Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Mail Call: Chris Perkins' "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition"

Been a busy time at work, so just a fast one today.

Some time ago I grabbed something called "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Edition" from the web.  It has been sitting in my "to be sorted" folder for ages.  I was in the process of digging up some other material for a project when I happened upon them.   The layout was nice and clean and the covers were nearly print-ready.  So I spent some time a few nights ago tweaking it and slapped the whole thing on Lulu.

Here is what I got.

Chris Perkins' Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Ed.

Chris Perkins' Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Ed. PHB

Chris Perkins' Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Ed. PHB

Chris Perkins' Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Ed. PHB

Chris Perkins' Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Ed. PHB

Chris Perkins' Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Ed. MM

Chris Perkins' Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Ed. MM

Chris Perkins' Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Ed. DMG

Chris Perkins' Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Ed. DMG

Chris Perkins' Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 3rd Ed. Covers

Frankly, I am pretty happy with it. 

I went a re-looked up what this game was/is and it turns out it was done by Chris Perkins.  The game is a very nice blend of AD&D 1st and 2nd Editions with mechanics from D&D 3rd Edition and inspiration from Castles & Crusades.  The overall effect is not unlike D&D 5th Edition, but more of a 1st Edition feel.

The art is all copied from published classic D&D sources, so there is no way this thing is legal to sell. I am sure if cleaned up it could be released under the OGL, but it is so close to Castles & Crusades and D&D 5th edition there is no need to do so save as an entertaining experiment.

Perkins used to have a website for it, http://www.adnd3egame.com/cnc.htm but it is long since gone. There are details about it at RPG Geek and Boardgame GeekI have no idea where it is hosted anymore.  I found a new site for it here: https://scruffygrognard.wordpress.com/2010/02/02/add-3rd-edition/Note: Perkins is now working on a BX3e.

It is a completely playable game and has a lot of nice features.  It reads like a D&D "Greatest hits" album.  It is just missing some "kits" or "subclasses" to make it more like 5e.  

The question of course is why play this when I have all the other versions of *D&D?  Well, the simple answer is that it looks like fun.  IT might be neat to play this "what if" version.  It is also interesting to see which design choices Perkins went with. Like why 20th century D&D style saving throws and not say 3rd/4th Edition ones or 5th Edition/Castles & Crusades ones?  How does the skill system work (feels like a mix of AD&D 1st ed and D&D 3rd ed)?  There are Bard and Monk classes, how do they compare to their 1st and 3rd ed counterparts?  Plus there is a section on Psionics. So there is a lot to explore here.

Besides the books are damn attractive.  The layout like I said is clean and simple, but it appeals to me.

Now that I found his site again I am curious to see if there will be more updates on it. His BX3e project also looks very interesting.

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. 

Links

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Plays Well With Others: Man, Myth & Magic and Lands of Adventure

Ok. "Plays Well With Others" might be stretching it a bit. Almost to the point of ridiculousness to be honest, but I have wanted to compare both Lands of Adventure and Man, Myth & Magic for a while now.

Man, Myth & Magic and Lands of Adventure

On the surface both games are attempts at presenting historical or at least semi-historical, roleplaying to a Post-AD&D world. Both games present various areas and eras of play to help facilitate that notion of historical roleplaying. LoA with its Culture Packs and MM&M with its adventures and Egyptian add-on.

Both games can best, and fairly, be described as overly complicated and in reality somewhat messy.

Both games have more complicated (than AD&D) character creation but attempt to create characters that are appropriate for their times.

Incidentally, both games also use real tiny d20 percentile dice that are difficult at best for me to read these days.

Thematically MM&M tries for historical accuracy despite having a rogue T-Rex running around as an ersatz dragon.  LoA probably does a little better here even though it does include several fantastic beasts and monsters.

LoA gives us two (more were planned) Culture Packs, Ancient Greece and Medival England.  They are separated by about 2000 years and characters are not expected to be able to travel to one from the other.

MM&M gives us a bunch of different cultures and the idea of "travel" between them is via Reincarnation.  The culture best (and I say that loosely) represented here is Rome circa 40 AD (or sometime around that).  Even then it has issues.

