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

Friday, September 18, 2020

One Man's God: Melnibonéan Mythos

Elric by Jeff Dee

Getting back to the mythos in the Deities and Demigods proper I want to take a look at one filled with demons, elementals and other creatures of the multiverse.  The Melnibonéan Mythos of Michael Moorcock.

The Melnibonéan Mythos is one of the two expunged mythoi from the D&DG, the other being the more popular Cthulhu Mythos.  I talked about those myths and some of the controversy around them in a previous installment of One Man's God.  I'll also talk a little more about that at the end, but first, Gods and Demons.

Elric of Melniboné was my gateway to Cthulhu.  I had done all the high fantasy that was popular in the 80s and Tolkien in particular.  But I was looking for something a little darker, something that also appealed to my same frame of mind that loved horror films.  Elric then was the logical next step.

Maybe as much as Tolkien, the works of Michael Moorcock laid down the foundation that was going to be the lens of D&D.  The alignment system, the multiverse, champions of Law and Chaos, all these things came to D&D via Moorcock.  Though in truth for this piece I could also just say Elric since these are the mythos we are discussing today.


Melniboné and Demons

The tales of Elric and Melniboné are overrun with creatures called demons. Everyone from Arioch on down is referred too as a demon in fact.  Elric's own ancestor, Terhali, also known as the Green Empress, ruled Melniboné for 605 years a thousand years before Elric. Her long life was attributed to her mother, who was a demon.  Other creatures in the books are also called demons. Arioch himself appears in many Medieval grimoires as a demon and in Milton's Paradise Lost, Book VI, Line 371.

Whether or not these meet the AD&D Monster Manual criteria for a demon is to be decided.  Let's explore some other details first.

Law & Chaos, Good & Evil

The battles in Elric's world(s) are not just of Good vs. Evil but of Law vs. Chaos. Chaos is shown to be a destructive, and often evil force.  Elric and his kin are all dedicated to the Lords of Chaos and have pacts with many of these lords.  So the "alignment" system of Elric's world view is the same as that as D&D really.  It's where we get it in fact.  So this does free up one issue; creatures described here as being Chaotic Evil are likely appropriately described in their own world and an AD&D one.  We are not going to run into issues here of Chaotic Evil creatures that also protect mothers like in the Aztec myths for example.

Lords of Hell and Demons

The Elric saga takes a "multiple hells" view on the cosmos.  There is more than one hell and they ruled over by Lords of Chaos.  Some of these Lords are also explicitly demons. They are called such in the text.  In many ways, One Man's God and my own games have evolved to be more like this point of view. 

Demons vs. Elemental Lords

There are many creatures of power in the Elric tales (and Moorcock's books as a whole). Some are explicitly demons. Others though are classified as Elemental Lords. These creatures do not see to differ very much the Princes of Elemental Evil first seen in the Fiend Folio.  In the 4e cosmology they would be called Primordials and the Titans and Giants are their offspring.  This also fits in well with the mythology Gary was building in the GDQ series.  So there are at least some relationships between these Elemental Lords and the Demons.  But that is for another day.  Though all of this leads me to two conclusions:

  1. Many demons/creatures/lords of the Elric saga are very much like the demons of AD&D. Or maybe it is the other way around.
  2. Elric might be listed as a "Magic-user 19th level" and "Cleric 10th level" but what he really is, using the current term, is a Warlock.  In fact he might be the exemplar from which we draw from.

But more on that later.

Elemental Lords & Animal Lords

Before I get to the Demons, let's look at the various Elemental Lords Elric has pacts with or is able to summon. We can compare them to other examples in other AD&D works.

In the Melnibonéan Mythos, we have Darnizhaan (NE, Earth), Grome (N, Earth), Kakatal (CN, Fire), Misha (N, Air), and Straasha (N, Water).  Generally speaking, these creatures are more powerful than the Princes of Elemental Evil found in the Fiend Folio. Which would track if these are the "Kings" and the others are just "Princes."

Elemental Lords are not the only creatures Elric encounters. There are also the various Animal Lords, or Master Types.  These are almost taken verbatim for the Monster Manual II Cat Lord and in the later editions of AD&D/D&D.  Among the Animal Lords are Fileet (Lady of Birds), Haaashastaak (Lord of Lizards), Meerclar (Lady of Cats), Nnuuurrr'c'c (Lord of the Insect Swarm), Nuru-ah (Lord of Cattle), and Roofdrak (Lord of Dogs).  Back in the 80s we treated Meeclar as the Cat Lord before the "current" Cat Lord and Bast as the one before Meeclar.  Gary would go on to support our claim in the 90s when he made Gord the new Cat Lord.  all of this fit into our worlds very nicely.

The Demons

Let's get to the demons.  There are lot of creatures in these myths are weird and Chaotic Evil.  BUT, does that make them an AD&D demon?  Well, some fit perfectly, others, we might need to file off some of the edges to make them fit.

Arioch (and Xiombarg)

Let's address the Chaos Lord in the room.  Arioch.  In the books he is Elric's patron.  I believe he is even described as a Patron Demon.  He often referred to a Lord of Hell, a Lord of Chaos and it is said he is worshipped as a god in many worlds.  But is he a god? He is certainly very powerful. On the side of a God is the fact that he can have many avatars on multiple worlds (though in D&D 3 and beyond this would be called an Aspect), on the side of Demon is the fact that he can be summoned, sometimes even against his will. It is possible that Arioch (Knight of Swords), as well as Xiombarg (Queen of Swords) and Mabelode (King of Swords, and not in the D&DG) are Demons, they are just very, very powerful ones on the level of the Arch Dukes of Hell.  

