The Haunt Trilogy: Special Edition Review

I recently picked up a copy of The Haunt Trilogy: Special Edition, by Phil Beckwith and Travis Legge, and published by PB Publishing. The contents of this book are a compilation of PB Publishing’s Haunt trilogy of adventures.

I should add a disclaimer here that I am friends with Phil Beckwith. I will, however, endeavor to keep this review as unbiased as possible.

I purchased a hardcover edition with the PDF. I heartily recommend that if you purchase the print version, you get the PDF version with it as well. I will explain that later.

haunt2

At first glance, this book is just physically gorgeous. The cover is great, though I wish it was a brighter white color. I absolutely love the design and think it fits nicely side-by-side with my existing 5e hardcovers. The cover image could be better and seems a bit blurry, but the rest of the cover and trade dress makes me easily forgive that. I will say that the cover image is quite creepy!

The layout of the book is gorgeous, and includes some nifty monster art that has an almost comic book style. The monster stat blocks are very easy to read.

However, where the physical book breaks down is with pages in the appendices. Many are meant to be cut out, whether they’re paper minis, encounter sheets, or character sheets. I just can’t see cutting into a hardback book like this. Get the PDF version as well so you can print any of that out.

The encounter and character sheets have a neat design, but work needs to be done to offer greater contrast for easier reading. This would help those who are visually impaired. There are enough copies of the character sheets in this book to account for a full fourth (roughly) of this book. I would have rather seen added content.

I’ve only skimmed the text thus far, but I can tell you that the adventures are a set of dungeon crawls, but with story. I regret that I have not had a chance to play the adventures yet. I will say that other reviews have given this trilogy high marks for being well-written.

Check it out!

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9/11 – 20 Years Later: A Retrospective

I’ve had it in my head of what I wanted to write about today. And as I sit here watching footage of the firefighters, I’m rethinking it. I process things by writing, so please bear with me.

On that day, we were all Americans. Not Democrats or Republicans. We stood together as one. As horrific as the attacks were, I felt a sense of pride of being an American. Hell, we were all New Yorkers too.

America was at war, but it was a very different type of war than we had ever seen. It wasn’t against a nation; it was against terrorists. This wasn’t an attack on a military target; it was an attack against civilians.

We were going after the bastards who hurt us. We were going to rain down on them fire and fury, and send Osama bin-Laden straight to deepest pits of hell.

As we all know, that journey took a different course. Here we are twenty years later, and we’re finally getting out of Afghanistan.

Twenty years later, we don’t need anyone to attack us. We’re doing the job ourselves. America is more divided now than we have been since the Civil War. If not for social media, I have little doubt that we would be taking up muskets.

Then on January 6, 2021, I was ashamed to be an American. America was under attack again, this time by terrorists born and bred here at home. How the mighty had fallen! Divided, we fell. And the ghosts of the past haunted our very temple of democracy as the Confederate battle flag was flown within the Capitol.

As much as I missed my dad, who had seen two attacks on America in his lifetime, I was glad that he did not live to see that. As frail as he was at the end, he would have grabbed his shotgun and rushed to America’s defense.

As a side note, I can’t help but think about how Rudy Guliani, who I once respected as “America’s mayor,” had fallen to become…well, someone not so respectable.

Twenty years. America went to its best to its worst. We have a new enemy now, an unseen enemy, but this time we can’t seem to come together. We’re too busy fighting each other.

Despite all of this, and my own broken heart, I am still proud to be an American. I’m proud of my dad’s service to save this nation when we fought an axis of evil. I am still proud of the FDNY, NYPD, doctors, nurses, and other emergency responders, who served their nation that day, many of whom lost their lives, and many of whom carried physical and emotional scars. I’m proud of our capitol police.

And maybe, just maybe, I’m still proud to be an American.

My Experience With Legend of the Five Rings

I got into the Legend of the Five Rings (L5R) tabletop RPG through the 3e version of Oriental Adventures. I got the Rokugan d20 book and a few other d20 books.

During that time, I read a ton of the fiction on the FFG website. Some good, some so-so.

I got into Heroes of Rokugan, the organized play version. They used the L5R 2e rules (with some 1e thrown in). I’ve had mixed experiences from this. I liked every other game, meaning I didn’t like half of them.

L5R is great if you want a Japanese-inspired RPG, but you have to know what that entails. You do not game to do the right thing (my mistake). Your goal is about honor of clan, empire, and lastly yourself. It’s about saving face.

I remember one time being kind of bored in a game, but then it turned into a murder mystery and I started having fun. At that point, me and another player were told to stop pursing the murderer as it would cause a some sort of political/societal issue. So a guy got away with murder because of saving face.

