Thursday, September 30, 2021

Review: Lands of Adventure (1983)

Land's of Adventure by Lee Gold
Lands of Adventure has always been something of a Holy Grail item for me.  I knew very little about the game and much less about the author and designer Lee Gold.  However, the cover art was striking and different from anything else I had seen before that my curiosity only grew and grew.  Later on, I began to learn who Lee Gold was and her contributions to the RPGs and geek/nerd culture in general, namely via Alarums and Excursions, that game went from a passing curiosity to an "it's on the list" item.

I am happy to report that not only is Alarums and Excursions still active, so is Lee Gold, having spoken with her briefly over the summer.  After that my "it's on the list" item moved to the top of my list.

Circumstances seem to hit me just right. I had seen a huge increase in my sales and a shrink-wrapped copy had been offered for sale.   I had the opportunity and I had the cash.  The price might have been higher than I would have normally spent, but any buyer's remorse I might have had was quickly evaporated once I got this boxed in the mail and opened it up.  I am not sure what my expectations were, it had been "on the list" for so long, but now I have it and I am really thrilled with it.

Lands of Adventure (1983)

Lands of Adventure by Lee Gold was published by Fantasy Games Unlimited in 1983.  The boxed set came with the Lands of Adventure Rule Book (32 pages) and a Culture Pack (28 pages) that cover Mythic Greece and Medieval England. The back cover of the rule book has a character sheet. example and the box came with one character sheet on heavy paper/light card stock that can be copied.  Which I did.

The box also included some "micro dice" two d20s (white and green) and two d6s (green, with pips). The d20s are numbered 0-9, 0-9, so good for d20s or d%s.  I say good for them, but in truth, they are too tiny for me to read anymore! So I am going to dig up some others to use.

dice with character sheet

The books show their wargaming roots with sections numbered as 1.0, 1.1 all the way to 28.1.  The Culture Pack follows suit, but the numbers here are tied to core rules.  So section 1.1 of the culture section refers also to section 1.1 of the core rules. The Culture Pack section are prefaced with a code letter, which I discuss below.

Note on the art.  The cover art for the box and the books is all done by Bill Willingham and it is some of the best art I have seen of his. I do believe it is one of the best covers for a game I have seen. Certainly, it was the best cover of the time. The book covers are no less impressive for their old-school black and white.

Bill Willingham art

Seriously, that medusa is 10x better than any medusa art I have seen in D&D.  The interior art is by Michael Kucharski. His art is good, though not at the level of the covers. Note. Both artists have websites and both artists have, since this book, gotten to be fantastic artists.  Both also did their own versions of Doctor Stange[BW, MK], so maybe I need to roll up a Doctor Strange-like character for this.

In all cases, the art fits well with the books and the content.

Core Rules

The rulebook begins with a word from the author.  Of note Gold mentions using The Palladium Book of Weapons & ArmourThrough Dungeons Deep: A Fantasy Gamers' Handbook, and encyclopedias of animals. 

Character creation is the big piece of the first book with 11 (yes Eleven!) character attribute traits, though only about half of those are random. The others are derived.  The pure random characteristics are Craft, Talent, Appearance, and Strength. Derived characteristics are Dexterity, Voice, Intelligence, Prudence, Agility, Constitution, and Charisma.  So more than D&D, but far less than DragonRaid. You can also determine Gender and Height.  

Typically the traits are 1-20 which makes it good for converting on a d20 roll or a d% roll. Alternately there is a point-buy system where you can distribute 110+2d10 points across all 11.  I'd likely stick to the derived ones and use the points to build the completely random ones.  In this way, it is not all that different to say WitchCraft. Instead of 110+2d10, maybe 45+1d10 or something for the purely random ones (range: 4-80) and derive the others as normal.

Other details include the Culture Technology Level and modification due to races other than the default human are given. 

Up next (1.1) is Piety.  Various actions are given that adjust this score either through pious or blasphemous actions. This aids in forms of magic.   

2.0 covers measuring Vitality. For the people that really enjoy complexity in their combat there three types of "hit points" in use in this game. They are Energy Points (EP), Body Points (BP), and Life Points (LP).  EPs are lost due to magic or extra actions, BPs cover injury, and LPs cover grievous injuries.  Body Points are increased by armor as described later in the armor section.

3.0 Introduces the Skill systems. The characteristics above determine skills, which are the meat of the game really. There are 10 skill categories with some specialist skills.   These include Communication, Knowledge, Magic, Manipulation, Miracle, Movement, Observation, Persuasion, Weapons (Melee), and Weapons (Missile).  Each has its own method of calculation. Skill checks are % and roll under.  A roll of 1 to 10 is considered a Maximum success and considered flawless.  A roll of 96 to 100 is a Fumble. 

Specialized skills are well, pretty much that.  But for every 10% increase in a Specialized skill, there is a +1% increase to the category. I have not seen that before.   Categories though are Hard, Normal, Easy, and by Weapon.  So improvement in say use of a sword by 10% your ability to shoot arrows increases by 1%.  There is a rough logic here. Categories determine how long it takes to learn a skill and how they can improve. 

The next sections cover all the skills and their specialties.   For example, in section 6.0 we learn there are four categories of Magic; Compulsions, Illusions, Enhancements, and Energy.  Section 8.0 Miracles is set up in a similar manner. 

Oh, oh it's Magic!

Section 12 covers our weapons and how to use them.  Section 13 covers defense.  Relating combat as skill is of course a feature of many games outside of the D&D world.  Section 14 covers equipment.

What's an old school game without a list of weapons?


Section 15 covers time.  1 Phase = 2 seconds, 1 round = 12 seconds (6 phases), and 1 minute = 5 rounds (30 phases).   Skill time is measured in phases and rounds.

Section 17 covers magic in more detail, where Section 6 just details magic as a skill.  There are no "spells" as in D&D per se (see below), but how much power it takes to perform certain example feats of magic.  It reminds me a bit of what we would much later get in White Wolf's Mage or Eden's WitchCraft.  In 17.9 some examples of "spells" built with the rules above are given.  Section 18 covers spellcasting.  Doing a Doctor Strange character is making more and more sense. Much like we will see later on in games like Mage, the four categories of magic can be combined in different permutations to make different spell effects. 

