer Hale, who was on Charmed once)

Sally is the leader of the group, she plays lead guitar and lead vocals. She was also the first to have her powers manifest themselves. She is the groups defacto Occult Scholar, having her Great-Great Grandmother's spell book and a natural curiosity of all things occult and supernatural.

Thorn writes the bands more pro-activist songs like Earth, Wind, Fire and Air. She describes her self as a Wiccan and an Eco-Goth. She is very vocal about her points of view and belongs to many Pro-Earth, Pro-Animal, anti-pollution organizations. Since discovering her magic at the end of The Witch's Ghost she has also been very interested in her own family's legacy of magic. She knows her mother did not have the gift and she is sure her grandmother didnt but she wants to know more about her great-grandmother and her great-great-grandmother. Some episodes even deal with Thorn looking into her own past. She is usually the first to want to investigate the creepy house or the haunted graveyard or schedule her concerts around her horoscope.




Name: Thorn (Unisystem)
Motivation: To discover her family's magical secrets; to make some great music
Creature Type: Human witch
Attributes: Strength 2, Dexterity 3, Constitution 3, Intelligence 3, Perception 3, Willpower 4
Abilities: Muscle 10, Combat 10, Brains 12
Life Points: 30
Drama Points: 20
Qualities and Drawbacks: Artist (Musician), Attractive +2, Contacts (Supernatural) +1, Magic +2, Occultism 4.

Maneuvers
Name Score Damage Notes
Dodge 10 - Defense action
Grapple 12 - Resisted by Dodge
Punch 10 6 Bash
Kick 9 7
Magic 10 By Spell

Name: Thorn (Witch Girls Adventures)
Witch Outsider/Gothique
Body: d4
Mind: d6
Senses: d6
Will: d8
Social: d8
Magic: d10

Skills
Acting +1, Art +3, Basics +1, Dancing +2, Hear +1, Instrument +5, Leader +1, Pop Culture +2, Singing +6
Casting +2, Enchantment +1, Focus +2, Magic Etiquette +2, Mysticism +2

Traits
Talents: Calm, Entertainer (+1)
Heritage: Legacy

Luna (Kim Moss), 23 (voiced by Kimberly Brooks)
Kim calims her mother was descended from African slaves as they escaped New Orleans and brought their Voodoo with them to Massachusetts and that her father is descended from a long line of members of the secret Rosicrucian Brotherhood. Her parents are actually an elementary school teacher and an orthodontist respectively, but they encourage their daughters stage persona. Her father even made the artificial, but very real looking, fangs they wear on stage.

Luna plays keyboards, bass, rhythm guitar and writes most of the music and lyrics for the group. She is also the bands best spell writer and has been experimenting with spells that can be played on instruments and spells that are sung. She formed the Hex Girls with Thorn when they were in Art School together. She is a walking encyclopedia of musical knowledge. Everything from Rock, to Rap to Reggae to Classical to Jazz and Country.

Also Luna has a number 1 single. She did a cover track of Almost Paradise with then boyfriend Matt Martigan (from "Legend of the Vampire"). This causes her a bit of embarrassment in interviews since the track was never supposed to be released.
One thing she is not embarrassed about is her mixed racial heritage. In interviews she has taken some jabs for her stage make-up, some interviewers even going as far to suggest that she is trying to pretend to be white. She usually responds with I am trying to pretend to be undead! Dusk has pointed out, much to Luna's chagrin, that Luna's dad is in fact white and an orthodontist; the whitest job on the planet.




Name: Luna (Unisystem)
Motivation: To have a number one band.
Creature Type: Human witch
Attributes: Strength 2, Dexterity 4, Constitution 3, Intelligence 4, Perception 3, Willpower 5
Abilities: Muscle 10, Combat 10, Brains 14
Life Points: 30
Drama Points: 20
Qualities and Drawbacks: Artist (Musician), Attractive +2, Contacts (Supernatural) +1, Magic +1, Occultism 3.
Maneuvers
Name Score Damage Notes
Dodge 10 - Defense action
Grapple 12 - Resisted by Dodge
Punch 10 6 Bash
Kick 9 7
Magic 9 By Spell

Name: Luna (Witch Girls Adventures)
Witch Outsider/Gothique
Body: d6
Mind: d8
Senses: d8
Will: d10+1
Social: d6
Magic: d8

Skills
Acting +1, Art +3, Basics +2, Dancing +1, Hear +2, Instrument +6, Mythology +1, Pop Culture +2, Singing +5
Casting +2, Enchantment +2, Focus +3, Magic Etiquette +1, Mysticism +1

Traits
Talents: Entertainer (+1), Unshakable
Heritage: Legacy

Dusk (real name unknown), 19 (voiced by Jane Wiedlin, of the Go-Gos)
When their first drummer decided to go to college out of state the Hex Girls held an open audition at their art school for a drummer. Expecting to get other like minded college-age girls to apply they were shocked when 16 year old Dusk walked in. She was still wearing her private school uniform (she had just dropped out or was kicked out depending on who you ask), her hair was dyed three different colors and she was wearing her now trademarked cross and goth makeup. She sat down at the drums and blew everyone away. After winning the audition they asked her how long she had been playing and she said it was her first time ever at a drum kit. Dusk, and she has never given anyone any other name, has the amazing knack to play any instrument she picks up perfectly by ear. She cant read music and says counting to 4 all the time is boring, but she plays the drums because she likes to hit things.

Dusk is the sarcastic party girl of the group. Despite being younger she has had more boyfriends than the other two girls combined. She has a temper and has threatened to quit the band more than once. She is also the most musically talented of the group, she just doesn't care about writing music. As she says "I'm not a musician, I'm a Rock-star."

Dusk does take over as lead singer for the only song she wrote, We Do Voodoo.




Name: Dusk (Unisystem)
Motivation: To have a great time
Creature Type: Human witch
Attributes: Strength 3, Dexterity 4, Constitution 4, Intelligence 3, Perception 3, Willpower 4
Abilities: Muscle 12, Combat 14, Brains 10
Life Points: 38
Drama Points: 20
Qualities and Drawbacks: Artist (Musician), Attractive +1, Magic +1 Occultism 3.
Maneuvers
Name Score Damage Notes
Dodge 12 - Defense action
Grapple 14 - Resisted by Dodge
Punch 12 9 Bash
Kick 11 10
Magic 8 By Spell

Name: Dusk (Witch Girls Adventures)
Witch Outsider/Gothique
Body: d8
Mind: d6
Senses: d6
Will: d6
Social: d10
Magic: d8

Skills
Acting +1, Art +2, Basics +2, Fighting +1, Hear +3, Instrument +6, Plucky +2, Pop Culture +1, Singing +3, Urchin +2
Casting +2, Enchantment +2, Focus +3, Magic Etiquette +1, Mysticism +1

Traits
Talents: Entertainer (+1), Temper
Heritage: Legacy

Jasper Ridgeway, 63 (voiced by Jeff Bennett)

Jasper has nearly managed every great band there is. Nearly. He had a chance to manage the Beatles after the death of Brian Epstein. He nearly managed the Rolling Stones before Allan Klein took over. He passed on David Bowie saying that once Bowie dropped the Ziggy Stardust image his career would be over. Instead Jasper managed mediocre bands or great bands that just disappeared; His best band "Wildyinds" faked their own death while he was managing them and his other band "Bad Omens" just disappeared. So the fact Jasper landed the Hex Girls pretty much goes against more than 40 years of his previous behavior in the music business. Now Jasper has discovered what having a successful band really means. Work. He is their manager, bus driver, roadie, sound tech, and all around gopher for everything. Now that the girls are investigating the occult every week he also needs to come up with ways to help them there too.

