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Classic Modules Today: B7 Rahasia (5e)
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/02/2020 15:39:25

Originally posted here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/06/review-b7-rahasia-becmi-special.html

Thanks to the efforts of the Classic Modules Today group there is a conversion guide for B7 Rahasia.
Classic Modules Today: B7 Rahasia (5e) is 10 pages and includes all the various stats you need to covert this adventure over to 5th Editon D&D. In truth the conversions are very straight forward but it is nice to have them all in one place. Plus for $1.95 it is really worth it. Given the Ravenloft connections, I could see this as an adventure for 1-3 level characters in Curse of Strahd very easily. You need the complete B7 module, that is not included here and there is no adventure information other than the stats. The Bone Golem and the witches, Karelena, Solorena, and Trilena get full stat blocks.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Classic Modules Today: B7 Rahasia (5e)
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B7 Rahasia (Basic)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/02/2020 15:36:28

Originally posted here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/06/review-b7-rahasia-becmi-special.html

"You soon are lead to an elven maid, whose veiled grace and beauty outshines all others present as the sun outshines the stars-she is Rahasia. "Will you aid me?" she asks."

B7 Rahasia is an adventure for the BECMI version of the Basic rules. Since module B5 the Basic modules all featured the new BECMI trade dress, but B7 Rahasia is an older adventure with some solid history in the D&D game. But I am getting to the middle of the story.

Back in 1979 Tracy and Laura Hickman wanted to play AD&D but needed money to be able to buy the Dungeon Master's Guide. So like so many after them they wrote an adventure to sell so the could afford to pick up the DMG. That adventure was Rahasia.

Later the Hickmans would go to work for TSR and here they would give us what is arguably one of the greatest adventures of all time, Ravenloft, but before that, they republished Rahasia in 1983 under the RPGA banner. In fact, RPGA 1 Rahasia and it's sequel RPGA 2 Black Opal Eye were the first two RPGA adventures for the new BECMI Basic game.

Rahasia is for levels 1-2 and then Black Opal Eye for levels 2-3.

These currently go for a lot of money on eBay now. RPGA2 Black Opal Eye is available on DriveThruRPG, but the RPGA1 version of Rahasia is not.

Rahasia would get a third printing again in 1984 as the new adventure module B7 Rahasia. This new version was a combination of the two earlier editions.

For this review, I am considering the PDF from DriveThruRPG and my original print copy from 1984.

Module B7 Rahasia Tracy and Laura Hickman. 32 Pages, color cover, black & white interior. Cover art by Jeff Easley. Interior art by Jeff Easley and Tim Truman Maps by Diesel & D.C. Sutherland Ill

This adventure is a primary example of what has been called "the Hickman Revolution" and while it was independent of the design of the BECMI rules, it does dovetail into the rules and feel rather well. The Hickman Revolution can best be explained with the original requirements the Hickmans set for themselves in their adventures.

A player objective more worthwhile than simply pillaging and killing. An intriguing story that is intricately woven into the play itself. Dungeons with some sort of architectural sense. An attainable and honorable end within one or two sessions playing time.

Another very strong point is an NPC/Antagonist that is more than just a mindless monster. This can be seen in Dragonlance and can be seen in its ultimate form in Count Strahd from Ravenloft.

These all exist in one form or another in this adventure. We have an evil cleric known as the Rahib, but is he really our "Big Bad" of this tale? No. But again I jump ahead.

The plot begins as a simple one. The characters agree to help an elven maid named Rahasia defeat a great evil that has come to her lands. This evil, the Rahib, has captured two elf maidens (Sylva and Merisa), Rahasia's father, and her fiancee. So the characters have to rescue the Prince this time! He has also taken control over a group of elven cleric/monks (essentially) known as the Siswa.

This is an important bit, so I am going to interrupt myself here. The Siswa are all mind-controlled, normally these are the elves that guard the temple, so they really should not be killed. In the Hickman Revolution simply killing things is never the way to go. This is true here. The characters need to find ways to incapacitate the Siswa, but not kill them.

Defeating the Rahib is fine, and getting to him is the first half of the adventure. The second half is discovering the REAL Big Bads. You might have seen them on the cover.

Part 2, or the part that was covered in Black Opal Eye, deals with the real villains of this piece. Here we learn that the Rahib had made a deal with the spirits of three dead witches, Karelena, Solorena, and Trilena. These witches have now taken over the bodies of the elf maids and want to get Rahasia for Trilena. They can accomplish this with the Black Opal Eye. When all three witches are freed they are much more powerful, so getting them before they can get Rahasia is the goal. Failing that any female character with a Charisma of 15 or higher is the target.

There are some traps, some false leads and some clues in the form of wine bottles. But all in all a very effective adventure with some nice twists. More importantly, it also gives us three (well four I guess) memorable NPCs. While the Rahib can be defeated, and ultimately forgotten about, the witches, Karelena, Solorena, and Trilena, are far more interesting and really should come back again in a future adventure.

There are maps, pre-rolled characters to use, and of course an elven princess who will be in your debt.

The adventure also features something that the "new" BECMI modules all would feature, new monsters.
Here we get the haunt, the water weird (an AD&D import), and the bone golem who will not see an AD&D rendition until Ravenloft.

