Showing posts with label 1st ed. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1st ed. Show all posts

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. 

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!

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

One Man's God: Finish Mythos

Suomi Neito the Maiden of Finland
"Suomi Neito" the Maiden of Finland.
She is in the shape of Finland.

Seems like a good day to talk about fallen gods and demons.  We are also getting into mythos I know less and less about. So let's begin our tour in a country I have always liked, Finland.

I don't think it is too much to say that the myths and characters presented in the Deities & Demigods for Finland are largely, if not exclusively taken from the Finish national epic, The Kalevala.  I have a copy of the audio-book I had been meaning to listen to before this, but since I no longer drive to work it has been taking a bit longer to get through my backlist.   I have had some exposure to the myths in comparative mythology books and of course, every D&D gamers knows that Gary Gygax was also a big fan of these stories.

The Mythos of the Finish people are maybe some of the most relatable to long time D&D players since so much of them have been adopted into D&D proper.  Goddess Loviatar and Mielikki have been adopted wholesale into the Forgotten Realms campaign and remained unchanged from the D&DG counterparts. Mordenkainen sounds like he could have been a traveling companion to Vainamoinen and Lemminkainen.  Let's also not forget the Louhi, the Witch Queen of Pohjola is also an alternate name/guise for Tasha/Iggwilv.  

It is hard to say if the Finish Mythos have a more D&D feel to them because of how they are presented in the D&DG OR is because so much of D&D has strands of Finish/Kalevala DNA in it.  Those ties only got deeper as the development of D&D from the early 70s to the 80s went on.  So it would then reason that any Finish "demons" would convert over to AD&D demons fairly well.  

Except there is one little problem.

There are no monsters listed in the D&DG Finish mythos that could even be considered demonic, with maybe one exception.  The mythos are filled with Gods, but they are more background to the stories of the heroes.  The Kalevala is a Heroic epic.  So it has more akin with the stories of Gilgamesh and Heracles than it does with say the neighboring Norse myths which tend to be more about the exploits of the Gods.

So let's look at what we have and expand it out.

Page from the D&DG featuring Louhi, Loviatar and Mielikki
Louhi, Loviatar and Mielikki
Loviatar/Louhi
There is not a single male D&D player aged 40 and up that doesn't know Loviatar from the D&DG. Expand that outward and there isn't a single Forgotten Realms player of any age that doesn't know Loviatar.  She is the beautiful, cold, and strikingly topless, Goddess of Pain.  She is the intersection of D&D Dungeon Masters and S&M Dungeon Masters. she has been sexed up and everyone knows her.

Or do they?

In the Kalevala Loviatar is the blind daughter of Tuoni/Tuonetar.  The part about the cold wind blowing is spot on, but she is also the mother of the Nine Diseases.  Back in my AD&D witch playtests (late 80s) I had a witch of Loviatar who specialized in disease spells. So I do recall reading that much then in this comparative mythology book. 

There is also some conjecture that in the earliest tales Loviatar and Louhi were the same characters. Called Louhi in some areas and Loviatar in others. Though I think you would have trouble telling a Forgotten Realms fan that their Maiden of Pain is an ancient wrinkled crone. 

At one point I wanted to stat out the nine sons (or in my mind, eight sons and one daughter) of Loviatar as demon-like monsters.  But I never got it to come together in a way I liked.  I may try again after reading the Kalevala. 

If Loviatar went in one direction, Louhi went in the opposite.   Loviatar might be more popular with the D&D crowd, but it is Louhi who is more well known.  A lot can be said about Louhi and maybe one day I'll devote some more time to her. We do know that she was the model/alternate name for Tasha/Iggwilv. Which brings up an interesting idea. We know she has a son and she is the main antagonist of the Kalevala, though she also sometimes helps the heroes.  

Side note: I am sorry, the whole time writing this I keep hearing "Bring me the Sampo!" from the 1959 movie "The Sampo" or better known here in the US and to MST3k fans as "The Day the Earth Froze."  It has been my tradition to watch an MST3k movie while decorating for Christmas ever since I first saw this one. 

I do find one thing about the whole Louhi/Iggwilv connection interesting.  You have a Finish girl (Louhi) essentially kidnapped and raised by a Russian witch, Baba Yaga.  Allegorical of the Russian occupation of Finland from 1809 to 1917? Maybe.  OH! here is an idea.  The PCs need something from Iggwilv's past BUT her past is in Russia and Finland during the Victorian era.  Would give me a chance to play some Ghosts of Albion.  It would work well since the "Suomi Neito" or the Maiden of Finland is a concept similar to "Britannia" or "Éire / Ériu" and what the Protectors are. 

