Friday, July 10, 2020

Working the NIGHT SHIFT!

Early mail-call this week and I can't be more pleased.



Hard copies my Jason Vey's and my new game are appearing in the wild and I am so happy.  Here are my leather and standard copies.

The insides also look fantastic.  Better than I had hoped for really.




And of course, it has my favorite of my Night Worlds, Generation HEX.


You can get PDFs from DriveThruRPG and Print copies (not PODs!) directly from Elf Lair Games.

Can't wait to share more with you all including an Other Side exclusive Night Spot. 
Come back for adventures in Valhalla, Alaska.  A Night Spot that can be used in the Ordinary World setting or added to any game.

Been looking forward to this for some time now!

Kickstart Your Weekend: Pixie Trix Comix Volume 1 & more!

Pixie Trix Comix Volume 1 & more!



I have enjoy the comics of Gisèle Lagace for a number of years now. "Ménage à 3" and "Eerie Cuties" in particular.  Well, this is her ultimate collection. You can add on any number of their previous Kickstarter packages and other Pixie Trix comics. I am fond of "Dangerously Chole" (about a shy succubus) and "Exorsisters." 

There are only a few hours left of this one, so I hope you take advantage!


Thursday, July 9, 2020

One Man's God: Basic Demons (BECMI Demons, Part 2)

Last week I cover the topic of Demons in BECMI D&D and Basic Era D&D in general.  I want to expand on that a bit today. Again, this is a bit of a different tone for One Man's God, but it does get at the heart of what OMG is about.

One of Basic D&D's features vs. Advanced D&D is its alignment system of Law vs. Chaos with Neutrality in the middle.  Now a lot of ink and pixels have been spilled over the pros, cons, and everything else about alignment. I am not going to go into that here.  Although I am currently rereading Søren Kierkegaard for the first time since college and he is "still stuck on Abraham," so I wonder if I am going to do a proper talk on demons I might need to go back to the basics and address alignment someday.


So my discussions on demons in BECMI were covered in my Immortals Set Review and One Man's God: The Immortals and Demons of BECMI

Writing so much about witches you can't help but have to read about and write about demons.  The two subjects have been conflated for so long that "witchcraft" and "demonology" are either synonymous in some circles or so tied up together that separating them is difficult. 




Demonic Families and "The Usual Suspects"

Succubus
One of the Usual Suspects. ePic CG
For the "Basic-Era" demons were introduced in the classic D&D (OD&D) Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry.  Here we get what I call "The Ususal Suspects" of demons; Type I to Type VI, Succubi, Orcus and Demogorgon.  The same group appears in the AD&D Monster Manual (with some additions and some names) and then again in the D&D Immortals Set under new names again.  The AD&D game introduces Devils as a separate type of fiend.  Though it should be noted that D&D 4 looked over all the fiends and moved some around.  Notably, the Succubus became a type of devil, due to some machinations of Asmodeus in the "Brimstone Angels" novels.  They became an "independent" type of fiend in D&D 5.

Despite all of that, there is a good reason to include Demons (a chaotic evil fiend) into the milieu of D&D and its cosmic struggle of Law vs. Chaos.   Devils?  Let's save them for AD&D.  Besides, the division is artificial at best.

This division became more pronounced in the AD&D 2nd ed era when TSR caved to the Religious Right and pulled demons and devils.  

Tanar-what? Baate-Who?

One of the Unusual suspects, ePic CG
Demons and Devils would return in Planescape with the bowdlerized names of Tanar'ri and Baatezu respectively.  I remember at the time I was very disappointed in TSR for caving to the pressure of what I felt was a fringe group of religious nutjobs.

While I disapprove of why TSR caved, I approve of what became of it. "Demon" became a generic term to describe any evil outsider.  The "Tanar'ri" were now a specific group of Evil Outsiders that also happened to be chaotic and inhabited the Abyss.  They certain features, such as resistance to various magic and other attacks and certain vulnerabilities too. They were a family of creatures related by certain phenotypical descriptors. Now we have different demonic "families" of fiends. Add Yugoloths/Daemons and Demodands to the official rosters.  We don't have to be limited by "demon" or "devil" alone.  
Sometimes the constraints force us to be more creative.

Later in D&D 3rd Editon era we would get the official Obyrith and Loumara families of chaotic evil demons.  In Green Ronin's Armies of the Abyss and then later Paizo's Pathfinder then added Qlippoth, the OGC version of the Obyriths. Mongoose Publishing gave us the Tzaretch family.  Back at the end of 2nd Edition, I made the Lilim family.  In my Eldritch Witchery (use the link to get it at 50% off!) I introduced the Calabim and Shedim families and the Baalseraph, which is sort of like a family.  In my various Warlock books, I also added Eodemons, or dawn demons. My take on the first of the demonic families.

The scholars can then argue who belongs where.

Spend any time reading demonology text you will soon figure out that these "learned scholars" were just pulling things out of thin air. Sure sometimes you see the same names or even some descriptions that are similar, but otherwise, there is no more validity to the Ars Goetia of the Lesser Key of Solomon than there is to the Monster Manual II when it comes to naming and categorizing demons.  For me, the "key" to unlocking this was the demon Astaroth.