Section 19 covers all sorts of Daemons, Demons, and Gods. This is followed quickly Section 20 on Miracles which is given similar coverage that Spells received.  Section 21 gives us Thaumaturgists or mages with quasi-priestly powers. Section 22 likewise gives us Diabolists.   Miracles rely on the beings from Section 19 to work.   

Section 23 covers the basic stats for animals. Section 24 does the same for humanoids, 25 for Dragons, and 26 for types of undead.   None of these sections have the detail as one would see in a monster manual, the assumption being that you would create your own monsters or rely on the Culture Packs. 

Undead

We end with a very complete index.

The rules feel incomplete to be sure, but I am certain there is a playable game here.  I might be mentally filling in the blanks of what is missing with knowledge of other games and what they would do.

Culture Pack

The intent of the Culture Packs was to provide a "Game" world for the characters to play in.  While not specifically addressed, the assumption was I felt that these would be separate.  Separated by time as they are in the real world.  This is different than the take of Man, Myth & Magic which has all of the Mytho-Historical worlds existing together.  There is a bit higher level of scholarship in our two worlds than what is typically seen in say Man, Myth & Magic.

It is explicitly stated that there would be more Culture Packs, but sadly no others were made.  I could easily see Viking Age Northmen, Knights of Charlemagne, the Roman Empire, and Edo Period Japan.  In fact, given Ms. Gold's previous game, Land of the Rising Sun, Edo Japan seems like an easy choice. I might have to have a look as Land of the Rising Sun and see if I can divorce it enough from Chivalry & Sorcery roots to make a "Culture Pack" for it.  Gold would go on to write the GURPS Japan supplement.  Likewise, the Viking era also seems like a given the Vikings game she did for I.C.E. later on.

This Culture Pack covers Mythic Greece and Medieval England. With each getting half the book.

Layout-wise the two sections follow the same pattern and the pattern set up in the Core Rules. As mentioned the Section numbers match those of the Core book.  "C" is used for Mythic Greece (see below) and "M" for Medieval England.  So in the Core rules, 1.0 covers humans with 1.0b nonhumans (like Elves, Dwarves, Giants).  Section C1.0b covers centaurs, giants, and various nymphs. Section M1.0b cover faeries and picts.  

Mythic Greece is given the title "Children of the Gods," thus the "C" in the section numbering.  I approve, I used the same title (though without knowledge of this book) for my own coverage of Greek myths and Classical witches in Children of the Gods. This Culture Pack covers Ancient Greece before the Trojan War.  The rules here make subtle changes to the Core rules as well as some additions. The big feature here naturally is the inclusion of more gods, festivals, and other creatures. 

Children of the Gods

Medieval England moves the action North and about 2,000 years or so in the future, about the time of the Fall of the Western Roman Empire in England or 1070 CE.  Coverage is given for England of the time.  So one of my favorite topics, the confrontations of Christianity and the "Old Religion" of Celtic Paganism.  So tips are given for role-playing as well as various rule changes. The formula used here to build the Culture Packs is very effective.  Had this game been more successful I would have loved to have seen more. 

Medieval England

Interestingly enough, much like my own Children of the Gods did with her Mythic Greece, there are connections here between her Medieval England and my other Basic Witch book, The Craft of the Wise.  The connections are pretty obvious.  We were reading the same research at the time/from the time.  We both went into the coverage of Greek Myths by Robert Graves. For Medieval England, there are certainly a lot of material she could have used, but she also picked a few that were also on my list like the works of Margaret Murry ("The Witch-Cult in Western Europe") and poets like Kipling.  It makes me wonder how my own books might have been different if I had seen Lee Gold's interpretations first.  As suspected the Magic sections cover witches, familiars, and coven casting.  All of it is very much right out of Murray's books.  I have to admit I was a touch surprised not to see Frazer's "The Golden Bough" in her list of research.

English Dragons


Afterword

Lee Gold is still very active in producing Alarums and Excursions and she still plays Lands of Adventure with her group. I spoke to her over the summer and she is fantastic.

The game does have a "collected notes" feel to it as other reviewers have mentioned. That doesn't detract from a very fascinating, if involved game.  I am certain that with Gold as a Game Master it is all quite fluid and dynamic, first time GMs will be spending a lot of time looking up formulas and a lot of pre-game prep building monsters, NPCs and the like.

I paid quite a lot for this game in it's original shrink wrap and I have to say I am not disappointed.  It is such a fascinating snapshot of one designer's passion.  While this could be construed as a "vanity project" it is not overly so.  Lee Gold is obviously a great game designer.  The diamonds of this game though are still hidden under a lot of coal. 

I hope to spend some more time with it soon.

Unboxing Pictures

It's rare I get something from the 1980s still in shrink.  Let's take it in.

Lands of Adventure, still undiscovered.

Lands of Adventure, still undiscovered.

Tiny, tiny dice

Lands of Adventure books


Links

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

One Man's God Special: Syncretism Part 2, the Greco-Egyptian Gods

In the mythologies of the Ancient World, there are two that really stand out. The Greek and the Egyptian.  Both cultures grew to great prominence and fundamentally shaped our world.  Both had fascinating tales of gods, monsters, and heroes. 

Thanks to the trade and eventual rule of the Ptolemaic Pharos, we have a set of syncretized Greco-Egyptian gods.

While I would happily sit here and talk about these gods in an academic sense, my goal with OMG is really to present these from the lens of D&D, and from the Deities & Demigods in particular.  I am going to stick with gods that were actually worshiped, or at least recognized.  For this, I am going to rely on the scholarship of others, in particular, that of Dr. Kathrin Kleibl at the German Maritime Museum in Bremerhaven.  I am drawing heavily from her chapter (Chapter 41) in The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Greek Religion.  She has written more, ok lots more, and her work could form the cornerstone of a new pantheon for a new Deities & Demigods II if such a thing were feasible. 