My shining moment in that game was when we went into the Shadowlands for a mission, and my character sacrificed himself to save the party. It was a 1e rule called life casting. Because of his heroic efforts, a statue of him was erected in the Unicorn lands, even though he was from the Phoenix clan. Gotta love heroic sacrifice.

So if you’re really big into Japanese-themed fantasy, this is the game for you. The clans are cool and so is the magic.

If you just like Oriental Adventures in general, this may not be the game for you. You will not find many classes beyond the samurai and shugenja. The wu jen especially does not have a place there.

If you like heroic fantasy (as I do), then this game definitely is not for you, unless you go against the major themes of the setting and make it your own. My problem is that I never felt comfortable making it my own, probably due to the fiction and my experiences in the game.

Above all, decide for yourself if L5R is right for you.

MP-3PO

By Trampas Whiteman and Patrick Stutzman

The MP-3PO musical protocol unit is a new subset of Cybot Galactica’s total 3PO output that is gaining in popularity.

MP-3PO units are seen in bars, at dances, formal occasions, weddings, and all other events in which music is needed. The MP-3PO is part disc jockey (DJ), part master of ceremonies (MC), and part karaoke machine.

MP-3PO units have millions of songs in their databases, some of which are in multiple languages. They come with speakers of their own (which rest on their shoulders), and can be plugged into any multi-media or electronic entertainment system.

Personality-wise, MP-3PO units are great at various social gatherings and are perhaps the most charismatic of all 3PO units. However, their one major drawback is that every event to them is a social gathering. For example, an MP-3PO droid who found himself in the heat of battle would try to make the skirmish fun and entertaining.

Perhaps one of the most interesting features of the MP-3PO unit is the interchangeable outer casing. As MP-3PO droids could be used for a variety of purposes, they must look their best for every situation they may come into contact with. This, of course, makes them a higher-priced droid and rarely seen by those who are not rich or in the entertainment business.

MP-3PO protocol droids can be played as droid heroes.

Cybot Galactica MP-3PO Musical Protocol Droid CL 0

Medium droid (3rd-degree) nonheroic 1
Init +1; Senses Perception +11
Languages: Basic, Binary


Defenses: Ref 11 (flat-footed 10), Fort 9, Will 11
HP 3; Threshold 9
Immune: droid traits


Speed: 6 squares
Melee: unarmed -1 (1d4-1)
Base Atk: +0; Grp -1


Abilities: Str 9, Dex 13, Con -, Int 12, Wis 13, Cha 18
Feats: Skill Focus (Perception, Persuasion), Skill Training (Knowledge [social
sciences]), Toughness
Skills: Knowledge (social sciences) +6, Perception +11, Persuasion +14
Systems: walking locomotion, basic processor, 2 hand appendages, internal storage
(5 kg), translator unit (DC 5), vocabulator
Possessions: audio recorder
Availability: Licensed; Cost 5,000 credits

Thoughts on Greyhawk in 5th Edition

I would love to see Greyhawk done for 5e, but I’m not sure if Greyhawk fans would even truly want it. Many GH fans don’t want changes/updates to the world, or even the game system updated to 5e. And that’s fine. If that’s your jam, go for it.

It’s also Gary’s world, and I know some folks might be intimidated by making any major changes to it.

Wizards of the Coast is going to be supporting their main D&D product line, which is 5e. As such, you should expect to see some 5e-isms in the setting. New players to the setting will want to be able to use any of the race and class options in the Player’s Handbook. If limiting the race and class options are what you want to do in your game, that’s fine. However, I feel it’s a better business decision to be as inclusive as possible.

With my work in Dragonlance, I try to follow that very notion. For example, I don’t say we can’t have warlocks because we’ve never seen them before. I try to see how they might fit in the setting. Thorn Knights, anyone?

I also feel that WotC is doing the right thing from a business perspective of taking popular elements from GH and having them show up in the Realms. I get how that may be frustrating as those classic dungeons (example) were a huge draw for Greyhawk.

So where can Greyhawk shine?

First, I think WotC is going to revisit more of those classic adventures, if Ghosts of Saltmarsh is any indication. I think it’s the right thing to do to say that X adventure originated in GH, but here are some conversion notes for other settings.

Second, I think that if a GH setting sourcebook is to be made, it should be a sourcebook that shows how to make a sandbox setting, and give some history on the crafting of Greyhawk. Maybe give some ideas on how to expand the setting. They could also do this with Nentir Vale.

Third, I think some notes on how to make a grim-and-gritty setting would be good. What sets that apart thematically from high fantasy?

Anyway, those are my thoughts. What do you think?

Thoughts on the Psionics Wizard

There has been an awakening…

Background

I’ve been a huge fan of psionics since I started playing D&D back in 2nd edition. The very first campaign I played in featured psionics quite a bit, using The Complete Psionics Handbook for the rules. The rules in 3.5’s Expanded Psionics Handbook were also some of my favorites. Bruce Cordell’s work was amazing, as was his work in Malhavoc Press’ psionics books. And I would be remiss if I forgot to mention D&D 4e’s Players Handbook 3.

