Showing posts with label gods. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gods. Show all posts

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

OMG: Demihuman Deities, Part 2

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


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

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

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



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

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

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

Demogorgon was Vaprak.

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

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

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

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



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

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

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


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

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

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

OMG: Demihuman Deities, Part 1

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

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

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

Let's find out.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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


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

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.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

A_MAY_zing Adventures: American Gods

This month the Troll Lords have a bunch a sales going on.  Now as many of you may know I am good friends with one of the Trolls, Jason Vey.  Jason and I worked on Buffy at Eden Studios, playtested each other's games for Eden and have worked on a lot of other titles together for a bunch of different companies.

We were talking about his game Amazing Adventures a little bit ago.  I had been reading through all of Brian Young's Mythology Codecies, also by Troll Lord, and it dawned on me that these can, and should, be used together.  Because what you get when you do is American Gods.



Amazing Adventures has been reviewed here in the past, so no real need for me to go over it all again.  I am going to consider the following books though for my American Gods game.


For the Codices, I  have only reviewed the Celtic and Classic ones, but have them all.


The idea behind American Gods is that when folks came here from the "Old Country" they brought their gods with them.    People in this world, and thus this game, are normal humans.  So no spell casters and no psychics.   I am including the Book of Powers for an odd sort every so often and to cover some of the powers of the Gods in America and some of the "normal humans".

The Codices all give us background.  While the world has moved on the Gods haven't, or at least, not all of them and not every one of them the same way.

Where American Gods is a personal story of Shadow Moon, there are other stories that can be done.  Take a page from Mage: The Ascension and have the agents of the New Gods fighting the followers of the Old Gods.  These new followers could then be spellcasters or powered characters as they criss-cross the US battling each other and other forces.  Throw in a bit of Chill or Supernatural in there for good measure.   Maybe this war is also waking up all the old creatures so werewolves, vampires and others are also on the move once again.

Actually, this sounds exactly like the games from around 1999-2001 when "millennium anxiety" was creeping in everywhere. 

The more I think about the more I like this idea of this game.  While Amazing Adventures is overtly a "Pulp Action Game" there is nothing at all stopping you from using as a low-key (Loki??) supers in a modern supernatural setting.  In fact, that is exactly what the Book of Powers is all about.

Hmmm.

Stealing another idea from Jason's blog and his Wasted Lands concepts, maybe the players could also BE the gods themselves.  Now there is a fun idea.


This is worth developing much more.  I'll need to reread the book, it's been a while, plus I should really finish Anansi Boys someday.   I think I would also use Gaiman's "Lucifer" because that would be a lot of fun.

OH. And be on the lookout for the new Amazing Adventures 5th Edition, compatible with 5th Edition D&D!

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Demogorgon has been featured here before and likely will again


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

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

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Review: Castles & Crusades Codex Classicum

The Castles & Crusades Codecies series are great books to add some flavor and history to your game.  While overtly for the Castles & Crusades game they can be used by nearly any game.  I reviewed the Codex Celtarum a while back and I loved it. So I picked up all the others.
Since I am currently on a big Greek Mythology kick, let's have a look at Castles & Crusades Codex Classicum.

Castles & Crusades Codex Classicum
For this book, I am reviewing the PDF only since that is what I have at hand at the moment.
The PDF is 146 pages with color covers and black & white interiors.  The art is up to the high standards you should expect from Troll Lords with plenty of evocative art from Peter Bradley.   Like the other books in this series, this one was written by Brian Young, who has the educational background to tackle these books.
Brian introduces us to the material with an apology that this book could have been twice as large and not cover everything.  Indeed, the book's scope is ambitious with what we normally consider Classical Mythology; the stories of the Greeks and the Romans with some Etruscans thrown in for good measure.  Ambitious indeed.

Note: There are a couple of errors in the hyperlinked table of contents in the PDF, but nothing that keeps anyone from enjoying the book.

Chapter 1 covers the actual history of the Greeks, Etruscans, and Romans...or as much as can be done in 20 or so pages.  There are actual history and mythical histories.  The myth in this section and book takes heavily, as can be expected, from Hesiod's Theogony.  It's like being back in Freshman Classics all over again!  The section, for its brevity, is well thought out and hits on the big pictures and themes.  I suppose if you want more you can always read Theogony yourself.  In fact, do that, anyone that is a gamer should have a basic understanding of the Classical Myths.

