Showing posts with label 80s. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 80s. Show all posts

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: The Beastmaster (1982)

The Beastmaster (1982)

Another one that made it's presence felt in many D&D games at the time.  In fact, I can think of about 4 or 5 different beastmaster classes off the top of my head now.

It has been forever since I have seen this one, so lets see what we have here. 

We have a young Rip Torn as our bad guy Maax ("May Axe").  Some scantily clad witches tell that King Zad's unborn son will kill him. One of the witches is none other than the future Mrs. Wayne Gretzky, Janet Jones. 

The witches transfer the unborn baby to a cow. Here they attempt to sacrifice him but are stopped by Ben Hammer. He takes the baby to raise as his own. 

Soon young Dar shows a strong affinity to animals. And sooner again we have older Dar in the form of mulletted 80s stalwart Marc Singer.  But he gets no time to enjoy it when his village is attacked by Rip Torn's men.  Maax sees Dar's brand from the witches but before he can get him Dar's dog drags him to the wilderness.  Dar returns to his village (seeing out of the eyes of an eagle) only to find everyone dead.  Even his dog died trying to save him.  

We get an 80s training montage of Dar training and learning how to talk to animals, including some ferrets.  Mind you we are now a half-hour into the movie and Singer's most significant dialog has been with the ferrets. 

I can say it is much slower than I remember, but not as cheesy.  Oh, it is still cheesy, but not as bad as I remember.  I think I was getting it confused with some Roger Corman flicks.  Credit to the movie, they use a lot of real animals and Marc Singer seems really comfortable with them.  Today they would just use CGI.

The Beastmaster may have supernatural powers but that doesn't mean he isn't above using them to steal (the now sadly late) Tanya Robert's clothes or scare her a bit with his lion. 

There are some cool winged "bird-men" or something, but Dar doesn't fight them.

Dar finds a city "Aruk" with a ziggurat (a model, but not a bad one) and the road is lined with dead people long before the same was seen in Meereen in Game of Thrones.  Rip Torn is here sacrificing children but Dar saves one with his eagle.  An effective scene, it would have been better if the eagle had saved the child and tore out Rip Torn's eyes or something, but we still have an hour to go.  Plus Dar returns the child, so I guess the eagle was busy.  Pretty solid good vs evil lines are being drawn here. 

John Amos shows up as Seth.  He appears to be some sort of Monk.  This is one of the roles he took after Good Times.  I always like John Amos, he should have been a much bigger star than he was.  

The undead guards are kind of cool too. Even little Kodo got to be a hero in the end. 

This was much better and more fun than I recall, to be honest.  Nice to have this kind of surprise really

Gaming Content

Lots really.

Ring of Scrying. This ring has an eye set into it like a gem.  Any spellcaster that can scry (Magic-users, witches) can see through this ring using a scrying medium such a pool, mirror, or crystal ball.  Witches will give these to servants and cowans so they can literally keep an eye on them. Damage to the ring though will damage the witch viewing through it.

Beastmaster classes. I covered these a while back in a Class Struggles.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: Dragonslayer (1981)

Dragonslayer (1981)
Since April is Monster Month here I thought it might be fun to check some monster-themed Sword & Sorcery & Cinema movies.  Up first is a classic and premiered at the height of the 80s fantasy craze. Here is 1981's Dragonslayer from both Paramount and Disney.

We are introduced to one of the most famous dragons outside of Westeros or Erebor, Vermithrax Pejorative.  Though he is mentioned among the dragons in Game of Throne's first season.  

The movie is a little slow, but on par with what was normal at the time.  Peter MacNicol is fine as the apprentice turned dragonslayer Galen, but I can't help but think if someone else would have been better in the role.  Caitlin Clarke was great as the girl pretending to be a boy Valerian.  She returned to theatre work after this and this was her only major role.  She sadly passed of ovarian cancer in 2004.

Sadly the movie under-performed in the box office and some of the reviews were not great, but the movie was fun then and to be honest the effects have held up well enough.  It has achieved "cult movie" status and that is not a bad thing.  It certainly is a great one to have on a Dragon-themed movie night.

The effects are good and the director gets away with a lot of "showing less is more."  We only see bits and pieces of the dragon until the very end when it is most effective. Sure some of the stop motion looks very stop motion-y, but Vermithrax still looks like he could go toe to toe with Smaug or Drogon.  I really can't help but think that this dragon wasn't at least some of the inspiration for the DragonRaid game

The musical queues in this are pure Disney so they are also very effective. 

Gaming Content

Now THAT is a Dragonlance! The Sicarius Dracorum really shows that a spear, or a lance, is the best weapon for fighting a dragon.  The forging scene where Galen heats the metal with magic is really one of the best.  If you are not forging your magic weapons like this then you are missing out!

Caitlin's dragon scale shield, while less theatric, is just as magical. 

I am sure there are those that will nitpick that the "dragon" only has two legs and not four, but I can't get worked up over that. He is still a fantastic dragon.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982)

Another fairly notorious one.  I can recall gamers in my Jr. High talking about how to stat up the sword from this.  The start of this one is fun, love the wall of screaming faces.

Among others, this features Richard Lynch as Titus Cromwell the evil king (naturally) and Richard Moll as Xusia the evil sorcerer.  On the side of good, we get Lee Horsley as Prince Talon just before he became Matt Houston and Kathleen Beller, the future Mrs. Thomas Dolby*, as Princess Alana.

I only mention her as the "future Mrs. Thomas Dolby" because that was my first real knowledge of her, on the cover of his "Aliens Ate My Buick" album.  

So let's get to this!

The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982)

So Richard Lynch summons Richard Moll to help him fight King Richard (Christopher Cary).  Of course, no sooner had he got help from the sorcerer Xusia, Cromwell kills him. 

We also get our first look at the ridiculous three-bladed sword. It can cut, slice, and fire blades! 

Eleven years later Talon (now looking like Lee Horsley) comes back home to avenge his father and mother. 

There is a bit with Manimal I mean Prince Mikah played by Simon MacCorkindale and George Maharis, a long way from Route 66, as Machelli.  We also get another showing of S&S&C MVP Anthony De Longis appears as Rodrigo.  