I am inclined to make them powerful Demon Lords/Princes.  Their power is such that would disrupt the hierarchy of Hell (the AD&D Hell), but in the Abyss they can plot and scheme all the like.  Again they have never been described as anything but Chaotic Evil.  I would also argue that their stats in the D&DG might be a touch high. Elric did kill Arioch in the end.

Assassinator of the Gods

Back in the AD&D days we always combined this creature with Ma Yuan of the Chinese Mythos. Though they were not exactly the same.  In this case, I am inclined to make this a completely unique creature. 

Clakar

Chaotic Evil winged apes that can be used as guards.  A bit like a summoned demon, but nothing about them screams demon to me.

Elenoin & Grahluk

These two are in a perpetual race war against each other. Not demons. I always thought of them as the female and male of the same species in a division that has gone very, very wrong.  I say every few years both races have a "pon farr" like time where both are compelled to mate.  While both can be summoned I took this more as they were responding to some other pact made. So they are not demons, but likely commanded or ruled by demons.

Kelmain

Humanoids from Limbo.

Mist Giant

More of a monster than a demon.

Mordagz

Now here is an interesting character. A former Lord of Chaos, he has been "demoted" to a Storm Giant. He could qualify as the classical definition of a demon; a former god reduced in power and status.  His alignment though is Chaotic Neutral.

Pyaray

Now this guy. Lord of the Ocean Abysses. Looks like a demon. Commands a flotilla of sunken ships manned by undead sailors. his soul is stored in the blue crystal on his head like a demon amulet.  Yeah, this one fits the demon description rather well.  His 250 hp makes him a bit more powerful than Demogorgon, but otherwise he is a good fit. We also know that Pyaray and Straasha are bitter enemies. so if Straasha is an Elemental Lord, we can have Pyaray be a Demon Lord.

Quaolnargn

Ok. This one is explicitly called a "demon from the Abyss."

There are more creatures in the tales, but these are what appear in the D&DG.

Elric as a Warlock

The big surprise here is not that there are demons and elementals in this mythos, but that Elric might be better represented as a warlock rather than a wizard, or as he is described in the book, a sorcerer.  We see Elric using magic, but mostly we see him summoning creatures to do his bidding. We rarely see him use the sorts of magics that one might expect of a 19th level magic-user/10th level llusionist/10th level cleric/5th level druid. However, all this magic can be used by a warlock. 

I did a quick build with Elic for the 5th Edition warlock. I made him a tiefling to cover his demonic ancestry and it worked out well.  But a better choice might be a Demonic Pact Warlock using some old-school rules.


My Warlock book for Swords & Wizardry would be a good fit here since I also re-classified the various demons to work with multiple "hells" and planes.

Elric of Melniboné

19th level Warlock, Demonic Pact (Melnibonéan)
Tiefling Male 

Strength: 6
Intelligence: 18
Wisdom: 17
Dexterity: 17
Constituiton: 3
Charisma: 20

Invocations: Arcane Blast, Agonizing Blast, Arcane Mastery*, Arcane Mastery (Greater)**, Arcane Mastery (Superior)***, Beast Speech, Eldritch Sight, Minions of Chaos, Pact Blade, Thirsting Blade

Spells:
1st: Black Fire, Charm Person, Command, Detect Magic, Mage Armor, Obedient Beast, Spirit Servant
2nd: Agony, Burning Gaze, Cause Light Wounds, Clothes of the Emperor, Grasp of the Endless War, Magic Circle Aganist Spirits, Share my Pain
3rd: Astral Sense, Circle of Respite, Clairsentience, Fiend's Shield, Lifesteal, Summon Winged Steed
4th: Arcane Eye, Call Imp, Divine Power, Fear, Spell storing
5th: Blade Dance, Conjuration of Elementals, Extend Spell (Greater), Song of the Night, Ward of Magic

*6th: Invisible Stalker
**7th: Conjuration of Demons
***8th: Symbol

I rather like this. 

And Arioch would fit rather well in my Warlock book too.


And finally,

The "True" Story of the Melnibonéan and Cthulhu Mythos in the D&DG?

Up first an article from DM David.

https://dmdavid.com/tag/the-true-story-of-the-cthulhu-and-elric-sections-removed-from-deities-demigods/

And a video from Seth Skorkowsky on "The Notorious Deities and Demigods (Ft. Sandy Petersen)"

Both are worth the time to go over.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

One Man's God: Basic Demons (BECMI Demons, Part 2)

Last week I cover the topic of Demons in BECMI D&D and Basic Era D&D in general.  I want to expand on that a bit today. Again, this is a bit of a different tone for One Man's God, but it does get at the heart of what OMG is about.

One of Basic D&D's features vs. Advanced D&D is its alignment system of Law vs. Chaos with Neutrality in the middle.  Now a lot of ink and pixels have been spilled over the pros, cons, and everything else about alignment. I am not going to go into that here.  Although I am currently rereading Søren Kierkegaard for the first time since college and he is "still stuck on Abraham," so I wonder if I am going to do a proper talk on demons I might need to go back to the basics and address alignment someday.


So my discussions on demons in BECMI were covered in my Immortals Set Review and One Man's God: The Immortals and Demons of BECMI

Writing so much about witches you can't help but have to read about and write about demons.  The two subjects have been conflated for so long that "witchcraft" and "demonology" are either synonymous in some circles or so tied up together that separating them is difficult. 




