Monday, May 20, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Orthrus, Dioskilos and the Death Dogs

Rain interrupted our gardening for Saturday.  So I decided to come back inside and relax to the original 1981 Clash of the Titans.  This was such a touchstone movie for a young mythology fan getting heavily into D&D.  Plus it fits in nicely with my whole Back to Basics theme this year and my current One Man's God theme.

Orthrus
According to Apollodorus, Orthrus was a two-headed dog that guarded Geryon's cattle.  He, like Cerberus, was the offspring of Echidna and Typhon.   He was the first of the semi-divine "death dogs" and was killed by Heracles.  This creature appeared as a mastiff with two heads.

Dioskilos
Was a two-headed dog that appeared more like a wolf.  While smaller, he is also believed to be the offspring of  Echidna and Typhon.  This creature, according to mythographer Harryhausen, guarded the temple of Medusa.

Death Dogs
Death Dogs are any of numerous offspring of Orthus, Dioskilos, Cerberus and various other creatures, typically Hell Hounds. Others, usually more powerful ones are the offspring of Typhon and Echidna.
Due to their semi-divine and underworld natures, they are affected by any spell that also damages demons, devils or other evil outsiders.

Death Dog
No. Enc.: 1d6 (1d8)
Alignment: Chaotic (Chaotic Evil, Neutral Evil)
Movement: 150’ (50’)
Armor Class: 4 [15]
Hit Dice: 2d8+4 (13 hp)
Attacks: 2 and special
Damage: 1d8 / 1d8 (bite) and Rotting Death (see below).
Save: Fighter 2
Morale: 11
Hoard Class: Nil
XP:  100
Death dogs are two-headed, mastiff-like hounds; nocturnal killing machines that hunt their prey without hesitation across the desert sands and wastelands. Death dog packs have been known to share territory with little friction, although they do engage in dominance battles in leaner times when hunting is difficult. Victims of the death dog’s bite must pass a saving throw or come down with the rotting death, losing 1d6 points of constitution each day until they succeed at a poison saving throw at a -5 penalty.
Victims who lose all their points of constitution die. Constitution points can be restored with powerful healing magic or complete bed rest, with one point of constitution returning with each week of rest.


Section 15: Death Dog from the Tome of Horrors Complete, Copyright 2011, Necromancer Games, Inc., published and distributed by Frog God Games;
Author Scott Greene, based on original material by Underworld Oracle.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Batwoman: New Trailer and Vigilante City

Super busy at work today, but something cool came up on my feed. The new First Look trailer is out for the CW's Batwoman.


I have been a solid fan of the character since the 52 mini-series and her own series.  I still consider Batwoman: Elegy one of the best comics ever written.

Given the grittier street feel of the CW Arrowverse, Vigilante City is a great choice to stat her up.
Since the series has not appeared yet, let's try her out at Level 1.

Batwoman
True ID: Katherine "Kate" Kane

Class: Dark Avenger
Level: 1
Alignment: Law

STR: 17
INT: 16
WIS: 15
DEX:18
CON: 17
CHA: 16
SUR: 19

Courage: 16
Critical: 14
Death: 10
Magic: 10
Mental: 14
Poison: 12

HP: 9
AC: 5 (Batsuit)
Initiative Bonus: +3
Attack Bonuses.  Melee: +2  Ranged: +3

Move: 12
Vigilante Points: 1
Kits: Batsuit and gear, utility belt

Skills
Combat, Fighting (Martial Arts), Interrogation (+2 bonus), Intimidation (+1 bonus), Steet Smarts, Computer Skills 1, Parkour 1

Height: 5'7"
Weight: 135 lbs
Age: 26
Hair: Black / Red
Eyes: Light Green
Sex: F

Will alter some details this Fall!

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Review & PWWO: Maximum Mayhem Adventures

Mark Taormino of Maximum Mayhem Dungeons is in the final week of his latest creation, Maximum Mayhem Dungeons #6: Moving Maze of the Mad Master.

I thought today might be a great time to discuss his previous adventures.


#1 Hanging Coffins of the Vampire Queen
This adventure, written by Mark Taormino might be an homage to the first Palace of the Vampire Queen adventure, but it is more likely an homage to those meat-grinder, total-party kill, fun-house dungeons of the late 70s early 80s. There is a basic plot here, enough to get you in the door and moving along, but really this adventure is about killing things and avoiding getting killed. Example, in one of the first encounters you have to run a gauntlet and get past a bunch of fire giants and their hell hound pets. This is "room 1". It is downhill from there. It has demons and other vampires in the wander monster table. Liches, demons, succubi, greater devils, nearly 50 vampires in total, tons of other monsters and of course the Queen herself, Lady Neeblack.

