The Other Side

Classic Adventures Revisited: Palace of the Vampire Queen

In this new series of posts, I want to look back at some of my favorite classic adventures both from TSR and others.  I'll give a review, though most everyone knows what is in these adventures by now, I'll also talk about how I have used them in the past and I'll also talk about what other games I have used them with or would like too.  So there is a little bit of Plays Well With Others in this too.

Why do classic adventures? Easy, I love these adventures.  I have written hundreds of my own adventures, some I have even published, but these are the adventures that everyone knows and we all have a history with them.

So to start off this series, what better adventure than the one that started it all?


Palace of the Vampire Queen

In the beginning, there was a belief that all DMs would naturally create all their own adventures and there was no market for pre-written ones.  The only printed adventure out at this time was "Temple of the Frog" in Blackmoor.  Seeing a need, the Palace of the Vampire Queen was written by Pete and Judy Kerestan. Yes, the very first adventure was co-written by a woman.
The first edition was self-published, followed by a second and third edition by Wee Warriors (1976 and 1977) and distributed exclusively by TSR.

The "Dungeon Master's Kit" (module was not being used yet) presented a simple adventure with a singular goal; defeat the Vampire Queen.  The plot, such as it is, is very thin even by the standards of what would later be the norm.  The maps are fantastic, but the descriptions are little more than that; what's in the room in terms of monster and treasure.  We get a background, the missing princess of the Dwarf King Arman of Baylor. Vampire Queen herself remains nameless.


The adventure itself is fairly straight forward.  Go to the Palace, defeat the monsters and the Vampire Queen and save the Dwarven Princess.

Despite, or maybe because of, this limited background this adventure can be used anywhere with nearly every version of the game.   I became aware of this adventure many years ago and it immediately went on to my "must find" list. Around 10 years ago I was able to get a copy and I ran it for a group using Moldvay Basic/ Cook Expert (BX) D&D.  It was a lot of fun.  There was no indication on how many characters were needed or what levels.

The adventure reminds me a bit of the Dungeon! board game.  You walk the halls, kick in the door, kill the monster, take the treasure, repeat.  Of course, this adventure is the first of such adventures so it gets a huge pass on this.  There is a lot though here to keep any DM and party busy.

Since 1976 the adventure has had a few reprints.  The first ones were by Wee Warriors.  These prints regularly go for over $1,000.00 on eBay.   There were two such covers, the "black" cover with a castle in the background and the "queen" cover, featuring the vampire queen herself.


The covers were folders with a pocket for notes or other sheets.  I nice idea and one I have used myself. Many of the early prints were 8.5" x 11", some later prints were digest-sized, 5.5" x 8.5" same as the OD&D books.

The next major set of reprints was made by North Texas RPG Con and Pacesetter Games and Simulations who printed a fairly accurate representation of the original back cover in digest format and then later a letter-sized one with images from all the covers.


While they are not the originals, but the content is all there and these were much cheaper.

Now today, Precis Intermedia has a new cleaned up reprint of the adventure.



Daughters of Darkness: Sequels to the Vampire Queen
As can be imagined such a classic adventure has had a number of sequels and homages.

North Texas RPG Con
This is the reprint of the original.  It is a fairly faithful reproduction of the 1977 version of the black cover version.  The first digest-sized version was a fairly faithful reproduction save for the NTRPG Con watermark on every page.  The digest size makes it perfect for use with OD&D, S&W, OSE or other OSR games.


To my knowledge there are no more of this print available save for on eBay and other game auctions.

Pacesetter Games

The first round of reprints and sequels after Wee Warriors came from Pacesetter Games & Simulations.



V2 Palace of the Vampire Queen

This printing was more properly letter-sized, the same as the original and features many of the cover variations on the cover of this edition.
This edition also includes introductions from the author Peter Kerestan and Pacesetter's Bill Barsh. Here we learned that the very first edition was printed by Peter himself with a printing press!
Here we also get a fair reproduction of the original.  After the introductions and the adventure background, we get to the levels proper.  On the two pages are the original maps and descriptions and on the following pages are "updated" AD&D 1st ed stats. These new pages usually cover 3-4 more pages till the next map. This repeats for all five levels.  On the new pages, a little more explanation is given and there is new art.  This makes for a fuller product and detracts none of the original charms.

Print at Pacesetter.

V5 Palace of the Vampire Queen: Castle Blood
The first sequel to PotVQ is Castle Blood.  Now here we get more modern adventure designs and maps. There is more background here too to hook the players in,
The adventure is brief, but it is supposed to be, at just 16 pages. It can be run in an afternoon.  I actually felt this worked better as a prequel to the PotVQ.  You learn more about her history here. The eponymous castle is all detailed and above ground.  You can meet the Vampire Queen here, but killing her is not the goal of this adventure, but rather finding out what is going on.
PDF at DriveThruRPG and Print at Pacesetter.

V6 Palace of the Vampire Queen: Crypts of the Living
Crypts of the Living was written as an explicit sequel to the Palace of the Vampire Queen and makes more overt references to the first adventure.  The booklet, 16 pages worth, says it is designed for 5th Edition, but all the stats are for OSRIC/1st Edition.  No worries. Converting is easy.
There are references to both the Palace of the Vampire Queen and Castle Blood.  The other adventures are not 100% required to play this one, but it does help.
The adventure is a fairly straight forward exploration affair.  There are new monsters and new magic items so that is a nice bonus. Can be played in an afternoon or combined with the others for a longer campaign.
PDF at DriveThruRPG and Print at Pacesetter.

V7 Palace of the Vampire Queen: Cries of the Tormented
This one is not presently available and I don't seem to have a copy oddly enough.
Print at Pacesetter.


