Showing posts sorted by relevance for query orcus. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query orcus. Sort by date Show all posts

Monday, April 12, 2010

Orcus for Unisystem

Here is my stab at converting a really powerful demon to Unisystem. Orcus is an old fave of a lot of D&D players and I have every D&D product he ever appeared in. Let me know what you think on my take.

Note: Some of this information is based on previous works, some of it is based on historical records and some more is completely made up.

Orcus, Demon Prince of Undead

Orcus is beyond a doubt one of the most powerful demon lords in existence. Not only is his physical might great, his ability to create and control vast legions of undead monsters has given him the justified title of Demon Prince of the Undead. But Orcus has not always been this way. There was a time when the demon prince was a god and was worshipped openly.

History of Orcus

Before the 5th century BCE the Cult of Orcus spread throughout the Etruscan lands (what is now Italy), Orcus was then the God of the Dead. Never a benign god, he was worshipped out of fear and for his believed mastery over death. Once the Romans came to power in 509 BCE the cult was outlawed and moved underground, both literally and figuratively. The Romans, heavily influenced by the Greeks, equated Orcus to Hades/Pluto, Dispater or Thanatos. Ancient burial chambers became the new altars for the God of the Dead where bulls, sacred to the god, were sacrificed.

By 3rd century CE the rise of the Mithras Cult in Rome further pushed Orcus out of the mainstream. Mithras was seen as a God of Light and many paintings showed Mithras fighting the Bull of Darkness. Orcus went from being a necessary evil, to malicious evil incarnate.

While the Mithras Cult did not last, its relative and heir Christianity continued to demonize the cult, even to point that Orcus was no longer a god, but a demon that plagued on mankind. Orcus symbolic death as a god and revival in a lesser status as a demon also changed his powers. He was no longer responsible for the stewarding of souls in the afterlife, that task belonged to God and Satan for good and evil souls respectively. Instead, his powers became twisted after his Fall and he was to rule over the Undead, those that have moved beyond the grace of God or the grasp (supposedly) of Satan. Orcus does not revel in his new position, he despises the undead as much as he does the living.

Motivations and Goals

Orcus appears to be a slowly calculating and meticulous demon. He is in fact, merely lazy. He is a genius and his power is great, but he lacks the desire for long term planning. His typical response to any situation is to use as much brute force as possible. When his own demonic advisors advised him on a ill-fated battle with his arch-enemy Demogorgon, he killed every one of them and half of his own army. Orcus is rage personified. That is not to say he does not have plans. Orcus ultimate goal is to be reinstated to Godhood. While he loathes his worshippers, he grants them powers and undead to further his own causes. He also supports many seemingly random and violent acts that result in multiple deaths. Modern sages believe that the chemical accident in Bhopal India in 1984 was a result of Orcus plans.1

Any undead-creating necromancy is believed to be currently, or at one time, attributed to Orcus teachings.


He can appear as anything he chooses, other known forms he has adopted include a grossly fat middle aged human male (which some say is his original true form), that of an angel-winged specter of death, a statuesque pale woman, or even a tall thin African male. In any form the Demon Prince reeks of death and destruction.

His most often used form is that of a grossly fat demon lord. As described in the Monster Manual by the great sage Gygax, "He stands some 15' tall but walks somewhat stooped over. His oversized stomach (fat from eating the souls of the unfortunates he turns into undead) nearly drags the ground. He is covered in short goatish grey fur that is matted and mange in spots. His head is also goat-like, although his horns are similar to those of a ram. His great legs are also goat-like, but his arms are human. Vast bat-like wings sprout from his back, and his long snaky tail is tipped with a razor sharp poisonous tip."

The Cult of Orcus

Orcus' greatest manifestation in this world is through his cult. These small groups are loosely organized and even more loosely aligned. What they share is common worship for the Demon Prince. The motives of the individual worshippers vary. Some are necromancers wanting to learn more about the nature of life, death, and undeath. Others are undead themselves and regard Orcus as their Prince and God, one that has not abandoned them as God or Satan has. But most are anarchists who see Orcus as a means of causing more evil and chaos in the world. Cultists revel in raising undead, typically zombies, but sometimes more powerful undead such as vampires as well.

The Wand Of Orcus

Orcus holds the Wand of Death (Orcus' Wand) which is a rod of obsidian topped by a skull. This instrument causes death (or annihilation) to any creature, save those of like status (other demonic lords, arch-fiends, avatars, powers, greater ethereals etc.) merely by touching their flesh. This power can be used at the will of the wielder. Often Orcus sends his wand to the Earthly realms to allow it to fall into the hands of some mortal to wreak havoc. When Orcus needs it back he summons it and it comes, usually current wielder in tow, immediately to his side.

Orcus in Your games

How Orcus' presence is felt in your world is of course up to you, but here are some suggestions for adding him to the various Unisystem games. In any case, Orcus is extremely powerful and should be able to wipe out most groups of characters. Orcus works the best when he is the invisible force behind the curtains, the master that manipulates all the puppet strings. He is intelligent and thousands of years old, he should be played that way. Balancing this out are Orcus' mental problems, vices, and attitude that he is invincible.

Orcus in WitchCraft (pre-Reckoning)

Orcus keeps a low profile, relying instead on his secret network of worshippers to further the cause of evil in his name. Members of the Twilight Order, whether willing knowing or not, are modern day relations to the Orcus Mystery Cults of pre-Christian times. The Twilight Order was descended from early Etruscan death cults, though most of the priestly aspects of the Order have been stripped away. Some members of the Twilight Order thought, in particular evilly inclined Necromancers, still venerate Orcus with the original rituals. The other Twilight Order chapters ignore these aberrations in general except in times when their actions reflect poorly on the Twilight Order as a whole. There are in truth, only a very few chapters of the House of Thanatos that will identify themselves directly with Orcus. While most Thanatoi will disguise this with words like Atlantian Scholars or Lemurian Necromancers there is a connection with Orcus that many either don't know about, or ignore. Typically the members of the House of Thanatos oppose Orcus, as they seem him as a rogue and evil element in a situation that is already too delicate (the balance between the living world and the Death Realms).

Orcus in Armageddon (post-Reckoning)

Like nearly every other demonic and angelic being the return of Leviathan shocked even mighty Orcus. Not one to let an opportunity pass him by Orcus is making use of the chaos to spread his influence even further. Of course the Mad Gods seeping influence into the Death Realms is also a cause for concern for the Prince of the Undead. Orcus has discovered that while he can (like most other demons) spend longer times in the Earthly realms, his power over undead that have been exposed to Taint, the Arisen Hordes and the Sheol is very little. Orcus may not care for his undead creations, but the insult of taking them away from him is too much. So in addition to increasing his own power base, Orcus fights the Cult of Leviathan.

Orcus in AFMBE and Army of Darkness

Orcus is not an active or direct mover in the world. Like the generals of old, he prefers to sit back and let the rank and file do his fighting. To Orcus the rank (emphasis on the rank) and file are zombies. Raising undead is something Orcus does. Not just to spread his word, but to inflict as much mass suffering, confusion and evil he can. A zombie/deadite uprising could be due to a group of priests or would-be-priests that have stumbled on a tome to raise the dead. Orcus often rewards these priest by making them the first thing the zombies kill.
Orcus and his cult make a great (if somewhat stereotypical) bane for players in a Dungeons and Zombies game.

Orcus in Ghosts of Albion

Orcus has no special interest in Albion. His cult never got to Albion's shores and his greatest enmity is with those in the Mediterranean that destroyed his cult. That being said, Albion is a place of great mystical power and to tap that power source would be a significant boost to his own power. The recent events of the summoning of Balberith and discovery of Charlemagne's crown by the Necromancer might shift his attention. As one of the most overly populated cities in the world at this time, London is ripe for a supernatural take over.

