Showing posts with label 90s. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 90s. Show all posts

Thursday, May 9, 2024

This Old Dragon: Issue #183

Dragon Magazine #183
  That time again when I reach into the pile of Dragons under my desk and pull out one to read. This month, I am focusing on sci-fi, so in a bit of a cheat, I am pulling from the small selection of sci-fi-themed Dragons. Today's Dragon #183 comes to us from the summer of 1992. It's July; I just finished my undergrad degree and working on my Masters. My best friend from all over the world also graduated, but she is finishing up another bachelor's degree and will be moving to Chicago in a month or so. No. I am not ready for this. Spoiler: We decide in February of 1993 to start dating. Can't do it while we live in the same town I guess, have to wait till we are 300 miles apart. We are still married.  In the theatres, "A League of Their Own" is number 1. Mariah Carey is at #1 with "I'll Be There," and on the shelves and gaming tables everywhere is Issue #183 of This Old Dragon. 

Our cover this month is from Mike L. Scott and features Spelljammer "space whales" called Kindori. I noticed my oldest was prepping a new Spelljammer game, so I asked him if he knew about these guys.

So, at this point, I was not reading Dragon regularly. I knew of this issue, but nothing really about it. 

We were hit with some ads right away, which I enjoyed. One is for a Doctor Doom supplement for Marvel Super Heroes, and another is for Dungeons of Mystery. Dungeons of Mystery features the concept art and not the final art. The concept art has a solid "Mystara" feel to it that I rather like. Flipping the page more TSR ads for the new Dragonlance book and Aurora's Whole Realms Catalogue.  I am not that familiar with this one outside of the name, I will have to track it down.

We get to the Contents and learn this month's special feature is Science and Fantasy. Great!

Letters cover a bunch of quick-shot answers from past issues in a rapid-fire fashion. I see the Witch from #114 is still stirring the pot, er, cauldron. 

Roger Moore's Editorial covers how to adapt some fantasy books to your AD&D game. There is a picture of four books, including The Princess Bride, but he only talks about two of them, "The Face in the Frost" and "The Last Unicorn."  He does mention he ran out of space and time for the others.

Bruce Nesmith is up first for our feature with Magic & Technology Meet At Last in his notes on converting AD&D 2nd Ed and Gamma World 4th Ed. Thankfully, it seems to be a bit easier than I expected since they are more closely related than I originally knew. Plus Gamma World essentially is using the d20 to hit AC mechanic we will later see in D&D 3rd Edition and the d20 rules. 

Advice to a High Lord is from Martin Wixted. It is interesting for a couple of reasons. First off it is copyrighted, so likely one of the articles that would cause so much drama when the Dragon CD-ROM came out, and it is about West End Games' TORG. So a rare non-TSR game. Though at this time they were still being featured, soon all other game support would drop.  I don't know much about TORG really. I saw people playing it when I would pop over to the Student Center when they had their RPG open games, but never played. I still see it a lot at Gen Con.

Speaking of which. Small ad for the combined Gen Con/Origins game show. 

People love pirates. Well...I admit I don't, but they are popular. "Avast, ye swaps, and heave to!" by Richard Baker III covers pirates and privateering in AD&D Spelljammer. While not a lot of mechanics, there is some good stuff here. It should work for AD&D 2nd Ed and the 5th Ed material my kid was reading over.

Ah...Now this looks fun. Unidentified Gaming Objects brings UFOs to your Fantasy RPG. Gregory W. Detwiler gives us great overview of what is going on in the skies a full year before the X-Files hit our TV screens. He provides a lot of what we might call "Conspiracy theories" today and gives you a way to work them into your games. A lot of these would be fantastic for *D&D. Though I am disappointed that in his otherwise great coverage on the Hollow Earth he doesn't mention Mystara as Hollow, published two years prior. His Bibliography is really good for pre-Internet publications. I would use these all in NIGHT SHIFT.

Game Science has a cool ad for the RANGE 1 electronic dice roller. After my CS 212 and STAT 501 courses, I learned about pseudorandom numbers. I never allowed these things in my games. Which was a moot point because I could never afford them back then! But still, I did like the idea.

Gamescience ad


Convention Calendar has your summer vacation travel plans ready. Oh, wait. I was in grad school then, I didn't get a summer vacation. In fact it was either 1992 or 1993 (can't remember) when the State of Illinois did not meet its budget and all workers, including Graduate TAs, were furloughed. I didn't get paid all summer long. That's why I could not afford fancy dice rollers. Anyway the format here has changed on the Calendar and it is easier to see the various states faster and easier.

FASA is up with a ShadowRun 2nd Edition ad. I loved ShadowRun, I loved the world building. I just wish I could have played it more. WAIT I can if I combine NIGHT SHIFT with Thirteen Parsecs! Note to Self, try this. 

