Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Supernatural, Del Segno al Fine

Last Thursday was the Supernatural Series Finale.  15 years, the longest-running genre show on American television.  A little show that started with two brothers, some 80s mixtapes, and a black 1967 Chevy Impala. Driving the back roads of the US hunting monsters and saving people.

It was every Chill or Call of Cthulhu game I ever played.  It is exactly what I would do in NIGHT SHIFT.



It was also the one show that everyone in my family watched.  We didn't start in 2005, the pilot freaked my wife out.  But we came to it later and binged watched all the past seasons one Christmas break. We all sat together and watched the adventures of Sam, Dean, and eventually Cass, Crowley, and later Jack.  It was wonderful really.

Updating Sam
Last week I posted stats for Sam Winchester. I chatted a bit with my co-author Jason Vey and he suggested that I instead make a Sam a "Supernatural" race.  This would work well with his background as a "Special Child."  In fact, it works much better, given his ill-defined and ever-changing powers.  I would drop the level in Psychic and give it back in Veteran or more likely Sage.  

This works a lot better and ties in a little better to some other thoughts I had while watching the finale.

That Finale
Ok, Finale Spoilers follow. You have been warned.

In the mean-time here is sister group Neoni covering Wayward Son that appeared in the finale.


The last episode pretty much played out as I expected it would.  The Winchesters settling into their new routine. To me, it looks like something that would have gone on every day for months without change. Until they get notice of some kidnappings.  They consult their dad's journal (nice call back to the beginning of the series) they find some vampires, make short work of them, but in the process, Dean was mortally wounded.  Doesn't matter that they fought demons, monsters, the devil, and even God himself, they are still men and Dean gets impaled on a bit of rebar.

Dean dies and Sam has to move on.  He does. Gets married (maybe it's to Eileen, I certainly hope so), has a son (Dean Jr.), he grows old and dies.   He reunites with Dean in Heaven. 

#TheySilencedThem
Let's also talk about the finale and the things unsaid. 

The Destiel fans are upset that not only did they not get the closure they wanted, but it also seems some scenes were later edited after filming.   I get their complaints. I really, really do.  I was in the same place about 20 years ago with Tara.  Everything they are complaining about is 100% legitimate. 

I do wonder if Covid-19 had not kept Misha Collins out of the filming if things would have been different.  Evidence sadly suggests otherwise. 

Again, I am left where I was in 2002, I am just going to have to continue the story I want in my NIGHT SHIFT games.

Did Rowena get slighted in the end? No. I don't think so. Yes, there was confirmation that she was bi and then she ended up in Hell.  But she wasn't killed for that and let's be honest, Rowena isn't *in* Hell, Rowena is *ruling* Hell.   Being in Heaven would have been a punishment to her.  She even says if she knew it was going to be this good she would have done it years ago.   
No, Rowena in Hell as its Queen gives her character new horizons. 

Charlie is easily one of my favorite characters, behind Donna and Jodie, while it is never mentioned (and it could have been) we assume that Jack brought back her and Stevie along with everyone else.  While I'd love to see more stories with her I think her best story would be to retire.

My favorite series that never was.  Like Charlie, Jack brought the Wayward Sisters back. This we know because Sam gets a call from someone who got his number from Donna.   We can assume then that this means Kaia and Claire are also alive.  Whether they stay together or not is something to be played out.  I know I am not with the same girl I was with at 18 or 19. 

Knowing that they are all back though is great for my games, but sadly does nothing for the fandom wanting more.

I will say one of the first things I wanted to do was rewatch the series again from the start.  With 327 episodes that would take a little bit; 6.3 years if I watch 1 a week.   If I do I should do something with it. 

Monday, November 23, 2020

Monstrous Monday: Wolf-Witch (A Wolfenoot Special)

Happy Wolfenoot Everyone!

What, you don't know about Wolfenoot, the holiday to celebrate all that is cool about the wolf and dogs?  Well get yourself over to Wolfenoot.com to find out more then come back here.

Back? Good.  Today's monster is based on an idea I have been kicking around ever since I read Pam Keesey's "Women Who Run with the Werewolves" which is a play on Clarissa Pinkola Estés' bestseller "Women Who Run with the Wolves."  

I had come up with a couple of ideas here and there including a "mother of werewolves" and a werewolf/hag cross.  But nothing I really liked.  Until that is I read about "The She-Wolves of Jülich" and their connection to various witch trials that were going on around Germany in the 1500s.  Often witches were burned on the suspicion that they would turn into werewolves.  This was not the charge in and of itself, the crimes they were accused of were often the inversion of what good women were supposed to be at the time.  They were accused of running wild, killing men and boys, eating babies, and killing livestock.  Given the living conditions for most women at the time I would have not have been surprised by an occasional expression of homicidal rage. 

Georg Kress's woodcut of the She-Wolves of Jülich, Germany, 1591, colored later.

Georg Kress's woodcut of the She-Wolves of Jülich, Germany, 1591, colored later.

There is something though compelling, even pagan, about the idea of shedding not just clothes but social mores and standards and running wild. Something that both Estés and Keesy know too well about.

Brundage 1933 03 Weird Tales
Margaret Brundage, Weird Tales 1933
Wolf-Witch

Medium Humanoid (Lycanthrope)
Frequency: Rare
Number Appearing: 2d6+1 (0)
Alignment:
Chaotic [Chaotic Neutral]
Movement: 240' (80') [24"]
  Human: 180' (60') [18"]
Armor Class: 6 [13]
Hit Dice: 3d8+3* (17 hp)
Attacks: by special weapon, claw/claw, or by magic or special
Damage: 1d4 x2, 1d4+1
Special: Silver or Magic required to hit, Witch spells
Size: Medium
Save: Witch 3
Morale: 8 (10)
Treasure Hoard Class:
XX
XP: 75 (OSE), 100 (LL)

By the light of the full moon, the Wolf-Witches gather.  For the three nights of the full moon each month the women of the wolf witch covens gather and partake in a ritual that transforms them into wolves, much like a werewolf. They roam the countryside causing havoc and mayhem wherever they can.  