Demonic Families and "The Usual Suspects"

Succubus
One of the Usual Suspects. ePic CG
For the "Basic-Era" demons were introduced in the classic D&D (OD&D) Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry.  Here we get what I call "The Ususal Suspects" of demons; Type I to Type VI, Succubi, Orcus and Demogorgon.  The same group appears in the AD&D Monster Manual (with some additions and some names) and then again in the D&D Immortals Set under new names again.  The AD&D game introduces Devils as a separate type of fiend.  Though it should be noted that D&D 4 looked over all the fiends and moved some around.  Notably, the Succubus became a type of devil, due to some machinations of Asmodeus in the "Brimstone Angels" novels.  They became an "independent" type of fiend in D&D 5.

Despite all of that, there is a good reason to include Demons (a chaotic evil fiend) into the milieu of D&D and its cosmic struggle of Law vs. Chaos.   Devils?  Let's save them for AD&D.  Besides, the division is artificial at best.

This division became more pronounced in the AD&D 2nd ed era when TSR caved to the Religious Right and pulled demons and devils.  

Tanar-what? Baate-Who?

One of the Unusual suspects, ePic CG
Demons and Devils would return in Planescape with the bowdlerized names of Tanar'ri and Baatezu respectively.  I remember at the time I was very disappointed in TSR for caving to the pressure of what I felt was a fringe group of religious nutjobs.

While I disapprove of why TSR caved, I approve of what became of it. "Demon" became a generic term to describe any evil outsider.  The "Tanar'ri" were now a specific group of Evil Outsiders that also happened to be chaotic and inhabited the Abyss.  They certain features, such as resistance to various magic and other attacks and certain vulnerabilities too. They were a family of creatures related by certain phenotypical descriptors. Now we have different demonic "families" of fiends. Add Yugoloths/Daemons and Demodands to the official rosters.  We don't have to be limited by "demon" or "devil" alone.  
Sometimes the constraints force us to be more creative.

Later in D&D 3rd Editon era we would get the official Obyrith and Loumara families of chaotic evil demons.  In Green Ronin's Armies of the Abyss and then later Paizo's Pathfinder then added Qlippoth, the OGC version of the Obyriths. Mongoose Publishing gave us the Tzaretch family.  Back at the end of 2nd Edition, I made the Lilim family.  In my Eldritch Witchery (use the link to get it at 50% off!) I introduced the Calabim and Shedim families and the Baalseraph, which is sort of like a family.  In my various Warlock books, I also added Eodemons, or dawn demons. My take on the first of the demonic families.

The scholars can then argue who belongs where.

Spend any time reading demonology text you will soon figure out that these "learned scholars" were just pulling things out of thin air. Sure sometimes you see the same names or even some descriptions that are similar, but otherwise, there is no more validity to the Ars Goetia of the Lesser Key of Solomon than there is to the Monster Manual II when it comes to naming and categorizing demons.  For me, the "key" to unlocking this was the demon Astaroth.

Astaroth and Astártē
What really got me going was what Christian demonologists did with the Goddess Astarte.  Astarte, also known by many other names including Astoreth, was Goddess of love and lust (sex), fertility, and war.  She was obviously connected to Ishtar, Innana,  Isis, and maybe even Aphrodite. She appears throughout the Middle East and even makes an appearance in the Hebrew texts and even in later Christian writings.  But her transformation from fertility goddess to nature goddess to a demon is odd, but not uncommon.  Early Christian writers saw any other god or religion as demonic or even devil worship.  Early Jewish scholars usually never had an issue with other gods. So it is conjectured that when Christian writers and scholars saw Astarte/Astoreth and her crescent moon horns she became a demon.  And a male demon, Astaroth, at that.  It is the primary example for me of how "one man's god is another man's demon." 

Often who was on what list of demonic entities depended on who was writing it and when. One can claim to "go back to the research" but when you are researching what is essentially a completely made-up topic it is not difficult to find something to support your claim.   

For me, that leaves only one satisfactory conclusion.  
Classify these creatures as I like. 

Demons In Basic-Era Games

Do demons belong in (my) Basic-era games?

I figure I have witches, vampires, all sorts of fey creatures, and other monsters.  So yeah there is no good reason to keep them out. 

So there are "demons" in the sense as the world defines them. And there are "demons" as I plan to use them here or, more to the point, have been using them here.  
Translation: Some devils are now demons in my game. 

I have been doing this with the lesser devil types like the barbazu, cornugon and gelugon.  They are all part of the Shedim or demons of rage.   Erinyes remain fallen angels, so technically I suppose that makes them Baalseraphs.

One thing that came up in my review of the Immortals set was how powerful the BECMI demons are vs. their AD&D counterparts.  My idea is to scale them back down.  I like to think of all creatures as being Normal Human focused since that is the world they are in. Player Characters are the rare exceptions. So when a succubus drains life levels with her kiss then it needs to be scaled so that if she chooses a normal human the kiss can still be deadly, but not always so.  I mean someone needs to survive to tell their priest/cleric so it can be written down in a demonology somewhere.

Every version of the game has translated these creatures somewhat differently.  Though there are more commonalities between them than say Medieval demonologies from the so-called experts.  
Demons are legion and defy classification attempts, but that is exactly what I am trying to do.  Essentially make my own "Demonomicon of Iggwilv."


I think if I pursue this idea more I would have to come up with my own demonologies and groupings.  I like the ones I have been using so far, maybe a couple of others might be nice too.   Could be a fun exercise.