Dragon Magazine 90s MVP, and friend of the Other Side, Bruce Heard is up with Part 30 of The Voyage of the Princess Ark. Second Note to Self: Track down all of these and review them in order. As usual there is a narrative piece and some game material too. 

The Voyage of the Princess Ark

Role Playing Reviews by Rick Swan covers the Leading Edge Games version of Aliens and FASA's MECHWARRIOR 2nd Edition. They get 2.5 and 3.5 stars respectively. Swan mentions he does not see the appeal of the Aliens franchise, so I wonder if that affects his review at all. BUT given my own personal experiences with Leading Edge Games, he might be right.

The Lesser Clan of Hartly, Patrica, and Kirk are back with more The Role of Computers. They look forward to the time when CD-ROMs lower the price of games not having to ship floppy disks! Yeah... They do review the first Civilization game which they rightfully give 5 stars. It is amazing what these old games used to be able to do with the limited hardware of the day. Granted, we didn't see it that way; I had my first Gateway 2000 computer and I thought I was living in the damn future.

Jean Rabe is up with an oddly placed (given the theme) The Vikings' Dragons, Part 2. This is a set of five linnorm dragons in AD&D Monstrous Compendium format ready to put into your binders. Love the idea, really, and the dragons are fun. Part 1 appeared in issue 182.

The Vikings' Dragons, Part 2.

TSR Previews lets us know what is coming for July 1992. Most of these are featured as ads in this very magazine. 

Ardath Mayhar has our short fiction, Gryphon's Nest.

The MARVEL-PHILE from Steven E. Schend covers Cerise and Kylun from the Excalibur series. 

Forum covers some deeper discussions. I see some familiar names here like Alan Kellogg. 

Role of Books with John C. Bunnell has the new novels gamers might be interested in. Among those listed is new author, Laurell K. Hamilton and her Nightseer book. I bet she will be a big name later on! Also featured is the new one from Michael A. Stackpole (yes, that one).

Skip Williams has more Sage Advice. Anne Brown has shopping advice for your characters in The Game Wizards.

Dragonmirth has our back-pages comics. I recognize Yamara certainly. The Twilight Empire is features too. I never followed it. I should make an effort to try sometime. 

Gamers Guide has our small ads. Ads to cast your own metal minis, t-shirts with dragons, play-by-mail, and a new idea, computer-simulated galaxies. I can tell some of these were made with the Mac version of PageMaker and then printed out and sent to Dragon. Not a criticism, more fondness.

Ah, now something very interesting. Through the Looking Glass by Robert Bigalow covers minis but spends the first page discussing the banning of lead miniatures due to governmental regulations on lead. I remember this and felt like I was just getting to a point where I could afford them and then they go away! Well, I can't recall where that shook out, but plastic rules the tables now.

Through the Looking Glass

All in all, not a bad issue, just not as much science fiction as I wanted.

--

Remember, we have a new crowdfunding campaign to fund the production of our Thirteen Parsecs: Beyond the Solar Frontier Tabletop RPG. Please help us out if you can. If you can't pledge, then help us by sharing the links with all your friends. 


Sunday, April 7, 2024

Larina Nix for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition

Larina by Beatriz Sanguino
Larina by Beatriz Sanguino
Again, I'm surprised I haven't posted something like this already. Given that I talked about AD&D 2nd Edition earlier today, I thought this might be a good time to discuss the different witches from the AD&D 2nd Ed era. 

I have talked in the past about how the AD&D 2nd edition era was a good time for all sorts of witch classes. By my count, there were at least four official classes from TSR (and later WotC) for AD&D 2nd Ed, and quite a few unofficial ones. 

I have compared a few witch classes with each other at varying levels of detail over the years and will likely do it more when I take my deep dive into the Forgotten Realms for AD&D 2nd Ed. But looking back, I see I never taken the time to compare the AD&D Second classes to each other. The closest I have come was comparing two AD&D 2nd Characters to each other, Nida and Sinéad, and Sinéad is no longer even a proper witch. 

One day, I'll do more, but I want to look at one official witch and two unofficial ones for today.  I think I'll save Nida when it comes time to discuss the other official witches. Plus, using Larina here is much more appropriate. 

As I mentioned earlier today, AD&D 2nd Edition can be seen as an extension or continuation of the AD&D 1st Edition line. The games are very compatible. So, my characters often moved from 1st to 2nd Edition without so much as getting a new sheet. Larina here is no exception. She began in 1986 with AD&D 1st Ed and moved to AD&D 2nd Ed in 1989 without a blink. But I did make new sheets for her eventually.

Let's go back a bit before AD&D 2nd edition came out. Back in July 1986, I created a witch character, Larina, to test some ideas I had about doing witches in (A)D&D. When Dragon Magazine came out in October of 1986 I started using that. But all the while, I am collecting my notes and ideas. Moving forward to 1989, AD&D 2nd Edition was released. There were a lot of new ideas in that and I was looking forward to trying out my collected notes. One set of notes became my Sun Priest kit for Clerics, another became a pile of notes for the Healer, another the Necromancer/Death Mage, but the largest would become the Witch. It would be almost 10 years before it would see publication but it did and Larina was a central figure in that work.

