Showing posts with label Forgotten Realms. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Forgotten Realms. Show all posts

Sunday, October 30, 2022

100 Days of Halloween: Out of the Abyss

Sorry for the delay on this one. The perfect combination of a migraine and no internet all day conspired against me.

I have spent time with all the previous editions of D&D, let's do 5th today.  And for that, I think I want to spend some time with 2015's Rage of Demons adventure Out of the Abyss.

Out of the Abyss

Hardcover. 256 pages. Full-color cover and interior art.

This adventure was produced by Green Ronin and sold by Wizards of the Coast and is the third adventure made for D&D 5 if I recall right. I bought this one largely because I wanted 5e stats for demons and some places in the Abyss as this book has that.  I also was working on my Forgotten Realms campaign ideas, what would be come part of the Second Campagin

The adventure is an interesting one. For characters 1 to 15. You start in the Underdark and end fighting demon lords in the Abyss itself. That's the least interesting thing about the adventure. We get the aforementioned demon lords and a lot NPCs and a cool new feature of demons, madness. Not only are most demons a little (or a lot) insane and this insanity is contagious. 

We get some new monsters and some updated variants of older monsters.  For our demon lords we get Baphomet, Demogorgon, Fraz-Urb'luu, Graz'zt, Juiblex, Orcus, Yeenoghu, and Zuggtmoy. Interestingly enough, no Lolth. 

I found the adventure was a great introduction to the Underdark and to demons and, for me, a nice hook into the Forgotten Realms. 

I might run it someday, but I have cut it up (not literally) and used pieces of it in other places now so it would need to be with a new group.


The Other Side - 100 Days of Halloween


Thursday, October 27, 2022

The Simbul, Witch Queen of Aglarond

The Simbul, Witch Queen of Aglarond
The Simbul, Witch Queen of Aglarond
I have been asked in the past why I have not stated up one of the greatest spellcasters in D&D lore before and the answer I have always given is this, I wanted to do it right.

That is partially true. The other part is that a character like The Simbul, Alassra Shentrantra Silverhand, Witch Queen of Aglarond has to be done with care and reverence.  Doing my review of The Seven Sisters has only raised this sense in me.  While at the same time filling me with excitement over the prospect of doing it.

I have known since the beginning of my War of the Witch Queens that The Simbul would be involved, and even for a brief time, I considered her to be the Witch Queen that was murdered to set this whole thing in motion. But in truth, I could not do that, even if this is my multiverse's Alassra I just couldn't. The love Ed Greenwood has for this character shines so brightly through every word he commits to paper about her that I just couldn't.  He loves her and made me love her as well.

So she will meet some other fate. In DR 1479 it is said she dies to save Elminster (cough*refrigerators*cough) BUT my Realms game is taking place in DR 1387 or so (using the 3rd ed book as my base which starts in 1372). So she is not dead and may not die.

Also in my Realms. She is a proper witch.

Putting the Witch back into Witch Queen

I always knew I was going to be. But it was Ed's own note in the Seven Sisters that gave me "permission:"

The entries on each Sister detail powerful characters that can easily be renamed and fiddled with for use in other campaigns, and that provide most importantly character motivations and aims for such NPCs of might.

                                                                                                      - The Seven Sisters, page 4

Going back to the 3rd Edition Forgotten Realms Campaign Guide renewed my interest in the Realms and gave me some other insight.

But the final bit of information was reading through Ed's own writings in the pages of Dragon Magazine. In many cases, he clearly is using the word "witch" and meaning it to be the Witch NPC class from Dragon, in particular the one for issue #114.  This gives me all the cover I need really.

Ok. So. Let's say the Simbul is an actual witch, not a mage or wizard. We know (thanks to the Seven Sisters book) she trained with the Witches of Rashemen, so what Tradition would she be? A Rashemen Witch? A Chosen Witch?  I mean Mystra is very much her Patron she owes more of her magic to her involvement than the study of tomes.

I thought that a Chosen of Mystara might be right, but that is more of her birthright than a Trad. Also, there are other Chosen who are not witches. She still has access to wizard spells, so I think she would have to be one in my new High Witchcraft Tradition. This is my homage to a lot of the witches in D&D.

What about her level? Well, in my Basic Witch book the Queen of Witches is Level 36. Does The Simbul go this high? According to her official stats in 2nd ed, she is a Wizard 30 and Fighter 6, and in 3rd ed, she is Sorcerer 20/Archmage 2/Wizard 10.  So 36 and 32 total levels respectively. So yes,  I think 36th level is fine.

The High Witchcraft Tradition

The Simbul is the Witch Queen of the High Witchcraft Tradition.  This is the same tradition that is taught in the Magic School of Glantri, but as a Chosen, she comes on it naturally. Her familiar in this case is her connection to the Weave and the spirits of Magic. So much like a Sorcerer in D&D 3e she comes on her magic naturally, but she also has learned magic.  Witches of the High Witchcraft Tradition are also called The Secret Order and they can learn Arcane/Wizard spells as well. They gain them as other witches gain Ritual magic. 