In other words, I’ve been a fan of psionics for quite a while.

Psion
Psion from Dragon Magazine

Psionics in D&D 5th Edition

I have been following the evolution of psionics in D&D 5e, from the mystic to the recent Unearthed Arcana article showcasing new psionic subclasses for the fighter, rogue, and wizard. I think the most recent take does a lot of things right, such as with the psychic warrior and soulknife subclasses, but the psionics wizard has me torn.

The fan in me thinks that psionics should be an inner power, and thus would fall under the umbrella of the sorcerer. When I think of psionics, I immediately go to Professor X, Jean Grey (Phoenix, thank you), Emma Frost, and Psylocke of the X-Men. I also think of the Jedi from Star Wars. In each case, each of them has an inner power. So the sorcerer makes sense, right?

Here’s the problem. Psionics as a whole really is intelligence-based. This is the magic of the mind. As such, the wizard becomes the primary class. This seems a bit odd at first, but consider that Jean Grey honed her talents at Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. She had to study and practice in order to hone her abilities. Yes, her talent was innate, but could not the same be said of many wizards, most notably Raistlin Majere?

I would still like to see the option of a psionic sorcerer. While we do have the Aberrant Mind sorcerer, I personally would like something that isn’t so Lovecraftian.

The Larger Picture

Psychic from Pathfinder’s Occult Adventures

Psionics has ever been the red-headed step-bastard child of D&D. It’s either been an add-on, or a totally new subsystem that required the purchase of another book. Either way, the system didn’t integrate as well with existing mechanics.

It’s also about avoiding the creation of a new class just to suit a new set of powers. The psion needs an identity all its own. There can be a whole new psionics handbook just for this new power, but past experience has shown that these sort of niche books do not sell as well. Nor do players and dungeon masters use them.

Wizards of the Coast wants something integrated that more gamers would get use out of.

Random Thoughts

Godmind

For those of you who want to make the psionics wizard feel more natural or more in tune with prior editions, there are a few ways that one can enhance their psionics experience.

First, I’d like to think that wizards with the psionics arcane tradition have an awakening. They have studied and unlocked the secrets of the mind.

Second, a psion would not be a psion without Psionic Strength Points (PSPs) or power points. Luckily, 5th edition has you covered. The Dungeon Master’s Guide has rules for spell points on pages 288 – 289.

Third, consider having an organization for your psionic character. Malhavoc Press’ Hyperconscious: Explorations in Psionics has a psionic organization called the Colorless Lodge, which is a guild of psions. The accompanying Colorless Adept prestige class included mechanics for power sharing. Sounds a bit like wizards trading spells, doesn’t it?

Perhaps your character graduated from some sort of school for psionics. GURPS has a Psionics Studies Institute (PSI). This could be a force for good or evil. One could model PSI after Charles Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, or something more nefarious like Babylon 5’s Psi-Corps.

As a side note, in the case of the psychic warrior, perhaps he is part of an ancient order of mystic knights. Jeremy Crawford did say “more Vader”, right?

In Conclusion

The recent take on psionics in Unearthed Arcana seems like a breakaway from previous editions. However, Wizards of the Coast has a history in 5th edition of combining concepts to get an even stronger concept.

This recent take on psionics strengthens the archetype, allowing it to be integrated better with the existing D&D game. Give the psionics wizard a chance. With a little ingenuity, gamers can bring back a bit of that classic psionics feel while also taking the concept in new directions.

BadWrong Giving and Notre Dame

Recently, I have seen a few posts on Facebook shaming people who donated towards rebuilding Notre Dame instead of contributing that money to other causes, such as cleaning up the garbage in the Pacific or rebuilding the black churches that were victims of arson.

While these are great causes to donate to, I find issue with the idea of shaming people who donated differently.

There is a misconception that needs to be clarified as well. Notre Dame is not owned by the Catholic church; it is owned by France.

Could France and the Catholic church foot the bill on their own? Probably. Yet that money would be diverted from elsewhere, possibly taking money from other charitable causes as well as potentially raising the taxes of the French people.

So here we have a case where individuals and organizations are donating of their own free will to save Notre Dame. It’s a piece of living history, dating back at least 800 years, predating the United States by centuries. The artifacts inside historical treasures.

Notre Dame is a treasure not just of France, but of the world. The fact that people are stepping up to keep this treasure alive is commendable.

Why does this have to be a “versus” situation? Like the little girl in the gif says, “Why can’t we have both?” There is no reason why we can’t fix Notre Dame and help other good causes too.

The Notre Dame fire has caused a spike in donations to the black churches in the St. Landry Parish, allowing the GoFundMe to reach its $1.8 million goal. So donating to one cause has helped another.

