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

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Review: Forgotten Realms Campaign Set

The Forgotten Realms Campaign Set
 I have asked this before, but it bears repeating here and now. How does one review a classic? Better question. How does one review a genre-defining classic?  Because that is what I have sitting in front of me now. A genre-defining classic. Eighteen-year-old me back in 1987, ready for his first year at university, would not have thought so at the time, but that is what much older me thinks now. 

The Forgotten Realms was the foundation of the "new" TSR, the one without Gary Gygax and many of the other founders on which they would build their new home. We can debate the merits of this and financials ad nauseam, but by any stretch of the imagination, the Forgotten Realms were very successful. So successful that the biggest video game of 2023 is set there.

This review will cover the Forgotten Realms Campaign Set, the Boxed set from 1987. Written by Ed Greenwood and Jeff Grubb and edited by Karen S. Boomgarden. But any insight to this product knows that the genesis was with Ed, and he first brought it all to life in the pages of Dragon magazine. At least that is alive to us. Many other authors have contributed to Realms over the decades, but here is where it begins.  

How do we begin? Let's take Ed's own words, which he scribbled into my Cyclopedia of the Realms as our opening.

Welcome to the Forgotten Realms

"Welcome to the Forgotten Realms!" - Ed Greenwood

Forgotten Realms Campaign Set

by Ed Greenwood, Jeff Grubb and edited by Karen S. Boomgarden. 1987. Boxed set. Full-color covers and maps. Cyclopedia of the Realms 96 pages. DMs Sourcebook of the Realms 96 pages. Maps and clear hex overlays.

Forgotten Realms box contents

For this review, I am considering the physical boxed set from 1987 and the PDFs from DriveThruRPG. There has yet to be a Print on Demand version.

The DriveThruRPG PDF combines all this information into a 230-page book. Maps are broken up and scanned in at letter size.

Cyclopedia of the Realms
Cyclopedia of the Realms

96 pages. Color covers. Sepia-tone pages and art.

"Let's start at the very beginning. A very good place to start." - Maria von Trapp nee Kuczera, Bard/Cleric

This book is an introduction to the Forgotten Realms, and maybe the most important bit here is the introduction by Ed Greenwood/Elminster and the About this Product.  We start immediately with the "voice" of the Realms, Elminster. He is no ersatz Gandalf, nor is he a more approachable Mordenkainen, and certainly, he is more interesting than Ringlerun. He is our guide, but sometimes I still like to think of him as an unreliable narrator. These are the Realms in his eyes. More (if the not the most) knowledgable, but there are still "small stories" to tell that are beneath his notice. Those are the stories (aka games) I want to know about.

This book covers the timeline (I do love timelines!) and ways of keeping time in the Realms. The date for this set is the end of 1357 DR (that's Dale Reckoning or Dalereckoning). For full context, the Baldur's Gate III video game takes place in 1494 DR, with the current year of the D&D 5e titles at 1496 DR. There is a bit of discussion about holidays and how the "weeks" are grouped as Tendays (3 a month). It feels different and I like it.  The money system is rather AD&D standard, with some proper names to the coins. This is fine because this IS supposed to be an AD&D world, and the authors want people to feel familiar with it all, if not right at home.

Languages and scripts are up. Some of these are still being used in current versions of D&D. 

The Gods are next. These were already familiar to me, not just because this is an old product, but because Ed talked about them in Dragon magazine back in 1985.  See "The Dragon Connection" below. While these gods have "Earthly" sources, it actually works out great and ties into the mythology of the Realms as one being connected to Earth. Something it shares with Greyhawk's Oerth. The connection between Greyhawk and the Forgotten Realms is strong. They share almost all the same demi-human gods. By extension of the rule-set they also share all the same demons and devils. This makes moving between worlds a little smoother. The gods and their relationships are detailed well here and there is just enough unknow to keep them interesting.

Next section is about Adventuring Companies. So here is one thing that the Realms does better than Greyhawk (well there are more, but the first thing in this book). Adventurers are baked into the system. The world doesn't just need adventuring parties, it demands them. These parties can be used as models for your own adventuring parties. All these parties have names as well. I'll have to think about how Sinéad and Co would fit this format. Plus, the back cover of this book has a grid for the adventuring party! Room for 10 characters even.

Adventuring Party Roster

We get into the "Cyclopedia" part of the book now. This is an alphabetical listing of major topics within the Realms. These include things like the various character classes, races, countries, towns, areas of interest and other topics. There is a narrative piece describing it, Elminster's Notes for the point of view of the most knowledgeable native (even when he admits to not knowing much), and Game Information.

I rather like it, to be honest. Hit me with facts, and let me build some adventures around it!

DMs Sourcebook of the Realms
DMs Sourcebook of the Realms

96 pages. Color covers. Sepia-tone pages and art.

One of the best things in this book is the Introduction. We get words from Ed (as Ed) talking about the World of the Forgotten Realms and how it is now our world too. Yeah it is trademarked by TSR and now WotC/Hasbro, but this is an open invitation to do what you want with this world now. This is a foreshadowing to all the great Ed Greenwood content we would get over the next almost 4 decades. Honestly reading Ed's own words make me excited for all the exploration ahead of me. This is followed by words from Jeff Grubb, who also had a hand in shaping the AD&D version of the Realms. And more by editor Karen S. Martin who adds her experience and excitement to this world.

So much better than any puff-piece bit of gamer fiction!

We get right into it. Information on how to use this as an AD&D campaign world is started from the word go. Overview again of the boxed set. How to set up campaigns for new players, new campaigns for experienced players, and bringing in characters from other campaigns. Hmm...I should try all of these to be honest. Maybe a character from one of my Greyhawk or Mystara campaigns could come on over. I DO like the idea that Elvish and Dwarvish and some others are mostly the same languages. Would really help bring the worlds closer together. 