Ravenloft Connections

I have often stated that I feel that Barovia, the lands of the mists featured in the Ravenloft adventure and line, came from the B/X & BECMI world of Mystara. Here is another connection. First, the idea of body-snatching undead witches is a strong horror trope. I am sure there are dozens of horror movies made before 1979 that feature this. I am sure I have seen at least a dozen or more of these myself.

Plus like Ravenloft, Rahasia was written by the Hickmans. Even in the 5e era the Curse of Strahd adventure for 5e lists Rahasia as an influence. Plus there are some other solid connections. Like finding the same wines in Rahasia's Wizard tower and in Ravenloft.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
B7 Rahasia (Basic)
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RPGA2: Black Opal Eye (Basic)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/02/2020 15:36:20

Originally posted here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/06/review-b7-rahasia-becmi-special.html

Back in 1979 Tracy and Laura Hickman wanted to play AD&D but needed money to be able to buy the Dungeon Master's Guide. So like so many after them they wrote an adventure to sell so the could afford to pick up the DMG. That adventure was Rahasia.

Later the Hickmans would go to work for TSR and here they would give us what is arguably one of the greatest adventures of all time, Ravenloft, but before that, they republished Rahasia in 1983 under the RPGA banner. In fact, RPGA 1 Rahasia and it's sequel RPGA 2 Black Opal Eye were the first two RPGA adventures for the new BECMI Basic game.

Rahasia is for levels 1-2 and then Black Opal Eye for levels 2-3.

These currently go for a lot of money on eBay now. RPGA2 Black Opal Eye is available on DriveThruRPG, but the RPGA1 version of Rahasia is not.

Rahasia would get a third printing again in 1984 as the new adventure module B7 Rahasia. This new version was a combination of the two earlier editions.

Black Opal eye is available for purchase now for th first time since the early 80s. And you don't have to be an RPGA member to do it.

This adventue deals with the real villains of this piece. Here we learn that the Rahib (from Rahasia) had made a deal with the spirits of three dead witches, Karelena, Solorena, and Trilena. These witches have now taken over the bodies of the elf maids and want to get Rahasia for Trilena. They can accomplish this with the Black Opal Eye. When all three witches are freed they are much more powerful, so getting them before they can get Rahasia is the goal. Failing that any female character with a Charisma of 15 or higher is the target.

There are some traps, some false leads and some clues in the form of wine bottles. But all in all a very effective adventure with some nice twists. More importantly, it also gives us three (well four I guess) memorable NPCs. While the Rahib can be defeated, and ultimately forgotten about, the witches, Karelena, Solorena, and Trilena, are far more interesting and really should come back again in a future adventure.

There are maps, pre-rolled characters to use, and of course an elven princess who will be in your debt.

The adventure also features something that the "new" BECMI modules all would feature, new monsters.
Here we get the haunt, the water weird (an AD&D import), and the bone golem who will not see an AD&D rendition until Ravenloft.

Great adventure that can be run in an afternoon.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
RPGA2: Black Opal Eye (Basic)
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D&D Basic Set - DM's Rulebook (BECMI ed.) (Basic)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/01/2020 12:25:27

Originally posted here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/06/becmi-basic-set-review.html

How does one go about reviewing a game I know so well but in a book I know very little about? More to the point how does one review a classic? Well as my oldest son says, "with determination."

The third set of books to be released as the "Basic set" was the Mentzer "Red Box" Basic that would become the "B" of the BECMI line. So many copies of this set have sold that it has become synonymous with "the Basic Set" and "the red Box" in D&D circles. The set itself contained two books, a Player's Book (to be read first) and a Dungeon Master's Book (to be read by the DM).

Already we have a departure from the previous Holmes (1977) and Moldvay (1981) Basic sets. While those older sets had one book for rules (48 and 64 pages respectively) and an included adventure (B1 and B2 respectively) this set only has the two books. This is not the issue it might seem at first since this set features a rather infamous solo adventure and a programmed adventure that can be used with a DM.

The box set also came with dice, a crayon for coloring in the numbers, and some information about the RPGA.

The Dungeon Master's book is 48 pages, color art cover, black & white interior art. This book follows the Player's book in terms of layout and scope.

The title page here is largely the same as the Player's Book, but it is a chance for us to reflect on how this game is really the direct descendent of the Original D&D game. Though there is a reminder that Players are not to read this book! Only DMs!

We get right into the roles of a DM here, after covering some brief introductory materials and some common terms and abbreviations. Looking over these were are still in a time that Pre-Dates THAC0 as a term.

There are checklists of things to do pre-game and during the game and during combat. It's a nice clear and spelled out version of the same material seen in the previous Moldvay Basic set. In fact, there is a lot of material here that looks and reads the same. This is natural since both sets are drawing from the same sources. It is a bit like reading something you are already very familiar with, but it is still somewhat different and new. Like trying to read Danish after learning German. Or maybe more accurately, reading American Spanish after learning European Spanish.

There is a built-in adventure for new DMs that serves the same purpose as the Solo one in the player's book. It is fine, but I think back to my time in running the Keep on the Borderlands and hoe much I learned from that.