So rather than focusing on how we donated wrong, let’s instead celebrate that people gave of themselves to help others, whether it’s a worldwide treasure like Notre Dame, local community churches, or some other charitable cause. And if you think your cause needs some money, work on awareness to the causes that are important to you.

Klyden: A great character?

I have an unpopular opinion regarding Klyden, but I think it’s fairly spot on.

I think Klyden is a great character. That’s not to say a LIKABLE character. Fan reaction in this group is proof enough of that.
The reason I say he’s a great character is that he has caused an emotional response among fans, perhaps more so than any other character on the ship. Yes, he’s flawed. He’s incredibly biased and indoctrinated into the ways of his people.

Klyden also brings up the question of the morality of the Moclans. He’s the face of their society

So do I like the guy? No way. But I think the show is richer because of him.

For now.

Operation Iceberg: My Dad’s Ship During the Battle of Okinawa

April 1st, 1945 was the Battle of Okinawa in World War II. It was an Easter Sunday, just like today.

It was the day that my dad, Floyd Whiteman, was injured in World War II, earning him the Purple Heart. A kamikaze plane dropped a 20mm tracer shell on the auxiliary engine room escape hatch cover. Dad was a radio man on the ship, repeating the captain’s orders over the horn for his shipmates to hear.

Of the four men and one dog wounded, Dad took the brunt of it. Five men tried to hold him down while they took the shrapnel out, having run out of anesthesia. To his dying day, Dad still had shrapnel in his leg.

I present to you an excerpt from “The Unofficial Log of George W. Freshwater SoM2c, PCS-145”, one of my dad’s shipmates. This was his account of the attack.

“APRIL 1, 1945 : D Day Okinawa. Easter Sunday. The faithful 1455 is in her usual position at the line of departure. The prelanding bombardment was awesome. Battleships are in our area using their 16″ rifles. Special equipped LCI rocket, ships are laying down a solid curtain of fire. Little resistance is encountered by our landing troops. The Jap commander decided to defend the lower half of the island. This is the part with Naha the capital. The suicide plane is used all out in the operation. Air raids are occurring every night. Bogeys are coming in from nearly every point of the compass. A huge display of anti-air craft fire. Four men on board are wounded when a. 20mm shell lands on deck. They received the Purple Heart. The DD’s on the radar picket line are catching hell from the Jap suicide planes.”

Another account came from “The Wartime Journal of Richard Scovil, PCS-1455”, another of my dad’s shipmates.

“Apr. 1, 1945 – It is Easter Sunday and April Fools Day, but for us it is D-Day on Okinawa! This is the biggest invasion in the Pacific and may even be bigger than the invasion at Normandy. The sky is black from a morning of gunfire on an otherwise beautiful day. The sea is like a mill pond, so glassy we don’t even roll. So far there has only been one Jap plane overhead and he was shot to pieces. I suppose tonight we will be under continuous air raid warning. So far we hear the resistance is light and the troops are moving in rapidly. We can see two radio towers in Naha, down the coast a couple miles. For once we are a control vessel but we aren’t half as busy as we thought we would be.

At seven minutes after seven we had our first air raid. Two Jap planes came over. One was shot down but one crash dived into a transport. We were told that there wasn’t much damage done to the ship. We had our first casualties of any operation I have been on. A twenty millimeter tracer shell hit a hatch cover and exploded. The dog and four of our crewmen were injured. There are no serious wounds but the guys will be hurting and one of the guys will have some foot problems for quite a while. Most of the wounds were in the legs. If we have any more G.Q. tonight, I hope it’s before the eight to twelve watch is over.”

You can read the ship’s log regarding the Battle of Okinawa here.

Here’s to the brave men (and one brave dog) who served aboard the USS PCS-1455.

A long time ago in a college town not so far away…

I was just beginning to play D&D. It was the 90s, and AD&D 2nd edition had only been out a couple of years. My buddy Patrick Stutzman was running his homebrew game, which we called the Alliance (short for Trevor Interstellar Alliance).

The Alliance game was a hodge-podge of sorts, drawing inspiration from many sources (GURPS, Star Wars, Star Trek, Babylon 5, and beyond). Our characters served first aboard a starship, then aboard a space station orbiting my character’s home planet, Hyrkul.

Basically, the Alliance was the equivalent to Starfleet in Star Trek, with some differences. Hyrkul was a world of magic, and so the Alliance studied it from a scientific perspective. We fought dragons with lasers. Totally fun.

Here we are, over 25 years later, and we have Starfinder. I would like to think that, had Starfinder existed back then, it would be our game of choice. I’ve been looking for a good science fantasy D&D-based system for a long time. I think I may have found it.

And who knows, maybe someday we’ll have a reunion.