The group requires at least one witch of 2nd level to cast the Summon the Spirit of the Wolf Ritual (qv).  The majority of the other witches participating will be lower level (2nd or 1st), if the gathering is large (10 or more) then there will be a 3rd level witch with two 2nd level apprentices.  The ritual begins after the sun has set and while the moon is rising. The witches dance around a bonfire and when the ritual is complete they transform into wolves. When the sun rises the next morning they will have transformed back into their normal human forms.

Unlike werewolves, wolf-witches are not necessarily evil. They also retain most of their mental faculties so they are able to cast at least one witch spell of 1st level per night.  Also unlike werewolves, true wolves will join with the wolf-witches on their midnight, moonlit runs.  Wolf-witches also cannot transmit lycanthropy via a bite.

Wolf-witches seek little more than the feeling of freedom being in wolf form gives them, though a little chaos is necessary. They will kill to protect themselves and their coven-pack.  

Presented below is the ritual used.  I am also experimenting with High and Low rituals for my next book. 

New Ritual: Summon the Spirit of the Wolf

Summon the Spirit of the Wolf 
Level:
Witch Ritual (Low): 1
Ritual Requirement: Two or more witches, one of at least 2nd level. Full moon.
Duration: From Midnight to Sunrise during the Full Moon
Range: All Participants

This ritual is only performed during the three nights of the full moon. The witches gather to cast the ritual but only one witch needs to know the actual spell, the others dance around a bonfire while the highest level witch cast the spell.  At midnight all participants will then transform into Wolf-Witches where they will run and hunt until the morning. 

At dawn, by the light of the rising sun, the witch will transform back into her normal form.   If she is killed then she will remain in wolf form until the sunlight hits her body, thereupon she will transform. 

During the "Wolf Moon" or the first full moon of the year (after Yule) there is a chance that anyone watching this secret ritual that they too will be pulled into the magic and become wolves.  There is a 5% chance per number of witches present that others will be affected.  Those unwilling affected must make a save vs. Spells or be transformed permanently.  A Remove Curse will return them to human form, but only if cast before the next full moon (the "Snow Moon").  

Friday, November 20, 2020

#FollowFriday: Tasha / Iggwilv on the Web

It is another Follow Friday here and since we are wrapping up Tasha's Week of Everything I thought it might be nice to detail some of the sites on the web and social media that feature Iggwilv, Tasha, and items from her history.

The Web

Tasha from HeroForge
Tasha from HeroForge
Lots of great stuff here really. 

Greyhawk Online has a wiki full of details.

Likewise, the Forgotten Realms wiki has some entries for her. 

She has even made appearances in Golarion from the Pathfinder wiki.  In particular as a former Queen of Irrisen.  According to the Golarion timeline, she ruled 4113 AR to 4213 AR (current year 4720 AR).
If you want some fiction about Tasha/Iggwilv then there is Tommy John Kelly's Greyhawk Stories Page
Greyhawk Online has a number of posts featuring S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth.

Blogs

Iggwilv from HeroForge
Iggwilv from HeroForge
Lots of people have had some words about Iggwilv in the blogging circles too. Here are some of them

James over at Grognardia gives her an uncharacteristically brief mention in his post about The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth.

Sean McG has written up an extensive post on the publication history of Iggwilv, which he keeps updated at the Power Score.

Mike Bridges at Greyhawkery also has a few posts.

And of course, Greyhawk Grognard has some posts. Though he is not as enamored with the adventure as I am. 

Blogger Trent over at The Mystical Trash Heap has some thoughts on S4 as well.

Paleologos at the OSR Grimoire has a post on Drelnza the Vampiress Lord and talks a lot about the original Lost Caverns of Tsojconth

Social Media

Baba Yaga from HeroForge
Baba Yaga from HeroForge
There is a ton of social media out there. What places are best for Iggwilv and Tasha?

Facebook


MeWe


YouTube

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Supernatural: Carry On, Sam and Dean Winchester for NIGHT SHIFT

Wow.  

Here we are.  I know last week seemed like the "season finale" but tonight is the big "Series Finale".

Let's do this!

the road so far

I have talked a bit about Supernatural here.  Certainly not as much as my fandom might indicate.  Supernatural is the one show that everyone in my family all watches together. My wife and kids all sit down to watch it. Doesn't matter what else we watch or what we do, this is the one show we always watch.

Supernatual then was also the test bd for NIGHT SHIFT.  

I have been pretty open about what my personal design goals for NIGHT SHIFT have been.  I wanted to be able to play ANY modern supernatural urban-fantasy I know.  I want a game where I can create any sort of witch I want and have access to magic, demons, and the like.  NIGHT SHIFT does all of this.

So when I was playtesting this with my kids there were two characters that were absolutely perfect. Sam and Dean Winchester.

Dean Winchester
Dean Winchester
15th level Veteran, Human

Strength: 16 (+2) s
Dexterity: 18 (+3) P
Constitution: 18 (+3) s
Intelligence: 14 (+1) 
Wisdom: 14 (+1)
Charisma: 18 (+3)

HP: 120 (15d8+45)
AC: 6 (varies)
Fate Points: 1d12

Check Bonus (P/S/T): +7/+4/+3
Melee bonus: +8 (+12)  Ranged bonus: +9 (+16)
Saves: +5 to all saves

Special Abilities: Combat expertise, Melee combat bonus, Increased damage, improved defense, ranged combat bonus, Supernatural Attacks, Tracking

Skills: Hand to hand combat, Steady hands (Dex), Resistance (Con), Insight (Wis), Charm/Intimidate (Cha)

Languages: English

Equipment: Leather jacket, handguns, cell phones, hunter's equipment, "Baby" 1967 Chevrolet Impala.

Dean is the archetypical hunter and Veteran.  He has been described as "the perfect killer" by many including God (aka Chuck).