Unisystem Stats


Other names: Thanatos, Thanter, Dis Pater, Pluto, Dis, Hades.
Type: Greater Seraphim (Demon)* (formerly a pagan god/primal of death)
Association: Infernal Legions

Strength: 21
Dexterity: 13
Constitution: 17
Intelligence: 10
Perception: 11
Willpower: 9

Secondary Attributes
Endurance: 245
Speed: 60
Armor: 24

Essence: 162
Channelling level: 7
Life Points: 469

Acute Senses (all)
Age (as a demon) +20
Charisma +2
Essence Channelling +20 (7)
Hard to Kill +13
Increased Essence Pool +5
Increased Life Points +9
Natural Toughness
Nerves of Steel +3
Seraphim Greater (Demon)
Supernatural Senses

Adversary (lots, powers of good and evil) 10
Attractiveness 3
Covetous, Greedy 2
Covetous, Lecherous 3
Cruel 3
Delusions (will be a god again) 3
Lazy 3
Paranoia 2
Taint Vulnerability (part of (fallen) Seraphim quality)

Languages (all) +10
Theophany skill
Brawling +13
Bureaucracy +12
Cheating +9
Craft, Weapons +10
Craft, ritual items +12
Dodge +8
Gambling +10
Hand weapons, mace +15
Hand weapons, sword +12
Hand weapons, others +10
Magic Theory +16
Magic bolts +12
Myths & Legends, Etruscan +16
Myths & Legends, Roman +16
Notice +14
Occult Knowledge +16
Questioning +14
Rituals (Roman, Etruscan, Twilight Order) +12

All other skills at +5

Metaphysics / Theophanies (Malefaica)*
Destroyer 8 Destruction
Dark Aura
Dark Vision
Domain of the Dead
All Necromantic Metaphysics at level 10
Bad Luck 9
Create Ward 9

*Because Orcus was once the God of the Dead he still holds some of those powers beyond what a typical demonic prince would have.

Wand of Orcus, 1 attack, bonus: +34, damage: d10(6)x27, Destruction power
Melee, claws, 2 attacks, bonus: +26, damage: d4(2)x27
Melee, horns, 2 attacks, bonus: +26, damage d4(2)x27
Melee, tail, 1 attack, bonus: +24, damage d4(2)x27, poison tip (Poison strength rating 6, damage 2d6(6)).

Orcus can also summon any number of animated dead to aid him. He is limited only by the number of bodies available, but summoning takes time and effort. Typically he can summon up to 50 zombies and 50 skeletons at one time. He can also summon greater willed undead like vampires (vampyres) or wights (Ghosts of Albion). The creature is allowed a contested Will test against Orcus to avoid the summoning. Orcus can also summon up to a dozen lesser demons and fiends to aid him.

1I mention this because this accident had a very profound effect on me back then.

Note:  I have no idea who is the artist of the top picture of Orcus. But it has been making the blogs. I have said it before and I'll say it again, Orcus' plane in the Abyss it needs to make "Tomb of Horrors" look like "Candyland".

Monday, December 6, 2021

Monstrous Monday: Demon Prince Orcus fo AD&D 2nd Edition

Going back a bit to do some more level setting and based on a conversation I had last week with a friend.  He was looking for some stats for Orcus for 2nd Edition AD&D.  I have stats for all versions of AD&D/D&D for him, but none for 2nd Ed.  I had always felt that Orcus was dead throughout all of 2nd Edition (thanks to The Throne of Bloodstone) but the events of Dead Gods brought him back. 

I did have some older AD&D 2nd Ed stats I had created in something I call the "Red Book."  The notes are largely cribbed from 1st Edition sources. 

To rebuild this I am going to also look to other sources like Swords & Wizardry and Pathfinder.  

Orcus for AD&D 2nd Ed

Orcus, Demon Prince of the Undead

Climate/Terrain:  The Abyss
Frequency:  Unique
Organization:  Solitary
Activity Cycle:  Any
Diet:  Carnivore
Intelligence:  Supra-genius (20)
Treasure:  P, S, T, U
Alignment:  Chaotic evil
No. Appearing:  1 (Unique)
Armor Class:  -6
Movement:  18, Fl 36 (B)
Hit Dice:  25 (130 hp)
THAC0:  7
No. of Attacks:  3 (see below)
Damage/Attack:  1d10+3/1d10+3/2d4 + special
Special Attacks:  Fear, spell-like powers, summon and command undead, Wand of Orcus
Special Defenses:  +3 or better weapons to hit
Magic Resistance:  85%
Size:  L (15' tall)
Morale:  Fearless (19-20)
XP Value:  36,000

Orcus is the Prince of the Undead, and it said that he alone created the first undead that walked the worlds.

Orcus is one of the strongest (if not the strongest) and most powerful of all demon lords. He fights a never-ending war against rival demon princes that spans several Abyssal layers. From his great bone palace he commands his troops as they wage war across the smoldering and stinking planes of the Abyss. Orcus spends most of his days in his palace, rarely leaving its confines unless he decides to leads his troops into battle (which has happened on more than one occasion). Most of the time though, he is content to let his generals and commanders lead the battles.

Appearance:  Orcus is a grossly fat demon lord, some 15 feet tall.  His huge grey body is covered with coarse goatish hair.  His head is goat-like, although his horns are similar to those of a ram.  His great legs are also goat-like but his arms are humanoid.  Vast bat wings sprout from his back, but these are usually tucked out of sight when he is not in flight.   His long, snaky tail is tipped his a poisonous head.

Combat: It is probable that this creature is one of the most powerful and strongest of all demons. If he so much as slaps with his open hand the blow causes 1-4 hit points of damage. His terrible fists can deliver blows of 3-13 hit points. If he uses a weapon he strikes with a bonus of +6 to hit and +8 on damage. Additionally, his tail has a virulent poison sting (-4 on all saving throws against its poison), and his tail strikes with a 15 dexterity which does 2-8 hit points each time it hits.

Orcus prefers to fight using his wand. (see below)

Orcus radiates a 60-foot-radius aura of fear (as the spell). A creature in the area must succeed on a saving throw vs. Spell or be affected as though by a fear spell (caster level 30th). A creature that successfully saves cannot be affected again by Orcus’s fear aura for one day. 

Orcus can, at will, use any one of the following powers: 

Orcus can command or banish undead as a 15th-level cleric, controlling up to 150 HD worth of undead at one time. He casts spells as a 15th level cleric and 12th level magic-user, and can use the following magical abilities at will: animate dead, charm monster, darkness, dispel magic, ESP, fear, feeblemind (1/day), lightning bolt (12 die), speak with dead (as 20th level cleric), symbol (any) and wall of fire.

Additionally, he has an 80% chance of gating in any demon of type I-V (but only a 50% chance of gating a type VI or VI and will never call upon another prince). 

Orcus furthermore is able to summon the undead, for he is their prince. If random calling is desired by the referee the following is suggested:

  • 4-48 Skeletons
  • 4-32 Zombies
  • 4-24 Shadows
  • 2-8 Vampires

Habitat/Society: When not warring against rival demon princes, Orcus likes to travel the planes, particularly the Material Plane. Should a foolish spellcaster open a gate and speak his name, he is more than likely going to hear the call and step through to the Material Plane. What happens to the spellcaster that called him usually depends on the reason for the summons and the power of the spellcaster. Extremely powerful spellcasters are usually slain after a while and turned into undead soldiers or generals in his armies.

He has a following of human worshippers as well; warlocks, death masters, necromancers, and evil priests.

Ecology: Orcus controls several levels of the Abyss he claims as his own including the 113th and 333rd layers.  When not at war with the forces of good and life he wars with all the other demon princes for control of all the Abyss.  Orcus' goal is to see all life extinguished and death reigns supreme. 

Wand of Orcus

Wand of Orcus: Mighty Orcus wields a huge black skull-tipped rod that functions as a +3 heavy mace. It slays any living creature it touches if the target fails a saving throw. Orcus can shut this ability off so as to allow his wand to pass into the Material Plane, usually into the hands of one of his servants. Further, the Wand has the following magical powers: 3/day—animate dead, darkness and fear; 2/day—unholy word.


Might need to tweak it some for my own uses, but this looks like it works well enough.  These stats are not perfect by any stretch, but they feel pretty close. 

I reject the fan theory that so many have adopted that Orcus was once human.  Though this does fit in with the Mystara/BECMI Immortals Set version of Orcus. Though THAT Orcus also has 39 HD and 620 HP.  

I prefer my own where he is a remnant of a former god. He has memories of God-like power, but nothing else.  After all according to Milton Orcus was in Hell when the Devils first arrived.

In any case, I do see that Orcus became more powerful after the events of Dead Gods. Maybe also explaining why he went from being "immensely fat and covered in grey hair" to the red demon of 21st century D&D. 


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.

Orcus at Gardens of Bomarzo

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.


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.



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, December 8, 2022

One Man's God Special: Syncretism Part 4, Orcus and Dispater

This post really is a transitory one.  It takes on ideas from my One Man's God and my One Man's God Special: Syncretism and transitions it in-a-matter of speaking to my new In Search Of posts. 

Today I want to talk about syncretism, but not in the sense I have in my last few posts. I covered the basics of syncretism a while back. In two different posts syncretized the Greek and Egyptian gods and the Roman and Norse gods.  It is to the Greek and Roman gods that I turn today.  In particular, I will focus on the Roman side of the Greek One Man's God posts in OMG: Greek and Roman Mythos, Part 4 Tales of Brave Ulysses, and my attention is on Orcus. 

