Thursday, September 30, 2010

Lawyers, Guns and Money

Lawyers, Guns and Money: 
The Worlds of David E. Kelley and Legal Dramedies

Alan Shore: Oh god. You are all lawyers.

Lets face it. You cant turn on the TV these days with out hitting a legal or law based show. Everything from The Peoples Court and Judge Judy in reality TV, to the latest incarnation of Law and Order or CSI to the legal dramadies of David E. Kelley (Boston Legal, The Practice, Ally McBeal). These later editions (L&O, CSI, and Kelley's work) account for the bulk of televisions viewing audience and represent 1,000 of hours of air time and hundreds of awards won.

Besides, sooner or later, your characters are going to get into trouble and they are going to need a lawyer.

For my money, the best for a game are the fractured and slightly odd lawyers of the worlds of David E. Kelley. Sure there is a really strong political bent to all his shows and often they get preachy at worse or soapbox(-y, -ness?) at best, but the characters are some of the best in TV. Rarely does a character come around that is as fun as Denny Crane or as polarizing as Ally McBeal. Plus David E. Kelley may be one of the best, if not the best writer for TV in the last 20 years. He began winning Emmys for L.A. Law and basically has been winning them every year since then (1989).

A Kelley legal drama is laced with comedy and interesting characters. In fact the term Dramedy for a drama + comedy was invented to describe his shows. Shows are more character focused than they are plot focused. It isnt a mother is suing the school board, though that may be the hook. There is something about this mother and her case and the people involved; especially, given this, her child. Maybe the child has some sort of really strange disability (like she can't smile) and the mother needs to sue to her child into the private school. Its also about the lawyers in the case. Nearly to a person, Kelleys lawyers are good looking and really rich. Yet they all have problems that money can't fix and often times is more hassle. Ally could never find true love, Denny is still always in trouble (comedy) and cant cure his failing health (drama).

To really capture the feel of these episodes you need to get into the characters and see what makes them tick. For this reason episode written for one group of characters might not work for another group or characters (though Kelley has been accused of stealing plots from some of his previous shows). But there are some basics.

Running a legal drama
How is running a legal dramedy different than running a supernatural show? Well they do have a few things in common. Both shows often feature crime and mystery. There is research to be done (either by occult scholars or paralegals), there is usually a bad guy, evil is often presented in terms of black and white, right and wrong, but the truth is often much more grey.
The typical formula for a legal drama follows: There is a crime, or presumption of a crime, an investigation, arrests can be made or summons be sent, there is a trail (the focal point of the episode), the judgment and then we retire to the balcony for cigars and scotch.
For players used the pace of monster hunting a legal drama may seem a bit slow, even mundane, but the drama works best when the stories are personal. Hunting monsters is fun and usually there is a very simple solution: stake the vamp, kill the monster, vanquish the demon. But what do you do when your foe is human? Or maybe even an innocent human in the wrong place. What if the Cast are now the bad guys and the good guys have the full weight of the law on their side?
Sometimes characters in supernatural shows run afoul of the law; its an occupational hazard The Charmed Ones had run-ins with Homeland Security, Faith killed a man, the Winchester brothers are often seen skating just ahead of the cops. In any case sooner or later the Cast will fight the Law and like the man said I fought the Law and well we will see who wins.

The Law and Crime
You dont need to be an expert on criminal procedure to set up an episode, but it certainly cant hurt to be familiar with such things as legal prudence and habeas corpus.
(A decent site with overviews of what the law does is www.nolo.com/) So to start determine what the crime is. What happened? How does it involve the Cast? What it something they really did, mistaken identity or even a set up. Again, this is like a supernatural drama in which the Director has all the cards and knows everything.

Creating a law firm
One of your first steps is to create a law firm. This can be the firm that is prosecuting the cast or representing them. The rules in the Angel RPG are perfect for this.

Crane, Poole and Schmidt (From Boston Legal)
International Law firm
Primary Office: 500 Boylston Street, Boston, MA
Satellite Offices: New York, NY, Los Angeles CA, Washington, DC, Chicago, IL, London, ENGLAND, Tokyo, JAPAN, Hong Kong, P.R.o CHINA.
Employees: Lawyers (Founding, Managing, Senior and Junior Partners, Of Counsel, Senior and Junior Associates), Paralegals, Legal Assistants, Support staff.
Website: http://cranepooleandschmidt.com/

Crane, Poole and Schmidt is an international law firm head quartered in Boston, MA. They specialize in civil litigation, but do some criminal trials as well. They list several Fortune 500 companies as clients as well several large research organizations.

Clout: Criminal (1), Financial (5), Governmental (3), Media* (4), Supernatural (1). Total Cost: 10 points.
Quarters: Huge (4), Worldwide (6), Physical Security (Excellent) (3), Supernatural Security (Believers) (1). Total Cost: 7 points (reduced by seven from Financial and Governmental Clout).
Gear: Computers (Top-notch) (3), Laboratory (basic) (1), Workshop (none) (0), Occult Archives (0), Training (1), Vehicles (Vehicle fleet) (1), Vehicles (Air fleet) (0), Weapons (Basic, what ever Denny has in his office) (1). Total Cost: -2 points (reduced by 9 from Criminal, Financial, and Governmental Clout levels).

*Media is another Clout area that is bought like the others. It relates to firms public image or their ability to manipulate their public image.

A Media Clout roll (Media Clout + Intelligence + Contacts) can get a story suppressed, pull off an impromptu press conference or, in the vernacular, pull a Denny Crane; take an absolutely horrible incident (like shooting a client) and turning it into a situation where the firm, and Denny Crane, come out smelling like roses.

Level 1: Rumored to Exist. You have a website, an ad in the Yellow Pages and you might have been featured in a newspaper article or have a local cable access show. Getting your message to the masses requires a lot of work.
Level 2: Fair Reputation. You have had and expose on the local TV news or newspaper. You are known within your business circles, but not as much outside of it.
Level 3: Major Connections. You have the ear of a few members of the news media or have some good connections with the TV market. Getting your point of view on a story out there is easy, but it would take some work to suppress it outright. These players must have a minimum of Financial Clout 2.
Level 4: Big Player. The group can control many small outlets or has the ear of a few of the larger ones. This is usually through donations of millions, or having a seat on the Board of Directors. These players must have a minimum of Financial Clout 3 and Government Clout 2.
Level 5: The Media. The corporation IS the media. They control what is said, how it is said and even who said it in the first place. This is the level of Fox and NewsCorp. These rare players must have a minimum of Financial Clout 4 and Government Clout 3.

Running a Trial
The trial is the focal point of any legal episode from Perry Mason to Night Court to the latest incarnation of Law and Order. Like the TV shows it best to gloss over the real-world legal proceedings and focus on the drama (there is a reason that Law and Order gets higher ratings than Court TV or even Judge Judy). The Director of course will play the role of opposing council. Maybe even the players can step out of character to play their own legal council. As the Director your job is to keep things moving smoothly enough so a resolution can be reached by the end of the episode (or whenever it is needed). So you are also playing the Judge and jury (and bailiff, court reporter, court clerk and the media)

A trial has the following structure, lets assume it is the cast that are being accused of a crime here.
First a formal charge is brought against the cast in front of a judge, the casts lawyer will enter a plea, usually not guilty, but it can vary from guilty to no-contest, though that makes for a short and unexciting episode. If a not guilty plea is entered then a trial date is set. If it is a violent crime then bail might need to be offered or the cast can be released on their own recognizance. In the real world the trail date can be months from the formal charge hearing, but we can speed things up just like TV.
The date is set and then a jury is chosen (if the cast is being called for jury duty this where they enter the process).
Before the trail both lawyers make their opening statements about the case to the jury. This sets the tone of the trial and allows everyone to know what is going on. During the trail the plaintiff, or in the cases of a criminal trial, the States Attorneys Office, presents their case against the accused (the Cast). They can bring in witnesses or experts to present testimony and bring in evidence. The attorney for the defense (again in this example, the Cast) is allowed to cross-exam these witnesses or experts. The state rests its case and the defense is now allowed to do the same with their witnesses and evidence. Keep in mind that both sets of lawyers are aware of what evidence is going to be presented and what witnesses will be called ahead of time, this is called Discovery and Disclosure. This allows them both to build their cases. After the defense rests their case then both sides make closing statements (great place to earn some dram points!).
The jury then adjourns and makes their decisions. As Director it is best to know the outcome long before hand, but allow the players to help dictate where it might go.

Episode Idea: Jury Duty
The Cast are not the focus of this episode, at least not yet. One of the Cast members gets a summons for Jury Duty and no they cant get out of it. Turns out this is a murder trial and becomes apparent that the defendant is not at all what he appears, in fact the Cast member is convinced he is a demon in disguise. Something will have to be done or a demon (who may or may not have committed the murder) will go free or an innocent human might be going to prison for a crime he could not have committed due to magic.
Yeah, this a blatant Chramed rip-off, but like in that show, it can be used to break up the doom-and-gloom of a seasonal arc.

Now here are some lawyers to keep you all busy.

