Showing posts with label RPG Blog Carnival. Show all posts
Showing posts with label RPG Blog Carnival. Show all posts

Saturday, April 20, 2024

#AtoZChallenge2024: R is for Ravenloft

 This has been a favorite feature of my A to Z posts over the years, with two of my earliest A to Z posts covering the same topic.

One would think I didn't have any more to say, but those are just two of 56 posts I have here about Ravenloft (soon to be 57). But yet here I am with more to say.

What is Ravenloft?

Ravenloft was originally an adventure for First Edition AD&D, released back in 1983, and written by Tracy and Laura Hickman's husband and wife team. It was part of the "I" or intermediate series of adventures. Most of these were not linked and only shared that they were higher level than beginning adventures. Ravenloft, given the code I6, was for character levels 5 to 7. 

Ravenloft was a huge change from many of the adventures TSR had published to that date. For starters the adventure featured an antagonist, Count Strahd von Zarovich, who was no mere monster. Yes he was an AD&D Vampire, but he was meant to be run as an intelligent Non-player Character.  Prior to this the vampires have been the unnamed Vampire Queen of the Palace of the Vampire Queen, Drelnza the vampire daughter of Iggwilv in The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, and Belgos the Drow Vampire in Vault of the Drow. By 1983 the amount written on all three of these vampires would not even be as long as this post will be. Strahd was different.

Strahd had a backstory, he had motivation, and he was intelligent and ruthless. Destroying him was the goal and that was not an easy feat by any stretch of the imagination.

The adventure also introduced some new elements as well. The dungeon crawl was gone, replaced by a huge gothic castle and a nearby village. The adventure could be replayed ab unique given the "Fortunes of Ravenloft" mechanic that allows key items, people, and motives to change based on a fortune card reading.

And there were the iso-morphic, 3D looking maps, that helped give perspective to many levels of Castle Ravenloft. 

The adventure was an immediate and resounding hit. This adventure, along with the Dragonlance Adventures also by Tracy Hickman (and Margaret Weis) led to something many old-school gamers call "The Hickman Revolution" and claim it marks the time between the Golden Age and Silver Age of AD&D, with the Silver age coming after 1983. While yes there was a change, a lot of it was for the better.

For me, it was a dream come true. Vampires had always been my favorite creatures to fight in D&D, and I was an avid Dracula fan. I bought this adventure and then threw it at my DM, saying, "Run this!" 

I grew up on a steady stream of Universal Monsters, Hammer Horror, and Dark Shadows. That's my Appendix N. So, an adventure set in pretty much the Hammer Hamlet where I get strange locals and have to fight a vampire? Yeah, that is what D&D was to me.

I find that the people who don't like this adventure don't see what makes it great. This is not Lord of the Rings, Conan, or some other Appendix N pulp fantasy. This is Hammer Horror. Strahd has to be played with a combination of charisma, scene-chewing villainy, and absolute brutality. In other words, it is exactly like Christopher Lee playing Dracula.  Even the nearby village is filled with terrified, but the pitchfork in the ready village is a Hammer Hamlet

Ravenloft three different printings
Original, 25th Anniversary Edition, Print on Demand Edition

I even got my original module from 1983 signed by Tracy Hickman.

This adventure was so popular that it spawned a sequel, Ravenloft House on Gryphon Hill and an entire campaign setting.

Ravenloft: The Setting

I mention that in college, I played AD&D 2nd Edition. The biggest selling point of AD&D 2nd ed was the campaign settings. There were a lot of them. Too many. But my favorite was Ravenloft. They took the events of the 1983 adventure and built an entire world around it with people, magic and lots of horror monsters. It was Gothic horror, to start with, but soon expanded into other realms of horror using the AD&D 2nd Ed rules. Not always a perfect fit, but I made it work.

It even expanded it to Earth in Ravenloft: Masque of the Red Death

It has been so popular that it is one of the few settings to see publication across all five major editions of D&D.  4th Edition made some changes, as did 5th Edition. But that is all within the same vein (so to speak) as all Horror movies, and Dracula in particular, get reinterpreted to fit the times better. Horror is always about what people in the here and now are concerned with. Ravenloft follows suit.

Ravenloft across the editions

Ravenloft has been listed as one of the greatest adventures of all time and Strahd as one of the greatest D&D villains ever. 

I have run this adventure many times under many different rulesets, and it has been a blast every time. 

Even if I am not playing D&D, I return to this adventure and this setting. 

Tomorrow is Sunday, so a break from A to Z, but not my posting. I will cover Dungeons 7 Dragons 4th Edition.

The A to Z of Dungeons & Dragons: Celebrating 50 years of D&D.

This is also my next entry of the month for the RPG Blog Carnival, hosted by Codex Anathema on Favorite Settings.

RPG Blog Carnival

Friday, April 12, 2024

#AtoZChallenge2024: K is for the Known World

 Today I am going to talk about the Known World, or the campaign setting implied in Basic D&D.

the Known World

When the D&D Expert Set was introduced, it included a two-page map of part of a continent. This was described as "The Known World," and that was good enough for us back then. A lot of strange cultures were crammed into an area about the size of the North Eastern portion of North America. But hey, it was D&D, and we thought it was great. It was certainly enough for me. In fact my characters rarely left this area. There was plenty to adventure here.

At the time, I did not know the work already done here and where this world would go in the next few years.

The Schick-Moldvay Known World

Before working on the D&D Basic Set, Tom Moldvay had a game with future D&D heavyweight Lawrence Schick. In their games they had a campaign world they were calling "The Known World."

A while back, Lawerence Schick posted "The “Known World” D&D Setting: A Secret History" over at the Black Gate site.  A nice history of how he and Tom Moldvay came up with the Known World for their own games and then ported it over to D&D Basic/Expert.  It is a fascinating read if, like me, you are a fan of the Mystara world and/or of maps in general.