Chapter 2 details the all-important geography of the area.  Why "all-important"? Because the Greeks and the later Romans were products of their environments; their history, religions and myths were influenced by their geography to an extreme extent.  From the Greek city-states of early antiquity, to rise of the power Athens and Macedonia and in the literal center of it all, the Mediterranean Sea.
Again, this chapter is a quick overview, but a better one than I have seen in other game books.
This chapter also covers mythical locations (but not the mythical worlds just yet).  Remember to the Greeks these places were places just as real as everything else.  One could, if they so desired, walk to the underworld. That is if they knew the way.
This chapter also introduces the Explorer/Adventurer class.  Something that feels right at home in the world of the Greeks or the worlds of Gygax.  Some should convert this to another system and see how it plays out.

Chapter 3 features the monsters and beasts of the Classical World.  There are a lot of old favorites here and well as new representations of other favorites.  Of course, this is one of my favorite chapters.  Greek myth got me into D&D via the Monster Manual and there are a lot of monsters here that get right in the 1979 nostalgia.  My only disappointment here is that is no art of any of the monsters. I know we all know what most of these creatures look like, but I still feel a little cheated in not getting enough Peter Bradley art.

Chapter 4 is my favorite.  Monsters got me into D&D and RPGs, but it was magic that kept me coming back. Chapter 4 features Greek and Roman sorcery and magic including necromancy and prophecy.   Even the most casual reader of the classic myths should know how important Oracles are to the tale.  From Jason to Perseus to the tragedy of Oedipus, Oracles move the story forward. Here we get our next class, the Oracle (with notes on how these mouthpieces of the gods work in the other Codies).  Unlike the Pathfinder Oracle, this one is not a spellcaster but a reader of omens. It also requires a fairly experienced player to play to make proper use of it.
Also featured here is the Nekuomantis, or the classical Greek necromancer.  In many ways, this is the true necromancer before RPGs got ahold of the archetype.  These characters speak to the dead to learn secrets and the future.

Chapter 5 deals with the Gods and Titans and other immortal creatures.  It is fairly comprehensive compared to all other game books and very helpful in populating the ranks of the Immortals.

Chapter 6 focuses more on the humans and mortals of the world.  The heroes and their issues.  The basics of the Greek and Roman armies are also covered.  This chapter also introduces the Gladiator class.

All in all a great overview but also leaving me with the desire for some more.  Still I rather enjoyed it and can see a lot of uses for it.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

OMG: Egyptian Myths, Part 2

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next time on One Man's God.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

OMG: Egyptian Myths, Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 22, 2019

Kickstart Your Weekend: Codex Egyptium

The next book in the Castles & Crusades Mythos Series is now being Kickstarted.

Castles & Crusades Codex Egyptium


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/676918054/castles-and-crusades-codex-aegyptus?ref=theotherside

If this book is half as researched as the others in the line then it will still be awesome.

Brian Young is a solid scholar in the true sense of the word but also a solid gamer. This will not be a dry treatise on 3,000 years of Egyptian history, but a living breathing game supplement to add the realm that pretty much gave birth to our modern ideas of magic.

Among the other options is a chance to get the book that started it all, Castles & Crusades Codex Celtarum.  I love this book and think it is something every C&C fan should have.

Some much great stuff for this one.

Still heading to the finishing line is Justin's Cade's Big Book o' Booze.

Cade's Big Book o' Booze
An alcohol-related zine for use with 5th edition fantasy.


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1988380379/cades-big-book-o-booze?ref=theotherside

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

OMG: One Man's God

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love to hear suggestions and ideas.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Review: Calidar, Beyond the Skies

+Bruce Heard, formerly of TSR and of Mystara and "Voyage of the Princess Ark" fame, has been working on his new world Calidar for a little bit now.  I reviewed the premier product, Calidar in Stranger Skies, a while back and I really loved it.  I have used bits and pieces of this world in my own games now for a couple of years; building up to something a little bigger.   The great thing about Calidar, and what Bruce is doing with it, is it can be added to any game world or campaign with only a little bit of fuss.  OR you can go whole hog with it and have it as your game world.

The newest book out, Calidar, Beyond the Skies, really helps with either plan.

Ethics in Game Reviewing: I received a copy of hard bound book in exchange for a fair review.  All links are affiliate sponsored links.  Further disclosure: I was planning on reviewing this anyway, I just moved it up a little bit.