In Search of Orcus

Demon Lord Orcus
Orcus, Demon Prince of the Undead

Orcus has always been a major bad guy in my and many others' games. Not just because he is a great demon lord and master of the undead, that is plenty of reason, but even more so from the very mysterious Etruscan background of the god Orcus

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 later 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, the Etruscan Tuchulcha, and the Roman Dīs Pater.   Mixed in all of this are the Greek Horkos and Roman/Etruscan Orcus

This is what is going on in our world. But what of the worlds of Dungeons & Dragons?

I'll be 100% honest here. I think the "official" history of Orcus is pure garbage. Orcus starting out as a human? No. Not in my world. Orcus was a god. Romans swore sacred oaths to him. He has a dwarf planet named for him. He was not some human necromancer. He was more.

But before I get to Orcus and what he was or is, I want to discuss Dis.

In Search of Dīs Pater

Dispater, The Iron Duke
Dispater, the Iron Duke

I will admit that the AD&D Dispater was always one of my favorite devils. Looking into his official background is more appealing than it is for Orcus, largely because there is not much of it.  I think role-playing wise I molded him after the devil character from the TV series "From the Brothers Grimm" episode Bearskin. Sort of the evil gentleman devil.  

In later editions of D&D, the "Iron Duke" have become akin to an infernal arms dealer and paranoid. Certainly an interesting choice but how does that square with the Dīs Pater, or Rex Infernus, of Roman myth?

Both Dispater and Dīs Pater are very wealthy. Both are considered to be the Lord of the Underworld (or at least one of them). Dīs Pater has a connection with the dead via Pluto/Hades who he was conflated later on. Dispater's only connection with the dead is via the souls he traffics in Hell.

Like the god Orcus and later on Satan, Dīs Pater is a good of riches and "Lord of the World."  This does fit into the notions of how Dispater is currently being presented.

How the Gods Die, and are Reborn

Things with Gods never should be clean-cut. If there is nothing else I want to show here, then let it be that Gods and Demons are a messy bunch.  They live, and they can die, and they can be split up and recombined.

I mentioned in my Syncretism of the Greco-Egyptian Gods that, in some cases, scholars have pointed to the syncretism of Set and Hades in early notions of the Christian Satan. There is more than this of course (see the "messy" note above), but this is a good start for me today.

One of the themes I like to play with in my games is the conflict between the old and new gods, or more specifically, the conflict between Paganism and the rise of Monotheism. In D&D this has its manifestation in the Dawn War

In my games the servants of the good gods, angels, and the like, who fell became the Baalseraph or the unique devils.  Demons have various origins, but some used to be gods.

Orcus used to be a God. 

Sort of.  In my overly complicated mythologies here Orcus was an avatar of a God of the Dead. I am currently using Hades/Pluto as a stand-in here but I will come up with something later. So this God of the Dead creates an avatar and this is Orcus of Roman myth, he also has another avatar, more akin to Dīs Pater but is more of psychopomp (like Hermes or Vanth).  Here is where things get weird. This god is killed, maybe during the Dawn War, maybe before. The two avatars do not die, but rather go a little mad, each thinking they are the rightful heir to this god's mantle. Both "fall" and are "demonized." The psychopomp of Dīs Pater falls and becomes Dispater the Iron Duke.  The other avatar is demonized to become Orcus, the Demon Prince of the Undead.

Each remembers being a god, if somewhat vaguely.  For Orcus, this manifests in his desire to become a God himself and his rage to destroy all life when he can't. For Dispater, this manifests as his extreme paranoia, his desire to control all around him, and his hoarding of his wealth.

It also has one other aspect may be unique to my games.  Orcus and Dispater hate each other. It is a deep existential dread that the other has something they need OR need to destroy. Both work against the other. Their warlocks, priests, and cultists (who have rituals that are oddly similar) work against each other.  It goes beyond anything that the Blood War might suggest; it is a personal hatred they share.

What would happen if Dispater and Orcus put aside their animosity and worked together? Or worse, what if some magic was used to re-combine them back into the God they were?  I shudder to think to be honest, but there is no way that would be good for anyone.

Maybe there is a third part of this god. A Neutral Evil one that does know what they were and what roles Orcus (CE) and Dispater (LE) play in this. Who is that entity? What do they want?

I still might take a page from Christopher Golden and Thomas E. Sniegoski's series, The Menagerie, and have Hades dead. This third creature, likely much weaker than the other two, would live in the remains of Hades' kingdom.


One Man's God Special: Syncretism

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Orcus as the Boss? Immortal level D&D? What's my End Game?

I have been thinking about the whole Orcus as the big bad in 4e.  It's cool and it has a lot of fun about it. But there is a big issue I have with it.  Orcus is a brute.  He his not a planner or plotter.  He smashes and destroys.

In my game multiverse Orcus used to be a Primal God.  In 4e I am fine with this being called a Primordial, but now he is a demon.  He is a demon prince and a very, very powerful one, but an over arching plot seems a bit cerebral for him.  I am thinking that maybe Orcus is nothing more than the weapon being used by someone more powerful, but behind the scenes.  But who and for what ends?
I mean Orcus is no dummy, but as a demon he is more concerned with destruction than labyrinthine plots.

Here are some thoughts on some potential players.

Vecna - God of evil knowledge and a lich, but what does Orcus have that Vecna wants?  What could Vecna be using Orcus for?

Asmodeus - The Blood War may be in cold war mode now, but maybe the Arch duke of Hell needs Orcus to get the seed of evil.

Tharizdûn - This one is easiest.  Tharizdûn wants out of his prison.  While everyone thinks Tharizdun is imprisoned either in the Abyss or the Astral, he is in reality imprisoned in the lowest point in Hell.  Asmodeus is still his jailer.  I would make him a bit like Lucifer in Dante's Inferno, chained to very bottom of hell. Asmodeus thinks he is draining power off of Tharizdûn, which is why he is a god-like power now.  Tharizdun is allowing this knowing that he gains a little more control over Asmodeus.  Who is using who?  Well I guess that depends on who wins in the end.

Iggwilv - The Witch Queen wants the Abyss, and Orcus is one of the big things in her way.  I have been dying to use her is some way.

So here is my plan.

Iggwilv and Asmodeus are working together to manipulate Orcus.  He is being propped up as this huge threat so the PCs take him out.  Iggwilv is directing the PCs to do this while also working on Orcus telling him that doing this will make him a god.  The plan is to have the PCs kill Orcus and deliver his wand somewhere it can be destroyed.  The PCs end up in Hell and hand over the Wand to Asmodeus. Asmodeus has told Iggwilv that he wants the extra shard and she can keep the Abyss.  In truth Asmodeus is being manipulated by Thaizdun.  Orcus' Wand and Asmodeus' Rod together will free him.

Yes, this is bit much for a D&D plot, especially a D&D4 one, but I like the idea.   If the PCs play this right they could defeat Orcus, Iggwilv and Asmodeus all in one fell swoop.

The old AD&D adventure H4 Throne of Bloodstone is an influence here since the goal there is to destroy the Wand.  The E1-3 series for D&D4 focuses on Orcus wanting to become a god.  So I will merge them a bit.  The whole Tharizdun bit is a bit recycled from the Gygax "Dance of Demons" book, but that is fine really.

Part of this though also depends on something else.
To defeat Orcus in the E series takes the characters right to 30th level. To then take on Iggwilv, Asmodeus AND Tharizdun then is something else altogether.

So I had yet another idea. What about Immortal Level D&D.  Reading over the Mentzer D&D BECMI set I do see how well Immortal level play can work and that is something Immortals would do, stop the imbalance of Tharizdun coming back into play.   I am just not quite sure how to do that in D&D4 just yet.  I am sure I'll figure it out.  Though I did ask about it on RPG.Net.

Presently I am working on finishing my 3.x campaign.  Since the 4e characters are the kids of the 3.x ones I can start planting some seeds now.  Drop the name Tharizdun and Iggwilv.  Mention Orcus' and Asmodeus' rise to power.  Might need to figure out how Vecna and Raven Queen fit into all of this.  Maybe once Orcus is dead Vecna becomes the new patron of the Undead.  Am I ready to get rid of Orcus once and for all?

Hmm.  Interesting thought.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Question of the Day: Anyone run/play a fight against Orcus

Still feeling pretty sick today.

But I was looking over some of my adventures I have laying around and I noticed a theme.