Precis Intermedia
Palace of the Vampire Queen
This version of the adventure also preserves much of what made the original a classic.  The PDF of this book has a "special feature" to show a reprint of the original NSFW art.  The print copy is all paper, with the cover made out of heavier weight paper (like résumé paper).
At 24 pages it might be the most faithful reproduction yet.  While the cover is new art, the interior looks like the classic.  No additions have been made to the text. The maps are cleaned up, darker ink and clearer to read.





Other Vampire Queens
Dark Wizard Games gave us the fantastic Hanging Coffins of the Vampire Queen. But I have talked about that adventure many places here. Most of my posts on this are captured below.

0one's Blueprints: Megadungeons - Palace of the Vampire Queen
This product is a pretty bare-bones affair, and that is exactly why you want to get it.  You get 7 pages of "Blue" maps and 7 pages of black and white maps covering over 210 rooms.  The rooms are labeled but that is all the description you get.  There are sheets for you to detail the rooms with monsters, occupants, and treasure.  This is perfect if you want to create a mega-palace for our mysterious Vampire Queen and stock it full of her undead minions.  At just under $2.00 it is a steal.

Other Games / Plays Well With Others

The strength of this adventure is how easy you can adapt it to nearly anything.  The adventure itself, regardless of which one you have, is so bare-bones it begs to be adapted and added too.  I have run this both for Basic, B/X D&D and for D&D 5th edition with no problems.  The level of characters can be adapted to easily with the challenges and the monsters you add.




Palace of the Vampire Queen and D&D5
Converting for D&D is easy. What might be more fun is to run something like Curse of Strahd, but replace the count with a Queen.


Palace of the Vampire Queen and Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea
This is the easiest of all really.  AS&SH is close enough to AD&D with hints of Basic to make it possible to run this without any conversions at all.
How to run it?  Well all I can say is have you ever read the Conan stories "Red Nails" or "Hour of the Dragon".  The queen would make for a good stand-in for Akivasha.



Palace of the Vampire Queen and Blue Rose
Ah. Now this one has a bit more going on for it.  This is no simple dungeon crawl, to play this one the Vampire Queen is in a battle of wills or "chess game" with the Sovereign, Queen Jaellin. This style of adventure would play heavily on the investigation skills of the envoys/characters.   Our Vampire Queen might even be known as a vampire even, just as a new ruler of a previously unknown island (Baylor).  Of course, you have your suspicions and you are fairly sure there is a strong taint of shadow about the land.



Palace of the Vampire Queen and Buffy,  Ghosts of Albion or Leagues of Gothic Horror
Here is something fun.  A twist on the Dracula story.  The cast comes to an old palace in the mountains from their home.  Expecting an old Lord they are instead greeted by a woman, the Lady of the castle.  Here the horror begins.
Both game systems have plenty of creatures and elements to cover everything in the adventure.  What you as the game master will need to do is smooth out some "D&D" elements and add some gothic elements, but that is so easy that I can't decide which one would be more fun Unisystem or Ubiquity.
All three would be fun to try sometime.




One could get easily lost in the potential of this adventure.  I do hope that future reviews of classic adventures prove to be just as fruitful.

Links
Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palace_of_the_Vampire_Queen
The Acaeum, https://www.acaeum.com/ddindexes/modpages/dmk.html

Links to Adventures
Links to my 'Vampire Queen' posts

Class Struggles: The New* Basic Classes

2019 was the start of my Back to Basics theme here at the Other Side.  I have covered a LOT of Basic-era/BX/BECMI/RC type products.  It got me thinking. In addition to the the base four human classes and three demi-human classes how many classes have been added to Basic D&D?

Answer. 113*
This includes at least four kinds of Barbarians, Bards and Paladins.  Three types of Rangers and Gnomes and duplicates of many others such as necromancers and illusionists.
*There are likely even more.

I am not sure if all of these are needed, but I am glad they are here.  Variety is the spice of life after all and these classes are all about variety.

The trick now is, can they all be played in same world? OR maybe a better question.  Is anything missing?

Basic Classes
Cleric, Fighter, Magic-user, Theif, Dwarf, Elf, Halfling

ACKS Player's Companion
Anti-paladin, Barbarian, Dwarven Delver, Dwarven Fury, Dwarven Machinist, Elven Courtier, Elven Enchanter, Elven Ranger, Gnomish Trickster, Mystic, Nobiran Wonderworker, Paladin, Priestess, Shaman, Thrassian Gladiator, Venturer, Warlock, Witch, and Zaharan Ruinguard.

Advanced Labyrinth Lord
Assassin, Druid, Illusionist, Monk, Paladin, Ranger

OSE (Advanced)
Acrobat, Assassin, Barbarian, Bard, Drow, Druid, Duergar, Gnome, Half-elf, Illusionist, Knight, Paladin, Ranger, Svirfneblin

BX RPG
Druid, Gnome, Half-elf, Monk, Necromancer, Paladin, Ranger

Mazes & Perils Deluxe Edition
Enchanter, Shaman

Psionics Handbook
Monk, Mystic

Class Compendium
Acrobat, Alienist, Angel, Automation, Bandit, Barbarian, Bard, Berserker, Bounty Hunter, Burglar, Commander, Cultist, Damphir, Dark Elf, Death Knight, Dragon, Dragon Slayer, Eidolon, Explorer, Fairy, Familiar, Feast Master, Fortune Teller, Friar, Gladiator, Goblin, Greensinger, Half-Elf, Half-Ogre, Half-Orc, Huckster, Inquisitor, Investigator, Knight, Lost Boy, Lucky Fool, Metaphysician, Pirate, Raging Slayer, Rune-Smith, Samurai, Shootist, Sword Master, Sylvan Elf, Tavern Singer, Thopian Gnome, Treant, Undead Slayer, Wanderer, Warchanter, Watchman, Wild Wizard (That's 52 classes!)