Ptolemaic Egyptian Mythos

In 323 BCE Alexander the Great controlled Egypt, his reign, however, was short-lived and his general Ptolemy took control and his family ruled until 31 CE when they were taken over by Rome. The famous Cleopatra (Cleopatra VII) was the last of their line. The Ptolemaic Pharos or Ptolemaic Kings were not Egyptian but were Greek.  They ruled and lived a Greek lifestyle.  Only Cleopatra is recorded to have actually learned some of the Egyptian languages.  The gods they created or were created around them had a unique blending of both Greek and Egyptian features.  Not just physical features, though that is true as well, but religious features and aspects.

Bust of Zeus-Serapis, Roman copy of a Greek original from the 4th century BC, from the Serapeum of Alexandria
Zeus-Serapis

By the time Ptolemy took the throne, there was already syncretism happing in the Egyptian worldview.  Serapis was a new popular god figure that combined Osiris with the Apis Bull.  In some places, Serapis had already supplanted Osiris as the main God.  Zeus-Serapis was an "artificial" conflating of Zeus with Serapis.  I say artificial because it was believed he was created by the ministers of Ptolemy I to have a God that could be worshipped by Greeks and Egyptians alike.  Newer research has shed some doubt on this interpretation, but for our uses here it does not matter his actual source, only what he became after that. 

Zeus was the god of the sky, Osiris was the god of the dead and the god of the Pharos.  Zeus-Serapis became the God of the Sun and of Healing. In this, he effectively takes over the "portfolios" of Apollo, Helios, and Ra. As protector of the dead, this also includes the benevolent nature of Hades.

Isis

Isis went from the wife of Osiris and potentially one of the most powerful goddesses in the myths to the Mother of the Gods and thus the pharos.  The Ptolemaic Pharos would often take on the epithet of "Sons of Isis."  Isis remained a popular goddess well into the Roman age.

Isis was also combined with Aphrodite, a goddess of unknown origin herself.  Given the connections between Isis and other goddess like Astarte, Innana, and Ishtar, this sets Isis up as the primary female divinity of the Ancient world. 

The "Mysteries of Isis" became a mystery religion that had some outward similarities to the Greek Eleusinian Mysteries associated with Demeter.  Her cult with tied to that of Zeus-Serapis, effectively becoming a Father and Mother figure to the Ptolemaic dynasty.  In this respect, she takes on the kinder natures of Hera and the dedication of Isis.  she would be the one called upon by women in childbirth. Especially when we consider what is going on with Horus.

Isis Aphrodite Isis and Horus

Horus/Harpokrates

To complete the "holy trinity" of Father-Mother-Child the Greeks renamed Horus, or 'Har-pa-chered' literally "Horus the Child." as Harpokrates.  Where he was envisioned as a child-like divinity.  Gone was the Avenger Horus and now we get a proto-Christ Child in his place. 

Images of Isis nursing the infant Horus would later go on to influence the depictions of the Virgin Mary with infant Jesus.

Anubis/Hermanubis

While not equated with any Greek God in particular Anubis appears as a guide to Isis and advisor of Zeus-Serapis.  Some of Osiris' duties as lord of the dead get transferred to Annubis.

In some cases, we have a syncretized Hermes-Anubis, or Hermanubis, as a psychopomp and protector of the dead. 

Seth

Going a touch outside of Dr. Kleibl's work we get the god Seth. Also known as Set and Suketh and Setekh.  He originally was the good protector god of Upper Egypt. But this was 3,000 years before the Ptolemies.  More time between us and the Ptolemies to be honest.  Over the centuries Set changed from this benevolent god to the murderer of Osiris and the force of all evil and chaos in the world.   

Seth was the name the Greeks called him, and they associated him most with the monster Typhon.  Interestingly enough, I find no conflation with Seth and Hades inDr. Kleibl's text.  While both were seen as dark, chthonic figures, the Greeks in Egypt did not equate them.  But there are still some.

Set/Nephthys and Hades/Persephone

While the associations are not perfect there is a similarity between the relationship of Set and Nephthys with that of Hades and Persephone.   Both Nephthys and Persephone are considered goddesses of the underworld and mourning. Both are attached to husbands they would rather leave.  Both Hades and Set are complicated gods that are often viewed as evil. Both have been accused of raping or at least coercing their future wives.  

I have not found any direct relationship to suggest that they were synchronized, the option certainly feels valid.  The conflation of Set with Hades is one of the suspected origins of the Christian Devil; in particular the association of the devil in the desert or "the wilderness" (in Matthew) when he tempts Jesus. Set is the god of the desert and wild places.  Though I am not aware of any scholarship that has uncovered a synchronized Set-Hades (see Serapis above).

Nephthys was also commonly conflated with the Greek Nys, Goddess of the Night.  As it turns out "Nephthys" is already the Greek name for the Goddess the Egyptians knew as Nebt-het or Nebhet.

Hermes Trismegistus

Not part of Dr. Kleibl's work, but one that really put me on the road to this. Hermes Trismegistus is the synchronized version of Hermes and Thoth.  Hermes Trismegistus may have been less of a worshipped figure and more of a translation error when the Greeks were translating the Egyptian writing (hieroglyphic and Demotic).  Hermes Trismegistus became more important in later medieval times as the author of the Hermetic Texts.  

Heka

This one is also not part of Dr. Kleibl's research but one of my own creations based on her, and other, research.   I talked about the Hecate / Heka connections back when I did OMG: Greek Myths and OMG: Egyptian Myths. With the loss of Isis as the Goddess of Magic we have Heka as the new Goddess of Magic and the Underworld.  Her relationship with Isis is the same as that of Ishtar with Ereshkigal.  This also makes her the perfect goddess of witches.  

Hecate was also conflated with the Egyptian Heqet, the Goddess that was the midwife to Isis when Horus was born. Indeed the Greeks also conflated her with Ereshkigal.  In this respect she could be considered the sister to the Mother Goddess Isis. 

Others

There were plenty more, but it is difficult to know whether these were worship syncretic gods or part of the Interpretatio graeca where the Greeks often substituted names of other gods for their own gods. 

