Showing posts with label OMG. Show all posts
Showing posts with label OMG. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

OMG: Demihuman Deities, Part 2

Headed back to the Nonhuman and Demihuman Deities today.  Of all the mythos in this book this is one that gets the most updating.  Later in Unearthed Arcana and then under 2nd Ed with an entire book.  But that is in the future, today I want to deal with what is in front of me.


Last week I talked about Yeenoghu and how Gnolls (by all accounts a violent, but intelligent monster race) worship this demon as their god.  Ok cool. I like it, it works well for me.   But there are other demon lords and Princes that don't have humanoid worshipers.  Lolth does in the Dark Elves and her Clerics are at the top of their Drow Caste system.

To be blunt, what about Orcus and Demogorgon?
Now they are not in this book, so I am not going to devote a lot of time here to them. Plus I have said so much about them here before. But I do want to get to one God in this book and his relationship to the demons.

Vaprak the Destroyer
At the start of the OMG series I mentioned that Druaga the Ruler of the Devil World was the "poster boy" of this series.  But he is not the only one.  The other, though to a lesser degree, is Vaprak the Destroyer.



Vaprak is the lord of Trolls and Ogres.  Not bad. I don't even mind linking them together.

Though I often have Trolls and Ogres as Fae-adjacent creatures.  Many will often worship powerful fae Lords and some even honor the Erlking or one of the Goblin Lords.   Looking over Vaprak we see he is a demigod. Chaotic evil. Lives in the Abyss.  Sounds fairy demonic to me.

I have used Vaprak in my games many times.  I have the old LJN Advanced Dungeons & Dragons toy line Troll figure.  He makes for a perfect Vaprak.  BUT in my games, Vaprak was the old name trolls and ogres used (in some places)  to describe a creature that was attacked in the Dawn War by He Who Was.  He Who Was attacked three great demon lords; Vaprak, Orcus and one other whose name has been erased.  He Who Was unmade the last demon and nearly clove Vaprak in two with a mighty split to his head.  Orcus destroyed He Who Was and ripped out his skull and spine to make the Wand of Orcus.  Vaprak, nearly mortally wounded crawled back into the Abyss to heal.  Both halves of his head and neck healed and regenerated to give us the demon Demongorgon.

Demogorgon was Vaprak.

He still takes the worship of Vaprak and some even know the difference, but most human scholars do not.  This makes Demogorgon a little bit *more* in my game.

Laogzed
The Troglodytes worship the disgusting Laogzed.  Again, if Gnolls get a demon why do Trogs get a god?  Simple he is a god really.  Again let's look at the guy.  Chaotic Evil. Lives in the Abyss.  Demigod level.  Yeah this guy is a Demon Prince too.  There is actually a little bit more out there in later books about Laogzed than Vaprak, but nothing I could find that would contradict him being a Demon Prince.
Maybe it is the Erol Otus art, but I can't help think that Laogzed is somehow related to the Great Old Ones from the Cthulhu mythos.  I do get a solid Tsathoggua feel from this guy.  Nothing specific to be honest. Just a feel.

Sekolah
Sahuagin worship Sekolah as their god.  Here he is listed as a Lawful Evil lesser god who swims the seas of the Nine Hells.  In truth I rather like this.  I like keeping him as a god or what-ever was living in the Hells before the devils got there.  Some things were just two dangerous for even the Fallen to kick out.

I can't help but think that James Ward was thinking of the old "Jaws (1975)" movie trailer.



It is as if God created the Devil. And gave him...Jaws.

I will admit.  At 5-6 I was scared shitless by this movie.  Sekolah has a lot to live up to to be half as scary as "Bruce".

Blibdoolpoolp
A lot has been said since this book about the goddess of the Kuo-Toa.  There is even something that just came out this past week.  Also there are some books that claim that Blibdoolpoolp is not actually real.  That the insane Kuo-Toa worship anything and they come to life, something like a Tulpa.
I have talked in the past about Blibdoolpoolp just being a construct, or even an avatar of Mother Hydra to take the Kuo-Toa back to their Lovecraft roots.


I used her pretty much by the book when I ran Shrine of the Kuo-Toa last year.  Maybe I will revist her.  But I implied pretty heavily that she was of the same ilk as Lolth, both a Goddess and Demon Princess/Queen.  Maybe I'll go in a completely different direction with her.
She is also one of the keepers of the Elder Elemental Eyes in my game.  The "Eye of Sea and Sorrow".   Lolth is the keeper of the "Eye of Air and Darkness".  There is also the "Eye of Earth and Death" and the "Eye of Fear and Flame". 

I think that wraps up the Demi-human and non-human gods.  Not sure where I want to go next.  But I am thinking it is time tohit those Lovecraftian Cthulhu Mythos.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

OMG: Demihuman Deities, Part 1

Ok a bit of a direction change here for One Man's God.  Normally I look at the myths presented in the 1st Ed AD&D Deities & Demigods, compare them to the myths from the real world and then look to see how some of the monsters can be classified as "D&D Demons", which is not exactly the same as a Judeo-Christian Demon, but I am not ignoring that mythology either.

This series will be different since the myths I am looking at now were all almost all wholesale made up by the creators of the AD&D game as it existed at the time.   So no appeal to real-world myths here is 100% appropriate, though there are some notable exceptions.

When looking over these beings though we are left with the same question as before.
Would this being be better suited as a god or as a demon?

Let's find out.


Introduction
We start out with the idea that demi-humans and non-human monsters are either Shamans or Witch Doctors.  We see this in action later in the BECMI / Rules Cyclopedia version of the D&D rules.  We are even given a new class, the Wokani, which (depending on which version of Basic you grab) are either witch doctors or witches in their own right.   But I am getting ahead of myself here.

We are also told that some of the creatures in the Monster Manual and Fiend Folio are to be treated as lesser gods.

MONSTER MANUAL
Demon: Demogorgon, Juiblex, Orcus, Yeenoghu
Devil: Asmodeus, Baalzebul, Dispater, Geryon
Dragon: Bahamut, Tiamat

FIEND FOLIO
Demon: Lolth (detailed in D&DG as well)
Elemental Princes of Evil
Slaad: Ssendam, Ygorl

So, if they have a unique personal name then they are essentially lesser gods.  Sort what I am doing here really.

Right off the bat some of these creatures are gods and others are named as demons.  The are some that fall in the in-betweens and those are the ones I want to investigate further.   I am also going to work from my own biases here. I think certain creatures are certain things.  Want to do it differently? Great, do it your way.

Gods Among (Demi)Men
Who in this listing of gods are undisputable gods?
I think the following beings make the list.
Skerrit (Centuars), Moradin (Dwarves),  Corellon Larethian (Elves, and most of the elven gods), the gods of the Giants, Garl Glittergold (Gnomes), Yondalla (Halflings), Gruumsh (Orcs) (but more on him later).  Others are ify.

Side note: I always loved Yondalla. I thought of all the gods of the demi-humans she was perfect. Exactly the kind of goddess the Halflings would have.

