Saturday, April 22, 2017

Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day 2017!

Swords &Wizardry Appreciation Day has arrived and festivities abound! Visit Gamers and Grognards to see the full list of blog posts, freebies, sales, podcasts and other S&W support!

S&W is a great game, and has had some amazing growth over the past year. Charlie Mason's White Box: Fantastic Medieval Adventure Game has taken the WhiteBox torch and run with it. It has quickly become one of my favorite games and is the game that I chose to introduce my stepson and his cohort of friends to the game. Meanwhile, Erik Tenkar has slimmed the game down to its bare bones with Swords & Wizardry Light, which puts the game into your pocket. Probably most notably, Swords & Wizardry Complete has received a fully updated (and gorgeous) third printing. 

I've been focusing my attention on WhiteBox. Its robust but malleable nature has allowed third parties to create some slick compatible works - White Star (now PWYW!), WWII: Operation White Box, and White Lies all spring to mind. My own S&W derivative, Eldritch Tales: Lovecraftian White Box Role-playing, was announced last year and has garnered some much-appreciated support. It is currently in playtesting. I want to tweak some of the additional rules, but the majority is written and playable. My next steps will be editing, art and layout. I am still hopeful for a 2017 release!

I missed S&W Appreciation Day last year, but resolved to do something this time around. First, my White Box adventure, Beyond the Ice-Fall, is on sale at 40% off on DriveThruRPG from April 22nd thru the 24th. I've also offered a free pdf copy to be given away on the Drink, Spin, Run live broadcast, airing on April 22nd, at 9:00 PM EST.

Second, a few days ago I released a product called Dungeon Connections but I'm only now officially announcing it. The pack consists of two small dungeon maps with some room descriptions and with at least two exits/entrances. However, they are entirely system-neutral with no stats or plot; nor are they stocked with treasure or monsters. Why? The idea came from my own games in which I sometimes run pre-published adventures and link them together with small dungeon locales. I use the unfinished "expansion tunnels" to lead to other large dungeons, by way of a "dungeon connection." I've created a few maps and think they'll be useful to any referee looking for a quick dungeon to stock with monsters and treasure to suit their party level and campaign. If they prove useful, I'll likely put a few more packs together. Dungeon Connections will also be on sale this weekend at 40% off the list price!

That's all for now, enjoy S&W Appreciation Day!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Magic and Spellcasting in Eldritch Tales

By the 1920s the nineteenth-century fascination with the occult was dying. Most people believed that the mystics, magicians and mediums were frauds of the lowest variety, and in most cases that belief was well founded. However, in Mythos Earth, certain rare sorcerers have learned to harness the eldritch power of the cosmos, while also taking on the inherent risks of such tampering.

Spells might be found in Mythos tomes, on the hieroglyph-carved walls of Egyptian tombs, or buried deep in mystic traditions. Spells have been drawn from traditional Swords & Wizardry lists, as well as those spells provided in Realms of Crawling Chaos, by Daniel Proctor and Michael Curtis. I've provided some spells below to help you understand the following mechanics.

The Beast, early twentieth century sorcerer
Learning Spells: Learning a spell requires an Intelligence Feat (refer back to here for information on  Attribute Feats) and each spell, depending on the difficulty/level, may invoke a penalty to the feat to "Learn Spell." Failing an attempt to learn a new spell incurs an Insanity increase. However, the character gains a Mythos Lore point, regardless of success or failure. [Mythos Lore is a simple measure of the character's Mythos knowledge and understanding; a score over 10 grants bonuses to certain rolls.]

Casting Spells: Once a spell is learned it may be cast at any time - no spells per day or memorization. Some spells have specific requirements and the referee is free to demand the use of components, though these are generally not stated. In order to cast the spell, the character must perform a special Attribute Feat, called a Spell Check. Depending on the nature of the spell, the Spell Check might test Intelligence, Wisdom, or Charisma, and most spells impose a penalty to the check. Failing the Spell Check incurs the penalty (if any) listed under Failure.

