Showing posts with label Advanced. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Advanced. Show all posts

Thursday, June 11, 2020

BECMI: Expert Level Accessories and the AD&D Toy Line

Last week I talked about the tie-ins with the 1983 D&D Basic Set.  Today I want to delve into a very specifics sort of tie-in relationship and one that gave us very mixed results.
I am talking of course about the Advanced Dungeons & Dragon toy line and it's, let's just say awkward, tie-in with the BECMI version of D&D.


Today gamers of a certain age look back rather fondly at the AD&D toy line.  Back then though, at least in my circles of 1983, we kinda looked down on them.  Sure we thought they were fine for a younger sibling, but we were Real RoleplayersTM and we didn't need that!  In fact, it was much the same way the same group of people now look down on D&D5 players.  Well, it was dumb then and dumb now.  But I digress.

If you follow me on social media I do a feature called "The Other Side Rewind" where I usually post a link to an older blog post early in the morning. Today's was a look back at my review of the Shady Dragon Inn, AC1.

The Shady Dragon Inn features the Inn and tons of writeups that can be used as ready-made PCs or as NPCs.  It is, as I described it, the "Rogues Gallery" of D&D.  It also has stats for a number of the LJN Toys AD&D line Heroes and Villians.  Of course in BECMI D&D stats format. Everyone from Strongheart to Kelek to Warduke even my beloved Skylla is here.  You can read my full review of it here.

But that is not the only place they appear.


Another product designed to work with the AD&D toy line and feature what are arguably the first set of D&D iconic characters is the Expert level adventure, XL-1 Quest for the Heartstone.
XL in this case is not "extra-large" but rather "Exert Licensed."

It features a kingdom, Ghyr, not found on any of the maps in the Expert set, and dozens of characters from the toy line.  It also introduces monsters from the toy line to the BECMI rules for the first time.  We get Hook Horrors, Dragonne, and the raging Roper!



Let's not delude ourselves here.  XL-1 Quest of the Heartstone is not a good adventure.

There is one reason to get this and that is because of the tie-in with the D&D toy line.  Even the author of the adventure Michael L. Gray has said this.

Correction, there is another reason.  The maps for this adventure are rather nice featuring the same isomorphic maps we see in Ravenloft.

The Heartstone itself is something of an iconic on it's own.  We know from the Shady Dragon Inn supplement that Strongheart and Warduke used to be friends. But when exposed to the Heartstone Strongheart became a paragon of good and Warduke one of evil.   Both are featured fighting side by side on the cover of the module.  It also features in Skylla's backstory. She was a student of Ringlerun until she was exposed to the Heartstone and sought out the dark sides of magic. 
Given what the Heartstone does would it be heretical to suggest that Strongheart and Warduke are actually the same person! Just split into "Good" and "Evil" halve by the Heartstone?  Their stats don't match though.
What about Skylla and Charmay? The same picture is often used for them both.  Both were students of Ringlerun.  Here is an awful thought.  Skylla touched the Heartstone was split into good and evil.  Evil Skylla went on her way but good Skylla was taken by Ringlerun and had her memories changed and she became "Charmay."
This is why they often look alike and why I have never seen them together in any one product.  Hmm. Something to consider for another time.

One of the biggest issues I see with this is the seeming hamfisted way the toy line was added.
The toy line was marketed as "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons" the stats and tie-ins are all for D&D BECMI lines and the Expert in particular.  I hate to speculate but was this part of the same split of D&D/AD&D going back to the Arneson/Gygax split?  My understanding was that if it was "D&D" then Dave Arneson got a bit of cash, but not so for AD&D.  Again. I hate to speculate.

The book art is still Charmay!

But. It does create an interesting problem.  There are many more classes in AD&D and some of the characters belong to those classes. Strongheart is a Paladin, Peralay (formerly Melf) is multiclassed (ok this one is easy to fix), Hawkler is a Ranger, Zarak is an assassin.

For the Shady Dragon and Quest of the Heartstone they had to be converted to the nearest D&D class.

Looking at modern iterations of the game, specifically D&D 3.0 and Pathfinder, but also other media tie-ins with the characters of the Forgotten Realms, it seems like there was a need, or at least a want,  for some iconic characters.  Hell, I have spilled a lot of digital ink on Skylla alone.   I wonder why more wasn't done.  I guess the easy answer is that TSR just didn't think about it at the time, but I find that is an unsatisfactory answer.  Reading any anecdotes from the time Gary was eager to get the D&D band into every home. Maybe not always the D&D game, but certainly the brand.

Hard to blame him really.  D&D was popular then and only now are the ideas he had being fully realized.  It's easy to see why.  The people in charge of D&D (and pretty much every other successful game company) now were the players back then.  They wanted to know more about the exploits of Strongheart, the evils of Kelek and whatever dastardly deed Warduke was up too.