I have never watched it all the way through.  I honestly could never get past the sword firing blades.  Watching it now I remember why.

The prince is rescued but they fight their way out. There seems to be a bit of Raiders of the Lost Ark envy here; Talon's escape could be taking place in Cario, Egypt. 

Talon fights Cromwell only to have Xusia come back.  I have to admit Xusia's return is kind of fun, it would have been better if they hadn't telegraphed it. Xusia and Talon fight over who gets to kill Cromwell.  Talon kills the sorcerer and then he and Cromwell fight.

Not a great movie but a cult film all the same. I know a lot of people love it, but I could not get into it in the 80s and didn't do much better now.

Gaming Content

Seems fitting seeing how they call out D&D on the poster and there is not a dragon to be found in this.

The Triple-Sword.  This sword is +3 to hit and damage.  On striking it does 3d6+3 points of damage. 
The sword can launch one of two of its outside blades doing 1d6+3 damage.  Its range is 30/60/120 feet.  Reattaching a blade requires one round in which the wielder cannot attack. 

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

This Old Dragon: Issue #101

Dragon Magazine 101
It has been far too long since I did This Old Dragon.  I'll grab the next one of the pile and see what we have.  Looks like we are headed back to September 1985 for This Old Dragon #101.

This one is another with no cover.  That is interesting because I will admit it is among one of my least favorite covers.  I am not sure why really, it is Dave Martin and did the (in)famous Dragon #114 cover, but I never cared for this one.

One of the good things about taking so long to this is these now seem to smell less moldy and mildewy. That's a plus.

Kim Mohan's Editorial repeats a sentiment I have shared here; Aren't We All In This Together? Essentially they refused to run an ad that disparaged another companies product. I have often felt the same.  Other gamers, games, game designers are not my competition, they are my colleagues. Like Mohan maybe I am naïve. 

Some ads for Call of Cthulhu and ElfQuest.  The ElfQuest, one covers Sea Elves.  I have been re-reading Dragonlance, Dragons of Spring Dawning that introduced the Sea Elves. Been wanting to do more with them myself.  Maybe I should check on eBay for this.

The first article, Update from the Chief, comes to us from Gary Gygax himself.  This might be the last article written by Gary as a member of TSR.  He will be out in October of 1985.  The article covers many topics.  Unearthed Arcana sold over 90k copies in its first month and his Gord book did well.  Gary announces two upcoming publications, Oriental Adventures and T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil for AD&D and more "family-type" games including All My Children. Gary also briefly discusses the critics of D&D and RPGs in general. 

In a fortuitous (turn for me) Roger E. Moore's article on Kender in All About the Kender is up. I just posted stats for what I think is the very first Kender character I have ever made. Lots of people hate Kender. I will admit I never liked them much, but hate was too strong.  My dislike comes more from my enjoyment of halflings.  Moore's article, rereading it all these years later AND while also rereading the first Dragonlance Chronicle my opinion has softened.  Now I think I find Kender in the light they were always intended. What I disliked about them then is what endears them to me now.  I have to admit that some of what I did with gnomes in the 3e days were likely based on 1st ed Kenders.  I am perfectly happy to keep them on Krynn in my own games, but here they get to be as Kendery as they can.   Since I am going to be running DL15 Mists of Krynn, this is a great article to reread.

Plan it by The Numbers is up from Frank Mentzer.  This is a system he had planned on using in the D&D Master Set. It is similar in many respects to the Monstermark system from White Dwarf or the Challenge Rating systems from D&D 3-5.  The system was not used because it was "too heavily mathematic" but it seems rather simple to be honest.  Almost too simple. In any case I think I will give it a try for my Basic-era War of the Witch Queens game. 

Paul Suttie is next with For King and Country. I have say, I find nothing more tedious and dull than discussions about alignment. For something that is only one aspect of the game I find the multitudes of discussions on it largely pointless.  For example, this article covers five pages.  Why?  Do we really need that?  In then he just wants to dump the whole thing.  

The article is at least broken up by a cool black ad for the D&D Master Set.  Makes it look like a limited edition sort of deal. There is also an ad for Unearthed Aracana.

D&D Master SetAD&D Unearthed Arcana

The Role of Books covers the then-new offerings from SF/Fantasy.   I will admit I don't know most of these, but 1985 was around my turning point of leaving science fiction and fantasy reading and moving more into dark fantasy and horror.  Of the titles, I do recognize the novelization of "Ladyhawke" by Joan D. Vinge.  I enjoyed her "Snow Queen" and "Cat" series quite a bit as well as her novelization of "Return to Oz." 

Peter Johnson is next with Charging isn't Cheap on how to recharge magic items.  The nice feature of this article are the examples of how various wondrous magic items are/were created.  This is a nice change from the very formula-driven approach seen in 3e.  Other than the level restrictions on who can create or enchant these items, this could easily be added to any version of the D&D game. The levels might need to be altered is all. 

Jeff Grub, of Marvel Super Heroes fame, sets out to review a game that could be considered a conflict of interest; but he is very clear about where he is coming from on it. So instead of a conflict or a competitor, he comes off as "Expert."  This is good because the game he is reviewing is the DC Heroes RPG.  It's a good review and Jeff obviously loves the game as it is and loves it as a competition to his own MSH game. 

We get to the centerpiece, literally and figuratively, of this issue.  The Creature Catalog III.  I loved new monsters in Dragon Magazine, and the Creature Catalogs were among my favorite features.  This one has 24 new monsters for your AD&D game and includes submissions from the likes of Ed Greenwood, Roger E. Moore, and Stephen Inniss. With art from Marsha Kauth, Dave LaForce, and Roger Raupp.   There are a few very interesting monsters here too.  The avari are cool-looking bat-like humanoids. The bogeyman is another take on the bogey, bogle, boggart of myth and legend.  The creeping pit is a magical mishap gone wrong. Another hamadryad and lhiannan shee.  The mantimera is a crossbreed of a manticore and chimera (not sure I want to know how that happens). And the yale from mythological lore.   