In those 10 years, there was a lot of writing and playtesting. 

While I kept my Dragon #114/AD&D1st ed witch version of her, I created a parallel version using my new witch rules. This version was supposed to be the same person, just with a different set of rules to govern her. While that happened, two other witch classes were published to help me make other choices. I also set her up for these rules and played all three (or four, really) versions to see how she worked in different situations.  So, if you have ever wondered if I have run out of things to say about witches or even this witch in particular, the answer is no, I have spent more hours with her than any other character I have.

So I would like to present her for AD&D Second Edition, but three different witch classes.

Various AD&D 2nd Ed Witches

Larina Nix for AD&D 2nd Edition

This version(s) of Larina is just the continuation of her AD&D 1st Edition incarnation.

Base Stats (same for all versions).

Larina Nix
Human Witch, Lawful Neutral

Strength: 9
Dexterity: 17 
Constitution: 16
Intelligence: 18 
Wisdom: 18
Charisma: 18

Movement: 12
AC: 1
HP: 86

Weapons
Dagger, Staff

Defenses: Bracers of Defense (AC 1)

Languages: Common, Alignment, Elven, Dwarven, Dragon, Goblin, Orc, Sylvan
Ancient Languages: Primordial, Abyssal, Infernal

So, in this version, her dex and con were raised by some magic.

The Complete Wizard's Handbook
The Complete Wizard's Handbook

Class: Wizard
Kit: Witch
Level: 15

Saving Throws (Base)
Paralyze/Poison/Death: 11
Rod, Staff, Wand: 7
Petrify/Polymorph: 9
Breath Weapon: 11
Magic: 11

THAC0: 16

Proficiencies: Ancient History, Astrology (2), Herbalism, Reading/Writing (4), Religion (2), Spellcraft (4), Animal Handling, Artistic.
Weapons: Dagger, Staff

Secondary Skill: Scribe

Powers
3rd level: Familiar
5th level: Brew Calmative
7th level: Brew Poison
9th level: Beguile
11th level: Brew Flying Ointment
13th level: Witch's Cure

Spells
1st level: Burning Hands, Charm Person, Comprehend Languages, Copy, Chromatic Orb
2nd level: Blindness, ESP, Tasha's Hideous Uncontrollable Laughter, Knock, Ice Knife
3rd level: Clairvoyance, Hold Person, Hovering Skull, Iron Mind, Pain Touch
4th level: Dimension Door, Fear, Magic Mirror, Remove Curse, Fire Aura
5th level: Advanced Illusion, Cone of Cold, Feeblemind, Telekinesis, Shadow Door
6th level: Eyebite, Dragon Scales
7th level: Shadow Walk

--

Mayfair Role-aids: Witches
Mayfair Role-aids: Witches

Class: Witch / Wizard
Tradition: Classical
Level: 15 / 1

Saving Throws (Base)
Paralyze/Poison/Death: 13
Rod, Staff, Wand: 9
Petrify/Polymorph: 11
Breath Weapon: 13
Magic: 10

THAC0: 16

Proficiencies: Ancient History, Astrology (2), Herbalism, Reading/Writing (4), Religion (2), Spellcraft (4), Animal Handling, Artistic.
Weapons: Dagger, Staff

Secondary Skill: Scribe

Powers
Herbalism

Spells
1st level: Feather Fall, Identify, Read Magic, Sleep, Chill Touch, Protection from Evil, Color Spray
2nd level: Flaming Sphere, Locate Object, Forget, Ray of Enfeeblement, Strength
3rd level: Cure Light Wounds, Dispel Magic, Clairvoyance, Delude, Mystery Script
4th level: Call Lightning, Fear, Fire Shield, Magic Mirror, Wall of Fire
5th level: Feeblemind, Shadow Magic, Dream, FAlse Vision
6th level: Geas, Legend Lore, True Seeing
7th level: Shadow Walk

--

Mayfair Role-aids: Witches
The Complete Netbook of Witches & Warlocks

Class: Witch (Priest Sub-class)
Level: 15

Saving Throws (Base)
Paralyze/Poison/Death: 5
Rod, Staff, Wand: 9
Petrify/Polymorph: 8
Breath Weapon: 11
Magic: 10

THAC0: 12

Proficiencies: Ancient History, Astrology (2), Herbalism, Reading/Writing (4), Religion (2), Spellcraft (4), Animal Handling, Artistic.
Weapons: Dagger, Staff

Secondary Skill: Scribe

Powers
1st: Turn Undead
3rd level: Read/Detect Magic
6th level: Chill Touch
9th level: Candle Magic
12th level: Immune to Fear
15th level: Fascination
11th level: Brew Flying Ointment
13th level: Witch's Cure