James Mishler (who also did the Mystoerth map) takes this one further and provides the above map for the Moldvay/Schick known world.

It is interesting how so many familiar names and even locations exist in different places. It is like looking at a world you know but through some sort of distorted lens. What is also quite interesting to me are the new lands—places, and names that are entirely new to me.

The Known World
The Known World Replica Map by James Mishler

There is so much here I can use and honestly I have yet to grow tired of exploring this map. BUT it is not the map we ended up with. No once the Known World left the hands of Moldvay and Schick it became a different world.  That world would eventually be called URT! (ok and then Msytara).

The Known World of Urt Mystara

Spend any time here, and you will know that the Known World of the Basic/Expert Sets (B/X) was the first world I played in.  While I would move on to AD&D and Oerth, the Known World would also move to Mystara.  It would be the world introduced to us in the Companion Set and expanded on the Gazeteer Series, the D&D Rules Cyclopedia, and even into the 2nd Edition age and beyond.

But it was in the Companion and Master Sets that Mystara got its start.

The B/X Known World only occupies the East-most lower gray box, this is the same as the very first map on the top of this page.   The BECMI World, Mystara, is going to be bigger.  Even this is just the continent of Brun.

I am not sure who came up with the idea for Mystara to look the way it does but there are some obvious parallels.

From the Master DM's Book,

Here is Mystara, courtesy of

If it looks familiar, there is a good reason.

That is the Late Jurassic, the early Cretaceous period of the Earth, 150+ Million Years Ago.

Long-time readers here already know of the Paleomap Map project of Earth History.  It has many maps of the different stages of Earth history and potential future maps.  I will admit when I first saw maps of the really old Earth it was disquieting to me.  I love maps, and throughout all of human history, the Earth has been the same. Not so throughout ALL history and prehistory.

It's also kind of cool to see where the places of Mystara will line up to our world.

Mystara and the Lands Beneath the Waves by Grimklok

At first, the Known World was known by Urt or even Urth by Frank Mentzer and was designed to be similar to Gary's Oerth of the AD&D game. We also learn in the Immortals Set that Urt did not look like Earth 150 MYA it WAS Earth at that time. 

Though I think (and I have nothing to support this) that the "Urt" version of the Known World was scrapped after Frank Mentzer left TSR. His good friend Gary had already been ousted. It seems like Urt was a casualty of that regime change. So "Urt" was out, and "Mystara" was in. 


The Known World of Mystara was later expanded and given more detail in the wonderful Gazetteer Series, Hollow World Series, and Challenger Series.

While delving into everything Mystara would take me another month or another year, there is still a vibrant and active community on the web to support this world.  In fact, I would say it is far more active than most other worlds. Starting in the early days of the MPGN listserve lists run by TSR. The MYSTARA-L listserve was active back in the days when my access to the Internet was via a mainframe.  Many of the same people on those lists then are still active in the various Facebook groups and websites today.


For me, I always had a soft spot in my heart for Mystara. It was the world of my Basic era days, and when I moved on to AD&D, I still kept the world as "my own."  It was understood that when I was a player, it was in Greyhawk/Oerth, but when I was a DM, it was in the Known World/Mystara.  Eventually, right before college, we merged our worlds into one. I got the western half, and my DM got the eastern half.  

So you know, I was thrilled when I found the James Mischler/Chatdemon Mystoerth map.  The worlds share a lot of details in common, so a merge was inevitable. I no longer have the original map my then DM made, but this one is a better rendition anyway.

Click for larger

This appears to be the original map. While researching this, I found an old post by Rich/Chatdemon that offers an alternate name: Oerstara. I kind of like that. A lot. It sounds like Ostara, the pagan holiday from which Easter comes. Oestara could have been an alternate name for the planet, like Earth and Terra.

Regardless of which version of the Known World I would use there is more than enough in any of them to last me another lifetime of gaming and exploration.

Isn't that what it is all about?

Tomorrow is L, and I will talk about Larian Studios and Baldur's Gate 3

The A to Z of Dungeons & Dragons: Celebrating 50 years of D&D.

This is also my next entry of the month for the RPG Blog Carnival, hosted by Codex Anathema on Favorite Settings.

RPG Blog Carnival

Saturday, April 6, 2024

#AtoZChallenge2024: F is for the Forgotten Realms

 This one might feel like a bit of a recycle; I have been talking about the Forgotten Realms all year long so far and will keep at it. But today is different, I think.

My collection of Forgotten Realms books

For people new to D&D and my blog, the Forgotten Realms is a campaign setting, a world filled with people, creatures, gods, and history for use with the Dungeons & Dragons game. It was created as a world to tell stories in by Ed Greenwood. It was first published for the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition game system back in 1987. I reviewed that set earlier this year. Now I was playing D&D when this game came out; I was about ready to enter my second decade of playing, so I was not a newbie. But I felt the Forgotten Realms was the "Johnny come lately" of D&D, and I really wanted no part of it. 

That was a mistake on my part.

Well...I mean at the time I going to University, my funds were limited and soon I would be HARDCORE in another campaign setting, Ravenloft. I will talk a bit about the Campaign settings for AD&D tomorrow and about Ravenloft on R day. 

So, going back a few A to Z Challenges (2016), I posted about how I was changing my mind about the Forgotten Realms. It actually began back in the 3rd Edition days, and solidified to me in 4th Ed days. Now, in the later days of 5th Edition, I find myself drawn to it more. And I have REALLY had a great time with it. 

The Realms are wildly popular. There is over 35 years of RPG publications, hundreds of books with many as New York Times best sellers, a few dozen or so video games including the amazing Baldur's Gate 3, comics, an actual play podcast (I am sure there are more), and yes the most recent Dungeons & Dragons movie.