Plus Jasper is a coward, though he would never admit it. Instead Jasper always has some medical reason why he cant help. Werewolves bother his allergies, haunted houses are too dusty and irritate his sensitive eyes, he can't crawl around in grave yards or sewers due to his sensitive skin. Whatever the situation, Jasper has a reason why he cant help them out. Of course Jasper also a thousand stories about other great bands. None of them involve him though, they were all told to him by other managers. They usually happened though while Jasper was nearby. For example he will talk about the time that he was at Montreux Casino the night it burned to the ground. He was not there with Frank Zappa or even Deep Purple, but rather demanding to get paid for his band that was supposed to be there the night before but had failed to show up.







Name: Jasper Ridgeway (Unisystem)
Motivation: To finally manage a great Rock and Roll band
Creature Type: Human
Attributes: Strength 2, Dexterity 1, Constitution 2, Intelligence 4, Perception 5, Willpower 4
Abilities: Muscle 10, Combat 8, Brains 14
Life Points: 26
Drama Points: 20
Qualities and Drawbacks: Contacts (Music Business) +3, Emotional Problems (Coward).

Maneuvers
Name Score Damage Notes
Dodge 8 - Defense action
Grapple 10 - Resisted by Dodge
Punch 8 6 Bash

Name: Jasper Ridgeway (Witch Girls Adventures)
Mundane Human
Body: d4
Mind: d6
Senses: d8
Will: d8
Social: d10
Magic: d4 (no magical talents)

Skills
Basics +3, Drive +3, Fix-Mechanical +3, Gossip +2, Hear +4, Instrument +2, Mundane Etiquette +3, Plucky +1, Pop Culture +4, Streetwise +3

Traits
Talents: Entertainer (+1)

Flash Cameron, 26 (voiced by Jeremy Piven)
Flash is a notorious paparazzi photographer that normally sells his pictures to the highest bidder. He has no shame and no picture is too forbidden to him. He happily claims he was there for the fall of Brittney and Lindsey and he was carrying pictures of Baby Suri in his wallet long before anyone even knew the babys sex. Now Flash has his telescopic lens focused on the Hex Girls. Normally an up and coming band wouldn't get his attention, but Flash has seen the Hex Girls perform real magic and he is set on exposing them and the world of the supernatural. Used to a standard of living where one or two pictures would net him a few hundred thousand dollars a day, Flash is now reduced to living in cheap hotels while following the girls. He knows though that if he gets the pictures he knows he can get it will all be worth it.

The strain of the road and living alone is getting to him and now he keeps referring to himself in the third person.

Note: Flash is orignal though he is based on "Rock Rivers" from "Scooby-Doo in Where's My Mummy?" and "Cameron Flick" from "Scooby-Doo and the Stone Dragon"





Name: Flash (Unisystem)
Motivation: To get photographic proof of magic and the supernatural and make a ton of money for it.
Creature Type: Human
Attributes: Strength 3, Dexterity 3, Constitution 3, Intelligence 3, Perception 5, Willpower 4
Abilities: Muscle 12, Combat 14, Brains 13
Life Points: 38
Drama Points: 15
Qualities and Drawbacks: Attractive +1, Contacts (Media) +3

Maneuvers
Name Score Damage Notes
Dodge 14 - Defense action
Grapple 16 - Resisted by Dodge
Punch 14 12 Bash

Name: Flash (Witch Girls Adventures)
Mundane Human
Body: d6
Mind: d6
Senses: d10
Will: d8
Social: d8
Magic: d4 (no magical talents)

Skills
Art +4, Basics +2, Drive +4, Fix-Mechanical +3, Gossip +4, Mundane Etiquette +3, Plucky +2, Pop Culture +4, Streetwise +4

Traits
Talents: Brave

Episode Ideas

Typically the episodes will follow the same basic structure. The girls arrive in town, hear of some sort of supernatural disturbance, investigate, solve the mystery, be back in time for the concert. All the while avoiding various problems. The supernatural mysteries can include all the stock and trade ones: Zombies, Vampires, Ghosts, Werewolves, rival Witches, Mummies from a museum, and so on. Take a Scooby Doo episode and work from the premise that the monster in not a fake but real.

Problems can include the following:
Thorn wanting to find out more about her family.
The girls loose their magic.
Wildwind shows up to a battle of the bands and they are using magic too.
Flash gets a picture of the girls using magic.
Dusks parents show up at a show! And they are stinking rich!
Of course there are some standbys that werent used in Scooby Doo, but in other shows.
One of the girls falls in love with another musician who is a ghost by night!

Mix and match. The idea here is be simple and focus not so much on the plot or meta-plots or para-plots or whatever, but on simple roleplaying fun. And a chance to become magical, monster fighting, ass-kicking, rock stars!


Episode Guide

Here are the first season of "Hex Girls" episodes!


Episode 1.1 “Our Lips Are Sealed”
Luna and Thorn express concern and a little bit of anger after a concert when once again they fail to learn anything about Dusk. Including her real name. When Dusk’s parents show up at a concert they learn that not only is her real name “Muffy” (“What kind of stupid name it that anyway?”) but her parents are stinking rich yuppies. The girls argue about what other secrets they are hiding from each other when a Sprite decides to use his magic to make them reveal all their secrets to each other. Can they stop the Sprite before he causes more havoc? Can they do it before they tell Dusk’s parents and Flash Cameron the whole truth about everything?
Monster of the Week: Pip the mischievous Sprite.
Musical number: “Our Lips are Sealed” – The GoGos.
Location: Boston, MA

Episode 1.2 “Girls on Film”
The girls dispatch a pesky ghost with a fairly routine spell, but catch the attention of “extreme photojournalist” Flash Cameron. When the ghost’s bigger, and more dangerous brother comes looking for the girls for his revenge can they stop it and still not expose themselves to Flash?
Monsters of the Week: Two ghosts (maybe a riff on the Scooby Doo ‘Boo Brothers’)
Musical Number: “Somebody’s Watching Me” – Rockwell
Location: New York, NY

Episode 1.3 “American Witch”
Activists are making claims that Rock music turns kids into brainless zombies. But when REAL zombies show up can the girls use their magic and music to stop the horde?
Special Guest Star: Rob Zombie! (he is a big fan of the Hex Girls!)
Monster of the Week: Zombies and Fundamentalists
Musical Number: “American Witch” Rob Zombie
Location: Salem, MA

Episode 1.4 “The Voodoo You Do”

The ghost of the “Voodoo Queen” Marie Laveau needs a new body to continue her reign over New Orleans and she has chosen Luna!