I have not figured out all of the Occult Powers of this Tradition yet, so this is a work in progress. I am grabbing spells from all my witch books for her, but the base character build is based mostly on The Witch

The Seven Sisters and the Witch


The Simbul, Alassra Shentrantra Silverhand
Witch Queen of Aglarond
The Simbul, Alassra Shentrantra Silverhand Witch Queen of Aglarond
36th level Witch, High Witchcraft Tradition
Human Female, Neutral (Chaotic Neutral)

Strength 14
Intelligence 17
Wisdom 15
Dexterity 18
Constitution 16
Charisma 18

Saving Throws (Base)
Death Ray/Poison 2
Magic Wands 2
Paralysis, Polymorph 2 
Dragon Breath 2
Rods, Staffs, Spells 2

Height: 5' 10"
Hair: Silver 
Eyes: Gray

Hit Points: 87
AC: -2
(Bracers of Protection +3, Cord of Protection +2, Ring of Protection +3, Dex 18 -3)

Base THAC0: 6
(I know, THAC0 was not used in Basic D&D. You know what this means)

Occult Powers*
Lesser: Familiar (Familiar Spirit)
Minor: Witch Vision (see magic, invisible) 
Medial: Drawing Down the Moon
Greater: Witch's Blessing
Major: Craft Permanent Magic
Superior: Longevity/Timeless Body
(*these are not all well-defined yet)

Spells
Cantrips (6): Arcane Mark, Acid Splash, Daze, Mote of Light, Object Reading, Open,
1st (9+2): Analgesia, Bar the Way, Burning Hands, Burning Gaze, Charm Person, Comprehend Languages, Eldritch Fire (Silverfire), Glamour, Mend Minor Wounds, Pace Without Trace
2nd (9+2): Arcane Disruption, Agony, Alter Self, Burning Gaze, Continual Flame, Detect Charm, Dweomerfire, ESP, Evil Eye, Haunting Mists, Mind Obscure, Web 
3rd (9+2): Astral Sense, Bestow Curse, Clairsentience, Control Winds, Danger Sense, Dispel Magic, Expand Senses, Fly, Immunity to Normal Weapons, Lightning Bolt, Protection from Fire
4th (9+1): Analyze Magic, Ball Lightning, Cauldron of Rage, Charm Monster, Divination, Forest of Deception, Masque, Polymorph Others, Polymorph Self, Remove Curse
5th (9): Break Enchantment, Decimate, Enslave, Maelstrom, Nightmare, Private Sanctum, Sending, Telekinesis, Ward of Magic
6th (9): Analyze Dweomer, Animate Shadows, Cackle of the Winter Crone, Cloak of Dreams, Greater Scry, Heroes' Feast, Mass Suggestion, Mislead,  Rain of Fire, 
7th (9): Astral Spell, Breath of the Goddess, Chain Lightning, Greater Teleport, Limited Wish, Regenerate, Spell Turning, Wave of Mutilation, Wind Walk
8th (9): Demand, Eye of the Storm, I Am The Fire, Mass Charm, Permanency, Protection of the Goddess, Storm of Vengeance, Stormbolts, Vanquish

These are only some of the spells she has access to. She has a lot of "named" spells, but I have to find rough analogs in my own books for those. Besides, this should keep her with plenty of arcane firepower. 

While I say that witches of the High Witchcraft Tradition can learn Wizard Spells, the spells above are all witch spells. Some are cross-listed with Wizard, but they can be learned by other witches too. 

Larina seeks advice from The Simbul
Larina seeks advice fromThe Simbul on a magical problem.

Links

Fellow Witch Queens

Forgotten Realms Links


100 Days of Halloween: The Seven Sisters

FOR6 The Seven Sisters (2e)
I have had a long and complicated relationship with the Forgotten Realms. They came out while I was getting ready for University. I had my first interactions with the setting were with its fans online. In those days it would have been LISTSERVs on BitNet or on Usenet. I have to admit. The fans annoyed me. Plus I was a Greyhawk and Known World fan, how dare this upstart world displace those?  

Then a few things happened. First I picked the 3rd Edition Forgotten Realms guide. I thought it was great. Secondly, I got the Dragon Magazine CD-ROM and I went back and reread some of the old articles and realized the depth Ed Greenwood contributed to everything in D&D since, well the beginning.  Slowly I began to see how rich the Realms were. And yes. Just like those fans that annoyed me so, I began to really like the characters of the Realms. 

Case in point. I really, really enjoy the Seven Sisters and The Simbul in particular.  So for today's 100 Days of Halloween, I wanted to talk about these seven extraordinary women, of which two of them are called witches.

FOR6 The Seven Sisters (2e)

PDF and softcover book. 128 pages. Color cover, black & white art.

This book covers the Seven Sisters, the Chosen of Mystra;  Alustriel, Dove Falconhand, Laeral Silverhand, The Simbul, Storm Silverhand, Syluné, and Qilué Veladorn.

Before delving into this book one thing is certain, Ed Greenwood loves these characters. He talks about them in the pages of Dragon magazine, his books, and all his writings. He knows them and loves them and it shows. This is something I keep in mind while reading this.

This book and these characters are an obvious nod to something that has been described as one of the oldest stories in the world, The Seven Sisters or the Pleiades star cluster near the Belt of Orion. We call them "the Seven Sisters" but today we only can see six with the naked eye. This is because 100,000 years ago we could see a seventh star. This seventh is sometimes called the Lost Sister.  Why mention this, well it is obvious when you get into this that Ed, as usual, did his homework before class.