The Complete B/X Adventurer
Acrobat, Archer, Barbarian, Bard, Beastmaster, Bounty Hunter, Centaur, Duelist, Gnome, Mountebank, Mystic, Ogre-Kin, Scout, Summoner, Tattoo Mage, Witch, Witch Hunter.

Magical Theorems & Dark Pacts
Cleric, Wizard, Elven Swordmage, Elven Warder, Enchanter, Fleshcrafter, Healer, Inquisitor, Merchant Prince, Necromancer, Pact-Bound, Theurge, the Unseen.

Odysseys & Overlords 
Bard

Theorems & Thaumaturgy Revised Edition
Elementalist, Necromancer, Vivimancer

Class Catalog for B/X Essentials
Aasimar, Dragonborn, Dwarven Priest, Dwarven Thief, Elven Rogue, Gnome, Halfling Burglar, Half-Orc, Pixie, Tiefling

Weekend Gaming: Dungeons & Dragons & Dinners & Dramaturges

I have not done a weekend gaming post in forever, despite having a game or two going every weekend.  If you follow me on Facebook or my personal Instagram page then one thing is pretty obvious.  My family and I LOVE food.  My wife has won baking awards, my oldest son is in culinary school, my youngest loves to experiment in the kitchen and even I have won 1st place in my local chili cook-off for my "Mississippi Queen" Chili.

It should be no surprise then we LOVE to cook for our D&D sessions.  My oldest son runs three D&D 5e campaigns, one Call of Cthulhu game (3 of which my youngest son is a part of), and I have my three D&D games that meet more rarely, but the bottom line is we have anywhere from two to three groups here every week and we cook for all of them.

These are all high school and college-age kids, so other than one or two other than my kids, their palettes are still forming.  I mean in our groups we have people from South Korea, Equador, Mexico, Spain, and even a 2nd generation Greek (the Greek Orthodox Church is just down the road), so we have ethnicities all covered. So we still like to branch out a bit from just plain old "gamer faire" of burgers, hot dogs and chips, though we still do those a lot.  We have made chili for them (of course), homemade mac-n-cheese (they are still kids), but homemade enchiladas, pulled smoked pork, bbq chicken, homemade ramen (complete with soy marinaded eggs), eclair cakes, banana bread, tacos, homemade chicken sandwiches (because fuck Chik-fil-a), homemade pizza, mini pies,  and homemade wings of various spiciness from mild to "oh dear god make it stop mommy!"





Fortunately for us, we love to cook all this.  My wife has a huge garden (over 2,200 square feet) where we can grow an absolute ton of veggies, so that helps.  In fact, there are many times throughout the year where we don't even need to buy vegetables (and we eat a lot of veggies).

You can see my wife's garden from space!We only have a couple of food allergies to deal with, but that fine with us. 
The great thing is that everyone wants to come here now for the games!  Yeah it means we have a lot of cooking to do, but we enjoy it and we know some of these guys in college with my oldest don't get a homecooked meal very often.

Today's game is Liam's college group and on the menu is the Curse of Strahd and Taco Pie.  Yeah, not haute cuisine, but it is still homemade AND we used enchilada sauce made from our own dried peppers, garden onions, and tomato sauce (yes, we make our own tomato sauce). 





Much better than a bag of chips and a Mountain Dew.

Monstrous Monday will return next week.

Marvel Movie Maddness

It is pretty well documented that I am a hardcore DC guy.
But there are few Marvel comice I really enjoy, and all of them are getting new movies!  Where to start?



Ok, let's go with what might be some of the best castings ever, Jared Leto as Dr. Michael Morbius in Morbius.



This comes from the comic Morbius the Living Vampire about a scientist who tries to cure himself with vampire blood.  Some changes will be made to this for the movie to be sure, but it looks fantastic. The cameo by Michael Keaton is also a shocker and what role is Matt Smith playing?  (Loxias Crown according to the Wikipedia).

My second favorite casting (and this is so weird to say since up till Morbius this one was my favorite) in Marvel movie gives us Anna Taylor-Joy as freaking Magick in the New Mutants.



"I killed 18 men. One. by. one." Oh Magick, you keep doing you.

I mean really, ATJ as Magick the only thing that would keep me from geeking out over the casting of Maisie Williams as Wolfsbane.  I read a lot of New Mutants back in college and was the last X-men/Marvel comic I kept up with.  Plus it has a solid horror vibe.

Those are the ones we have trailers for.

We are also getting Doctor Strange 2: The Multiverse of Madness.  That is like, three of my favorite things in the title alone.  Now the rumor is Scarlet Witch will be in the movie too. I like the movie Wanda much more than the comic one so this is great.

AND the hits keep coming with the Blade reboot with the amazing Mahershala Ali as the day-walking half-vampire Blade.

It's going to be great really.  And this is not even looking into the DC movies coming up.

Old School Essentials: New Witch Spells

The hottest new property in OSR gaming is Old-School Essentials.  Justifiably so too.   It is a great reinterpretation of the Basic/Expert rules and it is a lot of fun.  It is also on sale today as the DriveThruRPG Deal of the Day.

I am still a little bit away, further than I want to admit, from finishing up The Craft of the Wise: The Pagan Witchcraft Tradition.  But in celebration of OSE's sale here are some new witch spells.

First Level Witch Spells

Call Spirits of the Land
Duration: 1d4 hours
Range: The Caster
Call Spirits enables the witch to gather local spirits of the dead and elements, which appear to the caster as small ghostly disembodied heads, and listen to their tales about the surrounding
land and people.
▶ Characters listening can make an Intelligence Ability check to learn something about the local area.
▶ Characters who fail the check by five or less hear nothing but endless ramblings and chattering, possibly in an unknown or ancient language, that have nothing to do with the subject at hand.
▶ Those who fail by more than five hear nothing.
▶ A roll of a natural 20 provides completely false and maliciously misleading information.

Material Components: The caster must pay for the information with offerings of food, alcoholic beverages, incense, song, and pleasant conversation. The offering should total at least 1 gp.