Astaroth and Astártē
What really got me going was what Christian demonologists did with the Goddess Astarte.  Astarte, also known by many other names including Astoreth, was Goddess of love and lust (sex), fertility, and war.  She was obviously connected to Ishtar, Innana,  Isis, and maybe even Aphrodite. She appears throughout the Middle East and even makes an appearance in the Hebrew texts and even in later Christian writings.  But her transformation from fertility goddess to nature goddess to a demon is odd, but not uncommon.  Early Christian writers saw any other god or religion as demonic or even devil worship.  Early Jewish scholars usually never had an issue with other gods. So it is conjectured that when Christian writers and scholars saw Astarte/Astoreth and her crescent moon horns she became a demon.  And a male demon, Astaroth, at that.  It is the primary example for me of how "one man's god is another man's demon." 

Often who was on what list of demonic entities depended on who was writing it and when. One can claim to "go back to the research" but when you are researching what is essentially a completely made-up topic it is not difficult to find something to support your claim.   

For me, that leaves only one satisfactory conclusion.  
Classify these creatures as I like. 

Demons In Basic-Era Games

Do demons belong in (my) Basic-era games?

I figure I have witches, vampires, all sorts of fey creatures, and other monsters.  So yeah there is no good reason to keep them out. 

So there are "demons" in the sense as the world defines them. And there are "demons" as I plan to use them here or, more to the point, have been using them here.  
Translation: Some devils are now demons in my game. 

I have been doing this with the lesser devil types like the barbazu, cornugon and gelugon.  They are all part of the Shedim or demons of rage.   Erinyes remain fallen angels, so technically I suppose that makes them Baalseraphs.

One thing that came up in my review of the Immortals set was how powerful the BECMI demons are vs. their AD&D counterparts.  My idea is to scale them back down.  I like to think of all creatures as being Normal Human focused since that is the world they are in. Player Characters are the rare exceptions. So when a succubus drains life levels with her kiss then it needs to be scaled so that if she chooses a normal human the kiss can still be deadly, but not always so.  I mean someone needs to survive to tell their priest/cleric so it can be written down in a demonology somewhere.

Every version of the game has translated these creatures somewhat differently.  Though there are more commonalities between them than say Medieval demonologies from the so-called experts.  
Demons are legion and defy classification attempts, but that is exactly what I am trying to do.  Essentially make my own "Demonomicon of Iggwilv."


I think if I pursue this idea more I would have to come up with my own demonologies and groupings.  I like the ones I have been using so far, maybe a couple of others might be nice too.   Could be a fun exercise.

Maybe even come up with a witch to do the authoring of it.  I can't really use (nor do I want to use) "Demonomicon" or "Iggwilv." Plus someone new would be fun for a while.

What do you do? Do you have Demons in your Basic, not advanced, games?

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Eldritch Witchery on Sale! Mara Review! Night Shift PDF!

Pretty busy and exciting times around here.  Let's get started.

Up first I have a Pomo Code for you to get my Eldritch Witchery at 50% off from Elf Lair Games to celebrate the PDF release of NIGHT SHIFT: VETERANS OF THE SUPERNATURAL WARS.
(until July 31, 2020).


You can use Eldritch Witchery with any of my other Witch books AND it can be used with NIGHT SHIFT as well.

In Eldritch Witchery I introduce the demonic families of the Lilim (a race I used back in the 2nd Ed AD&D days), the Calabim, the Shedim, and the powerful Baalseraph

Eldritch Witchery uses Elf Lair Games O.R.C.S. while NIGHT SHIFT uses the more advanced O.G.R.E.S. but translation between the two is easy.   In fact, the demons, devils, and fiends of my "Night Worlds", in particular, my Ordinary World, uses the same demonic classifications.  So grab a demon from here to use in NIGHT SHIFT!
PLUS you can use all the spells from EW in NIGHT SHIFT to really increase the number of spells you have for your magic characters.

If Demons and Witches are your thing then also check out this review of my Daughters of Darkness: the Mara Witch Tradition, from the Reviews from R'lyeh.


This book also goes into more detail about the Lilim Demons. 
Both books feature Lilith on the cover too. 

I might need to spend more time with the demons.

Monday, July 6, 2020

Monstrous Mondays: Ethyl Critchlow, Urban Hag

Backers are now getting their copies of NIGHT SHIFT: VETERANS OF THE SUPERNATURAL WARS so the PDF was opened up on DriveThruRPG.  If you were not a backer you can get a copy for yourself now.


I am going to be posting more content and support for Night Shift here but thought I'd start off with a monster/NPC from my West Haven setting.

Ethyl Critchlow, Urban Hag

Every child, whether human or witch-born, knows to stay away from the house on the corner of Taylor and Bell.  Here sits an old run-down house that everyone thought would either fall in on itself or the city would have condemned.  But it is not the house that frightens the children, though it is frightening.  Nor is it the small angry dog that everyone remembers from their own childhoods, making it at least 25 years old or older.  Rumor in the neighborhood is that once the dog got out and bit the fingers off of a boy who could not run fast enough. 
It is not the dog or the house. It is the owner of both that keeps people away.