Spells
1st level: Create Fire, Katarine's Dart, Witch Light, Dowse, Wall of Darkness, Painful Wounds
2nd level: Burning Wind, Acquire Witch's Familiar, Blackfire, Dance Trantra, Minor Hex, Pain Armor, Protection vs. Elementals
3rd level: Lesser Strengthing Rite, Beguile III, Astral Sense, Lethe, Witch Writing, Rite of Remote Seeing
4th level: Spirit Dagger, Cloak of Shifting Shadows, Broom, Cleanse, Card Reading, Grandmother's Shawl, Middle Banishing Rite
5th level: Rite of Magical Resistance, Starflare, Dolor, Bull of Heaven
6th level: Anchoring Rite, Greater Banishing Rite, Kiss of Life
7th level: Demon Trap

--

The biggest differences are in the powers and the spells. 

I kept her HP the same in all three cases to keep combat a fixed variable, the same with her weapons and non-weapon proficiencies. 

The Wizard's Handbook from TSR strikes a good balance of powers and spells. The Mayfair Role-aids Witches book has some great spells. Of course I am fond of my own Complete Netbook of Witches & Warlocks. Of course, after 25 years, there are things I would do differently now.

Playing All Three

Playing all three in a game was interesting but also a lot of fun. I'd generally alternate between them, choosing which one to use in combat beforehand so I could measure the utility of the spells. So when I say I have played her more than any other character, I really mean it. I kept her "real" sheets as notes in MS Word 2.0/95/97 to make easy changes to them as I played with my CNoW&W one as the "official" character sheet. 

This also gave me the idea that all her incarnations are aware of each other. It has nothing to do with any of the game mechanics I have written, but it is aa fun little role-playing exercise. 

In 1999, on October 31st, I was sitting in the hospital. My wife had just had our first baby, Liam, and I had my laptop. Just after midnight, I released my "The Complete Netbook of Witches & Warlocks" for free on the web. Larina was featured in that book as a 6-year-old who discovered she was a witch.

All the playtesting would then lead to my "The Witch: A sourcebook for Basic Edition fantasy games" released exactly 14 years later.  It would also lead to my 3rd Edition books on witches, but I'll talk about them next week.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

Review: Gary Gygax's Dangerous Journeys: Mythus Magick (1992)

Gary Gygax's Dangerous Journeys: Mythus Magic (1992)
I needed a bit of a break before tackling this one.

I covered Gary Gygax's Dangerous Journeys: Mythus on Tuesday. I also wanted to go over the second (or third) volume of his Mythus game, the book of magic called, easily enough, Dangerous Journeys: Mythus Magic (1992).   I will not go into as much detail on this one for the same reasons I actually find this book more interesting, it is largely a collection of spells and rituals.

Gary Gygax's Dangerous Journeys: Mythus Magick (1992)

Gary Gygax with Dave Newton. 384 pages. Color covers. Black-and-white interior art.
Published by Games Designer Workshop.

We open this book and it is described as "the Colossus (or more appropriately, the Merlln) of all magick books!" Well...it is certainly large and very in-depth.

I will start in the middle and mention that a full 270 pages of this book are "Castings," so Spells, Cantrips, Rituals, and the like. They are interesting in a very academic sense. If you are going to play this game (ve con Dios) and play any type of spell caster, then this is a must-have book.  IF you are the type like me and love reading about different sorts of magic and magical systems, then this is a very interesting book with some RPG applications. I am not about to try to convert these to any form of D&D mind you. It just would be easier to convert something like Judika Illes' "The Element Encyclopedia of 1000 Spells." And at least Illes writes in a way that can be plainly understood. 

The spells range from the useful (Heka Bolt, Find Traps) to the oddly named (Acclumséd—make someone clumsy) to the largely unneeded (Candlemake Formula—make 10 beeswax candles. Still need 10 BUCs of supplies; might be cheaper to buy them.) That's fine; it's hard to come up with 1,400 different spells. All of these spells are split up by vocation. So, at least, we have that going for us. 

Returning to the beginning, we get a repeat of the material from the core book on what Heka is. Or rather, I should say the core book summarizes what is here. 

We learn more than we ever wanted about the sources of Heka. To be fair, there is some material that people might find useful in their games. However, I will point out that a lot of this can be found by going to other sources. No, I am not saying that Gary copied anything here! These are some classical ideas (crystals, times of day, times of the year, places) that have more or less magical energy. Gary takes these ideas and codifies them for his game. Again, similar information can be found in other sources that are a bit more approachable. Bard Games' "The Complete Spellcaster" comes to mind. Still, this is much easier to read than, say, Isaac Bonewits' "Authentic Thaumaturgy."

There are chapters on Heka Users, Replenishing Heka, and the Structure of Magick. Look. I like reading this stuff, but there is more here than any RPG needs. 