Introduction

This section details what this book is and how to use it. There is even some background fluff. Ed even says we can take these "powerful characters that can easily be renamed and fiddled with for use in other campaigns." I am holding on to that. 

Who are the Seven Sisters?

This is an overview of the Seven going through them all very briefly. Only six are mentioned here and the Seventh...well that is our missing sister and she will be detailed soon enough.  

The Story of the Seven

We get an overview not just of the Seven and how they came to be but the nature of the Chosen, in particular the Chosen of Mystra. They all are the children of a ranger and Harper named Dornal Silverhand and Elué Shundar a half-elf sorceress who agreed to be the host of Mystra's spirit and power. Soon seven girls were born in the winter of each following year. Anastra Syluné, (761 DR), Endue Alustriel (762 DR), Ambara Dove (763 DR); Ethena Astorma "Storm" (764 DR), Anamanué Laeral (765 DR), Alassra Shentrantra "The Simbul" (766 DR), and Erésseae Qilué  (767 DR). Though being the host of such magical power Elué was withering away and was little more than a lich while she was pregnant with Qilué. So Mystra transplanted the unborn baby into the womb of a nearby drow adventuress whose own unborn child had died in her womb. Elué died and Dornal, disgusted with what the Goddess had done went out to seek his own death leaving the six girls in the care of Mystra herself.

I would go into more detail here, but that is retelling the story already here.  

Powers of the Chosen

Now here is the chapter on how I discovered this book. I was looking for some details on the Chosen of Mystra. There are a lot of powers granted to those favored by the gods. 

The Seven 

Each chapter that follows is named for one of the Seven. They are in order, Alustriel, Dove Falconhand, Laeral Silverhand, The Simbul, Storm Silverhand, Syluné, and Qilué Veladorn.

There is some history, backstory, some fiction, their true name, and more. A stat block is given for each, and make no mistake these are powerful characters. Each chapter lists her powers, what people think of her, what angers her, what pleases her, and what she can be expected to be doing. There is also black & white art of each sister. The only time I have seen them all together and in color is the cover (promotional images) for the novel Silverfall

The fiction bits are fine, though I will note that the piece accompanying The Simbul's chapter is the same as the Pages of the Mages book and "The Wizards Three" from Dragon #200, December 1993. So yeah this is the third time I have read it, but I don't care. I love the fact that there are the three most powerful mages of three different worlds and they all fear Her.

It would be natural for me to say that this sister got more attention and this other one got less, but all get about the same level of detail and attention.

Spells of the Seven

New spells developed or used by the sisters. 105 new spells. Some I have ended up in later editions of D&D, but many are still new. 

Magical Items of the Seven

Likewise, there are some special and even unique magic items. There are nine here.

Using the Seven Sisters in a Campaign

A guide on how to use these powerful sisters by engaging what they are most interested in.  There is also a brief mention of any situation where more than one would be encountered. 

--

The Seven Sisters

Outside of the chapters on the Spells and Magic items, there is not a lot here that is edition specific. I mean yes there are NPC stat blocks for each sister, but I can easily say that for example Qilué is a 16th-level cleric.  Or that The Simbul is a dual-classed 30th-level mage and 6th-level fighter. Consequently, she is a Sorcerer 20/Archmage 2/Wizard 10 in D&D 3rd Edition.  So their levels I say are guidelines. Strong guidelines, but guidelines all the same. Although you have someone like Dove Falconhand and you can see her progression from 1st Edition to 3rd Edition.  The point being that this book is still useful for many versions of D&D, not just AD&D Second Edition.

I don't think I have even scratched the surface of what I can do with this.


The Other Side - 100 Days of Halloween

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

100 Days of Halloween: The Priest, the Witch, and the Lost Temple: An Adventure

The Priest, the Witch, and the Lost Temple: An Adventure
Tonight we have a DMsGuild adventure for 5e. It has a lot great things going for it for my ongoing campaign so let's see what it can do for me.

The Priest, the Witch, and the Lost Temple: An Adventure

PDF. 40 pages. Full-color cover and interior art. 

This adventure is for characters levels 2 to 3. This fits the archetype of the "strange newcomers who MUST be witches" deal. Our two "witches", Ashali and Lathna, one a Red Wizard of Thay and the other her apprentice and lover, are not really witches, but everyone around them is treating them as such.  Quick aside, I wrote a one-shot years ago when I first wanted to run something in the Realms about an underground of would-be good Red Wizards trying to escape Thay. They had help from a group in Aglarond. This ties in so perfectly to that adventure I might dust it off as an opening.

The focus of the adventure is to investigate the witches and find out they are mostly harmless but discover a bigger evil along the way. It works for me.  It is a nice little adventure I can fit in nearly anywhere If I want. Though I do have some specific ideas. And let's be honest, who DOESN'T like stopping a bunch of undead? 

There are some new magic items and new NPCs (featured for the adventure). The art is from DMsGuild so it is good, but the layout is something the author did and it looks good. So really a good-looking adventure.

The town of Whitehaven is just detailed enough to make it usable and enough detail left out to make it flexible. I really appreciate that bit. And much like the Villiage of Hommlet for Greyhawk, this would make for a good base of operations for low-level characters.  I get why the adventure is for the 2nd to 3rd level, but I wonder if a bit of work could make it more suited to 1st to 3rd level for a true starting feel.  You are far enough away from the Sword Coast to make it feel like a different world but still close enough to know where you are. If that makes sense. 