Neither system is one I want to cozy up with for long periods of time.  Not to mention there are plenty of other games that do historical roleplaying better, Pendragon and Chivalry & Sorcery are two that come to mind right away and there are others.  The idea of historical role-playing though is still an appealing one.

What is a Game Master to do?

The Fantastic Journey

Back in the late 70s there was a short-lived TV series, The Fantastic Journey, about a group of people that were traveling to different lands throughout time and space. It hit all the social and occult themes of the 1970s. A man from the future with psychic powers, the daughter of an Atlantean and an extraterrestrial, a scientist from the 60s (Roddy McDowall), a young African American doctor, and a super-smart teenager (Ike Eisenmann, fresh from Witch Mountain).  The show didn't last long, but it imprinted deeply on my psyche.  

It had similarities to the show Time Tunnel that came before it and Voyagers! and Quantum Leap that came after.  Though, unlike those shows that tried to pay a little lip service to time travel science, TFJ was pure fantasy.  There was magic and even a sorcerer and a werewolf.   I have often wondered how I could make a game that mimics this and fulfill the promises made by MM&M and LoA.

I could take a page from Herbie Brennan's other game Timeship for ideas. But honestly, that is just trading an easy solution for more problems.

I like the idea of a group of characters, unstuck in time, traveling to different periods.  Whether the characters themselves are doing it or they are reincarnations, I go back and forth on.   Part of me likes the idea of the idea reincarnation since that sets them in situ with the proper time and knowledge. OR maybe their consciousness is traveling and inhabiting new bodies ala Quantum Leap.  I would need a big bad of course.  Someone travelling through time, or maybe someone (or multiple someones) that are immortal and trying to do something to humanity.  Destroy it?  No, that is too easy. I am going to say advance them in the past so they are more powerful and deadly in the future for some nefarious means. I might take a page from the Doctor Who episode/serial City of Death.

Part of me wants to do this and each time the character travel in time use the system that best represents it.  So Pendragon, LoA, MM&M, even WitchHunt.   But that is, to put it mildly, insane.

I would use a simple system, likely NIGHT SHIFT to be honest. Survivors would work the best with the odd sage, psychic, and veteran.  Then adapting D&D-like games is easier. Each time the character travels they can pick up some odd skills or the like.

historical games? maybe.

Again, I hate to fall into another sunk cost fallacy here but I like to think I owe it to myself to have the game that I wish these games were.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Character Creation Challenge: Man, Myth & Magic

Man, Myth & Magic - PDF cover
It is the first of the month, so that means a new character.  I went through the effort of creating a new character for Man, Myth & Magic.  Well, I say "new" because it is a new character for this game, but it is someone I have used a lot in the past.

The Game: Man, Myth & Magic

I spent the day reviewing Man, Myth & Magic and it was rather fun. But not a game I am likely to play.  So in these cases I use the game to help inform characters that I might be using in other games.  In this case I am doing the human, still living version of a character that has so far only appeared in my games as a ghost.

The Character: Queen Boudica

Fans of the Ghosts of Albion RPG will recognize this name.  Boudica is the Queen of the Iceni Celts living in western Briton at the time of the Roman occupation.  So the time period is really perfect.  I set this at 61 CE.  If I am going to play a game in Roman Briton then I want to join the Queen as she burns down Londinium.

Boudica, or Boadicea, was a central figure in the Ghosts of Albion animations on the BBC and in the books by Christopher Golden and Amber Benson.  She became one of my personal favorite characters in the RPG as well.  While she is great fun as a ghost, getting the chance to play her as a still living and breathing human is too much of a temptation to pass up.

I am going to include a scan of the sheet with page numbers appended to it.  This was one of the bigger (but by no means unique) issues with this game.  You have to flip all over the place to get the information you need to create a character, let alone to play.  

Note: Windows updated and now can't find my scanner. So here is an image from my phone.

Queen Boudica

In Ghosts of Albion lore, Boadicea had some magic. She was in the middle of casting a spell when she was murdered in fact.

For Boudica here I did not include any spells, though I could have.  I didn't find any that fit well with the concept of her in this game.  Plus she is technically not a spell caster here.