A bit of coverage on the maps and how to use them. Nice comparison of the map of Faerûn compared to the continental United States. And a section of various wandering monsters. The Forgotten Realms may be Forgotten, but they are very much alive!

The next 20 pages detail NPCs of note. Any to drop in as background, enemy, or ally. 

Speaking of living. A really nice section on recent news and various rumors starting in DR 1356 to 1357 are presented. With or without your characters, the Relams live on. 

Another plus for this boxed set is the ready-run adventures for low-level characters. The first, The Halls of the Beast Tamers, is a nice dungeon crawl. Next is Lashan's Fall, which appeared in Dragon #95 as "Into the Forgotten Realms," and even the maps are the same! Mind you I think this is a bonus since that is the adventure I always wanted to use as an intro to the Realms. I still can come to think of it. 

Into the Forgotten Realms

The next section is a "Pages from the Mages" style entry.  Lots of spells books to be found with plenty of new spells. I think some of these were in "Pages form the Mages" to be honest. That's fine, they work well here.

Honestly, the ONLY thing missing here are some new monsters, and this would be complete.

Maps & Plastic Hex Overlays

There are four gorgeous maps of the content of Faerûn. While it doesn't quite live up to the artistry of the Darlene World of Greyhawk maps, they are more practical. The plastic hex overlays also make it easier to read the maps and then do your hex crawls in whatever area you like.

The Dragon Connection

One of the great things about doing my This Old Dragon feature and concentrating on the period between 1980 and 1987 is watching the Forgotten Realms develop and grow as an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons world. From Ed's musings on gods in Down to Earth Divinity to magical tomes and spells of the Pages from the Mages and The Wizards Three features to adventure Into the Forgotten Realms, all of which would find homes in an official Forgotten Realms product in some shape or form.

I mentioned already that Dragon #95's Into the Forgotten Realms makes an appearance here as an introductory adventure.

As I mentioned, all we were missing were monsters. Well, Ed penned enough monsters in the pages of Dragon Magazine that were explicitly for the Realms, so collecting them all is worthwhile. In addition to monsters, there are magic items, more spells, blades, shields, and even musical instruments, and I know I am nowhere near collecting it all. I do know I will run out of room in my box for them all.

Realms in Dragon Magazine

My Thoughts

There is a lot packed in this box. It's like a TARDIS really; bigger on the inside. In truth, nothing of what I thought was going to be here was here. Yes, there are NPCs, but they are background, and your characters may never ever run into them. They are the background noise of the Realms until the characters are the big noise. I certainly unfairly judged the Forgotten Realms. 

A lot of this stemmed from me thinking that Gygax had been done wrong. Yes, that was true, but the Realms really had nothing to do with that. The New TSR was working to relgate Gygx to the past and Ed was just the guy in the right place in the right time with the right idea. I was also unfair of me to judge the Realms on that.  If reading Ed's "The Wizard's Three" has taught me anything that Abier-Toril and Oerth have more in common than not.

Greyhawk and the Forgotten Realms

This is, of course, just the start. A big start, to be sure, but a start all the same. This is a canvas to paint on. This is a great set, not just for its time but also for now. Minus some of the stat blocks and spells, everything here can be used with any version of D&D or similar game with little or no effort. 

While I am somewhat overwhelmed by the task before me, I am also excited about it.

Honestly, I am going to pull out some dice and roll up some characters now.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

New Witch Sheet

 I am not exactly sure why I didn't do this one already.

Witch Character Sheet

I was working on something else and needed an AD&D (Dragon #114) witch for it.  It then dawned on me that I didn't have a proper AD&D character sheet for a witch.  Well. I fixed that today.

Witch Character Sheet

I edited an existing PDF and ran some off on my printer. Proper Goldenrod, of course, but also salmon and blue since they came in those colors as well (NPC and permanent character records, respectively) and because I can come in purple. All my important witches have sheets in purple!

They are not perfect by any means. Just a quick edit job in Affinity Publisher, but I really like them. 

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Review: Module N4 Treasure Hunt

N4 Treasure Hunt
I knew my exploration of the Forgotten Realms would take me to new and unexpected places. I just didn't think it was going to be this soon.

In my exploration of the Forgotten Realms product Moonshae, I discovered an interesting bit of knowledge. In the back of that book it mentions that Adventure Module N4 Treasure Hunt can be used with the Moonshae Islands. I later discovered that the islands in N4 were moved over to the Forgotten Realms for this purpose.  So I had to switch courses and check out this module. I am really happy I did.

This module is not just an introduction module, but maybe THE introduction to the game module. Where you have an honest-to-Gary Session 0 and start with 0-Level characters in 1986. Given I am new to all things Realms, I might as well start at level 0!

N4 Treasure Hunt

by Aaron Allston, 48 pages (2 full color map pages, 36 pages of adventure, 10 pages of character profiles) black & white interiors. Art by Stephen Fabian. Cartographers: David F. "Diesel" LaForce, Stephen D. Sullivan, Bill Reuter, Stephanie Tabat. Cover art by Jeff Easley/

For this review, I am considering the PDF and Print on Demand version from DriveThruRPG/DMSGuild.

Treasure Hunt is a completely introductory adventure for players of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition game. I say "players" since I feel this adventure still requires a bit of rules savvy from the Dungeon Master, at least in terms of some of the lifts needed to work with the 0-level characters. However, reading this one nearly 40 years later, with honestly tens of thousands of hours spent on this game, there are nice gems here.

Speaking of which. I am not going to attempt to judge this adventure by the same yardstick as new Level-0 or the so-called "Funnel" adventures. That is not fair to the author nor the adventure itself. This has to judged on the merits of its time. But I will tell you this, I'd run this today, as is, with no changes to be honest.

There is a Player's Introduction and Dungeon Master's Introduction. 