Kudos to the author for taking a chance on a "good" or at least redeemed Red Wizard. 

Is this a perfect adventure? No, but it is perfect for what I need it for.

For My War of the Witch Queens

There is so much here that fits right in, even if the witches themselves are not really witches. The "Whitehaven" of this adventure is a perfect stand-in for my own "West Haven."  Indeed, much as I used "Haven" from Krynn as the alternate universe of West Haven in my world, the character will find themselves later in "Whitehaven" in the Realms and "Winterhaven" in the Nentir Vale.

Ashali and Lathna also fit in perfectly as a Red Wizard and her maid turned lover and apprentice that they are almost exactly like the characters I made (no plagiarism here, I never published mine!) so close in fact that I will drop the location I had them in (in Rashmeen) and instead have them here. 

For a stronger link I might have them mention they knew the Witch Queen (but don't yet know she is dead).

So yeah, this one will work great for me.

The Other Side - 100 Days of Halloween


Monday, February 28, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: The AD&D 2nd Ed Monstrous Compendiums, Part 3

MC 11 Monstrous Compendium Forgotten Realms II
I am continuing my dive into the AD&D 2nd Ed Monstrous Manuals and today I am reviewing three that are nominally under the Forgotten Realms umbrella.  

There is no doubt that the biggest game world for AD&D 2nd Edition was the Forgotten Realms.  I was fairly anti-Realms back then.  I felt it was a cheap imitation of Greyhawk and I was a little irritated that Greyhawk got pushed to the side.   The 3rd Edition Forgotten Realms setting book did a lot to change that for me and now, especially with my investigations around my This Old Dragon posts, I have come to better appreciate the Realms for what they really are, not for what I thought they were.

That all being said I still bought Realms-related products like these because, well, I love monsters.

MC11 Monstrous Compendium Forgotten Realms Appendix II (1991)

My series This Old Dragon has served me well for this one since many of the creatures here have appeared in the pages of Dragon Magazine, most authored or edited by Ed Greenwood himself.

This PDF is listed at 64 pages + the dividers. The interior art is all black & white with blue accents. The list price is $4.99. There are a total of 76 monsters (with sub-types) here Alaghi to Tren (a troglodyte/lizard man crossbreed).  The Peryton, one of my favorites from the original Monster Manual finally makes its 2nd Ed debut here. Likely due to the "Ecology of" article. I went back to look over some old favorites, namely the Saurial.  I always kind of liked the Saurial since there had been some articles in pop-science magazines about what would a humanoid race evolved from dinosaurs look like.  I was a big fan of the Silurians and Sea Devils from Doctor Who and this was the "Paranoid 90s" when X-Files was about to reign.  So reptiloids, dinosauroids, and more were on my mind.  The entry here says that "Saurials are not native to the Realms, but originate from an alternate Prime Material Plane."  This reminds me of what authors would later do with the Dragonborn in the Realms; have them come from Toril's twin planet of Abeir.  I see in more recent Realms lore they are still from an unknown realm but I like this idea. 

While these monsters are "generic" enough to be used anywhere, most (like the Saurials above) are tied a little more to the lore of the Realms, so extracting them can be done, but they will need some edits.

MC13 Monstrous Compendium Al-Qadim
MC13 Monstrous Compendium Al-Qadim Appendix (1992)

The Al-Qadim Monstrous Compendium had been the only product I ever purchased for the Al-Qadim setting back when it was new.  Again the reasoning was I loved monsters. But while reading it over I discovered there was a very interesting setting here.  

Like the Kara-Tur setting, Al-Qadim was pulled into the Realms. It was added to the Realms quickly after its release but the campaign setting box was designed a bit more for a general placement anywhere.

This PDF is listed at 74 pages and has a $4.95 price tag.  The art is typical for the time color covers and color dividers with black & white pages. Interestingly the accent color here is gold and not blue.  Ravenloft used red so I wonder how it would have been if all the settings had a different accent color to help separate them.  A dark-gray for Greyhawk, burnt orange for Dark Sun, and so on. 

There are 58 monsters from Ammut to Zin. This includes a large number of various Genie/Gin types. 

Divorced from their setting the monsters certainly lose some of their best flavor, but I do plan on using these in a desert-based campaign I have coming up and I think they will work fine.

MC6 Monstrous Compendium, Kara-Tur
MC6 Monstrous Compendium, Kara-Tur Appendix

Kara-Tur did not begin as a Forgotten Realms land. Quite the contrary it was designed to be used as part of Oerth in the 1st Edition Oriental Adventures.  This Monstrous Compendium brings the creatures listed in the 1st ed book, and more, into the 2nd Edition game. 

This PDF is listed at 64 pages (more with binder dividers) and a price tag of $4.99.  The cover and dividers are full color (including Easley's Oriental Adventure cover) and the interior art is Black & White. There are 76 monsters from Bajang to the Yuki-on-na.

Interestingly enough the Eastern Dragons from the Original Fiend Folio are not here.  They appeared in the MC3 Forgotten Realms one, but I thought they should appear here instead.  Likely to solidify the claim of Kara-Tur in the Forgotten Realms or maybe to give the 3rd MC some popular dragons.