This is not an adventure to challenge the resolve of hardy role-players. This is an adventure to survive and leave a trail of bodies behind you. It is old-school, but old-school through the eyes of 40-somethings looking back on their times as teens.
The adventure itself has a great lead-in to get you interested, but that is just the carrot on a stick, most people buying and playing this module are going to want to jump right in. Another example (this is not a spoiler), you are captured by Lady Neeblack and told you have to run through her crypts for her amusement. The conceit is the characters will feel coerced into doing this, so they slide down a passage to the previously mentioned Fire Giants. In truth, my players wanted to jump in like they were doing a dive at the pool.

Though to claim people will play this for nostalgia reasons is completely unfair. Mark did a great job of this. The rooms are detailed and what detail! There are interesting encounters and Lady Neeblack herself should really move up the ranks as one of the more memorable NPCs ever. In fact I am hoping that she comes back for a sequel sometime soon. Just like a good Hammer villain she should find ways to come back from the dead. Mark Taormino, this needs to happen.
The text of the book is big, easy to read and despite the "old school" claims still has boxed text to read (screw you Grognards! I still like boxed text even when I don't use it.) Each room is unique and feels like it belongs. Plus the "Hanging Coffins" themselves are the coolest idea in vampire graves since the Lost Boys.
The proof of any adventure is not in the reading but in the playing. So I played it. It rocked.

Now the game is designed for OSRIC but can played with 1st or 2nd Ed AD&D. I played it with 5th Edition D&D. I just replaced the monsters and made a character sheet for Lady Neeblack. I ran the same group of people that I had taken through the original Palace of the Vampire Queen and we all treated it as an unofficial sequel. I worked out well enough. We all had fun, but if this module reads as a deathtrap on paper it's a killer in the playing. So make of that what you like.
Personally I would love to run it again using AD&D1

#2 Secret Machines of the Star Spawn
Let's play a game of what if. What if the Expedition to the Barrier Peaks had been written in the 80s instead of the 70s? What if there were influences of Star Wars, Buck Rogers, 50s sci-fi movies and just a little dash of 70s Blaxploitation?
You might get something like The Secret Machines of the Star Spawn, but it would not be as good as the module Mark Taormino wrote. The module follows a similar flow of the other Maximum Mayhem Dungeons; something weird is happening, there are rumors, a long history of strangeness and a thin excuse to go adventuring. What they PCs will uncover is...well I don't want to spoil it. It's no shock that this adventure will feature a downed starship and some lasers. But it doesn't end there. In truth there is a lot to really, really like about this adventure. In a different setting, the monsters would be scary ass deadly and really, really awesome. Also there is so many references to pop culture, espeically sci-fi and 80s pop culture, that it would be pointless to address them all. The rock band KILL was one of my favorites. Designed for OSRIC, I played bits and pieces of this using D&D5. Though it would work just as well with AD&D1, Castles & Crusades or any other OGL based clone game. The one issue I have with it (and very minor) is that players that didn't grow up in the 70s and 80s would not get all the jokes. I ran Hanging Coffins for my kids and they loved it, but some of the jokes fell flat on them here. No surprise they have no context for them. I thought they were hilarious to be honest. Loved the Pinball Wizard! If I were to run this again I would either merge it with a little bit of Expedition to the Barrier Peaks and run a huge Star Spawn mega-adventure. Or I'd run it as is with some disposable characters and guys that grew up in the 80s too.

#3 Villains of the Undercity
What if the Keep on the Borderlands was destroyed and then humans came in and built a new keep on top of the ruins. Let's also say the caves of Chaos have been cleared, but not all the monsters were killed. Where did they go? What did they do? Now invite the Slave Lords from the A series over. You would get Villains of the Undercity! This adventure is an ode and homage to the great dungeon crawls of the day. While this adventure fits the gonzo style of the other Maximum Mayhem Dungeons this one can also be played straight. Well...sorta. There is a crazy Halfling Illusionist Assassin, but that is for the players to figure out.
With this adventure, anyone that has ever been inside a classic dungeon will find something to love. There are lots of deadly traps, monsters and puzzles to figure out. Of course plenty of treasure too. This adventure is also the one that I can see fitting into a larger campaign, even with adventures from other publishers. I was mentally placing it in Greyhawk or even Dolmvay. Just really a lot of fun.
Like the B and A series it takes so much nostalgia from, this is an introductory module.  But just because it says character levels 1-3 it is still expecting some experienced players or very experienced players with somewhat fuzzy memories!  Like the MM modules, this one is action and combat. Yes, there are some puzzles to solve and everything is deadly.