For example, the Greek Asclepius is often equated with the Egyptian Imhotep to become the patron of Healing.   

The Greek Adonis is equated with the Egyptian Osiris, the Sumerian Dumuzid, and the Phoenician Tammuz to all be equivalent Gods of Agriculture and Grain.  This is the same "God figure" of James Frazer's "The Golden Bough."  Another god that fits this is the Greek God Dionysus, who is also conflated with Adonis and Osiris.

Looking over this "pantheon" I quickly note there is no god of war.  There was Montu for the Egyptians, but the "god of war" was also served by Anhur, Ra, Sekmet, and Set at various times.  The Greeks and Romans had Ares and Mars respectively in addition to Athena-Minerva.  You see more syncretism with Ares/Mars in later periods, especially with the gods of the Celts and European peoples. 

The Greeks did know of Anhur and they called him "Onuris."  This is the god of war and battle. His primary goal is to drive out the enemies of Egypt (and Greece).  If we were so inclined we could add all the "avenger" aspects lost by Horus when he became Harpokrates. In this, he takes on the role of Protector of Isis, which of course means the protector of Egypt and the line of the Pharohs. 

Game Play Uses

It was not AD&D that sent me down the road of this Ptolemaic Egyptian Mythos, but rather Gary Gygax's other game, Dangerous Journeys.  Gary's Ægypt fascinated me when I first read about it in the 90s.   So much so that when I wanted an Egyptian-like land I used large chunks of this along with Arypt from Mystara and Erypt from the World of Greyhawk.  All of this together gave me my Ærypt

While it would be best to use the Egyptian gods, RAW, from the Deities & Demigods, using these has appeal, even if I have no idea how the "Greeks" got into my world.  Maybe something else altogether is in order for that.  A future post maybe.

For this "new" Pantheon I would want to relate these Gods in AD&D terms.  This is after all the primary focus of One Man's God, not as a treatise on comparative religions. I also don't want or even need, D&DG-style stat blocks.  These are not "monsters" to be fought. 

I am taking the important bits from the AD&D D&DG, namely"power" levels of the various gods, their alignment, and their worshipper's alignments.   While not stated as "Domains" (that's a 3rd Edition term) I am using them here. These are roughly the same as 2nd Ed's "Spheres."

Serapis
Greater God
Alignment: Lawful Good
Worshipper Alignment: Any Good
Domains: Law, Sun, Sky (including storms and rains), the Dead, Rulers
Symbol: Sun

Isis
Greater Goddess
Alignment: Neutral Good
Worshipper Alignment: Any Good, Women (Mysteries of Isis)
Domains: Motherhood, the Home, Childbirth, Love, Fertility
Symbol: Moon or the Roman symbol for Venus

Harpokrates
Greater God
Alignment: Lawful Good
Worshipper Alignment: Any Good
Domains: Life
Symbol: Ankh

Seth
Greater God (or Intermediate God)
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
Worshipper Alignment: Any Evil
Domains: Darkness, Chaos, Desolation
Symbol: Coiled Snake

Nephthys
Greater Goddess (or Intermediate God)
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral
Worshipper Alignment: Any
Domains: Night, Darkness, the Underworld
Symbol: Dark moon

Hermes Trismegistus
Hermes Trismegistus
Greater God (or Intermediate God)
Alignment: Neutral
Worshipper Alignment: Any
Domains: Knowledge, Wisdom, Secrets
Symbol: A circle within a square within a triangle within a circle.

Heka
Lesser Goddess
Alignment: Lawful Neutral
Worshipper Alignment: Any, Witches
Domains: Magic, Witchcraft, Childbirth, Darkness
Symbol: Crescent moon

Adonis (Dionysus-Osiris)
Lesser God
Alignment: Lawful Neutral
Worshipper Alignment: Any
Domains: Agriculture, Grain, Wine, Life-Death-Rebirth
Symbol: Sheath of grain

Onuris
Lesser God
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral
Worshipper Alignment: soldiers, warriors
Domains: War
Symbol: Spear 

Asclepius-Imhotep
Demigod
Alignment: Neutral Good
Worshipper Alignment: Any, Healers
Domains: Healing
Symbol: Scalpel 

What About the Demons?

This is all fun and everything, but what about the demons of this mythology?  We have a "devil" in the form of Seth.  I would say that given Egypt's history with demons that some would still be around, but maybe in an altered form.  I think given the Greek connection that Demogorgon would be a good choice too.  Especially if I move Seth over to Lawful Evil (more devil-like).

With the influences of the Greeks and Romans, Late Period Egypt had an increase in creatures that were more related to the Greek daimon.  Demons went from creatures that guarding firey gates to creatures that plagued the Earth with troubles. Egypt at this time was also part of the larger trade routes of first Greece then the Roman Empire, so many gods, goddesses, and demons were filtered through the lens of both ancient and "modern" Egyptian religion.

Guardian Demons

Gate, or Guardian Demons, or demon were the most common sort and were usually created by the Gods.  Their job was to keep mortals out of their realms.  They are demons in the sense that they are supernatural creatures that are neither mortals nor are they gods. These creatures were also described in funerary texts, their names or epithets placed on coffins to protect the dead. They were fierce creatures.  Apep and Ammit from the OMG Egyptian Myths could fit this role, but there are others with names like In-tep, Chery-benut, and Ikenty.  Ikenty was a large bird-like monster with the head of a cat.

Wanderer Demons

The other class of demons were the Earthly or wanderer demons, . These are the demons who cause problems on Earth, gave people nightmares, caused disease, and possessed humans.

I have a Part 4 of this series to do later.  I plan on incorporating some of the work of Prof. Panagiotis Kousoulis of the University of the Aegean, Greece.  Most of his work is in Greek, so I am digging around for English translations.  Part 4 takes this concept of syncretism and demons and dials it up.

But I need to do my Part 3 first.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

The Six Million Hits Man

At some point earlier this morning I hit a new milestone; 6 Million hits.

6 Million Hits

I was not expecting this until sometime tomorrow.   I had some ideas planned for posts, but they were fairly vain navel-gazing, and self-aggrandizing. So instead let me just thank everyone for coming back all these years and reading my strange little corner of the internet.