In any case, she is a fascinating character and I could stat her up in several systems and not grow tired of her.

Boadicea Haranguing the Britons (called Boudicca, or Boadicea) by John Opie

Long live the Queen.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Review: Man, Myth & Magic (1982)

Man, Myth, & Magic RPG
I am going to be spending some quality time with the classic game Man, Myth & Magic by Herbert "Herbie" Brennan and J. Stephen Peek and published originally byYaquinto Publications in 1982, and now published (in PDF and single softcover formats) by Precis Intermedia.  

I was always kind of fascinated by this game. The name of course grabbed me for two reasons. There was the whole "Myth and Magic" side to it all which in 1982 was a big draw for me.  Also, there was the magazine and encyclopedia series also called Man, Myth & Magic that dealt with all sorts of occult-related topics.  

I read reviews for it in Dragon Magazine (#80) and White Dwarf (#41) and was actually quite curious about it.  The reviews really ripped into the game and I needed to know if it was as bad as they made it sound.  Sadly I never found a copy near me and a mail-order of $19.00 + tax and shipping and handling made it a little more out of reach when it was new.

But I was always drawn to historical games. I felt if I could play or run a game and learn something about history at the same time then it was time well spent really.  A few I have enjoyed quite a lot, mostly Victorian-era ones, and others I ripped online so much I promised I wasn't going to rip on them anymore. 

Man, Myth, & Magic sadly belongs to the camp of a historical mishmash, that is to say, it is about as historically accurate as an episode of Xena: Warrior Princess.  Don't get me wrong, I love me some Xena and it is very entertaining in the right frame of mind.  The same is true for this game. Great, in the right frame of mind.  In fact, I think that now, living in a post-Xena world, there is a place for this game that did not exist in 1982.   

Man, Myth, & Magic

For this review, I am going to consider my original boxed set from 1982 (now minus the dice) and the newer PDF versions found on DriveThruRPG published by Precis Intermedia.  In both cases, the material is the same minus some of the extras that came in the boxed set like the dice and a pad of character sheets.

Man, Myth, & Magic

Man, Myth, & Magic was published in a boxed set of three books (same covers), with a pad of character sheets, some maps, and dice.  The PDF combines the three books into one 132 page volume. The original boxed set retailed for $19.00 in 1982 ($55 in today's buying power) and the PDFs sell for $7.95 today.  The books feature color covers and black & white interiors. 

Book 1

Book 1 is 24 pages and covers the "Basic Game" and the game most like the one as originally conceived of by Herbie Brennan.  In this game, the players play gladiators in the time of the Roman Emperors. Which one? That is up to a random dice roll unless of course, the players want something different. 

Who's in charge around here?

It's an interesting idea, but...well there are some problems here. According to the back of the box, it is the Summer of 41 CE. Cool.  But Caligula was assassinated in January of 41 CE.  Tiberius ruled 14 to 37 CE and Nero was Emperor from 54 to 68 CE.  The only Emperor in the Summer of 41 was Claudius. Adding dates in parentheses would have been a nice touch.  Let's not even get into the fact that Cleopatra VII, the last of the Egyptian Pharaohs, had died back in 30 BCE, 71 years before the events of this game, but that looks like her on the cover.  I'll talk more about this later.  In theory you can tun this game from 4000 BCE to 500 (or 1000) CE. 

You begin with your Roman Gladiator and your two percentile d20s and roll up your characteristics.  The characteristics in the Basic Game are Strength, Speed, Skill (not used just yet), Endurance, Intelligence, and Courage. The scores range from 1 to 100.  You add all these up for your Life Points (so 5 to 500), you fall unconscious at 20 or below and dead at 0 or below. 

The Basic rules take your gladiator from start to a bit of combat and adventure with the maxim that the best way to learn is to do.   This is a tactic that the rest of the game uses.  At the end of this, your character is ready for new adventures.

The neat bit, and one I want to revisit, is the idea of reincarnation. That is if your character dies they can be reincarnated. 