Calidar, Beyond the Skies is part campaign book, part cultural reference and part guide to gods.  There is only minimal stats in this book.  This is both an advantage and a disadvantage. The obvious disadvantage is of course judging the power levels of the various gods.  I am going to say right now that this REALLY is not a disadvantage.  Gods are not Monsters.  Even in Calidar where the Gods often interfere in the affairs of mortals, those mortals are not going to pick a fight with them.  Relative powers are given and that really is enough.
The advantage is a true advantage.  Playing old school D&D? Great! Playing Pathfinder? Great! D&D5? Equally great!  But I am getting WAY ahead of myself.

I am reviewing the hard cover version of the book.  It is 248 full color pages on decent weight paper and full color covers.  I put the production values at the same level of the best of WotC's D&D or Paizo's Pathfinder.

The book begins with discussing the common abilities given to all divine beings and a discussion on what they are and do.  This follows a brief overview of the "planes".  This is a section worthy of the best of the TSR-era Manual of the Planes and right next to the 3rd Ed Manual of Planes.  I have to admit I love seeing the "energy" planes configured like a d10.  Totally using that one.

Since this is system free there is section on how to convert your system to something the book uses.  The easiest of course is a percentage system.  Depending on your game's chosen system there is a conversion here.

All of that and we are now into the "meat" of the book.  The map of the Great Caldera is given again with the countries and cultures highlighted.  This is important and a page I found myself coming back to as I read each section.  There is a great table on pages 14-15 that has every god, their cultures and their area of interest.   I was happy to see some overlap and missing areas.  Gods are not supposed to be neat and tidy things.  Some interests are over-represented, some have none at all and some gods stretch across more than one culture.
Ok at this point if you have ever read any "Gods" or "Pantheon" D&D book you can easily start making sense of things.

After this we cover the different pantheons and cultures.  We cover 10 such groupings of gods along with chapters on Rewards, the World Soul of Calidar and various godly trappings.

This is a book that takes full advantage of color.  Greater gods are in bold, evil gods are listed (title only not text) in red and benevolent gods are likewise in blue.  So a greater evil god is in bold Red.

When each grouping of gods is introduced we get the names and interests (spheres) of all that pantheon.   Common attributes for all the gods are given (what they have in common) and an overview of their Genesis story with a timeline.  We then get into some really interesting material.
A kind of flow chart is given on the relationships between the gods of the grouping.   This is best seen in the Gods of Nordheim, which are "imported" from Norse myths by travelers long ago.


After this each god is listed with a stat block of interests, allies, cults, foes, centers of faith and holy days.  Lots of details really.

There is so much in this book that I think it is going to take some more readings to digest it all. Each section also contains neat little bits like various temples, the gods' personal symbols, other bits to round out the faiths and make them feel like they real. In some, like for example the Gods of Meryath, weather (and in particular rain) are so important that the seasons are also discussed in relationship to the gods.

The last sections also detail various Elemental Lords, demons and mythological beasts and other near-divine beings.
 
There is a lot going on in this book.  If you are a fan at all of gods, myths and using them in your games then is a great addition.  Even if you don't play in the Calidar world this is a well thought out collection of myths.  I found this just as enjoyable as reading D&D's "Gods, Demigods and Heroes" the first time.   If you need some good, new-to-you-and-your-players gods then this is a must buy.

The art throughout is fantastic (that's Soltan of the Narwan on the cover) and really sets this book above others of it's kind.


Monday, February 15, 2016

Weekend Gaming. Modern threats and Ancient enemies

This weekend was the end of the first part of the module A3; the boys are about to enter the city of Sudderham.  But before they left the maze they took a long rest.

And then the dream sequence kicked in.
The boys were transported back to the Dawn War where He Who Was was killed by The Destroyer (who will become Demogorgon) and Dis, the god that dies and then becomes the demon Orcus.


The old Dungeons & Dragons toy troll and ogre are Demogorgon and Orcus prior to the battle respectively.

I had them fighting a new creature, well, new "then"; demons.

I ran the game using 30+ level "gods" using the B/X and Companion rules (with some AD&D 1 to smooth out some edges).

It was a lot of fun.

Now to tie it into the current adventure.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Blog Roundup: Gods, Vampires and Blinky Thieves

I have some edits that I need to make to Sisters of the Aquarian Order today, so I won't be getting that out to every just yet.

I have some posts I need to wrap-up, but I am headed to an early morning meeting today so some links will have to do.

+Ray Chapel over at Quasar Knight's Fantasy Blog has put together something I have been meaning to do for a while.  A comprehensive list of all the White Star products on OneBookshelf.
http://quasarknight.blogspot.com/2016/02/a-comprehensive-list-of-white-star.html
It is an impressive list to be honest.