Still, it is a nice milestone to hit. 

Monday, September 27, 2021

D&D 5.5 Announcement

Over the weekend WotC/Hasbro and D&D team had their D&D Celebration.  Lots of things were discussed including the new gift box I talked about yesterday.  

Of course, the big announcement was D&D 5.5 or D&D 5 Revised coming out in 2024.

Personally, I think this is a good idea.

D&D 5e Collection

Right now D&D 5 is 7 years old. The "Basic Rules" PDF and the Starter Set were released in July 2014. In 2024, the proposed release date, D&D 5 will be close to 10 years old.  That is about the same amount of time AD&D 1st and 2nd Ed were around each.  That is counting the unofficial ".5" versions of post Unearthed Arcana (AD&D 1) and the Revised AD&D 2nd ed books.  This puts D&D 5e and 5.5 combined to be the longest-lasting version of D&D.

There are a ton of reasons why 2024 is a good date for this.

D&D Celebration

The Hype

I have been saying EVERYWHERE that WotC will not do anything until the 50th anniversary of D&D in 2024.  They can spend the first two-quarters of 2024 hyping D&D from its roots and evolution.  Expect a huge deep dive into nostalgia.  Then third quarter (or even fourth to get that Christmas dollar) D&D 5.5 will hit the shelves.  The message from WotC will be clear, you have enjoyed D&D for 50 years now and THIS is the ultimate edition.  It's not just good marketing, they would be negligent if they didn't do it.

The Rules

When I heard about this I mentioned it to my son last night when he got home from work.  His response was, "oh cool!"  I have seen similar responses from others in the D&D 5 community.  With the publication of Tasha's and other books, there have been enough rule additions and alternates to make a Revised Core Rule Set a welcome publication. 

Right now we are being told these are just going to be rule clarifications and reorganizations.  Everything will be 100% backward compatible.  This is smart given the number of people that play D&D 5 now.  It also makes sense given how poorly Pathfinder 2 was received by the fans of Pathfinder 1.  

Plus D&D 5 was designed to be more modular, so adding in rules should be easy.  Maybe not as modular as D&D 4e was nor as modular as D&D 5 was originally advertised as, but still better than D&D 3 and anything that came before it.

Of there are critics.  I note that most of the complaining is coming from people that have self-admitted that they actually don't play D&D 5.  So I guess their opinions really don't matter.

Expectations

What am I expecting with these new rules?

Well, "race" will be gone and we will get something closer to the Ancestry and Culture mods other games have been doing.  Mechanically speaking it will largely be the same at the end.  Instead of choosing a race and getting a baked-in mod and language; you will choose ancestry, culture and there will be guidelines for mods, languages, and other features.   So what if you were a human raised by elves? Or an orc raised by dwarves?  These things can now happen.  Well, in truth you could always do these you just needed a DM that would work out the details with you and not be dogmatic. 

There will still be a Basic Rules style game with the four basic classes (Cleric, Fighter, Rogue, Wizard) and the four basic "races" (Human, Elf, Dwarf, Halfling) they will just be worked up in terms of the new ancestry rules.  But mechanically a 5.0 elf will work as a 5.5 elf. 

Rangers will get tweaked. Again. Cause no one is ever happy with them.  This goes all the way back to the beginning really.

Warlock might get some changes, as will the monks.  We MIGHT get a Core Rule psionic class, but the chances are very low.

I am expecting some new Session 0 verbiage.

Monsters will have a "typical" alignment with sentient races not having one required.  The new Wild Beyond the Witchlight monsters all have alignments listed.  The idea will be that Ancestry plays a role in alignment, but individuals have a choice. I DO expect to see a group of good or at least neutrally aligned Drow.

There are spellcasting changes coming to monsters that we will get a preview of in 2023 with the Multiverse of Monsters book.

I am also expecting more on non-combat play like we have in the Wild Beyond the Witchlight.

I am sure there will be more and many of the changes will be minor, less than the changes between 3.0 and 3.5 for example. OR even the differences between 2nd Ed and Revised 2nd Ed.

Looking forward to seeing what happens.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

D&D Rules Expansion Gift Set

This week the social media networks were all a-buzz with a mysterious new product for D&D.  Some were saying new boxed set or even D&D 6th ed (which was highly unlikely in any event) we learned today what we will be getting.

So this,

Amazon mystery

Has now been replaced by this, 

D&D 5e Gift Set

and this,

D&D 5e Gift Set, Special Ed

The set includes Xanathar's Guide to Everything, Tasha's Cauldron of Everything, and the new Mordenkainen Presents Monsters of the Multiverse.

It was supposed to be for Christmas, but the global supply chain is still screwed up.  

In any case, it looks really cool. Typically I get one for me and the special edition one for my son.  But I think I might get the special ed version for myself as well.  They look so great. 

Friday, September 24, 2021

Kickstart Your Weekend: ANKUR - Kingdom of the gods TTRPG 2E

Ok. So I did find a Kickstarter that interested me.

ANKUR - Kingdom of the gods TTRPG 2E

ANKUR RPG

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/mad-scribe-games/ankur-kingdom-of-the-gods-ttrpg-2e?ref=theotherside

Honestly, it looks like my sort of jam.  In particular, it would be great for some other things I have planned.

Only 6 days left!

#FollowFriday: Ginny Di

It's Ginny Di!
I gotta admit I love the shirt!
Kinda burned out on Kickstarter right now.  So it's another #FollowFriday!

I will admit, I adore Ginny Di.  She has unbound enthusiasm about D&D and all things related.  I know she is young enough to be my daughter and I have characters older than her, but I still think she is great.

It is so refreshing to come to her Twitter or YouTube pages and see how excited she is over something D&D-related.  I'll read the posts or blogs of some of my contemporaries and wonder when the fun died in their lives leaving them as bitter old husks.

Plus she seems to irritate the right people, so that is a bonus all on its own. 

The fact that she also loves her witches has almost nothing to do with it. Well...maybe a little. 

I have already posted about her or her projects in the past.