Book 2

Book 2 covers the "Advanced Game" and includes 40 pages. Here we learn more about skills, the Power score, and the different Nationalities (10) and Classes associated with each (2-5 each).  All are completely random and no real attempt is made to explain why say an Egyptian Sorcerer, a Gaulish Barbarian, a Roman Gladiator, and a Hibernian Leprechaun would all be part of the same adventuring party.  Ok. That's not entirely true, but the explanation takes some digging. 

Up first is determining your Nationality. Again a random roll gives you African, Briton, Egyptian, Gaul, Greek, Hebrew, Hibernian, Visigoth, Roman, and Oriental. Each at 10% chance.   Within each nationality, there are character classes.  Regardless of how many there is an equal chance for any given class.  Most nationalities have a sort of "fighter" like class and all have merchant.  There are two classes open to women characters only, Wisewoman (African) and Sybil (Greek).  Details are given for all the classes, 20 in total, but not a lot of information.  In most cases only a paragraph here and some more details later on.  This brings up a persistent issue, the rules are a bit scattered everywhere throughout the book. 

Additionally, there are two "Special Categories" of players (not characters) of "Orator" and "Sage" or essentially a storyteller and a record keeper.  Much in the same way Basic D&D has a "Caller."  Not much else is mentioned about these roles however. 

This character is considered to be your first incarnation.  Anytime your character dies, you can then reincarnate.  This allows you to change your nationality, class, and gender and retain a little bit of the Skill from a previous incarnation.  It is an interesting idea, I am not 100% certain though that it works. Knowing gamers I see a situation where players would play a character only to get them to die for a chance at a better character next time. 

There is a fun chart on inheritance that would be fun to port over to other games.  Related there are our ubiquitous tables of equipment.   

Some of the other secondary "Optional" characteristics are also detailed.  These include Agility, Charm, Dexterity, Drinking, and so on.  These are really more akin to "skills." The trouble is that some of these you have to roll higher, some you have to roll lower and others you don't roll at all.  There is no rhyme or reason here. 

Combat rules follow and they remind me a bit of Runequest.  Nothing really special really.  Strength points over 50 can add to your damage, Skill points over 50 can add to your "To hit" chance. Combat, like all the rolls here, start with a basic 50% chance to hit.  The Basic game just has you roll. The Advanced game has you make called shots.  Classes with Combat as their "Prime Ability" can improve their ability to hit even more. All classes can spend Power to also increase their to-hit bonus; 10 points of Power to increase your chance by 1%.  Interestingly armor does not stop you from being hit, it does reduce damage taken.

The goal of the game though is the accumulation of Power.  Power advances your character and can overcome that 50% failure rate.  Power also is the, well, power behind Magic. 

The Magic part of M,M,&M

The last third or so of the book covers all sorts of additional rules.  Some seem tossed in, to be honest. Poisons are covered as are spells.  

Magic, as expected, is given some special attention, though not as much as I was expecting.  Magic is assumed to be real and work, at least part of the time.  Magic is described as "Coincidence," a spell is uttered and something happens whether it caused it or not. "Science," Damascus steel is given an example. The superior technology was seen as magic. "Psychic Phenomena" which not really an explanation at all, likewise "Trance State" and as "Lost Knowledge."  Though no explanation is really given as to how magic works.  

Book 3

The adventures take up Book 3 and is 64 pages.  This book is for the Lore Master (Game Master) only and is also one of the weaker parts of the game.  The Adventures, while interesting, are a bit of a railroad. In order to succeed the players have to hit all the parts in order and then move on to the next adventure.   

The adventures include the following:

  • The Dragon Loose in Rome. Not a dragon rally, but a rogue T-Rex.  Not that this makes any more sense, but ok, points for effort.  
  • Apollo's Temple. Emperor Caligula sends the characters to the Temple of Apollo aka Stonehenge.
  • The Witches of Lolag Shlige. The characters then have to go to Ireland (Hibernia) and rescue a child from some witches.
  • The Great Pyramid Revealed. Caligula has issued a death warrant for the characters. They find themselves in the Great Pyramid of Giza.

These adventures are a prelude to the published adventures.   There are some neat ideas here, but the adventures lack something for me. Actually, it lacks a lot of things for me, but I could make some changes to make them work.