This is the most interesting parts for me today since they cover the rules of rolling up and playing Level-0 characters.  For starters, you don't have a class yet. You are a Normal Human (or elf, or half-elf, or whatever), and you have 1d6 hit points and maybe a secondary skill. You don't even have an alignment. The plot revolves around your character, either one you make or use from the starting characters, being kidnapped by pirates, and then your pirate captors are shipwrecked and mostly all killed. Now, you are stuck in the Korinn Archipelago, later added to the north of the Moonshaes.

Korinn Archiipelago

From here the new PCs work out an escape plan and defeat their first enemy, the last pirate.

As the players play through the challenges presented on these islands they can build up what their character does and earn some XP. They are all 500 xp away from level 1. The adventure explains that even 1st level characters have some training. A fighter at level 1 is called a Veteran. A 1st level Cleric is an Acolyte. Even thieves and magic-users have some skills at first level that 0-levels do not.  Want to be a thief? Try picking that lock. Want to be a Cleric? What do you feel when you enter the Temple of the Goddess and how do you react? You won't know till the end (or near that) and you won't get there till you try.

0-level and skills

Frankly, it is great. A fantastic set of mini-mechanics to get the story going and flowing.  

The adventure itself is divided into six "episodes." And episode is a good word here since there is a bit of cinematic feel to this. It feels like Aaron Allston watched a lot of Raiders of the Lost Ark, or more to the point, Romancing the Stone. This is a good thing.

Each episode gives the new PCs something tangible to do. Defeat the pirate, stop the orcs and goblins, explore the Temple, explore the Sea King's Manor, and so on. While there is a great feel to all of this, add a bit of the Moonshaes to it, and thus some Celtic and Old Norse culture to it all, and it becomes a fun mix.

Even for the time, the adventure is a bit linear, but not in a terrible way. I mean, let's be honest, the plot is "I've been captured, now I am free, but how do I get out of here?"  At the end of each episode, there is a debrief for the DM on handling anything that went amiss, tracking the character's class and alignment progression, and so on. There are even contingencies if certain NPCs are not encountered or die before they are supposed to do something. So, linear but with enough branches to keep it fresh. 

Experience points are tracked all along the way, so there is a chance the characters will break the 500 XP threshold by the end of episode 5. 

There are appendices on "What if Things Go Wrong" or "What if the Character Dies?" and all are handled pretty well. There are some clever Player's Maps and the map of the islands. 

The character profiles in the back can be used as potential PCs or NPCs. A few are even worded to be male or female. Someone online would have screamed, "Woke!" at it, but it is presented here as just one of many options. I do feel more care was taken here to entice both male and female new players to the game.

This adventure is a good one for new players. The only thing missing here is some more guidance for new DMs. Something that B2 Keep on the Borderlands does rather well. Maybe the perfect starting trilogy is this adventure, then T1 the Village of Hommlet, and ending with B2 Keep on the Borderlands.

N4 Print on Demand

About the Print-on-Demand Scan

This is a print of a scanned image. So there is some fuzziness to some of the letters. It is obviously not as sharp as, say, a direct from digital print. It is still very readable.  Getting the PoD and PDF will give a book you can use and be able to print out the character cards and player maps as needed. 

Treasure Hunt in the Forgotten Realms

I already mentioned that the location of this adventure, the Korinn Archipelago, was dropped as right into the Moonshae Isles, which were already an addition by Douglas Niles to the Forgotten Realms, supplanting Ed Greenwood's own islands that were there. Already the Realms are evolving in front of our eyes and it is not even fully 1987 yet.

As an adventure, it is also a great start for Realms-centric characters. I had already planned to make my start in the Moonshaes, this just sets characters on the path of adventure in a different way. You didn't meet in a tavern or bar. You were captured and met your companions along the way. Something we will see again in Baldur's Gate 3 or even, to a degree, Skyrim. 

The Temple of the Goddess in Episode Three can easily become a Temple to the Earth Mother / Chauntea. Lots of different Goddesses are given as example, but I thought it might be fun if the Earth Mother appears as all of them. Playing into my fascination with "the Goddess is all goddesses" motif.

Sinéad for Treasure Hunt

Sinéad's Perspective

At the outset of these reviews, I said I wanted to explore the Realms through the eyes of a native, but one that was just as naïve as me. Sinéad is that character. She was chosen partially because she has a pseudo-Celtic background (so starting the Moonshaes was great). She was a Forgotten Realms native already, but mostly because she was just so much damn fun in Baldur's Gate 3. 

For Sinéad, I re-did her sheet as a 0-level character.  The DMG suggests using Method I for rolling up characters; 4d6 drop the lowest and arrange as desired. Well. I did that with Sinéad as a first level, so I opted to use a trick I used all the time in Unisystem's point build, I just knocked a few points off. 

Her "1st Level" abilities add up to 92, so I took 10 off and re-distributed the points among her six abilities. Then I added on back. My world. My rules. I also felt that since her main defining feature at this point is that she is a half-elf, I decided that was her class. So I used a Basic-D&D style sheet. The one I have above is from New Big Dragon Games Unlimited's GM screen.

Since my concept of her is a proto-Bard at this point, and she is young, I figure she really doesn't have any secondary skills yet. At best, she can play the lute or flute. If she was captured by pirates, she likely lost whatever she had. This would be a bigger loss to her than however much gold she had. 

At the end of the adventure, she becomes a magic-user with her one spell, Burning Hands. The same spell she accidentally burned down the barn she was in back at home, which was why she was running and how she got caught by pirates. 

After this adventure, how could she possibly go home? There is an entire world out there. 

Besides, she survived pirates. What can be worse than that?

Oh. And since I have had friends do this exact thing, after her adventure here, Sinéad uses the dagger she found to chop off her hair and dye some of it. Seems like a perfectly reasonable trauma reaction to me. 

Sinéad at the end of N4

She is just a kid at this point.