This week Ginny is back with Morelia the Wood Witch in a POV roleplay. It is a fun little bit video, but it really helped me cement the idea that Morelia would be a great NPC in my War of the Witch Queens. 

Content Warning to Bitter Old Grogs Who Are Dead Inside: The video features a shop where an NPC Witch SELLS POTIONS! Gasp, the Horror! The audacity! The cheek of it all! 

Anyway. She is fun. She is funny. She has a ton of enthusiasm and I think she is great. In fact, I even sought out items she has been sponsored by at Gen Con because she made them look really fun.

So check her out. If you don't like her ask yourself, when did I die inside?

Ginny Di online

Give her a follow or a like or something.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

One Man's God Special: Syncretism Part 1, The Gods of Faerûn

Down to Earth Divinity
This is the start of a multi-part sub-feature of One Man's God. I am going to pull in material from older Dragon Magazines when needed, though not enough to count as a "This Old Dragon."  This series will also allow me to pull in more up-to-date material for the various gods and creatures beyond what was in the  Deities and Demigods. The D&DG will be my starting point, but I am not limited to it now.

Since I have completed all the myths in the Deities and Demigods the initial goal of One Man's God is now complete.  I might, after this, look to other editions of (A)D&D, in particular, 2nd and 3rd but for now, I want to explore some other topics that came up in my OMG posts.

One of those topics is syncretism.

Syncretism is the combining of gods or beliefs into a new set of gods and/or belief systems.  This is something that happens in the real world all the time, though maybe less so now as the prevalence of monotheism is worldwide.  We do see it more modern times in the cases of religions like Vodun and Santería.

While you typically don't see syncretism in AD&D there is at least one excellent example of it. Going all the way back to Dragon #54 from October 1981, we have Ed Greenwood's Down-to-Earth Divinity.  

I am not sure if this article lead to the later developments of what the Cleric can do with their gods or not, but it was most certainly ahead of it's time.  A quick reminder, while Greenwood has been telling us about his campaign for a bit now, the Forgotten Realms, as a product, was not due till 1987.  

I covered this in an early This Old Dragon, here is what I said about it then:

Up first in real articles we have something from Ed Greenwood. So this year (2017) I have been spending some time expanding my knowledge of the Forgotten Realms. This article is one of the earliest articles on the Realms I know of. Down-to-earth Divinity discusses how Ed has put together his Pantheon of Gods. You can easily see how this evolved into the gods of the Realms. I found it interesting that he includes the elemental gods from the Melnibonéan mythos. There are a lot of "reskinned" Deities and Demigods gods here too (which is the point of the article). I liked that Ed specifically mentions that witches worship Selûne. The article is long and seriously good.

I feel I undersold how good this article is for my purposes. So not only can use this as a One Man's God entry in the pure sense it is also the perfect place to discuss syncretism.  The insight to how the Realms gods took shape is fascinating, the implications of what is going here are much more interesting.

For the sake of today's discussion, let us just focus on the Faerûnian Pantheon as a whole.  While they have evolved much since this article (and a further point in my case here). For modern examples, I will refer to the Faerûnian pantheon at the Forgotten Realms wiki.  

Faerûnian Gods

In this article, Greenwood details how he created the Gods of Faerûn.  Many of these gods are "reskinned" versions of Earth gods.  While there is a very practical game-design reason for this there is also an implied in-universe explanation; clerics of those gods came to Toril and brought their gods with them.  We see this in books, like Neil Gaiman's "American Gods" and we see it later in the Realms itself with the Mulhorandi pantheon, which are the Egyptian Gods, not even changed all that much. 

For his Gods, Greenwood choose to stick pretty close to the first printing of the Deities and Demigods.  Again there are very practical reasons for this.  Here is a breakdown of the "immigrant" gods to Faerûn.

Faerûn D&DG Pantheon Notes
 Azuth  Aarth  Nehwon  Direct port, concept-wise
 Bane  Druaga  Babylonian  Human form
 Chauntea  Demeter  Greek  Direct port
 Gond  Hephaestus  Greek  Direct port
 Ilmater  Issek of the Jug  Nehwon  Some aspects
 Loviatar  Loviatar  Finnish  Direct port
 Mask  Hermes  Greek  No Justice domain
 Mielikki  Mielikki  Finnish  Direct port
 Milil  Bragi  Norse  Changed
 Oghma  Oghma  Celtic  Direct port
 Silvanus  Silvanus  Celtic  Direct port
 Sune  Aphrodite  Greek  Direct port
 Talona  Kipuytto  Finnish  Direct port
 Talos  Storm Gods  Many  Combined aspects of other gods
 Torm  St. Cuthbert  Greyhawk  Concept only
 Tyche / Tymora  Tyche  Greek  Direct port
 Tyr  Try  Norse  Direct port
 Elemental Lords  Elemental Lords   Melnibonéan  Direct port
 Cults of the Beast   Beast Lords  Melnibonéan+   many sources

This is not to imply that all Gods in Faerûn are imports.  Far from it! Many of the gods discussed in the article are different enough from their sources to be considered new gods.  Which is exactly what syncretism does.  There are also plenty of brand new gods.  For example, Mystra is nothing at all like Hecate.

What About Demons and Other Gods?

One Man's God is supposed to be about gods and demons right?  Certainly, the demons of the Monster Manual ARE the demons of Faerûn.  We know that Orcus has had a lot plots and schemes in the Realms since the very start.  And in the opposite direction, One Man's Demon is another's God, Asmodeus went from the Arch Duke of the devils to a God of Evil.  The details of his rise and fall have been dealt with in many books, but the best ones for my money come from the Brimstone Angels series by Erin Evans.

Evans also shows how imported gods can work.  The Pantheon of the Untheric Gods, which were the Babylonian Gods, were re-adopted by the Abeir Dragonborn living in Tymanther. In her book "The Devil You Know" Evans shows Untheric/Babylonian gods first as human-like then as Dragonborn-like as more of the Dragonborn living in Djerad Thymar came to believe in them, in particular the God Enlil.  Is it possible then that Bane IS Druaga, just evolved through the ages that his form has changed?  Isn't that also syncretism?