Maybe even come up with a witch to do the authoring of it.  I can't really use (nor do I want to use) "Demonomicon" or "Iggwilv." Plus someone new would be fun for a while.

What do you do? Do you have Demons in your Basic, not advanced, games?

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

One Man's God: The Immortals and Demons of BECMI

Ok. So it is July. June is over and so should BECMI month.  The trouble is I find I still have a little more to say.  Plus it would be difficult to properly end BECMI month without a good look at the Immortals themselves.

So far we have run into six named Immortals; Koryis, Kersy (more on her later!), Vanya and Alphaks from Into the Maelstrom and Orcus and Demogorgon from the Immortals DM's Book. None are mentioned (too my knowledge) in the module The Immortal Storm. Of these five, three are demons.  Not just demons in the general sense, but demons in the AD&D (and now D&D) sense. 

One thing made clear in the Immortals game was that Immortals are not gods.  They are powerful beings, with near unlimited magical powers, who occupy the outer planes, and are worshipped by clerics...what was my point here? Oh not gods. Right, totally not gods. Nope.

Except they are.

Alphaks aside (he is a special case), Orcus and Demogorgon are immortals, and demons, and (let's be honest here) minor gods.  Essentially what OMG is all about. 

In the D&D Rules Cyclopedia Immortals are discussed, but specific Immortals are rarely mentioned.  Ka, Odin, and Atzanteotl are mentioned by name and have appeared in other BECMI products over the years.  The conversion notes for D&D to AD&D 2nd Ed in the Cyclopedia gives us this little tidbit:
The Immortals of the D&D system and the deities of the AD&D system should not be converted between the game systems.
They were real set on the whole Immortals ≠ Gods thing.

I wanted to review The Wrath of the Immortals.  But I don't have a copy and DriveThruRPG also doesn't have it.  I have managed to piece together some of the immortals from other products and from the Vaults of Pandius.  A couple of them stick out, Immortals and Faith and the Codex Immortalis by Marco Dalmonte

A few of the "demonic" Immortals mentioned in other products are, Bagni Gullymaw, a demonic troll and the immortal of canibalism and Stodos, a cold-blood Type II/Hezrou demon.  Bagni could be another name of the Other Side favorite Vaprak the destroyer.

What BECMI lacks, and really should have been a major contributor to, are new demons.

So instead of looking to the Gods and Immortals of this "mythos" like I normally do, I should look at the monsters and see which ones make for good demons.  

Demons of BECMI

I should start this part off with a note about another post on Demons in BECMI from Mystara Sage in Residence, Bruce Heard.  He posted about demons earlier this year and it is worth taking a look at.

 Moving away from the Immortal-level rules I look back at the various monsters.  To make my life easier I am just going to look at the D&D Rules Cyclopedia and D&D Creature Catalog.


The Plane of Nightmares was introduced to us in the X series of modules and would then later be expanded on in later Companion and Master books.  There are a few creatures from this plane that certainly qualify as demons.

Diabolus
The devilish Diabolus appeared in the Immortals Set.  They are described as looking like devils essentially but were in most ways human. They could take any human class and were their dimension's equivalent of humans.  The BECMI rules even state they can be played as humans. They were updated in Dragon Magazine #327 as a character race.  
Essentially these are Tieflings. You can play Chaotic or what 5e called demonic tieflings. I'd argue they can only choose "Chaotic" alignment, so Chaotic Good (their default in 2e), Chaotic Neutral or Chaotic Evil.  

Malfera
Few creatures fit the description and general attitude of a demon better than the Malfera.  Let's get into some details.  In the Rules Cyclopedia, we learn they are chaotic. can only be summoned to our plane by a powerful magic-user or Immortal. They are a planar monster. They have massive physical attacks and special attacks. Can open doors as per knock and has higher than normal saves.  Plus they are described as a literal nightmare creature.  If not a demon, then "demon-adjacent."

There are stats for them all over the web.  Here are some from the Vaults of Pandius for 2nd Ed AD&D3rd Ed D&D4th Ed D&D, and 5th Ed. D&D.  A 3.5 version for the Forgotten Realms based on the Dragon #343 version.  The Piazza also has a Malfera and there is another 5th edition version.

Here is the version from the Piazza linked above. They make it a large monstrosity, but they don't give it the extra-planar tag.
And there may be a Malfera / Maelephant connection.  I am going to say related creatures from the same plane. Given that maybe there is a larger creature, a Masdaemon.  sure, Why not. 
Actually, it is close to an idea I was playing with back when I was writing Ghosts of Albion. 

Hellephant
FREQUENCY:  Very Rare
NO.  APPEARING:  1-2 (4-9)
ARMOR CLASS: 0
MOVE:  18"/36", special stampede 24"/48"
HIT DICE:  12+36 (90 hp)
%  IN  LAIR:  95%
TREASURE  TYPE:  Nil, Special
NO.  OF  ATTACKS:  2 + 2 special
DAMAGE/ATTACK:  2-24 (2d12) trample, 2-12 (2d6) gore, 4-48 (4d12) swallow
SPECIAL  ATTACKS:  Breath Weapon, Swallow whole
SPECIAL  DEFENSES:  +2  or  better weapon to hit
MAGIC  RESISTANCE:  10%
INTELLIGENCE:  Animal (savage)
ALIGNMENT:  Chaotic  Evil
SIZE:  L  (20' tall)
PSIONIC ABILITY:  Nil, immune to Psionic attacks