Ethyl Critchlow looks like a stereotypical old witch, but this is just a glamour, her true form is that of an ancient and hideous old hag.  She is an Urban Hag and has been living in West Haven for nearly as long as there has been a West Haven.  She hates all children and takes glee in terrorizing them, but pact made with the City Council keeps her from doing any actual harm to them.  Though if their toys land in her yard she will keep them and if any child climbs her fence to get these toys then she will send her "dog" (in actuality a glamoured Hell Hound) Maximillian after them.  

Ethyl would also admit that at her age (almost 400) that eating children, especially modern ones, given her terrible heartburn.  Though she did eat a couple of missionaries from East Haven back in the 1960s, but no one came looking for them.  

She stays in West Haven because frankly, she has nowhere else to go. The city tolerates her and is just waiting for her to finally die of old age or a magical mishap.   She is also a great source of magical knowledge and history. She can be bribed with 18-year-old single malt scotch. Ethyl is a heavy drinker, so bring more than one bottle if you plan to use this for information.  Also fair warning, as Ethyl drinks her glamour begins to fade. By the time she has worked through two bottles, her glamour will be gone.

Ethyl Critchlow (Urban Hag)
No. Appearing: 1 (Unique)
AC: 2
Move: 30ft.
Hit Dice: 10
Special: Adapt to locale, Cackle, Horde, Spellcasting, Strength, Vulnerability (iron)
XP VALUE: 10,240

Ethyl casts spells as a 9th-level witch.

Urban Hags are hoarders. Her home is a falling apart pit of junk she has collected over her nearly four centuries of life.  Amongst the filth, garbage and debris of decades, there are also some magical treasures.  In particular, Ethyl has several magical scrolls with spells that can be used by any witch or scholar. There is also a magical pipe that can lure the undead to sleep. Though one is advised not to go looking for such treasures.

find Ethyl and the other citizens of West Haven in Night Shift: Veterans of the Supernatural Wars.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Zatannurday: Zatanba Live Action Movie in the Works?

I know we have all heard this one before, but it seems like a new live-action Zatanna movie is in the works at Warner Brothers.

DCEU Mythic / Comic Book Resources reports.





We have all heard rumors before of Emilia "Mother of Dragons" Clarke being eyed for the part for either the movie or the HBOMax Justice League Dark series.  But right now everything is either hearsay or rumor. 

But hope springs eternal here at the Other Side.

In other DC news, Ray "Cyborg" Fisher accuses Justice League relief Director Joss Whedon of unprofessional behavior.



Or the same thing I have been saying about this asshole for the last 20 years.

Here is hoping that we start seeing something better from the DC Movies.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Kickstart Your Weekend: Nightfell: Horror Fantasy Setting for 5e

I have not one of these in a while so let's get to it!

Nightfell: Horror Fantasy Setting for 5e



While I could do with less Grimdark these days, this one does look like a lot of fun and promises to have some nice Stretch Goals.  Plus I have chatted with the creator a bit and looks really fantastic.

So yeah, I think I'll give this one a try.


Thursday, July 2, 2020

Kersy, The Witch Queen of Alphatia, Mystara (BECMI)

I knew my month of BECMI reviews and deep dives was going to be educational, but while I had hoped, I did not expect to find a new Witch Queen.  But there she was, in Module M1 Into the Maelstrom

In the module, we are introduced to a nascent Immortal, Kersy.  She is using her human guise as a 30th level Magic-user and she is the ruler of the Island of Turkeys.  If you are thinking she sounds a lot like Circe and her Island of Pigs then you are correct.  But.  Doing some deeper research into Kersy gives me a stanger tale.   Over at the Vaults of Pandius, they have expanded on her background a bit more. 

She is described as the distillation of Koryis' own unwanted thoughts, urges, and feelings.  
Koryis is the Immortal Patron of Peace.  While he was on his epic quest he sought to purge himself of evil in impure thoughts. He was successful and that "impurity" manifested itself as Kersy.

At least that is what his mythology says. 

We learn from M1 that she is a "beautiful maiden" and a "30th level magic-user." But other details are scant. From the Vaults of Pandius we learn that she is beautiful with long raven black hair and amber-colored eyes.  She is the Patroness of Witchcraft and Charms.  Certainly, she is more than just some cast of skin of evil.

She is also described as having "milky-white skin" (boring!) but I have been looking for an excuse to use Vanessa Williams as a witch since 1997.  Today is that day.

Kersy and Koryis

We first meet both of these immortals in M1 Into the Maelstrom.  It is obvious they have a connection from the start.  

Kersy (Vanessa Williams) and her "brother" Koryis (Armand Assante)

Back when I was an undergrad in psychology I read a lot of Freud and Jung. It wasn't required, I was (still am) a Cognitive Psychologist. But I felt it was important to my overall education to know my subject's history.    While I like Freud, I find his theories to be outdated and outmoded.  Jung on the other hand felt more like philosophy than psychology at times.  I have credited his "Man and His Symbols" as one of my most important "Appendix N" books.  

What is the importance of that here?  Kersy is Koryis' "dark anima" in Jungian psychology.  The description of Koryis' quest to rid himself of these dark, impure impulses sounds exactly like a quest to confront his Anima; who is Kersy.