I freely admit, I was gearing up for a big push into the Forgotten Realms anyway, but it was Baldur's Gate 3 that really pushed me over. 

Me and the Realms

My regular readers know I have a campaign world that I really love, Mystoerth, which combines aspects of two other published campaign worlds Mystara (published with Basic D&D) and Oerth, the World of Greyhawk (designed for Advanced D&D). These two worlds were smooshed together so my old High School DM and I could have one world. This suited me well for a very long time. 

But there is something to be said about living in a shared world. You can talk to others about adventures in a place, and they have their own stories. It makes the world alive in a way I can't really do with my Mystoerth. 

These blog pages document my attitude shift towards the Realms fairly well. However, they don't really capture how much I disliked them initially, especially in the 1990s. 

I was never a fan of Forgotten Realms. I dismissed it in the 1980s as an "upstart," ignored it in the early 1990s, and actively disliked it in the late 1990s. But it seems my ire was misplaced. Around the time the 3rd Edition Realms book came out, I was beginning to soften my stance. By the 4th Ed era, I considered moving a campaign to the Realms. In the 5th Ed era, I made it official, more or less.

It was my coverage of Ed Greenwood's work in Dragon magazine that changed my mind. 

To this end, I have amassed a small collection of Forgotten Realms books—nothing special, just ones that I have easily come by either at game auctions, Half-Price Books, or, as in the books pictured above, Print on Demand from DriveThruRPG. So, I have been going through them in detail throughout the editions.

The Forgotten Realms to me was always viewed through the eyes of a character, whether that was Elminster or Drizzt or whomever. Likewise, I am going to look into the Realms through the eyes of a new character. So I am opting to also experience the Realms through the eyes of my characters. The one I am starting with is Sinéad. She began as an AD&D 2nd Ed character, moved over to become a very successful Baldur's Gate 3 character, and now she is my "Ego" character for my Realms games.  She even has her own set of dice.

I have some others that I have discussed and there will be more.

So far, this has been nothing short of fantastic. There is not a moment of this new series of posts and these new explorations I do not love. If you are here from the A to Z Blogging Challenge, I recommend coming back to check these out if you want to learn more about the Forgotten Realms. I know a little bit more than you do, so we can all learn together.

Tomorrow is Sunday and normally not a day we post in the A to Z. But I am doing my Sunday Specials again this year and posting about numbers. Tomorrow is AD&D 2nd Edition.

The A to Z of Dungeons & Dragons: Celebrating 50 years of D&D.

This is also my next entry of the month for the RPG Blog Carnival, hosted by Codex Anathema on Favorite Settings.

RPG Blog Carnival

Wednesday, April 3, 2024

#AtoZChallenge2024: C is for Critical Role

 One of the biggest cultural phenomenons to come out of modern D&D has been the success of Critical Role. It was successful because of D&D 5th Edition and, in turn, made D&D 5th Edition more successful.

What is Critical Role

Critical Role Cast
The voice actor players.

It is a streamed "actual play" Dungeons & Dragons 5e (for the most part, more on that) game. Each session is about 4+ hours long (resulting in over 2,000 hours of content) and features a group of voice actors: (top L-R, picture above) Sam Riegel, Taliesin Jaffe, Marisha Ray, Dungeon Master Matt Mercer, and (bottom, L-R) Liam O'Brien, Laura Bailey, Ashley Johnson, and Travis Willingham.

They began just as a group of friends (Travis and Laura were either already married or dating, Matt and Marisha were dating) playing a D&D 4th Edition and then a Pathfinder game.  When D&D 5e came out, they moved over to that. You can even see some rule confusion in the early episodes.

Vox Machina
The characters. Can you match who is who?

They soon became wildly popular. How popular? Well there is an Amazon series based on their first campaign ("Vox Machina"), there are several books about and by the Critical Role team, their Gen Con shows are sold out months in advance, and they also sold out Wembley Arena back in October of 2023. A live event to watch a bunch of friends play D&D, and they sold out a space that had previously seen sold-out shows of the likes of Led Zeppelin, Genesis, David Bowie, Queen, The Who, The Grateful Dead, and more.

While they were not the first online Actual Play D&D streamers, they are the biggest, and they made this into not just their own genre of entertainment, but they have been making an absolute ton of money. 

There are three campaigns featuring different groups of characters. Campaign 1 featured the above characters in Vox Machina. Campaign 2 was their big breakthrough campaign featuring the Mighty Nein. This also introduced Laura Bailey's character, Jester Lavorre, the tiefling that inspired a thousand cosplays

There have also been four published books for the D&D 5e game.

Critical Role books

The cultural phenomena that is Critical Role has not been without some critics. There are those that complain that they are not really gamers. Or that they are not really playing. Or that the "Mercer Effect" has ruined what people expect from D&D.

To those critics, I say, "Do you remember exactly when it was when you let fun die in your life?"

Look. The hobby space that D&D occupies now is not the same as it was in the 1980s. This is a good thing. 

People can watch Critical Role and enjoy it without rolling any dice of their own. They can watch the show and then think, "Hey, this looks fun. I want to try this." They can cosplay Jester, Keyleth, or FCG. They can enjoy the Amazon Prime series.

For me, it is all great fun. I started watching the old streams (still on Campaign 1!), and I enjoy them. They have also given me ideas for my own games. Between Campaign 1 and "Stranger Things," there is a whole new generation of D&D fans out there. Yeah, so sometimes I get 20-year-olds excited to tell me all about Vecna (the BBG in both), but hey, they are excited.