Deep in the pits of the abyss roams the monstrous Hellephant.  Believed to be related to both the Malfera and the Maelephant, these creatures are roaming, ever-hungry nightmares. 
They appear to be Mastodons, only twice as large. Their fur appears to be black, but in truth soaked in blood. Their tusks come out from their bottom jaw and curve downward.  This allows them too run their prey down and scoop them up into their terrible maw.  The hellephant is a voracious carnivore and their preferred prey is anything warmblood that will run from them. Their attacks are a trample or a gore. On a successful gore hit the victim must make a saving throw vs. Paralyze or be scooped into the hellwphant's maw.  Once there they are bitten by the monster's rough teeth, still in the shape of the teeth of a plant-eater, and then they are swallowed whole.  The digestive acid causes 4d12 points of damage per round. Resistance to acid attacks can reduce this to half.  The hellephant's digestive system though is not adapted to eating meat so living creatures are exited out in the way of all digested food in 1d4 rounds. The expelled victim, if still alive need to make another save vs. paralysis in order to get up and move out of the way.  The Hellephant, still ravenous, returns to scoop up any victims that are too slow to move and the eating and digestion process begins again.
If a group of 6 or more Hellephants are present they may stampede.  They will run in one direction for several minutes causing maximum trample damage. They will not return to eat any victims left behind.
Hellephants have no treasure, but their ivory is prized through-out the multiverse and is, pound for pound, 10x the price terrestrial elephant ivory. 

Tabi
These small, winged-ape like creatures are chaotic.  They are somewhere between an imp and a flying monkey. 

There are a lot of Chaotic Evil monsters in Post-BECMI Mystara that have appeared that would make good demons.   I think these are the most likely candidates. 
I also think, given the mythos of the world and the roots of it, that demons are fine, but devils (as defined by AD&D 1st Edition) are not.   But hey, that is only for my games.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

OMG: Special Edition The Goddess of Magic

I want to get back to my One Man's God series, but before I do I want to take look at the various Goddess of Magic.

Hecate by Iren Horrors
One thing myths seem to have in common, at least the handful I have covered to date, is a Goddess of Magic.  These goddesses, while different in many respects and aspects, share something in common.  They have learned the secrets of magic and these secrets seem to be something only goddess are meant to know.

Here are a few an how I see them through the lens of a Goddess of the Witches.

Ereshkigal
The world's first goth-girl.  I talked a lot about her during my wrap-up of the Babylonian, Sumerian, and Akkadian myths.  She is the goddess of the underworld and the magic associated with that. Ereshkigal is often considered to be the dark half of her sister Innana/Ishtar.

Isis
Isis is the earliest Goddess of Magic of Egypt.
With Osiris and Horus (the divine child) they make up a Holy Trinity. She is the Goddess of marriage, motherhood, fertility, magic, healing, reincarnation, and divination, to name but a few. Isis is the patroness of priestesses. One myth has Isis poisoning the Sun God Ra, offering to save him only if he would reveal his secret name. At last, at the brink of destruction, Ra gives Isis his heart, with the secret name it held, and his two eyes (the Sun and the Moon).  Isis quells the poison and ends up with Ra’s supreme power. In time the great Eye was passed along to her son Horus.  Proclus mentions a statue of her which bore the inscription “I am that which is, has been and shall be. My veil no one has lifted”. Hence, to lift the veil of Isis is to pierce the heart of a great mystery.

Hecate
Hecate got her own OMG post a while back.
Hecate is, in Greek mythology, the Goddess of darkness, magic, and witchcraft.  She is the daughter of the Titans Perses and Asteria. Unlike Artemis, who represented the moonlight and splendor of the night, Hecate represented its darkness and its terrors. On moonless nights she was believed to roam the earth with a pack of ghostly, howling dogs. She was the Goddess of sorcery and witchcraft and was especially worshiped by magicians and witches, who sacrificed black lambs and black dogs to her. As Goddess of the crossroads, Hecate and her pack of dogs were believed to haunt these remote spots, which seemed evil and ghostly places to travelers. In art Hecate is often represented with either three bodies or three heads and with serpents entwined about her neck.
Of all the deities who have covens, Hecate’s covens are the most widespread and well known. Hecate was once a fairly benign goddess in early Greek times. She later became the dread Greco-Roman Goddess of ghosts, a close confidante of Persephone, and a patron of witches. The brutally wronged Hecuba of Troy was reincarnated as one of Hecate’s black dogs, which accompanied her on her night walks. When Hades kidnapped Persephone in the later Greek myth, farseeing Hecate was the only one who witnessed it. Hecate was worshiped at three-way crossroads at night even by ordinary Greek families and could ward off ghosts if properly propitiated. But Romans also believed She had more sinister worshipers; the witches and sorceresses who could coerce even the gods to do their will.

Freyja
Freyja is associated with magic, but mostly with seiðr. What is seiðr? Well, it is a bit of an odd translation but it usually refers to a pre-Christian pagan form of magic.  Today we would shorthand it and call it "witchcraft" but that is not exactly right.
I hope to cover her more when I finally get to Norse myths.

Ceridwen
Celtic Goddess of wisdom, intelligence, magic, divination, and enchantment. She is the Goddess of the cauldron. Popular among the Celtic Classical and Craft of the Wise Traditions.
Cerridwen’s cauldron has the power to return the dead to life.

Áine
Another  Celtic Goddess is the Irish goddess Áine.  She is also the Goddess of Summer.
I want to get back to Celtic myths soon.

