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

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
MOVE: 12"
SPECIAL DEFENSES: Immune to poisons, disease, and death causing magic
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
THIEF/ASSASSIN: 15th level assassin
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.

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.

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
MOVE:  9"/12"
HIT  DICE:  10
%  IN  LAIR:  25%
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
ALIGNMENT:  Chaotic  evil
SIZE:  L  (9'+  tall)
  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 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.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

OMG: Babylonian, Sumerian and Akkadian, Part 2

I am going to spend some more time today with the Babylonian myths and focus on a couple of the personalities in particular.

Again, I am not doing this to poke holes in the scholarship of the original authors of Deities & Demigods.  We have learned a great deal more about these myths and stories than we knew back in the 1980s. AND this is not a historical text. This is a game book, it has different rules as it were.

Who's In Charge Around Here?
I do have one nitpick that I need to get off my chest and it involves Marduk.   What makes Babylonian myths well, Babylonian, is that they come from the city of Babylon.  Whose chief god was Marduk.  So who is this Anu guy?  Well...these are not easy questions.  Anu was an important god of the Mesopotamian religion and described as the father of Enlil (see the Sumerian myths) and the first main god worshiped...well ever, calling him the "Chief of all the Babylonian Deities" is a stretch.  Now if "Babylonian" = these gods and not "Babylonian" = The City of Babylon then ok.  But the chief god of Babylon was Marduk.  He was the most powerful and the one later kings of Babylon would swear fealty to; known as "Taking the Hand of Marduk".   So why isn't Marduk the 400 hp Greater God?  Well I guess this works better for this book.
Also, the physical description of Marduk has me scratching my head a bit.  None of the reliefs I have seen look like that. In fact the only other place I have seen this version of Marduk is in the Real Ghostbuster cartoon "I Am the City".
For the record. I DO think Marduk would have LOVED New York and the Ultimate City.  And I say this as a Chicagoan.

I believe the image came from descriptions of Marduk seeing twice as much/far as others, or being more than the other gods and men.

Bizzare Love Triangle
It's hard to talk about Marduk in AD&D and NOT bring up Tiamat.  Heck even in the Ghostbusters cartoon Marduk (the god of civilization) battles Tiamat the Goddess of Chaos.  Hmm.  Ok, so let's go back a bit.

The year is 1990 and young former-Physics, turned Psychology, student Tim Brannan has become disillusioned with the physics-envy in his field and wants something a little more on the start-up edge of science.   Enter Chaos Theory. The book "Turbulent Mirror: An Illustrated Guide to Chaos Theory and the Science of Wholeness" was released and I was mesmerized.   I was convinced (and still am on some levels) that my then research into human memory based on chaotic structures (see my senior honors paper and eventual Master Thesis).  I never got a far as I wanted on this.  Maybe one day.
That is not important today.  Today I want to talk about the Turbulent Mirror and Tiamat.

Now I remembered from my class in mythology some 2-3 years before that Tiamat represented Chaos.  Turbulent Mirror took this and ran with it, and took my imagination with it.

Why is Tiamat a "Lawful evil" dragon?  Shouldn't she be Chaotic Evil?
I have talked about Tiamat many times, but this post explains why I want to be Chaotic and not Lawful.

So now we have Tiamat battling Marduk and Tiamat battling Bahamut.  I used to refer to this as the "Bizzare Love Triangle" after the New Order song.  Irritated my then DM to no end.  I will need to come back to Bahamut some day.  Is he Marduk?  No. But I have no good reasoning yet.  MAYBE Marduk is the only "non-human diety" because he looks like a Dragonborn!  That would work well with what they are doing with the Dragonborn in the Forgotten Realms.

I keep Tiamat mostly as she is in the Monster Manual. Save she is now Chaotic Evil.  She always acted like it anyway.

Dragon Tales
Tiamat is not the only dragon in the Babylonian myths.
Right above Druaga is another Persian import, Dahak.
Dahak, or Zahhak or Aži Dahāka is the "three-headed dragon of death".   Wow.  How could that even be remotely ignored?