Maglubiyet, Hruggek and Gruumsh
In my game world, Goblins are actually a faerie race.  They are often evil, but some are just good enough to be considered Neutral.  For this reason, I see them more as Chaotic.  Hobgoblins in my world are related more to Hobs or more to the point, "Old Hob" aka the Devil.  I consider them goblins with a touch of Devildom about them.  Much in the same way that tieflings are to humans.  Bugbears, on the other hand, are more demonic. Bugbears come from the same root of words that give us boggles, boggleboes, and boogeyman.   I have played around with various ideas of goblin gods for a while.  At first, I went with Maglubiyet, but there is something about him I don't like, or rather, I don't like in this role.  Then I went with the Erlking as Lord of the Goblins and also Jareth as a Faerie Lord king of the Goblins.  I even went with atheist goblins for a while after reading GURPS Goblins.  I think I am more happy with a Jareth/Erlking blend these days.
That leaves me with Maglubiyet, the Lawful Evil god of Hobgoblins who also is a lesser Duke of Hell (his names sounds like a Duke of Hell to be honest) who wars with Gruumsh.  And way over in the Abyss we have the monster Hruggek who is a Chaotic Evil Demon Lord that is the patron of the Bugbears.  His name also sounds more demonic to me.
This leaves both beings relatively the same as they were before.

Gruumsh is a different story.  The one-eyed Gruumsh is obviously a nod, conscious or not, to Sauron.  Also, the orc of Tolkien's world are much more demonic that the orcs of D&D and other modern fantasy.  In The Silmarillion, we learn that orcs were created by the Vala Melkor, later Morgoth.  So there is an idea of divine creation perverted.  Would Melkor be a demon?  He is more closely related to Lucifer is analysis, but that only muddies the waters really.   I also like the idea that orcs were once related to Elves.  Of the two main species in D&D only elves and orcs can mate and produce offspring with humans.  So here is a heresy.

Orcs, and indeed Gruumsh, were all elves.  Gruumsh was Corellon's brother.

Somewhere, somehow, Gruumsh betrayed Corellon (orcs say it was the other way around) and Gruumsh the orc was born.  I just need a good Elvish sounding name to give him before this fall.
Personally, I find this FAR more compelling than the tale of Lolth.
Speaking of which.

Lolth, The What Queen?
Lolth is a lesser goddess. No, wait she is a demon. She was Araushnee, but that doesn't come till later.
I have talked about my issues with drow in the past and how they are really Lawful Evil and not Chaotic Evil.   Plus if I can make a Lawful Evil Goddess Tiamat into a Chaotic Evil I should be able to do the opposite for Lolth.  Which of course means she would not really be a demon anymore.  She is more of devil.  BUT. I like the idea that she is a demon.  Can I make a LE Demon? no. not really.

I think the simple answer here is that Elves, Orcs, and other fae creatures like Goblins don't fit into the Devil-Demon dichotomy very well.   I am inclined to pull them out and let them be their own thing.  Lolth is called the "Demon Queen" but that is more due to her "Fallen" status than anything else.



Despite my stated goal of trying to pull these beings into the likes of demons, I am happy with them being their own thing.

Gnolls and You Know Who
Before I end today's discussion I should point the example that falls right into line with what I am doing.  Gnolls and the Demon Prince Yeenoghu.  Here we have a strong non-human species and they worship a demon as their god. It works. It works well.


Too well.  Why does a weak-ass demon prince (ok relative) like Yeenoghu have humanoid, intelligent worshipers but more powerful ones like Orcus and Demogorgon do not?  I will dig into it next time.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

The Other Side, A Look Forward

Trying to organize some thoughts here on what I want to do next on the old Other Side blog, figure you all might want to help me!  Or at least listen to my ramblings.


I am prepping for Gen Con now and trying to get another book done in time for Lughnasadh/Lammas so my posting here is going to be a little sparse.

#RPGaDAY
Dave Chapman will be doing (I think) his annual #RPGaDAY in August.  I am not sure what the questions will be, but I do like to participate.  Plus my Twitter followers have really increased this past year, so that might be nice to share.

The Other Side Rewind
Still plugging away at this! June was my Facebook experiment month, while July had been my month to try some other tools.  I am hoping to kick it off full steam in August or September.  Again, if you are reading here then you won't really notice anything at all.

One Man's God
While this one has been great fun, it was not designed to go on forever.  I am going to do the Celts (part 2) and the Chinese and Japanese, though I admit I know very, very little about these.  I am going to do the Demi-humans and do a special on the Cthulhu and Melibone mythos. But once I am done with those then the series will end save for some special editions.  Though this will lead to my next thing...

The Usual Suspects
I am going to spend some time, maybe a lot of time, going over all the various demon books I own and some I don't yet and talk about how to use them in your games.  I really love demons and demonic lore.  The title of this series "The Usual Suspects" comes not only from the notion that all evil in the worlds can be traced back to the machinations of demons (and devils) but every OGL book on the market today has the same half-dozen or so demons and a similar number of devils in every book; aka The Usual Suspects.  I think this will be fun, to be honest.


This Old Dragon
I still have some left and I want to get back to them.

Class Struggles
I have been too long away from this one. I have started writeups on the Alchemist and the Bard.  Been playing a couple Bard variants to get a good feel for the differences.  Sometimes there are more differences between two different bards than there are between most fighters and rangers!

So. Let's get to it!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

OMG: Greek and Roman Mythos, Part 4 Tales of Brave Ulysses

Ok kids, time to put away your Homer and Hesiod and pick up your Ovid and Virgil.  It's time to get Roman with these myths.

A lot of what we know about the "Greek Myths" comes from the Roman counterparts in Ovid's Metamorphoses.   In truth I can go on and on (and on and on) about Ovid and Metamorphoses. I could spend a couple of posts on just his influences on Shakespeare for example.  But that is not the scope of OMG.  I really want to look into a couple of things in this respect. How do gods grow and evolve (say from Greek and Etruscan to Roman) and how this produces our Monster Manual demons.

Let's get down to business and look at the second big demon in our D&D Pantheon and his strange origins.  Of course, I can only mean Orcus.

Hades and Pluto and Orcus and Dīs Pater

No. Not a crazy comedy from the 70s.  Well, I suppose it could be.   But I want to talk about the God of the Underworld.   I mentioned Hades a lot in this series before. He is the God of the Underworld and was so feared that he was often never called on by name, he gains the epithet "The Rich One" and much later on "The Lord of this World" something that has also been attributed to Satan. 
As Greek myths merged into Roman myths several gods were syncretized to arrive at the Roman Pluto.  These include many gods of the underworld, the dead (but not death) and riches such as the Etruscan Atia and the Roman Dīs Pater.   Mixed in all of this is the Greek Horkos and Roman Orcus.

So how do we go from a God, one of the Olympians no less, to a demon AND a devil (I didn't forget about you Dispater)?  Well, the thing about myth there can several, sometimes even mutually exclusive stories, and all are true.  Now I have personally never cared for the history of the Demon Prince Orcus as told in the Dead Gods book (though an otherwise great sourcebook). Orcus was once a human? Balderdash and Poppycock!  Sounds like lies told by Demogorgon cultists.