#4 Vault of the Dwarven King
Another what if scenario for you.  What if the dwarves of Moria were completely crazy for Indiana Jones?  Well, you might get something like Vault of the Dwarven King.  There is the aforementioned vault, part of a vast underground dwarven city.  There is a giant monster that's on fire.  There are also mine-cars, goblin moonshiners, blue trolls and dwarf tossing.
There is a thin coating of silliness over a really fun and REALLY deadly adventure here. All to reclaim the lost dwarven artifact, the Fireheart.  But does it belong to the dwarves or the goblins?  Will you even live long enough to find out?
Like the adventures that came before it, it is an unapologetic romp down memory lane.  This adventure though, maybe more so than any of the others might be more accessible to anyone that didn't grow up in the 80s.  The biggest nostalgia pull is, of course, the Lord of the Rings movies, in particular, Fellowship of the Ring, but that is only one (though very loud) note.  There is enough going on here to keep every player on their toes and their characters running.   This one is also the most classically "fantasy" than the others which also draw on sci-fi, horror and crazy humor.

#5 Palace of the Dragon's Princess
Palace of the Dragon's Princess might be my second favorite adventure in this whole series right after Hanging Coffins.  The premise is very similar to the classic Palace of the Silver Princess.   In this case, the Princess is trapped by a green dragon and you must go rescue her.  Sound easy?  You obviously have not paid any attention to the other four adventures in this series.
This one has a lot of background information, more so than the others.  We know a lot more about Princess Francessca than we do about Lady Neeblack the Vampire Queen (Could Lady Neeblack be Princess Francessa's dead mother??!!?).  There is a knight, a dragon and Torgo. Yup, a nice riff on MST3k with Torgo and the Master.  But is the princess REALLY in danger?  That will be up to the Gamemaster to decide.  There is a lot going on here and because of the backstory a lot more that a crafty DM can add.  I am a touch disappointed there were no three-headed creatures like the Ubues, but that is fine. They were silly enough then.
Like the Vault of the Dwarven King this one is more classically fantasy and it is also one best ones in the series to "run straight".  Meaning you could strip out some of the silliness and have a pretty deadly, serious adventure if you wanted.
In any case, this is one is a lot of fun and a worthy addition to the line of Maximum Mayhem Dungeons.

So check out Maximum Mayhem Dungeons #6: Moving Maze of the Mad Master.  It looks like "Willy Wonka in Hell" so you know it will be fun.

Plays Well With Others
The Maximum Mayhem Adventures are designed with 1st Edition/OSRIC in mind.  But If you organize them in level like this.


I can't help but notice a solid campaign of levels 1 to 14.
Just like B/X D&D.


With some tweaks, mostly to the monsters and alignment, you could have a solid set of adventures for the B/X line of D&D.  Sure they are a bit tough and have some out-there elements, but nothing that B/X couldn't deal with with the right DM.

I have not tried this yet.  I have played these adventures using D&D 5th edition, but I can't see why it would not work.


Plus the boxes look nice together.
Isn't this how we all played back then anyway?  Mixing our AD&D and BD&D all the time.  I think I first went through the A-Series using the Expert set anyway.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Must Be the Season of the Witch: Movies and TV

Now, this is working WITH me!

A new movie and new TV series created just for my entertainment. Though I am sure you all can watch too.

First up, Angelina Jolie is back as Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.





And over on Disney's FreeForm, who is currently KILLING IT with Marvel's Cloak & Dagger, we are getting a Witches-as-Warriors in a modern-day supernatural show, Motherland: Fort Salem.


I mean seriously, has someone been peeking at my birthday wish list?
Can't wait for these!

Monday, May 13, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Avenging Angels, The Dirae for Basic-era Games

A little thing I have been working on.  More of this later.  Greek and Roman mythology purists, I take a lot of liberties with the myths.  A lot.
--
Avenging Angels, The Dirae

"Every angel is terrifying." 
- Rainer Maria Rilke

“They say that by the time you hear their war screams you are already dead.” 
- Brix, Imp assigned to Malbolge


When the Erinyes abandoned their duties and sided with the Devils in the War at the Gates of Dawn they left a vacuum of power that the gods, in their weakened state could not fill.

Originally known as the Eumenides, or the Kindly Ones, their divine task was to rightfully punish wrongdoers and the breakers of oaths.  They pursued this task with a fervor that only divine justice can inspire.  It was this devotion that made them an easy target for Asmodeus’ designs.

They fell, along with other angels and servitors of good, until they landed in Hell.  Here they took on new forms and became the Erinyes or the Furious Ones.

Their power, their divine cause, and their roles were left untouched for time untold.

Until one night.

A small coven of proto-Druidic nature worshipers danced around a full moon.  The parishioners, all women from the local village, danced and lept with pure joy. Unknown to them a group of raiders from a few villages over had heard of the moonlight dance and figured the women would be easy targets. They were. They were defenseless and without weapons or armor.  These raiders believed they had stockpiles of gold and silver, but nothing like that existed.  In outrage, the raiders slaughtered them all.