Penalties imposed by difficult spells can be offset by having a high Mythos Lore, situational modifiers granted by the referee, the Occultist Occupation (if used), and perhaps other sources. Spellcasting is difficult and is not for every character. A character with average Attributes might feel confident enough to cast a spell after years spent studying Mythos Tomes (and thus gaining Mythos Lore). Attempts to abuse spellcasting will surely lead to the sanitarium.... or worse.

Consider the spells listed below. Minnesota Phipps has INT 15, WIS 12, CHR 10, and Mythos Lore 11 (a +1 bonus). His Intelligence Feat success is 4-6, while the other two Attributes are 5-6. When learning these spells, Phipps makes an Intelligence Feat, applies the Learn Spell penalty, as well as his Mythos Lore bonus [He attempts to learn Banish and rolls a "5" on a d6; the penalty and bonus combine to make the result a "4" - a success due to his above average Intelligence.]

However, Phipps attempts to cast Banish while his allies are confronting a Cosmic Spawn of Cthulhu... he hopefully has a lot of allies, because Banish will take 5 rounds to cast. He rolls a 1d6 which comes up "5" and applies his Mythos Lore bonus to make it a "6." Since he is now attempting to impose his will on cosmic forces, Phipps is testing Wisdom and the spell imposes -2 penalty to the Spell Check. That makes his result a "4" - a failure due to his average Wisdom. As it recognizes magical efforts targeting it, the Cthulhu Spawn turns his attention towards Phipps...

So, the formulas are:
Learn Spell: 1d6 Intelligence Feat + Mythos Lore - Learn Spell  Penalty.
Spell Check: 1d6 Int/Wis/Chr Feat  + Mythos Lore +/- Situational Modifiers - Spell Check  Penalty

Spell Level:            5
Learn Spell:          -2
Casting Time:       5 rounds
Spell Check:           Wisdom -2
Range:                   240 feet
Duration:               Permanent
Failure:    The banishment fails and the attempt draws the target’s attention.

This ritual only affects transdimensional beings, such as Yog Sothoth, the Hounds of Tindalos, and Cthulhu Spawn, and creatures that have been summoned by sorcery. After 2 rounds of casting a clap of thunder resounds in multiple dimensions, forcing the target back to its place of origin. The targeted creature is allowed to make a Saving Throw to resist the banishment, if it so chooses, but suffers a -2 penalty.

Summon Night-gaunt
Spell Level:           4
Learn Spell:            -1
Casting Time:       30 minutes
Spell Check:         Charisma +0
Range:                    Nil
Duration:         One night
Failure:          A night-gaunt arrives, but is completely uncontrolled. It will attempt to capture the caster and bear him into the Dreamlands.

By means of this ritual, which must be cast under the night sky, the caster summons a night-gaunt from the Outer Dark. The night-gaunt will arrive in 1d6 rounds and will do the caster’s bidding for the duration of the spell. However, it will not act in a selfless manner and will not throw its life away.
Water Breathing
Spell Level:           2
Learn Spell:          +0
Casting Time:      1 round
Spell Check:          Intelligence +0
Range:                 Touch
Duration:             2 hours
Failure:           The spell fails.

Upon completion of this spell, the recipient grows obvious gills in his or her neck allowing the person to breathe underwater until the spell’s duration expires.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Beyond the Ice-Fall Released!

Beyond the Ice-Fall  is a low-level adventure written for use with Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox and similar OSR games! Set in a northern land of viking warriors, the adventure is for a party of 4‐8 characters of levels 1‐3. It can be easily adapted to any campaign!

In the village of Askibakken, the winter has been harsh and an unnatural blizzard has gripped the area. The village chieftain has called upon young warriors to search for a missing supply ship, but this endeavor leads the adventurers into a mysterious adventure. Will the party discover what lies Beyond the Ice-Fall?

Beyond the Ice-Fall is inspired by Algernon Blackwood’s The Glamour of the Snow and Robert E. Howard’s The Frost Giant’s Daughter.