Instead, I propose this.  As Hades was starting his transformation to more benign Pluto he sloughed off his evil like a snake sheds an old skin.   In Milton, this would have been when Lucifer first came to hell or sometime before Lucifer fell.  It could be that the dæmon Horkos picked up the skin and became Orcus.  OR even Horkos was killed and was filled with the evil from Hades to become Orcus.  I like that better than a "fat, evil necromancer" became one of the most powerful demon princes in the game. It also ties him into the undead more and helps explain why Orcus' motivation is often to become a real god.  He has "memories" of a time when he was a god.

Also, for this reason, I have a bitter rivalry between Dispater and Orcus.  They both could have been created at the same time from Hades' skin of evil (if that sounds familiar, it should).  Dispater was a Fallen who encountered the remaining evil and he too has "memories" of time when he was a god.
The newest version of D&D refers to Dis/Dispater as the "foremost arms dealer" in the lower planes.  I can work with that.  His forces can help out the PCs in my current game against Orcus.

So we can have a Greek titan, turned demon in a rivalry with Roman godling turned demon.   I have said a lot about Orcus and I am likely to say more.
Moving on from Orcus, there are a lot of creatures in the Roman myths that find the idea of demons rather well.   One, in particular, is one I have mentioned before.

Vanth

Like Orcus, Vanth is another Etruscan chthonic god depicted as a demon and she adorns funerary art.

I learned about Vanth, not through mythology, but through one of my very first loves, astronomy.  Vanth is the largest moon (only moon so far) of the Trans-Neptunian Object/Dwarf Planet Orcus.  Vanth orbits Orcus in a tight precise circle and they are tidally locked. Vanth is never far from Orcus then and she always keeps her face toward her master.   Vanth has a very different spectra than Orcus, so the two were not formed together like most other satellite systems.  Vanth is likely a captured Kuiper Belt object.  To take another page from mythology Orcus stole Vanth from another god/demon/master to be his psychopomp, maybe even from Pluto, or given her torch, from Hecate.  In that case, she would be somewhat similar to the Erinyes.

Here she is for Basic-era D&D (yeah I should do AD&D, but I am on a Basic kick).

Vanth, Psychopomp of Orcus
No. Enc.: 1 (Unique)
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
Movement: 60’ (20’)
Fly: 240’ (80’)
Armor Class: 1 [19]
Hit Dice: 11d8+ 11 (61 hp)
Attacks: 1
Damage: 1 sword (1d10+4)
Special: Flight, Magic resistance (55%), regenerate (3 hp/round),  +2 or better weapons to hit.
Save: F12
Morale: 12
Hoard Class: X
XP: 3,600

Vanth is the vassal of Orcus. Responsible for bringing him the choicest souls to be corrupted into foul undead.  Vanth is never far from Orcus then and she always keeps her face toward her master.

Vanth shares a role similar to that of Charon.  She brings the souls of departed to the underworld. She has a torch to light her way, a key to unlock the gates of the underworld, a scroll with the information on the deceased and a sword. According to myth Vanth appears as woman, much like an Erinyes and described as young and vibrant.

There are other demons similar to Vanth such as Culsu, Charun and Tuchulcha.

Vanth

Tuchulcha


This also marks the end of the "Classical" Myths of antiquity.  After this, we get into what could be called the Pagan Myths.  I already did one part of the Celtic Myths, so I will need to revisit them.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

OMG: Greek (and maybe Roman) Mythos, Part 3 Hecate

Hecate is getting her own post.

There is no way I am going to say everything about this Goddess; either for D&D or in general.  So keeping that in mind, let's go.

Hecate, or sometimes, Hekate, is the Goddess of Witches, Ghosts and the Crossroads OR she is a Titan. OR she is something different. 

Like some of the Olympian Gods, she is of the third or fourth generation.  Her Great grandparents are namely Gaia (Earth) and Ouranos (Sky), same as Zeus' own grandparents.  Their offspring was Crius, whom the D&DG gives as the Greater Titan of Gravity.  Gaia (Earth) and Pontos (Sea) gave birth to Eurybia (Winds and Constellations; things that seemingly comes from the sea). Crius and Eurybia give birth to Perses (Titan of Destruction). He joins with the Titaness Asteria the Titan of stars and nighttime oracles.  She herself was the daughter of Phoebe and Coeus, making her a half-sister to Leto the mother of Apollo and Artemis.   Though there are other claims to her parentage.  Some also claim she the daughter of Leto, which would make her Apollo and Artemis' half-sister.

Hecate then is the daughter of Peres and Asteria and of the same generation of Apollo, Artemis, Hermes, and Dionysus.  While she is their generation she is often considered to be a Titan.

Like many of the Greek and later Roman Gods, Hecate has more than one, in what D&D came to call Portfolio.  She is the Goddess of Nighttime as opposed to Nox the Personification of Night. She is the Goddess of Oracular power based on stars (as opposed to her semi-cousin Apollo who is the God of Oracles), one of the Goddess of the Moon.  Her torches light the night.  She is the goddess of the Crossroads. With her three faces, she can see the past, present, and future.  And most notably, she is the Goddess of Witchcraft, Creatures of the Night and Ghosts.
Due to her rather complicated lineage, she also has dominion over Earth, Sky, and Sea.

She has been associated with the Goddess Demeter having been mentioned int he Homeric Hymns to Demeter.  She is believed to have lit the way to Hades for Demeter to find Persephone. While Persephone is in the underworld she and Hecate are companions.  She helps Persephone on her trip to and from the underworld.  This gives us one of our first triple-goddesses, with Persephone, Demeter, and Hecate as the Maiden, Mother, and Crone.

As a Goddess, she is often seen in the company of large dogs from the Underworld, the Hellhounds and common house cats.

She is depicted in the D&DG as being Lawful Evil.  I am not buying it.  Lawful I can live with, but so much of what she does is both good and evil that Lawful Neutral is the much better choice.

Hecate is one of the few gods that retains her name in both the Greek and Roman versions.  Though there is the Roman Goddess Trivia that also takes on some of what makes Hecate.

Goddess of Witchcraft
We know that many tablets and surviving scrolls have her mentioned in many curses and spells of protection against creatures of the night.  According to Hesiod, "Hecate whom Zeus the son of Cronos honored above all. He gave her splendid gifts, to have a share of the earth and the unfruitful sea. She received honor also in starry heaven, and is honored exceedingly by the deathless gods."

Interestingly enough her domain over witchcraft relates to her being worshipped by Circe and Medea. Medea, in fact, is called a Priestess of Hecate. Medea is almost always described as a witch.

Hecate also appears in Shakespeare's Macbeth and mentioned in Hamlet. Each time due to her association with witches.

Lampad the Nymphae Avernales
The lampads are described as Underworld Nymphs.  They were the constant companions to Hecate as a reward for Hecate taking part in the war against the Titans.  Sometimes described as the Daughters of Nyx or of Daimones, they share a similar relationship to Hecate as the forest nymphs do with Artemis.