The murders caught the attention of the coven’s Goddess, Rhamnusia. Aggrieved and enraged she appealed to the other gods. “Please!” she cried out, “please let them know the vengeance they deserve.”   But this was the time after the War at the Gates of Dawn and the gods were weak and weary. Not only did they fear to give up any remaining power they had, but secretly they could not do so; such was their weakened state.  Only the God that had prompted the raiders on did not fear.

Rhamnusia screamed in rage. Cursing the impotent Gods She flew off till she found Death.

Death granted Her the power She asked for, but at a cost.  No more of Her followers would ever be able to come back from the Realms of Death as part of a cycle of Life-Death-and-Rebirth.  The Goddess Rhamnusia, hearing only the souls of her followers crying for vengeance, agreed.

With this power, She raised her followers. She equipped them with arms and armor and sent them on a mission of vengeance. Their forms were same; the Goddess wanted to these raiders to know that it was the once peaceful coven now come for their deaths.  With sword and wing; armor and scream, the new angels flew to their targets.  Like the Eumenides of old, their unerring flight sought out the guilty and they destroyed them.

They then continued to attack and destroy anyone that had harmed another innocent. Saving their greatest fury for those that killed women or children.

Enraged at loss of so many of His followers the God of the raiders demanded justice of His own.  No sooner than He had uttered the words than the screams of the Angels were heard.  They attacked this God, the forced Him back to his own plane and here they slaughtered Him.

More than that, they Unmade Him.

He would never come back, no matter the form, no matter what other gods or His worshipers did.

The Angels had tapped into the righteous fury left behind by the Erinyes. The power that was of thousands of Angels of Vengeance and Retribution now flowed through the bodies of less than a score beings. Gone was the peaceful coven. In their place stood the avatars of Vengeance and Death, and even the gods themselves were not immune from their justice.

Their Goddess too was changed. Rhamnusia took on an aspect similar to Her angels.
Gone were the accouterments of a pastoral Goddess.  Sheaves of grain were replaced by a scourge. The sickle of the harvest became a sword of silver fire. Her rustic tunic became armor of the same silver.  Rhammusia was gone.

In Her place stood Invidia, the Goddess of Vengeance. Her brothers were Fear and Terror and mortalkind called her Nemesis, "She whom none can escape."

Her Angles became known as the Dirae, the “Terrible Ones” or the “Vengengful Ones.

Dirae (Angel)
No. Enc.: 1d4 (2d8)
Alignment: Lawful (Lawful Good, Lawful Neutral)
Movement: 60’ (20’)
   Fly: 240’ (80’)
Armor Class: 2
Hit Dice: 8d8 + 16 (52 hp)
Attacks: 2 or 1 or special
Damage: 1d8 / 1d8 (sword) or 1d10 (scourge, see below) or scream (see below).
Save: Fighter 8
Morale: 12
Hoard Class: Nil
XP:  3,840
The dirae appear as angels with dark wings touched with silver.  They are often armed and armored. All dirae are female, but it can often be difficult to tell when their helms are donned. They do appear attractive, but there is a quality of sadness, anger or purpose about their appearance that makes most mortals uncomfortable.  The guilty fear them and the devoted see them as manifestations of justice.

The dirae are tasked with punishing the guilty. Petty crimes are beneath their attention as mortal laws are designed to deal with those.  The dirae focus their vengeance on the worst crimes committed; those against the innocent.  Not all crimes can be punished by the dirae; there are too few of them, but when they set out to punish a mortal nothing can stop them.

Dirae attack with a sword two times per round or a scourge.  The scourge does damage and acts as a Rope of Entanglement.  Both weapons are considered magical and holy when dealing with other creatures.  They slay evil creatures without hesitation or remorse.  If they are sent to slay a human then they will do so as quickly as possible. If someone is in their way or prevents them from their task they will slay that creature as well.   Three times per day the dirae can Scream.  This attack causes fear (as per the spell). Creatures 5 HD and lower are affected with no save.  Creatures 6 HD and higher are allowed a save vs. spells. Affected creatures cannot attack.

Dirae have the following spell-like abilities, usable at will: detect invisibility, fear (was the wand of fear), invisibility, know alignment, locate object, polymorph self, produce flame, holy word, and gate (50% probability of success) a dirae or (75% probability of success) another angel of a lesser sort.

A group of dirae is known as a “flight”.