In the D&DG Louhi has 45 total levels of spell casting, she is certainly a very powerful character. She stole the sun and the moon for example. 

Edvard Isto The Attack
Edvard Isto "The Attack" 
The eagle of Russia attacks the Maiden of Finland.
Again her shape is the shape of the country.

Hiisi and Lempo
The closest thing we have to a demon is Hiisi the God of Evil.  I say closest, but the entry in the D&DG does not lend itself to being a demon.  Sure he is Chaotic Evil, but he seems to be more human or at least a giant. 

When doing my research I found that much like "The Devil" and "devils" Hiisi is both the name of a god of evil, evil beings in general and the place name where these beings are found.

We know from the D&DG that no evil creature can cause Hiisi damage.  Could it be that these evil creatures are his?   The plural of hiisi is hiidet. It usually translates to "malicious creature " or even demon.

Hiidet
FREQUENCY:  Very Rare
NO.  APPEARING:  1 (1-3)
ARMOR CLASS: 5
MOVE:  12"/24"
HIT DICE:  10+30 (60 hp)
%  IN  LAIR:  95%
TREASURE  TYPE:  Nil, Special
NO.  OF  ATTACKS:  2 fists or 1 weapon
DAMAGE/ATTACK:  2d6 x2 or 2d8
SPECIAL  ATTACKS:  None
SPECIAL  DEFENSES:  +1 or better weapon to hit, hide 90%, Immune to cold and fire
MAGIC  RESISTANCE:  10%
INTELLIGENCE:  Animal (savage)
ALIGNMENT:  Chaotic  Evil
SIZE:  L  (12' to 18' tall)
PSIONIC ABILITY:  Nil

Hiidet are often confused with hill giants, ogres, and trolls.  Each one is unique in that it takes on the coloration and form best suited to its chosen lair.  A Hiidet of the stoney mountains will appear to made of stone with moss-like hair.  One living in the forests will have brownish or greenish skin and leaf-like hair.  This camouflage is part of their demonic heritage and is set once they find a lair to settle in.  It does not change though as they move around.  It does confer a 90% chance that they will remain unseen in their lairs. 

Hiidet attack with their fists or a weapon. They are immune to the environmental effects of cold and are immune to both fire and cold effects including magic and dragon breath.

Hiidet are something of a cross-species between elementals, giants, and demons.  They are quick to anger and will lash out at anyone invading their lands, but they are also cowards who will avoid attacking large parties.  Their lairs are natural areas such as caves, or holes in the ground that would fit them.  They keep nothing of value, preferring to eat their victim whole.  Every so often though a rare magical item will be found in their lairs (10%). 

Lempo is a similar case.  There was a god (sometimes goddess), Lempo, of love, but of the irrationality of love that causes people to make bad decisions.  Lempo seems similar to the god Pan in many respects including his "demonization" by Christians.  Another character, Paha, is also mentioned. 

Lempo
FREQUENCY:  Very Rare
NO.  APPEARING:  1
ARMOR CLASS: -1 or 9
MOVE:  24"/48"
HIT DICE:  6+6 (42 hp)
%  IN  LAIR:  0%
TREASURE  TYPE:  Nil
NO.  OF  ATTACKS:  NA
DAMAGE/ATTACK:  NA
SPECIAL  ATTACKS:  Cause chaos
SPECIAL  DEFENSES:  +1 or better weapon to hit, invisible
MAGIC  RESISTANCE:  25%
INTELLIGENCE:  Average
ALIGNMENT:  Chaotic  Evil (Chaotic Neutral)
SIZE:  L  (12' to 18' tall)
PSIONIC ABILITY:  Nil

Lempo are nature and fertility spirits that have been corrupted by evil.  Their former function was to ensure fertility and crop growth, they became corrupted and now sow lasciviousness and chaotic behavior.  They cause faithful couples to stray and young people to behave in an erratic manner.

As spirits, they have no physical presence in the world. Though any weapon that can target ethereal creatures can strike them (AC -1).  Likewise they have no physical attacks save their corrupting influence.  The tactic of a lempo is to rest on the roof of a home to cause all inside to come under it's influence. Characters and creatures under 4 HD have no save and act in a chaotic manner.  Creatures 4hd and above are allowed a save vs. spells.

A priest of 4th level and higher can see the lempo, it appears as a humanoid shape (male or female) with a crow's head, feet, and wings.  The priest can "turn" this creature as if it were a wriath.  A result of T means the lempo has fled but is not destroyed.  A result of "D" means the lempo has been forced out of the spirit realm into the physical.  Here it may be attacked with magic weapons (AC 9), but it has no attacks to counter. 

If the lempo has fled or has caused enough damage in one village it will move on to the next one.