Monster of the Week: The Ghost of Marie Laveau
Musical Number: “We Do Voodoo” – The Hex Girls
Location: New Orleans, LA

Episode 1.5 “Home Sweet Home”
Luna uncovers some information on her great-grandmother. Turns out that only was she a witch too, but her and Thorn’s great-grandmother were bitter enemies. Will the possession of Luna’s ancestors’ Book of Shadows, and Thorn and Luna being possessed by their great-grandmothers’, be the end of the Hex Girls? Will Jasper and Dusk be able to save them?
Monster of the Week: Luna and Thorn attacking each other.
Musical Number: “Sweet Home Alabama” – Lynyrd Skynyrd (sung at the beginning of the ep)
Location: Birmingham, AL

Episode 1.6 “Wild Wynd Blowin’”
The Hex Girls come to a gig only to discover that the guys from Wildwynds have stolen their spot. Bigger problems ensue when Wildwynds also start using magic! Bigger still Flash is back in town.
Monster of the Week: Wildwynds and Flash
Musical Number: “Shout it Out Loud” by KISS, performed by Wildwynds
Location: Dallas, Texas

Episode 1.7 “If Anyone Falls”
Having a relationship on the road is hard, harder if you are hiding the fact that you are a witch to your boyfriend. Thorn has decided to tell her new boyfriend the truth. The other girls don’t agree, but let it be her choice. But before she can tell him, something drains all of their powers!
Monster of the Week: Thorn’s boyfriend, a warlock.
Musical Number: “If Anyone Falls” by Stevie Nicks
Location: Wichita, KS

Episodes 1.8 & 1.9 “Ragnarök and Roll” (parts I and II)
“And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and seven trumpets were given to them.” – Revelation 8:2

“Never underestimate the power of a full horn section.” – Jake Blues
, The Blues Brothers

It’s apocalypse time again, you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here. The girls enter a battle of the bands contest and the prize is the entire world! The Devil has assembled a band of all the souls he has taken over the years; Robert Johnson (guitar); John Bonham (drums); Stevie Ray Vaughan (guitar), Cliff Buton (bass) and Janis Joplin (vocals).
he Hex Girls need the help of the only musician to ever cheat the Devil out of his due and still be alive; Jim “Mr. Mojo Rising” Morrison. Trouble is Jim is in hiding and going outside will clue the Devil to his whereabouts and he doesn’t want that to happen.
Monster of the Week: The Devil's Band
Musical Number: Hells Bells (part 1), God Gave Rock and Roll to You (part 2)
Location: LA, CA

Guest Stars and Guest Band
Jim Morrison – Went into something like an Occult Witness Protection Program (called "The Sancturary") with the aid of his ex-wife and powerful witch Patricia Kennealy-Morrison.
Jimi Hendrix – Vampyre. Has more soul and more funk than most other show's vampires combined.
Elvis Pressley – living.  His battles with zombies, aliens and Bigfoot are the stuff of legends.  You DO NOT +&!@ with The King!
Eric “Eggs, Eggman” Burdon – occult poet, one of only five people that know of all the most powerful psychic locations in the USA. Friends with Hendrix.
Jim “Big Jim” Martin of Faith No More  – occult investigator (left Faith No More to battle the occult), had an epic battle with a creature known as the Pumpkin King.
Richard "Magic Dick" Salwitz of The J. Geils Band.  – Uses his harmonica to focus his magical attacks to defeat evil spirits.
Stevie "the White Witch" Nicks - what can I possiblly say her that you could not guess?  Still my first rock-girl crush. The "4th Hex Girl".


Buffy the Vampire Slayer 
 Purchase the Buffy the Vampire Slayer game from Noble Knight Games.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Piasa Bird


I have always been fascinated with the Piasa bird. I have been to the bluff (what left of it) many times, read a number of stories about it and remember finding it in a school history book from 1921. It is nice to know that some really cool myths and stories don't have to come from faraway lands with strange sounding names, sometimes it can come from your own back yard.


So for my 100th Blog post, I wanted to do something special, a monster from my childhood.




 The Piasa Bird

The Piasa (Bird of Piasa, Piasa Bird) resembles a mythical chimera in many respects. It has the head of a black bear with a man's face, large disproportionate teeth, and the horns of an elk. Its head and neck are covered with a whiskery mane, like the beard of a man. The body resembles a lion's or a bear's save that it is scaly like that of a large fish, and it has a bear's legs ending with an eagle's claws. Its tail is at least fifty feet long, wound three times around the body, and tipped with a spearhead thrust backward through its hind legs. Large bat-like wings extend over its shoulders. Overall its body is black with red horns. It stands over seven feet tall and is twenty feet long.

The Piasa makes its home in caves in the bluffs along the Mississippi river. Its favorite or most active spot comes from the areas North of St. Louis in what is now called Alton.

The Piasa is the only one of its kind, or rather it is the only one that has ever been seen. It is unknown that if this is the same monster that attacked Chief Ouatoga's tribe or an offspring. The Piasa seems to go through periods of activity and inactivity that can last for years. Again it is unknown if it is the same creature or some offspring of the original.

The Piasa lives on fresh meat. Its preferred food is man, in particular children and young adults. When humans can not be found the Piasa will eat any large game animal.

The Piasa attacks its opponents by swooping down on top of them. Its first attack is usually a high-pitched scream that causes fear. Anyone with a fifteen foot radius of the Piasa under must fear check. The Piasa will then rip into its victims with a claw/claw/bite routine using its horns and tail as needed. The Piasa can attack multiple opponents per turn. Due to its size, any bite attack doing more than 50% of a target's Life Points are considered to have swallowed the victim whole. When the Piasa does this it will break off its attack and fly to its lair to digest. The victim does not immediately die; the Piasa prefers fresh meat in its own lair. The victim can attack while inside the Piasa, but will fight at a penalty of -1 to hit. The victim also takes 1 Life Points of damage per turn.

The Piasa Bird lives solely on freshly-killed meat. It produces nothing that is otherwise useful to human-kind. Due to its rarity a captured live Piasa could command a king's ransom from some of the less-respected zoos in the world. Most scientists consider the Piasa a myth, or at best, an extinct creature from eons past. Scholars of a more arcane bent agree that the Piasa bird was once the terror of the Mississippi and Missouri valleys, but even most them believe it is now extinct.

Name: Piasa Bird
Motivation: Eat       
Creature Type: flying monster
Attributes: Str 16, Dex 8, Con 9, Int 1, Per 6, Will 3
Ability Scores: Muscle 38, Combat 20, Brains 9
Life Points: 125
Drama Points: 3
Special Abilities: Additional Actions +2 (3 total), Armour Value 8, Attractiveness –5, Cause Fear, Flight, Increased Life Points
Manoeuvres

Name
Score
Damage
Notes
Bite
+22
48
Slash/stab
Claw x2
+20
34
Slash/stab
Horns
+18
30
Stab
Tail
+18
34
Bash


Story of the Piasa Bird
The following story appeared recently (1836) in the Alton Telegraph by John Russel. It is claimed that this is story told to Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet by the Indian tribes of the valley.

When Marquette and Joliet came down the Mississippi river in 1673 they encountered a bluff on the east side of the river with the painting of a giant monster. When they asked the Indians what this monster was, they retold for them the story that had been handed down to them for generations. Marquette named the monster "Piasa," pronounced Pie-a-saw, which means "the Destroyer."