For 1st Ed I have the Bloodstone Wars modules.
For 3rd Ed I have a bunch of stuff from Necromancer Games.
For 4th Ed I have the HPE series of nine modules.
And now for 5th ed I have Into the Abyss.

What do they all have in common?

Looking pretty damn scary in his new 5e form.

Well, in the broadest terms they all deal with destroying the Demon Prince Orcus.
(ok 5e is about all demons)
Or at the very least stopping his machinations.

I mean, I get it. Orcus is the most metal of all the demon lords.

Back in the day we gleefully killed him in H4 Throne of Bloodstone.  I was looking forward to doing it again under 4e in E3 Prince of Undeath.   So there is an allure.

So how about you all?
Did you ever run/play a game where the PCs went after Orcus?

If yes, what adventure did you use?
If no, would it be something you would consider?

Bonus question.  Why doesn't Demogorgon get any of this attention?

Orcus Links (I have talked about this before)

Saturday, April 9, 2016

A to Z of Adventure! H is for High Level / Bloodstone

H is for High Level / Bloodstone.

The H series is an odd one, even in a group that includes a lot of odd ones.  There is a connecting story, of sorts; dealing with the interference of Orcus, but there are other things going here.
The first adventure, H1 Bloodstone Pass was for 1st edition AD&D but was also part of their new Battlesystem mass warfare rules.  H2 Mines of Bloodstone is more of a straightforward adventure.  H3 brings us back to Battlesystem and finally H4...well, let me get to H4 in just a bit.

H1 Bloodstone Pass 13–17
H2 The Mines of Bloodstone 16–18
H3 The Bloodstone Wars 17–20
H4 The Throne of Bloodstone 18-100

H4 The Throne of Bloodstone was fairly notorious back in the day.  It was another adventure I bought and then gave to my DM with screams of "run this!"  We ran it the first summer I was home from college.

The basic plot is that all the trouble caused in the previous modules was not just due to a cult of the Demon Prince Orcus, but Orcus himself.  In H4 the characters went to his lair in the Abyss and killed him.  Ok...where to begin with this one!

Well let's start with that cover.

This is the only adventure in the series that is labeled for the Forgotten Realms.  The first, H1, assumed any world.   There is Orcus himself coming out of the mouth hell or something (the Abyss really).   Oh and the recommended levels...let's see, 18 to 100!  100th level characters?

I have to admit that was one of the reasons why I grabbed this.  We had been playing a LONG time and I have many characters well past the by-the-book levels.  AD&D at the time really only went to about 25th level, but figuring out higher levels was not that big of a deal.  Generally speaking, adventures topped off at 20th level.
So I took some characters, right around 20th - 25th level...and a couple of them died right away!  This was not an adventure to screw around with.

The other thing you notice with this adventure is that it is long. The module itself is like 96 pages and tons of maps.  I seem to recall it took us a while to get through it too, most of the summer I was home from college.

You do get to fight Orcus in the end, as well as Tiamat, Baphomet, a giant Red Dragon, and potentially Asmodeus.  It is just a deadly, deadly module.

After this, I retired all the characters that went through.  After all what was left for them to do?

Fighting Orcus is a theme that D&D would come back to again and again.  The HPE series for 4e, especially the Epic modules.  In 2nd edition, the events of this module would later play out as part of the Dead Gods' adventure.

For me, today, this adventure is a template for other high-level adventures.  While the module said up to 100th level, there are not really many qualitative differences between a 25th level character and a 100th level one.  Fighters top off in attacks. Clerics top off on undead turning at 14th level and so on.   I was a little disappointed that the AD&D designers did not take a page from the D&D team in this case.  At this point in time AD&D and D&D were two different, but similar, systems.  D&D characters could go to 36th level and even become immortal.  Some of that would have been helpful here.

Much like the E modules, this module is likely to use as a source of material, but not so much as the adventure itself.  Still...running it could be a lot of fun.

In truth fighting Orcus is always a good idea. He is a demon, he wants to destroy everything AND in the E series, he desires to become a god.  This H series and the E series only scratches the surface when it comes to fighting Orcus.  And even if you do kill him there is still the Dead Gods adventure that deals with him coming back from the dead. In fact, there is no lack of products out there to let you match up against the Demon Prince Orcus.

This is certainly an end-game adventure after this buy that castle in southern Nyrond, hang your +5 Holy Avenger over the mantle, hire some Valley Elves to make some wine and kick up your heels and smoke pipeweed to end of your days.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Monstrous Monday: Daughters of Iggwilv

image of Drelnza holding Daoud's Lantern
It's Tasha's Week of Everything this week here at the Other Side.  So I thought I'd start Monstrous Mondays with a monster that has been suggested to me over the years.

Today's monster comes from a variety of sources. First, there is Iggwilv-Louhi connection that I talked about it in the Finish Mythos.  Louhi, despite being an old witch is said to have lovely maiden daughters that the heroes often seek out.  By extension shouldn't Iggwilv have some daughters too?

If we go with "yes" (and I always go with yes) then there are two issues, what are they like and who is the father.  Let's go with the father question first.  Among the candidates of "people" she has been involved with include the Demon Prince Fraz-Urb'luu, the half-demon Arch-Mage Tsojcanth, the wizard Zagig Yragerne, even Mordenkainen himself is a possibility and of course the Demon Prince Graz'zt.

We know all about Iggwilv's love affair with Graz'zt.  We know from other sources, chiefly the Gygax Greyhawk novels, that Iuz is the offspring of Iggwilv and Graz'zt.  Or maybe not. In the World of Greyhawk Fantasy Game Setting entry for Iuz it is suggested that he is "some by-blow of Orcus."  I personally liked the idea that Orcus had mortal agents in the world.  While this idea was later dropped it became an element of the Forgotten Realms, where I think it works out a little better.  But it still is a tantalizing idea.  

While Louhi might have daughters known as "the Maidens of Pohjola" I am not expecting Iggwilv's daughters to be so innocent. Her only other daughter, Drelnza, was a vampire, described as a "false Disney Princess" (she is not the damsel in distress, she is the monster), and most certainly not the offspring of Graz'zt.  Going back to the Louhi/Lovitar connection for a bit, Lovitar is known as the mother of the Nine Diseases.  Nine is a good number.

Iggwilv taken to Orcus
I think I have something.

When Iggwilv was defeated by Graz'zt the former master was now the slave.  Graz'zt had intended to keep the fallen Witch Queen in the Abyss to have her suffer an eternity of imprisonment as she had kept him.  Iggwilv however was more clever than the Demon Prince knew and soon she went from prisoner to consort, to confidant to his main advisor.  While she was rising in the ranks of Graz'zt courts she was "traded" to the Demon Prince Orcus over a loss Graz'zt had suffered at the hands of the Demon Prince of undead.  

Taken from Azzagrat in chains she arrived in Thanatos at the feet of the Lord of Undead to serve a tredecim (13 years) of service between CY 503 and CY 516.

Enraged, Iggwilv plotted revenge on both Graz'zt and Orcus.  Her carefully constructed lies and seductions learned from Fraz-Urb'luu that were so effective on Graz'zt held no sway on Orcus. Save for the occasional bit of violence Orcus showed no interest in the Witch Queen other than to deprive Graz'zt of her.  Within that century though Iggwilv gave birth to nine daughters that she was able to keep secret from both Orcus and Graz'zt.  These nine daughters were all of the same fierce, dark beauty as their mother, but had the taint of undeath like their father.  In secret, Iggwilv taught her daughters the ways of witchcraft and fashioned Abyssal weapons for each of them.  Once they were grown their curse of undeath took hold and they became something akin to vampires. Iggwilv sent them into the world to cause as much havoc and chaos as they could and, most importantly act against the designs and will of both Graz'zt and Orcus.

Noidan Tytär
Noidan Tytär
Medium Undead (Demonic)
Frequency: Unique (only 9 are known to exist)
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Chaotic [Chaotic Evil]
Movement: 240' (80') [24"]
  Fly: 180' (60') [18"]
Armor Class: -4 [20]
Hit Dice: 14d8+42**** (105 hp)
Attacks: by special weapon, claw/claw, or by magic or special
Damage: 1d10+6, 1d4+4 x2, special
Special: Magic required to hit (+2 or better), Vampire abilities, Witch spells, Undead
Size: Medium
Save: Monster 14
Morale: 12
Treasure Hoard Class:
Special, see below
XP: 5,150

The Noidan Tytär, or Daughters of the Witch, are a unique group of undead demonically spawned creatures.  These creatures, as beautiful as they are powerful, evil and deadly, are thankfully very, very rare. In fact, only nine are known to exist.  Thankfully they also never work together by order of their mother the Witch Queen. 