The characters would appear again and this time in a better adventure.
Module X10 Red Arrow, Black Shield also features these iconic characters and it is also the closest thing we got to a meta-plot in 80s D&D.  It is a follow-up to the Desert Nomad series of X4/X5 and it also uses the War Machine massive battle rules from the Companion Set (more on that next week) AND it also uses the AD&D BattleSystem.  There is so much going on that this adventure really deserves it's own post.  I had hoped that the Print on Demand version would be here by now, but everything is slow.

Do the LJN/AD&D toys exist in the canon D&D world of Mystara?  I suppose you can say yes. The likes of Warduke, Skylla, Ringelrun, Strongheart, Kelek, and Charmay easily join the ranks of the iconic D&D characters.

Links

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Reviews: Conversion Guides to Caldwen

I am still spending a Virtual Vacation in Calidar's beautiful Caldwen.  But you know what every tourist needs?  A tour guide.  Thankfully our thoughtful travel agent Bruce Heard has supplied us with not one, but two new "tour guides" for anyone traveling to Caldwen.

CAL2a Conversion Guide to Caldwen for Vintage Roleplaying and CAL2b Conversion Guide to Caldwen for the OSRIC System.

Both books follow the same format. The only differences are the systems they are being converted too.  The books cover both CAL2 Calidar On Wings of Darkness and CA2 How to Train Your Wizard.  Knowledge of PG2 A Players' Guide to Caldwen and Game Mechanics for the World of Calidar is helpful.  (links are to reviews, not the products themselves.)

The books are 30 pages with full-color covers and color with black & white interior art. Prices at $3.95, but currently $2.95.  You do not need both, but I find it nice for my own system analyses.
Unlike the main Caldwen/Calidar books the art here is sparse, but that is by design since the focus of this book is the stats.  Here Heard make explicit the conversions he discussed in the main books using the Calidar game stats.  Depending on the system book you grab, you get easily familiar stat blocks and guides on how to use the books.  Now obviously the "vintage roleplaying" can be used with any 70s and 80s circa version of the World's Greatest Role-Playing Game. Or as I have called here, any Basic-Era edition.  It is labeled for "Labyrinth Lord" but any game similar enough to Labyrinth Lord can be used (ie. only a Law-Chaos alignment axis, race-as-class), or adapted.  The OSIRC-labeled version can also be used with any Advanced-era version of the game.

One of the main features of these books is the Mage Knight class. I am quite fond of this class so I wanted to try it out.  Now I have choices, a "Basic" or an "Advanced" version.  Now the class has been converted faithfully, so don't expect them to look exactly the same between the Basic and Advanced versions.  There is no description of the powers the Mage Knight has, you still need the Caldwen book for that, but this is expected.

After the Mage Knight, we get into the How to Train Your Wizard material. 

Throughout the book, page references to the sourcebooks are given. 
So the great thing about these books is if you play a particular system then you only need one conversion book.  True, it does mean you need two books, but for me the flexibility more than outweighs this minor issue.  I am a system guy, so I like being able to have multiple versions of the same material to blend between my games.  So yeah for 3 bucks it is totally worth it for me, hell it is worth it for 6 bucks to have both versions. 

There is an obvious logical extension here. CAL2C for Pathfinder and CAL2D for D&D5.

Up next, I try out a Mage Knight.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

AD&D First Edition Collector's Books Print on Demand

Speaking of print on demand, I got something else in the mail this week.


The Holy Trinity of AD&D from DriveThruRPG Print on Demand.

These are of course the newer collector's edition covers and honestly, they look great.  As you can see from the pictures these are glossy covers and not the matte finish of the ones you could get in the stores.


Also, there is no ribbon bookmark, no embossed covers, and no gilded pages.




But these POD versions are also slightly bigger than the reprints and the paper is a bit thicker.


The price was great with the sale and I ended up paying about as much for these as I did for my originals back in the 80s.



I was getting these to give as a gift to a friend and I wanted to see how they would turn out.
In truth, I am very, very pleased with these and find I want to keep them! (but I won't).

You really have to hand it to WotC and DriveThru, it has never ever been easier to get books and materials for ANY version of D&D you like.

I would not mind seeing a softcover version of the Player's Handbook to be honest.  Something like the Fiend Folio softcover they have. A little bit cheaper to buy multiple copies of to have an AD&D 1st Ed Start-Up set.  A DMG, a Monster Manual and five PHBs for one price. 

For some reason, I forgot to get a copy of Unearthed Arcana, so I ordered it now.

You can get yours here:

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

This one will have multiple parts I can tell already.

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

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

Looks Greek to me!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Gog and Magog for Advanced Era Games

Don't you love it when you are doing a bit of research on a couple of different things and suddenly you read one thing and all these disparate threads come together as a nice whole?  Jung used to call it Synchronicity.  I say that if you bury your head in something for long enough your research numbed brain will see connections everywhere.  In either case this is some thing that clicked for me the other day.

I was doing research on the the original Balor/Type VI demons in 1st Ed AD&D and how there are only six of them.  The DMG lists them as Balor (their leader and the largest), Errtu, Ndulu, Ter-Soth, Alzoll, and Wendonai.  Wendonai.  Doesn't exactly fill you with fear does it.  Since I am using the OGC Balor as the basis of my own Baalor in my games I wanted to expand them a bit.  So these names are purely off limits (save for Balor).