The Legend of the Piasa bird that was related to Marquette and Joliet went something like this. Many years ago a great bird roamed the land. Every morning the people would wake in fear to the shrill screams of the great Bird. The bird awoke hungry and would carry off dozens of boys and girls to its cave to be eaten. Chief Ouatoga [OO-wa-toe-ga] was getting old. He wanted to destroy this terrible killer before he died. He called his braves to a meeting and told them he was going to ask the Great Spirit what to do.

He went up on the highest bluff. He spoke with the Great Spirit. The Great Spirit told the Chief, "Dip your arrows deep into the poison of a copperhead snake and shoot them into the body of the Bird. They will cause its death." He returned to the camp and told his people what the Great Spirit had told him. He gathered up a small army of the strongest braves and set out to hunt the Bird. Chief Ouatoga told his braves that the plan was for someone to stand on the cliff to lure the Bird down. When the great monster swoops down they were to shoot it with their poison arrows.

The braves all begged their chief to be the one to sacrifice themselves. But the chief told them no, he would be the one, since he was older. While the braves practiced with their bows, Chief Ouatoga spoke with the Great Spirit. "Think not of my life," he said, "but the lives of the children."

The next morning the chief stood tall waiting for the great bird to come. Its screams could be heard as flew down the river looking for victims. The bird saw the old chief and swooped down on him with a terrible scream.

Just as the monster was ready to attack the braves shot their arrows and all 100 met their mark. The monster fell into the Mississippi river and died. The braves carried the broken and bruised body of their chief back to the tribe. The medicine man healed him and he awoke the next day surrounded by his grateful people. In remembrance of the act the returned to the site and painted a life-size picture of the monster. Every time an Indian went down the river after that, he fired an arrow at the bluff. In alternate versions of the story the youngest brave stands on the cliff instead of the chief. When he is healed the next day he becomes the new chief.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Scaring the Dickens out of Your Players: Ghosts of Albion

On this day in 1843 Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas, also known more simply as A Christmas Carol.

The story of Scrooge, Tiny Tim and the Ghosts is now a timeless Christmas classic retold in prose, stage, film (the 1951 version with Alistair Sim is my personal favorite), even animation and various parodies, homage and pastiches.




Such is the timelessness of this tale that it is perfect fodder for a Christmas themed episode. Even it is good enough for Doctor Who it is good enough for us right. Given that is a quintessential English tale of Ghosts in the early Victorian age then it is perfect for Ghosts of Albion.

Jacob Marley
Motivation: To walk the Earth for his sin of greed, warn Scrooge of his fate.
Creature Type: Restless Spectre
Life Points: 30
Drama Points: 1

Attributes
Str: (2)
Dex: (2)
Con: (2)
Int: 4
Per: 3
Will: 4

Ability Scores
Muscle: (10) Combat: (0) Brains: 16
Qualities and Drawbacks: Attractiveness -1, Cursed, Ghost, Telekinesis, Unique Kill

Manoeuvers
Name Score Damage Notes
Deflect 19 - Magic defence action
Telekinesis 17 varies Effectiveness Str 5

Jacob Marley is the former business partner of Ebenezer Scrooge. He had died seven years before on Christmas Eve and is now confined to Earth to pay for his sins of greed and not helping his fellow man. He wears the shackles of his sins in form of heavy chains attached to ledger books, money boxes and heavy keys.

Marley cannot be killed or dispatched by normal means. He is similar to a Poltergeist, but even the means to remove those troublesome spirits are not effective on him. Marley consequently will not attack, nor even reveal himself to others but Scrooge. Though anyone with Magic or Innate Magic will be able to see him and interact with him.


Zeitgeist

Zeitgeist is a German word meaning the Spirit of the Times, used to describe the general feeling or atmosphere of a particular period in time. In the Ghosts of Albion game Zeitgeist is quite literal. Each time can manifest as a spirit or ghost. This is not a ghost of someone that has passed as most spirits, but more of a collective consciousness given magical form. A Zeitgeist can have any power, quality or drawback that a ghost may have. Since they are more of reflection of a particular time a Zeitgeist also can't be destroyed, though many exist only under very specific conditions.


Ghost of Christmas Past
Creature Type: Zeitgeist
Life Points: NA
Drama Points: 5

Attributes
Str: -
Dex: -
Con: -
Int: 5
Per: 6
Will: 5

Ability Scores
Muscle: NA Combat: NA Brains: 18

Qualities and Drawbacks: Archaic, Ghost, Manifest, Telekinesis, Unique Kill

The Ghost of Christmas Past appears to be both young and old at the same time. His hair is long and white, but his face is smooth. He speaks in a somewhat archaic manner.

This spirit shows their charge their memories of the past. A bitter old man like Scrooge is shown times when he was young and denied love from his abusive father and the loss of his sister. There are wonderful scenes in the 1951 movie with Scrooge and Marley that typify what this spirit does.

Ghost of Christmas Present
Quote: Come! You have never beheld the likes of me!
Creature Type: Zeitgeist
Life Points: NA
Drama Points: 5

Attributes
Str: (4)
Dex: (2)
Con: (5)
Int: 5
Per: 6
Will: 5


Ability Scores
Muscle: NA Combat: NA Brains: 20

Qualities and Drawbacks: Ghost, Manifest, Telekinesis, Unique Kill

This spirit is the most living of the lot. He appears as large man wearing green robes. His image invokes comparisons to Father Christmas or even the Pagan Green Man or Winter King. Though his appearance can vary greatly from year to year. He tells Scrooge that he has over 800 brothers, implying that he will no longer exist after midnight on Christmas and next year there will be a new Ghost of Christmas.

His task is to show Scrooge what he is missing and what his own greed has wroght.

The Ghost of Christmas Present has two horrible companions with him. They represent the greatest sources of suffering in the world. A boy, Ignorance and a girl Want. The spirit warns Scrooge to beware them both but especially of the girl.

The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come
Creature Type: Zeitgeist
Life Points: NA
Drama Points: 5

Attributes
Str: -
Dex: -
Con: -
Int: 4
Per: 4
Will: 7

Ability Scores
Muscle: NA Combat: NA Brains: 14

Qualities and Drawbacks: Chill of the Grave, Ghost, Manifest, Telekinesis, Unique Kill

This spectre is more horrifying than all the others. He is a grim Death-like figure shrouded in a robe and hood that never speaks but shows Scrooge visions of his future; the death of Tiny Tim, his own lonely death and callousness in which people view his passing.

Using the Ghosts in Your Story

Dickens used A Christmas Carol not only to pay some bills, but to address some serious social issues. The same set up can be used as a special Christmas episode in your on going game. The set up may seem a bit clichd now a 164 years later, but they still work. The trick is not adding the Ghosts to your game, but figuring out the proper character or plot hook.

Keep in mind that as Directors you are not likely to get the same change of heart Scrooge had out of your characters, so instead focus on using the Ghosts to tell an important tale or show the characters a brief glimpse into their (possible) future.