The procedures and rules section is all laid out alphabetically. So "Elves" come before "Mapping" and "Time". Again, I am reminded of the layout seen in 4e and it is obvious that the designers of 4e were fans of this edition.

The next big section is on Monsters. This section reads very much like the same section in Molvay Basic, some even down to the exact same words. I don't find this a problem though. Some people went from Holmes Basic (77) to Cook/Marsh Expert (81) and some people will come from those earlier Basics to this. There needs to be a continuity of rules. Minus some organization and some clearer directions these are supposed to be the same games. Yes there are some differences. I find them to be minor at worst.

Back to Monsters, the section seems to have all the Usual Suspects, give or take a couple. I did notice that there is much less art here. I would have loved to have seen more versions of these classic monsters. An Elmore drawn Thoul? Yeah, that would have been great! Also, this has the only piece of recycled art I have found. The dragon breath diagram looks the same here as in Moldvay. That's actually pretty cool. All new art? TSR was putting their best on this. I'll talk more about the art in a bit.

Treasure follows and it is every 1st level character's dreams come true. Swords to hit those pesky magic monsters! Gold! Platinum! Potions of Healing!! 2-7 hp was all you needed back then to get back into the game.

A nice bit about creating and stocking dungeons with monsters and treasures. More direction than we got in Holmes or Moldvay to be sure.

We end with some tables for random monsters, saving throws, and a combined index!

Art The art in both books is fantastic. Larry Elmore, Jim Holloway, and Jeff Easley at the very top of their game. They defined how millions view Dungeons & Dragons. Yes, yes I am a fan of the older stylings of Bill Willingham, Erol Otis, and Jeff Dee, but this was at a new level. The art was consistent throughout and all of it wonderful. Sadly it is also a little sparse compared to Moldvay, but I guess there are more pages to fill here.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
D&D Basic Set - DM's Rulebook (BECMI ed.) (Basic)
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D&D Basic Set - Player's Manual (BECMI ed.) (Basic)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/01/2020 12:25:20

Originally posted here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/06/becmi-basic-set-review.html

How does one go about reviewing a game I know so well but in a book I know very little about? More to the point how does one review a classic? Well as my oldest son says, "with determination."

The third set of books to be released as the "Basic set" was the Mentzer "Red Box" Basic that would become the "B" of the BECMI line. So many copies of this set have sold that it has become synonymous with "the Basic Set" and "the red Box" in D&D circles. The set itself contained two books, a Player's Book (to be read first) and a Dungeon Master's Book (to be read by the DM).

Already we have a departure from the previous Holmes (1977) and Moldvay (1981) Basic sets. While those older sets had one book for rules (48 and 64 pages respectively) and an included adventure (B1 and B2 respectively) this set only has the two books. This is not the issue it might seem at first since this set features a rather infamous solo adventure and a programmed adventure that can be used with a DM.

The box set also came with dice, a crayon for coloring in the numbers, and some information about the RPGA.

The Player's Book is 64 pages, color art cover, black & white interior art.

This is the familiar D&D game. The title page tells us that this is Dungeons & Dragons created by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. The editor, though many will say the actual architect of the BECMI line, is Frank Mentzer. He is so tied to this edition that it is also called the Mentzer Basic book.

While Holmes did a good job of organizing the Original D&D game into something that could be used as and introduction to the game (or too AD&D maybe), it was the Moldvay edition that really tried to make an introductory game to new players. The Mentzer set takes this to the next level by giving us a true introduction to the game.

The target audience is 10-12-year-olds but it takes care not to talk down to the audience, there even seems to be a choice in language to try and educate as much as possible too. TSR expected their target audience to be young, educated, and (for better or worse) male. But I will touch on that later.

Up first you are taken on one of the most infamous solo adventures ever. You are playing a fighter and you have to investigate a dungeon. You meet a cleric named Aleena, and a goblin and an evil wizard named Bargel. The rest is a tale told in many taverns across the known world. While I have a number of issues with the solo adventure, and I'll discuss those elsewhere, it is an effective tool for grabbing people and getting them into the game. The adventure explains aspects of your character and makes them salient in the situation. In the education biz we call this "situational learning" and it is an effective tool.

After the adventure, we get to the part where your character is explained to you. What the ability scores mean, what the saving throws are for, how to hit with weapons. It is the "what is Roleplaying" section of every other RPG book writ large.

There is another Solo adventure, with some nods to the two M series for solo dungeons.

So now that the player knows the basics of play the various character classes are introduced. Here we have the Cleric, Fighters, Magic-User, and Thieves for humans and Dwarves, Elves, and Halflings. The text is very, very explanatory. Great for a brand new player but feels wordy to me now. Granted, these were not written for someone with 40 years of experience. Heck, no one had even a quarter of that yet when this was written so my point of view is out of sync with the design goals of this game.

Looking over the classes I notice a few things. The class descriptions are very self-contained. Everything you need to know about playing a Cleric for example is right there. Including the Saving Throw tables WITH the class. A vast improvement over the constant flipping through pages we had to do with AD&D at the same time. Also, I noticed how weak the thief was then. No comparison to the Rogues of later editions.

The design elements of the self-contained class pages is something we will see again in D&D 4e and 5e. It is very effective and if you are like me and like to print out your PDFs then it also gives you flexibility in organizing your version of Basic.