Now if this is what happened then according to Jung Koyris is now forever incomplete.  Reading over the history on VoP it would seem that Kersy knows this. If we extend this to other Jungian archetypes then Kersy fits one perfectly. The Witch.  She is powerful, connected to the Earth, and a source of wisdom.  Koyris in his quest to rid himself of Kersy only weakened himself and gave his power away.

Kersy as a Witch

You knew I was going to come to this.  Kersy is not just described as a witch, she is listed on VoP as having the portfolio of Witchcraft and Charm. she is also described as being unique among immortals. She prefers to use her own magic for example.  She also seems to have become an immortal at the same time Koryis did due to their link.  So she hides from other Immortals, not having a Patron of her own, and lives in a cave on an Island filled with turkeys.
That's all rather disappointing.
Even a 30th level magic-user can do better than living in a cave somewhere.  So taking a page from my own games I say Kersy went on her own quest of Immortality and she got it, as a Witch Queen.

In this version soon after her "birth" Kersy, granted great power, but no learning on how such power should be wielded and let's just say poor impulse control, soon overpowers her jailers and sets her sights on the known world.  She travels much as her history suggests and in particular in Old Alphatia.  She studies magic everywhere and learns her magic does not come from the study of dusty tomes, she gets her magic from somewhere else. 
In the intervening centuries she learns much about who and what she is.  The divide between her and Koryis grew.  She still desires him and wants to make him hers. Maybe this is some desire to reunite their torn assunder soul or a darker desire to possess him in a way that was his desire but now forsaken and left with her desires.

Kersy, Witch Queen of Alphatia
31st level Witch, Eclectic Tradition
Female, Chaotic (Chaotic Neutral)

Strength 12
Intelligence 25
Wisdom 18
Dexterity 17
Constitution 19
Charisma 25

Saving Throws (Base)
Death Ray/Poison 2
Magic Wands 2
Paralysis, Polymorph 2 
Dragon Breath 4
Rods, Staffs, Spells 3

+5 to all saves via Ring of Protection
+3 for Wisdom

Hit Points: 87
AC: -8
(leather armor +5, Bracers of Protection +3, Cord of Protection +2, Ring of Protection +3, Dex 17 -2)

Base THAC0: 8
(I know, THAC0 was not used in Basic D&D. You know what this means)

Occult Powers
Lesser: Familiar (Familiar Spirit)
Minor: Speak to Animals
Medial: Drawing Down the Moon
Greater: Witch's Blessing
Major: Polymorph Other
Superior: Longevity

Spells
Cantrips (8): Arcane Mark, Clean, Daze, Guiding Star, Mote of Light, Object Reading, Open, Summon Vermin
1st (9+3): Allure, Analgesia, Bar the Way, Bewitch I, Burning Hands, Call Spirits of the Land, Charm Person, Comprehend Languages, Eldritch Fire, Glamour, Mend Minor Wounds, Pace Without Trace
2nd (8+3): Alter Self, Beckon, Bewitch II, Blight of Loneliness, Burning Gaze, Continual Flame, Detect Charm, ESP, Evil Eye, Haunting Mists, Mind Obscure
3rd (8+3): Astral Sense, Bestow Curse, Bewitch III, Calm Animals, Clairsentience, Control Winds, Danger Sense, Expand Senses, Lethe's Curse, Toad Mind, Twisting the Heartstrings III
4th (8+4): Analyze Magic, Ball Lightning, Bewitch IV, Cauldron of Rage, Confusion, Divination, Forest of Deception, Instant Karma, Masque, Polymorph Others, Remove Curse, Threshold 
5th (7+4): Adoration, Bewitch V, Break Enchantment, Commune with Nature, Decimate, Enslave, Maelstrom, Nightmare, Sending, Song of Night, Ward of Magic
6th (7+3): Analyze Dweomer, Animate Shadows, Bewitch VI, Bones of Earth, Cackle of the Winter Crone, Cloak of Dreams, Greater Scry, Heroes' Feast, Mislead, Smitten
7th (6+1): Adoring Crowd, Astral Spell, Bewitch VII, Breath of the Goddess, Irresistible Dance, Mass Polymorph, Veneration
8th (6): Adoration (Overwhelming), Bewitch VIII, Demand, Eye of the Storm, Mists of Ecstasy, Storm of Vengeance

Magic Items
Alrune Statues, Bracers of Protection, Brooch of Shielding, Calming Tea, Cauldron of Plenty, Cloak of Night, Cord of Protection, Earings of Timeless Beauty,  Friendship Tea, Ring of Protection, Wand of Spell Storing

Kersy is something of a unique witch, so I made her an Eclectic Tradition Witch.  She is also a solitary witch so you will notice and no "ritual" spells.   
I also opted to raise her to 31st level from 30th to give her a bump in her power.
As an Eclectic, I was able to grab spells and occult powers from a variety of sources.  While a case could be made that she is a Classical witch or even with bits of the Mara thrown in, I felt Eclectic was the best choice. 



Books and Resources Used

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

One Man's God: The Immortals and Demons of BECMI

Ok. So it is July. June is over and so should BECMI month.  The trouble is I find I still have a little more to say.  Plus it would be difficult to properly end BECMI month without a good look at the Immortals themselves.

