The Other Side Blog is a game design blog from Timothy S. Brannan, author of the Ghosts of Albion RPG and contributor to many horror themed RPGs. Follow his thoughts on game development or even just game playing.
I first ran into Scorpion Men, not in the pages of an AD&D Monster Manual (which still would not appear till 2nd Edition Monstrous Compendiums, though I do seem to recall them in a module for 1st ed, can't remember right now), but in the pages of the infamous "Simon" Necronomicon from the 80s. You remember this one. It was sold in books stores right next to the D&D books near the occult books. Hell. We treated it AS a D&D book!
We used them a bit back then, often as reskinned Driders, using the Necronomicon name, "Akrabu".
Later they popped up again in 2nd Ed under the name Tlincalli and Manscorpion. Though I never really used them then since I was deep into Ravenloft and these creatures didn't fit what I was doing at the time.
Much, much later I revisited these guys and used them in my Buffy/Willow&Tara/Unisystem game The Dragon and the Phoenix. Here I went past the rather thin details in the Simon Necronomicon and included more detail from Babylonian/Sumerian/Akkadian myths. Here they were called Aqrabuamelu or Girtablilu, names later picked up by later D&D authors and homebrewers.
Whatever the name these creatures all shared a number of traits. They were huge scorpions with the centaur-like upper bodies of men, covered in red chitin like that of giant scorpions. Some had human hands, others had the pincers of scorpions. The first ones were created by Tiamat to avenge the death of her consort Apsu. They are one of the creatures that were responsible for her name "Mother of Monsters". Later it is said they guard the gates of Darkness so the Sun God may enter at the end of the day. Their site is terrible to behold and they cause death with a glance.
Additionally, there were the "Tzitzimime" of the Aztecs which were believed to be the spirits of fallen gods (demons?) that took the form of scorpion men. Hedetet of the Egyptians was a scorpion headed goddess who would later be absorbed by Isis.
Spider Climb. The scorpion man can climb difficult surfaces, including upside down on ceilings, without needing to make an ability check.
Web Walker. The scorpion man ignores movement restrictions caused by webbing. ACTIONSMultiattack. The scorpion man makes three attacks, either with its longsword or its longbow. It can replace one of those attacks with a sting attack.
Sting. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 2 (1d4) piercing damage plus 18 (4d8) poison damage. Longsword. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d8 + 3) slashing damage, or 8 (1d8 + 3) slashing damage if used with two hands. Longbow. Ranged Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, range 150/600 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d8 + 3) piercing damage plus 4 (1d8) poison damage.
Scorpion Men (and Women) are horrid creations from the dawn of time. Believed to have first been created by the Goddess Tiamat, they have since moved on into the service of other gods. Set is known to employ many of these creatures and ones that are less evil serve Hedetet. Standing over 7 feet tall and 9 feet long these creatures are large and strong. They can attack with their claws or weapon as some (50%) have scorpion claws for hand and others (50%) have humanoid hands that can hold weapons. All possess a stinging tail like that of a scorpion that can sting one attack per round. The attack does 1d4 points of damage plus poison. The poison of the attack can do 4d8 points of damage or half with a save vs. poison/Constitution. Those immune to poison attacks take no poison damage. Scorpion Men are often used as elite guards. They typically armed with a long spear, a khopesh sword or a longbow.
Scorpion Women: These creatures appear as their male counter-parts save for a scorpion's head on top of a female torso. Their lower parts are still that of a scorpion. Due to their connection to both Tiamat and Hedetet, they make excellent magic-users and witches. They may cast spells as a 7th level witch or magic-user. Scorpion women are much rarer than males, being outnumbered 1 to 10.
My Facebook friend Ron McNiel has been playing around with a 5e inspired modern game variant and he decided to do his own reboot of Buffy. It looks pretty fun, to be honest, and you can see all his details here. Looks like he is using this as a test run for his next campaign so looking forward to hearing what he does.
In the meantime here are his versions of Willow & Tara for his game, complete with new casting.