There is a solid emphasis throughout the book on how playing together, and working together, as a group is the best experience. There also seems a little extra emphasis on how the Players are not the Characters. It feels wonderfully 80s when the was the moral panic that kids would start to act out like their characters and meet the fate of poor Black Leaf and Marci. Today people online refer to their characters in first person and laud their achievements as their very own. What a difference some time makes.

We get to alignment with a strong prohibition against playing Chaotic or Evil characters. Retainers and other topics. There is even a solid Glossary (I mean really who does this anymore? I miss them!) to help in supporting my point of view of D&D as a learning tool. There is even a small section on using minis, character sheets, and other aids. There is even a nod to AD&D to remind players that this game, D&D, is not AD&D.

All the basics are covered. No pun intended. Ok. Maybe a little one. Everything the player needs to get started. They now just need a DM. Thankfully the next book covers all that.

Art The art in both books is fantastic. Larry Elmore, Jim Holloway, and Jeff Easley at the very top of their game. They defined how millions view Dungeons & Dragons. Yes, yes I am a fan of the older stylings of Bill Willingham, Erol Otis, and Jeff Dee, but this was at a new level. The art was consistent throughout and all of it wonderful. Sadly it is also a little sparse compared to Moldvay, but I guess there are more pages to fill here.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
D&D Basic Set - Player's Manual (BECMI ed.) (Basic)
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CA1 Calidar Dreams of Aerie
Publisher: Calidar Publishing
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/16/2020 13:38:05

Originally posted here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/04/review-ca1-calidar-dreams-of-aerie.html

I make my last stop on my vacation in Calidar to an honest to god Flying Circus!

Monty Python quotes and references are as much a part of the D&D experience as anything else really. Let's be honest, how many games start out as "Excalibur" but end up as "The Holy Grail"? Well now, thanks to Bruce Heard and Calidat you can bring a real live Flying Circus to your games. The Monty Python references might be light in the book, but the games will abound with them.

CA1 Calidar Dreams of Aerie

PDF, Hardcover and Softcover, 132 pages, Color covers. Color and Black & White interior art.

I am reviewing the PDF and softcover book from the Kickstarter.

Dreams of Aerie is for the Calidar world setting, but let me say this upfront, you can use this anywhere with any system. The book uses the Calidar game system, which is not really a system but a short-hand way of talking about stats. If you have any of the other books you will know what this is and how to convert it.

The book is part source guide and part mystery adventure. The setting is the Amazing Flying Circus a traveling that flies overhead. There is some great in-game/in-universe background to this circus and how it is no longer at its hey-day, but it is also attempting to reclaim its former glory.

Now. If this is all this book was, then it would still be a fantastic bit of work. But we do get a lot more.

The circus is home to all sorts of entertainers as well as misfits and those rejected by society. In many ways it mirrors a real circus from our, or most worlds. It is also a religious monument to one of Calidar's gnomish gods, Belgomeer. That gives it a nice twist. I'll discuss this more at the end.

We get a great cast of characters including the Ringmaster, Vox Hammerdin, aka The Great Mirabilis. That's a hell of a name! Based on his style and personality I think he must be related to my Crazy Omar. There are so many interesting NPCs here I could spend pages talking about them, but instead, I will leave it at that and let you discover them on your own. These NPCs are needed because of the adventures character can have here. There is a cult plot to take over the circus, a murder, rival factions, and 11 different guilds that make the circus work. Oh and the dragon in the middle of the maze on the lower decks.

That makes up the first 30 or so pages of the book.

What comes next is the adventure hook for the players. The players, and characters, can be hooked in on the circus' arrival alone or get a letter from the Ringmaster or even the local Mayor. The main mystery deals with the disappearance of the show's "Bearded lady", Branna “Stubble” Briarchin. She has been in fact murdered in part of the plots of the cult of Balladoo-of-the-Hoo, who are trying to take control of the circus away from the followers of Belgomeer. The PCs need to uncover the murder and cult plot. But even if you and the players are not interested in this hook, there are plenty of reasons to visit a Flying Circus. Let's start with the fact that it is a flying freaking circus! The murder and cult plot though are well done and plenty of clues are provided for the GM to hand out to the players when they find them. It also gives them an excuse and leave to explore the entire circus.

There is a detailed description of all parts of the circus, all three decks, with some beautiful maps and art here. The layout by Calidar's cartographic expert Thorfinn Tait is fantastic. This book is not just fun to read it is gorgeous to look at. This part covers about 110 pages of the book. So yeah, really detailed.

There is an appendix with character stats, but keep in mind that most people you run into here are not meant to be fought. These are not "monster" stats even if the person you encounter might be a monster in a different situation. This adventure is about solving a murder and stopping a cult, not "killing things and taking their loot". You can use this with any system, but the mindset has to be this is a mystery to solve.

The appendix also covers some "Random Events" to keep the players moving along while other things are happening.
There is a great index of all locations. A 1d20 rumor mill. A banner advertising the circus. And some pre-rolled characters to use.

I have said it before but it is true here, Dreams of Aerie punches way above its weight class.

At 130 pages and $6 for the PDF, there is a lot here. A complete circus, a FLYING circus no less, a murder mystery and a cult faction war.