So far we have run into six named Immortals; Koryis, Kersy (more on her later!), Vanya and Alphaks from Into the Maelstrom and Orcus and Demogorgon from the Immortals DM's Book. None are mentioned (too my knowledge) in the module The Immortal Storm. Of these five, three are demons.  Not just demons in the general sense, but demons in the AD&D (and now D&D) sense. 

One thing made clear in the Immortals game was that Immortals are not gods.  They are powerful beings, with near unlimited magical powers, who occupy the outer planes, and are worshipped by clerics...what was my point here? Oh not gods. Right, totally not gods. Nope.

Except they are.

Alphaks aside (he is a special case), Orcus and Demogorgon are immortals, and demons, and (let's be honest here) minor gods.  Essentially what OMG is all about. 

In the D&D Rules Cyclopedia Immortals are discussed, but specific Immortals are rarely mentioned.  Ka, Odin, and Atzanteotl are mentioned by name and have appeared in other BECMI products over the years.  The conversion notes for D&D to AD&D 2nd Ed in the Cyclopedia gives us this little tidbit:
The Immortals of the D&D system and the deities of the AD&D system should not be converted between the game systems.
They were real set on the whole Immortals ≠ Gods thing.

I wanted to review The Wrath of the Immortals.  But I don't have a copy and DriveThruRPG also doesn't have it.  I have managed to piece together some of the immortals from other products and from the Vaults of Pandius.  A couple of them stick out, Immortals and Faith and the Codex Immortalis by Marco Dalmonte

A few of the "demonic" Immortals mentioned in other products are, Bagni Gullymaw, a demonic troll and the immortal of canibalism and Stodos, a cold-blood Type II/Hezrou demon.  Bagni could be another name of the Other Side favorite Vaprak the destroyer.

What BECMI lacks, and really should have been a major contributor to, are new demons.

So instead of looking to the Gods and Immortals of this "mythos" like I normally do, I should look at the monsters and see which ones make for good demons.  

Demons of BECMI

I should start this part off with a note about another post on Demons in BECMI from Mystara Sage in Residence, Bruce Heard.  He posted about demons earlier this year and it is worth taking a look at.

 Moving away from the Immortal-level rules I look back at the various monsters.  To make my life easier I am just going to look at the D&D Rules Cyclopedia and D&D Creature Catalog.


The Plane of Nightmares was introduced to us in the X series of modules and would then later be expanded on in later Companion and Master books.  There are a few creatures from this plane that certainly qualify as demons.

Diabolus
The devilish Diabolus appeared in the Immortals Set.  They are described as looking like devils essentially but were in most ways human. They could take any human class and were their dimension's equivalent of humans.  The BECMI rules even state they can be played as humans. They were updated in Dragon Magazine #327 as a character race.  
Essentially these are Tieflings. You can play Chaotic or what 5e called demonic tieflings. I'd argue they can only choose "Chaotic" alignment, so Chaotic Good (their default in 2e), Chaotic Neutral or Chaotic Evil.  

Malfera
Few creatures fit the description and general attitude of a demon better than the Malfera.  Let's get into some details.  In the Rules Cyclopedia, we learn they are chaotic. can only be summoned to our plane by a powerful magic-user or Immortal. They are a planar monster. They have massive physical attacks and special attacks. Can open doors as per knock and has higher than normal saves.  Plus they are described as a literal nightmare creature.  If not a demon, then "demon-adjacent."

There are stats for them all over the web.  Here are some from the Vaults of Pandius for 2nd Ed AD&D3rd Ed D&D4th Ed D&D, and 5th Ed. D&D.  A 3.5 version for the Forgotten Realms based on the Dragon #343 version.  The Piazza also has a Malfera and there is another 5th edition version.

Here is the version from the Piazza linked above. They make it a large monstrosity, but they don't give it the extra-planar tag.
And there may be a Malfera / Maelephant connection.  I am going to say related creatures from the same plane. Given that maybe there is a larger creature, a Masdaemon.  sure, Why not. 
Actually, it is close to an idea I was playing with back when I was writing Ghosts of Albion. 

Hellephant
FREQUENCY:  Very Rare
NO.  APPEARING:  1-2 (4-9)
ARMOR CLASS: 0
MOVE:  18"/36", special stampede 24"/48"
HIT DICE:  12+36 (90 hp)
%  IN  LAIR:  95%
TREASURE  TYPE:  Nil, Special
NO.  OF  ATTACKS:  2 + 2 special
DAMAGE/ATTACK:  2-24 (2d12) trample, 2-12 (2d6) gore, 4-48 (4d12) swallow
SPECIAL  ATTACKS:  Breath Weapon, Swallow whole
SPECIAL  DEFENSES:  +2  or  better weapon to hit
MAGIC  RESISTANCE:  10%
INTELLIGENCE:  Animal (savage)
ALIGNMENT:  Chaotic  Evil
SIZE:  L  (20' tall)
PSIONIC ABILITY:  Nil, immune to Psionic attacks