Ron: I present you Tara Maclay (Violett Beane) - is a shy, quiet, and nervous person. She often finds her self stuttering when she speaks, especially when Willow is around. Not much is known about Tara, because she is afraid to open up to others because of her verbally abusive father and brother. She harbors a secret, a secret her father drilled into her, something about a family curse that was bestowed on the women of her family that would manifest on their 20th birthday. She began to believe her father about the curse, because her mom became ill. She has a small rebellious streak that she indulges from time to time, such as lying to her father and staying out all night. Being relatively new to Sunnydale High, having recently moved to Sunnydale (for the best care for her mother), she doesn't have much friends, until Willow introduces herself, which would spark something deep down inside of her.
Ron: I present Willow Danielle Rosenberg (Emily Rudd) – is a consistently sweet, trusting, gentle, intelligent, and caring person. She is a somewhat naive, painfully shy nerd who has a hopeless crush on her best friend Xander. She is very friendly and understanding, though she is not afraid to be tough. While still having a easily nervous nature. She is incredibly loyal and supportive to her friends, especially Buffy and Xander as she almost never openly criticizes their decisions with hostility even when she disagreed, a factor in her understanding nature. She normally does not display fits of extreme anger toward those who done her wrong, even if they were her close friends, retaining a calm and receptive demeanor, never forgetting. She is often speaks in strange speeches and phrases, something she shares with her best friend Buffy, which could often confuse those around her who aren’t used to it. She is greatly emotional and prone to senseless babble when nervous (which is another similarity to Buffy). She is also very determined to get things done when she feels they are important. It is sometimes hard for people to change her mind, a sign of this being her "Resolve Face." She does not hold grudges against people. In fact, she is usually one of the first to forgive people for their mistakes, even if large ones, being incredibly forgiving. Another notable trait of hers is her remarkable ability to put aside grudges and personal feelings to get an important task done which she has done on numerous occasions. She doesn’t often let personal feelings cloud her judgment either, making her very responsible and level-headed. One of her amazing gifts is with computers and cracking codes. She also seems to be the only one out of the Scooby Gang that actually enjoys going to school and doing homework as well as tutoring, much to the confusion of Buffy and Xander.
This looks great! He has done the other characters, but these are my favorites.
This one is for all my librarian friends out there and for all the libraries I have loved.
Mystic Locales: The Library
There is a rumor.
Naturally, it is whispered since talking aloud is not permitted and many find that they can no longer say the rumor in anything above a whisper. The rumor is ignored by sages. It is conjectured as a flight of fancy among occult scholars. It is whispered among students, who find the idea terrifying at some level. But the librarians know it is real and true. Moreover, they have all taken a sacred vow to protect the secret and keep it from those who would use this power for evil ends.
Librarians all know that all libraries, everywhere, are connected.
From the first construction of the Library of Alexandria to the Carnegie Libraries of the 20th Century to the largest University Libraries to the small Little Libraries of a local neighborhood to the planet-sized Library of the 51st Century, all are connected. Not just spiritually, but physically as well. One can wander the stacks of a library and end up in the stacks of another library hundreds of miles away and even dozens of years different.
When people go missing like this often a librarian will find them. A quick check in their own "inter-library loan" memos will discover who the person is and where they belong. The librarian will escort them back to where they need to go under the guise of 'helping them find their book' and send them along the way. Most often the person in question will have no recollection of this other than the very pleasant and helpful staff.
There are those rare individuals who know how to navigate "The Stacks". The entrance is never the same for each library, and sometimes it can change in the same library. These special people usually have some things in common. They spend a lot of time at libraries, often just reading or roaming the stacks and shelves looking for interesting and rare books. They often have a love for books in general; not just in learning, but in the simple joy of reading or holding a book. The rare ones even know how to move from one library to another as easily as others walk into a room of choice and back. These special few are usually discovered and offered a job as a librarian where they can learn more ways to other libraries.