Lampads appear in the Pathfinder game, in Bestiary 4.  Here is my interpretation.

Lampad (Nymph)
Armor Class: 9 [10]
Hit Dice: 3d8 +16 (30)
Attacks: 0 (see below)
Damage: None
Special Attacks & Defenses: Cause feeblemindedness, malaise and death
Movement: 120’ (40’)
No. Appearing: 0 (1d4)
Save: Witch 3
Morale: 8
Hoard Class: IX, XI x 10
Alignment: Neutral (Chaotic)
XP: 100
Nymphs are stunningly beautiful female fey creatures that closely resemble elven women. The lampad are nymphs of the underworld and desolate places.  They appear similar to drow (dark elves), with grey ashen skin and long white hair.  Anyone that sees a lampad must make a save vs. spells or become feebleminded as per the spell.  If more than one lampad is present the victim is instantly killed on a failed save.
Lampads have the spell-casting abilities of a 6th level witch. They have their own language and speak common and the languages of the infernal realms.

Tears of the Lampad:  These tears are extremely magical if a tear touches a mortal (not an elf though) they must make a save vs. poison at -4 or enter into a depression so deep they are unwilling to move or do anything.  A victim will starve to death before they will attempt to bring themselves out of this malaise. Only a remove curse spell will allow them to return to their normal life.

The Empusa
I have used the Empusa many times in a lot of games.  I have often categorized them as Lilim, or the Daughters of Lilith (who also shares a lot with Hecate) but in ancient myth they are the daughters, or at least the offspring, of Hecate.

Empusa (Lilim)
Armor Class: 3 [16]
Hit Dice: 8d8+4** (40 hp)
No. of Attacks: 2 claws and 1 bite or 1 weapon
Damage: 1d6 / 1d6 / 1d6 or 1d10
Special Attacks & Defenses:  Magic resistance (25%), Lilim abilities, magical abilities, +1 magic weapons to hit, Intelligence drain
Movement: 120' (40')
   Flying: 240’ (80’)
No. Appearing: 1d4
Save As: Witch 9
Morale: 8
Horde Class: X, XI
Alignment: Chaotic (evil)
XP:  2,380
These are believed to be the daughters of Lilith or Hecate and the various proto-demons. They are the most “demonic” of all of the Lilim. The Empusae (or “forcers-in”), like all Lilim, can appear as a stunningly beautiful woman or as a demon. The demonic form of the Empusa is one of the most hideous of all of the Lilim. The body remains mostly humanoid and female but covered in fine scales. Its legs become like those of a horse or ass and end in hooves that are made of brass or bronze. Its back supports a set of large leathery bat-like wings, similar to that of a succubus. It is its head that features its most horrible transformation. The creature’s long flowing tresses are replaced with a mass of snakes similar to that of a medusa. Its facial features are blocked by an area of complete darkness, only it’s glowing eyes are visible. It is said among sages that face of the Empusa is not shrouded in darkness, but it is so horrible that our minds block the vision from us. It is also said that other demons can actually see the Empusa’s face and run in fear from it. Its former delicate hands now end in razor-tipped claws. A long reptilian tail completes the picture.
An Empusa can appear as human, or it can also shapeshift into a large dire wolf (statistics as per Dire Wolf).
Unlike the combat avoidant Succubus, Empusae live for battle. They can either use their natural claw/claw/bite routine or use a flaming sword that strikes for 2d6 points of damage plus 1d6 of flame damage. Empusa gain to hit and damage bonuses due to their high strength as well.
The touch of an Empusa drains the Intelligence of the victim at 1 point per barehanded, not weaponed, attack.



Hecate / Heka Connections
The Greeks and the Egyptians had a long and complicated relationship.  Greeks scholars used to say that everything they know came from the Egyptians.  Back when I was doing the research for OMG: Egyptian Mythos I came across this saying all the time.  This lead me to the Egyptian God of magic Heka.  Like many before I noticed some similarities with Hecate and Heka.  Both are their respective gods of magic. Both are heralded as "gifts" to the human race by their respective heads of their pantheon.  Despite the similar portfolios and similarity in names there is no linguistic connection between the two.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

OMG: Greek (and maybe Roman) Mythos, Part 2

I have really been enjoying going back and rereading and reanalyzing the myths and stories that got me into D&D to start with.  I can't help but feel like this is the start of 1979 instead of 2019 with my reading list lately.  Only now at 49, I can really enjoy them in a different light than 9.

Let's continue with One Man's God and see what sort of demons the Greek Myths give us.


The Furies, Erinyes and the Dirae
Part of my prep for this has been to go back over my Hesiod (7th Century BCE) and Ovid(1st Century BCE and CE) (and other sources, but that is later) to see how these myths changed over the centuries.  One of my favorites was the various different interpretations of the Erinyes also know as the Furies and the Dirae (Roman).  Like I mentioned in Part 1, they are the archetype of what OMG is trying to do.  Their new life in the Monster Manual as a devil is not just in line with the myth, it also makes a certain level sense given the internal logic of the D&D multiverse.
I took it a step even further with my own Avenging Angels, The Dirae.

Typhon and Echidna
Another candidate for a demon is the god/titan Typhon.  I have used Typhon as a demon in the past.  Essentially a Balor whose primary aspects are lightning, storms, and rain rather than smoke, darkness, and fire.  I still like that idea, but it really isn't Typhon is it?  Typhon is the offspring of Gaia (Earth) and Tartarus (the underworld) so there is some connection to him being a Cthonic deity (like Nox) and he certainly looks like a demon.  Also, the Ptolemaic Greeks (and earlier) associated and conflated and syncretized Typhon with Set.
I think in this case I am going to have my cake and eat it too. There is Typhon, the titan locked away in Tartarus and there are the Typhon demons, demons of storm and wind that might be his offspring.

Echidna is the "mother of all monsters".  In a way that sounds like another "Other Side" favorite, Lilith the Mother of Demons.  Though aside from the similar titles that is where the commonalities end.  Echidna is a half-woman, half-snake creature born "to the sea" (depends on who ask) and was the mother to some of the most fearsome monsters of the Greek Myths, including Orthrus, Dioskilos, and Cerberus.
As with Typhon, she seems to remain more of a titan to me. As the mother of monsters, I can see that she is the mother/progenitor of the harpies and even the Marilith aka the Type V demons.  Given her and Typhon's affinity for snakes, it makes sense.  I also think that I would say that she lays eggs, a nod to the animal Echidna; an egg-laying mammal.

In truth, any monster of demon can be the offspring of Typhon and Echidna.


Demogorgon
Orcus and Ades, and the dreaded name
Of Demogorgon
— John Milton, Paradise Lost II. 966.
Time to address the titan in the room.
Is Demogorgon a part of the Greek Myths?

Well, he is not listed in the Deities & Demigods as part of the Greek Myths, so this is a stretch of scope for this OMG, but Demogorgon is so central to the mythos of D&D that he can't go unmentioned.