Final Thoughts

If I had been smarter, I would have used this first when re-creating Sinéad on paper, but as it is, this worked out fine. This is also a great new-to-me adventure for a new-to-me world. While I LOVE B2 Keep on the Borderlands, it is too closely tied to Greyhawk and the Known World for me to really adapt it over the Realms. Would it even fit in the Realms? I am sure many online users have found a home for it. Maybe one day I could as well, but for now, this is a great adventure to start with. In fact, I want to go through all the N, aka "Novice," adventures and see how they fit my needs here. But for now, I am pretty happy with this.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

D&DGII The Black Forest Mythos: Fata Norne, the Fates

I am now at my last set of gods (or whatever the Fates are), which brings me full circle. Today, I want to talk about the Fates.

Fata Norne

When I began this project I talked about this book of mythology I had that had stories of the Greek myths, the Norse myths, and ending in Beowulf. In my young mind, these looked like a continuum, one set of tales flowed into the next.  While age would teach me that these were separate myths, later age would also teach me they are still just one set of myths from an even older source (Proto-Indo-European, which I still want to tackle one day). But even way back then (I want to say 5th Grade) I saw the similarities between the Greek Fates and the Norse Norns. Three women, each representing the Past, Present, and Future, spinning, weaving, or otherwise looming the fate of humankind. Each person, from birth until death.

The image was powerful, and I was sure there was a connection between them. Even doing the briefest of surface research (ok, briefest of literature review. I am particular how people throw the word "research" around) one kind find similar beings all over the Earth and across time due to their PIE origins.

  • Albanian: Fatia
  • English: Wyrds
  • Greek: Moirai
  • Hinduism: Tridevi
  • Hittite: Gulses
  • Lithuanian: Deives Valdytojos
  • Norse: Norns

Those are only the most obvious. 

For my Pantheon here I want to include them. They were important to the Greeks and Romans in their guise of The Fates (Moirai) and very important in Norse myth. Indeed, in Norse mythology, every living creature had a corresponding set of Norns that measured out their fates. 

I will also admit (and a little begrudgingly now) that some of my ideas of the Fates have also been colored by the Piers Anthony book series, The Incarnations of Immortality, with Book 3 With a Tangled Skein chief among them. The first five books were fun. The next two ok to falling apart at the end (it's like he had painted himself into a corner among other issues) and the last one? Well I have not read it despite owning it, I heard it was terrible. 

Fata Norne

The Fates of the Black Forest Mythos are not gods in the traditional sense. They are immortal, or more accurately, unending. They often appear as three young, mature, and old women in similar aspects of the Maiden, Mother, and Crone, though that is not who they are. Instead, they are Future, Present, and Past respectively. They can also appear as three identical sisters of indeterminate age. It is their job to measure the fates of the Gods and Mortals alike. No one, not even the Gods, can escape their decrees. It has led to a saying, "Once Fate has spoken, it is so."

FATA NORNE

Eternals

ARMOR CLASS: 5
MOVE: 24" 
HIT POINTS: 300 each
NO. OF ATTACKS: 1
DAMAGE/ATTACK: Special Only
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Decree of Fate
SPECIAL DEFENSES: See Below
MAGIC RESISTANCE: 100%

SIZE: M (5')
ALIGNMENT: Neutral
WORSHIPER'S ALIGN: None
SYMBOL: The faces of three women or a loom
PLANE: Erde (Prime Material)

CLERIC/DRUID: 15th level Cleric
FIGHTER: Nil
MAGIC-USER/ILLUSIONIST: 15th level Magic-user
THIEF/ASSASSIN: Nil
MONK/BARD: 10th level Bard
WITCH/WARLOCK: 15th level Witch
PSIONIC ABILITY: II
S: 23 I: 25 W: 25 D: 16 C: 24 CH: 10

Fata Norne, the Fates, are the goddesses in charge of all fates, from the lowest vermin to the mightiest gods. They do not interact with mortals save in the direst of circumstances. They avoid direct contact with the other gods; likewise, the gods avoid and possibly fear them.

If the Fates are encountered, they need a mortal agent of fate to complete some quest. They will give this mortal what they need but no more than that. It is assumed that since they know all creatures' fates, their choice is correct, but that is not the same thing as the mortal succeeding or even living through the quest.

If anyone is foolish enough to attack the Fata Norne, they can pass the Decree of Fate. Which removes the threat permanently. They decree that the attacker was never born and they cease to exist; no saving throw is permitted. In some cases, the offending mortal (or god) is instantly replaced with an alternate version who lived the same life but was not as foolish as to attack them. 

They can't be hit by normal weapons; even magic is ineffective. In addition to the radical removal of the offending attacker from all existence, they can, more simply, remove their attacker's knowledge of whatever magic they would use to attack. 

At their choice, they can cast spells as a 15th-level spell caster, either as a Cleric, Magic-user, or Witch.

No one worships the Fata Norne, and they do not grant spells to clerics.

--

There you have it! All the gods and monsters of this syncretized set of myths. Hope you can find some uses for them.

Now to produce a PDF of these.

Links


Monday, November 27, 2023

Monstrous Mondays: D&DGII Ulmenfrau

Ok. Back it! We had some measurable snow here in Chicagoland, and I thought a snow monster might be nice for today. But while working on it, it morphed into something else.  So I might bring those original ideas back later, but for today let do the monster that came out of this process. The Ulmenfrau.

Ulmenfrau
Ulmenfrau

The Ulmenfrau, or "Elm Wives" are what my Roman-Germanic/Norse Pagans call the tree spirits of the Black Forest Mythos. They are related to the Norse Askafroa of the Ash Trees.  They also fold in elements of the Nisse of the Scandinavian countries, the Greek Pteleai (Elm Dryads), and the nymph Chione.  There are some elements of the Norse myth of Ask and Embla here as well.