Sam Winchester
Sam Winchester
9th level Veteran, 1st level Psychic, 5th level Sage, Human

Strength: 15 (+1) 
Dexterity: 15 (+1) 
Constitution: 16 (+2) 
Intelligence: 18 (+3) P
Wisdom: 16 (+2) s
Charisma: 18 (+3) s

HP: 95 (9d8+18 + 1d6+2 + 5d6+10)
AC: 7 (varies)
Fate Points: 1d12

Check Bonus (P/S/T): +7/+4/+3
Melee bonus: +5 (+8)  Ranged bonus: +5 (+8)
Saves: +5 to all saves

Special Abilities: Combat expertise, Melee combat bonus, Increased damage, improved defense, ranged combat bonus, Supernatural Attacks, Tracking, Psychic: TK (Cha based), Sage: Survivor skills at level 2, Read Languages, Spells

Skills: Research (Int), Steady hands (Dex), Computers (Int), Insight (Wis), Charm (Cha)

Languages: English, Latin, Greek, Enochian, Sumerian

Equipment: Thick jacket, handgun, cell phones, hunter's equipment, laptop

Sam has had an interesting arc.  He starts out as a veteran at a very young age. Because he also has/had some demon blood in him he was telekinetic for a while, but that only manifests when he drinks demon blood. He is also a Sage and has played that role well in the 15 seasons of the show.   

It was also stated a few times that he was Rowena's "student" so a couple levels of Witch might have been appropriate, but I think Sage covers it well. I could also see Sammy with a couple of levels of Survivor, but again, the Sage abilities cover that. 

Both brothers have high Charisma. They need to be able to talk their way in and out of situations a lot. Plus they have been on the air for 15 years.

Likewise, Dean could have also had a level or two of Sage, due to his Men of Letters status, but really Veteran covers it all.

Regardless where tonight's LAST episode takes us (and it was looking a little dicey two weeks ago!) I know that if I want to continue the story I have these write-ups and NIGHT SHIFT.

Other Supernatural Characters for NIGHT SHIFT

Gonna miss these guys.  Ok Kansas, play us out.


Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Classic Adventures Revisited: S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth

One of my all-time favorite adventures is S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth.

A solid two-level dungeon crawl, filled with new monsters, dangers, and the promise of great treasures. Additionally, there are rumors of an ancient witch/archmage and her battles with demons and even the threat that some of those demons are still around. There is plenty of wilderness area as well. A wide expanse with a gnome community nearby and a raging blue dragon.

With its "Booklet 2" filled with new spells, magic circles, and demons it made me think that a witch class with ritual magic could be something that would work for D&D. 


There is so much great stuff in and around this adventure it is hard to know where to begin.  So let's start with the adventure itself.

S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth

The adventure, S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, was published back in 1982 by TSR. It was written by none other than Gary Gygax himself. It is listed as "S4" and was the last of the labeled "S series" or Special modules.  This includes some of the most popular adventures ever written; S1 Tomb of HorrorsS2 White Plume Mountain, and S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

The adventure itself is comprised of two 32 page booklets. The first book is the adventure itself, which I will get into detail in a bit.  The second booklet covers all sorts of new magic, monsters, and more. 

Book 1: The Adventure

The adventure is of the classic sort; the rumor of treasure and a vague threat coming from an area of the map known as Iggwilv's Horn.  The adventure is designed for characters level 6 to 10.   I have found over the last 40 years that it can be adapted to a variety of levels, though higher levels are better. Though the original tournament adventure featured slightly lower levels. Likely due to the addition of the wilderness adventure. 

The wilderness adventure is actually well put together and not the older crazy random monster encounters.  The encounters make sense for the area. Among the encounters are the Hermit, and I could not help make this the same hermit from Keep on the Borderlands (also a Gygax creation) and the Blue Dragon.  The Blue Dragon, in particular, became so much a hit the first time I ran this that in future runnings of this I changed the dragon to Korbundar from CM2 Death's Ride to have a reoccurring villain.   A lot of adventure is packed into 12 pages.

The second part of the adventure covers the Lost Caverns themselves, which includes the Lesser and  Greater caverns. This features a large variety of new monsters, some living here, some just wandering around. Even encounters such as "The Garden of One Thousand Earthly Delights" have a good (enough) reason to be there. 

The final encounter is in the center of the Greater Caverns and it is not for Iggwilv's Treasure, but rather against Iggwilv's Treasure; the vampire Drelnza.  She is a bit more powerful than your average vampire and she has magic to help her out.  Eventually, she will succumb to heroes and the treasure will be found including the infamous Demonomicon of Iggwilv, Daoud's Wonderous Lanthorn, and the Prison of Zagig.

Book 2: Monsters and Magic

This second booklet, as I have mentioned, grabbed my attention as much as the first, if not more.  Listed inside were new monsters, only some appeared in the adventure, including new demons and demon lords. There were the mysterious Xag-ya and Xeg-yi, the Derro and the awkwardly named (for the early 80s) Valley Elf. All these creatures would later be reprinted in the Monster Manual II for 1st Edition. This is fitting since the original tournament adventure introduced monsters that would become part of the first Monster Manual.  There are some magic items including some wonderful artifacts mentioned above.  Of these The Demonomicon of Iggwilv capture not just my imagination, but that of hundreds of others. The Demonomicon became a feature in Dragon Magazine and even a 4e book of the same name. Iggwilv went from a "long-dead archmage" to "The Mother of Witches" and the premiere demonologist in D&D.   This little booklet also contains plenty of new spells.  

This was classic AD&D at the end of its 1st Golden Age.

The adventure is extremely playable and I have adapted it over the years for AD&D 2nd ed, D&D 3rd, and 5th Editions as well.

If you want to play it for 5th Edition D&D then the team over at Classic Modules Today has made a 5e conversion

There are also maps you can print out with DM's notes.

And other realistic maps also for printing

The Sequels

The first true sequel to this adventure was WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun (though no WG1-3 were made*). This was published the same year and dealt with a Temple of Tharizdun. It was designed to be played right after S4 and used the same wilderness map.  The adventure fits in well enough. I justified in my games by saying that Iggwilv, like Tsojcanth before her, chose this area due to its arcane and eldritch properties.  The adventure also has a wealth of information on the World of Greyhawk and Tharizdun.  All of these will be explored later in Gary Gygax's novel series about Gord the Rogue

S4 and WG4 would also get a review in White Dwarf #44 and both get 9/10 from Jim Bambra. He calls them the last of the Golden Age adventures.