There are some encounter tables, but they only cover the areas that the adventures are detailed here. I also have to note there are no monsters here.  Just humans. 

One of the bigger criticisms of this game at the time was the then $19.00 price tag, about $55 in today's buying power.  Now $20 for a boxed set of three books, character sheets, and dice sounds like a steal.  With the PDF at just $7.95 it is at a price I think should attract anyone that might have been interested in this game. 

The art is in black & white, which is expected and welcome, but there is not a lot of it and some of it is repeated throughout the books.  

Man, Myth, & Magic at times feels like two different games, or rather two different ideas merged into one game.  I feel that the classic Roman Gladiator/Basic Game was Herbie Brennan's idea and the worldwide game of various nations and types or the Advanced Game was Steve Peek's. Given that Brennan started working on a game called "Arena" which was a Gladitorial RPG.

About Reincarnation

Reincarnation is quite a big deal in this game. This is not a huge surprise given Herbert Brennan's publication history.  His book "The Reincarnation Workbook: A Complete Course in Recalling Past Lives" could work as a guide for this game.  Personally, I would like to use the reincarnation idea to help smooth out some of the issues with different times.  So adventurers from Cleopatra VII's Egypt, can then deal with Tiberius, and then help in Boudicea's raid on Londinium.   Something similar to the Old Soul quality in Unisystem.  

Somehow using the idea of the Distant Memory which, like Old Soul, allows the characters to draw on past life knowledge and skill.  That is easy to do in Unisystem, not so easy to do in D&D like games with very rigidly defined classes. Maybe taking a level in another class might do it. 

Man, Myth & Magic and Man, Myth & Magic

I am sure there is more in the expansion, The Egyptian Campaign, but I don't have access to that set right now.

There is an interesting game here but I think the concept of it is greater than the rules as presented actually allow.  It never quite lives up to what the box claims.  Nor is it the abomination that earlier reviews made it out to be.  I think most reviewers balked at the price tag and the fact that the game did not offer anything new; at least not anything that meant going through the rather clunky rules. 

It is most certainly not a historically accurate game.  Historically inspired to be sure, but not by any means accurate. 

The bottom line is that the game really isn't good, in fact, it is rather bad in many respects. That is not to say that someone won't find this game interesting or fun. I just think that there are far, far better games out there.

Should you buy it?

I would say the PDF at just under $8 makes it worthwhile for the very, very curious.  I have my boxed set and I am happy with it, but my expectations were low and my curiosity was really high. 

The game itself is only worth about 2 stars.  My curiosity about it and my desire to have pushed it closer to 4 stars.  In the end, I am going to give 3 stars since I don't want to unduly affect Precis Intermedia games' overall rating.  But don't grab this unless you are really curious (which is a good reason) or want to see how not to design a game. 

Links

Monday, November 29, 2021

Monstrous Monday: Tiâmat

I have talked about Tiamat since the earliest days of this blog.  No surprise really given my love of mythology and my oldest son's obsession with dragons.  It really is a natural fit for me.  I was working on this post a lot over my Thanksgiving break and I went back and forth on a lot of different ideas.  But circumstances came together and I finally decided, last night, what to post.

My oldest started Descent into Avernus this weekend for his 5e group.  We thought that a nice early Christmas present would be the new Gargantuan Tiamat miniature. 

Tiamat "mini"
The Tiamat "mini." Feiya and Larina for scale.

This thing is, well, gargantuan!

Up till now, we had been using the Aspect of Tiamat, the D&D Icon of the Realms Tiamat, and the Mage Knight Apocalypse Dragon (more on that guy in a bit). The Queen of Dragons enters a lot into our games. 

This also got me thinking about how I handle dragons in my Old-School games.  In particular how I want to handle them in my Basic Bestiary.   Over the years here I have experimented with various ways to present dragons so they are a constant challenge to any party regardless of size or levels.  There have been some really good innovations over the years starting with the dragons in AD&D 2nd Ed and into 21st Century forms of D&D.  I want to capture the best of the best design principles and also allow them to fit into the design I have already been using with my own monster stats.