Nothing Like the Sun...

I have been going over this article for a very long time. There is quite a lot here to tease out and use if you are willing to take the time.  A good example of this comes from a tiny tidbit of information found in the paragraph for Selûne, then just Selune.  We are told that Selune is "revered by witches (and a few may worship her)."  Later on, in the Deity/Character Relationships table, we are told that the witches used are the ones from Dragon Magazine #43.

Reading through the various works on the Moon Goddesses, Selûne and Shar, and the Elven Sehanine Moonbow, there is a lot of back and forth on who is an aspect of who and what not.   This all lead me to a bit of syncretism of my own to combine all three goddesses into one Goddess of the Moon with three aspects.  I detailed this years ago in my "Chanel Divinity" article Nothing Like the Sun.  Each goddess represents the aspects of the triple Goddess; Maiden, Mother, and Crone or Sehanine, Selûne and Shar respectively.  Here they are more than just the Goddesses of the Moon but the Goddess of Witchcraft as well.   The waxing crescent is Sehanine and her "moonbow."  The full moon is the Mother Selûne in her full glory.  The waning crescent is Shar and her sickles to reap the souls of the dead.  But like their Goddess they are reborn as the Maiden once more.

Maiden, Mother, Crone

Realms diehards might ask how can these Goddess exist?  Well, I also ask why does Zeus-Serapis exist when, supposedly, Zeus, Serapis, and  Osiris also still exist?  I like my Gods and Goddesses to be mysterious and strange and maybe a little contradictory.

For a little under 9 pages of text, Ed Greenwood really delivered here.  So much so that in truth this blog post was started months back.  I wanted to go back and reread posts I had made about this, posts I had made influenced by this, and more Forgotten Realms information.    In truth, I could go on much longer about this topic just in the Realms themselves, the world is much more dynamic that I had given it credit for, but I am going to stay on topic here and move on to other worlds and other gods.

So. Thank You, Ed Greenwood. This is quite a quality bit of work.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Seasons Change...

But I am still here doing what I do! 

Today is the Autumnal Equinox for the Northern Hemisphere and the Vernal Equinox for my friends in the Southern Hemisphere. 

For me, this brings the march to darkness and of course my favorite time of year.  The spooky season of Halloween.

And do I have a lot in store for you all this year!  Starting off with a couple of hosting I am doing all October.

October Horror Movie Challenge

I have been doing the October Horror Movie Challenge n for years now.  I just got a new DVD in the mail today of one I have been searching for forever so I thought today would be a good day to announce that this year I am hosting my own Horror Movie Challenge.  

I am not doing anything wildly different than in previous years, and I am largely following the rules as set out by Krell Laboratories.

You have 31 days, October 1st to October 31st, to watch 31 Horror movies. At least 20 of these need to be first-time views.  

Currently, I am working on my list of movies.  I wanted to do a Lovecraft film fest.  But I am finding that there are quite a few Lovecraft-themed movies I just don't have access to.  So I am going to expand my list a bit.

I have even created a new banner image to use.

2021 October Horror Movie Challenge

If you want to copy this to your own posts then here is the HTML code!

<div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="https://bit.ly/OctHorrorMovie" imageanchor="1" style="margin-left: 1em; margin-right: 1em;" target="_blank"><img alt="2021 October Horror Movie Challenge" border="0" data-original-height="687" data-original-width="563" height="400" src="https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-HChDOvCcaE0/YUuGbeVKj1I/AAAAAAABe-c/HzukajBzTkAZRMqNPfdI8vTJ0DxBjHsuACLcBGAsYHQ/w328-h400/October%2BHorror%2BMovie%2BChallenge%2B2021.jpg" title="2021 October Horror Movie Challenge" width="328" /></a></div>

Just copy and paste that into the HTML editing window of whatever you are using to post.

But that is not all that is happening here. 

RPG Blog Carnival
RPG Blog Carnival

This October I am also hosting my first ever RPG Blog Carnival.  This October will be all about Horror in RPGs.  So kinda what I like to do anyway, but now you can join me.   I will have an official post going up on October 1st for you to see all the details and link your blogs/vlogs/social media posts back.

You can check out the details at Of Dice and Dragons the home of the RPG Blog Carnival.

I plan to talk a lot about horror and how you can use it in your games.  I am also going to spend quite a bit of time with other horror games and how they can be mined for ideas.

Once again October is going to be a very busy time here.  Hope you all join me!

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Post Gen Con Updates

Temple of Elemental Evil
Nothing gets my creative juices flowing better than being at Gen Con!  So I thought I might post some random updates on various projects, both public and personal.

Other Side Publishing

Fiend Folio II

This one has generated a LOT of discussions.  But here are my goals for it.

  1. This is just a project for me.  Not publishing it.
  2. I am doing it to get a good feel of monster evolution from OD&D to AD&D and from the late-70s to the mid-80s.  The "Sweet spot" of old-school gaming.  This will inform me on how to build better monsters for the Basic Bestiaries.
  3. I need to get in some Adobe Indesign practice.  This will give me that.

Basic Bestiaries

These are moving along nicely BB1 has 250 monsters in it now, which is by all measures a good number.  But I want to do some more for all the volumes I have planned so I can ensure a common look and feel across them all.  I am happy with what I have here and I am really looking forward to getting these out.

The High Witchcraft Book

What I have been calling my "last" witch book has been left on its own for so long it has mated with some other files on my hard drive and given birth to ANOTHER witch book! Yeah, I have enough material now for two books.  Those are a little later in coming.  I want to make sure I am not just putting out material because I have it, I want it to be good. The second book will come out first more than likely with the High Witchcraft book retaining the notoriety of being the Last Witch book.

Gen Con Brilliant Idea #1

My family and I got to play a LOT of games together over Gen Con.  Something came up during play that I think will be great.  Thankfully a lot of the work has already been done by my for other projects.  This project will complement the Basic Bestiaries, but one is not required for the other at all.  I am keeping this one close to my chest for now.