*The rumor is that WG1 was Village of Hommlet, WG2 Temple of Elemental Evil and WG3 was The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, or Tsojconth in the original.


Another sequel of sorts was The Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga. Published much later in 1995 for 2nd Ed AD&D and written by Lisa Smedman, this adventure was labeled "S5" but it never appears in any of the classic reprints of the S Series adventures.  While the connection is little more than any of the other "S" series, there is the connection of Iggwilv, then Tasha as the adopted daughter of Baba Yaga.  Lisa Smedman would also work on Ravenloft and ShadowRun. Some Ravenloft monsters make their way into this adventure.


Yet again another sequel, this time for 3.5 D&D, was published in 2007.  Iggwilv's Legacy was published in Dungeon Magazine in October 2007 and appeared for free on Wizard's of the Coast website well into the 4e era. Sadly no longer available, it added another level to the caverns to explore, The Hollow of the Horn, the areas left behind by Tsojancth himself with the implication that even Iggwilv was afraid of these areas. The adventure and the additions were converted and updated to 3rd Edition.  I ran this version for my family at their first Gen Con in 2009.  Here we meet the half-demon  archmage Tsojcanth and his vile witch mother Vilhara.


The Reprints

As part of the much-loved S-series, the Lost Caverns of Tsojanth has been reprinted twice.  Both times bundled with the other three S-series adventures.

The first reprint was called Realms of Horror and it was all the S-series adventures combined into a loosely tied together "Super Module" that was all the rage in the late 80s.  All the maps were reprinted in a small booklet and personally, I found them harder to read.

The second reprint was the more faithful reprint from Wizards of the Coast, Dungeons of Dread, in 2013. 


The Original Tournament Adventure

The original tournament adventure, the Lost Caverns of Tsojconth (note the spelling) appeared at the Wintercon V game convention in 1976.  This would have been akin to a playtest version of AD&D.  Also Iggwilv is described as being dead, and male.

While the adventure does not feature the wilderness areas, the caverns seem to have a more mystical bent to them, with the center "nexus" described as the connection point between worlds to help explain all the new and weird monsters in it.  It would make sense, to be honest, and help explain why Tsojcanth and later Iggwilv possessed it. 

Paleologos at the OSR Grimoire talks a lot about the original Lost Caverns of Tsojconth.

The era of 1976-1978 was an interesting time and lead to some interesting styles of play.  We had the Holmes Basic Set and the B1 In Search of the Unknown (1978) adventure out and we had the AD&D Monster Manual.  This Holmes + Monster Manual actually became the game of choice for many.  I would later play this same hybrid of D&D/AD&D in 1979.
Likely as a way to replicate that Demos Sachlas/Paleologos over at the Vaults of Pandius recreated the original tournament adventure, along with some descriptions from the full 1982 S4 adventure and reformated it to fit the style of B1 to give us a "Holmes version of the Lost Caverns of Tsojconth."  This adventure is a tight 16 pages with two more pages for maps.  It feels like a late 70s offering.  Reading through it I do get the feeling that B1 and S4 could be bookends of a classic 70s adventure series.  All it is missing a nice monochrome cover.  I might need to mock one up someday.

Greyhawk Online has a side-by-side comparison of the 1976 Tsojconth and the 1982 Tsojcanth.

If you want to buy your own Noble Knight Games has one on sale for only $7,195.50. If you are worried that is overpriced it does come with the original zip-lock bag. 

Playing in Hyperborea

Normally at this point in my Revisted posts I would talk about using this adventure with other games.  But instead, I think I just want to focus purely on Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.

A while back I posted about HS4 The Lost Caverns of Acheron, a Hyborian Age reskinning of S4 from the Hyborian Age site dedicated to the d20 Conan RPG.  They have a lot of adventures including some reskinned ones on their Adventures in the Hyborian Age page.  But it is S4 that interests me today.

Combining this idea with the Holmes flavored Tsojconth above you could have a perfect game for AS&SH.  The idea came to me while reading Eric Fabiaschi's Swords & Stitchery blog.   He even pointed to me that he had done exactly this. 

The pulp sensibilities of Gygax's adventures comes through in S4 with vampires in lost temples, ancient eldritch forces, and strange creatures from beyond.  Pairing this with AS&SH and the Lost Caverns of Acheron turns it up to 11 as it were. 


With its history of magic, archmages, witch queens, vampires, and demons it is no wonder that this is one of my favorite adventures. Like B1, it is one I like to come back to again and again. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Tasha's Cauldron of Everything

Today is the day I was waiting for.  The release of Tasha's Cauldron of Everything.  I just picked it up about an hour ago so I have not had a chance to get into it in detail, but here are some initial thoughts. I am also going to talk about it from the point of view of an Old School Gamer and how well does it mesh with the established history of Iggwilv.

Tasha's Cauldron of Everything covers

The Book

The book itself is 192 pages, full color.  Both covers retail at $49.95.

The big update here is the various classes and subclasses.  We get a new(ish) class, The Artificer, bringing the total to 13 classes for D&D.  The artificer gets the subclasses Alchemist, Armorer, Artillerist and Battle Smith.  

Each of the 12 standard classes also gets one or more new subclasses.  Also, many of the spellcasting classes get new spells, detailed later.  There are a lot here, among the one I like the best are Cleric Twilight Domain, Druid Circle of Stars, Fighter Rune Knights and Psi Warrior, this is in addition to all sorts of maneuvers the fighter can get for the Battle Master.  The Ranger gets the Fey Wanderer, the Rogue gets the likely new favorite.  The Wizard gets another Bladesinger (not sure how different this one is) and one I am looking forward to trying the Order of the Scribe.  There are a lot more, but those are the ones I want to try.