The Future

Critical Role has been a huge money maker...for Critical Role. It should not surprise anyone that the Powers That Be at Hasbro (the current owners of Wizards of the Coast and D&D) wanted in on some of that action. So last year in January, Hasbro/WotC wanted to put out some new guidelines on what various creators can do with D&D material, essentially walking back on 23+ years of access and goodwill.  Well, people naturally were angry.  It was enough that I even stopped using the very permissible Open Gaming License to produce my own works and spent most of 2023 working on solutions. Others did the same. One of those solutions for the Critical Role team was to build their own RPG that they controlled and had all the rights to. It is a very good idea.

They began with an actual play series and a new game called Candella Obscura. It is a quasi-Victorian, horror-themed fantasy game, so you know I am interested! I have not played it yet, but we have the hardcover and it looks fun.  You can try it out for free with their QuickStart Guide

Daggerheart and Candella Obscura

Their newest game is called Daggerheart. It is still being playtested, and I discussed it a while back. Will people leave D&D 5 for it? Well, there is some indication that D&D 5 sales dipped in 2023. Was that because of Wizards of the Coast's series of PR blunders or because D&D 5R (One D&D) is due out at the end of this year, and sales ALWAYS dip after these announcements? Hard to say, but it's likely a combination of both. But in any case I wish Daggerheart and the Critical Role team nothing but the best and hope they are wildly successful.

Even if you don't like Critical Role. The Stream, the Amazon show, their D&D 5e content, or new games, you have to like the attention they have brought to this hobby. Even if only 1/10th of the people drawn into this stick around for other games, that is more than we had before.

Tomorrow, I'll talk about a topic that is very near and dear to the hearts of many gamers. Dice!

The A to Z of Dungeons & Dragons: Celebrating 50 years of D&D.

This is also my first entry of the month for the RPG Blog Carnival, hosted by Codex Anathema on Favorite Settings.

RPG Blog Carnival

Thursday, November 2, 2023

October RPG Blog Carnival Wrap-up

RPG Blog Carnival

 October was my time to host the RPG Blog Carnival. This year my topic was Horrors, Gods, and Monsters. For this, I did a lot of postings about my Black Forest Mythos set of gods and monsters.

I did not get through all my Gods and Monsters so I am going to keep on going.

But there were others that participated as well.

The Ideocron of The Oracular Somnambulist had Spooky Scary Skeletons! with tables to make your skeletons more spooky and interesting.

Codex Anathema always has good stuff. Their entry covered "Horrors, Gods and Monsters" AND they helped me practice my Spanish. ¡Gracias!

Sea of Stars gave us a new monster, the Thornkin.  You know I love new monsters.

Seed of Worlds expands on their petty gods with d8 natures of this quasi-godlike entity. Tables for your OSR (or really any) game.

Stuffed Crocodile, one I have been lurking at for a bit for their Dark Eye content, gives us a new monster, Wiedergänger. This one will be a lot of fun to use!

Finally, we have V Donnut Valley. We get a monster and a god.  Not to mention that they are hosting the November Blog Carnival, Let’s Party! Festivals and ceremonies! I will certainly have to find something for my group of gods here.

I hope you enjoyed all these entries and the ones I did! Looking forward to participating again next year.

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

D&DGII The Black Forest Mythos: Hüter, Lord of the Dead

 I didn't get as many of these done as I wanted, but that is okay, it can extend into November.  Today is Halloween so I thought the Lord of the Dead might be a good choice for today.

The Romans and the Germanic people had different views on their Lords of the Dead. The Roman Pluto was not exactly the same as the Greek Hades. In truth, the Greek Hades was not even the same over time. Pluto is more of a blending of Hades and the god of riches Ploûtos. Conflating things further in the Eleusinian Mysteries, Pluto, or Ploutōn, became the God in charge of the Earth that helped the seeds to grow.

Greeks, and to a degree Romans, would never say the name of Hades/Pluto. Fearing doing so would attract his attention. Contrast this with the Norse and Germanic myths. While there was Hel, the protector of the dead was Odin or Wotan. Odin was held in very high regard and his name (all of them) was used many times.  Somewhere Hüter, my Lord of the Dead, needs to strike this balance.  Balance here seems to be the key.

Hüter, Lord of the dead


Hüter is the dispassionate Lord of the Dead. He is neither good nor is he evil. His role is to make sure the dead stay dead. Therefore undead are blasphemous to him. He controls the underground realm and thus all riches that come from the ground are his.

The Lord Underground does not cause death or control the dead but he does keep the souls of the dead under his care and protection. Prayers to Hüter are made in silence, not in fear of his name but in respect of his silent realm of Hölle. Here in this realm, he rules silently over a silent horde of the dead.  

HÜTER (God of the Dead and Riches)

Greater God

MOVE: 24"
SPECIAL DEFENSES: Aura of Silence 60'

SIZE: M (5' 10")
PLANE: Hölle

CLERIC/DRUID: 20th level Cleric
FIGHTER: 15th level Fighter
MAGIC-USER/ILLUSIONIST: 10th level Illusionist
THIEF/ASSASSIN: 15th level in each
MONK/BARD: 15th level Bard
S: 20 I: 23 W: 24 D: 18 C: 20 CH: 16

Hüter is the Lord of the Dead and Riches. He rules from his dark throne in the center of Hölle. Here he is surrounded by the dead and the riches of the land. He is the protector and guardian of the dead. The dead enter his realm never to leave. He is not their jailer, but their custodian and protector. He allows none to enter who do not belong and none may leave.

He has many names. The Silent One, The Rich One, the Lord of this World, the Last Confessor, the Whispered One, the Dread Lord, the Gray Lord, and many more. It is said that even the Gods themselves fear him. 

The Lord of the Dead prefers not to attack. Anyone who gets into his realm has already passed through Helga (who many believe is his daughter) and Heuler. If they have gotten this far it has been with his permission. If he does he has a sword of black steel that does 4-48 (4d12) hp per hit. He can command one creature per round to die.  Death in Hüter's realm is permanent and once dead they cannot be raised. On his command, he can also impose Silence 60' radius around him.