Features cover art and an interior piece by Del Teigeler! Writing, cartography and additional art completed by Joseph Salvador. Included in this 28-page product are a mini-setting, a dungeon crawl, two maps, new monsters, new magic items, new spells, and a viking name list!

Get it at DriveThruRPG! It will be on sale 20% off until March 24!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Eldritch Tales: Attributes and Skills


I've been off working on other projects, but work on  Eldritch Tales: Lovecraftian White Box Role-playing continues! I have recently done some minor rewrites and am expanding the Mythos Earth setting information. I've gotten some questions about the magic system and would like to talk about that, but first I have to explain the basic resolution system.

In Eldritch Tales, all characters have the classic attributes (Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma) and we use the typical Swords & Wizardry attribute chart. In addition to the normal attribute modifier, each attribute has an "Attribute Feat Success" attached to it. This is simply a range required for success on a 1d6 roll. See below:

Attribute Roll
Feat Success
Below Average
-1 (or -5%)
Above Average
+1 (or +5%)

The referee need not require a roll for every action taken by the character and should be careful not to allow die rolls to take the place of role-playing and player skill. However, when the success of an action is in question, the referee might call for an Attribute Feat. A 1d6 is rolled, modifiers are applied, and the result is checked against the Attribute's Success Range. If the number falls within (or is higher than) the range, the character succeeds!

For example, Minnesota Phipps has a Dexterity of 13, which give him a Feat Success of 5-6. Phipps wants to snatch a stone idol out of the hand of a cultist. He rolls a d6, and would succeed on a 5 or 6. The Attribute modifier is NOT applied to a Feat - it is already built in to the Success Range. The referee is free to apply modifiers. A inattentive or surprised cultist might grant a bonus, while a penalty might be applied if he is holding the idol with both hands.

Each class grants "Class Skills," which grant a +1 bonus to Attribute Feats that involve such skills. The Opportunist class grants Appraisal, Perception, Sneaking and Driving as skills. Anytime the character attempts an Attribute Feat involving one of these skills, he gains a +1 to the roll. Skills are not necessarily tied to a specific ability, although many are obvious. Cases arise where an argument might be made to allow two or more Attributes to be used. The referee makes the decision on which Attribute should be checked based on the situation.

Additionally, Occupations allow the player to roll two dice and take the better result when performing actions related to their Specialties. Class Skills and Occupational Specialties may overlap, and it is up to the referee if he will let the benefits to be used together.

I'll talk about Magic in my next post on ET. Suffice it to say that casting a spell requires a special Attribute Feat called a Spell Check.

Until next time!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Update and Announcement

After a bit of a holiday hiatus, I'd like to let everyone know what's going on at Raven God Games! First, I'd like to thank everyone who has contacted me or otherwise shown support for Eldritch Tales. You inspire me to "get it right" and make a game that will be appreciated by the community. Many thanks, and if anyone has comments, questions or ideas, feel free to drop me a line!

Work is continuing on Eldritch Tales, never fear. I was able to get a few playtests in over the holiday and also received some great feedback from some from Pete Spahn (Small Niche Games, WWII: Operation WhiteBox) and others. A few of you have mentioned playtesting and I have not forgotten you. Once I have a new draft available I will be looking for a select few to give the game a spin. I'm also slowly grinding away at some adventure modules for use with playtests and further development.

I have had several questions asking about random monster creation charts, and other random charts. I like the idea and have been considering how to approach it. I don't want to force them into the book, so these sorts of things may appear in the appendices or perhaps as separate downloads. How would you guys and gals use them? Would you rather they were loose?

In other news, I have rewritten a short viking-themed adventure scenario for use with Swords and Wizardry: WhiteBox. The adventure, Beyond the Ice-Fall, first appeared in AFS Magazine #6 and was written for the Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea rules. I have expanded and revamped the setting and story, created new maps, and changed the relevant rules to WhiteBox. Regardless, it should work well enough for any OSR game. Beyond the Ice-Fall is a location-based adventure, a fjord with some viking villages, a dangerous wilderness, and primarily a icy dungeon that poses its own hazards. It will feature a cover piece and a full page interior illustration by Del Teigeler, with cartography and additional art by my own hand. My hope is that this module (and perhaps some other small projects) will help foot the bill for Eldritch Tales. I've not quite finished the maps yet, but layout and art are largely complete. So, it should be released within the next month or so. In the meantime, check out Del's fantastic cover art!