Ulmenfrau are tree nymphs, so they most like dryads but can move further away from their trees. It is believed that Ulmenfrau are actually tied to a grove of elm trees rather than a specific singular tree.  It is said they are the daughters of the North Wind and can be encountered most frequently after the first snowfall.

They are closely associated with the European White Elm ("Ulmus laevis").

ULMENFRAU
FREQUENCY: Very Rare
NO. APPEARING: 1 (2-12)
ARMOR CLASS: 4 
MOVE: 90"
HIT DICE: 5+10 (32 hp)
% IN LAIR: 100%
TREASURE TYPE: None
NO. OF ATTACKS: 1 club or spell
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 1d6
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Magic Use
SPECIAL DEFENSES: Immune to charm, hold, sleep, and other mind-affecting spells. Immune to Cold attacks, vulnerable to fire and iron.
MAGIC RESISTANCE: Standard
INTELLIGENCE: Very
ALIGNMENT: Neutral (Good)
SIZE: M (under 5')
PSIONIC ABILITY: Nil

The Ulmenfrau, or Elm Woman or Elm Wife, is a type of woodland faerie creature similar to nymphs and dryads. Indeed, she may be a type of dryad and shows many similarities to the Askafroa found in ash tree groves. The Ulmenfrau as the name suggests, is the spirit of the Elm tree, though this fae is not tied to any specific tree, but rather the grove at large. A grove of 100 trees can support a dozen or so ulmenfraus. Larger groves can support more but often no more than a dozen will ever be spotted. When dealing with mortals they typically agree on a single ulmenfrau to interact.

Ulmenfraus are not combative as a rule. They can attack with a club when needed, but they mostly will attack and defend with magical spells, typically that of a 4th-level Druid or Witch. They will avoid using fire-based magic.  If their need is dire then a group or three or more ulmenfrau can cast Control Weather as if they were a druid circle or a coven of witches. They will use this to blanket their grove in deep snow and sub-freezing temperatures. 

All ulmenfraus are immune to mind-affecting and altering magics. They can not be charmed, held, or put to sleep. They are also immune to the effects of cold, either magical or mundane, and thus do not take damage from cold-based magic. Like many fae creatures, they take extra damage (+3 to damage per hit) weapons made of cold iron. Cold iron weapons are those that lack carbon to make them steel. They are hard and heavy weapons that break easily. Also, they take double the damage from any fire-based attacks.

Ulmenfrau are hard to find in summer months, where they are busy making sure their grove is growing, they can be spoted in their humanoid form most often in the winter. Here, they appear as slight (only 5' tall) elven women light grayish brown skin that gets lighter as they age with white hair. Like many dryads their hair changes with the seasons, but green-haired and red-haired ulmenfrau are harder to find. They are thought to venture out in winter to explore and potentially find mates. Though unlike other dryads the ulmenfrau have no magical ability to charm. 

It is believed that the ulmenfrau are the offspring of the North Wind and the Wood Maidens.

Links


Monday, November 20, 2023

D&DGII The Black Forest Mythos: References

O. Von Corven "The Great Library of Alexandria" Artistic Rendering of the Library of Alexandria, based on some archaeological evidence.
The end is nigh! I have one more set of gods I want to do for this project, and then I'll see if I can put together a PDF for everyone.  

I said I was not going to treat this as an academic work. Especially since I blatantly ignored things like real archeology, anthropology, and ethnographic studies. But I thought others might be interested in some of the legwork I did to get where I am on this today.

This is not a comprehensive bibliography, not even a targeted one. It is a catch-as-catch-can one based on the books I was reading when I started having these ideas.

References

Daileader, P. (2013). The Early Middle Ages. The Teaching Company.

Drake, J. (2020). Viking Mythology: 2 Books In 1 – The Complete Guide to Norse Mythology and Celtic Mythology Including Legends, Beliefs, Norse Folklore, Norse Gods, and Celtic Myths. Josh Drake.

D’Aulaire, I., & D’Aulaire, E. P. (1962, 1992). Book of greek myths. Doubleday Books for Young Readers.

Gaiman, N. (2018). Norse mythology. Bloomsbury.

Gosden, C. (2021). Magic: A history: From alchemy to witchcraft, from the Ice Age to the present. Picador.

Hale, J. R. (2013). Exploring the Roots of Religion. The Teaching Company.

Harl , K. W. (2011). The Fall of the Pagans and the Origins of Medieval Christianity. The Teaching Company.

Harl, K. W. (2005). The Vikings. The Teaching Company.

Higginbotham, J., & Higginbotham, R. (2018). Paganism: An introduction to earth-centered religions. Llewellyn Publications.

Lecouteux, C. (2016). Encyclopedia of norse and germanic folklore, mythology, and magic. Inner Traditions.

Lewis, S. (2018). Mythology mega collection: Classic stories from the Greek, Celtic, Norse, Japanese, Hindu, Chinese, Mesopotamian and Egyptian mythology. Scott Lewis.

Line, P. (2015). The Vikings and their enemies: Warfare in Northern Europe, 750-1100. Skyhorse Publishing.

O’Donnell, J. J. (2016). Pagans: The end of traditional religion and the rise of Christianity. ECCO an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

River, C. (Ed.). (2018). The Ancient World’s Most Mysterious Religious Cults: The History of the Cult of the Apis Bull, the Eleusinian Mysteries, and the Mysteries of Mithras. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Voth, G. L. (2013). Myth in Human History. The Teaching Company.

Waggoner, B. (2009). The Sagas of Ragnar Lodbrok. The Troth.

Thursday, November 16, 2023

D&DGII The Black Forest Mythos: Schmied, the Craftsman, Smtihs, and God of Fire

 One of the last major gods of this Pantheon is Schmied, the god of craftsmen, ironworking, fire, and dwarves. He is often depicted as a dwarf.