Well while Dahak certainly sounds like one of the monsters that Tiamat would produce he is from Iran and not Iraq like Tiamat is (to use the modern countries).

When my oldest son was little we grabbed every book on dragons we could find.  He loved, and still loves, dragons.  He read the stories about Dahak and decided that this was the dragon he wanted to explore more.

To that end he came up with both OSR stats and Pathfinder/3.x stats.   He is working on a 5e version too since that is now his game of choice.
For us, Aži Dahāka is the offspring of Tiamat and Demogorgon.  Part of an ancient pact to provide them both with a monster capable of great destruction.  Well, they got more than they could handle.

Funny thing is that when Liam decided to take on Aži Dahāka and I had forgotton all about Dahak in this book. I am glad I could come back to him full circle as it were.

Wow. I still have more to say about this part of the world.  Looks like a Part 3 will has to happen.

You can read Part 1 here.
You can read Part 3 here.

Monday, June 4, 2018

OMG: Babylonian, Sumerian and Akkadian, Part 1

Then were they known to men by various Names,
And various Idols through the Heathen World.
- Milton, Paradise Lost, Book 1

For this posting of One Man's God, I thought it best to go back where it all began for me.

The Babylonian myths in the Deities and Demigods are one of the most interesting collections of characters in the book really.  I was fascinated by them and when I got to college I jumped at the chance to take a mythology class and learn more.  There Professor Joan O'Brien (yes I remember her 30 years later, she was that good) told the story of Gilgamesh and Marduk and many others in the Enûma Eliš, or When On High.   So I am likely to spend a couple of posts on this topic just because it is so rich.

Now I want to clear about one thing.  I am not here to dismiss or deride the research done by James M. Ward and Robert J. Kuntz.  They did what they did without the benefit of computers, the internet and the collected archeological knowledge I have access too since 1980.  For example, there were some pretty significant finds in 1984 and published in 1992 that would have changed some things.  Plus they were not writing for historical, archeological, or mythological scholarship.  They were writing first and foremost for the AD&D game.  So let's keep that all in mind when digging through the rubble of ages.

Alas, Babylon
The myths of the Sumerians, Akkadians, and Babylonians represent some of the oldest myths and stories mankind has intact.  Dating back to 3500 BCE these are quite old. Sumer, Akkad, and Babylon (the Empire, not just the city) roughly share the same area between the  Tigris–Euphrates rivers, they also shared related languages; Sumerian, but mostly Akkadian.  They used the same cuneiform writing and they recorded them on clay tablets. They shared gods and they shared a culture.  While there is more time (more than twice the time really) between the rise of the Sumerian city-states and the fall of the last Babylonian empire than there is between Babylon and now, we tend to view them as related.
Because of this I am more likely to treat the Babylonian Mythos and the Sumerian Mythos of the D&DG as being one and not two.

Let's start with what can only be called the Poster Boy for this series.  Druaga, Ruler of the Devil World.   We really don't know much about this guy other than he is a real monster.  We know he never appears to anyone the same way twice, yet he has a true form that frightens others.  He is Lawful evil and can summon devils (except Archdevils) and can turn victims of his mace attacks into devils.

Is it me or does his mace remind you of Asmodeus' Ruby Rod?

I have a lot of issues with Druaga here.

If you thought he doesn't really seem to fit the Babylonian gods then you are right.  He doesn't appear to be one of their gods at all.  There is a connection to "Druj" which is an Avestan (proto-Iranian) spirit of corruption.  But that concept comes from later and further away than Babylon.  He appears to be made up whole cloth for this book.  The only other reference to him in anything like this form is from a 1984 video game and later anime; Doruāga no Tō or The Tower of Druaga.  The game features Gilgamesh and Ki, who seems to be based on the Sumerian Goddess Ki (yeah I have some issues with her too...).  Druaga even looks similar to the D&DG version.