Coyolxāuhqui
I forgot to mention Coyolxāuhqui last week when I did Central American myths.  She is the sister of Huitzilopochtli (the God of War in the D&DG).  She is most often depicted as the Goddess of the Moon when she was beheaded by her brother and he tossed her head into the sky.

Huitaca
Also known as Xubchasgagua she is the Goddess of arts, dance and music, witchcraft, sexual liberation, and the Moon. That is quite the portfolio.  Like many Goddesses, she is associated with the owl as her animal.  She is described as a "rebel Goddess." She is really the archetypical witch.
She is associated with the religion of the Muisca which is now Columbia in South America.

From D&D

Wee Jas
Wee Jas also got her own post a while back.  Wee Jas is what Hecate would be if she were a Suel god. Or more to the point the D&D version of Hecate, the Goddess of Magic, Witches, Ghosts, Necromancy and the Crossroads.   It is said that Wee Jas guards the doorways to the dead and the same is true for Hecate.  In fact, I have used them rather interchangeably for years.

I think for my own version of Wee Jas, I would start with the Dragon 88 version, add a little bit of what we saw in D&D 3.x, and then change her "Death" portfolio to "Spirits" ("Wee Jas" = "Ouija").  She can summon undead, and her priests may do so as well, but no raise dead spells.  I rather liked the Raven Queen from D&D 4 and 5, so pass off Wee Jas' control of Death (save for spirits) to the Raven Queen.  Since the Raven Queen is described as a young or new Goddess, it could even be that she is the daughter of Wee Jas.  Ioun was one of Wee Jas' first students.

Mystra
Mystra is the Forgotten Realms Goddess of Magic.  I have not talked much about her here because my knowledge of the Realms is limited.  But I have always wanted to explore the Mystra-Mystara connection.  Is there one? Likely not, but there should be at least in my games!

I am sure there are more, lots more even, but this is good for now.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

OMG: Central American Mythos

One Man's God: Central American Mythos

I return to One Man's God today with one of my favorite groups of Mythos, and the one that is the most problematic in terms of dealing with real-world history and myths.


Central American Mythos is a catch-all section that includes gods and monsters from a variety of societies and times.

Olmec: 1500 BCE to about 400 BCE, Mexico
Maya: 2000 BCE to 1697 CE, southeastern Mexico (Yucatan), all of Guatemala and Belize, and the western portions of Honduras and El Salvador.
Mezcala: 700 BCE to 650 CE, Central Mexico.
Zapotec: 700 BCE to 1521 CE, Central/South Central Mexico.
Toltec:  900 CE to 1168 CE, Central Mexico. (and there is still debate on this)
Aztec: 1300 CE to 1521 CE, Central Mexico.

While these people and civilizations overlapped and had influences on each other, there are a number of distinct differences.


Another issue to deal with here is the nature of demons and the gods of these myths.  In a very real sense, these myths are the epitome of "One Man's God is Another Man's Demon."

Even according to scholars it is difficult to tell what is a demon and what is a god.  From the outsider's point of view, many of the Aztec and Mayan gods can be considered "Demonic" and were certainly called that by the Catholic Priests that would come to these lands from Spain (predominantly).

A good example are the Aztec Tzitzimitl, or demons (or gods) from the stars.  They were thought to have been the demons that attack the sun during a solar eclipse and also been the gods that protected to place where humans were created.

Tzitzimitl
Undead Demon
FREQUENCY:  Very Rare
NO.  APPEARING:  1-6
ARMOR CLASS: 3
MOVE:  12" Fly 24"
HIT DICE:  9+9 (50 hp)
%  IN  LAIR:  10%
TREASURE  TYPE:  Nil
NO.  OF  ATTACKS:  3 or 1
DAMAGE/ATTACK:  1-6 (claw)/1-6 (claw)/2-12 (bite) or bone club (1-10) + Special
SPECIAL  ATTACKS: Cause Darkness
SPECIAL  DEFENSES:  +1  or  better weapon to hit; double damage from sunlight
MAGIC  RESISTANCE:  25%
INTELLIGENCE:  Average
ALIGNMENT:  Chaotic  Evil
SIZE:  L  (9')
PSIONIC ABILITY:  Nil

Tzitzimitl are the demonic spirits of women who have died in child-birth or stillborn babies.  They appear as giant skeletal women wearing skirts decorated with the skulls and bones of their enemies. Around their necks, they wear the still-beating hearts of these enemies.  They are charged with protecting the lands where humans were created and thus they are invoked by a Curandero when a woman is giving birth.  They protect the mother and the child but demand that the ones that die be turned over to them.
They have been known to attack the sun during eclipses and this the time when they manifest in the Prime Plane. 
They attack with a claw-claw-bite routine or with a legbone from a defeated enemy.  On any successful hit with this leg bone, the victim must save vs. Paralysis or be blinded.
These creatures are semi-undead and can be turned by a cleric as Special.

One god in the book that works very well as a demon is Camazotz, the God of Bats.
His name means "Death Bat" and as I have pointed out before he could be a God, a demon or even a very, very powerful vampire.  In the Popol Vuh his description is very much demon-like.