+Sean McG over at The Power Score has done another of his fantastically detailed analysis of a D&D monster. This time it is for the Vampire. A long time favorite of mine.
http://thecampaign20xx.blogspot.com/2016/02/dungeons-dragons-guide-to-vampires.html


+Chris Kutalik and +trey causey have both given us some detail on the so called "Erol Otus Pantheon" on their respective blogs.
http://hillcantons.blogspot.com/2016/02/the-erol-otus-ddg-pantheon.html
http://sorcerersskull.blogspot.com/2016/02/the-otus-pantheon.html


It is a nice little trip back to the 80s.

+Mark Craddock has been steadily releasing D&D5 material over at the DM's Guild for a bit now.
His biggest project is Deities and Domains: Specialty Priests of the Forgotten Realms (39 Feats for 5E).  At 25 pages  and 39 dieties this is one of the larger products.  While overtly for the Forgotten Realms, there is so much here that any D&D 5 palyer should grab it and just swap out the names for their own gods.  Plus it comes with a printer-friendly version.  I am already using the cleric of Mystra, only in my game it is a cleric of Wee Jas.

His newest is Psionics Unearthed: Tesseract.   I just got it and love it.  The best way to describe it is "blinky thieves" but it would work for any martial class too.  It might actually be a little underpowered compared to say the Arcane Trickster, but the fact that a Tesseract can use their powers multiple times between long rests makes up for it.  My kids will fight over who gets to use this one!

My favorite though has to be Character Crucible: Dhampirs.
Not very large, but it does exactly what it needs to do.  The Dhampir is a great race to play in any version of D&D, but Mark capitalizes on the strengths of D&D5 to make a fun race.  I would have an easier time working these Dhampirs into my games than the Dragonborn and Tieflings my kids want to play all the time.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Wee Jas

Wee Jas, The Suel Goddess of Magic, Death, Law and...a bunch of stuff really.
Could she be more 80s chic?

Been thinking a lot about Wee Jas lately.
Ever since I first "discovered" her in the pages of Dragon magazine #88 I was enthralled with her.

She first appeared (I learned almost right after) in the World of Greyhawk boxed set.  All we knew about her then was she was a greater Suel goddess of magic and death.

Lenard Lakofka's article though gave us the most detail really.  That is where the picture on the right is from.
What do we learn about her?  Well at this point she is still a greater goddess of magic and death.  She knows every magic-user spell and all other spells to 5th level (why only 5th??).  She can cast up to 9 spell levels worth of spells each round; so 1 9th level spell or 9 1st level or any combination.  She has 90% magic resistance and a globe of invulnerability that floats around her.

She is attractive (Charisma 20) and always appears so.
If she is anything she is very lawful.  To the point where good and evil are mostly meaningless to her just as long as you are not chaotic.  In fact she pretty much hates anything chaotic except for the chaotic neutral god Norebo; who is her brother (or half-brother) and occasional lover.  Gods. Go figure.
In the letters section in a couple Dragons later it is mentioned that Norebo's entry mentions Wee Jas, but Wee Jas' doesn't.  The editors reply that it is because Wee Jas is loathe to admit it and Norebo could also be bragging.

By this point, this was all I knew about her. She was not yet known as "The Witch Goddess" but that is what I used her for.  Besides, take a look at her name.
Wee (We) and Jas (Ja), we ja or "we ya".  Or to spell it differently Ouija.  Her name certainly comes from Oui Ja, the French and German words for "Yes" and the basis of the name of the Ouija board. Plus magic and death.  Seems a dead give away.

After this Wee Jas' story gets weirder.  She is demoted, promoted, gains and loses domains.  Gets more evil, less evil. Picks up the title of Witch Queen somewhere along the way as well.  Canonfire, the great Greyhawk website, has spilled a lot of bits and bytes on this.


The Wee Jas Resurrected article is insteresting because it attempts to bring in a lot of these inconsistences and bring together to a complete and understandable whole.  For me the the bits on the rivalry of Wee Jas and Iggwilv were very interesting as well as making her one of the Suel gods/goddesses of Sex. Totally make sense really.  She even gains a "reformed" succubus, Zem'Jil, as a servant.

In truth the model for Wee Jas from our own world is Hecate, the Goddess of Magic, Witches, Ghosts, Necromancy and the Crossroads.   It is said that Wee Jas gaurds the doorways to the dead and the same is true for Hecate.  In fact I have used them rather interchangeblly 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".  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&D4, so pass of Wee Jas' control of Death (save for spirits) to the Raven Queen.  Since the Raven Queen is described as a young or new Godess, it could even be that she is the daughter of Wee Jas.  Have to investigate this line further.