The Circus as Setting While the circus is set in the World of Calidar it can easily be used elsewhere or all by itself. While reading through it I could not help but think back to the old Ravenloft Carnival product. The two might work well together, in particular some of the NPCs. Plus I can't ever resist adding more horror to my games.
Two of my favorite movies is Vampire Circus and of course Tod Brownings Freaks. Both have strong horror themes. So I guess I find circuses kinda creepy.

The Circus as Religious Center Dreams of Aerie was written WELL before the third season of The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. This season featured a traveling circus full of "pagans" dedicated to the "Great God Pan." Yes. very much in the Arthur Machen vein. The Amazing Flying Circus is not a collection of the world's misfit monsters and rejected myths. At least not in the way it was done on CAOS. There is the faction fighting between the followers of Belgomeer and Balladoo-of-the-Hoo in Dreams that I can build upon. There is a lot of cult-based conflicts here.

So, in the end, what do we have? We have a hell of a product with a ton of great ideas, opportunities, and something that can be used in pretty much every game.

Please visit the DriveThruRPG page to see some excellent samples of the maps.

If you want to run a circus adventure then THIS is the one you need. Full stop.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
CA1 Calidar Dreams of Aerie
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Creator Reply:
Thanks for the review. It's a too bad for now that the printer producing CA1's fold-up maps is out on account of a Covid shutdown in their area. Hopefully, this is only temporary. The conversion booklets for Calidar's Series 1 titles (CAL1 Gazetteer, CA1 Adventure, and the upcoming PG1 Players' Guide) will be available in the coming weeks (May/June 2020), providing all the game stats in "Dreams of Aerie" and the other two books for use with Labyrinth Lord and the OSRIC system. This should make game masters' jobs a bite easier.
CAL2b Conversion Guide to Caldwen for the OSRIC System
Publisher: Calidar Publishing
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/14/2020 12:26:02

Originally posted here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/04/reviews-conversion-guides-to-caldwen.html

I am still spending a Virtual Vacation in Calidar's beautiful Caldwen. But you know what every tourist needs? A tour guide. Thankfully our thoughtful travel agent Bruce Heard has supplied us with not one, but two new "tour guides" for anyone traveling to Caldwen.

CAL2a Conversion Guide to Caldwen for Vintage Roleplaying and CAL2b Conversion Guide to Caldwen for the OSRIC System.

Both books follow the same format. The only differences are the systems they are being converted too. The books cover both CAL2 Calidar On Wings of Darkness and CA2 How to Train Your Wizard. Knowledge of PG2 A Players' Guide to Caldwen and Game Mechanics for the World of Calidar is helpful. (links are to reviews, not the products themselves.)

The books are 30 pages with full-color covers and color with black & white interior art. Prices at $3.95, but currently $2.95. You do not need both, but I find it nice for my own system analyses.

Unlike the main Caldwen/Calidar books the art here is sparse, but that is by design since the focus of this book is the stats. Here Heard make explicit the conversions he discussed in the main books using the Calidar game stats. Depending on the system book you grab, you get easily familiar stat blocks and guides on how to use the books. Now obviously the "vintage roleplaying" can be used with any 70s and 80s circa version of the World's Greatest Role-Playing Game. Or as I have called here, any Basic-Era edition. It is labeled for "Labyrinth Lord" but any game similar enough to Labyrinth Lord can be used (ie. only a Law-Chaos alignment axis, race-as-class), or adapted. The OSIRC-labeled version can also be used with any Advanced-era version of the game.

One of the main features of these books is the Mage Knight class. I am quite fond of this class so I wanted to try it out. Now I have choices, a "Basic" or an "Advanced" version. Now the class has been converted faithfully, so don't expect them to look exactly the same between the Basic and Advanced versions. There is no description of the powers the Mage Knight has, you still need the Caldwen book for that, but this is expected.

After the Mage Knight, we get into the How to Train Your Wizard material.

Throughout the book, page references to the sourcebooks are given.

So the great thing about these books is if you play a particular system then you only need one conversion book. True, it does mean you need two books, but for me the flexibility more than outweighs this minor issue. I am a system guy, so I like being able to have multiple versions of the same material to blend between my games. So yeah for 3 bucks it is totally worth it for me, hell it is worth it for 6 bucks to have both versions.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
CAL2b Conversion Guide to Caldwen for the OSRIC System
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CAL2a Conversion Guide to Caldwen for Vintage Roleplaying
Publisher: Calidar Publishing
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/14/2020 12:25:33

Originally posted here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/04/reviews-conversion-guides-to-caldwen.html

I am still spending a Virtual Vacation in Calidar's beautiful Caldwen. But you know what every tourist needs? A tour guide. Thankfully our thoughtful travel agent Bruce Heard has supplied us with not one, but two new "tour guides" for anyone traveling to Caldwen.

CAL2a Conversion Guide to Caldwen for Vintage Roleplaying and CAL2b Conversion Guide to Caldwen for the OSRIC System.

Both books follow the same format. The only differences are the systems they are being converted too. The books cover both CAL2 Calidar On Wings of Darkness and CA2 How to Train Your Wizard. Knowledge of PG2 A Players' Guide to Caldwen and Game Mechanics for the World of Calidar is helpful. (links are to reviews, not the products themselves.)