Lempo–Hiisi is also a trans-Neptunian trinary object along with Paha. Like many of these planetoids, they are named for creatures and characters from the underground, afterlife, and chthonic gods/creatures. 

Depending on your read, Hiisi, Lempo, and Paha could be three unique characters or one with two lesser cohorts, or the name of all such creatures.  

Finish Maiden
I have mentioned her a few times above, but the personification of Finland is the Finish Maiden.  I am not sure if there is any relation between them and Ukko's Air Maidens from the D&DG, but it does seem like there could be a thread connecting them.

"Suomi Neito" the Maiden of Finland with map of Finland
Finland and her maiden

She joins the others from nearby lands, Lady of the Mountains (Iceland). Ola Nordmann (Norway), Holger the Dane (Denmark), and Mother Svea (Sweden).

My feeling is there is a lot more to these myths and stories and like always the D&DG is just scratching the surface.  Again, this is not a bad thing.  The D&DG is not a textbook on mythology. 

ETA: I am also submitting this as part of November's RPG Blog Carnival.




Friday, October 2, 2020

Kickstart Your Weekend: Bitchin Chimera and the Jaquays' Archive

Quite the collection today!

Lost Tomb of the Bitchin' Chimera - Dead Milkmen RPG Module


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/justinsirois/lost-tomb-of-the-bitchin-chimera-dead-milkmen-rpg-module?ref=theotherside

The Dead Milkmen are releasing a D&D adventure about a "Bitchin Chimera." Do I really need to tell you more than that? No idea if Tony Orlando and Dawn, Beelze-bubba, Mojo Nixon, or a Punk Rock Girl will appear. 

Judges Guild Deluxe: Dark Tower, Caverns of Thracia, & More


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1409961192/judges-guild-deluxe-dark-tower-caverns-of-thracia-and-more?ref=theotherside

Ok, first and foremost this Kickstarter will not benefit any of the current racist owners of the Judges Guild.  This collects some of the best material of the early days of JG and all written by Jennell Jaquays. Some very, very solid stuff here, and Goodman Games puts out a solid product.

and finally one more look at this one now that it has made it's funding goal.

Hellbringers: The Sacred Heart


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/hellbringers/hellbringers-the-sacred-heart?ref=theotherside

All are ending soon!

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

This Old Dragon: Retrospective, Pages from the Mages

Another This Old Dragon Retrospective today. Today I want to cover one of my favorite series in the run of Dragon, and one that had far fewer entries than I thought, Pages from the Mages. Again this series is by Ed Greenwood writing to us as Elminster. It's a wonder I wasn't a fan of the Realms until pretty much 2001.


The premise is laid out in the first installment, Elminster (or Ed, sometimes it is hard to say) wondering aloud why we don't find more unique spell-books in treasure hordes. He goes on to explain that such tomes are very rare.  The set up is solid and less in-universe than The Wizard's Three.  But like The Wizard's Three, this is used to give us some new spells and some magic tomes worthy to build an adventure around.  So let's join Ed and Elminster and pour through these pages of a nearly as legendary tome, Dragon Magazine, and see what treasures we can find.

Pages from the Mages

Our first entry is in Dragon #62 which has one of my all-time favorite covers; the paladin on horseback challenging three orcs.   This takes us all the way back to June 1982, the height of my D&D Basic/Expert days.  The magic books we discover here are:

    Mhzentul’s Runes, with details for making a Ring of Spell Storing. Rings that become guardian creatures (but no details) and the spells Fireball, Fire Shield, Fire Trap, and Delayed Blast Fire Ball.

    Nchaser’s Eiyromancia, this book gives us two new spells, Nulathoe’s Ninemen and Nchaser’s Glowing Globe.

    Book of the Silver Talon, this sought after tome has a number of good spells, Read Magic, Burning Hands, Comprehend Languages, Detect Magic, Erase, Write, Identify, Message, Shocking Grasp, Shield, Darkness 15’ Radius, Detect Invisibility, Knock, Ray of Enfeeblement, Web, Wizard Lock, Blink, Dispel Magic, Gust of Wind, Infravision, Phantasmal Force, and Protection From Normal Missiles.  Additionally, it has recipes for the ink for Read Magic, Buring Hands, Comprehend Languages, Detect Magic, Erase, Write, Identify, Message, Shocking Grasp, and Shield.  All in-universe and fluff, but fun all the same AND an often overlooked aspect of magic.

    Chambeeleon, the unique spellbook is described as a treasure.  In contains the spells, Water Breathing, Fly, Lightning Bolt, Fire Shield (cold flame version only), Ice Storm, Airy Water, Cone of Cold, Conjure Elemental (new version), Disintegrate, Glassee, Part Water, Spiritwrack, Cacodemon, Drawmij’s Instant Summons, Reverse Gravity, and Vanish. Which leads to the obvious conclusion that Drawmij was also moving between the planes between Greyhawk and the Realms.  This book is also considered to be a religious text by many priesthoods of aquatic gods.
 