Dirae and Erinyes
As agents of good and evil respectively, the Dirae and Erinyes often are at cross purposes, but in their roles of vengeance, they will sometimes see their purposes aligned.  Due to ancient pacts that go beyond gods and devils the Dirae and the Erinyes are forbidden to act against each other directly.  They can’t harm or interfere with each others’ hunts.
If a mortal is claimed by both groups, then by the same ancient pacts they are given over to the Erinyes, the Dirae cannot interfere.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Kickstart Your Weekend: Heretical Fates Tarot Deck

A different KYW for the Other Side today.  Hope you enjoy it!

HERETICAL FATES ART BOOK and TAROT DECK with Danika XIX


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1193179890/heretical-fates-art-book-and-tarot-deck-with-danik?ref=theotherside

A NSFW Tarot deck and art book with 78 photographs by Allan Amato, descriptions by Danika XIX and art by JAW Cooper + Lauren Panepinto.



I am not "into" Tarot, but I do love the iconography of it all.   And this would be a cool tarot deck to have to use with some games like WITCH: Fated Souls or Mage

I also think I like the idea of Vivid Vivka as the Devil in this.


Looks really fantastic.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Mail Call: Bloat Games

Quick one today.  Yesterday I got a nice package in the mail.






Vigilante City is here! 
These books are much larger than I expected and I rather like them.
The print versions look fantastic and I can't wait to play around with them some more.

As soon as I can I'll need to devote a week or so to this game. Reviews, characters, and some ideas.
Printing a bunch of sheets now.


Wednesday, May 8, 2019

OMG: Greek (and maybe Roman) Mythos, Part 1

Ah. Now this feels like a homecoming of sorts.  All year I have been talking about how this is my 40th year of playing D&D.  In a very real sense, my early D&D experiences were originated and shaped by the Classic Greek myths.  By 1979 I was 9 years old and had already read all the books in my local library on myths and legends.  Since it was a small town it was the late 70s there were not a lot of choices; I had "American Tall Tales" and Greek and some Norse myths. But mostly Greek.  One of my favorites was D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths.  I read it many times as a child and even revisited it back in college and even as an adult. It was one time while reading this that a friend of mine let me borrow his AD&D Monster Manual to read.  I was hooked.
The rest is history or mythology!

I am not going to recount my tale of getting into D&D from that point. I have done it before and will be doing it again this year.  Today I want to talk about the Greek Myths and how they are portrayed in AD&D 1st ed and in particular focusing on what got me involved in the first place, the monsters.

Quick reminder. The stated goal of my One Man's God (OMG) posts are to try and relate the monsters of various myths as presented in the 1st Edition Deities & Demigods (and sometimes Gods, Demigods & Heroes) to the demons as presented in the AD&D Monster Manual.

I am also in the debt of my former Classics Professor, Joan V. O'Brien who would have been 92 this year.  Ten years after discovering the Greek Myths she lit a new fire under me and got me to read even more myths of our world.

This one will have multiple parts I can tell already.

Greek Myths and AD&D Monsters
While AD&D owes a sizable debt to "Lord of the Rings" and the tales of Howard, Lovecraft, and Smith, there is also a great portion of the "D&D Mythos" that comes from the tales of Greek Mythology.  Even before I crack open my D&DG there are monsters from the Greek Myths filling my Monster Manual.  There are the basilisk, catoblepas, centaur, chimera, cockatrice, dragons, dryad, elementals, erinyes, Geryon (monster or devil), giants, giant animals, Golems (at least the iron kind), gorgons, hags, harpy, hell hounds, hippocampus, hippogriff, invisible stalker, lamia, larva, lemure, lycanthropes, manticore, medusa, mermen, minotaur, nightmare, nixie, nymph, pegasus, salamander, satyr, giant scorpion, shadow, skeleton, sphinx, sylph, titan, and triton.

There are also a number of monsters in the Deities and Demigods book that could have been easily moved over to the Monster Manual. Not as demons, but as monsters.  In particular, the Lesser Cyclops comes to mind. Another giant (the Greeks loved giants), the Hecatoncheire or the Hundred-Handed one would be another good choice.  Titans are listed in the MM and you could build one of the "named" Titans in the DDG with the stats, though many are much, much larger.  This seems like a good time to bring up Titans.

Looks Greek to me!

Titans, Primordials and D&D Mythbuilding
Current versions of D&D go with a time before the gods when the Primordial ruled.  In D&D 4e the Primordials were explicitly tied to the various elemental titans still running around.

4e Giants and Titans
This should sound very familiar.  In fact, if we go back to the D&D 3.0 days Sword and Sorcery Studios released their "Scarred Lands" books for the d20 license. In the preface of their Relics and Rituals book, Gary Gygax had this to say:
Allow me to add just a few more words here. The Scarred Lands, of which I know insufficient details at this time, seems a most intriguing setting. Perhaps you will find it likewise. If so, consider how very adaptable its premise is, the war between gods and titans, and the resulting "world" thereafter. Does it not lend itself to adaptation into many different settings? From the mythological Greco-Roman and Norse (substitute "giant" for "titan" and there you are) to any authored world environment in which two or even several groups of deities contended and one triumphed.
Is this coded into our collective sub-consciousness because of the Greeks? Or is it a classic tale? Maybe it's both. Likely it is one because of the other.  Who knows.  The tales of the Greek Myths are so deeply woven into our collective history and storytelling it would be impossible to tease out the individual effects.