There are some very unique monsters here. This is one of the few that I keep separate and do not integrate into my larger monster sets.

We are at a point with the Monstrous Compendiums where we get a bit of overlap.  For example, the Ashira (MC13) has a lot in common with the Hamadryad (MC11).  And the Black Cloud of Vengeance (MC13) is very much a larger, more evil version of the Tempest (MC11).  


Which is which? You tell me.

This is not a surprise, there are over 2100 monsters created for AD&D 2nd Edition, there are bound to be places where they overlap.

The scans for all are pretty crisp and clear. I certainly can see printed out a couple of pages and using them in a smaller binder for a specific AD&D 2nd Ed campaign.  Like I have said before, these PDF are fulfilling the promises made by the Monstrous Compendiums in the 1990s.

Friday, December 17, 2021

Tea with the Witches

Been crazy busy at work. That time of year.  But one big project is done and I am down to the last few courses in this contact hour audit I have been doing for weeks.  

I have been neglecting things here so here is a quick one.  I got some art made of a scene crucial to the "War of the Witch Queens"  back story.  The scene is called "Tea With the Witches" and it takes place in The Simbul's castle in the Forgotten Realms.

Tea with the Witches

I want to send out a hearty thank you to Brian Brinlee for doing such a great job with this. Here are the witches pictured. Left to right (clockwise, never widdershins when dealing with witches):

Sagarassi the Sea Witch (Krynn/Dragonlance), Iggwilv the Witch Queen (Oerth/Greyhawk), The Simbul, Witch Queen of Aglarond (Toril/The Forgotten Realms and where this is taking place), Larina (my OC), Feiya the Pathfinder iconic witch (Golarion/Pathfinder).

They are playing Pentacles, a game played with five people using Tarroka cards.

Hopefully regular posting will resume next week!

Thursday, September 23, 2021

One Man's God Special: Syncretism Part 1, The Gods of Faerûn

Down to Earth Divinity
This is the start of a multi-part sub-feature of One Man's God. I am going to pull in material from older Dragon Magazines when needed, though not enough to count as a "This Old Dragon."  This series will also allow me to pull in more up-to-date material for the various gods and creatures beyond what was in the  Deities and Demigods. The D&DG will be my starting point, but I am not limited to it now.

Since I have completed all the myths in the Deities and Demigods the initial goal of One Man's God is now complete.  I might, after this, look to other editions of (A)D&D, in particular, 2nd and 3rd but for now, I want to explore some other topics that came up in my OMG posts.

One of those topics is syncretism.

Syncretism is the combining of gods or beliefs into a new set of gods and/or belief systems.  This is something that happens in the real world all the time, though maybe less so now as the prevalence of monotheism is worldwide.  We do see it more modern times in the cases of religions like Vodun and Santería.

While you typically don't see syncretism in AD&D there is at least one excellent example of it. Going all the way back to Dragon #54 from October 1981, we have Ed Greenwood's Down-to-Earth Divinity.  

I am not sure if this article lead to the later developments of what the Cleric can do with their gods or not, but it was most certainly ahead of it's time.  A quick reminder, while Greenwood has been telling us about his campaign for a bit now, the Forgotten Realms, as a product, was not due till 1987.  

I covered this in an early This Old Dragon, here is what I said about it then:

Up first in real articles we have something from Ed Greenwood. So this year (2017) I have been spending some time expanding my knowledge of the Forgotten Realms. This article is one of the earliest articles on the Realms I know of. Down-to-earth Divinity discusses how Ed has put together his Pantheon of Gods. You can easily see how this evolved into the gods of the Realms. I found it interesting that he includes the elemental gods from the Melnibonéan mythos. There are a lot of "reskinned" Deities and Demigods gods here too (which is the point of the article). I liked that Ed specifically mentions that witches worship Selûne. The article is long and seriously good.

I feel I undersold how good this article is for my purposes. So not only can use this as a One Man's God entry in the pure sense it is also the perfect place to discuss syncretism.  The insight to how the Realms gods took shape is fascinating, the implications of what is going here are much more interesting.

For the sake of today's discussion, let us just focus on the Faerûnian Pantheon as a whole.  While they have evolved much since this article (and a further point in my case here). For modern examples, I will refer to the Faerûnian pantheon at the Forgotten Realms wiki.  

Faerûnian Gods

In this article, Greenwood details how he created the Gods of Faerûn.  Many of these gods are "reskinned" versions of Earth gods.  While there is a very practical game-design reason for this there is also an implied in-universe explanation; clerics of those gods came to Toril and brought their gods with them.  We see this in books, like Neil Gaiman's "American Gods" and we see it later in the Realms itself with the Mulhorandi pantheon, which are the Egyptian Gods, not even changed all that much. 

For his Gods, Greenwood choose to stick pretty close to the first printing of the Deities and Demigods.  Again there are very practical reasons for this.  Here is a breakdown of the "immigrant" gods to Faerûn.