Consequently, Owen Kermit Edwards is now doing posts on the monsters of Dragon magazine.  His first one is up today on his blog Haughty Fantasy Adventures

TSR Comming Attractions lets us know that T1-4 Temple of Elemental Evil is on the way, as well as Book 3 of the Dragonlance Chronicles, Dragons of Spring Dawning.  I have been rereading that and am just about done.

Fiction from Brenda Gate Speilman.

We get to the Ares section now.  

One day I need to back through all of the Ares and see what I can use for my BlackStar and Star Trek: Mercy games. 

Roger E. Moore (our MVP of this issue) has his article on Starships and Star Soldiers on the use of minis in science fiction games.  Timely for me since I just started getting into some 3D printing of some of the FASA Star Trek ships. 

Sorry, Wrong Dimension from Mike Manolakes covers dimensional or parallel universal travel in superhero games.  As a big fan of both the comic and TV event "Crisis on Infinite Earths" and someone that uses different universes in my fantasy games as well.  The 6-dimension coordinate system he has here is EXACTLY something we would have used back then.  This uses a 2d6 for determining dimensions. I like that.  But the d12 is my go-to sci-fi die, so I used that instead. 

More from Jeff Grub on The Marvel-Phile. This time back to Asgard with Beta Ray Bill and Sif.  

Out of the Sun covers man machines for Gamma World from James Ward and Roger Raupp.  And Michael Brown gives us The Stellar Diocese of cleric for Traveller.   That is something I should adopt for BlackStar, but only cultists.

Convention Calendar covers the hottest conventions for Fall 1985 and Winter 1986. Some small ads, notably for a couple play by mail games and art for your D&D characters. Something that I still enjoy getting. 

Wormy gets two pages. I think I need to reread that one from the beginning. I know how it ends, but hitting these in piece-meal, out of order fashion, I forgot what the hell was happening. 

Dragonsmirth gives us TWO different picnic scenes. SnarfQuest gets three pages, mostly about the Gaggleleech. 

I remember this one when it first came out. There is a lot of great material here and the Creature Catalog will certainly see some new use in the future.

Dragon Magazines

Still plenty more to go!

Thursday, February 18, 2021

TSR Minigames as Moldvay-era Adventure Modules

TSR's minigames
TSR's minigames
Last week I discussed how I saw Warlocks & Warriors as something of a "larger" minigame and thematically fitting in with Holmes Basic.   Today I want to fast forward to 1980-81 and talk a little bit about TSR's minigames.

I do not own all of these games, nor am I planning to hunt them all down. My FLGS has a few of them but I have other things on my list to find and buy first.  That being said having them all would be kind of fun.

There were eight total games and I own the first four, the same four that appeared in the 1981 Gateway to Adventure catalog.  The links below take you to their Board Game Geek pages.

Vampyre, my first one. This is for 2-6 players. Players hunt the minions of Dracula in an attempt to find and destroy his coffins.  There is a "wilderness" map and a map of Castle Dracula. Designed by Philip A. Shreffler. Art by Erol Otus.

Revolt on Antares. This game is for 2-4 players and is a "Sword and Planet" style adventure with three modes of play. Typical this boils down to the Terran Empire being the antagonists, protagonists, or neutral. Designed by Tom Moldvay and art by Bill Willingham and Erol Otus. Black Dougal makes an appearance here as well. Also listed for art are Jeff Dee (cover), David LaForce, and Jim Roslof

They've Invaded Pleasantville. For 2 players, a "Town" player and an "Alien" player.  Aliens have invaded Pleasantville as part of their global takeover plan. The town player must either stop or kill the alien sub-commander "Zebu-Lon" (wait a minute...) or get more than half of the townsfolk back to normal.  Designed by Michael Price with art by Erol Otus, Jeff Dee, David LaForce, Jim Roslof, and Bill Willingham.

SAGA. For 2-6 players. Players amass treasure, lands, and glory. The one that has the most glory at the end of 20 rounds wins. Designed by Steve Marsh with art by Erol Otus, Jeff Dee, David LaForce, Jim Roslof, and Bill Willingham.  Willingham's cover is one of the best and this also features some great Erol Otus art. 

Other minigames include Attack Force, Icebergs, Remember the Alamo and Viking Gods. I don't own these games, but their production values seem a touch higher than the first four. 

Minigames, the Gateway to Adventure!
Minigames, the Gateway to Adventure!

All the games feature a 16-page booklet with black and white art and a fold-out map.  Sometimes full color (Saga, Pleasantville, Antares) or two-color (Vampyre).  Vampyre is also the only one with the maps printed on both sides.  Each game also came with counters and two d6s. 

Vampyre minigame in clamshell, with dice, counters and map

They are all certainly playable and fun on their own.  I had a lot of fun with Vampyre back in the day. But that is not why we are here today.  No today I am going to dip a toe a little bit into my Traveller Envy and mix these with my current D&D games.   Let me start out with my old favorite and one I have used as an adventure in the past.

Minigames as B/X Adventures

There is a lot to love about these little games.  The Souvenir font really hits that nostalgia button hard for fans of the Moldvay/Cook Basic and Expert sets. Not to mention some of the best-looking Erol Otus art.   This troll not only belongs in D&D, but he is BEGGING to be in D&D.

Erol Otus Troll from SAGA
Erol Otus Troll from SAGA

Maybe it is the font, maybe it is the art but when I got these games the first thing I wanted to do was play them as part of my D&D games.  Of course, back then that meant Basic and Expert D&D.  Some of it also came from the desire to get the most out of my purchase with my limited paper route money.

Vampyre

My first minigame.  Now I am a HUGE Dracula and vampire fan so when I got the Cook/Marsh Expert Set and saw that there were vampires in it my first thoughts went to vampire hunts.  My first character was a cleric for this very reason.  The game Vampyre is set during the events of the novel Dracula with the same (or rather similar) characters.  So set in the 1890s. Since Ravenloft Masque of the Red Death was still a decade and a half away, I converted this to a simple Expert D&D monster hunt.   If I were to redo it I'd up the threat of Dracula.  In Expert, I made him a Greater Vampire

Vampire chic, circa 1981
Vampire chic, circa 1981

The dual map, a "wilderness" and a "dungeon" again BEG to be used in the Expert game. The parallels between this game and the Ravenloft adventure. No surprise since both draw from the exact same source materials.  The trick the next time I use this is to make it less like Ravenloft.