New Witch Ritual
Access the Library Level: Witch Ritual 5 Ritual Requirements: 1 witch, 1 cleric, and 1 magic-user. see text Range: 10-foot radius centered around a thaumaturgic triangle Duration: See text Legends claim that there is a library, The Library, that can be accessed if the intention is one of pure learning. This library exists in its own extra-dimensional space and it contains the works of all sages, scholars, researchers, and authors as well as works of magic divine, arcane and occult. To open the door the witch must gather together a magic-user (wizard) and a cleric, all of whom can cast 5th level spells. It is believed that only by working together in ritual can all access the library. Once the ritual is cast, usually taking an hour, all three may enter. Their time spent in the Library is equal to a number of hours equal to their combined levels. Time outside the library passes normally, but nothing else from the outside world affects them. Only the three that have cast the ritual may enter. Once inside the ritual participants may look up any information they wish. This can be used to research any magical question such as new spell creation, magic item creation or learning a new spell. For every level the participant has they gain a +1 or a +5% where appropriate. While in the Library the participants will see ghostly figures moving about. These are other patrons who have entered the Library via their own means or by means of a similar ritual. Patrons cannot interact with each other; no talking or physical contact. Patrons can only interact with those they entered with. Once the spell duration is complete the ritual participants will find themselves back in their thaumaturgic triangle. A patron may leave at any time, but it will end the ritual. Material Components: Each participant must bring and leave behind a book, scroll or other forms of printed work to give to the Library. It need not be original, but an original work will grant the patrons an extra hour of reading/research time.
Ok a bit of a direction change here for One Man's God. Normally I look at the myths presented in the 1st Ed AD&D Deities & Demigods, compare them to the myths from the real world and then look to see how some of the monsters can be classified as "D&D Demons", which is not exactly the same as a Judeo-Christian Demon, but I am not ignoring that mythology either.
This series will be different since the myths I am looking at now were all almost all wholesale made up by the creators of the AD&D game as it existed at the time. So no appeal to real-world myths here is 100% appropriate, though there are some notable exceptions.
When looking over these beings though we are left with the same question as before. Would this being be better suited as a god or as a demon?
Let's find out.
Introduction We start out with the idea that demi-humans and non-human monsters are either Shamans or Witch Doctors. We see this in action later in the BECMI / Rules Cyclopedia version of the D&D rules. We are even given a new class, the Wokani, which (depending on which version of Basic you grab) are either witch doctors or witches in their own right. But I am getting ahead of myself here.
We are also told that some of the creatures in the Monster Manual and Fiend Folio are to be treated as lesser gods.
FIEND FOLIO Demon: Lolth (detailed in D&DG as well) Elemental Princes of Evil Slaad: Ssendam, Ygorl
So, if they have a unique personal name then they are essentially lesser gods. Sort what I am doing here really.
Right off the bat some of these creatures are gods and others are named as demons. The are some that fall in the in-betweens and those are the ones I want to investigate further. I am also going to work from my own biases here. I think certain creatures are certain things. Want to do it differently? Great, do it your way.
Gods Among (Demi)Men Who in this listing of gods are undisputable gods? I think the following beings make the list. Skerrit (Centuars), Moradin (Dwarves), Corellon Larethian (Elves, and most of the elven gods), the gods of the Giants, Garl Glittergold (Gnomes), Yondalla (Halflings), Gruumsh (Orcs) (but more on him later). Others are ify.
Side note: I always loved Yondalla. I thought of all the gods of the demi-humans she was perfect. Exactly the kind of goddess the Halflings would have.
Maglubiyet, Hruggek and Gruumsh
In my game world, Goblins are actually a faerie race. They are often evil, but some are just good enough to be considered Neutral. For this reason, I see them more as Chaotic. Hobgoblins in my world are related more to Hobs or more to the point, "Old Hob" aka the Devil. I consider them goblins with a touch of Devildom about them. Much in the same way that tieflings are to humans. Bugbears, on the other hand, are more demonic. Bugbears come from the same root of words that give us boggles, boggleboes, and boogeyman. I have played around with various ideas of goblin gods for a while. At first, I went with Maglubiyet, but there is something about him I don't like, or rather, I don't like in this role. Then I went with the Erlking as Lord of the Goblins and also Jareth as a Faerie Lord king of the Goblins. I even went with atheist goblins for a while after reading GURPS Goblins. I think I am more happy with a Jareth/Erlking blend these days. That leaves me with Maglubiyet, the Lawful Evil god of Hobgoblins who also is a lesser Duke of Hell (his names sounds like a Duke of Hell to be honest) who wars with Gruumsh. And way over in the Abyss we have the monster Hruggek who is a Chaotic Evil Demon Lord that is the patron of the Bugbears. His name also sounds more demonic to me. This leaves both beings relatively the same as they were before.