Faerûn D&DG Pantheon Notes
 Azuth  Aarth  Nehwon  Direct port, concept-wise
 Bane  Druaga  Babylonian  Human form
 Chauntea  Demeter  Greek  Direct port
 Gond  Hephaestus  Greek  Direct port
 Ilmater  Issek of the Jug  Nehwon  Some aspects
 Loviatar  Loviatar  Finnish  Direct port
 Mask  Hermes  Greek  No Justice domain
 Mielikki  Mielikki  Finnish  Direct port
 Milil  Bragi  Norse  Changed
 Oghma  Oghma  Celtic  Direct port
 Silvanus  Silvanus  Celtic  Direct port
 Sune  Aphrodite  Greek  Direct port
 Talona  Kipuytto  Finnish  Direct port
 Talos  Storm Gods  Many  Combined aspects of other gods
 Torm  St. Cuthbert  Greyhawk  Concept only
 Tyche / Tymora  Tyche  Greek  Direct port
 Tyr  Try  Norse  Direct port
 Elemental Lords  Elemental Lords   Melnibonéan  Direct port
 Cults of the Beast   Beast Lords  Melnibonéan+   many sources

This is not to imply that all Gods in Faerûn are imports.  Far from it! Many of the gods discussed in the article are different enough from their sources to be considered new gods.  Which is exactly what syncretism does.  There are also plenty of brand new gods.  For example, Mystra is nothing at all like Hecate.

What About Demons and Other Gods?

One Man's God is supposed to be about gods and demons right?  Certainly, the demons of the Monster Manual ARE the demons of Faerûn.  We know that Orcus has had a lot plots and schemes in the Realms since the very start.  And in the opposite direction, One Man's Demon is another's God, Asmodeus went from the Arch Duke of the devils to a God of Evil.  The details of his rise and fall have been dealt with in many books, but the best ones for my money come from the Brimstone Angels series by Erin Evans.

Evans also shows how imported gods can work.  The Pantheon of the Untheric Gods, which were the Babylonian Gods, were re-adopted by the Abeir Dragonborn living in Tymanther. In her book "The Devil You Know" Evans shows Untheric/Babylonian gods first as human-like then as Dragonborn-like as more of the Dragonborn living in Djerad Thymar came to believe in them, in particular the God Enlil.  Is it possible then that Bane IS Druaga, just evolved through the ages that his form has changed?  Isn't that also syncretism?

Nothing Like the Sun...

I have been going over this article for a very long time. There is quite a lot here to tease out and use if you are willing to take the time.  A good example of this comes from a tiny tidbit of information found in the paragraph for Selûne, then just Selune.  We are told that Selune is "revered by witches (and a few may worship her)."  Later on, in the Deity/Character Relationships table, we are told that the witches used are the ones from Dragon Magazine #43.

Reading through the various works on the Moon Goddesses, Selûne and Shar, and the Elven Sehanine Moonbow, there is a lot of back and forth on who is an aspect of who and what not.   This all lead me to a bit of syncretism of my own to combine all three goddesses into one Goddess of the Moon with three aspects.  I detailed this years ago in my "Chanel Divinity" article Nothing Like the Sun.  Each goddess represents the aspects of the triple Goddess; Maiden, Mother, and Crone or Sehanine, Selûne and Shar respectively.  Here they are more than just the Goddesses of the Moon but the Goddess of Witchcraft as well.   The waxing crescent is Sehanine and her "moonbow."  The full moon is the Mother Selûne in her full glory.  The waning crescent is Shar and her sickles to reap the souls of the dead.  But like their Goddess they are reborn as the Maiden once more.

Maiden, Mother, Crone

Realms diehards might ask how can these Goddess exist?  Well, I also ask why does Zeus-Serapis exist when, supposedly, Zeus, Serapis, and  Osiris also still exist?  I like my Gods and Goddesses to be mysterious and strange and maybe a little contradictory.

For a little under 9 pages of text, Ed Greenwood really delivered here.  So much so that in truth this blog post was started months back.  I wanted to go back and reread posts I had made about this, posts I had made influenced by this, and more Forgotten Realms information.    In truth, I could go on much longer about this topic just in the Realms themselves, the world is much more dynamic that I had given it credit for, but I am going to stay on topic here and move on to other worlds and other gods.

So. Thank You, Ed Greenwood. This is quite a quality bit of work.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

One Man's God: Syncretism and the Gods

Hermes Trismegistus
Hermes Trismegistus
In the pages of the Deities & Demigods (or Gods, Demigods, and Heroes) the Gods and their Pantheons are fairly clean-cut affairs.  Greek over here, Egypt over there, Mesopotamia over there a little more. Norse WAY the hell over there.

In real-world mythology and religion, it doesn't work like that. Zeus was, and was not, exactly Jupiter. Ra was Ra, unless he was Amun-Ra or Aten.  Dumuzid was Tammuz, except for the times he was his own father. This is not counting the times when religions rise, fall, change and morph over the centuries. Today's God is tomorrow's demon.  Ask Astarte or the Tuatha Dé Danann how things fare for them now.

Gods are messy. 

It stands to reason that gods in your games should also be as messy. 

Now, most games do not have the centuries (game time) and none have the real-time evolution of gods in their games. We use simple "spheres" and give the gods roles that they rarely deviate from.  The Forgotten Realms is an exception since its published works cover a couple hundred years of in-universe time, but even then their gods are often pretty stable.  That is to make them easier to approach and to make sales of books easier.  The Dragonlance books cover more time in the game world, but their gods are another issue entirely.

While I want to get back to my One Man's God in the proper sense I do want to take this side quest to talk about Syncretism.