SAGA

This is the next piece of "low hanging fruit."  Like Dungeon! the connections to D&D are obvious here.  SAGA has heroes fighting monsters, exploring, gaining treasure. Sounds D&D like to me! There is a nice little Risk-like map of the Viking world. This includes all of England, Denmark, and some of Sweden, Norway, and Ireland.  The map also had "Thule" about in the place where Iceland would be expected (and to the map's odd scale).  The map is also just great to look at. 

Outside of the troll featured above the monsters include Dragons, Drow (not just dark elves), Ghosts, Giants, and Witches!  I am happy to see that witches are the next more dangerous creature after dragons.  The game has some fun spells and magical runes with simple effects and some named magical swords. 

While there are no dungeons in this game it is full of ideas. 

This got me thinking about how Vampyre and SAGA could work together.  In SAGA you travel from mainland Europe to England for treasure and glory.  In Dracula, the last act is the heroes traveling from England back to mainland Europe to hunt the monster.   Maybe with something like Draugr & Draculas as the connective tissue the mini-campaign can be changed from one of just glory to one of monster hunting across the continent to stop the master vampire. Call it Vampyre Saga.  Hmm. That sounds a little bit like a supernatural teen show on the CW.  I'll play with it a bit.

The next two are a little hard to fit in.

They Invaded Pleasantville

The premise of this game is great and recalls 50s alien invasion movies. But as Carl Sagan pointed out in The Demon-Haunted World today's alien abductions were yesteryear's demon possessions.  So swap out the aliens for demons and now this sleepy Midwestern town is a village in the Realms where demons are running rampant.  Stop the Alien Sub-CommanderDemonic Lord.

Revolt on Antares

This game is a fun Sword & Planet game, but remove it from it's setting it is a fairly generic "Us vs. Them" game of rebellion and oppressors.  Sure there are a lot of ways I could use this, but it gets it further and further away from its basic premise.  Maybe it would make for a good Star Frontiers game.

Party like it is 1981!

In any case, there is a lot more fun to be had here. 

Thursday, February 11, 2021

One Man's God: Chinese Mythos

Chinese mythos from Deities & Demigods
I stated in my post about the Yaoguai that I am by no stretch of the imagination an expert on Chinese mythology.  But even I know there is no way for the Deities & Demigods to cover all the mythological figures, gods, demigods, heroes, and monsters of Chinese myth.  The editors of the D&DG agree.

Instead what we have here are a few select gods and monsters for D&D fare.  I am quite certain that anyone that knows more about this than I do will notice some glaring issue, but for the moment let's look at it for what it is rather than what we wish it to be.  This is good because "what it is" is a fascinating, if sometimes problematic, read.

There are a few gods and creatures here that not only would make for great demons (in the Demon category of the Monster Manual) they are creatures that made many appearances in my games. Again this is taking them "as is", not "as they should be" but I will detail that in a bit.

An issue I should address is spelling.  Translating between Chinese and English is often half linguistics and half art.  Even when the spelling is agreed on it can change later, "D" and "T" are notorious.  What does that mean to us?  Well, it makes the research a bit harder on some creatures.  To get into the myths and stories behind these creatures would take a lot longer than this post and outside of the scope of One Man's God, but as always I will try to pull in the research when I can. 

One of the better sources for these myths is  E. T. C. Werner's "The Myths and Legends of China" whose earliest publication date appears to be in 1940.  The book is in the public domain and would have been available to the authors of the D&DG.  While there are other books, I am going to go to this one for confirmation on what is here. Now Werner could have a bunch of issues all on his own. I am not qualified to judge those either.  

Finally, I want to give credit to the artist of this section of myths, Darlene.  I don't think she gets the credit she deserves half the time (outside of her FANTASTIC map of Greyhawk).  Her art really captures the feel of these myths for me. 

Chih-Chiang Fyu-Ya

This guy typifies the problem I speak of.  A search for him online reveals only sources that were obviously taken from the D&DG.  The only other mentions are people asking where he is from.  Now I have no issue with making something up whole cloth for a game (I do it every day) but does that make him a part of Chinese myth?  In any case, Chih-Chiang Fyu-Ya looks and acts more like a Monster Manual devil than he does a demon.  My feeling is this guy was made up for the D&DG.

He does not appear in Werner's book.

Ma Yuan

Ma Yuan
So Chih-Chiang Fyu-Ya is the punisher of the gods, that is someone the gods send out to punish, much like Erinyes. Ma Yuan is the Killer of the Gods. He kills the gods.  He is also a unique beast and fits our definition of a demon well. He is Chaotic Evil, 70's tall, and has 300 hp.  He could mop the floor with Demogorgon! Well...maybe not mop.  Ma Yuan also appeared in many of my games back in the day as a giant monster of destruction (and ignoring his "High" intelligence rating), his sword is one of just a few fabled weapons in my world that can kill a god. 

In Gods, Demigods, and Heroes for 0e he is called Ma Yuan Shuai. This is very interesting since Tian Du Yuan Shuai is a figure of Taoist myth (though he could have been a real person) and he is associated with Okinawan Gojū-ryū karate. This was interesting to me because I studied Isshin-ryū karate in college and grad school, they are similar in many of their katas. But going done that rabbit hole was a dead end despite how interesting I found it. 

"Yuan Shuai" is also a rank in the Chinese military rank that is equivalent to Marshall in other militaries.  Ma Yuan Shuai could mean something like "Horse Marshall."

Going with this name I head back to Werner's book, I find this:

Ma Yüan-shuai is a three-eyed monster condemned by Ju Lai to reincarnation for excessive cruelty in the extermination of evil spirits. In order to obey this command he entered the womb of Ma Chin-mu in the form of five globes of fire. Being a precocious youth, he could fight when only three days old, and killed the Dragon-king of the Eastern Sea. From his instructor he received a spiritual work dealing with wind, thunder, snakes, etc., and a triangular piece of stone which he could at will change into anything he liked. By order of Yü Ti he subdued the Spirits of the Wind and Fire, the Blue Dragon, the King of the Five Dragons, and the Spirit of the Five Hundred Fire Ducks, all without injury to himself. For these and many other enterprises he was rewarded by Yü Ti with various magic articles and with the title of Generalissimo of the West, and is regarded as so successful an interceder with Yü Ti that he is prayed to for all sorts of benefits.