When communicating with his cleric the Dread Lord speaks in signs and portents that they must translate. Often these are in the form of his chosen animal the Raven. 

Animal: Ravens
Rainment: (Head) crown made of horns (Body) Rich garments of black. Robes of black
Color(s): Black
Holy Days: None
Sacrifices: All the dead are sacrifices to him
Place of Worship: Places of death.


RPG Blog Carnival


That is the final entry for this month for my RPG Blog Carnival.  I have more gods and monsters for these myths and that will continue.

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

D&DGII The Black Forest Mythos: Helga, Goddess of Witches, Ghosts and Magic

Helga is likely one of the Goddesses I have thought about the most. She is the goddess of witches, ghosts, and magic. She is the syncretized goddess of Hecate of the Greek/Roman myths and the Norse Hel and Heiðr, and the Germanic Frau Holt/Holda. This also ties her closely to Mother Goose and Grimm fairy tales.  

Additionally, I have been using her as a character in my Wasted Lands games. This has allowed me to build her up from the ground up; Hecate and Hel are just her "backstory."  So, part of this write-up will be based on the myths and legends and all the rules I have for them AND some in-game ideas I have had.


Helga is interesting one for me since her genesis really predates this project during a time I was working on creating new gods and goddesses for my home campaign. Some of that creation continues on in this project. In particular they formed my ideas on Großvater & Großmutter (originally Ouranus and Gaia in my home campaign). Helga though remains largely intact from that time since she was always a mix of Hecate, Hel, and a bit of Ereshkigal. She was a dark Goddess of Magic, Witchcraft, and Ghosts. I have even kept her name intact.

As this project grew I pulled in more details from previous work I had done, namely writings about Frau Holle and other, older myths that fit under the umbrella of "The Crone" archetype.  Helga is very much the Crone, but she can appear at any age.

HELGA (Goddess of Magic, Ghosts, and Witches )
Intermediate Goddess

MOVE: 18" / 24"
SPECIAL DEFENSES: Aura of Darkness

SIZE: M (5' 6")
ALIGNMENT: Neutral (Evil)
WORSHIPER'S ALIGN: Any (those who use magic, witches, undead)
SYMBOL: Image of the Goddess' face
PLANE: Hölle

CLERIC/DRUID: 20th level in each
MAGIC-USER/ILLUSIONIST: 20th level in each
WITCH/WARLOCK: 20th level Witch
S: 10 I: 22 W: 24 D: 18 C: 18 CH: 20

Helga is the Witch Goddess, the Ghost Queen, and the Crone of the Trinity.  She knows all secrets since they are whispered to her by the dead.  Thus she knows all the secrets of magic. She is the guardian of the crossroads and the gates of Hölle, where the dead reside. 

Helga will often appear as an older woman wearing simple robes of black. Her face is often hidden in shadow so that only part of it can be seen; her mouth or eyes. During the winter months, she will be seen wearing a crown of dried branches and leaves. 

As the goddess of magic and witches, she knows every spell since they are whispered to her by the dead. She can cast two spells per round as she chooses. She casts as a 20th-level spellcaster. She can also command undead to do her bidding as if she were a 20th-level cleric. She can speak to the dead at will.

Helga is the mistress of magic, therefore she is immune to the effects of any spell of third-level or lower. This includes any area of effect spells.  For spells of fourth-level and greater, she has a saving-throwing bonus of +3.  She is also surrounded by an aura of darkness that obscures her features and provides protection. When active, she gains a +4 to saving throws and a +4 bonus to AC. This is in addition to her normal saves. 

Animal: Hounds
Rainment: (Head) circlet of dead leaves and branches (Body) Simple garments of black. Robes of black
Color(s): Black
Holy Days: Samhain, Winter Equinox, Beltane
Sacrifices: Animal sacrifice at the Equinoxes. Animals are burned to ash. Milk left out each night.
Place of Worship: Graveyards and Crossroads.

Her faithful hound is Heuler, the Guardian of the Gates of the Dead.


Heuler ("Howler") is the syncretized guardian of the Underworld ("Hölle"). He combines elements of Cerebus, Hell Hounds, and the various wolves of the Norse/Germanic mythology, in particular Garm.

MOVE: 24" 
HIT DICE: 22+88 (187 hp)
% IN LAIR: 100%
NO. OF ATTACKS: 1 bite, 2 claws
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 4d10 + Poison/Disease, 1d8+4, 1d8+4
SPECIAL DEFENSES: +3 or better weapon to hit
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic Evil
SIZE: L (18' at shoulder)

Heuler is a monstrous wolf-hound hybrid monster that stands 18' tall. His fur is soot black, his eyes burn with hellfire, and his jaws drip with poison. He is tasked with making sure none enter Hölle that do not belong, and none leave once they are inside.

He attacks with his massive jaws biting with 4-40 hp worth of damage. Each bite carries a rotting disease similar to mummy rot. Victims must save vs. Poison or contract this rotting disease. It is treated the same as Mummy Rot. He can also attack with his massive claws for 5-12 hp worth of damage each.

Three times per day, Heuler may howl to summon the dead to aid him. After he howls he will be joined by 3d12 wights who will fight whoever the beast is fighting. These wights will fight till destroyed.

If Heuler is killed then one of his pups will be elevated to the position of the new Guardian of the Gate. 

A Reminder Note About Translations

I have had a few comments from people saying my translations are "off."  While that is true, it is also on purpose. I am not looking for a perfect translation into modern German here. I am looking for something that common folk might have called these (See Rule #2) AND something I would have written in 1985-6 when my only resource was my High School German textbook and dictionaries (See Rule #3). So yeah, there are proper ways to translate these, but that is not what I want to do here.