A good example for a modern Cinematic game would be a demon hunter who is dedicated only to her mission ignoring family, friends and loved ones, in a sense becoming like the monsters she hunts. The Ghosts then in order show her what her life has been like in the past before her calling, what her friends and family are doing without her around, and then her grim and dark future. Too easy? Yeah, the future is likely to dark and grim regardless, but this where the twist comes in. Our demon hunter is still alive, but everyone she loves is either dead or lost to her. She finds that she is becoming less human (metaphorically speaking) and have more in common than the monsters she kills. Maybe she breaks into nest of vampires and they have set up a small Christmas tree and are giving each other presents. Sure the presents might be live kittens, but it is the thought that counts.

The purpose is to show our chosen demon hunter that without family, friends and even love, none of what she does matters. You can kill a 1,000 monsters, there is another 10,000 right behind him. Loved ones are often all you really have.

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Cu Sìth

Cu Sìth


“I will summon a guardian for you while I investigate this matter further.” Bodicea had said. She put two of her long fingers to her mouth and let a whistle of the likes I scarcely believed she was capable of. At her side a large dog with white fur and one white ear and one red ear materialized. The dog, who was the size of a small horse, jumped around her as if he were a playful puppy. She nuzzled him and spoke to him in Gaelic.

She looked up to me and the dog focused all his attention on us, standing between us and his beloved mistress.

“This is Bogle. He was given to me by the Lady of the Spring. So loyal he followed into death. He will be loyal to you as well in my absence.” The ghostly queen said.

William cleared his throat, “Nice doggie, I see.”

“No.” Bodicea said back, “He is not.”
- From the Journal of Tamara Swift

The Celts were well known for their love of dogs. But the Cu Sìth or “Fairy Hound” has a special place in Celtic lore. Often described as a large hound that is either all green or all white with red ears. They have been alternately seen as bad omens, a horrible stealer of children or a fierce and loyal protector the Cu Sìth (“coo shee”) features in many tales.

One such tale deals with Queen Bodicea herself.

The Queen, when young and alive, went to a sacred well to mourn the death of her infant son. While there she discovered a bag and inside was a half-drowned puppy. She rescued the puppy, who was all white save for one red ear. She named him “Bogel” The dog grew to be as large as a small pony and became a fierce protector of her and her two daughters. When Bogel died at a ripe old age, she was given the gift a puppy from a local farmer. The puppy was one of the many offspring Bogel had fathered, but was the exact image of his sire. This dog, also named Bogel, went on to serve his mistress such as the one before until Bodicea herself had died.
- Source: Marion Zimmer Bradley’s “Ravens of Avalon”

Other tales feature the Cu Sìth as a spectral hound, one that forebodes doom like the Barghest, though those hounds are more often black in color and their malevolence is more universal than that of the Cu Sìth. Also the Cu Sìth is more commonly associated with the Faerie and sometimes valiant, but tragic, warriors and the Barghest is more closely associated with witchcraft.

The Cu Sìth can be found most often near or around fairy mounds. A good sign that a mound is in fact a faerie mound is the proximity of a Cu Sìth to it.

Cu Sìth can also interbreed with other dogs which will typically produce one Cu Sìth per liter; sometimes more, sometimes less. Odd are the ways of the faerie folk.

Cu Sìth pups are rarely if ever tamed. If one wishes to remain with a non-faerie then it is of their own choosing.


Cu Sìth
Ghosts of Albion, Unisystem

Creature Type: Faerie Animal
Life Points: 30
Drama Points: 1

Attributes
Str: 4
Dex: 4
Con: 3
Int: 2
Per: 4
Will: 3

Ability Scores
Muscle: 14, Combat: 14, Brains: 6
Special Abilities: +15 to Brains Score for smell and hearing sensing, Blink, Faerie, Hard to Kill, Lesser Sensing, Iron Vulnerability

Manoeuvres
Name Score Damage Notes
Bite +14 11 Slash/stab
Deflect +9 - Magic defence action; deflects spell 45˚

Cu Sìth
Savage Worlds (Rippers / Gaslight)

Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d4, Spirit d6, Strength d8, Vigor d8
Skills: Fighting d8, Notice d8, Stealth d6, Survival d4, Tracking d10
Pace: 8; Parry: 5, Toughness: 9
Special Abilities:
• Fleet Footed: Cu Sìth have a d10 running die.
• Go for the Throat: If a Cu Sìth gets a raise on its attack roll, it strikes its opponent’s least armoured location.
• Weakness (Cold Iron): Faerie take +4 damage from cold iron weapons.

Cu Sìth
Victoriana 2nd Edition

Rank: 2 (Generalist)
Physical competence: 6
Mental competence: 9
Health: 5 (10)
Signature Skills: Athletics +3, Conceal +5, Hide & Sneak +4, Perception +5,

Traits: Faerie, Night Vision

Armour: 1 (thick fur)

Combat Abilities: Bite (2 dice)

Damage: Bite (3d)

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dirty Nellie for Victoriana

Ghosts of Albion takes place in 1839.  Rippers, Cthulhu by Gaslight, Masque of the Red Death and most other Victorian Age games typically take place in or araond 1880s-1890s.  That leaves a huge swath of time that is Victorian but often covered by any game.   Except of course for Victoriana.



Victoriana is a game I want to hate, but can't.  First it is full of really cool Victorian goodness.  It made (presently) by the cool guys over at Cubicle 7, the same guys that give Star Blazer and Doctor Who.  The second edition has been gone over by Andrew Peregrine (who also worked on Angel).  I like the "black die" mechanic they add to what could ahve been just another dice pool game.    There are some thing in it I'd never try with Ghosts of Albion, but it all seems to work great in Victoriana.  The C7 guys descibe it as "Victorian age Shadow Run" and that is pretty dead on.  Most everyone knows about magic.  There are dwarves, gnomes, halflings, "eldren" (elves, but don't call them that), ogres and beastmen.  So if my work on Ghosts of Albion is more "Hammer Horror" than Victoriana is more "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen", somthing it shares with "Rippers", though I put Rippers closer to the movie "Van Helsing" or at least what we all wanted the movie to be, not what it really was.

I have played it a few times now, and try to get in a game at Gen Con with either Andrew or one of the other guys at C7 (I think I sat in a game with Marc once), and it is always a great time.  In fact outside of running my own games, or the nightly Catan games in the hotel room, it is my only Gen Con "tradition". 
But of course they are the "competition" with Ghosts of Albion, so I have to hate them. ;) (ok not really).

Dirty Nellie, Street Faerie
So one of my favorite NPCs/Guest Stars is little Dirty Nel, the Street Faerie prostitiute.  I have detailed her early years with Ghosts of Albion, and her later years with Rippers.  I should also detail what she is doing during the middle Victorian period with Victoriana.  Like before this is not a strict conversion, it is more of

Dirty Nel in Victoriana, 1867
Nel in this reality is still a Street Faerie dollymop, but she is doing a little bit better for herself.  In the Victoriana world the exsistance of magic is widely known, so Nel is often able to offer her trade as herself, complete with her peppered moth wings visable.  For stats I put Street Faerie between Eldren and Halflings.  She looks like a small Eldren woman, with of course wings.  Like Eldren, Street Faeries are prone to a mental illness or two.  I kept her addictions and faerie arrogance in place since they would work fine in this world.
Like her Rippers and Ghosts of Albion universe counter-parts, Nel is a wealth of information about the occult and criminal worlds.  She is doing a bit better for herself money wise and her reputation is growing.