One of the new ideas is Group Patrons.

These are essentially people, things or organizations that fund your characters' adventuring career.  This is something that was kinda done ad-hoc or less explicitly. This entire section can be used AS IS in any version of D&D with no changes. 

A book about/by/from Tasha would not be complete without new Magic. In this case some new spells and magic items.  We get some explicit spells for traveling to other D&D worlds, as befitting Tasha.


Some old familiar items back their 5e comeback including Baba Yaga's Mortar and Pestle, the Crook of Rao, The Mighty Servant of Leuk-O, and the Demonomicon of Iggwilv.  There are also rules on personalizing spells and some magical tattoos. 

The is also a section on DM's Tools.  This can also be adopted by players of any version of the game.  There is some advice on Session Zero which includes how did the party come together, a useful bit in light of the new Patron rules. A bit on social contracts as well as hard and soft limits. 

Something sort of new is the idea of Sidekicks.  These are "semi" or NPC classes that go along with the party or adventurer.  These are a restating of the 3.x Edition NPC classes from the Unearthed Arcana' Warrior, Expert, and Spellcaster. Substitute Fighter, Thief, and Magic-User if your version is older and you can do the exact same thing. 

There is a section on parleying with monsters, something I have seen used since the Moldvay Basic set.  Environmental hazards of supernatural, natural, and magical regions. 

And the puzzles. Again easily used as-is for any versions of the game.

So like it says on the tin, a little bit of everything.

I was talking with my friend Greg just a bit ago and not only did we just miss each other at our FLGS, he said the book has a solid Unearthed Arcana feel to it.  I have to agree.

Is it Tasha?

Iggwilv is a storied character in D&D lore.  But in truth what we know about her is very, very limited.  For 1st Edition AD&D we know her from the modules S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojanth and WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun.  Most other details come to us from 2nd ed and beyond. Maybe the most we learn from her is actually from 3.x era.  So to make the claim "is this Gary's Tasha/Iggwilv" is a fallacious one; there never was a Gary's Tasha.  "She" was, in fact, a "He" in the first drafts of the "Lost Caverns of Tsojconth."


There are little sidebars and enough information here to make a few things clear. This is Tasha before she became Iggwilv.  So I am placing it at or around CY 395 to CY 406 (Current year is CY 597 or so).  This Tasha has wit and charm and maybe a little bit of a caustic or salty sense of humor.  She is not really interested in killing Mordenkainen (nor really do I think she ever was) but she does want to take him down a peg or two.




She acknowledges she was Hura (Hura appears in Ket around CY 297) and plenty of references to Baba Yaga. This is very much the remembrances of a powerful spell caster on what would be considered her "University Years."

Is it Tasha?  Yes. This is the person that would later go on to become the ruthless and amoral Witch Queen Iggwilv.  Spend some time as a prisoner of a Demon Prince, especially one as depraved as Graz'zt, and see if that doesn't change you a little.

The art really gives you the feeling of "brilliant university girl trying to show her teachers she is smarter than they are" vibe. 


Old School Content

I mentioned in a few places that there is a lot here that old-school D&D players can use and that is true.

A lot of it can be used right out of the book as-is.  The classes would need some work, but as many in the old school community are so quick to point out that the differences are largely one of role-playing. Ok, here are some role-playing ideas.

Some things, like the fighter maneuvers, feel like they could be right at home in BECMI.  The tattoos, something I have used here before, can be easily translated.

Was it worth the wait? Yeah, I say it was.  Looking forward to trying some of the ideas here.

Things it Didn't Cover that I Wish it Had

Or. I just have not found them yet. 

I would have liked to know more about Tasha's face tattoo and why Iggwilv no longer has it.  Related when did Tasha's stop calling herself that and instead became Iggwilv. We do learn that her tattoo is an Eldritch Claw tattoo.

Given her timeline, I am sure it had a lot to do with her summoning of Graz'zt and her imprisonment in the Abyss. Also likely around the time she fled Greyhawk with the Tome of Zyx.


Definitely, a lot to use in this book.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Monstrous Monday: Daughters of Iggwilv

image of Drelnza holding Daoud's Lantern
It's Tasha's Week of Everything this week here at the Other Side.  So I thought I'd start Monstrous Mondays with a monster that has been suggested to me over the years.

Today's monster comes from a variety of sources. First, there is Iggwilv-Louhi connection that I talked about it in the Finish Mythos.  Louhi, despite being an old witch is said to have lovely maiden daughters that the heroes often seek out.  By extension shouldn't Iggwilv have some daughters too?

If we go with "yes" (and I always go with yes) then there are two issues, what are they like and who is the father.  Let's go with the father question first.  Among the candidates of "people" she has been involved with include the Demon Prince Fraz-Urb'luu, the half-demon Arch-Mage Tsojcanth, the wizard Zagig Yragerne, even Mordenkainen himself is a possibility and of course the Demon Prince Graz'zt.

We know all about Iggwilv's love affair with Graz'zt.  We know from other sources, chiefly the Gygax Greyhawk novels, that Iuz is the offspring of Iggwilv and Graz'zt.  Or maybe not. In the World of Greyhawk Fantasy Game Setting entry for Iuz it is suggested that he is "some by-blow of Orcus."  I personally liked the idea that Orcus had mortal agents in the world.  While this idea was later dropped it became an element of the Forgotten Realms, where I think it works out a little better.  But it still is a tantalizing idea.  

While Louhi might have daughters known as "the Maidens of Pohjola" I am not expecting Iggwilv's daughters to be so innocent. Her only other daughter, Drelnza, was a vampire, described as a "false Disney Princess" (she is not the damsel in distress, she is the monster), and most certainly not the offspring of Graz'zt.  Going back to the Louhi/Lovitar connection for a bit, Lovitar is known as the mother of the Nine Diseases.  Nine is a good number.

Iggwilv taken to Orcus
I think I have something.