Alan Shore
Father: What sort of lawyer are you?
Alan: The disturbed, but fun kind.



Character Type: Unscrupulous lawyer with a soft spot for the underdog.
Played by: James Spader (who won three Emmys for this role)
Role: Of Council
Attributes: Str 2, Dex 2, Con 2, Int 5, Per 4, Will 5
Ability Scores: Muscle 10, Combat 8, Brains 16
Life Points: 26
Drama Points: 15
Qualities and Drawbacks: Mental Problems: Covetous (2), Lecherous (2), Cruel (2), Fear of Commitment (2), Love (Tragic wife died young), Resources 6 (Allan makes close to a million a year at CP&S)
Maneuvers
Name                Score                Damage         Notes
Dodge                8                                Defense action
Punch                8                5                Bash

Alan Shore is the first lawyer we meet before he works for Crane, Poole and Schmidt. He began as consultant lawyer at Young, Frutt & Berlutti (The Practice), but went to work with Denny Crane. He is Of Concil, which means he is a high ranking attorney, but no prospects for partner. This seems to suit Alans lone-gunman style of practicing law fine.
He has a deep friendship with Denny (their talks on the balcony during the episodes end are a hallmark of the show) and has shown to be very loyal to his friends in general. He is also a fierce advocate for the underdog and the little guy, winning cases that nearly every other lawyer in the firm considers unwinnable.
Of course, as a David E. Kelley character, Alan is replete with a vast amount of neuroses and various sexual paraphilias. Alan has shown he is unable to commit or stay monogamous and his pursuit of is a constant force in his life.
If the cast gets into trouble and the case is very strange (which it is likely to be) then chances are it will be Alan Shore giving the closing arguments in their case.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alan_Shore

Denny Crane
Quote: Denny Crane!

Character Type: Unscrupulous lawyer with a soft spot for Denny Crane.
Played by: William Shatner (who also won two well deserved Emmys for this role!)
Role: Founding Partner
Attributes: Str 2, Dex 2, Con 2, Int 5, Per 2, Will 3
Ability Scores: Muscle 10, Combat 9, Brains 15
Life Points: 26
Drama Points: 15
Qualities and Drawbacks: Mental Problems: Alzheimers Disease (1), Covetous (2), Lecherous (2), Resources 7 (Denny has millions with homes across the world)
Maneuvers
Name                Score                Damage         Notes
Dodge                9                                Defense action
Punch                9                5                Bash

Once upon a time there was a lawyer that was so good and so respected that there mere mention of his name was enough to send opposing council into fear and thinking settlements. That lawyer was Denny Crane.
That was of course, a long time ago. Denny entered into a phase of his life where he was just phoning in his work, which was fine for his firm. His name was on the door and that name brought in millions of dollars of new clients every year. So what did they care if Denny was spending more time chasing women or fishing.
Then Denny decided to go back to work.
It didnt matter to him that he had Alzheimers Disease (though he says its Mad Cow from all the steaks he has eaten) he was still Denny Crane and he has never been defeated in the courtroom (current record is over 6,000 wins, 0 losses).
Sure he still shoots people sometimes, and he is constantly getting arrested for picking up prostitutes, but nobody can play the media, a judge or jury quite like Denny Crane.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denny_Crane

Shirley Schmidt
Quote: See the name on the door, Crain, Poole and Schmidt? I'm Schmidt.

Character Type: Older, but still hot and brilliant lawyer.
Played by: Candice Bergen (who didn't win an Emmy for this role, but has plenty of others at home)
Role: Founding Partner
Attributes: Str 1, Dex 2, Con 2, Int 5, Per 5, Will 5
Ability Scores: Muscle 8, Combat 6, Brains 15
Life Points: 26
Drama Points: 15
Maneuvers
Name                Score                Damage         Notes
Dodge                6                                Defense action
Punch                6                3                Bash

Denny was the visionary and the rain-maker. Edwin Poole was the hard worker that got everything going. But when comes to the continued success of Crane, Poole and Schimdt, then you have to look to Shirley Schmidt. Shirley is fine litigator, but what she excels at doing is keeping Denny in line. Now she has comeback to the firm she created to do the same thing, keep Denny in line, but know she also has to deal with Alan and both men trying to get her into bed.
Getting fired at CP&S is often referred to as getting "Schmidt-caned".
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shirley_Schmidt

Paul Lewiston
Quote: [exasperated] Denny, you must stop shooting people.

Character Type: Under appreciated, by the book lawyer.
Played by: Rene Auberjonois
Role: Managing Partner
Attributes: Str 2, Dex 2, Con 2, Int 5, Per 4, Will 6
Ability Scores: Muscle 10, Combat 8, Brains 15
Life Points: 26
Drama Points: 15
Qualities and Drawbacks: Mental Problems: Humorless (1), Dependents (2, Daughter and Granddaughter), Resources 6
Maneuvers
Name                Score                Damage         Notes
Dodge                8                                Defense action
Punch                8                5                Bash

Paul runs (ran) the day-to-day operations of CP&S and is the voice of reason in this chaotic firm. He is as close to a founding partner as one can be. Denny once even offered to put his name on the door, but Paul is more interested in taking care of formerly estranged, formerly drug addicted daughter and his granddaughter. Paul is friends with many of the judges encountered in BL including one played by Arimin Sherman (who was Quark on Star Trek Deep Space 9 opposite of Auberjonois Odo).
Paul is now taking time off to help raise his grand-daughter.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Lewiston


Brad Chase
Quote: I was a Marine, I can do this.

Character Type: Assistant District Attorney
Played by: Mark Valley
Role: Formerly a Partner now ADA
Attributes: Str 4, Dex 2, Con 3, Int 4, Per 4, Will 5
Ability Scores: Muscle 14, Combat 15, Brains 15
Life Points:
Drama Points: 15
Maneuvers
Name                Score                Damage         Notes
Dodge                15                                Defense action
Punch                15                9                Bash

Brade Chase was a Junior Partner at CP&S till he was promoted to Assistant District Attorney. This will now place him on the other side of the courtroom from the lawyers of Crane, Poole and Schmidt and makes him the perfect choice to bring charges against the Cast members.
Brads former role at CP&S was to keep an eye on Denny. Of course, Denny liked what Brad stood for; he was a Republican and a Marine, but Denny didn't like the idea that Brad was watching him. Plus Alan and Brad clashed on just about every issue you could imagine.
While he could be described as straight arrow and uptight; Brad was a fine lawyer and usually won his cases.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brad_Chase

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Horror Movie Challenge

I am thinking of participating in the October Horror Movie Challenge from Krell Laboratories.


Thanks to Darius Whiteplume over at Adventures in Nerdliness for pointing this out.  I had already planned to go through all my "Dracula" movies in October anyway so I might as well get in on this action!

Here are the ones I am thinking of watching for starters.  Most I have seen, some I have not seen in years and a couple are completely new.

1. Nosferatu (1922) (F. W. Murnau/Max Shreck)

From the "Dracula Legacy Collection DVD"
2. Dracula (1931) (Tod Browning/Bela Lugosi)
3. Dracula (1931) - Spanish Version (George Melford/Carlos Villarías)
4. Dracula's Daughter (1936) (Lambert Hillyer/Gloria Holden)
5. Son of Dracula (1943) (Robert Siodmak/Lon Chaney, Jr.)
6. House of Dracula (1946) (Erle C. Kenton/John Carradine)

Then I want to get into the Hammer films.
7. Dracula, aka The Horror of Dracula (1958) (Terence Fisher/Christopher Lee & Peter Cushing)
8. Dracula Has Risen from the Grave (1968) (Freddie Francis/Christopher Lee)
9. Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970) (Peter Sasdy/Christopher Lee)
10. Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972) (Alan Gibson/Christopher Lee)
11. The Satanic Rites of Dracula (1973) (Christopher Lee/Christopher Lee & Peter Cushing) have not seen this one since it was out.

Then onto the "modern" re-tellings
12. Count Dracula (1970) (Jesus Franco/Christopher Lee) Though not a Hammer film, and if I can find it.
13. Dracula (1973) (Dan Curtis/Jack Palance) Yes. Jack Plance as Dracula. I have this on tape somewhere.
14. Count Dracula (1977) (Philip Saville/Louis Jourdan) started it once, but never finished it. Louis Jourdan was good.
15. Dracula (1979) (John Badham/Frank Langella)
16. Nosferatu the Vampyre (Werner Herzog/Klaus Kinski) have wanted to see this one for years and can never seem to catch it.
17. Dracula (1992) (Francis Ford Coppola/Gary Oldman)

Need 13 more films (which I can EASILY find).

Monday, September 27, 2010

Why can't I find a good Sci-Fi game?

A post over at Grognardia, http://grognardia.blogspot.com/2010/09/sci-fi-goulash.html, has prompted a reoccurring thought in my head.

Why can't I find a good Sci-Fi game?

I have mentioned before that I have had a hit and miss, mostly miss, luck with Sci-Fi games. Every so often I am convinced I have the One, only to be ultimately disappointed in them.
I after I posted a reply to James' post I went back to the Star Frontiers book I have and online at http://starfrontiersman.com/downloads/remastered. I also went through all the Star Trek books I still have left.