Gruumsh is a different story. The one-eyed Gruumsh is obviously a nod, conscious or not, to Sauron. Also, the orc of Tolkien's world are much more demonic that the orcs of D&D and other modern fantasy. In The Silmarillion, we learn that orcs were created by the Vala Melkor, later Morgoth. So there is an idea of divine creation perverted. Would Melkor be a demon? He is more closely related to Lucifer is analysis, but that only muddies the waters really. I also like the idea that orcs were once related to Elves. Of the two main species in D&D only elves and orcs can mate and produce offspring with humans. So here is a heresy.
Orcs, and indeed Gruumsh, were all elves. Gruumsh was Corellon's brother.
Somewhere, somehow, Gruumsh betrayed Corellon (orcs say it was the other way around) and Gruumsh the orc was born. I just need a good Elvish sounding name to give him before this fall. Personally, I find this FAR more compelling than the tale of Lolth. Speaking of which.
Lolth, The What Queen? Lolth is a lesser goddess. No, wait she is a demon. She was Araushnee, but that doesn't come till later. I have talked about my issues with drow in the poast and how they are really Lawful Evil and not Chaotic Evil. Plus if I can make a Lawful Evil Goddess Tiamat into a Chaotic Evil I should be able to do the opposite for Lolth. Which of course means she would not really be a demon anymore. She is more of devil. BUT. I like the idea that she is a demon. Can I make a LE Demon? no. not really.
I think the simple answer here is that Elves, Orcs, and other fae creatures like Goblins don't fit into the Devil-Demon dichotomy very well. I am inclined to pull them out and let them be their own thing. Lolth is called the "Demon Queen" but that is more due to her "Fallen" status than anything else.
Despite my stated goal of trying to pull these beings into the likes of demons, I am happy with them being their own thing.
Gnolls and You Know Who Before I end today's discussion I should point the example that falls right into line with what I am doing. Gnolls and the Demon Prince Yeenoghu. Here we have a strong non-human species and they worship a demon as their god. It works. It works well.
Too well. Why does a weak-ass demon prince (ok relative) like Yeenoghu have humanoid, intelligent worshipers but more powerful ones like Orcus and Demogorgon do not? I will dig into it next time.
Trying to organize some thoughts here on what I want to do next on the old Other Side blog, figure you all might want to help me! Or at least listen to my ramblings.
I am prepping for Gen Con now and trying to get another book done in time for Lughnasadh/Lammas so my posting here is going to be a little sparse.
#RPGaDAY Dave Chapman will be doing (I think) his annual #RPGaDAY in August. I am not sure what the questions will be, but I do like to participate. Plus my Twitter followers have really increased this past year, so that might be nice to share.
The Other Side Rewind Still plugging away at this! June was my Facebook experiment month, while July had been my month to try some other tools. I am hoping to kick it off full steam in August or September. Again, if you are reading here then you won't really notice anything at all.
One Man's God While this one has been great fun, it was not designed to go on forever. I am going to do the Celts (part 2) and the Chinese and Japanese, though I admit I know very, very little about these. I am going to do the Demi-humans and do a special on the Cthulhu and Melibone mythos. But once I am done with those then the series will end save for some special editions. Though this will lead to my next thing...
The Usual Suspects I am going to spend some time, maybe a lot of time, going over all the various demon books I own and some I don't yet and talk about how to use them in your games. I really love demons and demonic lore. The title of this series "The Usual Suspects" comes not only from the notion that all evil in the worlds can be traced back to the machinations of demons (and devils) but every OGL book on the market today has the same half-dozen or so demons and a similar number of devils in every book; aka The Usual Suspects. I think this will be fun, to be honest.
This Old Dragon I still have some left and I want to get back to them.
Class Struggles I have been too long away from this one. I have started writeups on the Alchemist and the Bard. Been playing a couple Bard variants to get a good feel for the differences. Sometimes there are more differences between two different bards than there are between most fighters and rangers! So. Let's get to it!