Salving Rest 
Duration: Special
Range: The caster or a creature touched
This spell allows its subject to enjoy soothing, peaceful sleep, free of pain and sorrow, whenever she slumbers. As a result of this salving rest,
▶ The subject of the spell will heal an extra 1d3 hit points during each day of complete rest.
▶ The spell ends when the subject stops completely resting or if she takes any damage.

Material Components: A tea made from valerian root and lavender.

Second Level Witch Spells

Chameleon
Duration: 1 turn per level
Range: Touch
This spell allows any character touched to blend into her surroundings to the point of becoming nearly invisible. The character gains a +4/+20% to hide in shadows. Characters affected by a chameleon spell can always hide in shadows with a skill of at least 25% chance. This spell is used to create elven cloaks.

Material Components: The scale of a chameleon or a bit of skin from a cuttlefish. Alternately a bit of multi-colored cloth will also work.

Inscribe Tattoo I
Duration: Permanent
Range: One willing target
With this spell the caster inscribes a tattoo onto a willing subject. Only three such tattoos can ever be placed on one subject.
Tattoos have different abilities
Become animal: Allows the subject to shift into a normal animal, chosen at the time of inscribing. The animal’s HD must be equal to or less than the subject’s level. The subject can only shapeshift once per month.
Strike true: The subject gains a +1 to hit/damage. Magical creatures can be hit with this magic.
Magical protection: +1 to saves vs. magic. This can be from spells, wands, rods or magic-like effects.
Battle protection: +1 bonus to AC. Tattoo must be visible to have effect.
Magical Affinity: Used by spell casters this gives as -1 penalty to target’s saves.

Similar tattoos do not add their effects. Two Magical Protection tattoos do not prove +2 protection.  Only higher-level tattoos can.
The caster cannot tattoo herself.

Material Components: Special tattoo pens, needles, and inks are required.

Third Level Witch Spells
Hopping Doom Duration: 1 turn/level Range: 60 feetThe witch can summon 1d10 x 1,000 slimy wet bullfrogs to a spot designated (crawling out from rocks, nooks and crannies, or otherwise dropping from the ceiling or sky). They jump madly about, getting underfoot, and croak at a deafening volume that prevents conversation within the area of effect. The distraction is such that spellcasters must save (spells) before they can cast, and missile users roll to hit at -2. Movement within the area is halved.▶There is a base 10% chance (+5% per level) that 1d10 poisonous frogs will be in the group. ▶They will attack non-frog targets within the area of effect, forcing them to save (poison) at +2 or die. The poisonous frogs are colorful but otherwise identical to the rest.▶The caster can move the mass of frogs by telepathic command, at a maximum speed of up to 60 ft per round.▶The area of effect is determined by the number of frogs summoned (10 ft² per 1,000 frogs).
Material Components: A small fly.
MaliceDuration: 6 turnsRange: Touch Malice weakens the target creature's attacks: each time the target creature inflicts hit point damage on an enemy (by any means), damage dice must be rolled twice, and the lesser result used.
Material Components: The witch must be able to touch the target while giving a word of power.
Fourth Level Witch Spells
Venus GlassDuration: InstantaneousRange: One glass of waterThe witch sends a prayer out to the spirits of her ancestors and to the spirits of those not yet reborn into her life for a vision. A question is asked to give her a vision of a face. Typically the witch casts a venus glass for a maiden hoping to see the face of her future husband.She then cracks an egg and suspends the egg white in a glass of waterShe can then see the future, usually, the face of someone important to the witch or whomever the witch is asking about.▶ Face: the face of someone will appear. It may be indistinct or quite clear.▶ Portents: If the egg has blood in it means that the person they seek with bring them death.▶ Visage of Death: If the face switches from normal to a skull face then the person they seek will die.▶ Unclear: No face is revealed. The witch may try again the next night.
Material Components: An egg from a hen taken at or just before the dawn and a clear glass of pure water.
Fifth Level Witch Spells
Flood of TearsDuration: Instantaneous and one round per levelRange: Cone 60’ The witch begins to cry and creates a flood to wash away her foes. ▶ In the first round, the tears flow creatures caught in the flood must make a save vs. paralysis or take 1d6 hp of damage for every two levels of the witch (max 7d6). Save for half. ▶ For the rounds that follow the area remains inundated with water and the flotsam and jetsam of debris. Movement is reduced to half in this area. 
Material Components: The witch must cry.
Sixth Level Witch Spells
Eye BiteDuration: 1 round per 3 levelsRange: 25’ + 5’ per 2 levelsThe witch glares at a target. Each round, the witch may target a single living creature, striking it with waves of arcane power.  Depending on the target’s HD, this attack has as many as three effects.

HDEffect10 or moreSickened5-9Panicked, sickened4 or lessComatose, panicked, sickened
▶ Sickened: Sudden pain and fever sweeps over the target’s body. A sickened creature takes a -2 penalty on attack rolls, weapon damage rolls, saving throws and ability checks.  A creature affected by this spell remains sickened for 10 minutes per caster level.  The effects cannot be negated by a remove disease or heal spell, but a remove curse is effective.▶ Panicked: The target becomes panicked for 1d4 rounds as if under the influence of a fear spell.  After the initial effect is over, the target can become panicked again if he sees the witch and fails a saving throw.▶ Comatose: The target falls into a catatonic coma for 10 minutes per caster level.  During this time, it cannot be awakened by any means short of dispelling the effect.  This is not a sleep effect, and thus elves are not immune to it.
The witch can affect victims for 1 round per three caster levels.  Spell effects can last longer than this depending on the effect. 
Material Components: The witch needs to be able to see the victim.  She needs to touch her eye and point to the victim.

The Craft of the Wise: The Pagan Witch Traditions


Updating Layout and War of the Witch Queens

I updated my layout a bit over the last few day here at the old Other Side.