Schmied

Schmied is a syncretic god who combines aspects of the Greek Hephaestus, the Roman Vulcan, the Norse Sons of Ivaldi and the myth of Weyland the Smith and thus Goibhnie of the Celts. All of these figures are related and likely all trace their origin back to a Proto-Indo European Smith God. Given the book I am reading now on PIE language reconstruction this could have been the God credited with giving humanity the wheel.

Schied here has a bit of all these gods as seen through the idea of the grumpy dwarf. I opted to take this somewhat stereotypical route because I figure he is the source of this archetype. I wanted him dour, grumpy, and largely unlikable. This comes, I admit, more from my readings of Goidhnie (Gowan) of the Celts. Though Vulcan and the Sons of Ivaldi were not going to win any popularity contests. Which interestingly enough, gets me to the first myth of the god.

Both Hephaestus and Vulcan are married off to their myths respective Goddess of Love. Here is where I wanted to differ. I honestly can't see Liebhaberin getting married at all. She is too busy cultivating young (and thus pre-married) love. But I did want to have a myth where Schmied got married to a beautiful woman, largely by trickery. Like I said he is an unpleasant god.

Schmied and Skalda

Skalda (note: not exactly Skaldi) was the beautiful goddess of Song and Poetry, in particular epic poetry. She decided one day she needed a husband. So she sought out the Gods to find a suitable candidate. Skalda wanted to find a husband among the greatest of Gods so she announced her attention. Her eye was set on Jäger and she began to openly court the God. His sister Jägerin, would not have it seeing Skalda as trying to improve her own standing among the gods. So she convinced Schmied, who she knew desperately desired Skalda, to begin to send her gifts.  Schmied fashioned a lute of pure gold that would play itself if commanded to Skalda. He sent her a breastplate of gold. A spear fashioned out of the rays of the sun. And automaton handmaidens carved out of pure ivory and inlaid with gold that were indistinguishable from living nymphs. 

Skalda, who believed that it was Jäger who sent her all these gifts swore before the Gods that she would only marry the God who had sent her such wonderful treasures. Expecting Jäger to step forward she was shocked and disgusted to see it was not the Bright God of the Sun, but the twisted God of Smiths.  But an oath before the Gods is an oath unbreakable. 

They did produce a son, Künstler, the God of fine art. But she has refused his bed ever since. 

SCHMIED (God of Smithing, Crafting, Fire and Dwarves)

Intermediate God

ARMOR CLASS: 2
MOVE: 9" 
HIT POINTS: 275
NO. OF ATTACKS: 2
DAMAGE/ATTACK:  1d10+5, 1d10+5
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Summon fire
SPECIAL DEFENSES: +1 or better to hit
MAGIC RESISTANCE: 70%

SIZE: M (4' 1")
ALIGNMENT: Neutral
WORSHIPER'S ALIGN: All, smiths, craftsmen, dwarves
SYMBOL: A large hammer
PLANE: Erde (Prime Material)

CLERIC/DRUID: 10th level Cleric
FIGHTER: 5th level Fighter
MAGIC-USER/ILLUSIONIST: 10th level Magic-user
THIEF/ASSASSIN: Nil
MONK/BARD: Nil
WITCH/WARLOCK: Nil
PSIONIC ABILITY: II
S: 23 I: 12 W: 20 D: 16 C: 24 CH: 8

Schmied is the god of craftsmen, smiths, fire (in its creation aspect), as well as dwarves and kobolds. He appears as a heavily muscled dwarf covered in soot and grime from working in the forge. 

Schmied has very little to say to others. He prefers to spend his time in the forge working with his brothers (who have demigod status) creating items of great art. It is said that his forge can create anything and the magic items the gods wield were all created here.

In combat, he swings a giant hammer for 1d10+5 points of damage twice per round. He has the spell-casting ability of a 10th-level magic-user and a 10th-level cleric. He is quick to anger and will use his hammer attack first and his six brothers will join in (1d8+4 for their attacks).

He is also the god of the dwarves and kobolds, or knockers

Animal: Ox
Rainment: (Head) bare (Body) none
Color(s): Red, Black
Holy Days: The three days prior to the Summer Soltice and the three days after. 
Sacrifices: An ox or bull, sacrificed and cooked in a large fire. 
Place of Worship: Forges and Cave mouths. 

He is married to Skalda, the beautiful goddess of epic poetry and song, but she wants nothing to do with him.

He maintains a large home for them both in Himmel, but he stays on Erde in a cave where he toils over the forges with his brothers and their kobold assistants.

Skalda

Skalda is the beautiful but haughty and arrogant goddess of epic poetry and music. While her skill unmatched, she is jealous of the other goddess and always wants more. Though when she is sitting with her lute and creating new poems, few can match her charm and eloquence. 

Skalda, the Goddess of Epic Poetry and Music

SKALDA (Demi-Goddess of Epic Poetry and Music)
Demigoddess

ARMOR CLASS: -3
MOVE: 12"
HIT POINTS: 75
NO. OF ATTACKS: 2
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 1d8/1d8
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Charming voice
SPECIAL DEFENSES: Inspiring aura
MAGIC RESISTANCE: 25%

SIZE: M (6' 2")
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic Neutral
WORSHIPER'S ALIGN: All, Bards
SYMBOL: Lute
PLANE: Erde (Prime Material)

CLERIC/DRUID: 9th Level Cleric
FIGHTER: Nil
MAGIC-USER/ILLUSIONIST: 5th level Illusionist
THIEF/ASSASSIN: Nil
MONK/BARD: 15th level Bard
WITCH/WARLOCK: Nil
PSIONIC ABILITY: II
S: 13 I:12 W: 16 D: 18 C: 14 CH: 21

Skalda is the demigoddess of epic poetry and music. She is beautiful, eloquent, and utterly vain. She knows that her gift is required by the gods to remain in mortals' minds. The apples of Ôstara may keep the gods young and immortal, but it is Skalda's songs keep them in their hearts.