Many scholars now believe that the word Demogorgon was badly translated from the Greek δημιουργόν (dēmiourgon) or demiurge. As an aside, does this mean he could be the Demiurge in the game Kult? NOW THERE is a fun idea!  Throughout the study of the name, there are two basic threads.  1. Demogorgon is some sort primordial progenitor of the Gods.  and 2. It is a grammatical error given life as a god.  Certainly, the look given to Demogorgon in the Monster Manual is a pure fabrication on the part of authors and artists of  D&D (note: this is not a bad thing).
From Milton above, we learn that Demogorgon was already in Hell waiting for the arrival of Satan.  He is picked up as a prince of darkness in Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene.

But my favorite one has to be from Shelley's Prometheus Unbound which takes influences from Paradise Lost.  Here Demogorgon is the son of Zeus/Jupiter and Theris and is known as "the supreme Tyrant" of "the shadow realm".  Here the gods, Jupiter, Hades even Typhon are all dead.  In this Demogorgon defeats Zeus/Jupiter as he did Kronos/Saturn before and Ouranos/Uranus before that.  Maybe much like the prophecy, Metis was given of Zeus' son defeating him this happened, but only it was his via Thetis instead. 

So what does all that mean to us?
Well Demogorgon, as he appears in the Monster Manual, is not really Greek. This is fine.  But grabbing all sorts of elements of his/its past we can come up with an old demon whose goal is to destroy the Gods (as one interpretation).  If we look into his origins as quasi-Greek then it is interesting that his chief rival is Orcus a demonic version of an Etruscan/Roman deity.   But more on Orcus in the next OMG.

Demogorgon has been featured here before and likely will again


That's a lot for today and I feel like I have barely scratched the surface, and there are still Roman Myths to cover!

The more I think about it.   The world of Kult is one where Demogorgon has succeded in killing most of the gods.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

This one will have multiple parts I can tell already.

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

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

Looks Greek to me!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Melisandre. Priestess or Witch?

"The Night is dark and full of terrors."
- Melisandre

Melisandre of Asshai - by John Picacio
Game of Thrones is in its final season and so far it has not disappointed me.  Well...there was that "whole new world" scene with Dany, Jon, and the dragons.
This past week we got to see the Red Woman, Melisandre again during the battle at Winterfell against the Night King and his army of the dead.  It was so fantastic, to be honest.   Loved the battle, loved how the episode ended.  Everything.

But I am not here today to talk about the battle.

I want to talk about Melisandre.
In particular is she a Priestess, read Cleric, or is she as many will claim, a Witch?

I thought a firey red priestess/witch would be good for Beltane today.

Let's look at what we know.  I am going to focus nearly exclusively on the TV show on HBO.  I'll grab from the books when needed to smooth out some details or get answers to questions.

In many ways, I am going to follow the spirit of my other series, One Man's God and Class Struggles.

What is Known
Or Me nem nesa as the Dothraki say.

We know that Melisandre calls herself a priestess of the god R'hllor, known as the Red God, The Lord of Light or the One True God.  In Westeros this sets her apart from most people as they tend to worship the Seven, or the New Gods. The ones that don't worship the "Old Gods".
Melisandre claims that all the other gods are false gods.  Most people have no issues with the Old or New Gods, so this also sets her apart.

She has seen to have powers of divination, cursing, breeding shadow spawn, summoning fire and the greatest, bringing people back from the dead.  She able to cast glamours and her red-gold choker seems to keep her young or at least appear young.
We know she is very, very old. She was a slave named "Melony" who was sold to the Red Temple in Asshai.

Looking at her through the lens of classes in D&D, and in particular B/X version, has many limitations.  It is still a fruitful exercise though.  For starters, it shows the flexibility of the B/X flavor of classes. It also helps me see how well my own witch classes can emulate various media representations of witches.  My philosophy in game and class design has always been "if a player wants to do to something my rules should tell them how they CAN do it, not how they CAN'T." (I hear grognards, OSR purists and other screaming in rage now. That's fine, let them scream.)

So let's pull out my D&D Expert book and give Melisandre a go.

Melisandre is a Priestess
This is the easiest of course. She refers to herself as a priestess as do others.  Her religion is widely accepted in Essos and treated as such.  The biggest clue, of course, is her ability to raise the dead, a power she claims is not hers, but that of the Lord of Light.  Her spells and powers seem closest to a cleric.
If we take "Raise Dead" as the peak of her powers then that puts her level at a minimum of 7th level for B/X D&D. I would not say she is much past 9th level, but I am willing to accept 9th.

Melisandre, Priestess of R'hllor


7th level female Cleric

Strength: 9
Intelligence: 16
Wisdom: 17
Dexterity: 10
Constitution: 12
Charisma: 17

AC: 9
HP: 33

Magic items: Necklace of Protection Against Aging

Spells
First: Cure Light Wounds, Light, Remove Fear
Second: Hold Person, Resist Fire, Silence 15' radius
Third: Continual Light, Remove Curse, Striking
Fourth: Cure Serious Wounds, Protection/Evil 10' radius
Fifth: Commune, Raise Dead

Close...but missing some of her abilities she is really known for, starting fires and giving birth to shadow monsters.  Plus by the rules Melisandre the Cleric can Turn Undead.  That skill would have been helpful in the Battle of Winterfell.

Taking a peek at my 5th Edition D&D books it looks like a Cleric and not a Warlock or Druid would be the best choice.

Let's see how she works as a witch.

Melisandre is a Witch
Of course, for that, I would also need to decide on a tradition for her.  Something like Lord of Light Tradition.  Witches, in general, do not get the spell Raise Dead.  So I am thinking that should be an occult power.  Something they gain at 7th level.
Also, there is her lesser explored power of alchemy/herbalism.  Something all witches get.

Melisandre, Witch of R'hllor


9th level female Witch, Lord of Light Tradition

Strength: 9
Intelligence: 16
Wisdom: 17
Dexterity: 10
Constitution: 12
Charisma: 17

AC: 9
HP: 26

Magic items: Necklace of Protection Against Aging

Occult Powers
Familiar: Spirit of fire
Herb Use
Raise Dead

Spells
First: Bewitch I, Burning Hands, Glamour
Second: Augury, Dark Whispers, Hypnotize
Third: Bestow Curse, Brave the Flames
Fourth: Divination, Intangible Cloak of Shadows
Fifth: Summon Shadow

So I had to raise her level to 9th to get the Summon Shadow spell.  In general, I like her spell choices as a witch better.  BUT that could be my biases since I have written so many (900+ so far!) and I have many to fit an exact situation.

She doesn't really have a familiar, so I am saying her "familiar" is her ability to look into flames.
I also did not give her any "bonus" spells since I wanted a pure B/X experience here.

I should point out that Green Ronin produces a very fine game based, not on the TV show, but the books in A Song of Ice and Fire.