This covers the first 30 or so pages. We learn that Heka (and it's pronounced "HEE-ka" not "Heck-Ah") is the sum of your Heka-producing K/S STEEPs, and every casting level has a base Heka cost and sometimes extra costs.

Remember all of those Spell Points and Mana systems for AD&D that started appearing on the internet (and before if your town had a good-sized gamer population)? Well, this is that dialed up to 17. If you play a caster, then your books are going to get used—a lot.

After all the spells there are sections on how to create new castings. Useful, for this game, but not others. It would be easier to create your own. There is even a section for on the spot creation. I think someone got a glimpse of Ars Magica or Mage and realized that for 1992 this was already an old and clunky system.

There are chapters on non-human Heka using HPs and Heka-based powers.

The last Chapter covers various magic items, which makes it a good read. 

There is a huge Bibliography that dwarfs Appendix N. What stops it from being truly useful are a complete lack of publication dates and publishers. I mean, yeah I can figure them all out (and have more than a few in my own library) but it seems...well, sloppy.

Bibliography

We also get a tome sheet for all the spells you can cast.

So, maybe even more than the Core Rules, I enjoy reading this book for the content, and I hate it more than the Core Rules in terms of playability.  There is just so much dense text here geared toward such low returns. People point to D&D Basic and Expert (B/X) as a masterpiece of word economy. In just 128 pages total there is everything you need to play to last years. That's not hyperbole, that is a documented fact at this point. Something that Mythus can't do in 800 pages (so far). This is yet another example of how a good editor is worth their weight in gold. 

If we look at this game as a Fantasy Heartbreaker, we can be amused and laugh a little at some of the ridiculousness of it all, and then brush of our heavily marked characters sheets and try to play a session. No one though in 2024 is going suggest playing a regular game of this though. Fun for an experiment while one of the regular players is away and you put the campaign on hold.

If we look at this though as something that was supposed to be the Magnum Opus of the father of RPGs, then we can't help but come away a little confused and maybe even a little sad about it.  What went wrong here? How did this get out of Gary's hands and into mine? Was it hubris? Was it something else? Was there so much desperation here to keep this from looking anything like D&D that good ideas were thrown out in favor of bad ones? I honestly have no idea. But here is the score right now, Gary made two games (or 1½), D&D and AD&D, that are nearly universally loved to this day. Then he made Cyborg Commando and Dangerous Journey, which are nearly equally reviled. 

I was going to spend some time figuring out Larina's spells, but honestly, I really can't anymore.

Dangerous Journeys: Mythus

A Note About Mythus: Epic of Ærth

I had this book once upon a time and I will readily admit I enjoyed it. For fluff it was great stuff and reminded more of the Gygax of old. Yes I also remembered there were some questionable bits in it, but nothing I can recall off the top of my head. It was enough that I unloaded years ago at a game auction.

Ærth in the Mythus books reminded me a lot of the sort of Earth one sees in games like "Man, Myth, & Magic (1982)" or "Lands of Adventure (1983)." A mythical Earth that only exists in some sort of dreamtime.  Mind there is nothing wrong with this as a game world. In fact arguments could be made that these sorts of Earths are great for gaming. Obviously, I am a fan of the idea and would 1000% do a "Crisis on Infinite Ærths" one day.  If trying to get those three to work together didn't drive me insane first.

At the end of this I find this is where I am at. Mythus does not give me anything that Man, Myth, & Magic didn't also do 10 years before. Even as a Fantasy Heartbreaker, it doesn't live up. But I keep coming back to it, hoping to find something here that I missed. 

Sadly, due to the lawsuits that did come from TSR, Game Designers' Workshop was forced to close in 1996, leaving games like Traveller, Twilight2000, and Dark Conspiracy adrift for a number of years.

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Review: Gary Gygax's Dangerous Journeys: Mythus (1992)

Gary Gygax's Dangerous Journeys: Mythus (1992)
 This week is Gary Con, so I thought while I am celebrating 50 years of Dungeons & Dragons, I would also spend some time with Gary Gygax's other two games he made after leaving TSR, where he created D&D. This week, I am coving Dangerous Journeys: Mythus.

A bit of background for those not 100% up to speed. Back in 1985, D&D brought in a lot of money, but the publisher, TSR, was in debt of $1.5 million. These reasons have been explained better and in more detail elsewhere; suffice to say that by the time the dust settled (almost), Gary Gygax had been kicked out of the company (but not yet the industry) he helped create.  He spent some time doing some novels with his New Infinity Productions where he also published his near-universally reviled Cyborg Commando. No, I am not going to review that one. Plus I don't own it.

After a little time away he returned to RPGs in 1992 with his new game, "Dangerous Dimensions," or DD for short. Well, TSR was not going to have any of that and threatened to sue (in fairness, it is from a playbook that Gary helped write), and his new game became Dangerous Journeys, and Mythus became the fantasy setting. 