Dirty Nellie
Social Class: Lower
Race: Street Faerie
Nationality: British
Age/Gender: ??/Female
Build: Slim
Hair/Eyes: Black/Piercing Blue
Vocation: Prostitute
Personality: Loner, almost cynical
Social ethics: lower class anarchist

Characteristics
Strength: 0 Presence: 3
Dexterity: 3 Wits: 3
Fortitude: 3 Resolve: 4

Imitative: 9 Movement: 8
Health: 5 Mana: 2+4 = 6

Racial Abilities
Innate Magic (Petty Magic)*

Skills
Art 6
Athletics 5
Bull 8
Charm 10
Conceal 6
Concentration 2
Dance 2
Dodge 4
Etiquette 4
Fisticuffs 4
General Knowledge 6
Hide & Sneak 6
Improvised Weapon (melee) 4
Perception 10
Streetwise 12

Conversation 4
Pick Pockets 6
Slight of Hand 4

Enchanting 5

Talents, Privileges & Assets
Beautiful, Glib, Ear of the Street, Street Informant, Bolt-Hole, Income (Lower class, prostitution)

Complications
Bad Reputation, Bon Viant, Criminal, Lecherous, Faerie Arrogance

Spells
Befuddle, Cloak of Shadows, Glamour (like “Liken Shape” but can change to human shapes), Instant Beauty

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Unisystem 2d6

Eden's Unisystem, both Classic and Cinematic use a single 1d10 roll to determine all their random probabilities. It has the advange of being simple and easy to do. But some games, a lot of games actually, roll dice instead of a die. Good examples that are close to Unisystem in terms of scop are BESM 3.0 and the new Doctor Who Adventures in Time and Space which both use a 2d6 resolution.
So the question has come up what is the effect of using a 2d6 instead of a 1d10 roll. These are being discussed over on the Eden boards, http://edenstudiosdiscussionboards.yuku.com/topic/2772 and RPG.net http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?t=489038

Well for starters anytime you involve more dice, the probability curve is going to change. With a 1d10 the chances of getting a roll of 1 is the same as getting a roll of 9 or 7 or 3 or any other number. Its always 1 out of 10 (10%, or p=0.1).

When you add more dice then the number of potential rolls increases as due the potential outcomes.

A 1d10 has 10 potential rolls and 10 potential outcomes.

A 2d6 has 36 potential rolls, but only 11 potential outcomes (2 to 12). Why the difference? Well a roll of 1 on one die and a roll of 6 on the other is 7 as is a roll of 2 and 4, and 2 and 5. So. This means some numbers will occur more often. This is obvious to anyone who has ever played any RPG really (unless the only thing you have played is Amber).

This also mean some outcomes are more likely to occur (high p) and others are less likely (low p), unlike a 1d10s flat outcomes.

This relationship is much closer to way reality is modeled. We call this the Normal Curve. Now a 2d6 is not quite Normal, but it is much closer than the 1d10. Even better is the 3d4.

A quick look at Table 1 shows the 3 die types, their outcomes, the number of outcomes, their probability (p) and cumulative probability (cum p). I have also included the basic measures of central tendencies; mean, median and mode.









At first glance on the average, the 2d6 grants an 1.5 points per roll (averaged out of course), and the 3d4 up to a 7.5 mean. There is also the nagging problem of both rolls cap out at 12 (not 10) and have no 1 rolls.

There is also the higher probability of rolling greater than a 9 in each case. I included 7 as well since you almost always add an attribute + a skill in many rolls. This results in far more success than the flat system. So how do we get the curve we want with the outcomes we need?

But This One Goes to 11
Simple, we subtract from the result. For the 2d6 we minus 1 (1 to 11 outcomes) and for the 3d4 we minus 2 (1 to 10 outcomes). So the 3d4-2 gives us the same range of outcomes, the same mean and median (flat distribution have no mode), but edges the probability down for success. The 2d6-1 gives us an extra point (an 11) and the averages are only .5 higher with comparable probable successes.






Now the question remains, why do it?

This brings a slightly grittier feel to your games. Successes now are less about blind luck and more about your skill. The outcomes are shot to the middle now (like reality) with fewer dramatic failures and successes. Want it even grittier? Take off another 1 from the rolls in every case to actually have a 0 outcome.
On the Eden Boards we started calling these alternate dice methods "The Chicago Way" due to number of Unisystem players we have here in the Chicago area.

Though I should point out while I really like the alternate dice methods, I still only use a d10 in my con games.

But I have also been playing the new Doctor Who game with a d12.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Outlaw Press uses Stolen Art and Content

Normally I try not get involved in issues online that are not directly involved with myself.  Past events aside, I just really don't have the passion or realy the time anymore.


 
But this is something that I can't ignore.

 
Outlaw Press, inc., run by James Shipman, has been using art he has stolen from the web. He claims he bought it from an "art broker" but too many people have since come out to claim they have never been paid. So his claims are likely another lie on his part.

 
The list of art verified stolen is staggering.

 
You can see a PDF listing it all here: http://stardust-publications.com/outlaw-press/OutlawPressCoversComparisonList.pdf

 
It is 30 pages of stolen art!


Now taking my word for it is not, and should not be, enough. So here is a stack of links of other discussing the issue, supporting the artists and otherwise providing evidence.

 
The RPG.Net thread that found the evidence, http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?t=483885

 
TrollBridge discussion forum, http://trollbridge.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=general&action=display&thread=1163&page=1

 
EN World’s post on the subject, http://www.enworld.org/forum/general-rpg-discussion/269217-outlaw-press-stolen-artwork-accusations.html

 
Dragonsfoot. This one is interesting since it deals with Shipman and Outlaw Press stealing Mazes & Minotaurs a few months back, http://www.dragonsfoot.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=48&t=31923

 
Concept Art forum, interesting because these are the artists themselves, http://www.conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php?t=176392

 

A list of supporting Blog posts.

This is staggering. I am not sure what James Shipman thinks he is doing here? But this is unconscionable. The RPG community is small, the profits to be had are even smaller. Many of us do this for the love of the game, not for money. Then to have someone steal material so he can profit. Well it is certainly against every reason why I am in this business.

If you read this post, please re-post this posting or post your own somewhere else to let everyone know.

 

Monday, December 14, 2009

Dracula, for Doctor Who

A quick one to try out my new toy Doctor Who Adventures in Time and Space.


These stats might be a tad high since I quick converted my Ghosts of Albion version.

Dracula

Awareness 4
Coordination 6
Ingenuity 4
Presence 7
Resolve 5
Strength 9

Skills

Athletics 6
Convince 5
Craft 1
Fighting 6
Knowledge 4
Marksman 3
Medicine 1
Science 3
Subterfuge 5
Survival 7
Technology 1
Transport 2

Traits
Alien (Great Vampire), Animal Friendship (Control), Fast Healing, Hypnosis, Keen Senses, Quick Reflexes, Psychic, Telepathy, Tough
Adversary (lots), Code of Conduct, Weakness (blood dependency, holy items (psychic block), sunlight)

The Time Lords destroyed the Great Vampires, but it is known that some escaped. One such vampire escaped to Earth and became the progenitor of all the Earthly vampires.