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Friday, October 20, 2023

D&DGII The Black Forest Mythos: Ides

Continuing my syncretism of the Roman and Norse myths, I wanted something that covered several different concepts. Possibly one of the recognizable beings from Norse mythology are the Valkeries. These warrior women come down from Valhalla and take the honored dead back to Odin's hall to train for the final battle of Ragnarök.  They are central to Wagner's Ring Opera and have even made their way in places like the Marvel movies, Xena, and Charmed. But they are not particularly Roman.

Scandinavian women had far more freedoms than Roman women, who could not even leave their homes unescorted. So how do these fierce women warriors get reclassified in my Black Forest mythology? By combining similar creatures from both Roman and Germanic myths.

One of the first things that struck me when I first read the Deities & Demigods was how similar many creatures were across the myths and times. For example, take the Norse Valkeries and the Finnish Air Maidens.  One of the things I looked into was were they related. Rereading the Kalevala leads me to believe there is a connection, that the Air Maidens were the Valkeries for the Finns and Lapps. I also investigated the notion of the anthropomorphic representations of the various Scandinavian countries, ie Lady of the Mountains (Iceland). Ola Nordmann (Norway), Holger the Dane (Denmark), and Mother Svea (Sweden). This anthropomorphism reminds me of the Genus Loci we also see in Greek and Roman myths. 

Romans had psychopomps, which is the type of gods/goddess the Valkeries were. These include Hermes/Mercury, Charon, and even Hecate. But I have other plans for these sorts of creatures. Instead I want to look to other spirits that exist between the realms of mortals and gods. The Roman Nymphs and the Germanic Idis. 

These creatures are often depicted as lesser Goddesses. Linguistics have tried tying idis/ides to Deus for example with no real success. Nymphs are also depicted as the offspring of some god, goddess, or titan. Ides have also been described as the offspring of or the mothers of the jötunn.

There is just enough blurring of lines here between all of these creatures that they could, through many nights of campfire tales and bedtime stories, to get them to blend into one creature.

The Ides of these myths are Demigoddesses. Their task is to protect and guide heroes under the will of Unser Vater. They combine aspects of the nymphs, Idis, Valkeries and other local female divinities. 

IDES (Demi-Goddess of Protection and War)

MOVE: 18" / 36" (with winged steed)
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 1d8/1d8 (sword)
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Healing touch, Radiance

SIZE: M (5'10")
ALIGNMENT: Lawful Neutral (Good)
SYMBOL: Glowing Sword
PLANE: Erde (Prime Material)

CLERIC/DRUID: 8th Level Cleric
FIGHTER: 10th Level Paladin
S: 15 I:15 W: 16 D: 18 C: 18 CH: 20

Ides appear as warrior women in the peak of health. Looking upon them, they radiate power, strength, and divinity. There is no doubt of their divine lineage. Some sages claim they are the spirits of the brave who died in battle; others say they are the offspring of Jäger or Jägerin. Others still claim they are the spirits of the land, given life and purpose by the humans and gods around them.

The ides are good fighters who can attack twice per round with their long swords. Their radiant aura (which is why men say they are the daughters of Jäger) does damage to undead creatures and constructs at the rate of 1d8 per round to any within 30 ft. 

They are also healers, able to cast spells as an 8th-level cleric and they have the lay on hands abilities. They can heal with a touch for 2d6 hp of damage three (3) times per day. 

Their task is to aid heroes. They can help them in battles or heal them. The hero must enter the area where the ides resides. Each one is tied to a particular area that usually (but not always) is related to some natural feature of the land. So a valley, or the area near a lake. The ides also bring the spirits of the dead back to Himmel. It is rumored that an ides will help a brave warrior three times in their lifetime. When the third time is complete the next time they see the ides will be when they are taken to Himmel. 

They are nominally under the control of Unser Vater, but they can be summoned by the Goddesses Siege and Glücke. Under times of war, they can also be called by Jägerin.

When summoned by Jägerin, they become known as Die Kriegerin, the Goddess of War. At this time they can leave their areas and ride off on winged steeds to join in whatever battle they are needed. 


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Wednesday, October 18, 2023

D&DGII The Black Forest Mythos: Clash of the Titans, Die Hüne

Die Hüne
One of the many features this mythology shares with the Greek, Roman, Norse, and many, many other myths across the world is the idea of the Chaoskampf. This is idea that the gods (representing order) are a younger generation to the Titans or Giants that represent chaos. It is through this battle that order is brought to the universe. It is a deeply held idea and can be found in many mythologies in the world. It even makes it way into various D&D-related products.

I am not here to debate such profound insights. I am here to say how this manifests within my syncretized mythos. 

Die Hüne

Die Hüne are the Titans and the Giants of both myths.  Primordial beings of great power that the gods defeated but still trouble them.  In this myth, the Gods fought Die Hüne and brought order out of chaos. These are not just giants and titans. These creatures are the demons of this mythology.  They are beings of primordial chaos. 

In my mind, they combine giant, elemental, and demon. The Gigantes of Greek myth (not AD&D) were more monstrous creatures.  The jötunn of Norse myth likewise were more demonic. As time passes, these titans and jötunn become more human-looking until we have something like the giants of D&D. 

My goal with Die Hüne is to return to those older, more monstrous giants. Given that this mythology is half-Roman, these people will have been familiar with some of the tales of Goliath, the Anakim, and others from Jewish mythology.  So maybe some of those tales entered into their thinking.

For these monsters I can use my write-ups for the Jötunn and my classifications of Die Hüne from previous posts.

Hüne Vater

Hüne Vater is the father of the current generation of the Gods. He killed his father and was, in turn defeated by his own son. He is the leader of Die Hüne. Before his defeat, he cursed the gods and all humankind with death. In Proto-Indo-European myths, he is the Archdemon.  He sits imprisoned in exile. 