This goddess appears as a very tall (6' 2") warrior goddess. She wears a golden breastplate that only fits her, granting her very low armor class. She wields a spear that when thrown, will return to her hand and her golden lute. Once she sets the lute to play it will play independently of her. 

Her voice has a constant Charm Person effect that is effective against all save for dwarves. Failing to save vs. spells means the victim is charmed and will do no harm to the goddess. She can also use her voice to inspire, granting all that hear it an additional 1d8 roll to use as needed: to attack, damage, saves or any other roll. This can be granted three times per day. 

She does not have many worshipers of her own, but all Bards pay her homage. 

Links

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

D&DGII The Black Forest Mythos: Vater Meeren

 Working through the remaining Gods for my D&DGII The Black Forest Mythos. Today I have the God of the Sea.

Vater Meeren

Vater Meeren

Vater Meeren is an odd one for this group of gods. He is powerful and is a greater god since he controls the Oceans and the Sea, something that was very important to both groups these myths come from. But he is also a remote and distant god to these Pagans since at the time these myths would have been created, say the 6th and 7th Centuries CE, they are a little removed, geographically, from the sea. I also have this group as being fairly insular so their myths can grow with out the "contamination" of what is going on around them; ie the Christian conversion of Europe.

Vater Meeren himself combines aspects of Neptune/Poseidon along with other aspects of Odin (Odin had so many aspects his DNA is in every god) and Thor when he was a maritime God.  I also wanted to give him aspects of Ullr who had been a more important god. Thus Vater Meeren is the God of the Sea, Oceans, Death as a process (a Psychopomp), and Winter.

He is the brother of Unser Vater and Hüter, much like their Roman counterparts, but also refers to Odin's two brothers Vili and Vé in their role as Gods of Creation.

Like Neptune/Poseidon and Odin this god is also fond of horses.

VATER MEEREN (God of the Sea and Oceans)

Greater God

ARMOR CLASS: 2
MOVE: 12" // Swim 48" // Horse: 36"
HIT POINTS: 380
NO. OF ATTACKS: 3
DAMAGE/ATTACK:  1d10+5, 1d10+5, wave
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Wave, control weather
SPECIAL DEFENSES: +3 or better to hit
MAGIC RESISTANCE: 50%

SIZE: M (6' 1")
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic Neutral
WORSHIPER'S ALIGN: All, Sailors
SYMBOL: A wave
PLANE: Erde 

CLERIC/DRUID: 20rd level Druid
FIGHTER: 15th level Ranger
MAGIC-USER/ILLUSIONIST: 10th level Magic-user
THIEF/ASSASSIN: Nil
MONK/BARD: 10th level Bard
WITCH/WARLOCK: Nil
PSIONIC ABILITY: II
S: 23 I: 15 W: 22 D: 18 C: 20 CH: 17

Vater Meeren is the God of the Oceans and the Sea. He lives under the waves and everything that is not land or sky is his. He had once been more powerful, equal to his brother Unser Vater, but his power has waned, though he is believed to have another ascendence soon.

Vater Meeren appears as a heavily muscled man in his prime with a full head of red hair and beard with bright blue eyes. These eyes turn gray and cloudy when he is angry, which is often. 

When he attacks he uses a giant spear made from the horn of a titanic narwhal. He can also attack with a giant wave of water, doing 6d6 hp of damage (save for half). Additionally, he can control the weather around any body of water, summon up to 100 HD worth of sea creatures three times per day, as well cast spells as if he were a 20th level druid, 10th level magic-user, and a 10th level bard.

One of his roles is to make sure the dead are sent to their proper afterlife, either in Himmel or in Hölle. So in this respect, he works hand in hand with his brothers. 

Vater Meeren is not allowed to set foot on dry land. So if he has business he needs to attend to he will travel by horse. His horse for these tasks is Schnelläufer and he can run on water, land, or air with equal ease. Since neither Vater Meeren nor Schnelläufer need to rest, eat or sleep, they can run for days to complete whatever task they need and be back in the sea as they need too. 

Animal: Horse, Narwhal
Rainment: (Head) crown of coral (Body) none
Color(s): Blue, Red
Holy Days: Nights of the Full moon
Sacrifices: Gold, weapons offered to the sea. 
Place of Worship: Sea shores, near lakes or any body of water.

Vater Meeren took the Celtic-Roman Epona as a wife (one of many) and it is believed this is the origin of the Nøkk.

Links

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

D&DGII The Black Forest Mythos: Verwildert, the God of Wild Nature and Wood Maidens

 Today's god leans a bit more into the Greek/Roman side of the equation, though there are still bits from the Norse and even Norse-Celtic influences.  Introducing Verwildert, the God of Wild Nature and the Protector of animals, grains, and other parts of nature.

Verwildert

Verwildert

This god combines aspects of Pan/Fanus as well as Bacchus/Dionysus.  From the Norse side, we get wilder aspects of Odin and Freyr, especially in Freyr's roles in fertility and fecundity. Many of Æsir gods of the Norse pantheon have more in common with Pan than the other Greek/Roman gods. 

My group of Pagans here are living very close to nature (and Nature). Not, out some sort of neo-pagan ideal dreamed up by 20th Century writers (and 21st Century game writers), but because that was their reality. This group was a bad winter away from total barbarism and they knew that. A God like Verdwildert was the manifestation of that. The god that gave them grains and crops they could cultivate, the wolf that ate their sheep, and the storms that destroyed their farms and homes.  

Nature is always just a few steps removed from madness.