In each case, we also get a little history and the last known or suspected whereabouts of the tomes. I say tomes, but thankfully Ed was not so limited in his thinking.  Some are books, some are collections of pages and others are stranger still.  I find it interesting that this entry is followed by the classic NPC class, the Scribe, also by Ed.

More Pages from the Mages

Our next entry comes from Dragon #69 which I also covered as part of my This Old Dragon Issue #69. Again a fantastic cover from the legendary Clyde Caldwell.  The article is titled "More Pages from the Mages" and has art by Jim Holloway. Interestingly there is a book in the art named "Holloway's Guide to Everything" could that be the next 5e book to come out?  The actual books covered here are:

    The Magister, this particular tome has no title so it is just called "the Magister". It consists of 16 sheets of parchment between two ivory covers.  It includes a treatise on illusion magic and the spells Change Self, Color Spray, Phantasmal Force, Detect Illusion, Mirror Image, Dispel Illusion, Nondetection, Massmorph, Shadow Door, Programmed Illusion, and True Sight.  There is also an alternate version of the Clone spell. There is also a lot of debate on what is exactly on the last page. 

    Seven Fingers (The Life of Thorstag), this tome is bound in leather. It describes the Void Card from the Deck of Many things. How wonderfully random! Yet so on point for an academically minded wizard.  There is also a recipe for Keoghtom’s Ointment, which may or may not be correct.  There is also some local history. 

    The Nathlum, is a rather non-descript book.  But there is some saying about books and covers.  This one will cause damage to anyone of Good alignment holding it! It includes recipes for poisons, so not all these books are limited to spells.  Something that honestly is not stressed enough. 

    The Workbook, there is no accurate description of this tome.  So Elminster isn't all-knowing (ok to be fair, Elminster and Ed would be the first to point this out).  This is rumored to include the spells Spendelarde’s Chaser, Caligarde’s Claw, Tulrun’s Tracer, Tasirin’s Haunted Sleep, Laeral’s Dancing Dweomer, Archveult’s Skybolt, and Dismind. All are new.

As I mentioned in my original post, back in the day I would go right for the spells, today I am more interested in the story behind the spellbooks.  Maybe the spells inside are some I have already seen, but that is not what makes it valuable to me now. It's the story, the history, maybe there is something really special about this book. Maybe the spellcaster is still alive. Maybe his/her enemies are and want this book.  My cup runneth over with ideas.

Pages From the Mages III

We jump to December 1984 and Dragon #92.  Damn. Another classic cover. This time it is "Bridge of Sorrows" by Denis Beauvais and he has updated it on his website.  what a great time to be a classic D&D fan.  This one is very special for me for many reasons. First, this was the very first PftM I had ever read. I didn't know a damn thing about the Realms (and I only know slightly more now) but as I mentioned in my This Old Dragon Issue #92 I remember going on a quest to recover Aubayreer's Workbook having only the glyph as a clue.  I don't remember all the details save that the quest was dangerous and the spells in the book were a bit anti-climatic given the quest.  Not that the spells are bad (hardly!) it is the quest was that hard.

This is also, at least from what I can tell, our very first mention of The Simbul, "the shapeshifting Mage-Queen".  I guess she is looking for a copy of this book too! I think I see a plot hook for my next Realms game (and playing on the events in The Simbul's gift).  MAYBE that quest was only half of the tale! Maybe the other half was really to get this book to The Simbul.  I am only 30+ years late.   Thank you Ed!  Of course, that is only one of FOUR magic books.  Let's have a look.

    Aubayreer's Workbook, this "book" is a long strip of bark folded accordion-style between two pieces of wood with a rune carved on it.  The spells are read magic, burning hands, dancing lights, enlarge, identify, light, message, write, ESP, wizard lock, dispel magic, explosive runes, fireball, and extension I. There three special spells  hailcone (a version of ice storm), and two new spells, Aubayreer's phase trap and thunderlance.

    Orjalun's Arbatel, not to be overshadowed this book's pages are beaten and polished mithril! Lots of Realms-centric details here. In fact this might be where many of these topics saw print for the very first time. This one includes two new spells Encrypt and Secure.

    The Scalamagdrion, bound in the hide of some unknown creature this book has a little surprise. The spells included are (and in this order): Write, erase, tongues, message, unseen servant, wizard lock, identify, enchant an item, permanency, blink, disintegration, feeblemind, fly, death spell, flame arrow, delayed blast fireball, invisibility, levitate, conjure elemental, minor globe of invulnerability, wall of force, remove curse, and dispel magic.  The book also has a unique monster bound up in the pages that will protect the book! 