Sorry for falling off the face of the web last week! Took a little break from everything and it was nice. But it's Monday and that means back to work and back to Monstrous Mondays!
Today I have a little beastie that has been in the back of my head ever since I reread The Tempest a few years back. I am doing this one for the Blueholme Journeymanne Rules since allows any monster species to also be played as a character species choice.
CALIBAN AC: 7 HD: 2d8 Move: 30 Attacks: 2 claws, 1 bite or 1 weapon Damage: 1d4 (claw) x2/ 1d6 (bite) or 1d6 (weapon) XP: 25 Alignment: CE Treasure: None Abilities: +1 Wisdom, -2 Charisma Climb Surfaces +5%, Hear Noise +10%, Hide in Shadows +10%, Move Silently +5%, Read Languages -10%, Read Scrolls -15%, Use Wand -10%
Calibans are creatures twisted by dark witchcraft. No two calibans appear the same, though a full 20% can pass as an ugly human or orc. They are humanoid, indeed many are born to human mothers or were human before their curse. They are usually covered in dark hair, scales or something that makes them monstrous. They have a resistance to magic, gaining a +1 on all saves vs any type of magical effect (spells, wands, staves) but they themselves have difficulty with magic. A caliban share much in common with the Cambion, a creature that is the offspring of a human female and a demon. The caliban, while often demonic looking, is not the offspring of demons, but the victims/result of dark magic. A caliban can take any class, but suffer a -5% XP penalty if they choose to be a witch and a -10% if they choose to become a magic-user/wizard. Calibans can become clerics with no penalty since they tend to be devout servants of the gods. Because of their low aptitude for magic wizards have taken to hiring on a caliban as cheap labor. They get a loyal (through fear) servant and one not likely to steal magic from them.
Behind the Monster
Calibans are obviously taken from Shakespeare's The Tempest. Caliban is the monstrous son of the witch Sycorax. He is various described, but almost always as being half-human, half-monster.
An additional source for Calibans is the movie Clash of the Titans which features the character of Calibos. He was a human that was cursed to be a monster. Interesting to me is that his mother, Thetis, was played by Dame Maggie Smith (one of my all-time favorite actresses) who also played the most badass witch Minerva McGonagall.
The 3rd Edition of Ravenloft from Sword and Sorcery Studios/Arthaus, now Onyx Path, featured a race called Calibans. These calibans were no more than reskinned Half-Orcs in truth.
Over the weekend I was thinking about my Magic School game and what I want to add to it. One thing became instantly obvious to me was I needed to have familiars. Nearly every 5e game I have run the players have wanted pets, animal companions and familiars. Thankfully for me, I already own the perfect book.
The Troll Lord's Mystical Companions is the update to their fantastic Book of Familiars. It comes in two flavors, A Castles & Crusades version, and a D&D 5th Edition version. I have both in digital and PDF formats, but today I am going to focus solely on the 5th Edition version. Yes, they are in fact different enough that two separate reviews are really needed.
I was always going to use this book in my Magic School games, whether that game used an Old-School ruleset (like Castles & Crusades or BECMI D&D) or (now) D&D 5th Edition. I think that highly of it.
Mystical Companions for 5th Edition Role Playing 208 pages. Full-color covers and interior art. PDF and Hardcover. For this review, I am reading primarily from the digital PDF version, but it applies to the hardcover as well. I purchased both the 5e and C&C versions at Gary Con and received my PDFs via Kickstarter. Spend any time reading my blog or reviews and one thing is obvious. I love my spellcasters and familiars. I have often felt the rules for familiars are quite under-developed in many games and familiars, or animal companions of any sort, are often an under-utilized or a forgotten aspect of the game and lives of the characters. So far every 5th Edition game I have run the players have wanted an animal companion of some sort. While the rules in the game are fine enough, there is plenty of room for improvement. Thankfully, the Troll Lords believe the same thing. I have mentioned that this book is an update and replacement to their Book of Familiars, it is, and it is more than that.