I updated my Books page, which I have not done since 2016 or so.  Witch Links is getting updated more frequently now. I am still unsure if I'll update Downloads or OGL anymore, so they might go.

The biggest update is a new link above to my War of the Witch Queens old-school Campaign.

Here is some of the information I have on that page.

The War of the Witch Queens

The basis of this campaign was something I scrawled on my notes one day while working on one of my books.

"The Witch Queens gather every 13 years to discuss politic, issues of their realms, to share magical discoveries and socialize. But mostly they meet to make sure they stay out of each other's way.  Each Conclave a new High Queen is chosen to make sure that all witches abide by the rules.  This year however one the first day of the Conclave the current High Queen was murdered.
With the High Queen dead and her successor unchosen, the Witches are threatening to go to war with each other and worlds are caught in between."

The idea is these war of these powerful witches will happen.  The PCs get pulled in to this drama and must discover who killed the High Queen and how to stop it.

The Witch Queens 

A big old-school campaign I am working on is War of the Witch Queens.  I have been collecting these NPCs for years.  Not all are Witch Queens, but all have something to do in the campaign and all were at the Conclave of Witches, so each one is a suspect.

I will admit I have some ideas on who the murderer is.  I am also split on which of these will be the victim, though I have two in mind.  Part of the fun here is to build the mystery.
    Check the link above for a list of all the Queens and adventures.

    In addition to figuring out the mystery, it is also an excuse to try to use as many different D&D-like systems I can.  So DCC, S&S, Labyrinth Lord, OSRIC and D&D proper all live in harmony on my shelves.



    Going Wild for Wildemount

    Wizards of the Coast just announced their next book for Dungeons & Dragons 5e and it has some sections of the fandom wailing in lamentations, but the vast majority excited about it.

    Explorer's Guide to Wildemount will be out in Spring 2020 and it covers the part of the world from the highly successful Critical Role webseries.  Now I can already hear the older crowd bitching and moaning about it and all I can say is "typical".

    There are people out there complaining that "Wizards has pissed off half their fans".  I would argue that "half" is really exaggerating it by quite a bit, but even so then they are at least pleasing the other half.

    There are others that are also talking about how they won't be buying this. Ok. That's fine you don't need to buy every D&D book.  I enjoy 5e and I don't even have every book.  I have most, but I don't have them all.

    But even then, these people are often the same ones that will claim never to have bought a WotC D&D book ever anyway, so they were never the audience.

    Personally, I think this is a really intelligent move on Wizard's part.

    Critical Role is hugely successful.

    The Kickstarter for just the animated series brought in $11,385,449.   And this book, announced just 48 hours or so ago, has all the relevant #1 spots on Amazon.


    Note that's not just #1 in the D&D categories, that is #1 in Books.  All of them.

    Would I, as an old-school gamer, love to have seen Greyhawk or Mystara?  Of course!  Do I *need* them? No, not really.  I have everything I need for those worlds now.  I have MORE than what I need for my home-brew world now.  New worlds are always fun to read and maybe I can use some things from that book in my world. Or maybe not.  Who knows yet.

    I do know that some sections of our hobby need to lighten the hell up and let people enjoy things.



    Monstrous Monday: Horned Women

    The Horned Women of Celtic Myth

    The horned women, or horned witches, are magical hags of Irish myth and legend.  They pester newly married young women or new mothers.  They are also known to plague any sort of homeowner.


    Horned Women are a particularly nasty creature that is related to both faeries and hags.
    They will appear as ugly old women with a horn protruding from their forehead. How many horns will tell you how powerful they are. A woman with one horn has 1 HD and so on.  It is unknown if this is related to age, all appear to ancient hags.

    They will rush into a home, especially that of a new young mother or wife, and begin performing chores at a breakneck speed. While they perform the chores each one will demand a task of the overwhelmed bride. Saying that if she does not complete the tasks, they will fly off and eat her baby. The tasks are designed to be seemingly impossible; chop wood with an ax handle with no blade, or collect water in a bucket full of holes, or make a cake with no flour. The tasks can be completed by the bride, but she has to be clever about it.

    Their voice is compelling, as per the suggestion spell, to get the wife to do these tasks.  A save vs spells will keep this from happening, but the threat of eating her baby is still real.

    If she can do all the tasks the Horned Women want they will scream and fly away never to return. If she doesn’t they will take the baby.

    Horned Women cast witch spells at the same level as their HD. They do not have access to ritual magic or occult powers.

    Witches are often employed to fight these creatures.
    Using a simple spell (typically dispel evil or remove curse) and adding "Witch! Witch! Fly away from here!"
    The horned women will fly away and never return to that house.

    Horned Women
    (Labyrinth Lord)
    No. Enc.: 1-8 (1-12)
    Alignment: Chaotic (evil)
    Movement: 80' (240')
    Armor Class: 3 [16]
    Hit Dice: 1** (5 hp) to 8** (36 hp)
    Attacks: 1 (claw)
    Damage: 1d6
    Special: Witch spells, compelling voice
    Save: Witch 1 to Witch 8
    Morale: 10
    Hoard Class: None
    XP: HD 1: 13, HD 2: 29,  HD 3: 68, HD 4:  135, HD 5: 350, HD 6: 570,  HD 7: 790, HD 8: 1,060

    Horned Women
    (Blueholme Journeymanne Rules)
    AC: 3 [16]
    HD: 1d8 to 8d8
    Move: 80
    Attacks: : 1 (claw, 1d6), Witch spells, compelling voice
    Alignment: Chaotic
    Treasure: None
    XP: HD 1: 45, HD 2: 70,  HD 3: 95, HD 4:  145, HD 5: 255, HD 6: 395,  HD 7: 650, HD 8: 950

    Horned Women
    (Old-School Essentials)
    AC 3 [16], HD 1 (5 hp) 8 (36 hp), Att 1 claw (1d6), THAC0 19 [+1], MV 240’ (80’), SV as W 1-8, ML 10, AL Chaotic, XP HD 1: 45, HD 2: 70,  HD 3: 95, HD 4:  145, HD 5: 255, HD 6: 395,  HD 7: 650, HD 8: 950, NA 1-8 (1-12), TT None
    ▶ Witch spells: The horned woman can cast spells as a witch at the same level as her HD.
    ▶ Compelling Voice: The horned woman's voice acts as a suggestion spell.  She may use this once per day.