In terms of Sci-Fi I like Trek the best, loved Star Wars as a kid, but got into Dune or the hard sci-fi of Asimov. I did like Heinlein and Arthur C. Clark a lot though. I loved Farescape when it was on and I even enjoyed LEXX.  Never watched Space Above and Beyond, could not get into Babylon 5 or the new Galatica (though that is not really a reflection on them) and I thought Firefly was stupid.

For games I started out with Traveler, moved to Star Frontiers, Doctor Who (FASA), Star Trek (FASA), Alternity, Star Wars d20, d20 Future and others that I have forgotten.  More recently I have used Unisystem (All Tomorrow's Zombies) and Doctor Who (Cubicle 7).  Yet nothing seems to fit just right.  I looked over Star Blazer Adventures, Rogue Trader and others and didn't really care for them.  I don't like GURPS enough to honestly consider it, same for FUDGE and FATE.

What do I want?
That is a very question and one I don't have a good answer for.  There are bits and pieces that I like from all the above games.  I like the sandboxy feel of Star Frontiers and Traveler. I love the tech in Trek, the scope in Star Wars.  I could get better buy-in from my Kids with Star Wars, even if my youngest says "I am not into Star Wars" and lightsabers are cool.   I like some of the features of Alternity.  I liked some of what I read in Dune.

And I don't want to spend a bunch of time figuring out a new system.
I suppose this points to two things.  Unisystem and d20 3.x.

Why?
Well I have a bunch of d20 materials laying around including Star Wars, d20 Traveler (T20), Dragon Star,  and d20 Future (which has material from Star Frontiers and Alternity).  I like the idea of using the d20 Mod/Future classes. I am not thrilled with the idea of levels though, but multi-classing looks like it could be fun.  Plus I have a metric ton of d20 material.  Bring back mind flayers as an alien race.  Baator?  Now a planet; literary Planet Hell.

Unisystem is more flexible and I can do it better than d20, but despite how good All Tomorrow's Zombies is, I want something more.   I am not big into mixing magic and SciFi.  Psionics is ok (in fact I also don't like Psionics in fantasy games), weird I know. I think in the end, d20 might be the way for me to go, or this could be a thinly veiled attempt to do "D&D in Spaaaace!"

Star Wars, like I said, has a great scope and is full of aliens. Adding a Trek-like Federation to battle an Evil Empire is also very cool and a great backdrop.  I'd make it more of a cold war, with hotter areas on the edges.  Lots of room then for black markets and ops.  Maybe even steal a page from Battlestar and make the evil Empire one of artificially intelligent machines.  T20 has a lot of cool stuff too and the Imperium is neat and again lots of cool races.

What is lacking in all of this is unified narrative.  Maybe I don't need one.  D&D doesn't have one, never did.  A lot of what I don't like about the various systems out there is I find their "fluff" to be restrictive.  I don't want all the baggage that go with Jedi, or the Imperium, or Aslans, or Fraal.    I guess say here is Oerth, here is Yavin, over there is Krynn and Vulcan and just let the universe take care of itself.

I guess until I find that perfect mix, I keep searching.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Red Sonja: She Devil with a Sword

I am now a contributor to the Red Sonja: She Devil with a Sword blog.



I won't cross post much, unless of course it comes up naturally. But I did want to share the links to my first two posts over there.

A Red Sonja by Dominic Marco, who also did a fantastic Morgan Ironwolf, and a 3D rendered version of the same piece by Antony Ward.

Look for more soon!  I have at least two more posts I can make over there now, and looking into what else I can say about her.

Other blogs I contribute to:
Amazon Princess a Wonder Woman blog.
Elf Lair Games a blog for Jason Vey's Elf Lair Games and Spellcraft and Swordplay.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Dragon and the Phoenix: Episode 5

Episode 5: Heaven Bleeds


Willow (calmly): You hurt Tara. The last one who did that was a God. I made her regret it.
- Willow and Tara: The Dragon and the Phoenix, Episode 5 “Heaven Bleeds”



February 2, 2003 Sunday. Imbolc.

Assassins are sent to kill Tara and turn Willow back to evil or kill her as well. Tara and Anya learn more about the truth of why she was allowed to take Exile so easily. They learn that there is more to Tara’s exile than the cast (including Tara) knows and that she and Willow have an important role to play in the final battle with Leviathan. Willow, Tara and Buffy are sent back in time to see the battle Yoln had with a Slayer protecting a weapon powerful enough to kill a god (the Spear of Destiny). Willow and Tara meet themselves in a past life. After threats and physical abuse from D’Hoffryn, Anya leaves the cast.
Story Arc elements: Dawn’s psychic power begins to emerge.  Willow and Tara learn they have a role to play in the final battle (though not yet what that will be).  The Slayer from the past, Morgan calls Buffy "sister" the same thing that she is called by the Mormo demons later in Episode 7.
Game design elements: Cinematic Old Soul and Anamchara spell casting rules.
Quote Runner up: Anya: Demonic lizard tastes like chicken.


Notes and Comments:This one was big. Full of new monsters, spells and characters. We get to see Willow and Tara’s past life hinted at in “The Dark Druid”, though the Liath and Bodhmal of this time have not yet fostered Fionn. The assassins were an idea we kicked around for a few episode ideas, plus we also wanted a tangible threat to Willow and Tara and make sure that Willow did not have to go all black magic to solve it.
This also marks the last time we see Anya for a while. She has work to do and hanging around a bunch of demon hunters in bad for business (plus she was a way too powerful NPC).  Plus I got tired of the whole "Demons are just different kinds of people with funny faces" stuff we saw so much of the last season.  Demons are supposed to be evil, they are supposed to be vile.  D'Hoffryn had become a crazy grandfather type; so we turned him abusive.  If his demons didn't toe the line and kill the cast he would kill them himself.  So Anya, expressing some concern about this, gets beaten by D'Hoffryn for her troubles.

Now normally I have this rule, No Time Travel unless I am playing Doctor Who. But for this one I could not help it. Plus I love the visual of Willow, Tara and Buffy falling into a book and reliving the events in it.
This confronting their previous incarnations gave both girls the "Old Soul" Quality.

If Sass is the quintessential Willow author, then Lisa is the same for Tara. Lisa’s Tara is bold and willing to fight for the woman she loves. And no one does Tara-in-peril better than Lisa. While Lisa’s Tara is not quite the same as my Occult Scholar Tara, or Garner’s more reflective Tara, Lisa does do an excellent Liath; Tara’s past life.
Now we know who all the players are and pieces are all on the board, from here on out it is pushing the plot. It is also the last time (till the end) that Willow and Tara are 100% happy. The stress of what is happening is setting in. Before this they were still on their "honeymoon" with Tara back. Now she is back and she and Willow have some issues that need to work out. After all, Willow killed for her and Tara was considering leaving to go back to Heaven in Episode 1. Thess issues have not been forgotten, and they are coming back up.

Next Time: Love Stinks.

New Spells

Brigit’s Hands of Flame
Quick Cast: Yes
Power Level: 5
Requirements: A command word in Gaelic, “Adhain!
Effect: Upon utterance of the command word flames erupt from the hands of the witch causing 4 x caster’s Will of Life Point damage, double to vampires and other undead.
The flame leaves the hands in a fan like pattern. The length of the fan is in yards equal to the Success Levels.

Brigit’s Waves of Flame
Quick Cast: No
Power Level: 6 or 7
Requirements: Level 6: Blessed water drawn from Brigit’s well and dung from her fields. Level 7: The blood of a saint or other quasi-divine being replacing the water.
Command words: Latin “Incindar” or Gaelic “Adhain
Effects: Brigit is the Celtic goddess of fire, water and life. To her there can be no greater insult than the undead. This spell is actually a purifying one designed to burn out the offensive creatures. By using her blessed water and dung her witches perform the same ritual they perform to ready the land for growth every Imbolc (Feb. 2). This spell adds the extra kick of turning her sacred water into a wave of flame that will race out 50 feet + 10 feet per SL from the caster. The flames are soundless, and produce no heat unless the affected victim is undead (Vampire, Zombie, Skeletons) then they take fire damage of 2d10 (12) initial damage and additional damage at the rate of 6 +SL life points every turn in the flames. Demons take only the initial damage.
Level 7: The first version of this spell was discovered when Ireland was still Celtic and Pagan. Once the Goddess Brigit was transformed to the Catholic Saint Bridget her followers discovered that using her blood not only increased the casting level, but also increased the effectiveness of this incantation. In addition to the undead taking lasting damage now so did demons. Damage is increased to 3d10 (16) and recurring damage at the rate of 7 + SL LPs every turn.
Note: This was a 1st Ed AD&D spell that my then DM created called Sheets of Flame.  In fact it was his character E'fir Enur tht had "created" it.  I felt it was good to bring back as attribute it to Brigit.