The books are 30 pages with full-color covers and color with black & white interior art. Prices at $3.95, but currently $2.95. You do not need both, but I find it nice for my own system analyses.

Unlike the main Caldwen/Calidar books the art here is sparse, but that is by design since the focus of this book is the stats. Here Heard make explicit the conversions he discussed in the main books using the Calidar game stats. Depending on the system book you grab, you get easily familiar stat blocks and guides on how to use the books. Now obviously the "vintage roleplaying" can be used with any 70s and 80s circa version of the World's Greatest Role-Playing Game. Or as I have called here, any Basic-Era edition. It is labeled for "Labyrinth Lord" but any game similar enough to Labyrinth Lord can be used (ie. only a Law-Chaos alignment axis, race-as-class), or adapted. The OSIRC-labeled version can also be used with any Advanced-era version of the game.

One of the main features of these books is the Mage Knight class. I am quite fond of this class so I wanted to try it out. Now I have choices, a "Basic" or an "Advanced" version. Now the class has been converted faithfully, so don't expect them to look exactly the same between the Basic and Advanced versions. There is no description of the powers the Mage Knight has, you still need the Caldwen book for that, but this is expected.

After the Mage Knight, we get into the How to Train Your Wizard material.

Throughout the book, page references to the sourcebooks are given.

So the great thing about these books is if you play a particular system then you only need one conversion book. True, it does mean you need two books, but for me the flexibility more than outweighs this minor issue. I am a system guy, so I like being able to have multiple versions of the same material to blend between my games. So yeah for 3 bucks it is totally worth it for me, hell it is worth it for 6 bucks to have both versions.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
CAL2a Conversion Guide to Caldwen for Vintage Roleplaying
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Creator Reply:
Hey Tim, thanks for the review. Right now, only the PDFs are available. Print proofs are still in the mail, so I should be able to give final approval and release the printed versions on DTRPG probably next week, around the 20th I would think.
HIGHLANDER: A NEW ERA - the RPG
Publisher: Studio7aUK
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/10/2020 13:52:31

Stolen IP. Does not have the permisson to use this intelltual property.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
HIGHLANDER: A NEW ERA - the RPG
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H2 The Witch of Monte Rosa
Publisher: Pacesetter Games & Simulations
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/10/2020 10:27:40

The Witch of Monte Rosa is from Bill Barsh over at Pacesetter Games. For 3 bucks you get an old-school like adventure PDF. This adventure is for low-level characters using OSRIC or your favorite OSR rule-set. Easily converted to just about anything you are running. It is a sanbox adventure designed to be dropped into any campaign and is adaptable to higher levels. The main focus though is the titular witch and the damage she is causing to nearby life. There are some new monsters and some new magic items that look like a lot of fun. Feels like a dungeon crawl from the 80s in the best possible way.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
H2 The Witch of Monte Rosa
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Echelon Reference Series: Witch Cantrips (3pp+PRD)
Publisher: Echelon Game Design
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/10/2020 10:25:12

Two books. One straight from the Pathfinder SRD and the other from all other 3rd Party spells. Both books cover Cantrips, 0-level spells.
The Pathfinder book has 15 spells at 18 pages. The Third Party book has 123 spells at 46 pages. Fully hyperlinked index and full OGL. Very useful for every Pathfinder GM and for witch characters.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Echelon Reference Series: Witch Cantrips (3pp+PRD)
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Game Mechanics for the World of Calidar
Publisher: Calidar Publishing
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/09/2020 14:36:52

Original posted here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/04/reviews-calidar-guides-for-players.html

12 pages. PDF and Softcover format. Full-color covers, color, and black & white interior. PWYW

Ok, this book is punching WAY above its weight in terms of value to page count. There are some obvious benefits, that I'll talk about and one or two not-so-obvious that also make this a must-have. I'll get to those as well. Let's start with the explicit value. This book is designed to allow any GM or player to use the Calidar shorthand stats I have talked about all week and then convert them to any game system. The game mechanics used are detailed first. By doing this Calidar is free to depict stats in any way that works best for the world and not necessarily the game system. There is an obvious "D&D-bias" here but that is fine really, and expected. Inbetween the text is the numbers conversion chart. Ranked by percentages the numbers are grouped by ranges you can convert say Level to a Calidar %. So let's say your game goes from 1 to 14 (like say B/X or OSE) then you can convert a Calidar character statblock using this. Or maybe 1 to 30 (D&D4) or 1 to 20 (most D&D). Spend some time with this chart and the translations begin to happen easily.

The game mechanics continue and include a "Philosophy" stat which is a stand in for Alignment. AND it might actually be a better alignment system. Now I have never had any issues with Alignment myself. Maybe because I spent so much time with things like the MMPI and other tests that I naturally gave alignment more subtle gradations. Actually, I think it was more chemistry come to think of it. Take the "alignment chart" in the old PHB or D&DG and think of an electron cloud where a character can move up or down in the shells. There is also a map of Calidar and the Great Caldera and some brief descriptions of the lands. Now what else do you get? Well this conversion table is fantastic for conversions to all sorts of games. Not just D&D based ones. Yes, the math is not difficult, actually, it is pretty easy. But I teach math all damn day. I like having something like this. Secondly, I want to get back to the new Philosophy system. It works GREAT in CA2 How to Train Your Wizard. It would be great for someone that doesn't like the Law-Chaos, Good-Evil axes.