That tied in with all the myths I have been reading (well, since forever) of Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales (er Walesland?).  There was a Balor there too.  Only he was a giant with one eye on his forehead and another on the back of his head. I was reading about all these giants when I came across Gogmagog.

I had been familiar with Gog and Magog and Gogmagog because of an off-hand reference on Doctor Who years and years before.  I had scribbled down that Gog and Magog were akin to Ogres, but divine.  I choose ogres because of something the Doctor said "Gog, Magog and Ogre",  pronounced 'O-gree'.  In the book of Revelations Gog and Magog were the ultimate enemies of God's people.  Though to be fair Gog and Magog hopscotch all over the Bible and one is never really sure if they are individuals, peoples, or lands.  Gog and Magog also appear in the Qur'an as a monster (the monster of Gog and Magog) or again as a land.


Recently I reread the Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien.  The chief of the Balrogs was a being known as Gothmog.  I knew I was on to something.  Obviously Tolkien, a professor of English literature and languages (especially Old English) knew of Gogmagog. In some early versions of Tolkien's work Gothmog is even described as a "son of Melkor and the ogress Fuithluin",  Later a "Gothmog" was also the orc in charge of Mordor's army in the Return of the King.  Obviously named after the Balrog (and less confusing than Glorfindel of Rivendell vs. Glorfindel of Gondolin).

All of this though has given me some ideas.

Here they are using OSRIC and  LL Advanced  Edition Companion.  All text below is considered Open for use under the OGL.

Section 15: OSRIC Chapter V copyright 2007-08 by Stuart Marshall, Chris Hopkins, James Boney, Robert Ross, Jeremy Goehring, Mike Davison, Daniel Proctor, B. Scot Hoover, Chris Cain, Bill Silvey, Floyd Canaday, Vincent Frugé and Matthew James Stanham.
Advanced Edition Companion, Copyright 2009-2010, Daniel Proctor. Author Daniel Proctor.
Adventures Dark and DeepTM Bestiary, Copyright 2011-2013 BRW Games, LLC.
Gog and Magog for Advanced Era Games, Copyright 2015 Timothy S. Brannan.

Gog and Magog
Class F Standard Order (true) Demons
Frequency:  Very Rare (Unique Demons)
No. Encountered:  2
Size: Large, 13' (Gog), 13' 5" (Magog)
Move: 60 ft; 150 ft flying (AA:III)
Armor Class:  -3 (Gog) / -4 (Magog)
Hit Dice*: 10d8+10 (Gog), 10d8+21 (Magog)
Attacks: 1 bite or by special attack
Damage: 1d12+4
Special Attacks: Flaming great sword (2d8) (Gog) or Flaming great axe (2d8) (Magog) + 3d6 fire
Special Defenses: +2 or better magic weapon to hit
Magic Resistance: 75%
Lair Probability: 0%
Intelligence: High
Alignment: Chaotic evil
Level/XP: 9/3,750 + 13/hp**

Gog and Magog are two unique demons of the same sort of Balor.  While they are larger and more aggressive than their kin, their natures preclude them from ruling large numbers of lower demons as their brethren might.   Gog and Magog are described as "brothers" and this has never been proven by any occult scholar.  They share a physical similarity to each other.  Gog is large, predominantly red in color with black hair and beard. He wields a large flaming sword in battle.  Magog is larger, predominantly black in color with red hair and beard.  He wields a large flaming great axe.  Either causes an extra 3d6 points of fire damage per hit.
Gog and Magog can also use the following powers at will: detect invisibility, detect magic, dispel magic, fear (as the wand), pyrotechnics, read languages, read magic, suggestion, telekinesis (600 lbs.), and symbol (despair, fear, sleep, and stunning).   A +2 or better magical weapon to hit.
Unlike other demons, Gog and Magog cannot gate in lesser true demons.  Instead they may summon 2d6 demonic Ogres each.  These creatures appear as normal ogres save that their skin is red and they are immune to fire, poison, sleep and charm spells.  They also need a +1 or better magical weapon to hit.  Demonic ogres always have the maximum hitpoints for ogres.
Much like other demons, these two will bicker and fight and even plot against each other.  However when confronted with a common foe the will work together to defeat them.  They are completely loyal only to each other. They are often found in each other's company.
They are most often found on the Material Plane, the summoning ritual for one will also summon the other and only rarely in the Abyss.
They are violent, aggressive and constantly angry.  Neither is much for planning, but when pressed they are good strategists and have been used as generals by stronger Demon Lords and Princes.  They have even been known to serve the Baalseraph Ahriman, also known as Angra Mainyu.  A common tactic among the Demon Lords that engage their services are to choose a location and let the brothers go.

*Many "Advanced Era Games" use a d8 for monster HD. I prefer to use a d10 myself.
** Adjust according to your preferred system.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...