Protection of the Goddess
Quick Cast: No
Power Level: 7
Requirements: A chant repeated by two or more witches. Not available to non-witches.
Command words: “Goddess above, ruler of all, protect your humble servant, as love becomes wall.”
Effect: A defensive ritual with an offensive bite, this magic shows that the Goddess protects what is Hers. This ritual once cast and activated will not allow any aggressive action taken upon those within its confines. Melee attacks turn back on the attacker, spells backfire or effect the hostile caster instead. Beneficial spells and magic will continue to work and others, ones not protected nor involved in the casting of the ritual, can effect each other as they please.
Witches and those they choose to protect may not attack others, but they can force out attackers. Anytime during the duration of the ritual the lead witch can say a command word or phrase and all those of hostile intent are removed from the area of effect.
The effects will remain dormant until the first act of violence is committed or until one of the witches present at the original ritual activates it. Often the coven chooses to activate it once the ritual is cast. After that time the effects persist a number of hours equal to the effective Sorcery Level + the total Success Levels.
The effects of the spell appear to be a dome of magical energy large enough to hold all the casters in close quarters, typically 5’ radius per caster.
Note: This spell is presented as an alternate to the Energy Barrier spell from The Magic Box Sourcebook..

New Qualities

Anamchara 
“The only thing more frightening than meeting a Celt in battle is meeting a Celt in battle with his wife at his side.”
- Attributed to Pliny the Elder, 1st Century CE

Variable Point Quality (2 Base Points)
Prerequisites: Love (Romantic or Platonic, but not Tragic), both must take Quality

Anamchara (“on-um-kor-ah”), or soul-mate, is the Gaelic term used to describe a deep and powerful bound shared between two people. This goes beyond mere companionship and even beyond love; the souls of the two people are connected at a deep and fundamental level. Some occult scholars even speculate anamchara share one soul between two physical people.
The anamchara (singular and plural) are often aware of each other on a preternatural level. While this not a full blown telepathy or even empathy it is beyond what the normal senses would allow. This manifests itself in mundane ways as two lovers humming the same song at the same time with no outside influence, husband and wife completing each others sentences, separated twins living parallel lives, or even one sibling knowing her other sibling is about to walk into a room before the event happens.
Anamchara can be, and often are, lovers, but they are not limited to that alone. Some anamchara can also be very close siblings or very deeply devoted friends. Sometimes the connection can be forged in battle, giving rise to a “brothers-in-arms” effect. The Anamchara can also have a deep connection resulting from life times of being together, often both having the Old Soul Quality.
The only prerequisites for this Quality are the two characters must love each other, as represented by the Love drawback (but never Tragic Love).
This quality offers several benefits

Extension of the senses (“I Will Always Find You”). This acts like a mild form of Empathy or a lesser Situational Awareness that extends only to their anamchara. This grants +2 to locate their anamchara via mundane, magic or psychic means. This also gives each anamchara a broad sense of the other’s health and well being.

Boost Morale (“I’ll Stand By You”). When anamchara are together even dire situations do not seem as grim. With a soothing word or even a knowing look a character can grant his anamchara +10 on any one test. Best of all, he can do it after the player has already made this test. The granting character spends his Turn explaining he is doing this to aid his beloved. This can only be done once per game session per character.

These effects cost two (2) Quality Points. In addition the anamchara must choose one or both of the effects below. These are extensions of this quality, but must be trained in order to be used. Training is represented in a point cost and some time devoted to the pursuit.

Combat Effects
The benefits detailed above have some application in combat as well. The Situational Awareness and Empathy translate into making the anamchara a particularly effective fighting team. In order to gain this benefit the anamchara actually need to train together in a fighting style. Players should decide which style (martial arts, medieval weapons or even guns) they will train together in. This training offers a +2 bonus to all attacks of that type and damage for each. Both can also effectively fight against one opponent with out penalty due to room. Anamchara naturally avoid each others weapons.
Cost: 1 Quality or Skill Point

Magic or Psychic Effects
When anamchara cast magic together it is more than mere cooperative casting in the same way an orchestra is more than a few instruments playing the same song.
To use their magic together anamchara must be able to grasp hands and concentrate. It is a simple matter of rolling a normal 1d10 + Perception + Occult roll. If they both roll a 9 or higher they are in synch. Keep track of the average Success Levels as this is their Synchronicity Score. This only needs to be rolled once per magical situation. Such situations like scrying, or lifting a rock together or one session of combat would qualify.

When anamchara cast they can add their Synchronicity Score to the spell’s Success Levels after figuring out all the effects of casting together. This results in a little extra bookkeeping during game play, but also some amazing effects. For Directors that want less bookkeeping, anamchara can roll their Synchronicity score at the beginning of each game session and use it throughout. This could be part of a special ritual used to “tune” each other’s magic.
This is added even to spells where two or more casters is required. As a “side effect” of this magical synchronicity anamchara can use each other’s ritual tools without penalty.
Cost: 2 Quality or Skill Points

Sidebar: Using Ghosts of Albion Magic rules
If you are using the Ghosts of Albion RPG you can opt to use the “William and Tamara Casting Together” rule in this case in place of the rule above.

Note: The Combat and Magic bonus are not cumulative in the case of combat magic.

Roleplaying the Anamchara
Anamchara are best suited as Cast members (PCs) and not a combination of Cast and Guest Stars (NPCs). When playing these characters it is vital to understand that, sages’ hypotheses to the contrary, they are in fact two people. They are subject (maybe even more so) to all the pitfalls of love (the emotion) and Love (the Drawback) as everyone else. Arguments can and do erupt. In fact it is also recorded in the same pages describing the anamchara that a Celtic male expected his wife to be able to stand up to him and speak her mind (though no Celtic couple would argue in public).
Any situation that would turn Love to Tragic Love also would result in the loss of benefits for the Anamchara Quality. Though mythology and history is replete with tales of the extremes one would go through to retrieve their anamchara from the grasps of death.

Old Soul
4-points/level Quality
Prerequisite: Magic/Sorcery (Cinematic)

“Of course! It would have to be you two!” the giant Celt gathered both girls into a giant bear hug.
“Y-You know us?” Tara said.
“Know you? Know you! My dear sweet Liath, I would know you if my eyes had been plucked from my skull! Do you not know me? It is I, Fionn. Your Demne!”
“Fionn. Ok, so who are we then?” asked Willow.
“My dearest Bodhmal! Always with the riddles, ok I will play. You both are my mothers! We must celebrate, your son has returned and our family is one again!” He said as he pulled the two, very confused, girls into another enthusiastic bear hug.
- The Dark Druid

These characters have been reborn many times. As a result, their souls have become stronger. Old Souls tend to be very mature and precocious for their age. It would be nice to believe that age invariably provides wisdom, but Old Souls are equally likely to be depraved or insightful, cruel or kind. Whatever their orientation, it is usually be more extreme, having been refined over several lifetimes.
This Quality can be acquired multiple times during character creation (but it cannot be acquired afterwards, see below). Each “level” represents some 3-5 previous lives lived before the character’s current incarnation. Every level gives one “magical” past life and 2-4 “mundane” ones. The player can determine who these former selves were, where they lived, and what they know, or she can leave such information in the hands of the Director. From a roleplaying point of view, creating a “past lives tree” can be interesting.
Anyone with this quality can call upon the magic of her past lives to aid her in casting spells. They can add 1 sorcery level for every magical past life they have. So every level of Old Soul adds one level to your Sorcery level.
To call on the power of the old soul cost 1 Drama point (or one Essence Point for games that use Essence).
Successive lives tend to increase the character’s overall insights and understanding—for good or ill. For example, Tara has 5 levels of the Old Soul Quality. This gives her 5 more points to put into her mental Attributes (and 30 more Essence Points).
An Old Soul is sometimes able to tap into the knowledge of her previous lives. These attempts require the character to pass a single Test using both Willpower and Intelligence as modifiers, and each attempt drains the character of 1 Drama Point, which is regained normally (via play). When attempting to perform an unskilled Task, the character may receive a flash of knowledge from one of her previous lives. If the player took the time to decide what her character’s previous lives knew, then the character gains, for that one Task, a skill level equivalent to the character’s Old Soul level, but only the skills that the character knew in her previous lives are available. If the previous lives are not known, the character uses only one half of the Old Soul level (rounded down), but virtually any skill might be known. The only exception would be high-tech Skills that a previous life would be unlikely to know. Asking one’s ancestral memories how to hack into a computer system is not likely to work very well .
For example, Tara, with 5 levels of Old Soul, has about 20 past incarnations, six of which were magic users. Tara’s player has figured out that at least half (10) were peasants. These include Belen, a priestess in the Temple of Diana in ancient Greece, Liath, a Celtic warrior woman, Jing Jin a Chinese sorceress, Teamhair a Daughter of the Flame from Christianized Ireland, Fiona Maclay a witch from 18th century England and Tamara of 19th century London.
During an adventure Tara needs to play a game of fidchell against a demon to rescue her friends. Fidchell is an ancient Celtic game similar to chess and Tara does not know how to play. But Liath was an expert. If she passes the Willpower and Intelligence Test, she can play with an effective skill (Wild Card: Fidchell) of 5, at the cost of 1 Drama point. The skill lasts as long as the game lasts. If later in the day she needs to play it again a new Test and an expenditure of Drama Points are required. If Tara had not fleshed out the past incarnations, she would have been able to play fidchell, but with a skill of only 2.
Generally, only human beings can have Old Souls. Long-lived supernatural beings rarely reincarnate, or do so only over spans of millennia.
This quality is not accessible to vampires, demons, zombies or robots (who have no souls), werewolves in werewolf form, and one can argue Slayers. Slayers by their very nature have a bit of the Old Soul quality in the Slayer quality.