Dangerous Journeys would be his new core system with Mythus, the Fantasy RPG. There was a mention of the supernatural horror game Unhallowed, which would have been fun. Plus, I would have loved to have had a fantasy RPG and a supernatural horror RPG that used the same system. 

Eventually, more pressure from TSR would kill Dangerous Journey, leaving only Mythus produced.

But what is Dangerous Journeys, and what is its setting, Mythus?

Gary Gygax's Dangerous Journeys (1992)

Gary Gygax with Dave Newton. 416 pages. Color covers. Black-and-white interior art. Some full-color art plates.
Published by Games Designer Workshop.

First some clarifications.

Dangerous Journeys is the system being used here. Mythus is the Fantasy RPG that uses the Dangerous Journeys system/rules.  Mythus is also divided into Mythus Prime, which is a basic game and Mythus Advanced, which is the advanced or full game. This book covers both the Mythus Prime and Mythus Advanced games.

This game was designed to address some of the perceived shortcomings of AD&D, though Gary could not come right out and say that. He had to be a bit oblique about it.  This book is huge and there is lot going on. 

Welcome to the Mythus Game

This introduction introduces us to the game and some RPG ideas like what an RPG is, what a Gamemaster is, and so on. None of which I think are needed here to be honest, its a bit much. But the meat is the Game Premise and, in some ways, the most interesting to me. Mythus takes place on Ærth, a world like our own but 1000 years in the past, so at the time of publication, 992 CE. Here, the myths of old are real, and we know about them because of Ærth's connection to Earth. So elves, dragons, and vampires are stories here, but there they were/are real. The trouble I am having with Ærth as presented is there is very little to differentiate it from our Earth save for window dressing. This is disappointing really since I feel there is something here if given the chance to grow a little. The maps and hints throughout the book are tantalizing but not enough.

Here we are also introduced to the next two books in the line "The Epic of Ærth" and "Mythus Magic." Of those two, I only have the Mythus Magic book. We are also introduced to the concept of the Basic and Advanced games. 

Your character in the game is a persona, or Heroic Persona, or HP. This game uses regular d6s and d10s for all the rolls. There are also d3 and d5 rolls here, but most will d%.

Dangerous Journey Mythus

Mythus Prime Rules

Note: There is also a "Basic Set" sold separately as "Mythus Prime" that is a 144-page book. It is essentially the same as this section, with some expansions. 

This is the "Basic" game designed to get people started in the Mythus game. It is like the Advanced Mythus game in many ways but obviously simpler. I am not going to delve too deep here. I have read it many times over the years and I like some of the ideas here. But I can talk about them when I cover the Advanced Rules. This does cover the next 45 pages or so. Reading the chapter Creating your Heroic Persona, though, is a good one since the Advanced Mythus points back to it for character creation. There is more in the advanced game.

HPs (remember, Heroic Personas) have three Traits: Mental, Physical, and Spiritual. It is not a bad division, really, Tri-Stat would later do it to much success. In this Basic section all the steps are outlined by an example. So choose SEC (Socio-Economic Class), Traits, Vocation (not a class...), choose K/S (Knowledge/Skills), and STEEP points (Study, Training, Education, Experience, Practice); get your finances and possessions., and round off your character.  Compared to the flipping through pages, one has to do with AD&D 1st ed. This is an improvement, but compared to other games from around 1992, like, say, Vampire the Masquerade, it already felt dated. Still better than World of Synnibar, released the year before.

All characters get three K/S for free, Perception (Mental), Perception (Physical), and Riding/Boating.

There is a chapter on rolling and success. I go into that in detail with the advanced game. The same is true of the chapter after the next on Combat.

The third chapter is on Heka, or the force of Magic in the Mythus world.  Now this was an interesting one to me. In the 90s I was dying for a new magic system. It is interesting but wildly crunchy. Heka is determined by your HP's magical K/S. Again, more on this in a bit. 

Improving Skills & Abilities is after Combat, and the rules here as simple enough. you spend APs (accomplishment points, our XP stand-in) to improve. This one also gets more complicated in the Advanced Game.

A Chapter on Playing your HP, moving to the Advanced Game and some Gamemaster advice.

I like the idea of a simpler game to introduce the more complicated one, but I can't help but feel that the real game, the one that would been more successful, isn't somewhere in between. I mean we all did the same with Basic and Advanced D&D.  Feels like the same mistakes are being made here for completely different reasons.

There is a brief adventure for the Basic game, High Time at the Winged Pig, at the end of this section. To be honest, it's not really all that interesting, especially given that this is the same guy who gave us B2 and the TGD series. I mean the HPs meet in a tavern. Fine for 1974-1977, but 1992? We deserve better than this really.

Advanced Mythus

Now 55 pages later, we are now in the Advanced Mythus game.