Each of the Noidan Tytär is a skilled fighter and possesses both superior arms and armor. Typically magical plate mail of etherealness +2, and a bastard vorpal sword +2 that they wield with one hand due to their preternatural strength. 

In addition to their fighting ability, the Noidan Tytär are also undead akin to vampires. Magic is required to hit them and they are immune to charm, hold and sleep magic as well as any mind-affecting magics. Unlike vampires, they do not require blood to survive but drain the life energy (Constitution points) at the rate of 2 points per touch.  They can go long periods without feeding but it will cause them to go into a deep stupor until a victim can be found.  They can not enter a personal dwelling or holy/blessed land like a vampire and holy items can keep them at bay and cause damage.  They are however immune to the effects of garlic. A stake through the heart will destroy them, but if the stake is removed they will reform in one round.  They can become gaseous, but cannot assume the shapes of animals.  They can fly as per the spell.

They can be Turned as Special (14 HD) by a cleric of high enough level. Any result of a D only discorporates them until the next new moon.  The only way to truly destroy them is stake them, remove their head, and burn both the body and head in separate pyres.  An exorcism or cleanse spell must then be used to force their spirits back to the Abyss. 

Additionally, each Noidan Tytär can cast spells as a 7th level witch of the Mara Tradition. 

The Noidan Tytär are often used as mercenaries for powerful chaotic rulers, demon lords, and evil cults. Secretly they work to undo the efforts of Graz'zt and Orcus.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Orcus is mine!!

So I got my Gargantuan Orcus today! And I am ready to sick him on some players.

There is Orcus next to Aspect of Orcus and the figure I use for my paladin.  It is very cool.
I already stated up Orcus for Unisystem, and I was comparing his 3.x stats with the newer 4.0 stats and it looks like he got weaker, 3.x had less hitpoints, but more hit dice than 4.0 does.    Anyone notice this?

Anyway there was something else I noticed while taking the pictures.

Left to right: Destroyah, a little Destroyah, Aspect of Orcus, Orcus.
The sizes are just about exactly the same.  I can have a Destroyah and an Aspect of Destroyah in a game.  I think if I did that I'd go with the idea that Destroyah is female.  Orcus' mate maybe?  More like a rival demon.

BTW that 6.5 Destroyah lists for 12 bucks.  We got it for 6 at Toys R' Us.  The little Destroyah came in a pack of a bunch of Godzilla monsters.

My fellow Eden Fan, Majin Gojira, has done up Angel/Ghosts of Albion stats for Destroyah (and others) over at the Eden boards.  I have also seen 3.5 d20 stats for Destroyah, but I think these are a tad high, though in line if she was an Elder God and not a demon.  She does seem to be more in line power with the likes of Cthulhu.

Of course as I am writing this my two boys are trying figure out what they need to fight both of them.

I remember being a young munchkin too!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Revised Plan; Generational Mega Plots

I plan to come back to Cartoon Action Hour here in a bit, but I have something I want to get organized first.

So a while back I posted a plan for the adventures I wanted to run with my family using 4E.

Well since that time, some gaming has happened, some looking over various adventures and some tests on my part has brought me to the conclusion that I can't run some of those old school modules under 4E after all.  Certainly I am still working on my current 3.x adventures with my kids.

Now mind you, this is not a bad thing nor is it reflective of the modules, 4e or "Old School".
But it has forced me to change my plans.

So for the "Dragon Slayers" game I am running I'll add some of those classic modules.  The characters are all right around 13th level now, with one just on the verge of 10th.  The ultimate goal of this game is to defeat Tiamat in the "Graveyard of Dragons". What can I say, my kids like the old D&D cartoon.    The rules are under 3.x edition, which has an odd mix of D&D 3.0, with some 3.5, minor bits from Pathfinder, BESM d20 and Star Wars d20 (the revised one that came out after Attack of the Clones).

Also some of these modules are going to be played by me under Pathfinder in either my "Big Kids Group" or the "Little Kids Group".  Currently the LKG is going through "B2 The Keep on the Borderlands".  I have already used bits of "X1 Ilse of the Dread" and "B4 The Lost City".  I know that in the one of the Pathfinder groups we will go through the GDQ series at some point, most likely the Little Kids Group.  I will be running "C2 Ghost Tower" under the Doctor Who Adventures in Time and Space game.

After that those characters will retire and their descendants will complete a new Quest.  The defeat of Orcus.
I'll run this one under D&D 4E and I do plan on it taking many years.

I am not 100% certain how the adventures will pan out, but I do want to use the D&D4 ones for ease.

Part of this is my desire to have them battle Orcus at the end. Plus I like to overall plot of involving the Raven Queen vs Orcus and Orcus getting a hold of some ancient artifact of Tharizdûn.

Those modules will get them from 1st to 30th level.  But I might want to add a couple here and there.  Not sure yet since I have not read them all in detail.   I also know some people have had issues with these modules, both in terms of how they fit together, plot and playability.  So I want to get things that are out now, and then tweak them as I need.  Afterall, if this is about fighting Orcus who gets an artifact from ancient Tharizdûn then I can lay some ground work in my 3.x game now for that.

So after all that I have some modules left over.

  • B3 Palace of the Silver Princess, levels 1-3 (using bits from both the "Green" and "Orange" versions).
  • L1 The Secret of Bone Hill, levels 2-4
  • X2 Castle Amber, levels 3-6 (place it in the Shadowfell, which is the new Ravenloft anyway)
  • I6 Ravenloft, levels 5-7. That is if I don't use it as a convert Ghosts of Albion adventure. Use some of the Ravenloft campaign/world setting stuff here too.
  • S2 White Plume Mountain, levels 5-10
  • I10 Ravenloft II, House on Gryphon Hill, levels 8-10.
  • S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth (with some of the info from the 3.5 update), levels 6-10
  • WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun, levels 5-10
  • S1 Tomb of Horrors, levels 10-14 (though I might just wait for the new D&D4 version)
  • S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, levels 8-12
  • CM2 Death's Ride, levels 15-20. 
Then there are these modules:
  • H1 Bloodstone Pass, levels 15+
  • H2 The Mines of Bloodstone, levels 16-18
  • H3 The Bloodstone Wars, levels 17-20
  • H4 The Throne of Bloodstone, levels 18-100

Like the E series for D&D4, these send you to Orcus's layer to defeat him.   Of the lot, H4 would be the best one to use, maybe as a buffer between E2 and E3.   The others seem more suited for the Dragon Slayer's Pathfinder game.    Of course, I could convert the H1-H4 Bloodstone series to feature Tiamat instead of Orcus.   S4 and WG4 are linked and deal with Iggwilv, her Demonomicon and Tharizdûn.  They are good to set up the history of Orcus and Tharizdûn.  They can happen in either game. In the 4th Ed game I'd stick it in between H and P.  CM2 Death's Ride has some cool stuff in it. Good to set up the whole Orcus wants to be a God thing in the 3.x game.  Plus it would give me a good arch-nemesis for the characters to fight throughout.

The Ravenloft ones would be great for the Sunsword (a good weapon against the undead) but there is the Board Game coming out and I want it.  Plus I'd rather run Ravenloft these days under True20.  So I might have to find something similar.  If I use the new Tomb of Horrors then I could place a good aligned sword there.  There is a D&D4

There is a lot to do and figure out here.  But I see this as a good thing. Look at all the time I have.  I can plan out a mult-year arc of adventuring that would take my kids all the way to college.  Wouldn't have died to have done something like that?

Though I do need to figure out a way to get more dragons into the 4th Ed game for my oldest.

Now this is my attempt to bring Old Schoolers and New Schoolers together.

NEW SCHOOLERS:  What things should I be aware of when running the HPE series?

OLD SCHOOLERS: What classic, epic modules are a "must run" for a group of kids that were not even alive when Clinton was in office, let alone Carter.  What memory of "D&D" is a must have?  Barrier Peeks?  Tomb of Horrors?