This is a complex figure. He combines aspects of both the Roman Saturn and the Norse Surtr. He is the leader of the Primordial Chaos beings. If anything, he represents the future which is death. Surtr plays an important role in the Norse Ragnarök. Saturn/Chronus is often depicted as an old man with a scythe or sickle, an image that gives us both the anthropomorphized Father Time and Death. This why my Hüne Vater curses gods and mankind alike with old age and death. The gods have their apples to protect them. 

He is a destroyer. He killed his own father (Großvater) and impregnates his mother (Großmutter) to bring about the Hüne and the new generation of gods. He would also have aspects of Satan and Angra Mainyu. He is chaos, fire, and destruction. He wants nothing more than to destroy everything.

Die Hüne
HÜNE VATER (Primordial Titan)
Intermediate God

MOVE: 36"
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 2d10/2d10 
SPECIAL ATTACKS: Aura of the Inferno
SPECIAL DEFENSES: Blinding Defense

SIZE: L (25")
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic Evil
SYMBOL: An open flame
PLANE: Hölle

CLERIC/DRUID: 5th level Druid
FIGHTER: 15th level Fighter (Barbarian)
S: 25 I: 14 W: 15 D: 18 C: 25 CH: 10

Hüne Vater is the father of the Hüne (Titans) and the first generation of Gods. He is chaos incarnate and is the element of fire. He lives only to destroy everything around him. He was defeated by the gods under the leadership of Unser Vater.  He is imprisoned in Hölle where he is guarded by the gods Hüter (Protector of the Dead) and Helga (The Ghost Queen), and a myriad of monsters. 

It is said that Hüne Vater created the sky and the Earth out of his parents, but this was not an intentional act of creation but one that happened due to his own destructive influences. Later Unser Vater would bring order to the universe.

If free from his prison, he can attack with two massive fists. He is surrounded by an aura of flame that can do 2d8 hp of damage to anyone within 60' of him.  Once every three turns, he can also fly into a berserker-like rage and make two additional attacks. 

Hüne Vater is not worshipped in the traditional sense. Berserkers call on him for their murderous rampage. He can be the patron for Chaotic Evil Warlocks. These warlocks are given access to any fire-based druid spell.

Großvater & Großmutter

Großvater and Großmutter are the names given to the quasi-anthropomorphic manifestation of the Father Sky and Mother Earth of the Die Hüne (the Titans/Jötunn).  Großvater was destroyed by his son Vater Hüne to make the night sky. Großmutter never fully recovered from her attack by Vater Hüne and is now still, but not dead. She ceded most of her power to her daughter Mutter Natur.


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Friday, October 13, 2023

D&DGII The Black Forest Mythos: The Divine Twins

 This is really a fabulous October. We have five weekends, a full moon near Halloween, a Friday the Thirteenth (today) AND a total Solar Eclipse in some parts of the country tomorrow.  In celebration of tomorrow's solar/lunar event, I thought it would be good to discuss my God of the Sun and Goddess of the Moon, as well as other Divine Twins.

Jäger and Jägerin

The Divine Twins in the Black Forest Mythos

The motif of the Divine Twins is one that comes up again and again in most religions and myths. Usually they are the children of the main sky God, and they serve complimentary functions. Other twins are heroes who have many adventures with the gods.

Jäger and Jägerin

These gods are my syncretized versions of the Roman Apollo and Diana with the Norse Freyr and Freyja. They are the gods of the Sun and Moon respectively. Their names mean "Hunters" to help stress the importance that hunting, more than war, is to these people. They also see these gods as Nature gods, so sometimes they are depicted with stag horns.  Curious note. The Norse and Germanic peoples of this time measured time in "Nights" not days. So these combined gods are both the stewards of time.

When needed, Jägerin can don the armor of war and gather Die Kriegerin, the Goddesses of war (much like the Valkyries).  They are also the patrons of the arts bringing music and poetry to the people. 

When the moon eclipses the sun, it is said that Jägerin has put up her shield to protect her and her brother in battle. 

JÄGER (God of the Sun, Music, Hunting)
Intermediate God

MOVE: 18" / 36"
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 2d8/2d8/2d8 + Fire

SIZE: M (6' 2")
ALIGNMENT: Neutral Good
WORSHIPER'S ALIGN: All (mostly Good)
SYMBOL: Sun Disc or Bow
PLANE: Himmel

CLERIC/DRUID: 10th Level Druid
FIGHTER: 20th Level Fighter
S: 20 I:18 W: 18 D: 20 C: 20 CH:20

Jäger is the god of the Sun but is not the sun. He rides his chariot across the sky, searching for the best game to hunt. His tales of his hunting prowess are matched only by tales of his amorous exploits. He is married to Liebhaberin, but both gods are free to choose other lovers as they see fit. He is the model of youth in his prime.

As the god of the sun he can cast any light, fire, or sun-based spell as a 10th-level spell caster and spells he can cast as a 10th-level Druid. His main weapon is his bow. He can fire three arrows per round each hitting a different target. If he chooses, each (or any) arrow can burst into flame for an additional 1d8 points of damage. Additionally he can fire a Sunbolt for 1d10 points of damage. He can also wreathe himself in the Aura of the Sun. This causes Blindness to any that look at him and 1d8 hp of damage to any with 5' of him every round.

He is often accompanied by a group of deathless hunters. These are men who died while hunting or who wished not to move on to their afterlife after death. They hunt in ghostly processions across the land. Anytime a person sees a falling star, they know a new hunter has joined Jäger's ghostly party. Each acts as 10th level fighter and are similar to spectres.

Additionally, he is the god, or rather patron of, music. When not hunting, he can be found singing or playing an instrument.

Animal: The hunting dog or stag
Rainment: (Head) a solar disc or a crown of antlers (Body) Simple hunting garments
Color(s): Yellow, Gold
Holy Days: Every day at sunrise and noon
Sacrifices: Animal sacrifice at sunset. Animals are then eaten by congregants.
Place of Worship: Any open space.