I would also change her Globe of Invulnerability into a ruby skull that floats and protectors her.  Maybe a former lover.  Keep Zem'Jil because that is just cool to have a succubus ally.  Give Zem'Jil some levels in witch too, since Wee Jas would be her patron.

Certainly would have to have her in my War of the Witch Queens adventure.

Monday, September 14, 2015

What Role Do Gods Play in Your Games?

Working out some details for my games and it got me thinking about gods.

I am toying around with the idea that the gods are nothing more that super-powerful mortals ala the D&D Immortals rules.  I am even tossing around this idea that the gods loose their powers and fall to the Prime Material.

For example, I was thinking of making many of the goddesses of magic, witchcraft and the like really powerful witches, they have just come to be regarded as goddesses. So Hecate, Wee Jas, and the like.
Doing something similar with the various pantheons also seems to fix a few issues I am currently running into in my world building.

What roles do the Gods play in your games?  Do you use them much?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Sol Invictus: The Unconquered Sun

The mountains and the canyons started to tremble and shake 
as the children of the sun began to awake. 

It's not easy pulling off a large mono-theistic religion in a FRPG, especially one where the world not only has a lot of pantheons, but also where all these goods are assumed to be real.
Fortunately there are plenty of examples from the real world.  Especially in the Christ-like figure of Mithra or Mitra and the similar Sol Invictus.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sol_Invictus
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mithraic_mysteries
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%81ine

I think a god like Mithra would be interesting in D&D.

The Church of Sol Invictus
In my Mystoerth world the Church of Sol Invictus seeks to unite the faiths of the world under the banner of one Sun God.  They have a lot of influence in the temples of PholtusPelor, St. Cthubert and Ixion.  There are many similarities to this faith and the one of Taiia in 3rd Edition.

Proponents of Sol Invictus believe that their god is the only true god and all others are false gods or even worse elevated demons or mortals.

But the Church of Sol Invictus has a number of other, deeper secrets.
In addition to only recognizing the sun gods of various faiths as the only true god, they believe that these gods are really only aspects of a much greater god.
The high priests and the leader of the faith, known as "His Brilliance", feel that these aspects are in fact aspects of the god known as "He Who Was".

He Who Was was an ancient powerful god whose chief lieutenant was Asmodeus. At the behest of Tharizdun, Asmodeus tricked and betrayed this god. He was ambushed by Orcus, Demogorgon and a third demon whose name has been erased.  He Who Was managed to kill this other demon and even split Demogorgon into two.  Demogorgon later regenerated into  his current form, each half of his head regenerating in to two complete heads.  Orcus killed He Who Was and in a further act of desecration used his skull and spine as the the great Wand of Orcus.

The clergy of Sol Invictus believe then that by combining these aspects of the Sun God and destroying Orcus forever they can have their god reborn. They believe that this rebirth will make their god more powerful than he ever was.

In my larger world St. Aleena was also a follower of this philosophy and the Church of Law and Order in City of Dolmvay is just another aspect of this faith.

The major foes of this Church are followers of Orcus and pretty much any demonic cult.  Also feared and mistrusted are the faiths that follow the Moon.

The Church of Sol Invictus are among the main witch-hunters in my world.

I am planning to work elements of this church into my current game, but not sure how much detail the players are actually going to get.  The use a word my wife hates, I am going to let it grow "organically".

Some of this organic growth began when I first started pulling all this together for 4e. It was building the 4e version of Aleena that got this idea rolling again.  I guess this is one of the reasons I have not let go of my 4e books.  A lot of the fluff is still compatible with what I am doing in 5e.

Not everything is figured out though.
Given that I grew up in the 70s I would love to add some more left-over hippy shit to it all. I would love to add something like 12 houses to the faith, something along the lines of orders.  Or 7 orders and break them down by color.  The 7 orders actually fits better with some other things I had done in the past.  Each order representing a different aspect of the faith.  I had already figured out Red (Military might) and Blue (Knowledge/learning).  It should not be too hard to come up with something else.  Obviously Green could be related to growing things.  Violet could be Guidance. Why? Well it brings in a group I had created separately that could work into this faith.  Maybe they absorbed them.  I could even have a "Black" for the secret police within the faith.

I will give this some thought.  But yeah this could be fun.
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