So grab this. Throw a couple of bucks at Bruce and have fun!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Game Mechanics for the World of Calidar
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PG2 A Players' Guide to Caldwen
Publisher: Calidar Publishing
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/09/2020 14:35:43

Original posted here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/04/reviews-calidar-guides-for-players.html

20 pages. PDF and Softcover format. Full-color covers, color, and black & white interior. $2.99

This covers the basics of the Magiocracy of Caldwen. The various Provinces are covered briefly and other aspects of the land. We get the calendar with months and some astrology. There is a new race, the Shatim, which are like Tieflings, humans with demonic heritage. These have their own Caldwenian spin on them.
We also get a Mage Knight class. They are an armored knight that can cast spells. Using the Game Mechanics for the World of Calidar book you can convert them to your game system of choice. We get overviews on the various cults in Caldwen and their locations, or at least where the majority are located. Appropriate for a land where magic is the real religion. Currency, tourism and a brief map are all included. A good resource for players and a needed one for the Game Masters. It really sets the flavor of what you can expect in the Caldwen mini-setting. "Mini setting" is actually underselling it a bit to be honest. There is so much in the Caldwen books that you forget it was just a piece of the entire Calidar world setting.

I have the softcover books, but these really benefit from being printed out (bad on the color ink though) so I can put them in a binder to lay flat. Especially when it comes to referencing the maps, which are a highlight of these books.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
PG2 A Players' Guide to Caldwen
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CA2 How to Train Your Wizard
Publisher: Calidar Publishing
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/08/2020 12:36:41

Originally posted here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/04/review-calidar-how-to-train-your-wizard.html

PDF 70 Pages, full-color covers, color and black & white interior art.

This book requires Calidar On Wings of Darkness and A Players' Guide to Caldwen, but it can also be played without those to a lesser degree. That is, it can be adapted to any game or setting, but I think it looses a bit of the original charm. This adventure and supplement focuses on the College of Necromancy and assumes novice characters of about 12 years old. There are guidelines for rolling up novice characters as well as six pre-gen characters you can name and drop into the game. Given the characters are novices this is a PERFECT introduction game for new, younger players. This is "Harry Potter meets Scooby-Doo (but more like Magicians)." You have young adventures, a mystery and the ghosts are real.

For the background, you get a collection of teachers that will interact with the students, and there is already a built-in rivalry in the school; the White vs. Black Necromancers. Or Law and Chaos for us old-school types. The characters are also given homework that can earn them "insight" to be used in the game. Students can also get "brownie points" from their official Brownie Protector, Bronwen! These are for good roleplaying that would not necessarily result in Experience Points. I am just mad I didn't think of this first.

The clues the students/characters can find while working through our plot and subplots. The adventure is designed NOT to be a railroad. In fact, care is given knowing the characters, being young, will likely go all over the place. The adventure starts in the classroom (! YEAH, no "you meet in a Tavern/Bar/Inn!) and moves out from there. The College is very detailed with maps and descriptions of the rooms. There are plenty of NPCs to encounter and combat is NOT expected at every turn. Clever spellcasting is rewarded, as is finishing homework.

I want to point out here that the maps in this product are a work of art. Really.

The levels are detailed well and clues to the murder of a student, Odel Talron. This adventure can be run to support the murder investigation, or as a means to test the new young necromancers, or even just to play out the rivalry between the White and Black factions. Or all the above. For my money, I would run it first as an introduction to the College, maybe play up the rivalry a bit, and then hit the characters with the murder in the next session.

The bottom line there is a LOT you can do with this and the ideas are not limited to those above. It comes in softcover, but for my uses, I grabbed the PDF and printed it out one side per page so I have room to write my own notes. According to Bruce Heard, there will be Labyrinth Lord and OSRIC compatible conversion guides for this coming soon.

I hope we can see other guides like this for the other Colleges.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
CA2 How to Train Your Wizard
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CAL2 Calidar On Wings of Darkness
Publisher: Calidar Publishing
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/07/2020 11:47:36

Review posted here as well: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/04/review-cal2-calidar-on-wings-of-darkness.html

134 pages, Hardcover, Softcover, and PDF. Full-color covers. Color and black & white art interior.
For this review, I am considering the PDF and softcover versions I received via the Kickstarter.

The book is broken up into the following chapters/sections.

A Mage's Conundrum: This is the fiction piece that sets the stage for what readers (and players) can encounter in Caldwen, this country of Mages and Demons.

History of Caldwen: This chapter covers the time-line of Caldwen and the moon of Munaan where magic comes from. We learn of early dealing with demons and the start of the mages. Presented in timeline format we are given over 7000 years of history to the present day of the campaign.