When Iggwilv was defeated by Graz'zt the former master was now the slave.  Graz'zt had intended to keep the fallen Witch Queen in the Abyss to have her suffer an eternity of imprisonment as she had kept him.  Iggwilv however was more clever than the Demon Prince knew and soon she went from prisoner to consort, to confidant to his main advisor.  While she was rising in the ranks of Graz'zt courts she was "traded" to the Demon Prince Orcus over a loss Graz'zt had suffered at the hands of the Demon Prince of undead.  

Taken from Azzagrat in chains she arrived in Thanatos at the feet of the Lord of Undead to serve a tredecim (13 years) of service between CY 503 and CY 516.

Enraged, Iggwilv plotted revenge on both Graz'zt and Orcus.  Her carefully constructed lies and seductions learned from Fraz-Urb'luu that were so effective on Graz'zt held no sway on Orcus. Save for the occasional bit of violence Orcus showed no interest in the Witch Queen other than to deprive Graz'zt of her.  Within that century though Iggwilv gave birth to nine daughters that she was able to keep secret from both Orcus and Graz'zt.  These nine daughters were all of the same fierce, dark beauty as their mother, but had the taint of undeath like their father.  In secret, Iggwilv taught her daughters the ways of witchcraft and fashioned Abyssal weapons for each of them.  Once they were grown their curse of undeath took hold and they became something akin to vampires. Iggwilv sent them into the world to cause as much havoc and chaos as they could and, most importantly act against the designs and will of both Graz'zt and Orcus.

Noidan Tytär
Noidan Tytär
Medium Undead (Demonic)
Frequency: Unique (only 9 are known to exist)
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment:
Chaotic [Chaotic Evil]
Movement: 240' (80') [24"]
  Fly: 180' (60') [18"]
Armor Class: -4 [20]
Hit Dice: 14d8+42**** (105 hp)
Attacks: by special weapon, claw/claw, or by magic or special
Damage: 1d10+6, 1d4+4 x2, special
Special: Magic required to hit (+2 or better), Vampire abilities, Witch spells, Undead
Size: Medium
Save: Monster 14
Morale: 12
Treasure Hoard Class:
Special, see below
XP: 5,150

The Noidan Tytär, or Daughters of the Witch, are a unique group of undead demonically spawned creatures.  These creatures, as beautiful as they are powerful, evil and deadly, are thankfully very, very rare. In fact, only nine are known to exist.  Thankfully they also never work together by order of their mother the Witch Queen. 

Each of the Noidan Tytär is a skilled fighter and possesses both superior arms and armor. Typically magical plate mail of etherealness +2, and a bastard vorpal sword +2 that they wield with one hand due to their preternatural strength. 

In addition to their fighting ability, the Noidan Tytär are also undead akin to vampires. Magic is required to hit them and they are immune to charm, hold and sleep magic as well as any mind-affecting magics. Unlike vampires, they do not require blood to survive but drain the life energy (Constitution points) at the rate of 2 points per touch.  They can go long periods without feeding but it will cause them to go into a deep stupor until a victim can be found.  They can not enter a personal dwelling or holy/blessed land like a vampire and holy items can keep them at bay and cause damage.  They are however immune to the effects of garlic. A stake through the heart will destroy them, but if the stake is removed they will reform in one round.  They can become gaseous, but cannot assume the shapes of animals.  They can fly as per the spell.

They can be Turned as Special (14 HD) by a cleric of high enough level. Any result of a D only discorporates them until the next new moon.  The only way to truly destroy them is stake them, remove their head, and burn both the body and head in separate pyres.  An exorcism or cleanse spell must then be used to force their spirits back to the Abyss. 

Additionally, each Noidan Tytär can cast spells as a 7th level witch of the Mara Tradition. 

The Noidan Tytär are often used as mercenaries for powerful chaotic rulers, demon lords, and evil cults. Secretly they work to undo the efforts of Graz'zt and Orcus.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Tasha Cosplay (Start of Tasha's Week of Everything)

You know I love my theme-Weeks.  On Tuesday we get the new "Tasha's Cauldron of Everything" from Wizards of the Coast featuring Tasha, aka Natasha the Dark aka Iggwilv.

So far we have learned that this book will be focusing on the younger Tasha. The girl who was adopted by Baba Yaga.  While I have always thought that Eva Green would make a fantastic Iggwilv, here is cosplayer, D&D streamer, and all-around cool gal Ginny Di cosplaying AS Tasha in a WotC sponsored shoot.

Her Instagram, https://www.instagram.com/p/CHdiPg0FUgb/ 

View this post on Instagram

"Tasha, in her brilliant curiosity, is untroubled by the various moral variations in the planes of existence." ⁠⠀ — Jeremy Crawford, Lead Rules Designer of "Tasha's Cauldron of Everything"⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ I couldn't resist my own little attempt at recreating the cover of the new @dndwizards sourcebook!! Mine has a completely different vibe, but I still love it. 💛⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ By the way, thank you to everyone congratulating me on the partnership with Wizards!! I couldn't believe it when they emailed me saying they wanted to sponsor a costume, and it has been such an incredible experience working with them on this project and seeing all these names I recognize complimenting the cosplay on Twitter 🙈 I'm so grateful for how the tabletop community has welcomed me over the last few years, and I can't wait for what the next few years hold!!⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ ✨ Tasha is from Dungeons & Dragons⁠⠀ ✨ Costume made & modeled by me⁠⠀ ✨ Watch the whole build on YouTube (link in bio!)⁠⠀ #TashasCoE #sponsored #tashascauldronofeverything #tashathewitch #tashacosplay #dnd #dungeonsanddragons #dndwizards #dndcosplay #dndcostume #witch #witchyvibes

A post shared by Ginny Di 📆 #Natural2021 (@itsginnydi) on


And her YouTube video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySRmaMYaV6I


This is just another example of what I love about the new gamers to D&D, they bring so much love and energy to their creations in and out of the game.

Let's hope the book lives up to all this hype. But even if it doesn't this has all still been great fun!