James Ward has this to say at the beginning of the Greek Mythos section of the D&DG.
The Greek assembly of gods is probably more familiar to most readers than others of the groups in this work, because they were woven into a literature that has lasted down through the ages. Many of our civil concepts can be traced from the assumed actions of the gods and their mates.
A lot of our concepts of...well most things come from the Greeks.

It then is no surprise that Titans/Primordial vs. Gods is universal and it also appears in our games.
Interestingly enough, almost every evil titan mentioned in the book is Chaotic Evil, although I am not sure they meet the "requirements" to actually be demons.
Let's look at some examples.

Geryon
Geryon is our first one to really stand out.  There is the devil Geryon and the Greek Giant Geryon have a link, but it would be really difficult to claim they are the same.  The Giant Geryon was the 10th Labor of Heracles.  He was described as a triple-bodied monster with human faces.  The Devil Geryon comes from Dante Alighieri's Inferno.   While my norm has been to try to fit things together, I think in this case there are far too many differences between these two creatures to try to reconcile.

The Primordials
The "gods" that came before the Titans are known as the Primordials.  Well. That works well. They represent larger concepts or even elemental properties in the universe.
There are no Primordials in the D&DG, but there are titans.  The Titans are Atlas, Coeus, Crius, Epimetheus, Kronos (Cronos), Oceanus, and Prometheus.

Among the Primordials, two are of interest here; Chaos and Tartarus.  Both of these creatures represent a "person" and a "thing".  Interestingly enough they also have a relationship to the word "Abyss".

In AD&D Tarterus is sandwiched nicely between the Abyss (Chaos) and Hades (the Underworld).


WHICH gets me to a point.  Hades should not really be Neutral Evil. Sure there is that whole "Rape of Persephone" thing but often Hades, the God, was shown as somber, ill-tempered and somewhat hateful of his role in the underworld, but not exactly evil.
Hades the underworld was the destination of ALL souls, not just the evil ones.  The REALLY evil ones and the Titans went to Tarterus/Tartarus.

The changing of the plane name "Hades" to the "Grey Wastes" was one of the few I approved of in the "Demonic Diaspora" of the 2nd Ed era.


That still gives us Tarterus/Tartarus for the monsters the gods have cast down.  Sounds like demons to me.

We know that Cronos imprisoned the cyclopes there along with other monsters.  When Zeus and the Olympians came to power Cronos and the Titans were thrown into Tartarus.  Though later Cronos won Zeus' favor and became the ruler of Elysium.

Looking through the D&DG there are not many creatures that qualify as an AD&D Demon. Lots of monsters yes, demons...not so much. There are few that might qualify.

There is Cerberus, the three-headed dog of the underworld. But he has always been portrayed as unique.  The Death Dogs of the Fiend Folio are considered to be his offspring.

Enceladus is described as a giant in the D&DG.  A giant with snake bodies and tails for legs and so horrifying that any who view him must save vs. spells or run in fear.  He can also grab spells out of the air.  So myths describe Enceladus as a giant and others as a giantess.   If we change Enceladus into a demon I would be tempted to make them a demon living in Tarterus.  The stats as listed are fine.

The Furies also were known as the Erinyes and are a special case.
They are included in the Monster Manual as the devil Erinyes which are based on the classical Furies. In a way they do exactly what I am doing here.  They are the case study to show that this can work.

Next time let's talk about Typhon, Echidna, the Hyperboreans, and "the dreaded name of Demogorgon".

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Review: B/X Essentials

To celebrate 40 years of playing D&D I am doing a year-long celebration I am calling Back to Basic.  While I got my start on Holmes Basic, it is the Moldvay Basic and Cook/Marsh Expert that really lit my fires.

It should be no surprise then that I am a big fan of Gavin Norman's B/X Essentials (soon to become Old School Essentials) line. 


Gavin has been producing some great content for a while now via his Necrotic Gnome label. His Theorems & Thaumaturgy and Complete Vivimancer are among my favorite Old-School books.

His Kickstarter for Old School Essentials is funded and going into its last days now.  While this is going on you can still get copies of B/X Essentials.

For these reviews, I am using both the PDF and Print versions of these books.