It's Beltane! A time for witches to celebrate.  Start your own celebrations with my new witch book: Daughters of Darkness, The Mara Witch Tradition

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

OMG: Egyptian Myths, Part 2

Wrapping up the myths of Egypt today for One Man's God.   A brief note about the objectives of these posts. I am trying to go through the various myths as presented in the AD&D 1st edition Deities and Demigods and trying to reconcile them with the implied cosmology as presented in the AD&D game and Monster Manual in particular.  Sure I can, and will, draw from many other sources from real-world mythologies and religion to other editions of D&D and even other games.

Ok back to the business at hand.
You can find Part 1 here.


Apep
Last week I talked a lot about Apep.  He has been a lot on my mind of late.  From the reviews I did of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea 2E to Serpentine - Oldskull Serpent Folk, snake gods are getting a lot of coverage on my blog of late.  This is really no surprise.  My Second Campaign is gearing up for the trek into the great desert of the world and it will have a lot of Egyptian influences as well.

Right now my plan is to take the big desert adventures of classic A/D&D and make the end of my campaign with them.

The Desert of Desolation series:
and the Desert Nomads/Temple of Death series:
and then the two stand-alone adventures:


The adventures span several designers, worlds and even games, but all link back to the idea of ancient Egypt.  Known as Eyrpt on Oerth, Ayrpt on Mystara, and Aegypt in Gary Gygax's original Dangerous Journey Necropolis and then later Khemit in the 3rd edition version.  I combine them all into one. I call my series "The Deserts of Desolations and Death".

Apep and Yig will play a big part in this.  If Apep/Yig (yes I combine them) is an Eodemon like Dagon, then also like Dagon he invests some power in Demogorgon.  Demogorgon is a Greek name, so maybe the Egypt of my adventures is similar and this represents the Ptolemaic/Greek rule era.

Aten
Not mentioned in the DDG is the god Aten, the god of the sun disc.

Already we are getting into something about the Egyptian myths that I will talk about more in detail later.  Aten is the God of the Sun. Ra/Re is the God of the Sun.  Who is the god of the sun here?
Well, both.  And for a while, it was also Osiris.   Egyptian gods were more fluid than say the Greek or Romans ones (but they still had this quality).  Gods could be subjected to Syncretism where two of more gods were fused together into one god, their beliefs fused.  We see this in Amun-Ra (the King of the gods and the sun god).

The biggest deal with Aten was his worship by the Pharaoh Akhenaten, who may have been the father of Tutankhamun, was the pharaoh that brought monotheism to Egypt in 1350 to 1330 BCE.  This predates the other big monotheistic religions including Judaism and Zoroastrianism (and obviously Christianity and Islam, thought the roots of all of these go back that far).

When working on my ideas for Sol Invictus I always wondered what it would have been like if Egypt had continued the worship of Aten.  Or if Aten instead of being wiped out of existence with the return of the original gods and Amun-Ra had been killed by Set or Apep.   Since my campaign deals with events of the Dawn War and He Who Was, maybe that is the same sort of god as Aten.

Aten is a great place to start if you want to make a monotheistic religion in D&D's otherwise polytheistic approach.

I have not looked at length but I think Kobold Press has Aten in some of their books.

Hermes Trismegistus
Now back onto the topic of syncretism. What do you get when you take Thoth the God of Knowledge and combine him with Mercury the Messanger of the Gods and a dash of Imhotep?  Let it stew for a bit in Ptolemaic Egypt?  You get Hermes Trismegistus or the Thrice Great Hermes.

From Hermes Trismegistus, we get Hermeticism; a pre-science esoteric way at looking at the nature of the world.  In many RPGs (Mage and Ars Magica are good examples, as it WitchCraft) this leads to the Hermetic Traditions.  These are magical and alchemical traditions.

Often the Hermetic Traditions are classified as "High Magic" with witchcraft and pagan practices as "Low Magic".  Disclaimer. This is a remarkably simplistic view of what would go on to be one of the largest movements in Western Esotericism. I am just going to the beginning and following one branch of this tree. 

In any case, Hermes Trismegistus is not a god you would find in the DDG.  If some he could be an Egyptian/Greek god of Alchemy and Magic eventually (as sadly these things happen) taking over the role of Magic from Isis and Hecate.  Maybe there is this God in my campaign along with Aten.

Library of Alexandria 
So from this, I am building a Ptomliac Egyptian area that is post-Aten-heresies where Hermes Trismegistus is the god of Alchemy and Magic and Apep is still a real threat.

Spoiler for when I do the Greek Myths (and I think I should do them next).
How are Heka the Egyptian God of Magic related to Hecate the "Greek" (and I'll explain that later) Goddess of Witches, Magic and the Underworld?

Next time on One Man's God.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

OMG: Egyptian Myths, Part 1

Ancient Egypt spanned more than 3,000 years of history.  So much history in fact that there is as less time between us and Queen Cleopatra VII (reign 51 BCE to 30 BCE) than Cleopatra and the construction of the Pyramid of Khufu (2560 BCE) and Egypt was already 500+ years old by the time that was built.  There are "Intermediate Periods" in Egyptian history where very little is known about what was going on that lasted longer than the run of most countries today including the United States.

It is really no wonder that Egypt has fascinated us for millennia. 

The entries in the Egyptian Mythos section of the Deities and Demigods is no different.  The authors of the DDG acknowledge this time and mention that the religion had changed in that time.  So we are only given a few of the "big gods" and the ones that are the most common names.  This I think is perfectly fine.  A book on ancient Egyptian gods would fill many volumes this size.  Ancient Egyptian religion is very complex, but relatable to all of us I think because of a lot of ideas we have in religion now came from then.  The Trinty? First seen in Egypt.  The death and resurrection of a god? Egypt.  An afterlife? Egypt again.  A monotheistic religion? Yes, even Egypt did this (for a while and I'll get to that).

The purpose of these "One Man's God" posts is to square the mythology as presented in the DDG with the other bits of the D&D (primarily AD&D) cosmology. In particular with demons and devils and other fiends.  Not really to discuss whether or not the DDG is a good guide for religion or history (it's not, nor is it trying to be).

So. Did Egypt have demons?  Well...let's have a look.

One thing we get right from the start is that Egypt has a lot of gods and many of those gods are very powerful.  The cap given on all gods in the DDG is 400hp for the greatest god in the pantheon. Egypt has two gods at 400 (Ra and Osiris) and many more at 300 or above.  I would argue, given her predominance in the myths that Isis should also be at 400, or at least at 395 to Ptah's 390.  Some important gods, like Amun or Aten, don't even appear.

If there are a lot of really powerful gods, there are uncounted minor gods.  While some might fit the bill as a "demon", demigod or quasi-god might be a better name for them.  Of course the chief of these lesser gods, at least for mortal concerns, was the Pharoh, a god on Earth.
The Egyptians had "night lands" or an "underearth" but no Hell to speak of.  Places that "feel" like the Abyss (in abstract terms) but lacking the evil. Good or evil people would die and then continue their lot in the next life.  They could build these little statues that would do the work for them if they had enough money.  The worst thing that could happen to you is that you would be forgotten. Prayers no longer said for you and in later times if you could be mummified, having your body destroyed.  It could be our practice of burial comes from this. That and the pragmatic concerns of not wanting to see dear old depart granddad being dragged off to be eaten by jackals.