Syncretism

According to the ole' Wikipedia, "Syncretism /ˈsɪŋkrətɪzəm/ is the combining of different beliefs, while blending practices of various schools of thought."  For our purposes today we are going to confine ourselves to just gods.

For game purposes, I am going to use Syncretism as the combination of two or more gods into one.  The individual gods and the syncretized god are considered to be different and separate entities.

Now years ago when I proposed the idea that gods can be different than what is stated I go some grief online from people claiming that gods are absolute truth. For example, you can cast a Commune spell and speak to a god and get an answer.  But a commune is not a cell phone. It is not email. It is only slightly better than an Ouija board.  You have no idea who, or what, is on the other end.  If you are a cleric all you have is faith.

So what is a syncretic god like? Some examples from the real world and my own games.

Hermes Trismegistus

Our poster boy for syncretism is good old Hermes Trismegistus or the Thrice Great Hermes.  He is a Hellenistic syncretism of the Greek Hermes and the Egyptian Thoth.  Now, the DDG has these as very separate individuals.  Thoth is a Neutral Greater God of Knowledge, Hermes is a Neutral Greater God of Thieves, Liars, and more.  From this perspective, there does not seem to be an overlap.   But like I say above, gods are messy.  This figure is believed to have written the Corpus Hermetica, the collection of knowledge passed down to the various Hermetic Orders that would appear in later antiquity and during the Occult revivals.   Even then the Thrice Great Hermes of the Hellenistic period could be argued to be a completely different personage than the Thrice Great Hermes of the Hermetic Orders.

But is Hermes Trismegistus a God?  If you met him on the street would that mean you also met Hermes, Thoth, and Mercury? Or can all four walk into a bar together and order a drink? That answer of course is a confounding yes to all the above.  Though this is less satisfactory than say having stats for all four in a book.

The Triple Moon Goddess Heresy

Back when I was starting up my 4e game and deciding to set it in the Forgotten Realms I wanted to make sure I had a good grasp on the gods and goddesses of the world.  I was also already mulling some thoughts that would become One Man's God, so I decided to go full heretic.  I combined the moon goddesses all into one Goddess.  I also decided that like Krynn, Toril has three moons, but you can't see one of them.   I detailed that religion in my post Nothing Like the Sun... and I did something similar to Lolth and Araushnee in The Church of Lolth Ascendant.

Sehanine Moonbow, Selûne and Shar
Sehanine Moonbow, Selûne, and Shar by Ben Honeycutt

As expected (and maybe a little wanted) these tended to shuffle the feathers of the orthodoxy.  Thanks for that by the way.

This is all fun and everything, but what can I actually *do* with these?

Syncretic Gods make FANTASTIC witch and warlock patrons.

Witches in many pagan traditions in the real world believe that their Goddess is all goddesses.  That is syncretism to the Nth degree.  I already have a case with Hermes Trismegistus and the Hermetic Order. 

Here are some syncretic gods from antiquity and potential roles as patrons.

Apollo-Belenus, Patron of the sun and healing.  From the Greco-Roman Apollo and the Gaulish Belenus.

Ashtart, Patroness of love, marriage, and sex. Combines the Goddesses Aphrodite, Astarte, Athirat, Ishtar, Isis, and Venus. Sometimes depicted as the consort to Serapis.

Cybele, or the Magna Mater, Patroness of Motherhood and fertility. She combines many Earth and motherhood-related Goddesses such as Gaia, Rhea, and Demeter.

Serapis, the Patron of Law, Order, rulers, and the afterlife.  He is a combination of the Gods Osiris and Apis from Egypt with Hades and Dionysus of the Greek. Besides Hermes Trismegistus, he is one of the most popular syncretic gods and the one that lead archeologists and researchers to the idea of syncretism. 

Sulis Minerva, Patroness of the sun and the life-giving power of the earth. She is chaste and virginal where Ashtart is lascivious. 

And one I made up to add to this mix and smooth out some edges,

Heka, the Patroness of Magic. She combines Hecate, Cardea, (who might have been the same anyway), Isis, with bits of Ishtar (who has connections to Isis too), and Ereshkigal with some Persephone.

In my own games, I have always wanted to explore the Mystra (Goddess) and Mystara (World) connection.  

This also helps me answer an old question.  Why would a Lawful Good witch be feared or hated?  Simple that Lawful witch is worshiping a god that the orthodoxy deems as a heresy. 

A Witch (or Warlock) of the Tripple Moon Goddess in the Realms is going to be hated by both the followers of Selûne and Shar, even if they are the same alignment.  Cults are like that.

I am planning on expanding these ideas further. 

Another thing I want to explore is when a god is split into two or more gods or demons.  In this case I want to have some sort of divinity that was "killed" and from the remnants of that god became Orcus and Dis Pater, or something like that.  Orcus, Dis Pater (Dispater), and Hades have a long and odd relationship. This is not counting other gods that have floated in and out of Orcus' orbit like Aita and Soranus.

Friday, October 2, 2020

DMSGuild Witch Project: Witches of Rashemen

Today I have three products again that work well with each other, but this time they are not by the same author.  

These products all deal with the area of the Forgotten Realms known as "The Unapproachable East" and Rashemen in particular.  This is of course one of the strengths of doing a product for the DMSGuild as opposed to doing it via the OGL; the ability to access Wizard's IP to use. 

