Sunday, September 20, 2020

Week of Shadow Begins Today

The Autumn Equinox draws near.  Today we have slightly more light during the 24 period than tomorrow.  On Tuesday this all changes and we begin that slow descent to the Dark.

This week I am going to be looking at and doing reviews on the Shadow Fey, Shadow Elves, and other creatures of shadow.  


Think of it as my prep for Halloween!

Friday, September 18, 2020

Friday Night Videos: Songs of the White Wolf

I posted my One Man's God post today on the Melnibonéan Mythos.

So I figure let's have some songs based on, around, or about Elric of Melniboné.

There are actually quite a few.


We have to start with Blue Öyster Cult who worked often with Michael Moorcock. 




Hawkwind owes their name and half their catalog to Moorcock's works I think.








Here is an entire playlist of close to 40 songs about Elric and Moorcock's universe.


One Man's God: Melnibonéan Mythos

Elric by Jeff Dee

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

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

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

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


Melniboné and Demons

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

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

Law & Chaos, Good & Evil

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

Lords of Hell and Demons

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

Demons vs. Elemental Lords

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

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

But more on that later.

Elemental Lords & Animal Lords

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

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

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

The Demons

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

Arioch (and Xiombarg)

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

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

Assassinator of the Gods

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

Clakar

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

Elenoin & Grahluk

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

Kelmain

Humanoids from Limbo.

Mist Giant

More of a monster than a demon.

Mordagz

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

Pyaray

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

Quaolnargn

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

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

Elric as a Warlock

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

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


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

Elric of Melniboné

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

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

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

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

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

I rather like this. 

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


And finally,

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

Up first an article from DM David.

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

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

Both are worth the time to go over.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Happy Birthday Cassandra "Elvira" Peterson!

Busy work today so I didn't plan on posting, but I saw that today is Cassandra Peterson, aka Elvira's birthday today and I just had a mark the day!

Cassandra Peterson was born on September 17, 1951 and had a variety of jobs including go-go dancer, a model for men's magazines, Vegas showgirl, Tom Waits album cover model, and more.  But it is her baudy "Valley Girl Vampire" inspired character Elvira that most people know her for.

I had this poster in my dorm 1987.

She rose to stardom when she was hired to take over "Fright Night" on KHJ-TV in Los Angeles. The show was renamed "Movie Macabre with Elvira, Mistress of the Dark" and she became so popular that she soon was getting national attention.  She even got her own movie, "Elvira: Mistress of the Dark" which at best can be described as a Scooby-Doo plot.   

To return the favor she was featured in 2019's "Scooby-Doo! Return to Zombie Island" and in 2020's "Happy Halloween, Scooby-Doo!"



Elvira also has an RPG connection, however small.  Pacesetter released "Evenings of Terror, featuring Elvira" back in 1985 and it was one of the last (if not the last) Pacesetter produced products for Chill.



Elvira played the roll of hostess to nine mini adventures that had various horror movie influences. As a product it was actually quite fun. 

While Elvira is a great character, Cassandra Peterson is a great person.  I have been following her and Elvira since the early 80s.  I guess it is not really a shock that my iconic witch Larina has red hair and blue eyes.





And because I can,
Get your little Elvira here



Links

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Dungeon! Apple IIe Game

This Image file is worth 3 Apple IIe's in size.

I have mentioned many times here what a fan I am of the Dungeon! board game.  Recently James over at Grognardia (yes if you have not seen, Grognardia is back) posted about the Dungeon! computer game

I remember it from the time, of course, I had a couple of friends that had Apples. I never picked it up since I was in the Tandy Color Computer world at the time. 

Sadly, like many games, this one was never ported over to the CoCo, nor do I think it ever made it to the Atari 400/800/1200XL world either.

So naturally, I started looking for it and was pleased (and not surprised really) to see it had been uploaded to the Internet Archive.

There are a few versions up, but this is the one that I had the most success with. 