Clarifications on Games being Played
- "Dragon Slayers" is a 3.x game that I play with my two sons and sometimes my wife joins us. The goal of this game is to defeat Tiamat.
- "Big Kids Game/Group" is a Pathfinder game where I play a Paladin.  In this group are my kids and the DM's kids (6 players, 1 DM)
- "Little Kids Game/Group" is a Pathfinder game where I play a Witch (same witch as I do in Dragon Slayers).  This is the group with the Problem Player.
Both Pathfinder games have the same DM.
- "Untitled 4th Ed Game" is a 4e game where the players are the same as Dragon Slayers, but the characters are their children or descendants. The goal of this game is to defeat Orcus.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A to Z of Adventure! E is for Epic Level Adventures (4th Ed)

E is for Epic Level Adventures (4th Ed)

Fourth Edition gets a bad rap from a lot of gamers, especially old-school gamers.  Which is really a pity to be honest.  There is a fun game there. There is even a fun D&D game there.  But alas it is also a game I am not likely to ever play again despite my investment of time and money in on it.

What I did like the most about 4e though were the HPE modules.  These were a series of three adventures for each "tier" of play; H for Heroic (1st to 10th level), P for Paragon (11th to 20th level) and finally E for Epic or 21st to 30th level of play.  Now while most D&D games stick to 20 levels, 4th edition went to 30. Well...1st had an assumed cut off at 20 and D&D BECMI went to 36th and beyond.  But I'll get to that.

The Epic level adventures were truly epics.  The adventure plot was discovering that Orcus, the Demon Prince of the Undead (and the cover boy on Prince of Death), desires to be a god and he sets out to kill the new Goddess of Death, the Raven Queen.  The E series had you confront Orcus in a reality-spanning quest to stop a mad demon with the powers of an ancient evil artifact.  It was a plot that appealed to me.  The series featured three modules.
Now back in the 1st ed days we battled Orcus back in the Bloodstone Series (H1-4), which I'll also cover on "H" day.  So this was not really all that original.  Indeed even today in the 5e world we have the Rage of Demons adventure series which includes Orcus.   Orcus is a very easy target. He hates everythng, wants everything destroyed and is a rampaging beast.  Which is also the biggest issue I have with these modules.  Orcus is portrayed as a schemer. He isn't. He is a beast. In my own games he is classified as a Rage Demon.  So I thought someone else pulling the strings behind him would make more sense.  Someone clever, someone evil, and someone that will use Orcus getting godhood just as a mask to his own plans.  So now I think you can see how my "Come Endless Darkness" was born.

Over the last couple of years I have come up with some fairly rough algorithms for 4e conversion.  So here are my current thoughts.

Plan 1.  Use bits of this plus bits of H4 Throne of Bloodstone to fold into my Come Endless Darkness campaign.  This is the most likely really.

Though I would still LOVE to use ALL these adventures someday.  Play all nine, ten or eleven if you count the ones that came with the 4th ed basic set and Ghost Tower of the Witchlight Fens.   I doubt I will ever run it under 4e, but stranger things have happened.
But I could convert it.

Plan 2. Convert for use for another game. There is some good stuff here really and I would still love to play all of them out.  Conversion could solve my issues, but how do I convert it?

Well if I am playing 2nd, 3rd or 5th ed then levels are about to 2 to 3.  So if the adventure says it is for 6th level then I take 4th level characters through and replace the monsters appropriately.

If I am playing B/X/C or BEMCI (aka "Basic") version of D&D or AD&D 1 then I add 5 levels to the characters.  B/X/C and BEMCI assumes that the characters, well, human characters, will advance to 36th level.  And your average 1st level 4e character is still more powerful than your average 4th-5th level character.

I am more likely to try it under Basic; going from 1st to 36th level.  I am not really sure how well it would work to be honest.  But I will also admit this is my conversion of choice.  It allows me to use all the cool OSR toys I have and use a system am very familiar with.  I would adopt some of the 4e trappings like conditions, especially "bloodied" and ideas like minions.
I have already converted 1st and Basic-era luminaries as Emirikol the ChaoticAleena and Morgan Ironwolf to 4e, so going backwards is not that difficult.

There are a couple of conversion guides out there too. WotC has one as does Sly Flourish.  But none that I have found so far back-converting.

If you are new to this and want to learn how to play 4th Edition D&D and see the first part of the HPE saga you can get H1 Keep on the Shadowfell & Quick-Start Rules for 4e for free.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Of Orcus and Generalists

Lots of comments this week.

Orcus vs. Demogorgon
If this were the demonic throwdown then Orcus overwhelms Demogorgon.  Far more comments and hits.  I have to say though a large part of that is because of the Tod Lockwood art.   But even when I have something similar in the past Orcus usually wins too.  I like Demogorgon and think there is tons of untapped horror there and even something that makes him more demon than Orcus.  But Orcus looks like he could be on the cover of an 80's metal album.  Yeah I can see than, some band out of England in the 80's or a Death Metal band out of Norway or Finland today.  Name them Orküs or something like that.  Some one get Raggi on the phone, he would know.

Generalist vs. Specialists
Generalist seems to be the rule of the day here too.  But that is also not a surprise given the population that reads this blog.  I throw out stats for Unisystem, WitchGirls, d20, D&D of all shapes and size. You all must like that stuff.  The Specialists have their own blogs.  There are also seem to be dabblers.  People that are Specialists in one or two systems and fluent in a dozen more.
I still wish though that I had a better name for Generalist.

More later including a "new" game for me...Rifts.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Orcus and Vanth

We all know who this guy is:

But who is this?


Her name is Vanth and she is another Etruscan chthonic god depicted as a demon and she adorns funerary art.
What is their relationship other than the obvious historical one?

Well I also read a lot of science blogs and this picture of the largest trans-Neptunian objects came up (in a discussion of the Oort cloud.)

Vanth is the moon of Orcus.

I can't even begin to tell you how many ideas came flooding in on that one!

Vanth orbits Orcus in a tight precise circle and they are tidal locked.  Vanth is never far from Orcus then and she always keeps her face toward her master.

Mythological 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 is a Pathfinder creature called a Vanth, but it lacks some of the charm of this demon.

No I think I prefer Vanth to be a vassal of Orcus. Responsible for bringing him the choicest souls to be corrupted into foul undead.  In truth that picture of Orcus above should be reversed, Vanth (the woman) should be the one presenting the skeleton to her lord.

It could be that this unique Vanth has many of the lesser vanths at her disposal.  Maybe the souls her lord rejects become part of her own army.

I also saw this picture of Stephanie vanRijn that had me thinking of the relationship between Thanatos and Eros. Maybe this what Vanth looks like to humans.

Hit Dice: 11+15** (70 hp)
Armor Class: 1 [19]
Attacks: 1 sword (1d10+4)
Special: Flight, Magic resistance (55%), regenerate (3 hp/round),  +2 or better weapons to hit.
Move: 24' / 60'
Save: F12 (Basic) 12 (S&W)
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
Challenge/XP: 11/3,000

I will have to develop here more later.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Demogorgon for Unisystem

Demogorgon, Demon Prince of Fiends

And by them stood Orcus and Hades, and the dreaded name of Demogorgon.
- Milton, Paradise Lost.

It is contended by some that this demon prince is supreme. His hatred for Orcus is immense and unending, followed closely by his hatred for Grazzt.
- Gygax, Monster Manual

Demogorgon, The Great Fiend, Prince of Demons.

Note: Like Orcus, some of this information is based on previous works, some of it is based on historical records, and some more is completely made up.

Demogorgon is the Prince of Fiends. He (and it should be noted here and now that he is only used as a convenience, it is possible that Demogorgon is a she or an it or a both or neither, sages simply do not know) is the greatest of their number and is their ruler.

Much mystery surrounds the being known as Demogorgon. His name comes from the late Latin meaning Terrible Demon, but there are claims that he is a Greek chthonian god, or even something far more primal.

What is known is this. Demogorgon is ancient. He was old even in the pre-history of humankind. He has taken upon himself the mantle of The Prince of Demons, though there are very few that can actually challenge him in this role. In addition he is known as The Great Fiend, Lord of the Abyss, and The Great Beast. When the angels fell and took up lordship in Hell, Demogorgon was already there. He (and Orcus) greeted Lucifer and his angels. It is likely that he was kicked out since he now resides in Chesed. It is possible that his wars with Orcus and Belial began here.

Unlike other demonic creatures, Demogorgon is not a fallen angel or god. He has always been a fiend. As he has aged and evolved he has become more demon like. Or, if as speculated, he is the original demon and the fallen angels became more like him. Some occult scholars have even speculated that he might belong to that quasi-mythical group known as Proto-demons, which puts him closer in nature to likes of Pazuzu than Lucifer.