Awakening the Old Soul
Not every character will or should have access to this at character creation. There are some circumstances in which the character’s Old Soul can be re-awakened.
When this quality is first added to the game the Director will need to have a good in game or storyline reason for allowing the character access to this. These reasons could also be used for characters that wish to acquire this Quality later, but directors are urged to only limit this to characters during the character creation process.

1. Meeting a past life. The karmic and dharmic energies released when a soul meets a previous or future life is usually enough to jar that soul awake.
2. Exposure to a psychically tainted object related to that old soul. Example if a person picks up a dagger that was used to kill one of her past lives.
3. Psychic regression. No not the type done in less reputable psychiatric offices or even calling Shirley McClain or Ms. Cleo. A real psychic, such as a member of the Cabal of the Psyche, must help with the past life regression.

After this point Old Soul should be limited to character creation only.

For crossovers with other Unisystem games this can be interchanged with the Supernatural Quality “Old Soul”, on which this is based.

New Monsters


Devil
Devils are fiends, similar to demons. Devils though, unlike demons, are ordered and fit into a strict hierarchy of Hell. They are the creations of the original angels that rebelled in Heaven and were cast out into the pits of Hell.

Devil, Barbazu (Barbed Devil)
Motivation: To guard and protect the populace of Hell
Creature Type: Demon (Devil)
Attributes: Strength 5, Dexterity 3, Constitution 4, Intelligence 6, Perception 4, Willpower 7
Ability Scores: Muscle 16, Combat 16, Brains 12
Life Points: 50
Drama Points: 3
Qualities: Hard to Kill 4, Armor Value 8, Sorcery 4
Drawbacks: Attractiveness -2
Skills: Getting Medieval 3, Kung-fu 4

Combat Maneuvers
Name Score Damage Notes
Claw (2) 7 10 Slash/stab
Bite (beard) 7 15 Stab
Punch 7 10 Bash
Dodge 6 - Defense action

Barbed Devils are monsters in the truest sense. Vicious, armed and armored, these devils chief duties are to attack as guards or protectors of other devils. They have two massive claws ending in viscous dagger-like claws. They are covered in terrible spikes, have two large sharp horns, a long tail covered in barbs and a thick leathery hide.
Barbed Devils attack with a claw/claw/bite routine. Any successful hit the Barbazu can cause their victim to experience fear (a Fear Check will be required). Typically they will use this on their first attack to terrify their victims and make them easier targets.
Barabazu can also cast Hold Person and Jet of Flame (from The Magic Box Sourcebook p. 76 and p. 79).

Devil, Osyuth (Bone Devil)
Motivation: Fight for the greater glory of Hell
Creature Type: Demon (Devil)
Attributes: Strength 7, Dexterity 5, Constitution 7, Intelligence 3, Perception 3, Willpower 4
Ability Scores: Muscle 20, Combat 17, Brains 12
Life Points: 71
Drama Points: 3
Qualities: Hard to Kill 4, Armor Value 9, Sorcery 5
Drawbacks: Attractiveness -3
Skills: Getting Medieval 4, Kung-fu 3

Combat Maneuvers
Name Score Damage Notes
Claw 8 14 Slash/stab
Kick 7 16 Bash
Bone Hook 9 18 Slash/stab
- Grapple 10 - Capture
Tail 16 21 Poison (Str loss)
Dodge 15 - Defensive

Bone Devils, also known as Osyuth, are a lesser devil employed by the armies of Hell. They look like skeletons with dry leathery skin stretched over their thin frames. What sets them apart from a skeleton is their height, 9' tall and a large scorpion like tail.
They typically attack with their large bone hooks which they wield with deadly effectiveness. If a hit roll has 3 or more Success Levels the victim becomes trapped by the hook. Trapped victims are subject to a tail or kick attack.
The tail of the Bone Devil has a poison that reduces the victim's Strength score. In addition to damage the victim temporary looses 1 point of Strength.
Bone Devils are also capable of the following magics (from The Magic Box Sourcebook) Glamour, Magical Disguise, Quick Illusion (used to make Invisible) and can cause Fear (victims must make a Fear Check).

The devils appear in the "Flashback" sequence.

Umu Demons
Motivation: Guard dogs
Critter Type: Demon (Guardian)
Attributes: Strength 4, Dexterity 5, Constitution 4, Intelligence 3,Perception 7, Willpower 4
Ability Scores: Muscle 14, Combat 15, Brains 16
Life Points: 48
Drama Points: 3
Qualities: Hard to Kill 2, Armor Value 2, Acute Senses
Drawbacks: Attractiveness -4, Honorable (Rigid)
Skills: Getting Medieval 4, Kung-fu 3

Combat Maneuvers
Name Score Damage Notes
Big Sword 9 25 Slash/stab, can use one-handed
Bite (2) 8 17 Must Grapple first
Punch 8 8 Bash
Kick 6 10 Bash
Dodge 9 - Defense action
Grapple 8 - Resisted by Dodge

Lower level demons employed by the Uttuki, Umu demons act as guard dogs-a job they are perfectly suited for. Each Umu demon stands 6' to 7' in height. Their skin is covered with a fine dark fur, often black or dark brown. They are very muscular and often dress in ancient Babylonian or Sumerian garb; open toe sandals, papyrus kilts and bare chested. What sets these demons apart are their four heads. The heads most often resemble that of a Doberman, but some have been reported with jackal heads as well. All faces feature prominent snouts with dozens of needle like teeth. Each head faces a different direction, thus the Umu is never surprised. Their senses are as acute of that of a dog's (sharper sight, hearing and smell) only four times over. They are loyal to their demon employers and thus very much in demand by those that have things they want guarded. Each head is independent of the other. So heads can eat, carry on conversations and even sleep separately of the others.

Umu typically kill and eat anyone that comes too close to the thing they are guarding, making no distinction between friend and foe. Only their employer, the demon or witch that bound them are immune to their attacks.

There is also a rumor that there are three-headed varieties that serve the Goddess Hecate.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Aleena, doomed cleric for D&D 4 Essentials

“My name is Aleena. I’m a cleric, an adventurer like yourself. I live in the town nearby, and came here seeking monsters and treasure. Do you know about clerics?”
- Aleena, D&D Basic Set, Player's Book, page 4.

I never knew Aleena.

I never knew about her ultimate sacrifice for what could have been millions of would-be adventures out there.  I never played, or owned, the Mentzer Basic Set.  I started with Moldvay and Morgan Ironwolf never would have gone down after one magic missile.  But I got on the 'net and soon I discovered her tale and that of Bargle. 

I liked Elmore's art, always have. That alone seems invalidate my Old School street cred.  I love his witches (no surprise) and love how he draws women.  So when I finally got my hands on a Mentzer basic set, I loved the art and yes, I found Aleena.  Though there was no emotional connection there with me.  I felt that killing her was a cheap attempt to get the players involved.  This is called a "Women in Refrigerators" effect and its a cliché.

That all aside, it also worked. 
People to this very day still remember Aleena and hate Bargle.

Give that Aleena was the star of the Mentzer Red Box, then it is fitting that she be given stats for the new D&D 4 Essentials Red Box.  Though we never got stats (at least what I could find) for her in the  Red Box Basic.  She did appear later in some D&D (BECMI) products, which gives us an idea what she eventually did.  Of course assuming that she somehow came back to life.
I say in D&D4 she is reincarnated, and given a second chance.

Like with Morgan Ironwolf, I went through the hand process.  Yes, I have DDI and it is a lot of fun, but I felt Morgan and Aleens deserved to have things done the "old-school" way.  I did most of her sheet while working tonight away from my books.  It went really fast.


Comparing Aleena to Morgan Aleena obviously has more powers and spells, even if many effect how her weapon of choice, her mace, does damage.  I like this, it very cool.  I choose Pelor as her God, even if she is Mystaran and Pelor is from the Greyhawk campaign world, but I felt it fit the concept well and Pelor is an old god.  I did not give her many combat related feats, she was felled by a single magic missile after all, but she did manage to scare off some ghouls.  So I emphasized her "turning undead" and healing powers.

In truth, she feels like a cleric from one of the older rule-sets with some house rules that her spells are focused through her mace.  Hell, the Sun-Domain War Priest here is not very different than the Sun-Priest class I made for 2nd AD&D so many years back. In fact I like it so much that I might have to break with tradition and have my first D&D4 Essentials character be a Sun Priest, er Sun Domain War Priest.

There she is.  The reason so many of you play.
Print out the sheet and go save her.  Or maybe she will end up saving your butt one day, cause I don't see this one going down without a fight.  So her and Morgan are going to team up and go after Bargle now.