I am not really 100% there yet.  

But I am at a point where I can present unique dragons like Tiamat (or Tiâmat as I am presenting her).  I still have a few issues to work out, but since I want to get my money's worth out of that figure here she is.

Tiamat
Tiâmat

Gargantuan Dragon (Evil)

Frequency: Unique
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic [Chaotic Evil]
Movement: 90' (30') [9"]
  Fly 180' (60') [18"]
  Swim 180' (60') [18"]
Armor Class: 0 [19]
Hit Dice: 30d8+240****** (375 hp)
 Gargantuan: 30d20+240****** (555 hp)
To Hit AC 0: -2 (0) (+21)
Attacks: 5 bites + 1 tail lash or breath weapons or spell + special
Damage: 3d6+7 x5, 1d6+7 or Breath Weapons or spell
Special: 
Save: Monster 30
Morale: 12 (NA)
Treasure Hoard Class: Special
XP: 30,250 (OSE) 30,250 (LL)

Str: 30 (+7) Dex: 10 (+0) Con: 32 (+8) Int: 28 (+7) Wis: 24 (+5) Cha: 22 (+5)

Tiâmat is the mother of all dragons, good and evil.  She was destroyed by her grandson Marduk and was cast out.  Formerly a god she now represents the primordial chaos of the deep sea or even the infinite abyss.  For this reason, she is often seen with the heads of all the major evil dragons, Black (Acid), Blue (Electric), Green (Poison), Red (Fire), and White (Cold). Fittingly, the mother of dragons makes her home in the depths of the Abyss in a layer known as  Têhom, or the "deep".  She is also considered to be the mother, or at least the Grandmother, of all evil and chaotic monsters.

Tiâmat can attack with all five heads per round.  Each head can bite, use their respective breath weapons, or use spells. The bite attacks do 3d6+7 hp of damage each, but the individual heads cannot attack the same Medium-sized or smaller victim at the same time.  A Large or larger-sized target can be attacked by two heads at the same time.  Tiâmat can attack up to five (5) separate targets this way.  Each head can also use their respective breath weapons doing 10d8 (45 hp) up to three times per day.  She will typically attack with her breath weapons first, to overwhelm and awe her opponents and then resort to spells and bite attacks.  Tiâmat believes that opponents need to be dealt with in the quickest, most deadliest, of ways.

Her aura of dragon fear is such that all, even true dragons, have to make a saving throw vs. magic or fall under the effects of a Cause Fear spell. This will affect all creatures regardless of HD/level.  Each head can additionally cast a Magic-user/Wizard spell per round in lieu of a physical attack.  The white head can cast 2 first-level spells and 1 second-level spell.  The black head can cast 2 second-level and 1 third-level. The green head can cast 2 third-level and 1 fourth. The blue head can cast 3 fourth, 2 fifth, and 1 sixth-level. Finally, the red head can cast 3 sixth, 2 seventh, and 1 eighth-level spell.  Tiâmat chooses her spells at the start of her day. She typically opts for spells of control, damage, and ones that can summon support. She does not need somatic or material components for her spells, they come naturally to her. 

Due to her size, Tiâmat cannot make claw attacks while on the ground.  She can attack with her foreclaws when she is flying or swimming.  She is immune to charm, hold, mind-affecting magic, and sleep effects.  She is additionally immune to all sorts of poison. She takes half damage from acid, cold, and fire. She also has 75% magic resistance.

As the Queen and Mother of Dragons Tiâmat she is served by five consorts. These are dragons of largest size and greatest age of their respective dragon types, White, Black, Green, Blue, and Red.  Each one is utterly loyal to Tiâmat, failure to be anything but this will result in their immediate death and their skins put on display.  Tiâmat can summon 2d6+1 evil dragons of any type once per day.

Tiâmat's home plane is known as Têhom, or the "deep." Here there are seven distinct areas that represent the preferred habitat of each of the five evil dragon types. Each one is governed over by her consorts. The sixth area is an ocean, so deep and so dark that no bottom has even been seen.  Tiâmat makes her home here along with sea dragons of all sorts. It is rumored that the great dragon Leviathan also resides here. The seventh and last area is an island that Tiâmat often visits. Here her treasure horde can be found. This land is populated only by undead dragons.