There is also the issue that despite his obvious power there is no place for him in the devils' hierarchy.  He is more powerful than Asmodeus and can create new devils besides.  So what gives?

In my own games, I took Druaga and I put him on the first layer of Hell in place of Tiamat (more on her in a bit).  First, I figured he was a better fit since I wanted Tiamat to be Chaotic Evil and he had the look.  I had already started dividing my devils into the ruling and serving classes.  The rulers were the fallen angels or everyone from a pitfiend up.  The servers were the less human looking devils (Eventually called "Shedim" or Demons of Rage in my games)  Druaga was their leader.
To steal from the greats I had made my Hell already filled with some creatures.  Some the Fallen took over and others they kicked out.  I also made my first level of Hell the place where the pagans go, ala Dante's Inferno.

Over the years we have gotten a number of Rulers of Avernus; Tiamat, Bel and now Zariel.  Maybe Druaga was there first.

Looking at his stats he is pretty powerful.  Strength at 24, Intelligence at 18, Dexterity at 23, Constitution at 25, and a Charisma of -4.  Only his 13 Wisdom fails to be godly.
He is listed as a 15th level fighter, 15th level magic-user, and 15 level assassin.  If we give him 15 HD and maximum hp (d8+7 for Con) then that gives us 225 hp.  Not far off from his 230.
He has 75% magic resistance as well as being immune to breath-weapons.

So why is he not ruling hell?

If we go with the Politics of Hell article as a guide, Druaga was the ruler but was deposed when the Angels fell and became Devils.

For starters, I am happy with 15 HD, though higher is also nicer.  The 1e AD&D Monster Manual sets the Pit Fiend at 13 HD, so 15 HD for a former ruler, reduced in power works for me.

Druaga, Former Ruler of Hell
MOVE:  12"/24"
HIT DICE:  15 (230 hp)
%  IN  LAIR:  95%
DAMAGE/ATTACK:  6-15/6-15 (1d10+5)
SPECIAL  DEFENSES:  +3  or  better
INTELLIGENCE:  Exceptional
ALIGNMENT:  Lawful  Evil
SIZE:  L  (9' tall)

When the Angels fell after the War in Heaven, Druaga was already there.  When faced with the legions of the Fallen, Druaga surrendered his ruby mace to the leader of the Fallen.  Eventually, it came into the possession of the Arch Duke Asmodeus.

Druaga still holds considerable power.  He lives in a giant ziggurat temple on Avernus where the souls of the damned still perform service to him.   He can summon any devil of Pit Fiend status or lower to his aid once a day in numbers from 2-20.
Druaga has all the same immunities as do other Devils, he is also 100% immune to the effects of all breath weapons.

Next time we will talk dragons.

You can read Part 2 here.
You can read Part 3 here.

Monday, May 21, 2018

OMG: Level Setting and American Indian Mythos

To start this first post on One Man's God I wanted to set some levels on what I want to look for, in particular, what constitutes the top end of what is a demon vs. what is an evil god.

Now a couple "rules" regardless of what edition I plan to post the stats in I am starting in the lingua franca of 1st Edition AD&D.  That's what the Deities and Demigods is written for and the Monster Manual I am using today.

Level Setting
How powerful are these demons?  Well, let's have a look at our high-end examples.
The first edition Monster Manual gives us four of the biggest big bads we STILL talk about today. Orcus, Demogorgon, Asmodeus, and Tiamat.  Each one of these can be viewed as a god in their own way; two of which Orcus and Tiamat were gods in their respective mythologies. What the MM does not give us are the HD for these creatures.  Orcus has 120 hp, Demogorgon has 200 hp, and Asmodeus has 199. Tiamat has 128 but is also listed as a 16 HD monster.  This is nice since this gives us a nice example of a monster with maximum (8 per HD) hp.  So dividing the others by 8 we get:
Orcus 15 HD, 120 hp
Demogorgon 25 HD, 200 hp
Asmodeus 25 HD, 199 hp
Looking at other editions you can see them climb over the years.  Till we get to today.