Deep in the pits of the abyss roams the monstrous Hellephant.  Believed to be related to both the Malfera and the Maelephant, these creatures are roaming, ever-hungry nightmares. 
They appear to be Mastodons, only twice as large. Their fur appears to be black, but in truth soaked in blood. Their tusks come out from their bottom jaw and curve downward.  This allows them too run their prey down and scoop them up into their terrible maw.  The hellephant is a voracious carnivore and their preferred prey is anything warmblood that will run from them. Their attacks are a trample or a gore. On a successful gore hit the victim must make a saving throw vs. Paralyze or be scooped into the hellwphant's maw.  Once there they are bitten by the monster's rough teeth, still in the shape of the teeth of a plant-eater, and then they are swallowed whole.  The digestive acid causes 4d12 points of damage per round. Resistance to acid attacks can reduce this to half.  The hellephant's digestive system though is not adapted to eating meat so living creatures are exited out in the way of all digested food in 1d4 rounds. The expelled victim, if still alive need to make another save vs. paralysis in order to get up and move out of the way.  The Hellephant, still ravenous, returns to scoop up any victims that are too slow to move and the eating and digestion process begins again.
If a group of 6 or more Hellephants are present they may stampede.  They will run in one direction for several minutes causing maximum trample damage. They will not return to eat any victims left behind.
Hellephants have no treasure, but their ivory is prized through-out the multiverse and is, pound for pound, 10x the price terrestrial elephant ivory. 

Tabi
These small, winged-ape like creatures are chaotic.  They are somewhere between an imp and a flying monkey. 

There are a lot of Chaotic Evil monsters in Post-BECMI Mystara that have appeared that would make good demons.   I think these are the most likely candidates. 
I also think, given the mythos of the world and the roots of it, that demons are fine, but devils (as defined by AD&D 1st Edition) are not.   But hey, that is only for my games.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

BECMI: Immortals Set Review

“I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam.”
- Frodo to Sam, Return of the King


And here we are. 
June is drawing to a close and we are here in the last week of BECMI month.  Fitting too that the last week, as short as it is, is dedicated to the oddest set of rules in the set.  The Immortal rules set. We see some major changes here and in TSR as well.  So. Let's jump right in.


I am reviewing both my rather beat up and water damaged version of the Immortal set (I only have the books, not the box) and the PDFs from DriveThruRPG.

A couple of notes.  The set now lists Frank Mentzer as Author. No mention of Dave Arneson nor Gary Gygax here.  The year is 1986 and Gygax had been removed from TSR the previous October. Frank had been very closely allied with Gary so his time at TSR was also going to come to an end soon.  The Immortals rules and the module The Immortal Storm would be his last books for the company.  This had two rather obvious impacts on these rule books.  First, the art that had been getting more sparse with each set now hits an all-time low.  No in quality mind you! But in terms of amount. There is just not that much art in these books.  
Secondly, it also meant that the company focused more on its perceived cash cow, the AD&D line.  Gary had been talking about the AD&D 2nd Edition game, but now that project was turned over to Dave "Zeb" Cook of the B/X Expert Set rules.  Others have played the conjecture game of what might have been, so I will not go into that here.  What I will say though is it left Frank and the BECMI line alone for the Immortals set to go into some very weird directions.

If BECMI is the ultimate update of the OD&D rules, then the Immortals rules cover part of what Eldritch Wizardry and Gods, Demi-gods & Heroes.

Players' Guide to Immortals
32 pages, color covers, black & white art.
Your character, now 36th level and has pretty much done everything from dungeons to the planes hears the call to become an Immortal! Certainly, this was the goal of those quests and battles. Immortality.  But now the game, both actually and metaphorically, has changed.  Just like when you moved from Jr. High/Middle school or Grade school to High School you go from being the most powerful of mortal kind, to the least powerful of the immortals.
This book covers how your character now becomes an Immortal.  There are five spheres, four of which characters can access, detailed here.  These are the same spheres that have been hinted at since the Companion set and introduced in the Masters set; Matter, Energy, Though, Time, and Entropy.  characters choose one of the first four usually corresponding to the class they had in life; Fighter, Magic-User, Thief, and Cleric respectively.
Experience points gained will alive now become PowerPoints on a 10k to 1 basis.  We get our first hints at a proto-point buy system in D&D here since PowerPoints can be spent. Now the Initiate Immortal can begin to do some Immortal things. PowerPoints are used for a lot of things, but mostly for magical or spell-like effects.  Your sphere will determine which ones you can do easily and which ones are harder.
There are a lot of interesting rule changes along the way.  AC is now Ascending for Immortals; so Immortal AC 20 is the same as mortal AC of -20.  AC 0 is the same. Ability scores can be raised. First to a max of 25 (the AD&D max of the time) but also all the way to 100!   
In a lot of ways the PP mechanic is similar to what we see in other Point Buy systems used for super heroes.  It makes sense really.  
Though for all of it's detail there is very little information on what an Immortal should do. Right now they seem, at best, super-powered mortal characters.  There is some implicit ideas, but nothing spelled out yet.