Demon Lord, Camazotz
The Death Bat, Bat God, Sudden Bloodletter, Slaughter Lord 
FREQUENCY:  Unique
NO.  APPEARING:  1
ARMOR CLASS: -2
MOVE:  12" Fly 24" (infinite at night)
HIT DICE:  24+24 (132 hp)
%  IN  LAIR:  10%
TREASURE  TYPE:  Qx10
NO.  OF  ATTACKS:  3
DAMAGE/ATTACK:  1-8 (claw)/1-8 (claw)/1-12 (bite) + Special, Blood Drain 3 Points of Con
SPECIAL  ATTACKS: Cause Darkness, See in Darkness
SPECIAL  DEFENSES:  +2  or  better weapon to hit; see below
MAGIC  RESISTANCE:  50%
INTELLIGENCE:  Genius
ALIGNMENT:  Chaotic  Evil
SIZE:  L  (15')
PSIONIC ABILITY:  Nil

Camazotz is the demon god of bats and vampires. But he is not truly a god or a demon or a vampire but something that is thousands of years old and akin to all three.  Vampires pay him homage more out of fear than actual piety. Humans on the other hand worship and hope that he will reward them with the gift of immortality (vampirism).  He requires blood sacrifices every new moon.  Camazotz himself goes through periods of extreme torpor and frenzied blood lust.

Camazotz dreams of one day destroying the god of the sun.

Camazotz attacks as a vampire with a claw/claw/bite routine of 1d8/1d18/1d12.  His bite (any natural roll of 18, 19 or 20) will drain 3 points of Constitution per round.  Anyone reduced to 0 becomes a vampire under his control.

He can see perfectly well in even the most complete of darkness, magical or mundane. He can also cause darkness as per the spell to 100’.  In darkness his AC is reduced to -4 and +4 or better weapons are needed to strike him.

He lives in a dark cave-like plane know as Xibalba on the Abyss where he serves as a vassal to Orcus. Again this is not out of fidelity but out of fear of the Demon Prince of Undead.  The cave is dark and the floors are stained with blood.  In this cave, Camazotz can summon up to 1000 bats to do his will.

Camazozt appears as a giant bat whose mouth is filled with bloody fangs.  He can also appear as an old man or a young warrior with bat wings.

He also makes a great demon lord to the Nabassu demons from Monster Manual II.

Tlazōlteōtl
This goddess is listed as the Goddess of Vice in the book.  She is also a "sin-eater" or someone that takes on the sins of others.   Among other things she is also the Goddess of Healing, Midwifery, Childbirth and the Goddess of Sweeping and Brooms.

Sounds like a perfect witch goddess to me!

What is Missing?

As to be expected with several lands, cultures, and 3,000 years of history, a few things are missing from the pages of the Deities and Demigods.

For example Dwarves. Dwarves in earlier Olmec culture and then in later Aztec culture are considered to be "touched by the gods" or the offspring of "witches."

Werejaguars are also an important creature with many warriors having the ability to become jaguars in battle.

Werejaguars
FREQUENCY:  Rare
NO.  APPEARING:  1-4
ARMOR CLASS: 3
MOVE:  12"
HIT DICE:  6+12 (39 hp)
%  IN  LAIR:  50%
TREASURE  TYPE:  Nil
NO.  OF  ATTACKS:  3
DAMAGE/ATTACK:  1-4 (claw)/1-4 (claw)/1-6 (bite) + Special
SPECIAL  ATTACKS: Lycanthropic curse, see below
SPECIAL  DEFENSES:  Obsidian or +1  or  better weapon to hit
MAGIC  RESISTANCE:  0%
INTELLIGENCE:  Average
ALIGNMENT:  Neutral Evil
SIZE:  M  (6')
PSIONIC ABILITY:  Nil

Werejaguars are often found in tropical cities and ancient jungle ruins, but will appear in more temperate climates as well. These lycanthropes can assume the form of a jaguar, a human, or a bipedal, jaguar-like hybrid of the two forms.
Lycanthropy: If a victim is reduced to half total HP will become a werejaguar on next new moon.
Werejaguars can only be hit by obsidian weapons or by magic.

But the biggest miss, in my opinion, is the God Seven Macaw.

Vucub Caquix, or Seven Macaw, as a trickster demi-god and thus has the best chances of interacting with the characters.  Like many tricksters, he is chaotic, and also in this case evil.  He is associated with the Hero Twins Hunahpu and Xbalanque.  He tricks them into thinking he is the God of the Sun, Moon, and Corn.  They respond by killing him and becoming the gods of the Sun and Moon themselves while their father also becomes the new Corn God.  But like all good tricksters, he comes back.

I don't fault the authors and editors of the D&DG for missing certain aspects of these myths or getting them "wrong."  While researching this I was reading that new translations going on in the 1980s and into the 1990s changed how we now view these stories.  And again, with 3,000 years of myths told and retold across seven or more civilizations there would be more to put in than the book could allow.

There is a lot more I could go about here, but one of my goals is to contain myself to the entries in the book and only add when needed.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

OMG: Indian Mythos

One Man's God: Indian Mythos

It's 2020 and welcome back to my series One Man's God (OMG).  I look at the various gods, monsters and everything in between and see how well they could (or would or would not) fit into the AD&D 1st Monster Manual as demons.

Before I jump back in a few introductory notes.
I use the word "demon" a lot.  By this I don't usually mean the Christian meaning of the term, but rather the much more generic meaning as a usually evil spiritual creature.  This is important here since I am going to jump feet first into the Indian myths and they have a lot of demons, and many are called demons too.

I am also limiting myself to AD&D 1st edition here.  While I do draw from other editions and games, it is AD&D 1st ed I am most interested in.   How do these creatures and monsters fit the AD&D (not Earth's) cosmology?



So in preparation for this, I grabbed my copy of the Ramayana to help me out.  Though the focus here is not on the myths and stories themselves but rather on how the Deities & Demigods presents them.