Until next time!

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Occupations in Eldritch Tales

Hello and sorry for my hiatus last week. I came down with a head cold and am only now feeling better. In the last post, I mentioned that I wanted to discuss the optional Occupations rules for Eldritch Tales: Lovecraftian White Box Role-Playing.

What are Occupations? Its pretty simple. If the referee so chooses, he or she can allow players to select (or randomly determine) an Occupation for their character. The Occupation tacks directly onto the character class and may or may not overlap with it somewhat. For instance, a player may create an Antiquarian character, then choose the "Professor" occupation for a very focused skill set. Another player may also make an Antiquarian, but choose the "Criminal" occupation, creating a character who specializes in stealing or fencing antiquities. This "mixing and matching" allows players a great amount of character customization in a very simple format  and provides a little "background flavor" for the character.

Occupations may grant small benefits, such as additional starting money, additional contacts, or free equipment, but primarily Occupations grant "Occupational Specialties." Specialties are a set of skills connected to the Occupation and these may overlap with the Class Skills granted by character classes. When a character performs a task related to an Occupational Specialty (and the referee feels a rolls is needed) the player rolls two six-sided diced and takes the better result.

Lets consider our Antiquarian Professor, Reginald Palsgrave. He has the Class Skills: history, literature, general sciences and world mythologies; he gains a +1 bonus to tasks involving these topics. As a Professor of the Social Sciences, Palsgrave gains the Specialties: History, Geography, Anthropology, and Archeology. If he attempts a task related to History, he would roll two dice, take the better result and add 1 to it. If he were trying to determine the type of anthropoid skull found in a tomb, an Anthropology task, he would roll two dice and take the better result. The referee MAY allow him to add his Class Skill bonus from "general sciences" if he felt it was sufficiently linked. The referee determines when a die roll is needed and what bonuses/penalties might apply.

That's it for this week!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Eldritch Tales: Contacts and Characters

Last week, we talked about the four base character classes in Eldritch Tales: Lovecraftian White Box Role-Playing, and I mentioned that every class begins the game with Contacts.

Not even beginning characters live in a vacuum and all have some experience with the world and people. University students are exposed to any number of professors, soldiers meet people from all walks of life, lawyers know experts within the justice system, and so on. Each character begins with at least one close friend who is willing to help out when the character is in need - these are the character's Contacts. Characters may call upon their Contacts to assist in any way they can, dependent on the referee's discretion. However, most Contacts will not break the law or put their lives and livelihoods in jeopardy, and players are advised to remember that just as they may call upon Contacts, Contacts may call upon them. Friendship is a two-way street.

Characters are not restricted to only those Contacts that they start with and may acquire additional Contacts  during the course of the game. There is no set mechanic for gaining Contacts, only that it can be accomplished through role-playing and cultivating connections. Again, the referee is free to control this as he or she wishes.

The make things manageable, Contacts are divided into broad categories - Academic, Criminal, Influential, Legal, Martial, Medical and a final catch-all, General. This division is mostly used during character creation to direct what type of Contacts a beginning character starts with. For instance, an Antiquarian begins with two Academic Contacts - perhaps a curator and a librarian; while a Socialite begins with one Influential contact and any two other contacts - maybe a governor, a detective, and a fence. The choices that a player makes here will help to define the character's background and add some color to the campaign.

Finally, Contacts help the referee craft a story with depth. They can be used as plot devices - anchoring a character to a specific area or interest, connecting characters to the game world, providing motives and goals for characters, they might even present plot hooks to the group and "call in favors."

Next week, I'll discuss Occupations, an entirely optional rule that further defines a character's background and offers greater character customization.

Making friends?