Morgan Ironwolf for D&D4 Essentials

Morgan Ironwolf was a character from the D&D Basic set edited by Tom Moldvay.

I say she was a character, but really all we had to go on was a sheet and sketch that appeared pages later.  It is generally assumed that the two go together and the sample character Morgan Ironwolf, was the woman with sword and shield.  It matched the sheet so I guess it is fine, and the discussion about movement was talking about her right above her picture.
Here is the original Basic Set sheet with the image 'shopped in.



In a similar vein of going through the motions of stating up a character, I printed out a new D&D Essentials sheet and went through the book to stat her up.  The results are below.


Not too bad really.  Like my conversion of Emirikol the Chaotic, I opted for D&D4 style abilities scores, so I used the array from the book.  Sure I could have used her stats or even rolled.  I wanted this to be more organic.

She is still a fighter, still Lawful (Good), and still has a sword, chainmail and a short bow.  I ran out of money to buy the shield though.  Basic D&D characters got more gold than their D&D4 counterparts.

I opted to use the "Slayer" build for her for a lot of reasons, mostly because it is new and she looks like more of the stealthy type than the club you on head with heavy steel type. I mean look at those boots. Ok, chainmail is not very sneaky.  
Plus I had a character back in the day named Morgan that I must have subconsciously named after her.  In later years when she reappeared in my Buffy/Ghost of Albion opus The Dragon and the Phoenix (which you will read about this week) she became a Slayer.  So why not.

All in all the characters feel pretty even to me. D&D4 Morgan obviously has an better chance to hit, but the monsters are also tougher.
Time to make either character felt about the same.  The biggest issue was checking to make sure I was still doing D&D4 correctly under the Essentials revision (I was).

There are few links out there for Morgan, given how little we actually know about her.  
Here is a great Deviant Art page with her picture by artist Dominic-Marco, http://dominic-marco.deviantart.com/art/Morgan-Ironwolf-111886797
Another page from Santiago Iborrahttp://www.quellion.com/portfolio/Color%20Work/Morgan%20Ironwolf.jpg, looks more like the Jeff Dee original..  Both have given her blonde hair, which is interesting.  Given she was made in the early 80's then big blonde hair seems appropriate. 

I might be using her in a game as well.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Emirikol the Chaotic for 4e

Cause I can.

There has been a lot of talk of various iconic D&D images and one of the ones that seems to come up time and time again is the David A. Trampier classic "Emirikol the Chaotic".

Emirikol appeared in the 1st Edition Dungeon Master's Guide but he didn't get stats till the end of AD&D 2nd Eds. run in the adventure "A Paladin in Hell" (another classic image).

I have always wondered what his deal was.  He seems to be going through the streets just zapping people as they came out to see the commotion.

Reading over his stats and looking at this picture I can't help but think he would make a great NPC-nemesis for my 4e game.

At first I tried him out as a Warlock, given the zappy-ness of the picture, but a Wizard worked out the best.

Here is Emirikol in one of many possible 4e permutations. I tried to retain all the spells and magic items from his 2nd Ed stats, but I mostly with what the spells or magic items did rather than look for exact copies.  Feats and skills are a total guess.  He might not be the most optimized D&D 4 character, but I hope he is at least a workable one.

Emirikol the Chaotic, level 24
Human, Wizard, Weaver of Chance, Harbinger of Doom

Build: War Wizard
Arcane Implement Mastery: Wand of Accuracy
Second Implement: Orb of Imposition
Arcane Admixture Damage Type: Arcane Admixture Fire
Arcane Admixture Power: Magic Missile
Background: Geography - Urban (+2 to Streetwise)

FINAL ABILITY SCORES
Str 14, Con 15, Dex 17, Int 22, Wis 15, Cha 18.

STARTING ABILITY SCORES
Str 10, Con 13, Dex 15, Int 13, Wis 12, Cha 14.

AC: 34 Fort: 30 Reflex: 34 Will: 35
HP: 117 Surges: 8 Surge Value: 29

TRAINED SKILLS
Dungeoneering +19, Arcana +26, Religion +23, History +23, Insight +19

UNTRAINED SKILLS
Acrobatics +15, Bluff +16, Diplomacy +16, Endurance +14, Heal +14, Intimidate +16, Nature +14, Perception +14, Stealth +15, Streetwise +18, Thievery +15, Athletics +14

FEATS
Wizard: Ritual Caster
Human: Die Hard
Level 1: Arcane Reserves
Level 2: Human Perseverance
Level 4: Battle Caster Defense
Level 6: Astral Fire
Level 8: Alchemist
Level 10: Battle Hardened
Level 11: Enlarge Spell
Level 12: Spell Focus
Level 14: Action Surge
Level 16: Second Implement
Level 18: Destructive Wizardry
Level 20: Arcane Admixture
Level 21: Immolate the Masses
Level 22: Lightning Transport
Level 24: Arcane Mastery

POWERS
Bonus At-Will Power: Magic Missile
Wizard at-will 1: Ray of Frost
Wizard at-will 1: Phantom Bolt
Wizard encounter 1: Burning Hands
Wizard daily 1: Summon Dust Devil
Wizard daily 1 Spellbook: Freezing Cloud
Wizard utility 2: Shield
Wizard utility 2 Spellbook: Daunting Presence
Wizard encounter 3: Hypnotic Pattern
Wizard daily 5: Fireball
Wizard daily 5 Spellbook: Web
Wizard utility 6: Disguise Self
Wizard utility 6 Spellbook: Wall of Fog
Wizard encounter 7: Repelling Sphere
Wizard daily 9: Lightning Serpent
Wizard daily 9 Spellbook: Wall of Fire
Wizard utility 10: True Seeing
Wizard utility 10 Spellbook: Blur
Wizard encounter 13: Mesmeric Hold (replaces Burning Hands)
Wizard daily 15: Otiluke's Resilient Sphere (replaces Summon Dust Devil)
Wizard daily 15 Spellbook: Bigby's Grasping Hands
Wizard utility 16: Fly
Wizard utility 16 Spellbook: Stoneskin
Wizard encounter 17: Dancing Bolts (replaces Repelling Sphere)
Wizard daily 19: Disintegrate (replaces Lightning Serpent)
Wizard daily 19 Spellbook: Plague of Illusions
Wizard utility 22: Wall of Force
Wizard utility 22 Spellbook: Time Stop
Wizard encounter 23: Chain Lightning (replaces Hypnotic Pattern)

ITEMS
Spellbook, Adventurer's Kit, Wand Implement, Sextant of the Planes (paragon tier), Amulet of Protection +5, Ring of Wizardry (epic tier), Chaos Weave Efreetweave Armor +5, Orb Implement

RITUALS
Tenser's Floating Disk, Unseen Servant, Sending, Wizard's Sight, Detect Object, Arcane Barrier, Hallucinatory Creature, Telepathic Bond, Primal Grove, Create Teleportation Circle

I like it.  I am keeping him.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Blog Discussions Round up

Lot of interesting things going on in the various old-school blogs over the last week or so.
Here are the ones that caught my attention.

Harvard over at his Blackmoor Blog is talking about formative images.
http://blackmoormystara.blogspot.com/2010/09/formative-images.html
He talks about Aleena and Bargle from the Mentzer Basic set.  Harvard describes me perfectly, a Moldvay Basic player that went on to AD&D skipping over the whole BECMI series.  So I never knew who Aleena and Bargle were.  Funny thing though I have been planning on updating Bargle, Aleena and a fave from Moldvay, Morgan Ironwolf to the new D&D4 Essentials.

The wicked cool Cyclopeatron has ranked all the "old-school" blogs by followers.
http://cyclopeatron.blogspot.com/2010/09/165-old-school-rpg-blogs-ranked-by.html
To follow up on that the equally cool From the Sorcerer's Skull had put together a level advancement table based on followers complete with level titles.  http://sorcerersskull.blogspot.com/2010/09/old-school-rpg-blogger-advancement.html.  Given that I am a 6th level Maven Blogger.

Not so much a blog, there is an interesting article on Dragonlance and the Forgotten Realms over at Grasping for the Wind, and how story and adventures play on each other in the creation of these two D&D worlds.
http://www.graspingforthewind.com/2010/09/19/the-worlds-that-outgrew-their-stories-two-roads-to-intellectual-property-success/
There is a lot of good points on both sides and especially a lot of good point for would world-creators out there.
James over at Grognadia follows up with a brief post and bunch of comments.
http://grognardia.blogspot.com/2010/09/power-of-ip.html
And Jason over at The Wasted Lands weighs in on the subject of Story-vs.-Railroad.
http://wastedlandsfantasy.blogspot.com/2010/09/story-vs-railroad-some-ponderings.html
This is something I keenly felt when writing and running the games for The Dragon and the Phoenix.  We were constrained by the IP in many respects but ended having the most fun when we broke out of it.  Plus I wanted to avoid railroading to get to a desired outcome.  Players will always do what they want.