Motivations and Goals

Like most fiend lords, Demogorgon is obsessed with spreading his power. However the Great Fiend has had his share of battles. For example his war with Orcus is legendary and the populations of entire worlds have been spent in this never ending war. There was a time when it seemed Demogorgon had the upper hand, but he has been dealt a number of crushing reversals of late. He and Orcus are once again at a standstill, with Orcus possibly having the upper hand. He is also know for his battles with the Abat-Dolor demons whose leader is Grazzt, and those battles have picked up once again after some time of reduced activity. Grazzt covets Demogorgons title as Prince of Demons, something he sees himself as. Orcus and Demogorgon simply hate each other.
Less well know are his battles with the Fallen Angel/Arch Devil Belial, also known as Beliar. Though that war has been at a standstill for a number of centuries.

But more than anything Demogorgon is about change. He evolves and changes to fit the needs of the times. Some claim this is due to his dual brained nature of his two independent heads, others say it because he has been around for so long he has seen evolution in action and understands it at a level that even the Creator does not comprehend. What ever the case one factor is for certain, in their epoch stretching war Orcus has never gained a major victory despite a never end supply of undead minions. Minor ones yes, but never a major one.  Demogorgon has reigned supreme or at the very least had minor setbacks.

Even among the fiend lords Demogorgon has a peculiar hobby, he has spent millennia breeding different species of man, animal and fiend to produce new races. There seems to be no purpose in this other than the pursuit itself. Nearly every imaginable combinations and abominations can be found roaming free in his realm. Demogorogon has kept Mendelan like records that go back thousands of centuries on his successes, failures, reattempts, all with a methodical meticulousness that makes the handful of scholars that have seen them believe the theory that this is just one, extremely old creature.

Though it is whispered, there is another theory. That Demogorgon is in fact a title and not the Great Fiend's name. That over the wastes of time there have been many Demogorgons, one taking over when the previous one dies, all taking similar form, and maybe even the true essence (and Essence) of the Prince of Demons. This theory could help explain the seeming contradictions in his character. While dismissed by older sages and occultists there is a growing number of younger occult scholars that have embraced this idea and have taken to calling the creature The Demogorogon. There are at least two creatures, both extremely powerful fiends that occult scholars point to as examples. The greater fiends Aameul and Hethradiah (known as his right hand) were known to be powerful lieutenants of Demogorgon that were either killed (and unravelled), absorbed into the Demon Prince, or became The Demogorgon.

Regardless of which interpretation is true, there is no way to know for sure and all contact with Demogorgon is only likely to be with one entity in particular. Unless of course one is present when this theorized transfer of power occurs, and that is only likely if the cast are the main sacrifices or on the menu, or both.

In nearly all cases and examples throughout time, Demogorgon prefers to work through his cults (even if he pits these cults at cross purposes) rather than become directly involved. You wont see full manifestations of The Prince of Demons in the streets of New York either Pre- or Post- Rekoning (WitchCraft).


The renowned sage Gygax described the Great Demon thusly, Demogorgon appears as an 18-foot tall reptilian-humanoid. He has two heads that bear the visages of baboons. His blue-green skin is plated with snake-like scales, his body and legs are those of a giant lizard, his twin necks resemble snakes, and his thick tail is forked. In place of arms, he has two huge tentacles.

Demogorgon can change his form at will, depending on his mood. While he will typically appear as described above, he can alter that facade. Changes can be subtle, mandrill or hyena heads for example, or to a more sinuous body like that of a snake rather than a reptile. Demogorgon can also appear human as he wills. His most common guise is that of a tall man of indeterminate age and race (eye witnesses always differ on accounts) with two notable features, his eyes are always yellow tinged with red and he stands before them naked, clothed only in shadow and bald. Scholars speculate that this could be the Dark Man of many Wicce ceremonies (a notion that the Wicce universally deny). Other point out that until knowledge of Demogorgon's war with the demon Grazzt was known that there were no manifestations of Demogorgon beyond the classical fiendish one.

Those encountering the Great Demon report an overwhelming feeling of fear and dread. They describe feeling that they are in the presence of an ancient and alien evil. Those that have communicated with him describe a tumult of voices, of different ages, nationalities, genders, and description, but all cruel and evil. One occult scholar wrote that two voices, male and female, were foremost, but thousands of others could be heard in the background.

The Lair of Demogorgon

Like most fiendish realms, the Lair of Demogorgon is located in the Sephiroth of Chessed. The lair of the Great Fiend resembles an infinite lush topical rainforest full of every manner of life, both mundane and fiendish. Visitors from Malkuth (Earth) are reminded of the primal forests of South America or the jungles of India and Africa. Yet even the terrene dangers of those places are paled with the horrors of the jungles of Demogorgon. Other areas resemble great fetid bogs that stretch for miles and whose depths have never been explored, and great flat deserts of salt where the creatures survive beneath a white-hot sun by drinking the fluids of anything (or anyone) they capture.
Know by some as Abysm, Ungurth Reddik, and to others as The Gapping Maw, it is the home not only to Demogorgon and several thousand lesser fiends, but also to the two primary branches of Demogorgons cult (the third is situated wholly on Earth), many species of primates and reptiles of varying degrees of intelligence, dinosaurs and ancient reptiles, but also to several thousand humans stuck in a tribal state of development. It appears that the humans sole purpose for being here is to provide sport for the cultists of Demon King.

The Cult of Demogorgon

Demogorgon supports three very active (respective to their areas of control) cults. While separate and most time even ignorant of each other, the cults operate in similar fashions and all three, whether known or not, have the same goals; destruction, violence and the promotion of the will of Demogorgon.

The Blood Apes
The largest cult of Demogorgon, is a cult of intelligent Gifted apes. They are often referred to as The Blood Apes due to their habit of bathing in the blood of fallen enemies and comrades. These cultists actively worship Demogorgon as their god and attribute to him all spoils. The doctrines of the cult emphasize destruction and violence. In Apeworlds that feature these cultists they are most often intelligent baboons, mandrills, gibbons and sometimes gorillias. All are carnivores and keep human or (where appropriate) chimpanzee slaves. It is even whispered among the human populations that some humans are kept in an attempt by Demogorons Heirophants to breed true a race that features the most terrible qualities of both ape and man. Others claim they have already succeeded.

The Ophiacodontids
Constantly at war with the Blood Apes are the Ophiacodontids. Each cult believes there are the only true followers of the Great Fiend. The Ophiacodontids might have the edge in shear age, but the Blood Apes outnumber them 20 to 1. The Ophiacodontids are a race of intelligent synapsids that have, over the millennia of a carefully controlled eugenics program have assumed more upright and human-like form.
The Ophiacodontids were the first worshippers of Demogoron, living during the primeval dawn of the Earth during the Permian Period some 250-290 Million years ago. Their astrologers saw the end of the Permian Period that ended in the extinction of close to 90% of all life, a time we now call The Great Dying. The previously cold and scientific race turned to a doomsday religion with Demogorgon as their God. Demogorgon took the Ophiacodontids to his realm and there they continued their epoch long degradation as a species.
Wars between the two cults are a frequent occurrence with the Blood Apes pitting brutal and effective savagery against the Ophiacodontidae calculated cruelty. The only time they do not fight each other is when both tribes hunt humans for food or slave labor.
The symbol of the Ophiacodontids is the Amphisbaena, a great serpent with heads on both ends.

The Humanist Ecological Liberation League
The third and most radical of Demogorgons cultists is a group of Gifted humans living on Earth known as the Human Ecological Liberation League, or HELL. True to their name, they are a radical group of ecological terrorists and even the radical ELF (Earth Liberation Front) has disavowed them. HELL has claimed responsibility in billions of dollars in property damage to developers working in areas they have deemed protected, including the destruction of an off-shore oil rig that was drilling through a coral reef, a lumber company burned to the ground in South America and the destruction of computers used in a Midwestern America coal strip mining firm. They are also believed have been involved in various murders and disappearances of various persons from corporate executives down to a group of factory workers processing wood.
The members are for the most part the sons and daughters of Baby Boomers who instilled the ideas of activism into them, but not the restraint. Many hail from various Associations, with the Wicce being predominant. The various Wicce groups are quick to denounce them and reiterate that methods of HELL are not that of the Wicce. Even the Rosicrucians side with the Wicce on this issue and consider HELL to be the single greatest threat to exposure. Given that HELLs tactics are as subtle as a sledgehammer, both groups also agree that there is no way they could be part of the Combine.
The fact is the members of HELL, despite what they might believe themselves, are not Wicce or Rosicrucians at all, but in fact a cult dedicated to Demogorgon. Demogorgon is known to upper echelon of the cult, but the rank and file do not. The leaders commune with the Great Fiend, who appears to them as the Wicce Dark Man.
The upper ranks believe that Demogorgon represents nature, raw and untouched by man, and that centuries of human dogma has demonized him. They honestly believe they are doing the work of a wronged divine being. HELL is only vaguely aware of the other cults, and those that do believe that they were pre-historic antecedents (which is true) that died out epochs ago (which isnt true).