DM's Guide to Immortals
64 pages, color covers, black & white art.
The DM's book spends some time covering the planes of existence.  While a lot on specific planes is left vague, there is a lot of details on how planes are designed.  The artwork and some of the notes appear as if the author and artists were checking on what the AD&D team was doing "down the hall" there is a unique feel to the BECMI multi-verse.  A lot of emphasis is given on "doing it yourself" including room for the DM to pencil in their own % for monsters occurring.
There is a bit more here about the planes, in particular the Prime plane.  We learn that the Known World doesn't just look like Earth from 150 Million Years ago, it IS Earth from then.  This explains the map a bit better. We also learn that this Earth is the predecessor to our lands.  Though, in the spirit of everything else in the book, this can be changed.  The Solar system is the same, save for a few notable differences. Mercury and Pluto are not in their orbits yet and between Mars and Jupiter where the asteroid belt is there is a planet called Damocles. Fitting named for a doomed planet but doesn't fit with the names of the Roman Olympians. Damocles will be destroyed and the two largest pieces will fly off to become Mercury and Pluto.  Imaginative to be sure!  But Mercury is only 35 million miles and Pluto is closer to 3 billion miles from the sun. The asteroid belt is roughly 300 million miles from the sun.  So Damocles is not really in the middle of that.  No big deal, this is D&D not Astronomy.  I DO however love the idea of a doomed planet in the current or future asteroid belt. Maybe a MiGo outpost or something like that.   I want to talk more about the Known World/Earth a little more in just a bit. Plus there is one more bit of information I want to collect.
It would be interesting to compare and contrast the multiplanuar mechanics and rules here with the various Manual of the Planes.
This is followed by the Immortal Campaign.  Or, what do Immortals do? There are some ideas given but for the number of rules on immortal characters and planes you would expect some more to be honest. 
Our "Monsters" section is now called "Creatures" since they "cannot be adequately called monsters."  All these monsters...creatures now have expanded stat blocks to cover their immortal statuses.  
One of the first things I noticed were the inclusion of demons to roster of D&D BECMI monsters.  I am not sure why this surprised me since these are the same demons from Eldritch Wizardry.  Well...same in name but these demons got a serious upgrade.  Let's compare.  A Succubus in AD&D is a 6+6 HD creature (average hp 33), her physical attacks are not great, but her kiss drains 2 life energy levels.  In BECMI a Whispering Demon has 15* HD and 70 hp! Oh and her AC is -6.  Orcus and Demogorgon have 39 and 40 HD with 620 and 660 hp respectively!  Yikes!  We do get some art of them. 




In addition to being able to summon other demons Orcus and Demogorgon can summon Gargantua. 

We get more inhabitants of the nightmare dimension like the Diabolus which are...checking the description...well they basically tieflings. And they can take any human class. So all the Grognards out there complaining about "monster races" have no ground to stand on. Here are the rules from 1986. 
The Dragon Rulers are updated to Immortal stats and so are some of the elemental rulers.  There is the Megalith and it is ... WHAT???  More on that in a bit!
A few more creatures and some, ok a lot, of tables on magic.

Crisis on Infinite Urts
So there are a couple of new-to-me bombshells in the Immortal rules.  First, the world of the PCs, aka the Known World is Earth of 150 mya. Secondly, this Earth is in actuality a creature known as a Megalith ("big rock") and it is known to the Immortals as "Urt."
It's tucked away in two different places, but this is a revelation really.  The Known World as living planet known as Urt.  Imagine what the "Mystara" line might have been about had this thought continued?  No Hollow World to be sure. Frank Mentzer pretty left TSR soon after this and the Immortal Storm were complete, so we never really got to see what his ultimate vision was.  We do know that Gygax considered his Oerth and later Aerth for his Dangerous Journeys to all be alternates of Earth. Aerth was a little more on the nose about it.  Frank was set to design parts of Oerth a few years back, but that project fell through.  It might have been the closest we would have seen to a fleshed-out Urt.  
At some point between 1986 and 1991 (the publication of the D&D Rules Cyclopedia) the world of Urt became Mystara.

So here at the end of all things what can I say about the Immortals rules? It is an inconsistent set of rules to be sure. There are a lot of really interesting ideas connected together with bits of fluff that may, or may not, work well.  The concepts of Immortals is a compelling one and D&D would come back to it in big ways at least two more times with Wrath of the Immortals and Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition where Immortally was the goal after 30th level. 

Still. One can be impressed with the scope of the rules and how it caps off a set of rules that began in 1983 but has roots going back to 1977 and to the dawn of D&D.  For that reason, it gets a few points more than it might have gotten on its own. 

Back in the day, I had only two characters gain immortality via a route similar to this. More like my DM read these rules and figured his own way of doing it. One would be my character Johan Werper the Cleric and bane of the Undead. 

Monday, June 29, 2020

Monstrous Monday: Demon Lord, Ahrimanes (BECMI)

We are coming to our very last week of BECMI month and it has been an education for me.  The biggest surprise was the inclusion of demons in the BECMI Immortal rules. It makes sense of course, demons are the ultimate in evil, chaos, and entropy in nearly every myth.

Let's start off Immortals week with a new version of the Demon from my home games.  Presented here in BECMI Immortal format.