    The Tome of the Covenant, named for the group of four mages that gathered together to stop the onslaught of orc from the north.  What this entry makes obvious is exactly how much detail Ed had already put into the Realms. There are four new spells in this book, named for each one of the Covenant wizards. Grimwald's Greymantle, Agannazar's Scorcher, Illykur's Mantle, and the one that REALLY pissed me off, Presper's Moonbow.  It pissed me off because I had written a Moonbow spell myself. Only mine was clerical and it was a spell given by Artemis/Diana to her clerics. My DM at the time told me it was too powerful at 5th level and here comes Ed with a similar spell, similarly named and his was 4th level!  Back then it was known as "Luna's Moonbow" named after one of my earliest characters. Ah well.  Great minds I guess.

Pages from the Mages IV

We jump ahead to Dragon #97from May 1985.  I also covered this one in This Old Dragon Issue #97. Rereading this article years later is the one where I thought I should stop being such a spoiled Greyhawk twat and see what the Realms had to offer.  It would still be a long time before I'd actually do that.  This one also had a bit of a feel of the Wizard's Three to it. The books covered here were:

    Bowgentle's Book, a slim volume bound in black leather. It has a ton of spells in it, so many I wonder how "slim" it actually was.  Cantrips clean, dry, and bluelight, and the spells affect normal fires, hold portal, identify mending, push, read magic, sleep, continual light, darkness 15' radius, detect evil, detect invisibility, ESP forget, knock, levitate, locate object, magic mouth, rope trick, strength, wizard lock, blink, dispel magic, fireball, fly, hold person, infravision, Leomund's Tiny Hut, lightning bolt, protection from evil 10' radius, protection from normal missiles, slow, tongues, water breathing, charm monster, confusion, dimension door, enchanted weapon, fire shield (both versions), minor globe of invulnerability, polymorph other, polymorph self, remove curse, wizard eye, Bigby's Interposing Hand, cone of cold, hold monster, passwall, and wall of force.  The two new spells are dispel silence and Bowgengle's Fleeting Journey. 

    The Spellbook of Daimos, this one has no title on the cover and described as very fine. Very little is known about who or what "Daimos" is.  The spells included are, identify, magic missile, invisibility, levitate, web, fireball, monster summoning I (a variant), slow, suggestion, confusion, fear, fire trap, polymorph self animate dead, cloudkill, feeblemind, anti-magic shell, disintegrate, geas, globe of invulnerability, reincarnation, repulsion, Bigby's Grasping Hand, duo-dimension, power word stun, vanish, incendiary cloud, mind blank, astral spell, gate, and imprisonment.   The new spells are flame shroud, watchware, and great shout.

    Book of Num "the Mad", this one is interesting. It is loose pages held in place by two pieces of wood and a cord.  Num was a reclusive hermit who learned a bit of druidic lore.  There are a few more spells here. But what is more interesting are the new ones. Briartangle, Thorn spray, and Death chariot.

    Briel's Book of Shadows. Ok, the title has my attention. Though it has little to do with the Books of Shadows I am most often familiar with.  This one has the following new spell, Scatterspray. It does have some details on uses of Unicorn horns and a recipe for a Homonculous.

These books really upped the number of spells included in each book.  Was this intentional? Is this the "Power creep" that was starting to enter the game at this point? It was 1985 and this was not an uncommon question to ask with the Unearthed Arcana now out (and now these spellbooks all have cantrips!) and classes like the Barbarian and Cavalier making people say "D&D is broken!"  The more things change I guess...

Pages from the Mages V

Dragon #100 from august 1985 was a great issue all around. From the Gord story, to Dragon Chess, to this. I really need to give it a proper This Old Dragon one day.  But until then Ed is back with some more magic.  
    Sabirine's Specular, the first book from a wizardess. It has a good collection of standard spells.  The new spells are Spell Engine, Catfeet, Snatch, Spark (Cantrip), Bladethirst, and Merald's Murderous Mist.
    Glanvyl's Workbook, what is neat about this book is it appears to be the book of a lesser magic-user and these are his notes. So like the workbook a student might have in a writing class.  There are three new cantrips, Horn, Listen, and Scorch. One new spell, Smoke ghost, which is level 4 so he had to be at least high enough level for that.  and the preparations for inks for the Haste and Lightning Bolt spell.
    The Red Book of War, this is a prayer book for clerics of the war god Tempus.  I liked seeing that spells for clerics were also offered.  These of course would differ from the arcane counterparts in many ways, or, at least they should.  Ed makes the effort here to show they do differ and that is nice. Many often forget this.  There are a number of prayers here that are common.  Also the new prayers/spells are Holy Flail, Reveal, Bladebless, and Sacred Link, one I enjoyed using back then.  None of these spells though would late make it to the AD&D 2nd published version of Pages from the Mages.
    The Alcaister, this is a book with a curse. Not the spell, but rather a poison worked into the pages that is still potent 600 years after it was written. Among the common spells it has three new cantrips, Cut, Gallop, and Sting. There is one new spell, Body Sympathy, and the last page of the spellbook is a gate! Destination determined at random.