    Kickstart Your Weekend: We Could Be Heroes

    I was considering retiring "Kickstart Your Weekend" since there are so many Kickstarters now and plenty of places to get information on them.  But these two are nearer and dearer to me so I thought it would be fine.

    Plus it was Bowie's birthday a couple of days ago (Jan 8) and today is the anniversary of his death (Jan 10, 2016), so for Bowie's sake let's be Heroes.

    The Hero's Journey 2e


    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/gallantknightgames/the-heros-journey-2e?ref=theotherside

    The Hero's Journey 1st edition was a delightful game. It was the perfect antidote for grim-dark murder hobo games that seem to be so popular.  A nice cup of tea vs whatever they sell in the local run-down dive where characters are supposed to meet.

    This new 2nd edition gets further away from it's S&W roots and that might be a good thing.
    James Spahn has delivered when it comes to games, so I have expectations for this one.

    What I loved about THJ1 was that the characters were the heroes, people doing good in the world.  I think we need more of that.

    Really looking forward to this one and I hope to see it in my local game store sometime.


    Full-Color Custom Miniatures with Hero Forge 2.0


    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/heroforge/full-color-custom-miniatures-with-hero-forge-20?ref=theotherside

    This one does not go live till next week, but you can bet it is going to break all sorts of records.
    I was a proud backer of Hero Forge and I have enjoyed watching it grow over the years to be the standard by which I judge 3D printed minis.  If they can do the color they are displaying above then this is the reason why Kickstarter exists.

    I can't wait to see this.  Will the minis be costly? Maybe, but I have been pleased with the prices on Hero Forge so far so I am expecting this will be similar.

    If the timing is right I'll come back with a follow-up to this post with a color 3D Hero Forge mini of my Hero's Journey character!

    Review: Brimstone Angels: A Forgotten Realms Novel

    Back in 2011 Dungeons & Dragons 4e Essentials was out and Wizards of Coast was putting it's full efforts behind it.  To help expand on their 4e and Neverwinter properties WotC turned to relatively new author Erin M. Evans to turn in a tale about tieflings and warlocks, two of 4e's more popular additions.

    The result of her efforts was the first novel in the "Brimstone Angels" series, also titled Brimstone Angels.  The six-book series spanned two editions of the D&D game (4th and 5th) and help define what tieflings, warlocks, Dragonborn and even devils, succubi,  and Asmodeus himself.  But it all started with a tiefling girl named Farideh with mismatched eyes and her twin sister Havilar.

    Farideh is a tiefling and since publication, she has become something of a poster girl for tiefling warlocks. But that is getting way ahead of myself.  Farideh and Havilar were abandoned outside of the walls of their village, they are adopted by a Dragonborn warrior (who has a past) Mehen.  Mehen is a good father to the two girls, although no amount of warrior training prepares him for raising teenage girls, especially tieflings and teens at that.  In the Forgotten Realms tieflings are new and twin tieflings are considered to be a bad omen.  That soon enough comes true as Havilar finds an old book and attempts to summon an imp.  Farideh has to jump in, she is more familiar with magic, and the girls soon realize they have bitten off far more than they can deal with.  They summon the cambion, Lorcan, the half-human and half-devil of the Invidiah, the leader of the Enriyes.   To send him off Farideh agrees to a pact with him and becomes his warlock.

    Summoning the devil has other consequences, including burning down their home and getting them kicked out of their village of refugees (Arush Vayem).  They then go on an adventure where Evans treats us to a *new* Forgotten Realms.  I say new because unlike other Realms books where you can play spot the Extra Special Guest Star, this is a trip of normal folk, or in this case, three unknowns that happen to be a Dragonborn and his two adopted tiefling daughters.  Evans plays the family dynamics expertly.  Mehen obviously loves and worries about his girls.  Havilar is closer to his sensibilities having picked up the glaive and become and fighter like her father,  but it is Farideh that has him the most worried.

    In addition to that dynamic, there is the Farideh-Lorcan relationship which gives us the best "Will they or Won't they" dynamic since Maddie and David (Moonlighting) or Ross and Rachel (Friends).  I won't spoil it, but I will say I am very satisfied with it.   Evans knows how to write characters, she would be fantastic in a game.

    All this time there is a great story and impending apocalypse that could change the face of the Realms and a prophecy about the Brimstone Angels that will change the politics of Hell itself.  So no small stakes here, so no small feat for the first book.

    The background story is great and a ton of fun, but truthfully it is the characters that will make you want to read the next in the series.  Lorcan is devilishly fantastic, Havilar just wants to beat things, Mehen wants to keep his family safe and Farideh is caught between them all.

    As "gamer fiction" the book does a great job of explaining some of the quirks of 4e. Such as why are succubi devils now? Why did erinyes change? What happened to Hag Countess of Hell? Why is Asmodeus a greater god now?  What is the deal with Rohini? Well, not all these questions are answered right away, but they are dealt with.

    What I loved about this book, other than the characters, of course, was that you didn't need a ton of Realms knowledge to enjoy it.  But in truth none of that matters, there is enough of Farideh, Lorcan, and Havilar to enjoy.    It is also a good introduction to the Forgotten Realms if you are like me and ignored the Realms for the last few decades.

    It's a great start to a great series.