We are referred to the Basic Mythus game often, but the steps for character creation are pretty much the same.

1. Determine Socio-Economic Status. It may not be the best way to run a game since no one will go here first anyway. People choose a concept and/or a class first. This, though, does have effects on what your HP can and can't do. A table of the percent of the population of every SEC level is also presented. Not sure if it is here for illustrative purposes or if you are supposed to have your character population conform to it. I should point out though that frequency distribution for "rolled characters" will never match the SEC Populations table, no matter what you do. This is why I wonder why it is here.  A lot depends on your HPs SEC. If the acronyms get to be too much, remember this is a Gygax game, and there will be a lot more. Now personally, I am not a fan of so much to be dependent on my HPs SEC (damnit now I am doing it), I mean I have my Taxes for that. I want to make kick-ass characters. Honestly, I'll just choose my vocation and then find an SEC that fits it.

2. Generate numbers for Traits/Categories/Attributes. We have the same traits as before, Mental, Physical, and Spiritual. These are divided into two categories each. Mnemonic/Reasoning (Mental), Muscular/Neural (Physical), Metaphysical/Psychic (Spiritual).  Each of these six has three Attribute scores: Capacity, Power, and Speed. So a total of 3+6+18=27 numbers to describe your character, I mean HP. That seems a bit excessive. Granted, we only need to roll up 18 of those (OR assign 6 in the point spread) and the others are derived. These scores range from 6 to 20, with 8-11 as the average. The maximum of any human attribute is 30 for physical (cap, pow, or spd) and 40 for mental or spiritual (cap, pow, or spd). There are two ways to get these numbers. The first is a point distribution method. You get a range of numbers to divide among the 6 categories the split them up for the cap, pow and spd scores and then add them up for Mental, Physical and Spiritual. The second is a 2d6+8 rolled for all 18. Again, examples are utilized here which helps. These numbers are used to determine "Critical Levels," "Effect Levels," "Wound Levels," and "Recovery Levels." They will also be used to determine an HP's Heka. 

3. Calculate STEEP for the HPs Knowledge/Skill areas. Players are encouraged to look over the vocations to see what areas they need to increase here. The same basic vocations are here, but a lot more are added. Now, vocations are not classes. Classes are picked in other games and then the skills are given. Here you start with the skills. While there are vocational packages that feel like classes, you could in theory ignore them and build a vocation of your own. There is an Appendix (E) here for that.  STEEP scores are 00 to 91+ with 00 as "no knowledge" and 91+ as Ultra-genius. There is a K/S of "Witchcræft," and it is sadly presented as nothing but pure evil. Even Demonology here is not so vilified.  Yes. I am taking this as a challenge.

Witchcræft

4. Choose the HPs K/S sub-areas. This goes along with the various vocations. In the advanced game, there are three additional automatic skills, Etiquette/Social Graces, Native Tongue, and Trade Phoenician, which is the "Common" of Ærth.

5. Determine Personal information. This can be random or chosen.

6. Calculate the HPs Resources.  This is random based on SEC. The unit of currency is the BUC or...Basic Unit of Currency. So 50' of rope costs 10 BUCs. I am not sure if this is clever or irritating. 

This all covers about 70 pages. I glossed over a lot of it. 

Core Game Systems

These are our core rules. Rolls are made with the K/S areas. The six difficulty levels all have a multiplier to the HPs STEEP. They are Easy (x3), Moderate (the default x2), Hard (x1 [one would think a x1 would be the better default]), Difficult (x0.5), Very Difficult (x0.25), and Extreme (x0.1).  So if I want to read a scroll and my K/S in Dweomercræft is a 20 then if this were an Easy Challenge, then my chance to succeed is 20 x 3 or 60%. Moderate is 40% (20x2); if it is Very Difficult, then 20x0.25 or 5%, and 2% for Extreme. While so, a lot of the math is front-loaded on figuring out those K/S scores. These are roll-under abilities (roll under or equal). So, rolling 96% or above can be considered an automatic or even a special failure. 

We get guidelines for combining efforts, for rolling a K/S vs another K/S and so on.

There is also something called a Joss Factor (JF) which work like luck or hero points. At least...I think they do. There is not much here about it at all. If there are rules about how to regain Joss (and WHY is it called that?? Oh, I found an "in game" reason that explains nothing.) I have not found them. 

Spending APs is also covered for Traits and K/S areas. For this, advanced K/S descriptions are given. 

Combat is largely an application of the appropriate K/S areas. Combat is done in units called Critical Turns (CTs) of about 3 seconds each. The initiative is a d10 roll.  Armor reduces damage so HPs can take a lot of damage.  Combat can target hit locations, given the names with damage multipliers of: Non-Vital (x1), Vital (x2), Super-Vital (x3), and Ultra-Vital (x4). This is to account for creatures that might have different sorts of vital parts. It feels weird, but given what this game was trying to do, I can see the utility here. 