Arcane Lore. Pages From the Mages, part VI

It is going to be a five-year jump and new edition until the next Pages comes in Dragon #164. The article has some subtle and overt changes. First there is a little more of the "in character" Elminster here.  Ed has had more time to write as the Elminster and I think this is part of the success of the novels. The overt change is now the spells are in AD&D 2nd Edition format.  Not too difficult to convert back (or even to any other edition) but it is noticed. It is December 1990, lets see what Ed and Elminster have for us. 
    Book of Shangalar the Black, a deeply paranoid wizard from 700 years ago you say?  I am sure this will be fun! There are only new spells in this short (4 page) spellbook. Bone Javelin, Negative Plane Protection, Repel Undead, and Bone Blade.  Well, the guy had a theme to be sure.
    The Glandar's Grimoire, now here is something else that is rarely done, at least in print.  This book is only a burnt remnant.  What is left of what is believed to be a much larger tome is four pages with new spells. Fellblade, Melisander's Harp, Disruption, and Immunity to Undeath.
    The Tome of the Wyvernwater Circle, this is a druids prayer book.  Now I know D&D druids are not historical druids that did not write anything down. So a "Druid book" still sounds odd to me.  But hey when in the Realms! This book has a few common spells and some new ones; Wailing Wind, Touchsickle, Flame Shield, and Mold Touch.
    The Hand of Helm, another clerical prayer book. This one is of unknown origin. It has 27 pages (and thus 27 spells; one spell per page in 2e), four of which are new;  Exaltation, Forceward, Mace of Odo, and Seeking Sword.

Is it because I know TSR had gone through some very radical changes between 1985 and 1990 that I think the tone of this article is different than the one in #100?  I can say that one thing for certain is that Ed Greenwood is more of a master of his craft here.  The history of the Realms is, for lack of a better word, thicker in these entries.  There is more background to the spellbooks and their place in Realms lore.  This is a positive thing in my mind in terms of writing.  It did make it hard to add them to my Greyhawk campaign, but by 1990 I was hard-core Ravenloft; shit just randomly popped out of the Mists all the time. If I needed one of these books I could make an excuse to get them there.



Pages From the Mages

It is now May 1992.  I am getting ready to graduate from University now and Dragon #181 is giving us our last Pages from the Mages.  It has been a fun trip.  A little bit of framing dialogue starts us off. I did notice we have gone from talking about "the Realms" to now saying "FORGOTTEN REALMS® setting" instead. 

    Galadaster's Orizon. This book is actually considered to be a "lesser work" in the eyes of the wizard-turned-lich Galadaster, but this is all that survived of his tower's destruction. Among the common spells there are three new ones. Firestaff, Geirdorn's Grappling Grasp, and Morgannaver's Sting.
    Arcanabula of Jume, another book from a wizardess (rare in this collection of books). This one is written in the secret language of Illusionists (which are, as a class, slightly different in 2nd Ed) and is a traveling spellbook. It has four new spells, Dark Mirror, Shadow Hand, Prismatic Eye, and Shadow Gauntlet.
    Laeral's Libram. I was just about to comment that while these books are fantastic, none of the names have the recognition factor of say a Tenser, Bigby, or even Melf.  Then along last comes Laeral. Now here is someone famous enough that I have box of her dice sitting next me! Laeral Silverhand is of course one of the famous Seven Sisters. So not just a name, but a Name. This spellbook has the common spells of feather fall, magic missile, spider climb, and forcewave.  As well as the new spells of Laeral's Aqueous Column, Jhanifer's Deliquescence, and Blackstaff.  The blackstaff spell was created by another Name, Khelben Arunsun.  This one would be worthy of a quest to be sure.
    Tasso's Arcanabula.  Our last spellbook comes from an illusionist named Tasso.  Tasso is almost a  "Name." I recognize it, but I am not sure if it was because of this article or some other Realms book I read. The spell book has what I consider to be the common illusionist spells and four new ones. Tasso's Shriek, Shadow Bolt, Shadow Skeleton, and Prismatic Blade.  That's where I have heard of him. I have used that Prismatic Blade spell before,

After this series, the Wizard's Three took over as our source of spells from Ed.