Demogorgon in Your Games

As with any super-powerful fiend care must be taken about how Game Masters introduce him to their game. The Casts primary contact with the Great Fiend should be through rumor only. The appearance of two headed snakes and frogs are common signs. Dealing with his cult, especially HELL could provide enough for an entire series of episodes. The cast can get to the top of a local HELL cell, only to discover that there is much more and all of it is controlled by a fiend that very few legends even mention.

Roleplaying Demogorgon versus The Demogorgon
Demogorgon has the potential of being the most ancient, powerful and dangerous entity the characters or the players have ever encountered. If He has been around since the Permian times that would equate to 240 to 290 Million Years, that is at least 2.4 to 2.9 Million levels of Age. Even if he was down for more than half that time (say he was only active when there were active worshipers) that is still about 40 million extra skill points! Obviously he cant have that much. But there are still problems with dealing with such an ancient, alien creature. One option is to cut him down to size.
Explore the possibility that Demogorgon is in fact a title given to most powerful fiend in existence. When that fiend is killed, or dies for whatever reason, a new Demogorgon is appointed. This would be the biggest secret in all the infernal realms, and quite an adventure for the Cast that discovers it. Maybe the current Demogorgon is ancient and a new fiend has challenged him to rule over all the fiends. A fight ensues and the younger fiend emerges victorious! Only to be subjected to a painful transformation where he becomes the new Demogorgon. Maybe Orcus did defeat Demogorgon once, only to be transformed to the new one.
Another possibility for adventure is a current demon adversary manages to learn the secret and becomes, through duplicity, the new Demogorgon. Now the cast is really in trouble.

Demogorgon has been pulling in races from as far back as the Permian times from the continent of Pangaea. One could only imagine the knowledge he has collected from Lemuria, Atlantis, Hyborea or other long lost lands of occult wisdom. Imagine the surprise of your Immortal Templar when a creature looking like a cross between a toad and a monkey appears and starts talking about the flying mind ships of his ancestors. It is quite certain that Demogorgon has in his possession knowledge of the Greater Keys of Solomon. And his interactions with the Wicce and Rosecrucians have already been noted.
It is also during this time that HELL is most active.
Demogorgon, when he rarely ventures to Earth, can remain for 16 days.

Demogorgon is of a mind to take advantage of the situation and unleash new hells on the Earth. Most associations would disdain contact with him, even those aligned with the Infernal Realms. While mostly low-profile during the pre-Reckoning, Demogorgon sees the post-Reckoning world as the means to gain control. While not stopping the Cult of Leviathan, he is not working with them either.
In the Post-Reckoning Demogorgon can remain in the mortal world for 80 days at a time.

AFMBE (D&Z)/Terra Primate/Army of Darkness
Demogorgons lair itself, despite its supernatural placement, can be used as a fantastic Ape / Dead World. Follow the Lost Continent example from Terra Primeate (after all what continent is more lost than Pangaea?) Humans, intelligent apes, even some intelligent bipedal reptiles can be created here in their daily struggle for life, not against the forces of darkness, but from within the heart of darkness itself. Travelling to the lair is the kind of stuff that makes legends out of characters in Dungeons & Zombies (remember Queen of the Demonweb Pits?) and Army of Darkness.

Ghosts of Albion (and other CineUnisystem games)
Scientific thought is embracing the world. Industry is growing and the world is shrinking. The gap between those that have and those that have not has never been more profound. Sounds ripe for fiendish influence. To date Demogorgon has shown no interest in Ablion (or Alba or Éire for that matter either), but the defeat of Balberith has sent a ripple through the supernatural world and now everyone's attention is on the tiny isle of Albion. After all two-siblings, barely adults even by human standards, defeated one of Lucifer's most powerful lieutenants, they cant be lucky all the time.

Unisystem Stats


Other names: The Great Fiend, The Demon Prince, Lord of the Brine Flats, Lord of the Gapping Maw, The Demon King.
Type: Greater Fiend (Demon)
*Though a Fiend, Demogorgons nature is closer to demonic.

Strength: 18
Dexterity: 15
Constitution: 14
Intelligence: 12
Perception: 18
Willpower: 16

Secondary Attributes
Endurance: 340
Speed: 58
Armor: 28

Essence: 228
Vital Essence: 456
Channelling level: 9

Life Points (when Manifested): 430

Acute Senses (all)
Age +40* (best estimate)
Charisma +4
Essence Channelling +9
Hard to Kill +20
Increased Essence Pool +13 (+65 Essence Points)
Increased Life Points +12 (+120 LP)
Natural Toughness
Nerves of Steel +4
Greater Fiend
Supernatural Senses (including see Invisible)

Adversary (lots, powers of good and evil) 10
Attractiveness 2
Covetous, Greedy 3
Cruel 3
Delusions of Grandeur -3
Obsession, genetic experimentation 4
Paranoia 4
Taint Vulnerability

Languages (all) +10
Theophany skill
Brawling +18
Bureaucracy +12
Cheating +9
Craft, Weapons +12
Craft, ritual items +10
Dodge +10
Hand weapons, sword +16
Hand weapons, others +10
Magic Theory +16
Magic bolts +15
Myths & Legends, Greek +16
Myths & Legends, Pre-historic +16
Notice +16
Occult Knowledge +18
Questioning +14
Rituals (Wicce, Rosicrucian) +15

All other skills at +5

Bad Luck 9
Destroyer 8 Destruction
Dark Vision
Essence Drain Demogorgon can drain 10 points of Essence per touch.
Essence Shieldings
Gaze Attacks
- Beguiling (left head), victim must make contested Willpower check to avoid catatonic stupor for number of turns equal to the difference in Willpowers.
- Hypnosis (right head), victim must make contested Willpower check to avoid following Demogorons wishes for number of turns equal to the difference in Willpowers.
- Insanity (both heads together), victim must make a contested Willpower check or go insane.
Regeneration Regenerates his current CON in LP per minute. Drained Essence can be added to Life Points or Essence (Vital or Pool).

Rotting Touch - Any living creature touched by Demogorgons tentacles must make a Constitution (doubled) check, or its flesh and bones begin to rot. The victim takes 1d4(2) points of Constitution damage immediately and 1 point of Constitution damage every hour thereafter until it dies. Any healing invocation will halt the damage, but lost points return only with natural healing and cannot be restored with magic.

Keys of Solomon
As the Prince of Demons Demogoron also has access to the Keys of King Solomon.
He will typically use the following:
Key of the Seraphim* (can only use it on demons)
Key of the Spirit (can only use it on fiends)
Key of War

Melee, bite, 2 attacks, bonus: +33, damage d4(2)x16, poison
Bite Poison strength rating 6, damage 2d6(6)+6.
Melee, tentacles, 2 attacks, bonus: +33, damage: d6(3)x18, Essence Drain, Rotting.
Melee, tail, 1 attack, bonus: +31, damage d6(3)x19, Essence Drain.

Demogorgon can summon 4-24 fiends to aid him. These fiends regard him has their lord and will obey him without question.
He can also summon up to a dozen lesser demons and fiends to aid him. These demons and fiends are less loyal, and will flee if the fight is going against them.

Blood Apes

Strength: 5-6
Dexterity: 3-4
Constitution: 5-7
Intelligence: 3-4
Perception: 3
Willpower: 3

Essence: 22-27
Life Points: 56-68

Qualities: Gift, Hard to Kill 2

Skills: Brawling 5, Handweapon (sword) 3

Metaphysics: Invocations

Blood Apes appear as any intelligent ape type found in Terra Primate, save that these creatures also wield magics. Most are Lesser Gifted, with a few tribal leaders as Gifted. Mundanes, if sufficiently brutal in other forms of life are allowed to live.


Strength: 4
Dexterity: 3-5
Constitution: 3-4
Intelligence: 4-7
Perception: 4
Willpower: 6

Essence: 24-30
Life Points: 41-45

Qualities: Gift, Hard to Kill

Skills: Brawling 3, Handweapon (sword) 4

Metaphysics: Seer powers

Opiacodontids are a race of bipedal synapsids that have evolved under Demogorgons guidance. They consider the Great Demon to be their god. They do not differ much in terms of physical size and strength from humans. They tend to be a bit smarter on the average and have stronger wills.
Opiacodontids also posses Seer/Psychic powers with the vast majority Lesser Gifted and an elite minority Gifted. Mundane creatures are killed at birth.