Thursday, November 12, 2020

This Old Dragon Retrospective: The Gods and Goddess of the Suel

World of Greyhawk books
Something a little different today.  I had always wanted to combine two of my regular features, "This Old Dragon" and "One Man's God" into a series of the gods and goddesses presented in the pages of Dragon Magazine.  I can think of a few examples off the top of my head without cracking the musty pages.  I had always wanted to start with the Suel Pantheon, but I wanted to wait till I was done with the Deities & Demigods.  

Well, last month we all learned about the death of Len Lakofka and I wanted to mark it in some way.  I thought maybe this would be a good way of doing that.

Introduction

A little bit of background here on This Old Dragon. I had purchased a couple of large gaming collections over the last few years. My brother also gave me a box of Dragons in really bad shape. After combining, keeping some, selling off others, and tossing (yeah, had too) ones that were in terrible shape I was left with about 100 or so Dragons that were in pretty bad shape. Most were missing covers, many are missing pages and maybe one or two are fully intact. In This Old Dragon, I am grabbing an issue out at random and reviewing them. I can only review what I have, so if it is missing I won't talk about it. The only exception I make is the covers. If I feel too much is missing or something important is missing I'll check my Dragon-Magazine CD-ROM. 

One Man's God is my feature on the various mythos, gods, and goddesses as presented in the AD&D 1st Edition Deities & Demigods.  Here I look through the various gods and monsters and see which ones would be better classified as AD&D 1st Ed Demons as defined by the Monster Manual.  When there is nothing I look to the original myths to see what we can find.

Today I am going to do both features for the Suel Pantheon.

This Old Dragon: The Suel and their Gods

This feature began in Dragon Magazine #86 from June 1984 to #92 in December 1984. Or in my prime AD&D time.  The feature was authored by Len Lakofka and had Gary Gygax's official stamp of approval on them.  Len had also created the L Series of modules and the Lendore Isles.  So in my mind, that meant there was still active Suel worship in the Isles and that the wizard on the cover of L1 The Secret of Bone Hill was a worshiper of Wee Jas.  But I am getting ahead of myself. 

The Suel made their very first appearance in the pages of the first The World of Greyhawk folio as an ancient empire whose language was still used. The Gods would get names, but not information blocks in the boxed set World of Greyhawk Fantasy Game Setting.  Soon after we began to get the gods in Dragon.

Before I get into the Gods proper, there are a few other issues we should cover.

Dragon Issue #52

This issue gives us a very new looking Leomund's Tiny Hut from  Len Lakofka. This is so new in fact that I think this might be the first-ever Tiny Hut article.  There is an introduction by Gary himself.  This installment covers giving more depth to the humans and languages of the Flanaess.  Cool article and one that every Greyhawk DM should have handy.  Actually, it is good for most DMs. The article is pretty long, longer than most Tiny Hut articles in my memory.  

This is the article that lets us know that Suel are very near albino looking save with shades of violet for eyes.  Given that these were the forerunners of the Lawful Evil Scarlet Brotherhood then it was kind of obvious that the Empire was some kind of a cross between the Melnibonéans and the Nazis.

Dragon Issue #55

In his From the Sorcerer's Scroll Gary gives us some more details on the Suel and how they moved across the continent to the Snow, Frost, and Ice Barbarian lands and how these peoples are the purest strains of the Suel bloodline. If the picture being painted is these are not particularly nice people then consider the painting done.  Still, there are some interesting tidbits and it made me want to find out more and it made me want to find an offshoot of the Suel that weren't such xenophobic dicks.

I think Len made a lot of that possible in his series.

Dragon Issue #86

Dragon #86 was one of those issues that punched way above its weight class. I mean there was just so much in this that one would be excused if Len's article, Presenting the Suel Pantheon, was ignored.  Here we are introduced to Lendor (the chief god) and Norebo (the god of thieves).  The gods are presented in the same format as the D&DG gods; which sadly in the early 80s meant these were creatures that could be fought and could be killed.  But I want to ignore that for bit and instead focus on what is really one of these first full (A)D&D pantheons.  In the 3e era some of these gods would be folded back into the "Greyhawk" pantheon, but here they are on their own with their fellow Suel.  

Lendor has a solid Odin feel to him and Norebo (maybe one of the most popular gods during my AD&D years) is like a slightly less evil Loki.  This trend is going to continue.

A box of old Dragon magazines

Dragon Issue #87

This issue covers the gods Kord and Phaulkon.   Kord is the son of the lesser gods Phaulkon and Syrul, though he himself is a greater god.  He is also one of the most popular and worshiped Suel god.  He is the god of battle, swordsmanship, and berserk rage. He has thousands of semi-mortal/semi-divine children, any of which who meet his challenges can claim demi-god status.  If you are thinking Thor with a sword mixed with Conan then you are not too far off.  Since this issue also featured the Ecology of the Dryad, I figured that Kord had a particular affection for them.  In fact I am going to say that the Korreds, who would later appear in the Monster Manual II, began as the offspring of Kord and the multitude of dryads he..uh.seduced. Sure let's go with that word. 

Phaulkon is the winged god of air, flying and archers. If Kord is the superior melee combatant, then Phaulkon is the superior missile combatant. He can speak with any bird or any creature that uses wings to fly, including demons and devils.  He is Chaotic Good so I always felt there would a natural rivalry between Phaulkon and Pazuzu, both striving for control over the air and air creatures. 

Wee Jas by Jeff Butler
Dragon Issue #88

Here we get Syrul, Fortubo, and Wee Jas the unrequited love of my life (circa age 14).  Wee Jas, of course, grabbed my attention like nothing else in this issue. She was a gorgeous goddess of magic known as the Witch Queen?  How in the hell was I supposed to ignore that?  For years I thought this art was a Larry Elmore piece, but it is actually Jeff Butler.  I think the wide eyes are what really sets this piece off. Bella Donna indeed.

Of all the Suel gods it is Wee Jas that has had her best life in the years following this publication. What do we learn about her?  Well at this point she is still a greater goddess of magic and death.  She knows every magic-user spell and all other spells to 5th level (why only 5th??).  She can cast up to 9 spell levels worth of spells each round; so 1 9th level spell or 9 1st level or any combination.  She has 90% magic resistance and a globe of invulnerability that floats around her. She is attractive (Charisma 20) and always appears so.