While that is certainly attractive in some cases, I much prefer to use the OGL.  But if these authors had then we not have these products.

Again, here are my rules for these reviews of this series. 

The Great Dale Campaign Guide

This one is huge and has ten authors. The pdf and hardcover book fills it's 144 pages with full-color art and details on all sorts of details on the Great Dale section of the Unapproachable East.  This book actually rivals such books from WotC like The Sword Coast guide and the Icewind Dale. This book covers the people of the lands with new classes (sub-classes), new backgrounds, new feats as well as new spells and magic items. The lands are covered with geography, history, factions, friends, and foes.  There are guides for playing in the lands as well.  The author's introduction sets the stage for the book AND I think it also a good selling point for why people would want to use the DMSGuild rules over the OGL.  

In the case of this book it works well.  I also appreciate that authors not only took the time to properly credit the artists, the obtained commissions for some art as well.  This more than justifies the $19.95 price tag for the PDF.  It is also one of the few DMSGuild books I would want as a hardcover too.  If I played in the Realms more.  If I ever get a Realms 5e going then this will be on my list for getting the hardcover version.

While the Witches of Rashemen are mentioned, there is no "Witch" class.  Plenty of Warlock and Wizard sub-classes though.

Spells of the Unapproachable East

This is a modest PDF that punches above its weight class.  It gives us 13 pages of 5e style spells that are conversions of earlier spells from the Unapproacble East area.  A few I recognized from Unapproachable East (3.5) and from Spellbound (2e).  No art, but 39 spells that were not part of the D&D 5 corpus at the time the PDF was made.  All of that for just a PWYW of $0.50.  Not to bad really. 

Again, no Witch class in this one. But plenty of spells.

Homebrewed Class: Wychlaran Witch

Ah! Now here is what I have been wanting.  You can't write about witches in D&D as long as I have and not come across the Wychlaran Witch, the Witches of Rashemen.  It was one of the reasons I finally put down my Greyhawk books to see what this "young upstart" of the Forgotten Realms was about.

This PDF is modest, only 8 pages, written by Bryan Williams.  It covers the Wychlaran Witch class as a full class.  It covers the class and all the class features, but it is missing the advancement tables and spells per level. It looks and reads like it should be akin to a sub-class of the Sorcerer, and that works to a degree, still I would have liked to see the table.  There is a section on new equipment, which is good, and 13 new spells.  I supposed the advantage to this particular PDF is if you have a Witch class you like you can use this in conjunction with it to create a more witch-y Wychlaran.  So that is a bonus in it's favor.

Also the PDF is PWYW with a listed price of $0, but I say use my guideline of ¢10 per page and give the author ¢80 (or ¢60 for the actual content).  For less than...well just about everything, you can have a class and some new spells.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Review: Pages from the Mages

As I mentioned earlier, The Pages from the Mages feature of Dragon Magazine was one of my favorite features and I looked forward to seeing what new spells Ed Greenwood would relay from the great sage Elminster.  I was very pleased when I saw that the entire collection was pulled together into a single tome.  The original Pages from the Mages spaned roughly 10 years from 1982 to 1992 and both editions of AD&D. 

For this review, I am considering both the original print version sold by TSR and the PDF version sold through DriveThruRPG.  Presently there is no Print on Demand option.

Pages from the Mages

The book is 128 pages. Color covers, black & white interior art with full color, full-page art.  Designed for the AD&D 2nd Edition game.
The PDF sells for $9.99 on DriveThruRPG.
The softcover book originally sold for $15.00 in 1995.

This book covers some 40 or so unique spell books from various spellcasters from the Forgotten Realms.  Some of these spellcasters are well known such as Elminster and others less so or at least nearly mythic in the Realms.  This is one of the book's greatest strengths. While this could have been just a collection of books with known spells, it is the stories and the myths behind the books that make this more.

While many of the spells found within these books are fairly well known, there are plenty of brand new and unique spells. This is what attracted me to the original Dragon magazine series.  Within these pages, there are 180 or so "new" spells.  I say new in quotes because most, if not all, these spells appeared first in the pages of Dragon magazine and then again in the pages of the hardcover Forgotten Realms Adventures for 2nd Edition.

Additionally, there are a number of new magic items and even a couple of new creatures.

The true value for me, as a DM and a player, is to provide these new spell books as potential treasure items or quest items.  Even saying the name of some of these books, like Aubayreer's Workbook, is enough to get my creative juices flowing. Where is it? Where has it been? What other secrets does it contain?

I often refer to a product as punching above its weight class.  This is one of those books.  While overtly designed for the 2nd Edition game there is nothing here that can't be used with any version of the D&D game, from Basic all the way to 5th edition with only the slightest bit of editing needed.

While I have a print copy and the PDF, a Print on Demand version would be fantastic. 

A complete list of the spells, spellbook, creatures and characters in this book can be found on the Forgotten Realms wiki, https://forgottenrealms.fandom.com/wiki/Pages_from_the_Mages






This Old Dragon: Retrospective, Pages from the Mages

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


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

Pages from the Mages

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

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

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

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

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

More Pages from the Mages

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pages From the Mages III

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pages from the Mages IV

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pages from the Mages V

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

Arcane Lore. Pages From the Mages, part VI

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

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



Pages From the Mages

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

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

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

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

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