Several centuries later this vampire turned a Wallachian warlord named Vlad Tepes into the vampire now known as Dracula.

Stop! Hammer Time

Sorry had to do that.

I just picked up "To the Devil... a Daughter", the last Hammer Studios film produced and their first "occult" based one (unless you count "The Satanic Rites of Dracula"), rahter than their staples of Gothic Horror or even the odd "devil worshipping cult" films.  The film itslef is not very good either as a Hammer film or even as an occult thriller.  It would be forgetable really had it not been for the rather scandalous scenes of full frontal nudity from then underage Nastassja Kinski.  Though it does have some things going for it.  For one it was nice to see a Hammer film outside of the "Hammer Hamlets" and take place is urbane, even swinging, London.  Chritopher Lee is still great, if under-used here.  And this film does capture a zeitgiest of 70s occult revival very well.  Sure it is not as good as Rosemary's Baby or the Exorcist, but it is still a far cry better than the Omen.  I guess Satan really loved the 70s. It certainly does explain some things. 

I am not going to go too deep into Hammer film theory or analysis other than they are good fun.  I have not seen all of them and a few I have not seen in maybe 20+ years but they have always had a profound effect on the games I write.   Ghosts of Albion in particular is overflowing with my love for Hammer, as are most of my adventures.   My vampires are not modern mopey emos.  They are blood thirsty killers in the sauve exterior of Christopher Lee. 



Even in Eldritch Witchery I have tried t tap into that same vibe of Hammer Horror.  Even though most of their moveis were made in the late 50s and 60's, there is something very 70's about them to me.  Maybe that is when I watched most of them (then and the early 80's).  In this respect I would have to say that my view of Mal Havoc (previous blog post) was greatly affected by Christopher Lee's Dracula.

Hammer, I am glad to say, is on their way back, http://www.hammerfilms.com/.  While I am sure some of the old magic is gone I will hold my judgement till I see some of their newer movies.  In the mean time I have several hours of "Dracula" to keep me busy for sometime to come.

Here is old Dracula, very much inspired by "Dracula A.D. 1972".  You can see the full Mutants and Masterminds stats and background here: http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?t=421189 or here: http://www.atomicthinktank.com/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=18364&p=274952

Count Dracula

PL: 18 (270 pp)

Born: 1431, turned 1476

Str: 26 (+8) Dex: 21 (+5) Con: NA (-) Int: 16 (+3) Wis: 15 (+2) Chr: 25 (+7)

SKILLS: Acrobatics 6 (+11), Bluff 10 (+17), Climb 4 (+12), Concentration 4 (+6), Diplomacy 10 (+17), Disguise 5 (+12), Drive 2 (+7), Escape Artist 6 (+11), Gather Info 6 (+13), Handle Animal 6 (+13), Intimidate 12 (+19), Investigate 6 (+9), Arcane Lore 8 (+11), History 8 (+11), Tactics 8 (+11), Theology and Philosophy 6 (+9), Streetwise 8 (+11), Medicine 2 (+4), Notice 8 (+10), Ride 4 (+9), Search 8 (+11), Sense Motive 8 (+10), Sleight of Hand (+5), Stealth 4 (+9), Survival 8 (+10), Swim (+8)

FEATS: Animal Empathy, Assessment, Contacts, Fascinate (1), Fearless, Fearsome Presence (1), Inspire (1), Leadership, Minions (4), Accurate Attack, All-out Attack, Attack Focus (Melee) (5), Blind-Fight, Critical Strike, Elusive Target, Improved Critical (1), Improved Grapple, Power Attack, Rage (1), Uncanny Dodge

POWERS:
Animal Control (8), Drain Constitution (blood Drain) (1), Immunity (Fortitude Effects) (30), Insubstantial (mist) (2), Protection (7), Regeneration (blood drain based) (5), Shapeshift (Wolf, Bat) (2), Mind Control (visual dependent) (5), Weather Control (obscure, wind and fog) (3), Super-senses (Acute) (2), Super-movement (wall crawling) (1)

COMBAT: Melee 20 [Unarmed +8 (Bruise)] Ranged 15 [Unarmed +8 (Bruise)] Defense 25 (25 flatfooted) Init +5

SAVES: Toughness 7 (7 flat-footed) Fortitude 0 Reflex 10 Will 10

DRAWBACKS:
Weakness -Blood Dependence [Freq DC 10] [Sev DC 5]
Weakness -Holy Items [Freq DC 10] [Sev DC 10]
Weakness -Sunlight [Freq DC 5] [Sev DC 5]* Dracula can move about during the daylight hours, but he can not use his powers. (Gave him this as opposed to Power Loss).
Weakness -Garlic, Mirrors [Freq DC 5] [Sev DC 5]

Breakdown: Abilities 43 + Skills 42 (165 ranks) + Feats 27 + Powers 96 + Combat 60 + Saves 13 – Drawbacks -11 = 270

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Mal Havoc: I was waiting for this?

So back in the day I gleefully stole pretty much anything for my games. It was the 80's and we were all doing it. But one thing I remember fairly well was from The World's Greatest Superfriends. The episode was "The Lord of Middle-Earth" and the villain of the week was this Anton Le Vey, vampire looking wizard called "Mal Havoc" (or maybe just Malhavoc). I was psyched about this episode because at the time I was sucking up anything related to Tolkien, or rather more to the point, anything related to the Hobbit having seen the old cartoon on TV recently (well back in 77 or 78).

Well......that is not what I got.

Part 1


Part 2



I got trolls, and something like a Drider and a dragon. Which was all fine, but even then I recalled the episode was weak. But I did like the character of Mal Havoc (and I guess I am not the only one). So I began to use him in my D&D games. Though I admit I messed with the character a little. He was still a wizard, but I turned him into a real diabolic one. Not that he was fiendishly clever (he was) but diabolic in the sense that he worshipped Beelzebub. Did I mention it was the 80's?  Oh. and he was also a vampire.  So Mal Havoc became a "hellspawned vampire of the court of Beelzebub" and a semi-reoccuring bad guy in my games.  When I later went on to develop "The Dragon and the Phoenix" for the Buffy game I was running I knew I wanted one of my old D&D bad guys.  Mal Havoc was a serious contender, ultimately he lost out to Yoln (another baddie) since I didn't want to confuse my game with anything Malhavoc Press was doing at the time.




Watching it now I am struck by how bad these things really were (and I own several Superfriends DVD collections) and yet how much potential could have been here.  I can attest that Mal Havoc can be one serious bad ass.  Ok so he smacks around Superman, but that is fine Supes always had a problem with magic.  But he also does the same to Wonder Woman and Batman.  Aquaman doesn't even try.  He also a serious evil vibe going on.  He enslaved a race of trolls (ok more like gnomes really) and has some inhuman or subhuman lackeys working for him.  His "ultimate power" can even kill all the trolls in "middle earth". That serious shit right there.