Doing research on this guy reveals that I was not the only one taken with this character (not a surprise really). Here Spes Magna Games updated his stats to 5e D&D.  

Ma Yuan though is a great being. I would say that he is a great sleeping demon (though his "in lair 10%" seems to preclude this) that is only roused when needed.  Werner's description seems to favor demon really.

Lu Yueh

Some success?  Lu Yueh appears as a figure using a magic umbrella to spreading plague in a 1922 painting by an unknown artist. 

He also appears in Werner's The Myths and Legends of China.  Called Lü Yüeh here he seems to be more of a hermit than a demonic god. Also, he only has one head.  He still causes plagues though. 

Tou Mu

Yikes. 

I am prone to be forgiving in cases like Chih-Chian Fyu-Ya; creatures made up to serve a purpose or a niche for a game.  Or even Lu Yueh and Ma Yuan; myths extended and/or changed to fit into D&D a little better. But what they did to Tou Mu?  No. This is just terrible research at this point.  I have avoided being too critical of the D&DG because I know the authors did not have the same access to materials I have now and, not to be a dick about it, but I have been trained to do Ph.D. level research. I have had 30+ years of professional research to draw on. They did not.  But this case really goes to the critics of the D&DG.  

Background.  Tou Mu was something of a celebrity back in Junior High among the people I played D&D with.  First she looks way freaking cool, secondly, she had a Charisma of 5! She had a ton of great and unique magic items and some DMs even gave her the dancing sword of lightning (as if she didn't already have enough).  She was an Endgame Boss.  

In actual Taoist mythology, she is Dǒumǔ (斗母) the 'Mother of the Great Chariot' or the Big Dipper.  she would not be a "Chaotic Evil Lesser Goddess" but most likely be a Lawful Good Greater Goddess, though a Lesser (but powerful) Goddess would also be acceptable.  Though I am not sure what I find worse, the evil alignment, the 5 Charisma or the 3 in Wisdom.

Here is how she looks in the D&DG,

Tou Mu from D&DG

versus how she is depicted in the real world, 

Dǒumǔ (斗母)Dǒumǔ (斗母) fan art

Seriously, how could they have messed this one up so bad? Turn a beloved goddess into a monster?

Again, let's see what Werner has to say about her:

Goddess of the North Star
Tou Mu, the Bushel Mother, or Goddess of the North Star, worshipped by both Buddhists and Taoists, is the Indian Maritchi, and was made a stellar divinity by the Taoists. She is said to have been the mother of the nine Jên Huang or Human Sovereigns of fabulous antiquity, who succeeded the lines of Celestial and Terrestrial Sovereigns. She occupies in the Taoist religion the same relative position as Kuan Yin, who may be said to be the heart of Buddhism. Having attained to a profound knowledge of celestial mysteries, she shone with heavenly light, could cross the seas, and pass from the sun to the moon. She also had a kind heart for the sufferings of humanity. The King of Chou Yü, in the north, married her on hearing of her many virtues. They had nine sons. Yüan-shih T’ien-tsun came to earth to invite her, her husband, and nine sons to enjoy the delights of Heaven. He placed her in the palace Tou Shu, the Pivot of the Pole, because all the other stars revolve round it, and gave her the title of Queen of the Doctrine of Primitive Heaven. Her nine sons have their palaces in the neighbouring stars.

Well, in many ways I supposed that is what OMG is kinda based on; One Man's God is another man's demon.  Still, it doesn't feel right to turn Dǒumǔ into Tou Mou.  I also suppose this also is part of the criticism landed at TSR/WotC's feet back in July of 2020 about the Oriental Adventures book. which, by the way, despite what all the Chicken Littles were saying back then you CAN still buy it in it's unedited form. 

I said at the outset I know far less about Chinese myths than I like and far less than I do about other mythologies.  What I do know there are SO MANY great stories about gods, demigods, monsters, and human heroes that doing this one right would fantastic.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Warlocks & Warriors (1977)

Warlocks & Warriors Box cover
The weekend before last I was at my FLGS and in their "glass case" there was a game that I have been wanting since I opened my first "Gateway to Adventure."  That game is Warlocks & Warriors.

While the game has some serious nostalgia value to it (details in a bit) the game itself is so simple it makes Dungeon! look like RuneQuest or Champions.

Choose to be a warrior or a warlock and move your pawn on the board.  Run into another player? Duel, which has the effect of pushing them back. 

The goal is to get the blonde princess back to her castle so her daddy the King can give you half his kingdom and supposedly the princess too. Hey, it was 1977.  Given the cover, I thought maybe the blonde was also a playable character.  I really should have known better, but I had hoped.

But there are a few things going for it.  First and foremost this game was designed by Gardner Fox.  Yes THAT Gardner Fox.  So I was hoping for a little more to be honest.  The guy that gave us Zatanna and Doctor Fate (among others) should have had cooler warlocks.

It is also an "Introductory Fantasy Game" so it would be fun as an introduction to old-school D&D tropes for younger kids.  Though the lack of anything like fantasy monsters (as moving pieces) or treasure limit the use of this for that.  The playing pieces are basic, but not really for 1977 standards.

The cover similarities between this and Holmes Basic can't be ignored.

Holmes Basic D&D with Warlocks & Warriors Boxes

It really seems to be the same "Warlock" and "Warrior" on both covers.  Both were done by David Sutherland and both boxed sets came out the same year.

This is also not the only time we see the "Princess" we next see her in the AD&D Player's Handbook looking over the collected treasure loot. 

The W&W Princess becomes her own hero!

Maybe she told the Warrior and the Warlock (and her dad)  to go get bent and she became an adventurer herself.  I mean she is eyeing that magic sword.

Zenopus Archives (the authority on all things Holmes) comments on how the map from this game would make for a good Holmes Basic "Hex Crawl".

Warlocks & Warriors Wilderness Map

The box itself is surprisingly light.  But I am judging it by today's standards.