Dungeon! (1980)(TSR)[a]]

With the MAME extension already supplied by the Internet Archive, you can play it right in your browser.

The Computer Adventure Game Mueseum also has the manual for you to see.  But if you have played Dungeon! before then you know how to play this one. 

The graphics, while primative by today's standards, look great on an Apple IIe.  I did a bit more digging and discovered that the game was written in Apple Basic. So if you can get ahold of the source code you could have some fun! Hell. I would try it on my Color Computer emulator if for no other reason that see if I can still do it.  On the other hand, maybe I should ask my youngest to make one for me in Python.

A user at Board Game Geek tried his hand at writing a version in C#.  My C skills are weak anymore so this source code does me about as much good as the Apple Basic one.  I tried to run the files he has, but I think I am missing a .NET file or two on my PC.  I didn't want to try to run it on my work computer.

The Apple IIe emulation above though runs nice enough. 

If you want to get a feel for what the game was like here is a walk through on YouTube. 


I am a fan of Dungeon! but I don't think I am going to spend the energy chasing this one down.  That is unless I also inherit an Apple IIe. But my wife has already threatened to kill me if I bring another "busted up, old ass computer" into the house.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Eludecia, the Succubus Paladin for Basic-era games

ePic Character Generator

Back in the 3.5 days there was this contest, the D&D Creature Competition. It was a fun little romp of pitting monster vs. monster in a bracket-style competition where people voted.  There were such mainstays as the Tarrasque, Meepo the Kobold, and a gelatinous cube, and some odd ones like a half gold dragon/half pixie, a warforged ninja, and Half-Amethyst Dragon/Iridescent Naga.  But the strangest one, and the one that eventually won was Eludecia, the Succubus Paladin.

Eludecia got a featured write-up and even an adventure centered around her, Legend of the Silver Skeleton.  I always thought the character was a really interesting one.  She is seeking redemption at a level that honestly staggers the mind. She has suffered (imprisoned inside a gelatinous cube to burn the entire time) and yet she is still trying to be better. She is a character I could see working quite well in D&D 5th edition.  But what about Basic-era D&D?  

Basic D&D: B/X or BECMI?

Lately, I have been playing an unholy hybrid of D&D B/X and BECMI and OSR.  It might not work for others, but for me it has been fantastic.

So I try to aim at a 1st to 14th level range, this allows me not to have to choose between B/X and BECMI level play.  I add in BECMI details when things get higher in level.  Thankfully for me, there are plenty of examples of Eludecia at levels 8th, 14th, and 18th level.  Once you figure her 6HD of Succubus this makes her 2nd, 8th, and 12th level Paladin.  That keeps her within the bounds of my B/X sweet spot.

In this version of Eludecia has been roaming the multiverse, seeking quests not to prove her worthiness, but to test it.  She has a shape-change ability, but she keeps her succubus features in the open so that everyone knows what she is.  To her, it is far more important to be truthful in her dealings with all mortals than to pass herself off as human.  She carries a holy sword, even though its touch hurts her. 

For her Basic build, I am going to start with the Succubus as presented in Eldritch Wizardry. Then I am going to add the Paladin class on top of that.  For the Paladin, there are a lot of choices including the BECMI Paladin in the Companion Rules or the OSE Paladin.  I think in the end I'll use the OSE Paladin and add in the BECMI material as needed.


The Eldritch Wizardry Succubus has the following features.

Succubi prefer to act alone and Eludecia is no different. In her case though it is because she knows her journey is a solo one. Only she can earn her redemption. Plus she knows she is a target by the forces of Evil and sometimes Good alike. She does not wish to put others in harm. She still has all her succubus powers; causing darkness, drain life, become ethereal, charm person, ESP, clairaudience, shape change, and gate.  She considers these powers to be tainted and will never use them, even to save her own life.  Her Gate ability will not work even if she tried, no demon will answer her summons. She does know this. She can't control her 70% magic resistance.

Her base AC is 9, movement is 40 (120), and 60 (180) flight. Her base HD is 6.  