If she is anything she is very lawful.  To the point where good and evil are mostly meaningless to her just as long as you are not chaotic.  In fact, she pretty much hates anything chaotic except for the chaotic neutral god Norebo; who is her brother (or half-brother) and occasional lover.  Gods. Go figure.

In the letters section in a couple Dragons later it is mentioned that Norebo's entry mentions Wee Jas, but Wee Jas' doesn't.  The editors reply that it is because Wee Jas is loathed to admit it and Norebo could also be bragging.

Also, have a look at her name "Wee Jas" or "Wee" and "Ja" or "Oui Ja".  She is the goddess of the Ouija board as well. Magic. Death and Spirits. Clever Gary.

Syrul is the evil goddess of lies and false promises.  Fortubo is the dwarf-like god of mountains, stone, and metals. Neither are half as interesting as Wee Jas.  Well, Fortubo was interesting on his own, but not compared to my 1984 girlfriend here. 

To stretch out Norse analogies a bit Wee Jass is a bit of Hel and Freyja combined. But there is also a good amount of Hecate in her.

Since Len also created the Death Master NPC class I figured at least a few Death Masters were aligned with Wee Jas instead of Orcus.  This was part of their strong rivalry for the dead. 

Dragon Issue #89

This issue continues those wonderful Denis Beauvais "Chess" covers.  So therefore the Suel Empire invented chess on Oerth.  

In this issue, Len features Pyremius, Beltar, and Llerg.  It is interesting to see which of these gods survived to today. These gods made it to the 3.x Living Greyhawk Gaz and Complete Divine. Pyremius is the God of Fire, Poison, and Murder. He looks like a conehead to be honest.  The next goddess, Beltar, just has a Conehead sounding name.  She is the Goddess of Deep Caves, Pits, and Malice.  She appears as an old crone, a beholder or as a Type V, or Marilith, demon.  I would say she has a few of both types of creatures under her command.  Llerg is the God of Beasts and Strength and appears a bear-like man. He seems like a decent enough god. He prefers to live on his own in the woods and deals more with animals and other beasts. I was half-tempted back in the day to also make him the God of Bears, in the sub-culture sense. Now I am fully tempted. 

This issue also gave us the first Creature Catalog from Dragon. Here are a number of creatures that could easily be re-classified as demons; at least in the OMG sense. These include the Fachan, the Ghuuna (already has a demonic origin), and the Utukku.  Beltar in particular would have Utukku under her control. I went back to the original myths and did my own Utukku and Umu demons for Ghosts of Albion and a completely different version was created for Pathfinder.

pages from the Creature Catalog

Dragon Issue #90

Before we get to the Suel article proper, Out on a Limb covers the seemingly impossible relationship between chaotic to the core Norebo and hard-line lawful Wee Jas.  Kim Mohan makes two suggestions. First, opposites attract and Norebo has a big mouth.  Second, they goofed.   I like the idea of them being together, to be honest.  Gods need to be complicated.  Though given that Norebo and Wee Jas are also half-siblings, I guess really complicated. Well, no one bats an eye when it happens in Egyptian and Greek pantheons. 

You can also go with Mike's take on it over at Greyhawkery.

On to the article proper we have a collection of sea gods. Phyton, Xerbo, and Osprem.    Phyton is the God of Beuty and Nature, he is our ersatz Baldur.  Xerbo is our God of the Sea, Money, and Business, so a cross between Nord and Poseidon/Neptune.  Osprem is the Goddess of Sea Voyages. Our two sea gods Xerbo and Osprem both have tridents.  I guess there is a rule that sea gods must have one. They only have cool relations with each other.  They try not to fight each other and when a threat challenges the seas they are allied. But otherwise, they do not get along.  Osprem is in particular worship in and around the Lendore Isles.

This issue also featured the Incantatrix. Under normal situations, I would figure out a way to bring her into the fold with the Suel gods, but the write-up is not only so Realms specific, the Incantatrix has a history in the Realms.  So she stays where she is. 

Dragon Issue #92

Here again, we come to the end. Not just of 1984, but of this series. 

This issue also covers some new rules and ideas for clerics. Since I played a lot of clerics back then I rather enjoyed this issue.  Gary offers up some advice ("Clerics Play by Different Rules")  and a few others. This issue also gave us installment III of Pages from the Mages, but that was covered in a previous retrospective

Out Suel gods are Lydia, Bralm, and Jascar.  Lydia is the goddess of light and song. Bralm the Goddess of Insects and Industriousness, and Jascar the God of Hills and Mountains. No mention of his relationship to the other mountain god, Fortubo.  These gods and their write-ups were a nice working model of what Gygax was saying above about how clerics need to be different.

That is all the Suel gods from the World of Greyhawk.  These gods all survived to the 3rd Edition Living Greyhawk Gazetteer with some edits.  I guess the Suel Empire is not so forgotten after all!

One Man's God: The Demons

The nature of these articles did not include demons or even demonic creatures. They were very focused on the Gods themselves.  For demons that fit into this pantheon, I would suggest we go back to the source, the Monster Manual.  Here are the demons of this pantheon.  

Of the ones mentioned above, I think Orcus, Pazuzu, and Yeenoughu are the obvious choices.  

The Demihuman Mythos from the D&DG is another good source.  The Oerth gods though do have their own "devil" in the form of Tharizdûn.  He is a god, or was, or still is, but a fallen one. 

The Suel were a people of such xenophobia that any non-lawful god, godling, or monster would have been considered a demon. The Suel in fact would have more in common with devils and the 4e lost empire of Bael Turath.  In fact there could even be a link between Bael Turath and the Suel Empire.

In my own games, the Suel Empire were still the xenophobic dicks they always are, but they also had a special hatred for demons. The great artifact sword "Demonbane" was of Suel manufacture.

There is always more to hear about the World of Greyhawk and the Suel. Sadly one of the voices is now no more.   Gonna miss you Len!

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