Given my love (yes, it remains) for the old Super Friends I decided to give Mal the "Bruce Timm" treatment.  I updated the character look to seem more of physical threat, think Glenn Danzig only taller and with a goatee.  He is a wizard still or maybe one of the very, very few cases where I would use the term "Warlock" in a modern game, and look fiendish (and might even worship some devilish or demonic lord), but his deal is he is a vampire crime lord.  "Crime" in he is not interested in crime for money, it's just the things he does keeps him on the wrong side of the law; ie murder, kidnapping, theft, not your typical saturday cartoon fare.  Though in the original SF he had enslaved trolls to mine diamonds, so slavery, forced labor and diamond smuggling is also possible.  He has group of followers, his "Coven"  (not "Camarila" to stay true to the 70's/80's vibe) and of course lackeys and conscripted labor (ie slaves).  Maybe a tad mature for games with kids, but a perfect foe for a group of adult gamers looking to rid the world of evil.




So given that, it looks like that stating him up in Muntants and Masterminds is a must!
My M&M is a bit rusty, but here it goes.

MAL HAVOC
PL: 13 (200 pp)


Str: 22 +6
Dex: 18 +4
Con: NA NA
Int: 16 +3
Wis: 15 +2
Chr: 22 +6

SKILLS: Acrobatics 2 (+6), Bluff 4 (+10), Climb 2 (+8), Concentration 4 (+6), Diplomacy 4 (+10), Disguise (+6), Drive (+4), Escape Artist 4 (+8), Gather Info 4 (+10), Handle Animal 2 (+8), Intimidate 7 (+13), Investigate 3 (+6), Arcane Lore 10 (+13), History 2 (+5), Tactics 4 (+7), Theology and Philosophy 2 (+5), Medicine 2 (+4), Notice 4 (+6), Ride 4 (+8), Search 2 (+5), Sense Motive 2 (+4), Sleight of Hand (+4), Stealth 2 (+6), Survival 4 (+6), Swim (+6)

FEATS: Assessment, Fascinate (1), Fearless, Fearsome Presence (1), Leadership, Minions (2), Blind-Fight, Improved Critical (1), Power Attack, Rage (1)

POWERS:
2 Supersenses
5 Mind Control
1 Drain Constitution (blood Drain)
2 Hellfire Control
30 Immunity (Fortitude Effects)
2 Insubstantial (mist)
7 Protection
5 Regeneration (blood drain based)
1 Shapeshift (Giant Bat)
5 Magic
   5 Mystic Blast ("Hellbolts")
   1 Trasform (humans to trolls)
   5 Teleport
   5 Drain Powers

COMBAT: Melee 13 [Unarmed +6 (Bruise)] Ranged 13 [Unarmed +6 (Bruise)] Defense 23 (16 flatfooted) Init +4

SAVES: Toughness 7 (7 flat-footed) Fortitude 0 Reflex 9 Will 10

DRAWBACKS:
Weakness -Blood Dependence [Freq DC 10] [Sev DC 5]
Weakness -Holy Items [Freq DC 10] [Sev DC 15]
Weakness -Sunlight [Freq DC 5] [Sev DC 5]

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Witch Hunter Robin for BESM

Earlier I did Robin for the Witch Girls Adventures RPG, which you can see here, http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2009/08/witch-hunter-robin-for-witch-girls.html

Now here she is in another fave of mine, Big Eyes, Small Mouth



It is Robin Sena, the titular character of the awesome anime series Witch Hunter Robin for BESM. Sadly BESM is out of print and Guardians of Order out of business.   I had hope that Arthaus would continue the game, but no chance.  I liked BESM, it had a lot going for it.  I should post something about BESM and GoO sometime.  Until here is our twisted little firestarter.

Robin Sena

Race: Witch

Occupation:Witch Hunter / Witch
Age: 15 (in 2002)
Gender: F
Height:5'1"
Weight: 105#
Eyes: Green
Hair: Auburn

Mother:Maria, dead
Father:Toudou, dead.
Grandfather(maternal): Juliano Collegrie, priest and high ranking officer of Solomon HQ.
Allies: Amon, Nagira, hunters from STN-J
Enemies:Rogue witches, rival hunters

Body: 4 Mind: 6 Soul: 8

Health Points: 70
Energy Points: 70
Shock Value: 14

Combat Value: 6
Defense Value: 4

Skills
Computers 1x2 = 2
Artisan 1x2 = 2
Driving 2x2 = 4
Police Sciences 3x2 = 6
Unique Character Skill 5x2 = 10 (Occultism)
Urban Tracking 1x3 = 3 Attributes
Appearance 2x1 = 2
Damn Healthy! 1x1 = 1
Organizational Ties 1x3 = 3 (Great Power, Solomon, STN-J)
Dynamic Sorcery 4x2 = 8
    One Discipline (Pyrokinesis)
Magic 4x4 = 16 (40 magic points left)

Defects 
Awkward 1x-1 = -1
Marked 1x-1 = -1
Nemesis 2x-1 = -2
Sensory Impairment 1x-1 = -1 (Vision when using magic)
Skeleton in the Closet 1x-1 = -1

Uh...ok, wtf?

Dear Fringe Christian Right,

Thank you for the comedy. 



What is with these weird Christian groups and their use of the word "occultic"?  Isn't "occult" fine by itself?

Of course there is an "occultic" "Dungeons & Dragons game set", which currently has no characters, no rules, just one long out of print supplement (Manual of the Planes) and a supplement for another game entirely (ok, it is The Arcanum, which does have a cool red pentagram n the cover).

Originally posted here: http://www.theescapist.com/blog/tiki-view_blog_post.php?blogId=5&postId=95
And it's YouTube page is here, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKRV6Mpm6cw

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Old School Horde, part 2!

Fellow blogger Eric over at Toyriffic, http://toyriffic.blogspot.com/ has posted a bit about my new toys here.  I thought that was cool.  You can read it at http://toyriffic.blogspot.com/2009/12/silly-geeks-toys-are-for-kids.html

Check it out and all the other cool posts he has!

Toyriffic: Silly Geeks, Toys are for Kids!

Toyriffic: Silly Geeks, Toys are for Kids!

Old School Horde!

So I spent Thanksgiving with my family and look at what my younger brother dug up for my kids.  A set of a bunch of the old Dungeons & Dragons toy figure monsters!  A couple of these were mine (the Ogre, neo-otyguh and Kalak, who is missing, and maybe one of the others), some were my other brother's (the Bullywugs and orcs I am sure) and some are my youngest brother's (Tiamat).  Of course my son LOVED them.



You can see all I have left of Kalek is his spellbook.  Maybe I'll put that in my witch figure display in my game room.  I really like the ogre and the hook horror.  That hook horror looks like he walked out of my Fiend Folio and I still prefer this look to the "revised" one we get in D&D 3.x.



Of course what my son is most psyched about is the Tiamat figure.  She does not have her wings anymore, but he quickly said "she is the god of dragons, she can fly without wings if she wanted to".  Plus he has been coveting my aspect of Tiamat D&D mini for a very long time.  So this is a nice little prize for him.



While I doubt I'll use these in any of our games, my "Dragon Riders" campaign with my son using D&D 3.x is so off the wall gonzo now that they certainly would not seem out of place. Certainly the Skeleton Warriors could pass for say skeleton Cloud Giants. The Chimera, while goofy looking, is probably more to scale than the D&D mini one.

Of course while my oldest son got these, my youngest had to make do with a bag full of Generation 1 Transformers.  My inner geek self is still smiling. 
And no.  Nothing is for sale. Sorry. ;)
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