A quick look over the table of contents reveals that we are getting an animal companion for every class. I feel that this appropriate and looking forward to reading the details. Now before I go on I do want to point out that unlike some third-party books this one is NOT "plug and play". You must make plans to add these animal companions from the start. In one game I tried to tack on these rules in an on-going game and ran into some issues. In another game, I used this from the start and everything went much more smoothly. I guess think about it as getting a real-life pet. You are going to do a little work and thought beforehand. Once I did this THEN adding these to an ongoing game was much easier. This is NOT like adding a new spell or magic item to your game, this is a new, but highly compatible sub-system.
Chapter 1: Introduction Here the purpose of the book is laid out and how the authors made certain decisions on how to incorporate this new material into the game. There is a section here that bares repeating since I have heard this complaint online.
A WORD OF EXPLANATION: This book requires that you have access to the three core rulebooks for the 5th edition rules, or at very least to the Basic Rules document that is freely available online. Throughout this book, we have used the terms ‘CK,’ and “Castle Keeper” to indicate the game master or person running the game, and ‘player character’ or ‘PC’ to refer to the characters created for the game. In addition, when you see terms like, “Game Master’s Guide” or “5th Edition Monster Tome,” these refer to the Core Rulebooks for the 5th Edition fantasy rules set.
So if you see "CK" or "Castle Keeper" in this book, it's not shoddy editing, but a design choice. Hey, they like CK better than GM. And since they can't say DM then CK is just as good as anything else. There are rules to what an OGL publisher can and can't say, so I can't fault them here.
Here the other sub-systems are described. Advantages. Advantages are Feats. They are gained the same way and used, mostly, in the same way. The difference in wording here (at least for me) helps differentiate the "feats" from this book from all the other feats you can get in the Core rules or other publishers. In play, this has been a boon since I know immediately that an Advantage on a sheet means something from this book and not another book on my shelf. Paths. Time has been kind to Troll Lords here. When this book first came out in 2017 not a lot of 3P publishers were doing paths yet and there was some confusion about what these were. Now everyone has a new path (read: sub-class, kit, path, option) for the 12 core classes. These CAN slot right into a game like anything else from any 3PP. Tricks. Things your animal companion can do. Rituals. How you can get your animal companion. I mean there has to be some magic right? New Familiars and Animals. Kinda what it says on the tin to be honest.
Animal Companion vs. Familiar. While rules in the book cover book and treat them somewhat interchangeably an Animal Companion is more like a loyal pet or friend. A Familiar is a creature summoned to work with the PC. Animal Companions are free willed, familiars are not.
Chapter 1 also covers the basics of familiars. A point. A familiar/Animal companion "character" sheet would be GREAT here, but there isn't one. Ah well, can have everything I guess.
The list of Advantages (again, these are just like Feats) are presented. There are more here and some might complain about giving up a Feat or Ability advancement for a Familiar, but these are all quite balanced in my experience. You give up one "power" (feat, advancement) for another. Quite implicit in 5th Edition's design really. Not only that it is actually quite elegant once you use it.
The best part about this? You can take the Summon Familiar Advantage/Feat multiple times (Wizards get it for free at first level) so you can have multiple familiars. I don't do multiple familiars often, but when I do, I really want to do it. Though my son runs a game with this book and he describes the group of PCs and their companions as a "traveling zoo". One girl even has a sheep as an animal companion. Why? No idea. But this book supports it.
Another great piece of advice from Chapter 1 bears repeating (coping) here.
Give yourself a visual reminder of your familiar’s presence. Write “REMEMBER THE FAMILIAR” to a Post-It note and stick it to the table in front of you. Or make it a point to buy and use a miniature for your familiar.
or getting a custom mini with a familiar from Hero Forge.
Chapters 2 through 13 all work in a similar fashion. Each core class is covered with attention given to special Animal Companions, Familiars or Mounts as appropriate. Different animals are discussed and a new Path is given that focuses on having an animal companion.
For example, the Barbarian (the last class you might think needs a familiar) has the Nature Fetish Path and the Horseman Path (Dothraki anyone?) The Barbarian chapter is quite good really in that it really shows that animals really do need to be a bigger part of a barbarians' (and all characters) lives. Reading this chapter has made me want to play a barbarian for the first time EVER since they became an option to me in 1985-1986 or so. No content just to talk about familiars and paths, the barbarian chapter also covers special mounts.