I have read that Ed created this series based on his love of some of the named spells in the AD&D Player's Handbook.  He wanted to know more about the characters and how they came to be associated with those spells.  I think that he showed his love here in this series. I also think it was made clear that sometimes the spell creator's name gets added to a spell not just by the creator, but by those who chronicle the spell, spellbook, or spellcaster later. Sometimes centuries later. 

We got away from this but now it looks like it is coming back. especially with the recent Mordenkainen, Xanathur, and now Tasha books coming out from WotC.

Monday, August 3, 2020

#RPGaDAY 2020: Day 3 Thread

Over the weekend two game-related thoughts kept going through my head.  Frist Gen Con and how we were all missing it and the adventures I was going to run for my family and the theme of Thread.

Since D&D 5 had come out I have been running my family through the "Gygaxian Classics." while we technically started with B1 In Search of the Unknown with AD&D 1st ed, we quickly moved to D&D 5.  From here we did B2 Keep on the Borderlands and moved through the Great Greyhawk Campaign.  We have been calling the group The Order of the Platinum Dragon


Our order of games has been:

T1 Village of Hommlet (forgotten by the characters, played as a flashback after I6)
B1 In Search of the Unknown (Gen Con Game)
B2 Keep on the Borderlands
L1 The Secret of Bone Hill  (Gen Con Game)
X2 Castle Amber
I6 Ravenloft (Gen Con Game)
C2 Ghost Tower of Inverness
A1-5 Slave Lords
C1 The Hidden Shrine of Tamoachan
G123, G4 Against the Giants  (Gen Con Game)
D12, 3 Descent into the Depths of the Earth, Vault of the Drow
Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits (Gen Con Game)

I wanted my family to have the "Classic D&D Experience) with this.  Communities are often defined by the stories they share. These are the stories we all share.  How did you defeat Strahd? Did you shout 'Bree Yark'? What did you do in the Hill Giant's dining room?   Did you survive the Demonweb?

One of the things I have been doing differently than the original narrative is thread everything together with a massive conspiracy.  Someone, or something, killed all the Gods of the Sun.  
The characters (and the players) have come to the conclusion that this something is the Elder Elemental Eye.  But they don't know who or what that is.
They have learned that Eclavdra betrayed her Goddess, Lolth, and has incited a civil war within the city of Erelhei-Cinlu.  The followers of Lolth vs the followers of the Elder Elemental Eye.

What they don't know yet is who has been manipulating these threads.  Behind the scenes, the Demon Lord Graz'zt has been scheming.  In my world Graz'zt has always coveted the Drow. He wants their devotion and is jealous of the iron hold Lolth has on them.  So he has been stirring her up into more and more desperate attacks on the Prime Material.  He is using Eclavdra and her devotion to the EEE to get to Lolth.  Eclavdra thinks Graz'zt can free the EEE from his prison in the Temple of Elemental Evil.  To this end Elcavdra has been using what is left of the EEE former followers, or rather their descendants, the Giants.  Titans and Primordials followed the EEE back in the Dawn War.  Graz'zt thinks he can control the EEE once he has the worship of the Drow.

What Elcavdra doesn't know is Graz'zt has no intention of releasing the EEE from the Temple of Elemental Evil, save as far as he wants that power too.  Graz'zt is not a demon at all, but rather a devil sent by Asmodeus to infiltrate the demon hierarchy and discover the source of pure evil for Asmodeus.  Graz'zt has gone too deep into the cold though and now he thinks like a demon lord. Asmodeus suspects this of course.  Both of these powerful evil creatures will betray each other on the first chance.

Graz'zt has long suspected that the Temple of Elemental Evil is the key.  Centuries ago he sent the Demon Lady Zuggtmoy into the Temple. He discovered she was essentially absorbed by the power of the EEE. Now her cults worship it. 

What none of the evil lords and ladies know though is that the EEE is really Tharizdûn. He is manipulating Graz'zt and Asmodeus to free him.  He tried with Graz'zt before and Graz'zt sent in Zuggtmoy.  Tharizdûn quickly overwhelmed, overpowered, and destroyed Zuggtmoy's form and spirit.  This gave Tharizdûn enough power though to put his final plans into action.  He needs the Temple of Elemental Evil open. Only Lolth has the keys to unlock the Temple.

And in my next adventure with the family, Graz'zt is going to get them.

That was supposed to happen this last weekend, but Gen Con shut down due to Covid-19 we did not get to do this.

One thing that never sat well with me, and many others, is that after this epic adventure of Giants and Drow and going to the Abyss the end antagonist is Lolth and her Spider-ship?  It seems a little anti-climatic. 