VERWILDERT (God of Wild Nature)

Intermediate God

ARMOR CLASS: 2
MOVE: 36"
HIT POINTS: 280
NO. OF ATTACKS: 2
DAMAGE/ATTACK:  1d8+3, 1d8+3
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Inspire Madness, Druid magic
SPECIAL DEFENSES: +2 or better to hit
MAGIC RESISTANCE: 50%

SIZE: M (5' 9")
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic Neutral
WORSHIPER'S ALIGN: All, Farmers, Druids
SYMBOL: Hawk
PLANE: Erde 

CLERIC/DRUID: 23rd level Druid
FIGHTER: 10th level Ranger
MAGIC-USER/ILLUSIONIST: Nil
THIEF/ASSASSIN: Nil
MONK/BARD: 20th level Bard
WITCH/WARLOCK: Nil
PSIONIC ABILITY: II
S: 18 I: 15 W: 22 D: 18 C: 20 CH: 23

Verwildert is the God of and the Protector of Wild Nature. He first taught humans how to cultivate land, not to tame nature, but to learn how to work with it. He is not an agricultural god, per se, but he is the patron of all growing things. He is also the god of the storm and flood that destroys, the wolf that kills, and secrets hidden it dark places. 

This god appears as a grizzled old wild man of the woods, with the antlers of a stag as headdress. He is hairy and bearded. Often, his idols feature an enormous phallus, which some claim is true for the god himself. Verwildert has little time for humans, though he is not overtly hostile to them at first. Like all nature, he is dangerous and can destroy.  Even he fears the raw power of Nature herself in the form of Mutter Natur, who is his own mother. Despite this human worshippers usually find Verwildert to be more approachable than Mutter Natur.

Verwildert can attack with two great fists or cast spells as a 23rd-level Druid. Three times per day, he can Inspire Madness, which will cause those who fail to save to drop their weapons (or whatever they are holding) and attack anyone close to them. Spellcasters are unable to cast spells. 

Animal: All, but the Wolf is a favorite
Rainment: (Head) horns of a stag (Body) none
Color(s): Red, Green
Holy Days: Nights of the New and Full moon; Also May 1st
Sacrifices: Everything is sacred to Nature, the weakest animals culled so the pack may survive
Place of Worship: Any natural setting. 

Verwildert has two groups of followers/worshipers he is associated with. The Wild Hunt and Wood Maidens.

The Wild Hunt

This band of hunters is known across the continent. In the times when Verwildert leads them, they ride and run across the land on the nights of the New Moon. These hunters are a mixed lot. Supernatural hunting dogs (like Hell hounds), undead hunters (wights), ghosts of hunters who died while hunting, and warriors not allowed into Himmel. 

Wood Maidens

Wood Maidens are a type of demi-goddesses, or semi-goddesses, that are the personification of wild nature. They appear as nymphs, but are more akin to the Maenads of Greek/Roman myth. These goddess represent nature run wild. They are the goddesses of wine, ecstasy, and fertility. It is said that they are active to still the blood of men and women.

They are the face of Nature that humans try to tame but ultimately cannot. 

Wood Maidens

WOOD MAIDENS (Demi-Goddess of Wild Nature, Ecstasy, and Fertility)

Demigoddess

ARMOR CLASS: 2
MOVE: 36"
HIT POINTS: 50
NO. OF ATTACKS: 2
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 1d6+1/1d6+1 (claws)
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Inspire ecstasy
SPECIAL DEFENSES: Wild Aura aura
MAGIC RESISTANCE: 25%

SIZE: M (5'2")
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic Neutral
WORSHIPER'S ALIGN: All
SYMBOL: Maiden's face
PLANE: Erde (Prime Material)

CLERIC/DRUID: 4th level Druid
FIGHTER: Nil
MAGIC-USER/ILLUSIONIST: Nil
THIEF/ASSASSIN: Nil
MONK/BARD: Nil
WITCH/WARLOCK: 5th level Witch
PSIONIC ABILITY: II
S: 13 I: 14 W: 16 D: 15 C: 18 CH: 24

Wood Maidens are demi-goddesses representing wild nature and the power to renew life. They are also the demigoddess of wine, ecstasy, and fertility. They claim they are the offspring of Verwildert and Liebhaberin or even Verwildert and Ôstara. Possibly both are true. 

They can be found roaming the lands, inspiring ecstasy to renew life where they can. But they also represent nature running wild; they create life and they also can destroy it. The same ecstasy that bring lovers together can also drive them apart, or drive people to jealousy. This aura extends 60' from their person. This is increased by an additional 30' for each Wood Maiden in a group. There can be as many as dozen in a single group. This will produce an aura up to 400'.

They appear as wild women. Often running through the wilderness wearing simple clothing and often barefoot even in the deepest of winters. When they run they often have wolves accompanying them leading to the belief they are werewolves (they are not).

Wood Maidens are the chaotic counterpart to the Ides.

May 1st, May Day

On the First of May, the Wood Maiden gather in large numbers of a score or more. They can be seen running across the land, where their wild aura can extend even further. At this time they are chased by the Wild Hunt. Overtly it is so the Wild hunt can run them down in an etiological myth of Man vs. Nature. Often the Wood Maidens are captured by members of the Hunt. Just as often the Maidens kill the Huntsmen. In the case where a Maiden is captured and she doesn't kill the Huntsman, the Maiden becomes a normal human; often as a high priestess of Verwildert. The moral here is that Humankind can't tame nature, much less conquer it. 

This is symbolically celebrated in a fertility rite where the young women of the community run through the woods in an attempt to be captured by the young men. The women wear flowers in their hair which they can give to whomever finds them. This is considered akin to a marriage proposal. It is said that any child conceived in these rites is blessed by the gods. 

For Use in NIGHT SHIFT

Of all the myths I have written, this is the one most likely to have survived to modern times to feature in NIGHT SHIFT. It is a Folk Horror sort of tale. Think "Midsommer" and "The Wickerman."

A good hook is something from Norse/Germanic myths. The PCs are on some sort of hiking trip, and they come across a nearly naked young woman running through the woods chased by something.  The PCs naturally try to help her, only to discover that she is part of an ancient rite.  Is she innocent? Is she the monster? Likely it will be more complicated than that. 

I'll need to develop these more.

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