Speaking of old school characters, Rob over at Bat in the Attic has been on the trail of Emirikol the Chaotic.
http://batintheattic.blogspot.com/2010/09/imagining-d-for-myself.html
and as reported at Akratic Wizardryhttp://akraticwizardry.blogspot.com/2010/09/on-trail-of-emirikol-chaotic.html (and a better version of the street here, http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_Nf5FfHNth64/S6_rpNicahI/AAAAAAAAIoA/zt_Nb4VyPBQ/s1600/Street+of+the+Knights.jpg)  It was also reported at the Acaeumhttp://www.acaeum.com/forum/about10562.html
Seeing the "Real World" scenes is very cool.

Know of anything else cool going on?

Monday, September 20, 2010

Reflecting on D&D - Sometimes you can't go back

This is not a retro clone post, nor is it an old school post.  This is about the original games that so many games today get their inspiration from.

I was back in my home town over the weekend to visit my brother.  Grognardia's post was fresh in my mind and was something I was thinking about during the long drive from Chicago to Springfield.  We were meeting my parents, sister and brother at the local mall, a mall that during the heyday of my D&D days was one of my FLGS.    Of course the Waldenbooks were I had bought so many books and dice was gone.  As was the B. Dalton's where I had bought my first set of clear dice.

In my home town they are redoing the downtown area that had been busy in my youth and then died.  While it is nice to see it coming back one thing that I won't see back is "Belobrajdic's Book Store".  They were closer to me (Springfield was 30 miles away from Jacksonville), but they did not carry as much stuff.    Belobrajdic's ("bell-o-bray-dick") did have Dragon magazine.  I eventually became a subscriber, but not for another 20 years almost.  I think my first issue was 85 and then I bought it as my meager job as a paper boy would allow.

Waldenbooks, B. Daltons, Belobrajdic's, and even Black's Hardware (for miniatures) all share something in common. All were places I connect with the Golden Age of D&D. And all are gone.

Today I spend my time and money at Games Plus.  A place I would mail order when the above stores would not carry something I wanted, like Eldritch Wizardry.   But what did this trip down memory lane teach me?

Well. Try as they might, and they do try very, very hard, the Clones just can't capture the same feeling of those early days. The Zeitgeist is gone.  I remember hearing a rumor that Belobrajdic's was going to stop selling D&D due to the "Satanic Scare" of the 80s.  You just don't get that these days.
Every book was something new, every purchase was tinged with anticipation and excitement of new worlds to explore.

Some of it isn't just Zeitgeist. Some of it is age and all that goes with that.  I don't have to save or anticipate anymore.  If I want a book I go buy it on my way home from work.  There is sits on my desk or game table till I get a chance to read it. Back then I got the S-series of modules and read them cover to cover all the time.

New games help.  Pathfinder and D&D 4 give me that thrill of the new.  Clones scratch my nostalgia itch.  But none really combine them all very well.

You can't go back to the Caves of Chaos anymore.  The monsters of old are gone and there are Eladrin, Tieflings and Dragonborns in the Keep talking about needing Warlocks or Sorcerers to help them complete their quest.  Clerics talk about healing surges, druids spend more time in animal shapes and have forgotten the trees.   It is a new world out there full of change.  I can't bring back the old felling or the old D&D anymore than I can bring back the stores that contained those memories and books.

I might wax nostalgic, but I look forward to the next new purchase and the new worlds it will bring all the same.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Imagining D&D meme

So on Friday Grognadia had as the Open Friday this bit:
when you think about Dungeons & Dragons, the cover of what product comes first to mind?
For me it was a toss-up.

This is the version I adventured in the most, back in the day:

But this is one I played first and the cover is more evocative of "D&D" to me.  Wizard and fighter battling a red dragon sitting on a treasure hoard.


But this is the version that gets my geek fondness into overdrive.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Dragon and the Phoenix: Episode 4

Episode 4: Identity Crisis

Willow: So you are saying that whole season of ‘Facts of Life’ was nothing more than unrequited lesbian love between Blair and Jo?
Tara: Absolutely, they were totally into each other, that’s why they fought so much.
Willow: Now you’re just playing with my emotions.

- Willow and Tara: The Dragon and the Phoenix, Episode 4 “Identity Crisis”



January 8, 2003 Sunday

Willow’s first big dive back into magic is to recreate Tara’s identity and remove all references of her death. A magical surge created by Yoln, the Shadowreaper, causes the magic to go awry and creates a duplicate of Tara who believes she is Kara, Tara’s twin sister. A magic ID provided by Anya also goes awry and the personality of a dead stripper is imprinted on Tara. In addition, the cast have to deal with hungry snake demons, a small gang of mobsters and a 7ft tall, one handed killing machine.
Story Arc elements: Establishes Tara’s “twin” sister Kara and Murl the demonic identity merchant. Introduces Yoln.

Notes and Comments:This is the adventure that made me forget that the show was even still on TV. Once we got to this episode things were moving great. The ideas flowed much faster. This was also our most comical episode despite the fact that it began with a dead stripper. We have "two" Taras running around, demonic identity merchants, would be gangsters, and a 7 foot tall man in armor with one arm. Plus there is the whole Tara-as-a-stripper scene.

The identity merchant was a great idea.  These are demons that make a living integrating other demons into human society.  They do it by having the demon assume the identity of someone that had died and they get all their effects, basically becoming that person.   Anya gets the id of a recently killed japanese stripper.  We also wanted to do one "Willow's magic screws up" episode and ehen never do it again.  She is supposed to be the most powerful witch on the planet afterall.  In truth her magic didn't screw up it was the combination of her magic, the dead stripper's id and the magic of Yoln.

Special note: Because of this episode Tara can still speak fluent Japanese, Amber Benson made a remark at a con a while back along the lines of "well I guess I can speak Japanese" when talking about the afterlife of fan fic. Wish I could find the link for you all.

Yoln of course is the proxy for our big bad.  We find out more about him next episode, but we learn he is the "Hand of Leviathan" whom he calls "The Whispering God".  Yoln was also an old D&D NPC that plagued my characters.

Kara, Tara's "straight" sister was an inside joke that began on the Kitten describing the soap oprea like plotting we were seeing in the show up to Season 6. We decided in the alternate past that Kara had a hugh crush on Giles. The ophidians were an old AD&D monster of mine.

The author of this adventure, Sass, has a better grasp on Willow than anyother author I have ever met. She gets her on such a fundamental level that her fiction should be required reading for anyone wanting to play Willow in a game.

Kara was not just a proxy for dead Tara, but Dawn as well. We established that she was as real to everyone, including memories, as Dawn, and a spell took her away. This was part of the alienation plot for Buffy and Dawn. Both were feeling like they were less and less human than the people around them, though for different reasons. I disliked the Slayer-as-demon (the episode where the girl was raped by a demon to make her a Slayer had not happened yet) and wanted to go a different direction, so we began by having Buffy become stronger and faster than before, becoming something other than human, or so she thought. For Dawn it was the start of her psychic powers.  I wanted both characters (via the players) to struggle with what it means to be human, or maybe no longer human.

And true to our cause here  "Candy", the dead stripper, gets avenged in the end and her killers are met with justice at the hands of the Yakuza.  Tara also gets a marker from the Yakuza boss.  The boss was named Tatsou which means "Dragon".  There is no connection, just a pun on my part to keep some element of the overall plot in every episode.

The quote above is an in-play quote between Willow and Tara.  All this terrible stuff is going around them and they are having a discussion about the lesbian sub-text of the Facts of Life.

In this episode we also established that Willow & Tara's favorite indie band is Lipkandy. They were playing the night after Tara's birthday.

At this point we began to insert a lot more crunchy stuff to our games.  Previously we had been content to use the playtest material of Buffy, but now we were moving along at good pace.  Episodes 4 and 5 were our playtests of the new Magic Box book, but we wanted to add more.

New Monster


Ophidians
Motivation: Eat humans
Critter Type: Demon
Attributes: Str 7 Dex 6 Con 6 Int 2 Per 2 Will 5
Ability Scores: Muscle 20 Combat 14 Brains 15
Life Points: 70
Drama Points: 1
Special Abilities: Armor Value 10 (scales) Qualities: Hard to Kill 3
Dodge: 14
Claw: 16 18 dam Str x 3
Bite: 15 21 dam (Str + 1) x3,
Poison
Tail slap: 15 14 dam

Ophidians are said to be a young race by demon standards, thought to exist only for the last 3 or 4 thousand years, since early Egyptian times. They are an isolationistic race, known to spend time only with their own kind, and have little regard for other demons. While most demons are decidedly carnivorous, the Ophidians are one of a few whose diet is thought to consist solely of the flesh of human beings. It is known that almost all Ophidians worship some sort of a serpent deity, but whether this is Set or Leviathan is unclear.
These Ophidians worship leviathan, but it can’t be a coincidence that many also worship Set and the cast just dealt with Set.

New Spells

Magic Missile
Quick Cast: Yes
Power Level: 2
Requirements: Witches and Warlocks need only shout “dissolvo.” Other magicians also need to meditate for one minute.
Effect: A ball of light shoots from the caster’s hand and shoves the target one foot per Success Level rolled. This spell could knock someone down or push them free from someone who was holding them. It normally does no damage, but if the target is shoved into a wall or some other hard surface, she takes double the casting roll’s Success Levels in Bash damage.
Note: This is the spell Tara used in “Bargaining”. It is assumed that Kara has it as well.