Tiâmat as a Patron
Dragon Tradition Witches and Draconic Pact Warlocks take Tiâmat as their patron.  Chaos mages also look to the Mother of Monsters as their patron, inspiration, and even Goddess.  All dragons, good and evil, regard her as their mother or the first of their kind but only evil dragons and dragon-kin worship her. 

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Notes

I like this stat block quite a lot.  I can look at it though and tell I still need to define my demons and dragons both a little better. There are ideas I want to express that I am currently not doing.

She is a Gargantuan creature.  So because of that, I am going to be using my alternate HP calculations. A gargantuan creature uses a d20 for HP determination, not the standard d8.  Even with this she is at 30 HD so in standard games she ends up with 375 hp. In my games that is boosted to 555 hp.

A bit on that HD.  Yeah, she has 30 HD.  She is big and bad and is not a monster you find on level 20 of some random dungeon. This flows from the level setting I was doing in One Man's God. Tiamat is not just on the top of the scale, she should be the top.  A former Goddess now cast into the Abyss, that means two things for me. One she is powerful and two she should be a demon of some sort.  She is obviously something more. I have her listed as "Gargantuan Dragon (Evil)" but she would certainly also be an Outsider or even a Fiend possibly. She could even be an Eodemon

Alignment.   I have been playing Tiamat as "Chaotic Evil" since I first started reading Chaos Theory back in the 90s. It always made far more sense to me.  Plus she never really fit into the hierarchy of Hell as far as I was concerned.  I do borrow a page from Paradise Lost and say she was there when the Devils fell.  But that was only one of her lairs in the cosmos. 

What about that Apocalypse Dragon?  Well, I still want to get my money's worth out of him.  So he has been redubbed as Leviathan.  Fitting, given the history my games have had with him.  I will need to revisit my stats for him though. 

Tiâmat and Leviathan
Tiâmat and Leviathan

Links

Links to other Tiamat postings here on the Other Side.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Masters of the Universe: Revelation

Evil-Lyn the real star
It is late Tuesday night (now early Wednesday morning) and I just finished binge-watching Masters of the Universe: Revelation with my wife.  Now I only consider myself a causal MotU fan, but it really should come as no shock or surprise that my two favorite characters were Teela (because who doesn't like a highly capable redhead) and Evil-Lyn (because...well I am sure you have met me by now).    So after hearing all the whiny-ass man babies online bitching and moaning that Kevin Smith had "destroyed their childhood" I knew right away one thing. 

I was going to love it.  And I did.

If Part 1 was "The Teela Show" then Part 2 was that and "The Evil-Lyn" show.  

Though I am happy to also report that my other favorite character, Duncan the Man-at-Arms, also fared well.

My enjoyment of Evil-Lyn in particular and the MotU, in general, come not from watching the show back in the 80s all that much, but instead from one episode.  The Witch and the Warrior, written by none other than Paul Dini himself.  In an interesting twist, Paul Dini created the character Harley Quinn and Kevin Smith the executive producer of Masters of the Universe: Revelation named his own daughter Harley Quinn Smith. 

Watching this was a fun romp through nostalgia land and there were more than a few tongue-in-cheek references.  Also having Lena Headly as Evil-Lyn, Sarah Michelle Gellar as Teela and Liam Cunningham as Duncan was great. And Mark Hamil chewing up the scenery as Skeletor? That's just the icing on a great cake. 

We get more background on Teela, and the payoff the original series promised.  We get some more background on Evil-Lyn which is also great, but I think it is different than in other versions of this franchise.  No matter really, I know even less about those.

Personally, I am thrilled we got a kick-ass Teela and Evil-Lyn.  I always felt that He-Man himself was the least interesting character in the franchise, though this one made me feel a little different about that.

Evil makes you hotter

I like where it ended for all the characters involved. But especially for Evil-Lyn.

Lyn at 25

Evil-Lyn as Master of the Universe

No new season has been announced, but I like what I am seeing here to be honest.