B/X Essentials is a redesign of the classic "Basic/Expert" rules using OGC sources.  The books are all digest-sized, 6" x 9" format.  All of the books feature fantastic full-color covers from artist Andrew Walter and color accented interiors; limited to mostly pale green.
A moment about these covers.  They remind me of a surreal 70s version of Lord of the Rings meets Elric; easily some of my most favorite covers of in all of the Old-School movement.
All the books are extremely modular. This was a design goal by Norman and it pays off.  Everything is easy to find.  Sections usually take up a page or multiple full pages. If you were so inclined you could cut up your books (!) or print out the PDFs and reorganize them as you see fit. Really at this point, the only thing that could make these books easier to use is having all the content in a spiral-bound volume so it can lay flat at your table.

B/X Essentials: Core Rules
The Core Rules weighs in at 34 pages and gets to the very heart of the B/X Essentials line.  The essential Essentials as it were. It covers Ability scores in general, sequences of play and all the basic rules needed.  Combat is covered separately. Magic also gets a bit of coverage here in general terms and including how spells can be researched and magic items made. 
The rules have been "cleaned up" from their obvious predecessors.   Focus is on readability and playability here.  In fact all the entries under the basic rules are alphabetical, so finding something say like Movement, is easy.  In the original rules it took a bit of digging to actually figure out how much a character moves.  This was vastly improved in later editions of the game, but here it is very succinctly spelled out. Other rules are equally made clear.
Since the "Basic" and "Expert" rules are combined here there is an economy of word usage here.  As much as I love my Basic and Expert games, sometimes you need to consult both books when a situation comes up.

B/X Essentials: Classes and Equipment
The Classes and Equipment book comes in at 44 pages.  It begins naturally enough with character creation.  Some details, such as Ability scores, are detailed here, but also give a call back to the Core Rules book.  Still, though everything is here to make a character.  For practice, I made a 7th level Cleric just using this book. It went extremely fast and very little need to flip pages back and forth.  I just needed to use the Spells book to pick out spells.
The modular design of the B/XE system extends to this book as well. Each class begins on an even-numbered page and extends to the next odd-numbered page.  You can then hold the book flat, put it up two-pages at a time on your screen,  and read everything you need in a glance.   I really appreciate this level of attention paid.  Many books do not do this and in fact, look like they were just run off on Word's PDF converter.  There is more attention put into the layout here than in most products and to me, that is what sets this above the others.
The classes represented here are the 7 classics; Cleric, Fighter, Magic-User, Thief and the three demi-humans, Dwarf, Elf, and Halfling.  True to B/X these are "race as class" classes.
Equipment, money and of course weapons are covered in the next half of the book.

B/X Essentials: Cleric and Magic-User Spells
Cleric and Magic-User Spells would have been my favorite book if B/XE had come out in the 80s.  Right now it also has my favorite cover from the entire series. Seriously, I love it.
The book itself has 34 pages and covers all the Cleric and Magic-User/Elf spells in the game.
All the usual suspects are here.  Again when making my recent Cleric I used this book. 
The modularity again is a huge boon for this book and game.  Adding a new class, like the proposed Druid and Illusionists? Add a new book easy! 

B/X Essentials: Adventures and Treasures
At 48 pages this is one of the two larger books in the series. This book deals with adventuring and what sort of things you can find on those adventures. So there are traps, monster tables, and all the treasure types and magical treasure.
Again we see where combining the Basic and Expert rules gives you a much better idea of what is going on in these "dungeons".
This is also my second favorite cover of the line. 

B/X Essentials: Monsters
Ah, now this is a book I would have loved back in 81.  Also coming in at 48 pages this book is about monsters and nothing else.
Stat blocks are concise and there is none of the bloat in the descriptions that appear in later editions (ok to be fair that bloat was demanded by players).   The book is fantastic with my only reservation in I wish it had been illustrated more.  But even that is fine.
I can easily see a "Monsters 2" and "Monsters 3" sometime in the future for this line.

In truth, I can't say enough good about this.   Is it 100% brand new material?  No, but that was also never the design goal.  The books do exactly what they say they are going to do.  If I were starting with a new group using B/X-flavor D&D I would be hard-pressed to come up with a reason NOT to use these books.

B/X Essentials: Demihumans of Dolmenwood
This free product is only 8 pages long and is only in PDF. It is the only genre and world-specific book in the line covering the Dolmenwood, the shared setting used by Necrotic Gnome.   This book includes two new races, the Fairy Elf and the Woodgrue, both fairy races of the Dolmenwood.  There is also a listing of some Fae lords and ladies.



A Bit about OSE
Old School Essentials expands on these rules and reorganizes them some more.  There is a Basic Rules that takes place of the Core book and then a Genre book that covers classes and other "D&D" like topics.  I imagine that different genre books will have other rules and classes.