Lord Ahrimanes (Immortal)
Sphere: Entropy
Status: Eternal
Power Points: 7,500
Anti-Magic: 90%
Armor Class: -5
Hit Dice: 35**
Hitpoints: 555
Move: 120' (40')
  Flying: 180' (60')
Attacks: 2 claws
Damage: 2d8+5, 2d8+5
No. Appearing: 1 (Unique)
Save As: Eternal 3
Morale: Special
Call Other: See below
Treasure Type: B, H, I
Alignment: Chaotic
XP Value: 6,405,000 (640 pp)

Lord Ahrimanes was once a servant of Law and Good (Thought) until he chose Chaos and Evil (Entropy). Believed to be one of the most powerful of the forces of evil, his own disgust for nearly all others leaves him alone and without allies. Even demons that would normally despise one another would join forces to defeat or thwart the plans of Ahrimanes.  There is a particular hatred between Lord Ahrimanes and Duke ʾIblīs.

He is a great admirer of science and knows all the natural sciences. When he writes his writing always appears upside-down. Some scholars point to the Demon Abraxas and note that he is master of all the magical arts and his writing always appears backward as a sign of the relationship between the two.
His realm is known as Ahriman-abad and it is said to lie “between the stars.” 

He can appear as a handsome man with a high domed forehead, inquisitive eyes, and thoughtful demeanor.  He will appear garbed as a scholar or philosopher of an earlier age but yet his physique is athletic.  When he is enraged, which happens easily and at the barest slight, his demonic form is revealed.  He stands 10’ tall with dark red skin covered in patches of thick, coarse black hair and scales.  His face becomes twisted in rage and seven horns grow from his head which now has numerous heads, eyes, and mouths.  His hands, which had previously looked like the hand of a scribe, now twist into giant claws.

Lord Ahrimanes attacks with claws, usually too enraged to consider using a weapon.  Due to his nature all magic has a 90% of failing when around him.  Any magic that does get past his anti-magic shield is still subject to a saving throw.  He cannot use magic himself.  Additionally, Lord Ahrimanes has all the resistances and vulnerabilities of all demons.

Lord Ahrimanes is so despised that he cannot summon other demons except for his seven “sons” which appear as Howling Demons / Type III / Glabrezu of the largest size and maximum hp. 

--

Not too bad.  A bit powerful for an AD&D or OSR game, but certainly great for a BECMI game.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

More BECMI Print on Demand

Another round of mail call for Print on Demand items.  This week a couple to help finish off some ones I have been wanting for some time.

I have something special planned for this one, so $18 for print and PDF I couldn't say no.




It looks fantastic really.  I might wait till July to do this one some more.

And I picked up the last X module I need.  X5 Temple of Death.






I already had a beat-up old copy of X4 Master of the Desert Nomads.


It is out in PDF but not POD.  If I need the maps from X5, I'll just print them out.


Friday, June 26, 2020

The Future of BECMI and Black Box Basic

We are getting to the end of what we can call "normal character" BECMI D&D.  For the next couple of days next week, I'll cover the Immortals Rules, but really when it comes to regular D&D play the series ends with the Master Set.

But that was not the end of "Basic" or BECMI D&D.  I reviewed into the Maelstrom yesterday and talked about how it had a real proto-90s feel even in 1985.  So let's look briefly into the future of the D&D Basic line to see what the 90s has in store.

In 1991 TSR was a very different place than when Gygax and Co. set out to create a new kind of game.  Most, if not all, of the old guard, were gone.  AD&D 2nd Edition was the house game of choice and the order of the day were the worlds and settings created for it.

At some point, and I have no insight on this, a new version of the D&D game was introduced. 
Like the previous games it was in a box and contained some basic information.  Unlike those previous games, this box was more like a board game box, the levels went from 1 to 5, and there were maps, dice, and game pieces included.  

The New Easy to Master Dungeons & Dragons Game (1991)
This new "Basic", sometimes called "Black Box Basic" was a new attempt at an introductory set of rules for D&D.


The design is by Troy Denning and the rulebook was written by Timothy B. Brown.
In what is sure to be a blow to old-school purists, Gygax, Arneson, and Mentzer are never mentioned in the book.  To add insult to injury Lorraine Williams is given a special thanks.

Outside of that and the gimmick of the boardgame style box the rules inside are very clean, easy to read and understand and play with.  Obviously, these rules are drawn from the BECMI core and this set is designed to be an introduction to the D&D Rules Cyclopedia

The box itself is a treasure trove, to be honest.


The rule book for players is quite attractive.


Dice, card stock characters and monsters, and a 1991 TSR catalog.


Zanzer's Dungeon.  The map is really nice and scaled for 1" = 5', so compatible with D&D 3.x, 4e and 5e.


DM's Screen and book.


The underside of the box displaying all the pieces.


A 1991 TSR catalog for the D&D line.  Let's have a better look at that Rules Cyclopedia...


Someone will have a cover mocked up of this by next week I am sure.


The DMs Guide and screen with the Players Book.  Both came in the Basic set and The Dragon's Den boxed set.





There were also three add-ons, called "Adventure Pack" for this.  
I only own The Dragon's Den and it has pieces that compliment the Basic set.  The DM's Guide/Screen and Player's Book are included in both.  All three are available on DriveThruRPG, but they are not as complete as the physical products. 




Although reading online I can't confirm if the Rule Book and the DM's Guide/Screen actually came with the Dragon's Den.

This is the future for the D&D line until the end of the decade.


Yes, that is the Rules Cyclopedia PoD.  Here they are all together.


When I decide to run a new Basic-era campaign (instead of a bunch of one-shots) I am going to be overwhelmed with choices.
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