    Legacy

    Brimstone Angels was the first of six books that spanned from 2011 to 2016, and like I said, two editions of Dungeons & Dragons (4e and 5e).  The books had a huge effect on the direction of the game at least in terms of how warlocks could be played.

    One needs to look no further than the Player's Handbooks for both editions to see the effects.


    There in the Dragonborn names are Mehen, Farideh, and Havilar. 
    There are other cases where text from the books, in particular interactions between Farideh and Lorcan, are used to flavor text next to the warlock entries. 

    As I go through the other books I will try to remain spoiler-free, but apologies if an odd one slips by.

    Links
    https://smile.amazon.com/Brimstone-Angels-Forgotten-Neverwinter-Paperback/dp/B014S2IWTQ
    https://dnd.wizards.com/products/fiction/novels/brimstone-angels
    https://forgottenrealms.fandom.com/wiki/Brimstone_Angels
    http://slushlush.com/
    https://www.facebook.com/brimstoneangels/

    OMG: Indian Mythos

    One Man's God: Indian Mythos

    It's 2020 and welcome back to my series One Man's God (OMG).  I look at the various gods, monsters and everything in between and see how well they could (or would or would not) fit into the AD&D 1st Monster Manual as demons.

    Before I jump back in a few introductory notes.
    I use the word "demon" a lot.  By this I don't usually mean the Christian meaning of the term, but rather the much more generic meaning as a usually evil spiritual creature.  This is important here since I am going to jump feet first into the Indian myths and they have a lot of demons, and many are called demons too.

    I am also limiting myself to AD&D 1st edition here.  While I do draw from other editions and games, it is AD&D 1st ed I am most interested in.   How do these creatures and monsters fit the AD&D (not Earth's) cosmology?



    So in preparation for this, I grabbed my copy of the Ramayana to help me out.  Though the focus here is not on the myths and stories themselves but rather on how the Deities & Demigods presents them.

    It would be difficult, if not impossible, to collect all the myths and stories of India collate them, sort them and then put them into a gamebook and have them make sense.  Indian myths, like and maybe more so than other mythologies in the D&DG, are far too dense and scattered over time to fit the needs of a book publisher with a handful of pages to spare.  So I am not going to fault the creative choices made by the authors and editors here.  The authors acknowledge this in their first sentence of text for these myths.   So the list of gods, goddesses and creatures here combine Hindu, Buddist, Shakta, Jainism, and other beliefs.  Much like India itself.

    Indian mythology is ancient, with Hindu texts going back to at least 1500 BCE.  I remember reading the Rig Veda in college and the Ramayan a while back.  What struck me then and again now is how much color and vibrancy there is to these tales.  I could go on and on, but that is not focus here.

    In the Indian Myths as presented in the D&DG there are many gods and goddesses that look monstrous but are not.  This will be a classic example of not judging someone by their looks.

    Kali
    Kali might be one of the more recognizable personas from the Indian mythos.  She gained notable status soon after the D&DG came out thanks to the Indiana Jones and Temple of Doom movie.  But Kali is much, much more complicated than that. Kali is needed and required in Hindu mythology she is the one who dances with Shiva to destroy and then rebuild, the world.  Here name means "Time" and thus is a complicated character. 
    In the D&DG she is reduced to just a goddess that can instill fear in demons and devils. She should be more.

    Rakshasa
    The rakshasa from the MM (and every Monster Manual hereafter) is often described as a demon.  Throughout D&D's history they have been consistently Lawful Evil. They are featured in many of the ancient tales, and in the Ramayana in particular.  Originally I wanted to re-classify them as Chaotic Evil, but after rereading the Ramayana I think I'll stick with Lawful Evil, with some odd individuals as Lawful Neutral or even Lawful Good.  Even in some tales Shurpanakha, the demonic sister of Ravana, the rakshasa king of Lanka, becomes so good that her beauty comes back to her.

    Vitra and Susna
    Both of these creatures are described as "dragons", "serpents" or "snakes" and often as a demon of drought.  They are typically blocking rivers or damming up waters and Indra has to fight them.

    In this case, he could be related to any number of world-threatening serpents such as Apep or even Azi-Dahaka.  I honestly could use the same stats for it as I did for Apep.  Or in his "human" form that of a Balor.



    A bestiary of all the monsters and demons from India would fill their own book.  It would be a fun book too!

    Though if I were to do such a thing I'd rather do it for Ghosts of Albion and set it in the early Victorian Age.

    Monstrous Mondays: Star Jellies for OSR games

    "Seek a fallen star," said the hermit, "and thou shalt only light on some foul jelly, which, in shooting through the horizon, has assumed for a moment an appearance of splendour."
    - Sir Walter Scott, The Talisman (1825)
    Star Jelly

    Star Jellies, also known as astromyxin or astral jellies, are creatures known to fall to the earth from celestial bodies.  They are often found where a shooting star is thought to have struck the earth.
    These are chaotic and evil creatures of alien will.   They will attempt to attach themselves to other life forms and feed on them.

    Upon landing they will move, slowly to the nearest warm-blooded creature it can find.  It prefers humans and humanoids.  Once attached the star jelly will excrete a poison that both paralyzes their victim and causes them to have vivid hallucinations or horrible phantasmagorias.  The victim feels they are being attacked by creatures unknown and will attempt to lash out at them.  In truth, the victim is paralyzed and the jelly is attempting to digest the victim from within.

    The jelly's only attack is an attempt to latch on to the flesh of a humanoid.  The victim gets a saving throw vs. Paralyzation (to keep from being paralyzed) and a save vs. Poison each round afterward to realize they are hallucinating.   Once attached the jelly will dissolve flesh, causing 2 points of Constitution damage per round.  The only way to remove a jelly is to burn it off or expose it to direct sunlight.  Something about the combination of sunlight and air damages them and they take fire damage per round in the sun.

    Constitution loss is permanent unless healing magic is used.