I think for this build I want her a little higher level than her 3.5 days, so here she is now a 14th level Paladin. With her base 6HD this makes her a 20HD/level NPC.

Her base 3.5 stats are a little bit outside the realms of Basic D&D (unless I use some Companion or Immortal Rules).  
Str 18, Dex 14, Con 14, Int 16, Wis 14, Cha 30

I'll re-scale these to Basic levels.

I also opted to make her blonde as a nod to Sheila Mullen the supposed "model" for the succubus in the AD&D Monster Manual. 

Eludecia, the Succubus Paladin

14th level Paladin, Lawful (Lawful Good)

Strength: 18 (+3)
Intelligence: 16 (+2 languages)
Wisdom: 14 (+1 on magic-based saves)
Dexterity: 14 (+1)
Constitution: 14 (+1)
Charisma: 20 (likely it is a lot more) (+4)

Saving throws: D 2, W 3, P 4, B 3, S 6.  MR 70%

AC: 0 [19]
HP: 93 (6d8+6, 9d8+9,+10)
THAC0: 10 [+9]

Powers, Succubus: +2 weapons needed to hit, 70% magic resistance (these are powers she can't control)

Powers, Paladin: Divine Spells, Lay on Hands, Undead Turning

Equipment: Plate Armor +2, holy sword +3, holy symbol, normal shield

Spells

1st level: Cure Light Wounds, Detect Evil, Protection from Evil

2nd level: Bless, Hold Person

3rd level: Striking



How I Would Use Her

There is so much that could be done with this character. I guess that is why 15 years after she appeared I still find reasons to pull her out for things.

I am getting near the end of my HUGE Order of the Platinum Dragon campaign (more on that later) and presently the characters are stuck in the Abyss.  I think it is entirely possible that they might find her silver bones stuck in the Gelatinous Cube. The PCs could free her and gain an ally.  AND since I now have Basic-era stats for her, I can see her making an appearance in my new campaign, War of the Witch Queens.

Anyone ever use her in your own games?

Monday, September 14, 2020

Monstrous Monday: Moon Nymphs

Here is one that was supposed to go into my Daughters of Darkness: The Mara Witch for Basic Era Games and The Children of the Gods: The Classical Witch for Basic Era Games. But for various reasons she kept getting cut.  I figure now is a good time to bring her back.


Luis Ricardo Falero
Melinoë (Moon Nymph)

Medium Faerie
Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 0 (1-3)
Alignment: Neutral (Chaotic Neutral)
Movement: 120' (40') [12"]
Armor Class: 7 [12]
Hit Dice: 4d8+4** (22 hp)
Attacks: None
Damage: None 
Special: Madness, Nightmare, only harmed by cold iron, witch magic
Size: Medium
Save: Witch 4
Morale: 6
Treasure Hoard Class: None
XP: 225

Melinoë, or Moon Nymphs, are only found in the wilderness under the light of the moon. They are found "clothed in saffron (yellow)" which is actually just moonlight.  

Like all nymphs, they are unearthly beautiful. Any mortals that gaze upon them must save vs. Paralysis or be struck by moon madness for 1d4+2 turns.  A character with moon madness can't take actions save for muttering to themselves. The only intelligible things they can say are about the moon and how beautiful it is.

If three melinoë are present and they are observed they can cast the Nightmare spell (q.v). The subject has a +2 to their saves vs. Spells since the moon is known to all. 

Otherwise, a can cast spells as a 4th level witch (2 1st level, 2 2nd level spells).  They have no physical attacks. They also have no treasure.

For NIGHT SHIFT

Moon Nymph
No. Appearing: 1-3
AC: 7
Move: 40ft (under Moonlight only)
Hit Dice: 4
Special: Madness, Nightmare, only harmed by cold iron, witch magic
XP VALUE: 125

Moon Nymphs are very rare in the worlds of NIGHT SHIFT.  They are often mistaken for some type of vampire.