The other chapters are as equally robust. There are sections on the Paladin's mount and Ranger's companions but also familiars for rogues and clerics and others that you might not think need animal companions. I particularly like the Rogue's path, the Shadow Pact. How's that work? Well, Rogues can take creatures of shadow as familiars! Tell me that is not cool.
As expected the familiars of the Sorcerer, Warlock and Wizard are ALL very, very different from each other and really reflect what the classes do now. Back in the 3e days Wizards and Sorcerer wre 100% interchangeable in terms of role. The differences were largely fluff. Since 4e this is less true and now in 5e they are very different sorts of classes. In 4e Sorcerers and Warlocks filled similar roles. Again in 5e they are very different. This book reflects the new 5e differences. Naturally there can be overlap. The chapter on Wizards talks about how the Wizard rituals can be used by sorcerers for example.
Appendix A: Familiars and Companions. This covers the familiars and "normal" animals in 5e Stat blocks. Appendix B: New Monsters. New monsters. Appendix C: New Spells. New spells, as expected. Likewise, Appendix D: New Magic Items and Artifacts.
Appendix E though is something different. This covers Dragon Riders. While many of the same rules are used here as for familiars this takes them to a new place and should be considered optional. This is the Appendix/Chapter that my son grabbed this book from me for, BUT he opted not use their Dragon Riders but kept the book anyway for everything else.
A Dragon Rider is a Path that can be added to any class, but some have more use for it than others. If the idea of PC Dragon Riders concerns you, then keep in mind it is being sold as "optional". And also Dragon Riders of some form or another have been around since the dawn of the game. If it is something you want, then there is plenty here for you to use. If I ever ran a Magic School game with this then Dragon Riders would be included.
We end with a robust index and the OGL section.
A note about art. There is not as much in this book as other Troll Lord books, but what is here is from the fabulous Peter Bradley and Jason Walton, who also gives us the cover art.
Your results may vary, but this book has quickly gone from a neat oddity to one of our must-have books for my 5e games. My son uses it in the games he has run so much that I have not seen the book in months since it is now in with all of his books.
Do you need this book? I say yes, but only if you are adding animals of any sort to your game, be they pets, familiars, mounts, companions or all the way up to Dragon Riders. This is one of my 3PP books for 5e. One of the best really.
Vigilante City is such a great game and I feel bad I have not done more with it. If you are familiar with Dark Places & Demogorgons then you know this system. This time we get books 3 & 4: SURVIVE THIS!! Vigilante City - Superhero Team-Up! and Into The Sewers.
From the Kickstarter:
SURVIVE THIS!! Vigilante City Book 3: Superhero Team up! Comes with the inclusion of many new classes, goes through the steps of team building while greatly adding to the equipment and vehicles. It shows how to build new superhero headquarters and stock it full of the valuable tech and tools every team needs to be successful. There will be new combat rules to include Team Moves and so much more!
SURVIVE THIS!! Vigilante City Book 4: Into The Sewers takes you underground to maze of tunnels that travelunderthe Metropolitan of Victory City, into the world of subcultures, gangs, Mutants & Anthropomorphs. Into The Sewers will feel like a new setting and greatly expands upon the already robust Mutant and Anthropomorph classes and powers.
It looks like it will be great! Did I mention there is an all-star team working on this too? Well, there is! Check it out.
I featured Amazing Adventures 5e a while back. It is also in its last 4 days, so time to get moving.
The book is done, save for the art and layout and I have played it. It's so much fun. Since my first post there have been a lot of stretch goals met and more added, and met. The next one is about to be unlocked. Both games are a lot of fun and worthy of space on your game table.
I spent some time over the weekend playing the new Wizards Unite and working out some details of my Magic School campaign.
I am still going with the idea of a Magical High School/College, where young wizards go to learn about spell casting. While I had been playing around with the idea of a Basic-era game, in particular, a BECMI one, my oldest son pointed out that D&D 5e might actually work out better.
For starters, the unified XP table is a big boon. If I was planning to do cohort classes then having everyone the same level is a good thing. Now I might want to use some "negative" levels to represent their learning, but not many.
In D&D5 you need 300 XP to get to level 2. No complaining about 5e here, the XP scale for characters and monsters are different and there are good design philosophies behind this.