It would be difficult, if not impossible, to collect all the myths and stories of India collate them, sort them and then put them into a gamebook and have them make sense.  Indian myths, like and maybe more so than other mythologies in the D&DG, are far too dense and scattered over time to fit the needs of a book publisher with a handful of pages to spare.  So I am not going to fault the creative choices made by the authors and editors here.  The authors acknowledge this in their first sentence of text for these myths.   So the list of gods, goddesses and creatures here combine Hindu, Buddist, Shakta, Jainism, and other beliefs.  Much like India itself.

Indian mythology is ancient, with Hindu texts going back to at least 1500 BCE.  I remember reading the Rig Veda in college and the Ramayan a while back.  What struck me then and again now is how much color and vibrancy there is to these tales.  I could go on and on, but that is not focus here.

In the Indian Myths as presented in the D&DG there are many gods and goddesses that look monstrous but are not.  This will be a classic example of not judging someone by their looks.

Kali
Kali might be one of the more recognizable personas from the Indian mythos.  She gained notable status soon after the D&DG came out thanks to the Indiana Jones and Temple of Doom movie.  But Kali is much, much more complicated than that. Kali is needed and required in Hindu mythology she is the one who dances with Shiva to destroy and then rebuild, the world.  Here name means "Time" and thus is a complicated character. 
In the D&DG she is reduced to just a goddess that can instill fear in demons and devils. She should be more.

Rakshasa
The rakshasa from the MM (and every Monster Manual hereafter) is often described as a demon.  Throughout D&D's history they have been consistently Lawful Evil. They are featured in many of the ancient tales, and in the Ramayana in particular.  Originally I wanted to re-classify them as Chaotic Evil, but after rereading the Ramayana I think I'll stick with Lawful Evil, with some odd individuals as Lawful Neutral or even Lawful Good.  Even in some tales Shurpanakha, the demonic sister of Ravana, the rakshasa king of Lanka, becomes so good that her beauty comes back to her.

Vitra and Susna
Both of these creatures are described as "dragons", "serpents" or "snakes" and often as a demon of drought.  They are typically blocking rivers or damming up waters and Indra has to fight them.

In this case, he could be related to any number of world-threatening serpents such as Apep or even Azi-Dahaka.  I honestly could use the same stats for it as I did for Apep.  Or in his "human" form that of a Balor.



A bestiary of all the monsters and demons from India would fill their own book.  It would be a fun book too!

Though if I were to do such a thing I'd rather do it for Ghosts of Albion and set it in the early Victorian Age.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

OMG: Cthulhu Mythos

I am fresh off of Gen Con 2019 where I got the chance to play a lot of Cthulhu; Call of Cthulhu and Cthulhu Tech. We even checked out Cthulhu Wars.  I figure it is a good time to talk about the Cthulhu Mythos as they appear in the Deities & Demigods.


Of course, there are a few points that need to be cleared up.  Or rather, should be clear already.

There is a lot of talk about how TSR didn't have the rights to the Cthulhu myths and that Chaosium threatened lawsuits.

Well, here are the words right from the author, Jim Ward.


Ok that out of the way. Let's talk about the mythos in D&D.

It is not an exaggeration to say that for many gamers their first exposure to the Cthulhu mythos were the entries in the Deities & Demigods, published in 1980.  The Call of Cthulhu RPG came out in 1981.  Zenopus Archives has a nice rundown of what was going in D&D and TSR at the time.

One of the main purposes of One Man's God is to fit the gods and monsters into the likes of AD&D style demons.  It would be easy to do this with the various Cthulhu monsters.

I absolutely do not plan to do this.

The biggest thing about the Cthulhu mythos and Lovecraft's purpose is diametrically opposed to this. "This" meaning to lump the Cthulhu Mythos into the likes of demons, devils, werewolves, and vampires. 

In fact, D&D would later change to accommodate the Mythos with the addition of the Far Realm.

The Far Realm was introduced in the pages of the 2nd Edtion adventure The Gates of Firestorm Peak and later expanded in 3rd Edition's Manual of the Planes.  It is a bit of a Lovecraftian pastiche, but it still works nicely. It was expanded even more under 4th Edition where it became part of the core cosmology and in-game history.

Outside of the Deities & Demigods and the books mentioned above, Cthulhu and Friends would go on to make more appearances in D&D.

If 3rd Edition is still your jam, then you have the Call of Cthulhu d20 rules, the Pathfinder Bestiary 4 for monster stats, and Sandy Petersen's Cthulhu Mythos - Pathfinder, plus the aforementioned Manual of the Planes.

For the OSR crowd, we have Realms of Crawling Chaos and Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea

This only a fraction of the 2300+ entries on DriveThruRPG and even more elsewhere.



Of Gods and Monsters
Back to the present discourse, what does the D&DG have for us in terms of Cthulhu mythos?

In D&D terms we have our Gods: Cthulhu, Azathoth, Cthuga, Hastur, Ithaqua, Nyarlathotep, Shub-Niggurath, and Yog-Sothoth. All of these gods are "Greater Gods" with the maximum 400 hp, save for Nyarlathotep who is a "Lesser God" at 200 hp and Ithaqua a "Demigod" at 250 hp.

The monsters include Byakhee, Cthuga's Flame Creature, Deep Ones, the Great Race, Mi-Go, Primordial Ones, and Shoggoths.

Most of these are not even what we could, or should, consider demonic.  Sure they are monstrous and even some are evil, but mostly they are another kind of life that is not really interested in humans.

With that, we will leave the Cthulhu myths and head on to other gods.

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.
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