Warlocks & Warriors box and pawns

Warlocks & Warriors instructionsEarly TSR catalog

Warlock & Warriors credits

Would this game satisfy my "Traveller Envy?"  I am not sure.  I think I could work it into a game somehow.  Maybe as the previously mentioned Hex Crawl for Holmes (or Basic Era between levels 1 and 3).  I could come up with a whole adventure for it to be honest.  Warlock holding a princess captive, hex crawl to find her.  But that is WAY too clichéd. 

Still. I can't help think there is a way to add this to the Holmes Experience.  Potentially add it to the Monster Manual for the full 1977 experience!  Or maybe the Ancient Ruins on the map are the dungeon from the Dungeon! board game. 

Elise Gygax, D&D, Dungeon! and Warlocks & Warriors. Party like it is 1977!

The game itself is really just a larger "mini-game" not much more complex than the mini-games that TSR would later release in 1981.  I'll even go on a limb here and say the relationship between Warlocks & Warriors to Holmes is not significantly different than the relationship between the 1981 mini-games and Moldvay Basic.

TSRs Mini-games

More on these mini-games at a future date!

Reviews

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Character Creation Challenge: Fantasy Wargaming

We have all had this one on our shelves at one point or saw it in the book stores and thought to ourselves, "wow I should REALLY do something with that one day."

Today is that day.  I am going to make a character for Bruce Galloway's Fantasy Wargaming

The Game: Fantasy Wargaming

There is a lot to unpack here. Not just in terms of the game itself, but the history of the game.  There is no way I could provide a good review of it for this particular post.  I am not even sure I want to try.  For starters, there is such a disdain for RPGs in this book and for D&D in particular.  I would call it a Fantasy Heartbreaker, but it never lets you get close enough to it to break your heart.  

So instead I am going to defer to the experts here.  They have spent more time on this that I will or ever will.  Plus my copy is so musty it is giving me a headache and it is still four feet away from me as I type this.

Again, given the musty state of my book, I am going to refer to these sites often in my character creation. G.L. Dearman's site in particular has some good character sheets.

The game does cover witches and witchcraft, all be it in a roundabout manner.

Few questions in anthropology have raised as much controversy as the nature of witchcraft. There are three quite separate views of the witch-the peasant magician, the pagan, and the devil worshipper. Fantasy Wargaming accepts all three as valid. Witches clearly exercised magic. and not just Supernatural powers by appeal Equally, the theory of a surviving pre-Christian Celtic fertility cult bas some force. Some ritual elements, notably the sacred dance and orgy, appear at the very beginning of the period, before diabolism bad really taken root. There are echoes of Bacchic revels, and of Diana's Wild Hunt.
Some medieval witches strenuously asserted their worship of a "different" god. Yet equally, the evidence for devil worship among medieval covens is overwhelming. (FW p. 24)

Well, that works for me. I can use this. 

For the character, I was hoping to make a Satanic witch.  Would have been great for the Satanic Panic call-back to when was made.  But I opted for today's date as her birthday and that made her Aquarius.  And I have a perfect Aquarian Witch. 

Fantasy Wargaming RPG

The Character: Marie Capet

Marie is another quasi-mythical character from my games.  I know that she was most active in the year 1012 AD.  Marie is also an Aquarian Tradition witch from my first Basic-era book of witches which, in a few thousand years, will become the Sisterhood of the Aquarian Order.   In later years she would have been called a neo-pagan. Margaret Murry would have embraced her.  As my prototype Aquarian, Marie sees no problem with grabbing what ever bits of esoteric knowledge comes her way.   To the Church, this makes her little better than a heretic and at worst, a follower of Lucifer.  She actually feels that Lucifer has been mischaracterized by the Church and that as "The Light Bringer" he is more of a Promethean-like figure.  She is doing what she can to bring on the next Age of Mankind.  This would not be known as the Aquarian Age, or the New Age, until much later on.

Given the rolls, I figure she was the 2nd daughter of a poor noble. She was going to go into the nunery but instead ended up marrying the Baron that her sister was supposed to marry.  She was married at age 14, so she has a couple of children (that survived) now by age 21. She has a level in Religious and a level in Magic as a Witch.  I assume she is discovering witchcraft from an Italian ladies' maid who knows of the "old ways."

11th Century Frankish Noblewoman
Marie Capet
Female Frankish Witch

Star Sign: Aquarius

Ability Scores (adjusted for Star Sign)
Physique: 1110
Agility: 12
Endurance: 10

Intelligence: 18
Faith: 1416

Charisma: 1213
Greed: 89
Selfishness: 13
Lust: 12
Bravery: 12

Social Class: 17

Height: 5'3"  Weight: 110lbs
Current Agility: 12

Literate: Yes
Speaks: Frankish, Latin, German
Chance to Speak Language: 60%

Leadership: 15

Birthrank: Second Daughter
Father's Social Position: Poor Baron (16)
Husband's Social Position: Rich Baron (17)

Misc. Traits: Paranoia

It is the Paranoia that helped me figure out she was learning her witchcraft on the sly.  Given the time and the culture, I thought an Italian Strega might be the best bet.  Maybe someone with a direct connection to Aradia. 

I did not pick and spells or rituals.  This game is crazy.  But there are a few ideas I want to use from it. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Character Creation Challenge: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 2nd Edition

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 2nd Edition came on the scene to much anticipation back in the Spring of 1989.  I was in college at the time but I still managed to get the books very close on release day.  The game was largely an update and cleanup of the AD&D 1st Ed rules.  Gygax had been gone from TSR for a while at this point and the rules lacked his "voice" but they were a significant improvement in many ways.  

But today no one talks about the 2nd ed rules as much as they talk about the settings.

The Game: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 2nd Edition

There is no doubt that the 2nd edition made many improvements to the AD&D ruleset. While Basic-era D&D moved on with the BECMI series, AD&D came here.  With the streamlined, but not simplified, rules in place TSR focused on what they believed to be their cash-cow, settings.  And to be fair the settings are what we all recall today.  There were also tons of splat books and eventually an update that was called AD&D 2.5 by some, but never by the company.  