Apep, the King of Serpents
One of the few god-level monsters in the DDG is Apep, the King of Serpents.  If you recall from a Monstrous Monday a few weeks back I featured snakes and snake people.  Fear of snakes is old. Really old. The Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Mulism) all have a snake as the first enemy in Eden.  Other religions follow suit.
In the DDG Apep is described as a "creature of the Abyss" and "the physical embodiment of chaotic evil".  The stats for Apep put him inline with the Demon Lords/Princes like Demongorgon and Orcus.
In the mythology of D&D it is very, very likely that Apep was one of the original demons, like Dagon and Pazuzu. Called Obyriths in current versions of D&D, I called them Protodemons or Eodemons.  Apep certainly fits the bill.   If Demogorgon has the "backing" of Dagon (see 4e and beyond) then I would argue that he also has the backing of Apep.  These two ancient Obyriths/Eodemons could be the reason why Demogorgon has the title Prince of Demons.

Apep
FREQUENCY:  Unique
NO.  APPEARING:  1
ARMOR CLASS: -4
MOVE:  18"
HIT DICE:  18 (250 hp)
%  IN  LAIR:  100%
TREASURE  TYPE:  H (x3)
NO.  OF  ATTACKS:  2
DAMAGE/ATTACK:  3-30 (bite)/4-24 (constriction)
SPECIAL  ATTACKS:  Poison, Breath Weapon (6-60)
SPECIAL  DEFENSES:  +3  or  better weapon to hit
MAGIC  RESISTANCE:  40%
INTELLIGENCE:  High
ALIGNMENT:  Chaotic  Evil
SIZE:  L  (300' long)
PSIONIC ABILITY:  Nil

This creature is older than the demons and all but the most powerful stay away from his layer deep in the Abyss.  He is attended by uncounted numbers of snakes and can summon 5-50 snakes of any sort to his aid as he is their King.
This monster has a poisonous bite (3-30 points of damage and save at -4 or die), can breathe flame every other round for 6-60 points of damage (10" long and 4" wide cone) and can constrict for 4-24 points of damage.  He has slain and eaten many mortals, demons and gods. 
Some scholars speculate that he is also the same creature known as Yig to some and Jormungandr to others.

Set, The Evil God
Set is a problem.  I mean yes he is a problem because he is evil, but also a problem with how he is wedged into the cosmology here.  For the ancient Egyptians, the gods lived in their temples.  Set who is listed as Lawful Evil is placed naturally in the Nine Hells.  But...that doesn't really work.  Not for Set and not for the Hells.  Druaga we can fit in, but Set is much larger. In later Dragon magazines, Ed Greenwood in his now very famous articles on the devils and the Nine Hells places Set in Acheron or rather he is trying to build his own plane between Acheron and the Nine Hells.  While a neat idea I also don't think it works 100% for me.  Set is a bad guy, he kills his brother Osiris and tosses his body parts all over Egypt.  But he also rides on Ra's solar barge to fight Apep and even some Pharaohs were named to honor him.  So he is a complicated, but still largely evil, god.

Ammit
Not presented in the DDG is Ammit, the crocodile/hippopotamus/lion beast that devours souls/maat of the dead that fail to get into the afterlife.
Ammit certainly meets the criterion for a demon.  She is a monster that eats the souls of the dead. Horrifying visage. Certainly evil and used to scare people into moral behavior.
While she is missing from the DDG (though Erol Otus puts her in the full page art just before the myths) she does appear at Ammut in the AD&D 2nd Edition Al-Qadim Monstrous Manual.

Ammit
FREQUENCY:  Unique
NO.  APPEARING:  1
ARMOR CLASS: 3
MOVE:  12"
HIT DICE:  12 (102 hp)
%  IN  LAIR:  100%
TREASURE  TYPE:  Nil
NO.  OF  ATTACKS:  3
DAMAGE/ATTACK:  1-10 (claw)/1-10 (claw)/2-20 (bite)
SPECIAL  ATTACKS: 
SPECIAL  DEFENSES:  +1  or  better weapon to hit, Immune to all attacks from Undead
MAGIC  RESISTANCE:  70%
INTELLIGENCE:  Low
ALIGNMENT:  Chaotic  Evil
SIZE:  L  (15' long, 7' foreleg to head tall)
PSIONIC ABILITY:  Nil
Ammit is the demon that waits in the afterlife.  If Anubis judges a person's heart is heavier than the feather of Ma'at then Ammit eats the heart and the person then must roam the outer darkness to "die a second time".  In some cases Ammit eats the heart and tosses the body into the lake of fire she resides near. 
Ammit is a huge animal like demon. She has the head of a crocodile, the mane and hindquarters of a lion, and the forequarters and belly of a hippopotamus. She is grossly fat since she has no end of wicked hearts to feed on.  For her size she is fast on both land and water.
Ammit will also attack the living if they interfere with her feeding.

Next time lets talk about Aten, how I am going to use Apep and what the hell is up with Hermes Trismegistus, the Thrice Great Hermes.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

OMG: Celtic Mythos, Part 1

Brigid. Imbolc by TerraIncantata
Welcome back to another edition of "One Man's God".  Today I want to cover something very near and dear to my heart; the Celtic Myths.

The Celtic Mythos from the Deities & Demigods is an interesting combination Irish and Welsh gods.  Truthfully, this is no big deal. There was a lot cross-pollination between Irish, Scots, Welsh and Manx cultures.  Even the first page of this section features an Irish god, The Dagda, and a Welsh one, Arawn.

While I could go on (and on) about the Celtic gods, the point of this series is talk about demonized gods.

We do know that when the Christian monks settled in Ireland and Wales they did a fantastic job of saving these old oral traditions.  Not only did they take them down, but they were immortalized in such remarkable in their own right texts such as The Book of Kells.  Maybe because of the literacy of these monks and their obvious love for their country and these stories we do not see the demonization of these gods the same way as we do in other cultures.
Instead of becoming demons these gods often became faeries or other creatures of fey.

Not to say there are not monsters!  I am beginning to think that Ireland is the home to more types of Undead than anyplace I have ever seen.  I might follow up with that.   But let's talk about the gods and heroes in the book now.

Irish Ways and Irish Laws

The section on the Celtic Gods is smaller than some of the other gods here.  This is not a big surprise.  There have been some fairly major changes to how scholars see the Gaelic world since 1988 and on to today.

In Irish myth, we learn that Ireland was invaded many times.   Some of these invaders are viewed as gods, or at least some of their offspring are.  We can read this in the Lebor Gabála Érenn, or "the book of the taking of Ireland". There are four major groups (there are others, but these groups also connect to the Mythological Cycle of Ireland), the Fomorians, the Fir-Bolg, the Tuatha Dé Danann and the Milesians.
Of these, the Formor and Fir-Bolg are at least quasi-divine.  The Tuatha Dé Danann are seen as gods, but mortal gods and the Milesians are human.