Instead of that my last layer of the Lolth Demonweb will be Skein of the Death Mother.  



The spider-ship will still be used in my ill-defined Q2 adventure, likely piloted by Eclavdra to invade the surface world, but starting with the houses still loyal to Lolth in Erelhei-Cinlu.

I am going to pull all these threads, and more, together with the grand finale, The Temple of Elemental Evil

Then I am looking forward to running my War of the Witch Queens.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Troll Week Starts Tomorrow

I have been working from home since March 15th or so. It has been great really, work has provided me with all the tech I need. I wanted to make my life a little easier so I also set up my kid's old gaming computer in my office.  They still use for playing D&D online via Discord and Roll20, but I use it to test various things.  The computer still has CD-ROM and DVD-ROM drives.

While digging through some old back-ups I found a download folder I had thought had been lost.

On it was a copy of Ron Edwards' "Trollbabe" RPG. 
I was reading through it and forgot how much fun it was.  It also got me thinking about trolls, troll magic, and all sorts of related topics.

I remember back in the earliest days of my Dragon magazine reading and getting mail-order catalogs from Games Plus and the Dungeon Hobby Shop one of the products that always jumped out at me was Runequest's TrollPak.  

It was the exact sort of deep dive into a singular topic that appealed to me then and now.  Of course at the time I thought it might be related to Tunnels & Trolls.  When I discovered it wasn't I figured I could convert it and have a Troll-focused game.

You can't read a bunch of myths, legends, and fairy tales about witches and not run across the occasional troll.  They are all over the place.   Especially any of the stories of Northern Europe.

What I never liked though was how the trolls of myth and in particular the trolls from the Hobbit looked and acted nothing like the trolls of D&D.  Sure ogres are fine, but thin rubbery dudes that regenerate? Not so much.  As time went on I of course saw where the D&D trolls came from and why they were chosen; a stronger differentiation between ogres and trolls needed to be made.  But I still never really liked them.

In my games I made a new troll, the Earth Troll, that was more like the trolls I saw in the books I was reading.  These trolls were often the lackeys of hags, in particular, the Wood Hag.  These were much closer and I would later go one to make more trolls.  The idea here that trolls are highly adaptable to their environment.  They are Lamarckian Evolution played out in D&D.  Put a troll near water and in a couple of generations, they are adapted to it.  

But one thing I never did and will do this week, is adapt Troll Pak and Tunnels & Trolls to the Trolls of D&D.


Looking forward to seeing what I can come up with!

Friday, July 24, 2020

Silver Anniversary Time

Wednesday was my 25th Wedding Anniversary!  We had plans to be in Jamaica this year, but given how Americans are been told to stay in their own damn plague country, we settled for carry-out at our favorite seafood restaurant (Bob Chinn's FYI) and a nice walk (been walking 5k+ every night since COVID hit).

My wife and I are at an age where we don't really want a lot of things. For me, it was better to spend time with her, our favorite restaurant, and plate of sea scallops.  Besides we are also at an age where if there is something we need or want we just go get it. I didn't bust my ass in grad school for nothing.

BUT.  That doesn't mean I am not going to treat ourselves.
While my wife is going to get a new garden shed for her hobby.  I went to my FLGS and grabbed something I have been wanting for 20 years. Consequently, it is also a 25 year anniversary item.


My FLGS has had the D&D 25th Anniversary edition boxed set in their "glass" case for some time.

It is a premium item and likely cost WAY more than it should have (and more than I should have spent) but it is something I have wanted, it was my anniversary and I had promised I was only going to buy local once everything had opened back up.

I got it and I am very pleased.

I knew of the contents of course, but it was so nice to have them in front of me.


While they are all reprints I didn't actually own the separate G series modules and my copy of S2 White Plume Mountain walked years ago.  All I have is a printed PDF.  So those are "new" to me.

The copy of Ravenloft is nice and a little different from my 1983 original.



The "new" material for me was the history book and Len Lakofka's L3 Deep Dwarven Delve.





With L3 in hand, I now have the complete Lendore Isle's Trilogy. (Yes, I DO know there are more on Dragonsfoot.)



The set is very nice and there is a lot of room inside for more.  But not everything belongs inside to be honest.   But I figure my Silver Anniversary Return to the Keep on the Borderlands would be fine.


I just need a good copy of Return to White Plume Mountain as well. (ETA I see there is a POD version up at DriveThruRPG!)

BTW Return to the Keep is seriously under-rated. I use it now whenever I want to run a Keep adventure. I just typicall show everyone the B2 module so they think they are getting the full "orginal D&D experience."

This set is a nice companion piece to my Arts & Arcana for D&D history.



So happy 25th anniversary to me, my wife and D&D (just 20 years late on that last one).




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