This was also the edition that caved under the pressure of the religious right and bowdlerized demons and devils right out of the system.  It would not be till later with Planescape that we got them back in the forms of Tanarri and Batatezu. 

Since the Splats and Settings are so important to the identity of 2nd Edition it behooves me to mention a couple and my relationship with them. Not to mention the witch options they gave me.

The Complete Wizard's Handbook

Among 2nd Eds features were the "Kits" or archetypes you could apply to various classes to customize them.  Sadly like many splat books you see power creep in these. The Complete Bard's Handbook was one of the worst offenders along with the Elves book. But today is not the day to discuss those. Today I want to talk about the Witch Kit.

The Witch-kit appeared in the Complete Wizard's Handbook and was a mere 3 or so pages, but it was the first official witch class in AD&D.  She got powers every odd level and had a lot of role-playing potential.  This might seem more powerful than your average wizard, but at the time everyone was assumed to have a kit of some sort.

Ravenloft

My world of choice in the 2nd Ed era was Ravenloft.  The gothic horror tropes were too much of a lure to avoid. Interestingly enough it would not be until Spring of 2000 when Ravenloft would get their first witch class/kit and by this time they were owned by Wizards of the Coast.

This class/kit gave us the Witches of Hala, which is a kit that any non-magic using class could use, so only Fighter and Theif. But the witches did gain some spell abilities.  To differentiate between the two witches Van Richten's Monster Hunter's Compendium, Vol 3 calls the Complete Wizard Witch Kit the "Sorcerous Witch." To further distinguish them I took to calling the Witches of Hala "Hedge Witches."

Forgotten Realms

During the 2nd Edition years, Forgotten Realms was the undisputed King of the Campaign Worlds.  I largely ignored it.  I have made up for lost time since then and been spending more time in the Realms, but that is another post.  I did however know all about the Witches of Rashemen and Spellbound was one of the first Realms products I ever bought. This setting also uses the wizard kit and the Witches of Rasemaar kit.


Due to the amount of material I have here I am also going to do two characters.

The Character: Sinéad

Following my Celtic-influenced witches, I give you Sinéad.  Of course, she is named for Sinéad O'Connor whose album "The Lion and the Cobra" pretty much changed everything for me in 1988/1989.  

Sinéad is built using the Witch Kit from the Complete Wizard's Handbook. Now the witch kit says they can't be multi-classed, but the concept I want to try is. So I am going to do it anyway, but not choose a kit for the Bard class.  Some of the restrictions on this kit feel the same as the removal of the demons and devils; giving the players in-game reasons not to use it.

Sinéad is not a character I played back then, but this build is pretty close to what I would have created back in 1989 while living in Room 109 of the Wright I Hall Dorms.

Goodwife Sinéad
(Goodwife is how you address a witch whose marital status is unknown)
Half-elf 7th level Wizard (Witch Kit)/7th level Bard
Chaotic Good

STR: 12
DEX: 16
CON: 15
INT: 17
WIS: 14
CHA: 16

AC: 1 (Bracers of Defence)
HP: 50
THAC0 (Base): 17

Saving Throws
Paralyzation, Poison, Death: 12
Rod, Staff, Wand: 9
Petrification, Polymorph: 11
Breath Weapon: 13
Spells: 10

Weapons
Dagger

Proficiencies/Skills/Languages
Herbalism, Spellcasting, Artistic Abilities (Singing)
Climb Walls (30%), Detect Noise (40%), Pick Pockets (25%), Read Languages (90%)

Special Abilities
Half-elf: Resist Sleep (30%)
Bard: Spells, knowledge
Witch: Read Magic, Detect Magic, Secure Familiar (3rd), Brew Calmative (5th), Brew Poison (7th)

Spells
Bard: (1st) Light, Faerie Fire, Protection from Evil (2nd) Charm Person, Hold Person (3rd) Dispel Magic
Wizard (Witch): (1st) Audible Glammer, Magic Missile, Shocking Grasp, Identity (2nd) Continual Light, Spectral Hand, Ray of Enfeeblement (3rd) Lightning bolt, Fly (4th) Dimension Door

The Character: Nida

Nida is a character I have been playing around with for my War of the Witch Queens.  She is supposed to represent the "other" witches of 2nd Ed, the ones I didn't use but the ones everyone else did. That is the Witches of Hala and the Witches of Rashemen.  She is not a starting character because I need her to have some history.

Nida was a Rashmi girl born to poor parents.  She was playing when she was taken into the Mists and found herself in the lands of Ravenloft.  She became a thief to survive the world on her own until she tried to pick the pockets of a Witch of Hala. For the next ten years she trained with this witch and learned the secrets of Hala and her magic. One night she was hunting a particularly nasty Annis Hag when she found herself back in her homeland of Rashemen.  Unable to return, she tried to pick up her life before she left only to discover her family had long since died.  She began training as a Wychlaran, or a Witch of Rashemen.  Like the witches of her homeland she adopted a mask and changed her name to "Nida" which means "voice."

Note: Since Nida is a dual classed character, a Thief/Mage, there is no reason to assume she can't be a Thief (Witch of Hala) / Mage (Witch of Rashemen) even though the Witch of Hala can't be taken by a spellcaster (she is a thief at the time) and the Witch of Rashemen has to be a spellcaster (she is a mage at the time).


Lady Nida
Human 4th level Thief (Witch of Hala Kit) / 9th level Wizard (Witch of Rashemen kit)
Chaotic Neutral*
(Witches in Ravenloft can't be chaotic, but this is the character concept I have.)