Lay of the Land: In this chapter, we are treated to some full-color maps which are always a strong feature of all the Calidar books. Here, of course, we are focused on the Magiocracy of Caldwen. Now it is natural to make comparisons between Caldwen and Bruce's other magiocracy, the Principalities of Glantri. Yes there are some similarities, but there are plenty of differences too. The main difference comes from the geography of the land, and the sea. Caldwen is a coastal country with over two-thirds of its borders coasts. In some ways I get a solids 7th Sea vibe here and this feels more Age of Sail than it does the dark ages. I have to admit that while D&D is firmly on my mind as the system of choice for this, I can help read it over and think that Mage: The Sorcerers Crusade would also be a REALLY good fit for this. We get a two-page, detailed map with legend. Again, great cartography from Thorfin Tait. The nine Provinces (with one Dominion) follow after this in "Gazeteer-like" formats. We get details on each province and local maps. The area of the whole country is huge and boasts over 10 million inhabitants. Just looking at the maps gives me plenty of ideas!

Intrigues of the Magi: This chapter covers the politics of a country that is a magiocracy, a meritocracy, and a dascalocracy. Or one that is ruled by meritorious teaching mages. This chapter also covers the social structure for these wizards and how the various Provinces interact as part of the central government. Though the central government might be overstating it since much power lies in the rulers of the Provinces. We see some of the few stat blocks here and they are given in the Calidar shorthand stats. They can be translated into your game of choice using the Game Mechanics for the World of Calidar book (which is PWYW).

Behind the Curtains: Deals with the various non-mage guilds that also keep Caldwen moving. They are a mixed lot and would work well in any game. I would tend to use them more as background or NPCs, not so much as guilds for PCs to join.

A Cast of Many: The NPCs of note in Caldwen. Again stats are presented in the Calidar stats but easily converted to any game. Mentally I found myself inserting Pathfinder and D&D5 stats where needed and with a little more thought could see Mage: TSC stats as well. This section is also heavily hypertexted. So if someone else's name appears in an NPC entry you can click it to go to their entry. The same is true for titles, colleges and other items. Some stand out like Kryovata the Icy, a gnome sorceress and leader of the Protectors.

Master & Servant: Caldwen has a fair number of demons running around. These are bound demons and under the control (in theory) of a mage. This chapter covers demons, their ownership and the pacts created. Also, the demonic Black Market is discussed. Like the previous chapter, this has notable demons detailed.

Beasties in the Dark: The monster section of some of Caldwen's more interesting creatures. Detailed in the same stat system as the rest of the book.

At the Heart of Magic: Ah. Now here is the meat of the book. This covers Caldwen's schools of magic and how their benefits, tuition, philosophies, diplomas, and campus rivalries influence the fabric of the entire magiocracy. The magic schools are treated as colleges and have a similar feel to the American and British collegiate system. We also learn of two of the sports played, Dracoderby which is like a dragon polo and Pugminton. Magic use in game is expected. Each college is detailed and which town and Province their seat is in. The colleges are Abjuration, Alteration, Conjuration, Divination, Enchantment, Illusion, Invocation, Necromancy, and Grand Wizardry. Circles of Wizardy are given, roughly levels of academic attainment. First (Undergrad) to Fourth (Doctorate). Like all good colleges, there is also outplacement and career counseling. Sure you want to be a Ruler? Maybe the Path of Adventurers is a better choice for someone with your grades?

Secrets of the Cabals: What's a wizard's life without Secret Cabals? Not a life at all! Here we learn of the various cabals that cover the "Wizard's Guild" of most other settings. The cabals cover Alchemy, Demonology, Dracology, Elementalism, Necromancy, and Skymastery, with their attendant tests, abilities and philosophies.

Blood of the World Soul: This covers the raw magical force, Mana, that makes Caldwen so special. If you are familiar with ley lines or the Radiance from Glantri then you have an idea here. It also details the order assigned to protect this mana.

Sky City of Arcanial: Now this is the stuff I love. Floating cities are something I just never get enough of, to be honest. Arcanial is the home of the High Wizard Chancellor's palace, the ministries, embassies, the Great Library, and the College of Grand Wizardry. Plus all the private dwellings of the Caldwen's Rich and Famous. And you need flying gondolas to get up to it! How cool is that? There are wonderful, full-color maps of the city and plenty of details. This is the sort of thing I keep coming back to Calidar for. I mean really. If your fantasy game does not have a floating city in it are you even playing fantasy?

The entire book is bookmarked and hyperlinked (PDF version only obviously) and a treat to flip through. There are so many ideas packed into this book I am unsure where I would start.

There is a lot packed into these 134 pages and there is a lot more that could have been said, but Heard wisely leaves that for you to do.

Adapting to any game is easy, though there is a strong AD&D 2nd Ed or BECMI D&D vibe here. Maybe that is just me though since I have been liberally mixing my Mystara with Calidar for a while now. Long, long time readers might recall that in my games there was a revolution in my Glantri and now it is a Theocracy. Caldwen allows me to have my cake and eat it too. I can keep "my" Glantri as is complete with the it's French Revolution-style revolt, AND still have a cool country of mages, wizards and a magic school.

I am serious. A Caldwen + Mage The Sorcerers Crusade game would be a lot of fun.

I'll look in to this more when I cover the next Caldwen (Bruce's "Series Two") book, CA2 How to Train Your Wizard.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
CAL2 Calidar On Wings of Darkness
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