Most gods, namely the ones associated the most with the Tuatha Dé Danann,  diminished in power with the coming of the Milesians.  They become the sídhe or the fairy folk living under the mounds.
We have to assume that the Milesians are there since Cú Chulainn is listed as a hero and that puts us in the Ulster Cycle of Myths (the one after the Mythological Cycle).

Of course, some gods are still gods.  The Morrigan, for example, is a goddess and features prominently in the Ulster cycle.

Other gods went in the opposite direction.  The goddess Brigit (Brigid, Bri, Bride, among others) was not later demonized. Quite the opposite. She would later become Saint Brigid.

What About the Fomorians?

If there was a case for a demon in Irish myth it belongs to the Fomorians.  Giant, supernatural, ugly and representing the destructive side of nature, their king is even named Balor.
To me though the Fomor were always closer in nature to the Greek Titans.  Yes they are evil, but Brigit is the daughter of a Fomorian king.  There are many blood ties between the Fomor and the Tuatha as well.  This makes their relationship more like Tolkien's Orcs and Elves.




Next time, no demons?  No problem! The celts have enough troubles with the undead!

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

OMG: Babylonian, Sumerian and Akkadian, Part 3

I want to wrap up this edition of OMG with some of the missing gods and demons from the Babylonian, Sumerian and Akkadian myths in the Deities & Demigods.

Let's mention an OBVIOUS miss here.
Where is Ereshkigal?  The world's first goth-girl and she isn't here?  That's a freaking crime in my book.  Well, let's fix that.  If you want to classify her she belongs to the Sumerian Myths, her cult has been taken over by her husband Nergal by the time of the Babylonian myths.

Burney Relief
Ereshkigal
ARMOR CLASS: -4
MOVE: 12"
HIT POINTS: 250
NO. OF ATTACKS: 2
DAMAGE/ATTACK: See below
SPECIAL ATTACKS:  See below
SPECIAL DEFENSES: Immune to poisons, disease, and death causing magic
MAGIC RESISTANCE: 75%
SIZE: M (6')
ALIGNMENT: Neutral Evil
WORSHIPER'S ALIGN: All alignments
SYMBOL: Female with four wings and clawed feet
PLANE: Kur (section of Hades)
CLERIC/DRUID: 15th level cleric
FIGHTER: Nil
MAGIC-USER/ILLUSIONIST/WITCH: 25th level witch
THIEF/ASSASSIN: 15th level assassin
MONK/BARD: Nil
PSIONIC ABILITY: Nil
S:25 ( + 7, + 14) 1: 20 W: 15 D: 20 C: 23 CH: 25

Animal: Owl
Color: Black
Day of Worship: Friday

Ereshkigal is Queen of the Underworld. Here she keeps the dead and not even the gods can sway her.  She has made exceptions, in particular to her sister Innana/Ishtar, but to none other.

Ereshkigal knows all the spells granted by the Sumerian gods, since all secrets come to her.  She also knows all the spells of witchcraft, which are of her design.  She can cast two spells per round at separate targets if she chooses.

Her rivalry with her sister Innana/Ishtar is legendary.
Ereshkigal would later be syncretized with the Greek Hecate and some of her aspects would also form the story of Lilith.  Indeed in my own research time, the Burney Relief has gone from a representation of Lilith (which was tenuous at best) to a representation of Ereshkigal.

She is mentioned in Return to the Keep on the Borderlands and I swear there were other mentions of her in other D&D books, but so far I found nothing.


Pazuzu
Also not present in the D&DG, but certainly a demon of note (and notoriety) is Pazuzu.   Good old Pazuzu was the king of the demons of the wind and the bringer of storms, famine, and drought. He was the demon of the southwestern wind.  He was not a god, though he was the son of the god Hanbi/Hanbu.
Pazuzu, of course, rose to fame and popularity thanks in large part to the Exorcist movies.  I consider the Exorcist to be one of the scariest movies ever made and having Pazuzu as the "big bad" only helps that.  A demon as old as civilization itself?  Yeah, that's some scary shit.  He makes his AD&D debut in the Monster Manual II.

He seems to have a long history even in myth.  He is likely an Assyrian import, maybe even from the Levant.  So that is quite a demonic pedigree to be the demon of so many different cultures. In my games, Pazuzu is an Eodemon, a demonic race that appeared before all the others.

One thing not considered in Monster Manual II version of him is his battles to stop another demon Lamashtu.  Pazuzu effectively guards human from her evils.

Lamashtu
Now in truth, I see why she was not included.  I mean if no Pazuzu then no need to have her too.  According to some texts, she was a demoness or a goddess.  She is also associated with witchcraft and the murder or newborns and infants. She has many features that would later be syncretized by or with Lilith and other female night demons.  She is currently a god in the Pathfinder setting.

I posted a demon Lamashtu a while back.  Here are some stats.

FREQUENCY:  Uncommon
NO.  APPEARING:  1  or  1-3
ARMOR  CLASS:  -1
MOVE:  9"/12"
HIT  DICE:  10
%  IN  LAIR:  25%
TREASURE  TYPE:  F
NO.  OF  ATTACKS:  3
DAMAGE/ATTACK:  1-6/1-6/2-8
SPECIAL  ATTACKS:  bonus  of  +2  to  hit;  also  see  below  (Con drain)
SPECIAL  DEFENSES:  +  1  or  better  weapons  to  hit
MAGIC  RESISTANCE:  65%
INTELLIGENCE:  Very
ALIGNMENT:  Chaotic  evil
SIZE:  L  (9'+  tall)
PSlONlC  ABILITY:  150
  Attack/Defense  Modes:  A,  C,  D/F,  G,  H

Lamashtu are powerful demons, close only to the Lilitu themselves.  Believed to be the offspring of Lilth and the various Eodemons. These demons are old even by demonic terms.  Their natural form is a horrid hybrid of a linoness’ head, donkey ears, and teeth, a hairy human female body, with the hindquarters of a pig.  They are commonly holding a large snake.  In their “human” form they prefer to disguise themselves as old women or nursemaids.  This gives them access to their preferred prey, newborn babies.  Once she has gained access to a new-born babe she will carry it off till she can find a safe place to eat it.  Lamashtu are not tempters, they hunger and only flesh will satisfy them.  They can be held at bay if a witch prepares a special talisman.    Her song drains Constitution to all who hear it, 2 points per night.  Anyone so drained must make a Constitution based save or fall asleep.
Lamashtu may cast spells as a 7th level witch.



Dagon
Dagon is an improt to this mythology.
Here is another problem.  Dagon is a god. Dagon is a demon. Dagon is some sort of Lovecraftian Old One. Or he is all of those things.

I think my favorite take on him was in the 3.5 edition Hordes of the Abyss and the 4th edition Monster Manual 2. Where he is just this really ancient thing. For me that makes him an Eodemon.
Somehow I'd like to capture all aspects of this creature in one whole.

I think it is time to leave the Fertile Crescent. Should I move forward alphabetically or chronologically? 

You can read Part 1 here.
You can read Part 2 here.

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