STR: 11
DEX: 16
CON: 16
INT: 17
WIS: 13
CHA: 18

AC: 1 (Bracers of Defence)
HP: 48
THAC0 (Base): 18

Saving Throws
Paralyzation, Poison, Death: 13
Rod, Staff, Wand: 9
Petrification, Polymorph: 11
Breath Weapon: 13
Spells: 10

Weapons
Dagger

Proficiencies/Skills/Languages
Herbalism, Spellcasting, Artistic Abilities, Ancient History
Pick Pockets (35%) Open Locks (35%), Climb Walls (30%), Detect Noise (40%), Pick Pockets (25%), Read Languages (90%)

Special Abilities
Half-elf: Resist Sleep (30%)
Bard: Spells, knowledge
Witch: Read Magic, Detect Magic, Secure Familiar (3rd), Brew Calmative (5th), Brew Poison (7th)

Spells
Witch of Hala: (1st) Combine, Reveal the Weave, Luck (2nd) Arcane Insights, Master Coven Magic (3rd) Water Walk
Wizard (Witch of Rahemen): (1st) Circle, Alarm, Magic Missile, Shocking Grasp (2nd) Dazzle, Protection from Poison, Blindness, Tasha's Uncontrollable Hideous Laughter (3rd) Firelance, Lightning bolt, Suggestion (4th) Negate Magic Weapon, Magic Mirror (5th) Teleport

I like these builds. I certainly want to use Nida somewhere.  Maybe see what she is like with another system. Both are 14th level and have a similar range of abilities.

Character Creation Challenge

Tardis Captain is the originator of this idea and he is keeping a list of places participating.  When posting to Social Media don't forget the #CharacterCreationChallenge hashtag. 

RPG Blog Carnival

This month's RPG Blog Carnival is being hosted by Plastic Polyhedra. They are doing Characters, Stories, and Worlds, so that fits right in with everything we are posting this month.

Check out all the posts going on this month at both of these sources.


Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Character Creation Challenge: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 1st Edition

AD&D Players Manual
Up until 2000 if you said "D&D" most people thought of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition.   Indeed it was AD&D that dominated the later part of the 1970s, 1980s, and with 2nd Edition the 90s. Though that is for tomorrow's post.

Today I take on the game that I played the most and the one that dominates the imagination of so many still today.

The Game: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons

A lot of ink, both real and virtual, has been spilled on the whats, whys, and hows of the differences between Basic D&D and Advanced D&D, so I see no need to spill more here.  Suffice to say that they are different games, though we freely mixed them back in the day. 

The evolution of D&D from Original to 5th edition sees it's first divergence here. 

In the AD&D 1st Ed years there was no official witch class.  There were however many unofficial and semi-official witch classes.  I talked about the Dragon Magazine #43 witch yesterday but I used it for Basic D&D.  The class was famously, or maybe infamously, updated in 1986 for AD&D in the pages of Dragon #114.  It was, and maybe still is, one of the most popular versions of the witch ever made for D&D.

AD&D Players Manual, 4 versions

The Character: Rhiannon

Ah. If I had a dime for every Rhiannon I have run into over the years. 

Not that I can blame anyone. The Golden Age of AD&D was the early 80s and the Queen of the music charts was Stevie Nicks. "Rhiannon" by Fleetwood Mac was released in 1975 on the album Fleetwood Mac. The second Fleetwood Mac album to feature this title, and their tenth overall, but the first with new couple Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham.  But in the 1980s it wasn't this album or even the insanely good and popular Rumours or Tusk that grabbed me and my imagination. No it was Stevie's solo efforts Belladonna and (especially) The Wild Heart that began my deep, deep love affair with witches.

Rhiannon would be an old witch in my games today. Likely a relative or even a spiritual Goddess-mother to Larina.  But today she is the young Maiden who "rings like a bell through the night" and looks for a lover.  I can't help think of her as anything but the famous art Elmore drew in the Dragon #114 piece.  If she looks a little like Stevie, well, maybe Stevie looks like her.

Rhiannon
1st level Witch, Sisters of the Moon coven, High Secret Order
Chaotic Good

STR: 11
INT: 16
WIS: 13
DEX: 13
CON: 11
CHA: 15

AC: 9
HP: 3

Saving Throws
Witches use the best of Cleric & Magic-user Saves.

Poison or Death: 10
Petrification or Polymorph: 13
Rod, Staff, or Wands: 11
Breath Weapon: 15
Spell: 12

Saves +2 against other witch magic

Spells
1st (1+3):  Darkness, Mending, Seduction, Sleep

Equipment
Dagger, backpack, iron rations, water, 50' rope, staff.

AD&D Players Manuals and Dragon #114
Everything you need for a witch character in 1986

I think an updated, and more mature, Rhiannon will need to grace my War of the Witch Queens games sometime.

Rhiannon rings like a bell through the night
And wouldn't you love to love her?
Takes to the sky like a bird in flight
And who will be her lover?

Character Creation Challenge

Tardis Captain is the originator of this idea and he is keeping a list of places participating.  When posting to Social Media don't forget the #CharacterCreationChallenge hashtag. 

RPG Blog Carnival

This month's RPG Blog Carnival is being hosted by Plastic Polyhedra. They are doing Characters, Stories, and Worlds, so that fits right in with everything we are posting this month.

Check out all the posts going on this month at both of these sources.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Going Back to Krynn

Dragonlance is back in the news (and not for great reasons) now and it got me thinking about the original trilogy.   I thought maybe in this Covid time I would return to Krynn and see how well my memory of it holds up.

Cover of the Dragonlance ChroniclesDragonlance Chronicles signed

There is an old saying, "The Golden Age of Sci-Fi/Fantasy is 14."  That rings truest for me here since I was 15 when Dragons of Autumn Twilight was released in November 1984.  I devoured these books back then.  I had been on a steady diet of Tolkien and Moorcock and others that I thought of as "near-D&D", since these books actually had real D&D terms and spells in them they had to be better, right.  RIGHT?

Well...even then I could still "hear dice being rolled in the background" as it were.  

I'll be blunt. The books are not great and a lot of my fondness for them has more to do with the time in which I read them and nostalgia. This was never brought into sharper focus than when I tried to reread them about 12 years ago.  The icing on the cake was the terrible direct to video movie of Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight.  

I like Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. They are very good people.  I like their adventures. Ravenloft by Tracy is one of my all-time favorites. The Legends Trilogy is good as far as my memory goes.  So I am rereading this again with a more open frame of mind. 

Instead of complaining about these stories for what they are not, I am going to enjoy them for what they are.  I am not sure if I'll post much about them here.  Covid-19 is doing a number on the Universities and I have never been busier, so my free time to read is limited to a couple of minutes over lunch. But if something comes up then yeah, I'll share.

I can say this, I am three chapters in and I am enjoying what I am reading. There is heart here and that is something some other books seem to lack. 

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!