Still very powerful in Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes.

What this means to me is I am looking for monsters in that 15 to 25 HD range if I want to call them Demon Princes or Archdukes of Hell.  Likely none will come up to that level, most will fall short of Prince or Archduke power.

American Indian Mythos
If there is one thing I know it's I am in no way qualified to talk about American Indian mythic traditions.  I mean I did grow up in the mid-west and I spent time going to both the Dickson Mounds and the Illinois State Museums.  So I feel my background is better than most, but still very much lacking.   The American Indian section in the Deities & Demigods in no way represents all the myths and stories of these extremely diverse peoples.  Sure there are some commonalities, but there are just as many differences. Maybe more.   Since I am limiting myself to the entries in the D&DG this one will be really fast.

There really are not many "demons" in the classical sense in American Indian myths.  I mean there are some, but not many and none of them appear in this book.   Even the monsters that do appear here are more monsters than demons and the evil gods (both of them) are more destructive forves of nature than anything else.   So not really my idea of demons to be honest.
Hastsezini is the fire "god"* of the Navajo.  I put god in quotes based on the work of Professor Grant L. Voth, Ph.D.  He claims that Amerindian did not worship gods per se but larger spirits that they honored.   This god/spirit doesn't really give me a demonic vibe.

Next time I will cover the rich and fertile ground of the Babylonian myths.  Might need to spend more than one post there.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

OMG: One Man's God

I came to D&D back in the 70s via my interest in myths about the Gods and Heroes.   I was reading D'aulaire's Book of Greek Myths when a friend lent me his copy of the Monster Manual.   The rest, as they say, is history.

One of my favorite books in the entire AD&D line was/is Deities & Demigods.  I have been mentally going back to that treasured volume since I picked up The Great Courses: Great Mythologies of the World.

The scholarship in D&DG is not University or scholarly level, but I give Rob Kuntz and James Ward many kudos, and really it was not supposed to be.  It was supposed to be a game book and in that it succeeds wildly.

But it all got me thinking about that old adage; "One man's God is another man's Devil."
What would it take to grab some of the evil monsters and revisit them as AD&D/OSR style demons, complete with their placement in the Gygax-ian Great Wheel?   One of my bigger misgivings about D&DG, despite how good it was, it did not try to integrate into the larger D&D view of the multiverse and planes.  Today I think that is perfectly fine, but then it bugged me more.

I guess in a way this is my gift to me of 1981 or so.

My plan is to go through the D&DG and take an extended look at the pantheons and the myths behind them and find some good bits (there are lots) and comment on some others and hopefully find some cool demons to fit the larger D&D world.

Ok, so I have a Ph.D., I can do academic rigor. That is not what this is about. This will not be a treatise of comparative religions or a dissertation.  This is blog post, with game material.  My audience is the same as Kuntz and Ward's, the D&D gamer.

The only thing I have not figure out yet is whether to do these as an OSR-friendly S&W/Basic-era format or as D&D 5.  Maybe both or one or the other as it strikes me.

I am not likely to include the non-human deities since they are already more integrated into the larger D&D mythos,  but I may focus on one or two that I want to expand on; Blibdoolpoolp and Vaprak the Destroyer come to mind for different reasons. Possibly Laogzed too.
I am also not going to go in order.  I have this notion of starting in the Fertile Crescent and working my way out, both physically and temporarily.   This is for my own education so I can mentally place various cultures in their proper times in relation to each other.
I also have not figured out what to do with beings that began as gods and later were transformed to devils, for example, Astártē to Astaroth.  I am planning on splitting up Greek and Roman, if for no other reasons to deal with some unique Roman ideas and dabble a little in some Etruscan myths and legends. Or maybe do an extended Greco-Roman-Etruscan post.

Love to hear suggestions and ideas.

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