    Star Jellies have an intelligence, albeit an alien one.  They are immune to charm, hold, sleep, and other mind-affecting magics.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_jelly

    Star Jelly
    (Labyrinth Lord)
    No. Enc.: 1 (1-2)
    Alignment: Chaotic (evil)
    Movement: 10' (30')
    Armor Class: 8
    Hit Dice: 2+2** (11 hp)
    Attacks: 1 (special)
    Damage: 2 points of Constitution damage
    Special: Causes paralysis and hallucinations
    Save: Monster 2
    Morale: 12
    Hoard Class: None
    XP: 50

    Star Jelly
    (Blueholme Journeymanne Rules)
    AC: 8
    HD: 2d8+2
    Move: 40
    Attacks: : 1 (2 points of Constitution damage), causes paralysis and hallucinations
    Alignment: Chaotic
    Treasure: None
    XP: 50

    Star Jelly
    (Old-School Essentials)
    AC 8 [11], HD 2+2 (11hp), Att 1 touch (2 pts Con damage), THAC0 19 [+1], MV 30’ (10’), SV D17 W18 P17 B18 S17 (2), ML 12, AL Chaotic, XP 55, NA 1 (1), TT None
    ▶ Poison skin: Causes paralysis and hallucinations.

    Star Jelly 
    (WhiteStar)
    ARMOR CLASS: 8 [11]
    HIT DICE: 2
    HDE/XP: 2/50
    SAVING THROW: 18
    TOTAL HIT BONUS: +1
    MOVEMENT: 3
    SPECIAL:  Causes paralysis and hallucination
    ATTACK: by touch, 2 points Constitution damage
    In the depths of space, their natural environment, Star Jellies are immune to the effects of sunlight.  They can also grow to very large size (up to 10hd) if given enough living organic matter to eat.

    New Year's Day! What's New for the Other Side in 2020?

    Happy 2020 everyone!  I expected to have more cybernetic implants by now, but hey at least we are not living in a futuristic dystopian hellscape right? Right?
    Anyway.

    I am now at a point where I can say I have been playing D&D for 40 years. 

    2019 was my celebration of 1979, the year I first learned about D&D and started to play.  I thought that might be the end of my "Back to Basic" but I was wrong, I find I still have more to do and say.
    If 2019 was my focus on Holmes Basic and the AD&D Monster Manual (my gateway drugs) then 2020 will be my focus on the Moldvay Basic Set and the games I was playing with that.

    So here are some things I am looking forward to doing here at The Other Side in 2020:

    Sci-Fi
    This was a science-fiction Christmas break for me.  We watched The Mandalorian, season 2 of Lost in Space, we started The Expanse on TV.  We binged watched all of Star Trek Discovery and LOVED it.  Saw Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in the theatres (I loved it) and we will see Doctor Who later today and then again at the Fathom Events special in the theatres.  We really had a great sci-fi vacation.  It all has me pretty pumped for a good Sci-Fi game.

    The Expanse and Lost in Space have a grit to it that I really like.  Both also have some elements of horror to them I also liked.  All the things I want to add to my BlackStar game*.
    (*just a reminder, BlackStar is not a game I am looking to publish, just something to have some fun with.)

    I already knew that I was going to add elements of ST:DISCO to my game too, I just didn't what yet.  With Picard coming up soon, season three of Disco after that AND the re-merger of Viacom and CBS it looks like a great time to be Star Trek fan.

    Both Lost in Space and the Expanse (pre-warp Sci-fi) have also refueled my desire to finish "Space Truckers."  I'd love for it to capture that late 70s Trucker movies and early 80s campy sci-fi.

    Back To Basics, Year 2
    2019's Back to Basics was so much fun I want to keep going.  Last year was mostly dedicated to Holmes and my weird Holmes/AD&D hybrid.  In the OSR this was best represented by Blueholme and Labyrinth Lord.

    This year is the 39th anniversary of the Moldvay Basic set.  Though the copyright date is 1980, it is good enough for me to call it 40.  My focus this year then will be Moldvay/Cook/Marsh B/X flavor basic.   This system is represented best by Old School Essentials (formerly B/X Essentials) and Pacesetter's BX RPG.


    I do have at least four more witch books I want to get out.  The Pagan Witch and the Warlock for OSE.  For BX RPG I am wanting to do a Diabolic Witch book and one I am calling "The Secret Order, The High Witchcraft Tradition".

    The nice thing about The High Witchcraft book is it will take me full circle back to my original notes and witch class.  After this, I want to focus on other things.  I love writing about witches but I have more I want to do as well.

     So here is to a new 2020!

    Monstrous Monday: Painted Minis Edition

    I am still on Christmas vacation and I barely remembered today was Monday.
    So here are some minis my wife has painted over break.

    First up, a blue dragon.







    And, my favorite, a Demogorgon!







    Here's to new monsters in 2020!

    My Next Kitbash, Federation Viper

    I have some parts left over from my Protector kitbash model, and as it turns out they are exact parts I need for my next kitbash, a "Star Trek" style Viper from Battlestar Galactica.

    So I have parts from this:


    In particular, the nacelles, which is what I need.

    Combine them with this:


    Which I still need to buy mind you.

    I can add the nacelles to the viper wings, modify the nose with a deflector dish (which I have). Change the red decals to blue, could just paint them on, put on the Protector's registry number NX-3120 and it will look like it is part of the ship. 

    I did this mod years ago but I honestly can't recall what happened to it, it was 40 years ago. The one thing I didn't figure out then and still need to figure out now is how to account for those giant-ass thrusters in back.  I might need to 3D print some additional parts or see what I have laying around.  In my first version of this I used the V8 engine out of an 82' Corvette.

    My goal is something like these:





    At least that is the plan.  Have it ready for my BlackStar game. Imagine this going up against MiGo in space.

    Hope to get working on it soon!

    Pages