Old-School Essentials: Basic Rules
This free 56-page book covers all the basics of the OSE line.  Picking it up you can see the stylistic changes from B/XE to OSE.  Also this book covers just about everything you need to play right now.  It includes the four human classes, some rules, some spells, some monsters, and treasure.  Enough to give you a taste of what OSE will be like.
It has the same modular design as B/XE so finding things is simple, leaving more time for play.
There is no interior art in this free version, but that hardly detracts from it.

I am really looking forward to seeing OSE out.  But until then I am going to enjoy playing with B/XE!

Monday, May 6, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Review Monsters of Mayhem #1

This has been sitting on my desk forever begging me to review.  Today seems like a good day for it.

Review: Monsters of Mayhem #1
Monsters of Mayhem #1 is the latest monster tome from the Mad Wizard himself, Mark Taormino.  Mark has made a good name for himself in the Old School D&D scene producing some top rated gonzo adventures.  So it should only seem natural that he would turn his attention to making an equally gonzo and fun monster book.  Which is exactly what he did.
Monsters of Mayhem is 36 pages of monsters for old school games using OSRIC, coughAD&Dcough.
I am reviewing both the physical book and the PDF.
The book is black & white with color covers and "blue map" inside covers.  There are 48 monsters here, most illustrated.
The monsters themselves are all fun and all of them are very deadly, or at least they could be in the hands of a sadist DM.
Many have appeared in his adventures, but there are some new faces here as well.  Also many will invoke a feeling of nostalgia for anyone that played AD&D back int he 80s.  Some are fun, like "The Little Green Bastards" (aliens), some are nostalgic like the "Astral Drifter" and "Star Spawn", and others are just plain disgusting (in a great way) like the "Block of Hungry Flesh".  Others still are very deadly like the infamous "Vampire Lich".
Our cover girl is a Demonia Gigantica which was one of the very first monsters I used from this book.



The style reminds you of the old school, early 80s, style of books.  Save for how over the top everything is it could pass for an 80s book. Well, that and the production values are top-notch.

I high recommend this book.

There is a lot packed into 36 pages here.
For $10.00 you get a lot and will really spice up your game a little.

If you want to pick up a dead-tree version then check out Mark's newest Kickstarter, Maximum Mayhem Dungeons #6: Moving Maze of the Mad Master.


Friday, May 3, 2019

Kickstart Your Weekend: Afterlife: Wandering Souls

Elizabeth Chaipraditkul makes some great games. When I heard she was working on a new one and the Kickstarter was coming up I knew I had to find out more.  Let me say I am not disappointed.

Afterlife: Wandering Souls


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1568822309/afterlife-wandering-souls?ref=theotherside

I love the premise. You are dead, but something went wrong, now you wander the endless wastes of Tenebris. You have no memories of your previous life so now you recover them and explore this strange new world you find yourself in.

From the Kickstarter page,

Afterlife: Wandering Souls is a macabre fantasy game set in surreal plane known as the Tenebris. You take on the role of a Wanderer—someone who died, but didn’t end up in Heaven, Hell, or any other traditional afterlife. Devoid of any memories of your life on earth, you find yourself in an endless desert filled with gateways. Search different planes of existence for clues of your former life - or a semblance of one. Along the way you'll encounter strange inhabitants, alien cultures, and other humans who’ve lost all hope and are bent on destroying you.

Afterlife is Alice in Wonderland meets What Dreams May Come set in a world inspired by the works of Guillermo del Torro, Hayao Miyazaki, and surrealist artists.

Find lost memories, come to terms with how you died, and discover who you truly are.
Sounds interesting as hell, pardon the pun.

It is by Elizabeth Chaipraditkul, who gave us WITCH: Fated Souls, so you know it will be good and look great.  A quick peek at the KS page tells me this will be one gorgeous game with a LOT of playability.

There is a Quickstart guide out now for your testing.  It is free and gives a solid feel for the game, Afterlife: Wandering Souls Quickstart.  I will try to get a review of it up next week if I can.
I can't wait to try this out. 

I have often wanted to run a Multi-life game where if characters die in one game they travel through the afterlife to the next game.  Say die in D&D but resurrect in WitchCraft or Buffy.
This game looks like it would be the PERFECT centerpiece to this campaign idea.

I can't wait to see more of this!

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Featured Artist: Ben Honeycutt

Ben Honeycutt is an illustrator I found on Facebook.  I love his style and his characters always look like a lot of fun.

Here is Ben in his own words:
Ben Honeycutt is a freelance comic artist and character illustrator from the US. His primary project is working on Dead Gentlemen's Demon Hunters comic and roleplaying games. He also dabbles in pewter miniature casting and private character commissions.
Here is some of his art.

Up first a couple of commissions he did for me.




And more!










Love this vampire!




You can find Ben on the web at:

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