Personal

September Sales

WHAT IS HAPPENING HERE????  My sales are like 4x to 5x what they normally are! I looked at the sales and thought it had to be wrong.  I rechecked the math and yeah.  My only guess is that it is because Halloween is so close people are looking for horror-themed materials for their games. 

So. I spent some money.  Well...I spent a lot of money.

The Wild Beyond the Witchlight

Classic D&D characters? the Feywild? Creepy ass carnival? Creepier clown named Thaco?  HELL YES! Honestly, there is so much fun stuff here. It portrays the feywild as it should be, equal parts light and dark, beautiful and terrifying, whimsical and deadly. And often all at once. 

There is just so much here. Stats and backgrounds for Kelek, "Charmay", Skylla, and more!  Personally I LOVE want they did with the Charmay/Skylla confusion. A slightly different twist than my own, but one that works well enough.

The Wild Beyond the Witchlight

Temple of Elemental Evil

Going from 5e doing Old-School to Old-School going 5e.  I also grabbed the Temple of Elemental Evil today.

Temple of Elemental Evil

This one is so massive it will need its own post.

Since I was in an old school mood I also grabbed the Codex series for Castles & Crusades.

Codex myths series

The Temple will be the end cap to my 5e campaigns.  So this is going to be great really.

And on top of everything else, I actually lost some weight over Gen Con!

Monday, September 20, 2021

Monstrous Mondays: Opinicus

A little slow on the posts today.  Back from Gen Con and all.  Got to play a lot of great games last week. 

This beastie has been on my mind since playing some Blue Rose. 

Opinicus
Opinicus

Large beast (magical)

Frequency: Rare 
Number Appearing: 1d4 (2d4)
Alignment: Neutral [Lawful Netural]
Movement: 120' (40') [12"]
  Flying 240' (120') [24"]
Armor Class: 5 [14]
Hit Dice: 5d8+10* (33 hp)
  Large 5d10+10* (38 hp)
Attacks: 2 claw, 1 bite
Damage: 1d3+1 x2, 1d8+1
Special: 10% chance of speaking  
Save: Monster 5
Morale: 8 (10)
Treasure Hoard Class: II/Q
XP: 400 (OSE) 460 (LL)

Str: 15 (+1) Dex: 15 (+1) Con: 16 (+2) Int: 9 (0) Wis: 12 (0) Cha: 10 (0)

The opinicus is a cousin of both the griffon and the hippogriffs.  They are smaller than griffons and a bit longer.  Like the griffon, they feature the body of a lion and the wings and head of a large hawk. Unlike the griffon though, the opinicus has all four limbs of a lion.

Unlike the griffon, the opinicus is a vegetarian, its preferred method of feeding is to swoop down into the back alleys of cities to eat the fruits and vegetables tossed out after market days.  Opinicus makes their homes in the tops of tall steeples and towers.  They feature as animal in many coats of arms.

The opinicus has a 10% of talking. They speak the local languages of the urban areas they live in. They have been known to help homeless humans find sources of shelter and food.  The opinicus has little use for treasure, but they do keep gems they find.

The female opincus lays a clutch of 2-8 eggs roughly the size and shape of a coconut.  Juvenile opinici do not have wings, developing them after their first year.  Opinici can live 50 to 60 years. 

NOTE: The Opinicus from Monster Manual II are considered to be Eastern Opinicus.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Back Home from GenCon 2021!

I just got back home from GenCon 2021.  We had a great time.  We stayed in masks a lot and we spent a little more time playing games in our room and outside, but all in all, we took a lot of precautions, washed hands a lot, and of course got vaccinated a while back.  

For this Con, I did not continue the Order of the Platinum Dragon campaign.  I have been building something cool for it and taking it to Gen Con would have been a pain in the ass.  Instead, we continued on with the War of the Witch Queens campaign.  Everyone really took to Basic Ear D&D well and my son even bought his own copies of Old-School Essentials.

Basic D&D

We picked up our Old-School Essentials at the Games Plus booth. They had a bunch on Day 1 and were completely sold out by Day 3!

Games Plus' Booth

Games Plus' Booth

Games Plus' Booth

Oh. And despite some claims to the contrary, Gen Con was still full and there were plenty of people here.  We spoke to a few of the restaurant workers and a few owners and they were thrilled that Gen Con was back, even in this limited fashion.

Still crowded

Still crowded

Still crowded

People stayed in masks, for the most part. Though we are still going to quarantine for a bit just to be safe. 

We picked up some great games too.  The kids both work now so they were able to spend their own money. Which is great, cause I bought a lot for me.

Games

Games

Games

So far our favorite has been The Red Dragon Inn by Slugfest Games.  We had a blast with it. I have been wanting it for a bit now and I am glad we got it.

We played some NIGHT SHIFT and that was great.  While we were playing this guy stopped to see what we were playing. He mentioned he wanted to introduce his 10-year-old daughter to D&D.  Long story short, the drummer of the band Shinedown watched our game. I gave him a copy of NIGHT SHIFT, which he loved. 

Not sure what our plans are for next year, but we had a great time this year.  Glad to be back at Gen Con.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Zatannurday: Anyone have a Spare $1k I can Have?

Zatannurday

One of the best things about running this series for so long is I get some great tips via email from people with the same obsessions as me. 

That is the case today.  Though to take advantage of it I am going to need an extra $1000.00.  New from XM Studios is a 21" tall Zatanna statue.

Zatanna 21" Statue

Zatanna 21" Statue

Zatanna 21" Statue

Zatanna 21" Statue

Zatanna 21" Statue

Zatanna 21" Statue

Zatanna 21" Statue

Zatanna 21" Statue


Absolutely gorgeous and utterly frivolous. Wish I could justify it. 

Maybe I'll put it on my Christmas list and hope Santa thinks I was a good boy this year.

According to XM Studios, each statue has:

  • 2 headsculpt switch-outs: 1 with top hat, 1 without top hat.
  • 2 right hand switch-outs: 1 holding a spellbook, 1 holding a top hat with Detective Chimp!
  • Crafted in cold cast porcelain.
  • Each handcrafted statue is individually hand-painted with a high-quality finish.

Still...looks fantastic.