But what if I added a couple of levels before that. Say to get to level B from level C you need 50 XP. Then to get to level A from B you need 100 XP. Then to go to level 1 from level A you need 150 XP.
Similar to the Cavalier in the AD&D Unearthed Arcana. Heck, I would not even mind making it a little more. Level 3 requires 900 XP and Level 4 needs 2,700 XP. So there is a jump. Sure I could redo the whole thing, but I want this to live in a world where a kid can pick up a sword and soon be a level 1 fighter.
D&D 5 also gives me more spellcasting classes to work with. In fact, my son worked it out like this: Bards = Band Kids Clerics = Religious Kids Druids = Nature/Hippie/Stoner kids Sorcerers = Jocks/Privileged kids (since their magic is innate) Wizards = Science geeks Warlocks = Goth Kids
Also, all these classes have a full range of spell options from Cantrips to 9th level. All have more than one spell at 1st level and there is even some cross over between the spells. For levels C, B, and A (or eventually Freshman, Sophmore, Junior, Senior, Graduate if I can work it out) would learn spellcasting basics and other curricula I have planned. OR I just keep it as-is and levels/years are 1 to 5.
Quentin Coldwater: "We are all fucked in our own way, as always." Eliot Waugh: "Magic doesn't come from talent, it comes from pain."
When I brought this up to my son he reminded me that while a 5th wizard has some power, they are not really powerhouses. They are less effective than Harry Potter and his friends were in the later books. We discussed some of the monsters that a level 5 wizard could take on solo and with 4 other wizards. I am pretty happy about what I heard.
So maybe I want to do a Level 0, this the first year in Magic School. You are 13 years old and you know two cantrips. You get the "Magic School" background with some bonus to your Arcana skill. So for a five-year curriculum, you graduate at level 4 with the "Graduate of Magic School" feat.
Initiate, Magic School Background
Senior, Magic School Graduate Feat
I like this. This works well for my needs. I'll choose different words for "Freshman" etc later. Maybe take something from the Hermetic Traditions.
Going with 5e though also means I would either have to drop my High Witchcraft idea OR make one for 5e. But it also means I can use material from the Amazing Adventures 5e book.
Adventures I guess the big thing about Magic School is what sort of adventures could students have? Well...lots really! I mean just grabbing from popular media of the last few years we have Harry Potter, the Magicians, Charmed, pretty much every show on the CW (and formerly the WB), not to mention years of public schooling, college, grad school, teaching for god know how long and developing curricula full time. Of course, not all of that is going to work here.
I am going to take a cue from the work I did on the Buffy RPG, I'll set up each year/level as a "season" with some adventures as "episodes". There would be a season-long arc with a "big bad" with several "monster of the week" episodes sprinkled about. My son already came up with one of the "monster of the week" ones, "Ferris Bueller's (Magic School) Day Off".
Fans of the Buffy RPG might remember the "Djinn Arc" we were doing, I could adapt that for a later season. I am also going to steal a page from the Carmilla web series and do a missing student arc for Year 1. Cause what else says whacky school hijinks like new students being sacrificed to some god/demon/old one?
Also, I am planning to play with the idea of these new classes. "The Great School of Magic has for the first time in its history opened its doors to spellcasters other than wizards. While clerics and bards had been welcomed on a limited basis, now the doors are thrown wide to the likes of warlocks, sorcerers, druids, and others."
The old guard is not at all happy about this and the changes to what they see as "the rules".
Am I making fun of grognards and others here that don't like 5e? Yeah. I am.
I need a group of kids/students/faculty to provide antagonism to the new students but I did not want to limit that antagonism to just based on classes (PHB class, not level or class level, wow I use "class" a lot in this.)
Also, I need to come up with a good name for this school. Though it occurs to me I have written a lot of this material already for different games. For example, my adventure "Mid-Semester Night's Nightmare" was done with Elizabeth Bathory in mind. I can easily replace her with Darlessa. Come to think of it that adventure ALSO dealt with missing students. Given I wrote that in the mid 2000s I would not be stealing from Carmilla at all.
There. My Big Bad for Series/Season/Year 1 is Darlessa. Looking forward to seeing where this takes me.