JÄGERIN (Goddess of the Moon, Poetry, Hunting, War)
Intermediate Goddess

MOVE: 18" / 36"
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 2d8/2d8/2d8 + Chill

SIZE: M (6' 1")
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic Good
WORSHIPER'S ALIGN: All (mostly Good)
SYMBOL: Moon disc or Bow
PLANE: Himmel

FIGHTER: 20th Level Fighter
WITCH/WARLOCK: 10th Level Witch
S: 20 I:18 W: 18 D: 20 C: 20 CH:20

Jägerin is the Goddess of Moon, hunting, poetry, and war. she drives her chariot across the sky as does her brother. On the days of the Solar eclipse she is holding up her shield to protect him. On days of the Lunar eclipse he is providing her protection.

Like her twin brother, Jägerin can attack with a bow. Her arrows do 2d8 and can also add an extra 1d8 hp of chill damage. She can surround herself with an Aura of Madness, any who come within 10' of her will attack anyone else but her.  She can cast any spell relating to night or the moon as a caster of the 10th level and as a 10th-level Witch.

Jägerin also has a retinue of hunters with her. These wild women will run through the forest with her in a blood lust for the hunt. They are not dead, but they are no longer alive either. Each acts as a 7th-level fighter and can transform into an animal. Wolves are most common. When needed though, she can call on her Hunt and don the armor of war. These wild women are then known as Die Kriegerin, or the Goddesses of War.

Like her brother, Jägerin is also the patroness of the arts, in this case poetry. She is equally as lascivious as her brother. One tale is told how she boasted she could hunt and kill as many animals as a group of men hunting in the wood. The all agreed to set out in the morning to hunt and return by night fall. Jägerin spent the night having sex with all the hunters and making them too tired to hunt the next day. She was able to go to the wood and hunt at her leisure, easily beating all of them.

Animal: The hunting dog or stag
Rainment: (Head) a moon disc or a crown of antlers (Body) Simple hunting garments
Color(s): Yellow, Gold
Holy Days: Every moonrise
Sacrifices: Animal sacrifice after sunset. Animals are then eaten by congregants.
Place of Worship: Any open space.

Siege and Glücke
Siege and Glücke

These are the Goddesses of Victory and Luck, respectively. 

SIEGE and GLÜCKE (Goddess of Victory and Luck)
Lesser Goddess

MOVE: 18" / 36"

SIZE: M (6' 0" and 5'19)
ALIGNMENT: Lawful Neutral (Siege) and Chaotic Neutral (Glücke)
PLANE: Himmel

FIGHTER: 10th Level Fighter (Siege)
THIEF/ASSASSIN: 10th Level Thief (Glücke)
S: 16 I:18 W: 18 D: 20 C: 18 CH:18

These goddess are not worshipped in the strictest sense, but are called on often enough to grant favors to mortals. Siege is the Goddess of Victory; she represents success through skill and determination. Glücke is the Goddess of Luck; she represents success through luck and happenstance. 

Both Goddess can offer a boon to a mortal in the form of gift of Success. Mortal with this gift can re-roll any missed attack, ability check or saving throw and take the better of the two rolls. Most mortal only get this gift once in their lives. Others, such as the hero twins Magni and Muthi, get this boon often. 

Magni and Muthi
Magni and Muthi

Magni and Muth are the Demigod hero twins of this myth. They are two fun and adventure-loving brothers whose tales are often used to teach moral lessons but also entertain. They typically begin with the brothers getting kicked out of their home because their mother (usually described as a hideously ugly witch but also described as the best cook in the world) is tired of them breaking things. The brothers devise a scheme to either get rich, get drunk, or find some maiden to bed. They often run afoul of some person in power, a barkeep, angry husband, father, and/or brothers. The more they try to solve their problems, the more (comical) trouble they get into. Magni is the Strongest Man alive, and there is nothing he can't lift or break. Muthi is the Bravest Warrior known, and he fears nothing, no man, demon, or god. Their tales will sometimes emphasize how much Magni is afraid of something or how something is too heavy for Muthi.

In the end, the brothers usually come out ahead. They get the money, the ale, and the girls and will be seen headed home, where their mother has made them a fantastic meal. They are mischievous but rarely evil. They only kill monsters and prefer to make fools out of human or divine opponents. 

It is said they are deeply in love with Siege and Glücke, but can't make up their minds about who is in love with whom.  

The only time the brothers fight each other is when they have their eyes on the same woman. And in these tales, the moral is always the same. While fighting each other, they lose the girl to someone else, and they return home to a scolding by their mother.


MOVE: 12" 
HIT POINTS: 110 (Magni), 120 (Muthi)
DAMAGE/ATTACK: 1d10/1d10/1d10

SIZE: M (6' 1" Magni) (5' 11" Muthi)
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic Good
PLANE: Erde (Earth)

FIGHTER: 18th Level Fighter (Barbarian)
THIEF/ASSASSIN: 10th Level Thief
S: 25 (Magni) 18 (Muthi) I:10 W: 8 D: 18 C: 20 (Magni) 25 (Muthi) CH: 19

Magni and Muthi are twin brothers. They are not worshipped in the traditional sense but are demi-god heroes of these myths, and their stories are told to children (about how they fight monsters) to adults (how they stop evil people and their sexual exploits). 

Magni can add +7 to his to hit and damage rolls due to his strength. Muthi is unaffected by any sort of fear, mundane or magical. This also extends to giving him +3 against any save vs. magic.

Characters encountering Magni and Muthi will often find them "mid-scheme." That is whatever it was they were trying to do has already failed spectacularly, and now they are either running from the authorities or an angry husband/father/brother. 



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