Sleep
Quick Cast: Yes
Power Level: 1
Requirements: Command word calling on the gods of sleep (Hypnos, Morpheus, or ‘the Sandman’) and a bit of sand.
Effect: Target must make a Will check. If failed the target falls into a deep sleep for one hour per level of sorcery skill.
Note: This spell is know to both Tara and Kara.

Undo Spell
Quick Cast: Yes
Power Level: 5
Requirements: Witches and Warlocks need only to command that the spell be ended. Others need to concentrate on the spell for 1 minute per power level of the original spell. If the caster does not have the sorcery levels required she can bring in other casters.
Effect: Undoes one spell or magical effect.
Since the magical effect in not natural, the magic is easy. But the witch needs to be able to overcome the level of the original spell as a resisted check.

Next Week:  Tara and Willow are targeted by assassins and they learn more of their mission here.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Chaos Magick for the WitchCraft RPG

More stuff for the WitchCraft RPG, still my most favorite game that I didn't write myself. ;)


Chaos Magick for the WitchCraft RPG

“Nothing is True and Everything is Permitted”
- Traditional saying of Chaos Mages

Chaos Magick (with a ‘k’) is a new sub-tradition that at first seems to be a parody or even a mockery of the traditions that came before it. While this may in fact have some truth in it, what can’t be denied is there is a fascination for what they do and are (or what is commonly believed they are) and it may be one of the fastest growing traditions. The other truth that cannot be denied is that Chaos Magick, for all its seeming self-contradictions, does actually work.
Practitioners are called Chaos Mages or Chaos Witches by outsiders, but they prefer the term Chaote or at worse Chaos Magicians. The tradition is loosely formed and very disorganized. To refer to them as “chaotic” is not just a play on words, but a very adequate description.

History
Chaos Magick Grew out of the merging of various traditions of the 1960s it was not formalized till 1976-8. Some claim its birth was more properly placed in the 1890s during the Victorian Occult revival. It gained more ground after that with Austin Osman Spare, one of Crowley’s contemporaries. His philosophies of magic embraced many various traditions, but not a part of any of them. It blended with the ideas of both Wicca (it’s positive influence) and Discordianism (it’s more ‘negative’ side). It had rapid growth in the 1990s due to the popularizing of various chaos math theories, end of the millennia hysteria and the ability to connect and exchange ideas via the Internet. It has its obvious roots in the various solitary practices that began near the end of the millennium, but it also has influences as diverse as the Wicce traditions of the 1960’s and the Rosicrucians of the 1890’s.
One should not underestimate the power that technology has had in the formation of this tradition. What might have been separate, disparate ideas from isolated groups found interconnections and intraconnections thanks to the rapid communication features of the nascent World Wide Web. Practitioners naturally claim this is the very nature of Chaos Magick; the elements were all in place to provide a spontaneous generation of the Tradition itself. Many believe that if occultist had embraced the telegraph they way that they embraced the Internet, Chaos Magick would have be created 100 years prior.

Beliefs
First, it is difficult to make claims about the “average” Chaote. Indeed, no such thing exists. Despite this certain assumptions can be made about the common threads that hold all Chaote together.
The Chaote believe that there is no such thing as an objective truth. That everything is determined by a point of view. For this reason the Chaote embrace such disparate fields of science and philosophy such as Taoism, quantum physics, and Jungian psychoanalysis. Of course chaos math is another prime field of study for the chaote. Many in fact derive their incantations and magical effects from such works.
Chaos magic tries to avoid the things that define the other Traditions or philosophies, or a least using them the exact same way. Athames could be sharp for example, to the horror of most traditional Wicce, or using “made up” gods and rituals. To the Chaote, Cthulhu is just as real as Yaweh or the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
The Chaote believes that their magic should work and therefore it does. An interesting side effect of this is that chaos magic is less effected by the crowd effect if there is a suitable and logical explanation can be offered. An elemental fire display is explained away by a ruptured gas line. If someone sees a “demon” then they are sure that they heard about someone filming a horror movie on the radio. Another effect is that people will tend to believe the Chaote is nothing more than a “street magician” or some sort of illusionist ala David Blaine. Effects will be explained away as slight of hand, or a trick with mirrors.
The Chronicler should decide whether or not the crowd effect is negated (can it be explained away) or do they not lose as much Essence.

Ritual, Essence and Chaos
The Chaote is typically fond, or even required, to use rituals and traditions mixed together. So a traditional rite is often followed by a “spell” found in a science book, and ending in a Gnostic or Taoist (maybe both) rite while invoking a fantasy god. The Chaote believes that they work and therefore it does.
They believe Essence comes from within and ritual is only used to focus the mind, there is no inherent energies within the ritual itself. The ultimate goal of the Chaote is to produce magical effects without the need of any rituals. A state they describe as maximum entropy. It is by returning to this primordial chaos that they are able to obtain the peak of the their spiritual and magical evolution.

Spirits and Gods
The individual Chaote may believe in many gods, goddess, spirits or what have you, or even none at all. No particular gods or goddesses though are unique to them. They have adopted various deities, notably various ones of litature and science fiction. The works of H.P. Lovecraft and Micheal Moorcock are among the favorite. Many Chaote have even adopted Moorcock’s “chaos wheel” or “chaos star” as part of their personal symbol.
They do share the belief in Cardea as Goddess of the Internet with the Wicce TechnoPagans. They will even sometimes share a belief in the modern parody religions, such as Church of the Sub-Genius or the Pastafarians.
Despite this nature of chaos, the Chaote is no more prone to worship a Mad God than any other person and they are no more or no less susceptible to taint.

The Number 8
For the Chaote, the number eight, the Octarine, is the most magical number, not seven. Of course eight is the number of arrows of the chaos star it is also represents the number of “magical colors” the Chaote believes in. The Chaote will use these colors to focus their magic workings. They believe that eight is the true number of raw pure magic. There is of course a certain level of arrogance in this. While everyone else believes the proper number is seven the Chaote believes that it is actually one more than that. For this reason the extra essence normally reserved for 7 casters needs to have 8 Chaote casters. Seven chaote casters only produce 90 points of extra essence, but 8 will produce 115 points. Chaote casters with other traditions can not contribute extra essence when there are only seven casters due to their beliefs. Other numbers of casters are unaffected.
Colors: Black – death magic, necromancy. Blue – controlling people. Red – war and combat. Yellow – Ego magic or magic associated with the self. Green – love. Orange – mental magic and thoughts. Purple – sex magic.

Characters
Attributes, Qualities, Drawbacks and Skills: Chaote come from a variety of backgrounds and points of view but a few things are common. Nearly all are college educated and many come from middle-class backgrounds. Their natures tend to lend them to more “free spirited” professions; artists, authors, graphic designers, musicians, actors, and so on. Again, saying something is “typical” for a Chaote is problematic at best; dangerous at worse.

Metaphysics: The Chaote considers all magic worth learning. Magic then becomes their personal philosophy of how they relate to the universe. Invocations then are most used. Seer Powers and Necromancy are also learned, but these usually require prescribed skills that the Chaote may not have or see the value of. Divine Powers are, unless deemed necessary by the Chronicler, off limits. Again, exceptions are the rule.
Chroniclers may want to impose an added cost of 1-2 extra metaphysics points per level of some types of metaphysics. This offsets the access the Chaote has, but represents their different paradigm of learning.

Special Abilities: Chaote, also due to their nature gain a +1 to any one knowledge based skill of their choice, expect for Occult Knowledge. Common examples would be a bonus in artistic skills, or math. Typically this relates to how they came to their own specific points of view of their Chaos Magic.

Other Associations
Most associations believe the Chaote to some new sort of Solitary (partially true) or one of the Wicce bastard children (also partially true). Most of the attitudes are predictable. The Wicce tend to have the most positive point on view with regards to the Chaote, though they disagree with way they interpret philosophy, not the philosophy themselves. Rosicrucians look down on the Chatoe as amateurs, often referring to them as “Wikipedia Witches” due their connections with the internet and their habit of throwing everything together. They are interested in their methods though. Their seemingly random, and “unskilled” approaches to arcane research and to their use of Invocations baffles the Brotherhood. Confusion and ignorance are not things the Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross enjoys. Sentinels have the widest variation of attitudes. Most think they are children playing at miracles and are at best annoying or at worse troublesome. Others see them as deluded souls taping the power of a great primordial evil.
What the Templars think about this group is at present, unknown. Most of the other associations (the Storm Dragons, the Mockers) are only peripherally aware of the Chaos Mages. Some have tried to study with the Storm Dragons, but ones to date have not had the attention span to complete their training (from the point of view of the Storm Dragons).

Chaos Magick - Invocations
To date most Chaote have only been able to replicate other invocations and some necromancy. Though constant debate and discussion on whether or not they will be able to create their own forms of invocations. In theory they should be able to re-create any magical effect and more.
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