There is an insanity and madness mechanic, but as I have said before, I am never very fond of these. 

Heka & Magic

Heka was the god of and the word for magic in ancient Egypt (or Ægypt in this book). Now I will freely admit, this is also one of my favorite sections. It is a wonderfully complicated system that would have made Isaac Bonewits proud. We get a few spells, but there are more in the Mythus Magic book (Thursday).

More on Personas

This covers anything that can change in an HP, like a change in SEC to becoming a vampire. This also covers some basic monsters.  There are some examples of NPCs, or er...NHP? Oh, actually, they are OPs, or "Other Personas."  The "monsters" are divided into three categories: Evil Personas (EPs), Monstrous Personages (MPGs), and Mundane Personas (MPs).  Other than being descriptive, there is no real difference between these that I can tell, save for name/label. Maybe if they had different point spreads.  There are also Friendly Personas (FP), which are what they sound like. 

Magickal Items

Pretty much what is says on the tin. There isn't a lot of stuff here.

Condemned as Galley Slaves

An adventure for new HPs. 

Appendices follow.

So. This game. 

Let's be honest. It is not good. It's actually kind of embarrassing how bad it is. Not to say there are not good things in it.

There are a lot of things I do like about it, though. I love the idea of Ærth, and Necropolis is still a fun adventure. The Mythus Magic was also a lot of fun, and I am looking forward to going over it again on Thursday. That said, I love some of the fluff here and there are things I could use, but it is a lot od shifting wheat from chaff here. 

Larina ferch Siân
Larina ferch Siân of Ærth

The over-heavy-handedness of the "Witchcræft is pure evilTM!" and the inclusion of "wicca" vis-à-vis through the Wisewoman/Wiseman vocation (or Mystic, the book is not very clear on this) is just too tantalizing to pass up, even if character creation in this system has been universally reviled.  I think I will try the character today and some spells on Thursday.

I did find some character sheets online, but I am going with the one in the back of the book.  I considered doing the point spread, but I opted to roll up a new character instead. The numbers I got were a bit higher, but not very different from the point spread or the sample character. It also works out since I wanted a character similar to her AD&D stats.  

I admit that rolling up the characteristics and getting my derived scores was much faster than I expected. But then I got to the K/S area, and things ground to a halt. It is not that it is hard, just tedious.

Note: For all the talk that this is a Class-less system, the Vocations are classes in all but name really. 

So, our basic K/S skills are figured out as follows:

  • Etiquette/Social Graces: SEC Level (6) x 5 = 30
  • Native Tongue (Welsh/Keltic): 30 (above) + MMCap (16) = 46*
  • Perception (Mental): 2d10 + MRCap (15) = 31**
  • Perception (Physical) 2d10 + PNCap (12) = 28
  • Trade Language: SEC (6) x 3 +MMCap (16) = 34
  • Riding: SEC (6) x 5 = 30

* In some places it says SEC x5 for language others SEC x3.
** The formulas are reversed for these in the book. 

Now, I have to pick my Vocational K/Ss. I picked Wisewoman for Larina since that fits well, but be sure I'll be bumping up her Witchcræft. Since this is a spiritual Vocation, I can choose which perception to use, so I chose Perception (Mental). I think I could figure out how to knock together a "White Witch" option per Appendix E, but instead, I am just going to tweak the Wisewoman a bit.

For this, I just shifted the same K/Ss around and kept the same number of STEEP points (248).

Crap. Forgot to adjust for age. Not going to do it. Say I rolled the appropriate number, and those above are the adjusted ones.

Attractiveness: Got a 16. Not bad. Should adjust for age or other factors I am sure, but not going too.

Joss: Rolled a 62, so 10 Joss factors. 

Not rolling for birth rank, despite some fun things for a 7th child of a 7th child. This character is way established in my mind as the 1st born daughter. 

She is from Cymru (Wales), and her birthplace was near Gŵry (Gower).

Quirks: A bit of roleplaying fun here. A lot like Qualities and Drawbacks in point-buy games. I'll choose two as long as they don't change any trait numbers (good or ill). I am not recalculating all of this. I'll take Psychic Awareness and Heka Channeler. For "Conter Quirks" I'll take Obsessive/Compulsive and Low Tolerance to Alcohol. 

Connections: She gets two of these, so I am giving her access to the local Druid Hierarchy and an Apothecary; both of these are due to her parents.  

Results below.

Larina ferch Siân of ÆrthLarina ferch Siân of Ærth

Larina ferch Siân of Ærth

Ok. That was fairly tedious, but in the end, I got a character that I think will be fun to use IF I ever play this game.  I'll figure out her Heka and do spells on Thursday.

I need a mental break now.

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

End of an Era: Heavy Metal Magazine

Recently I read on fred's HM fan blog that Heavy Metal magazine is no more.

I have often said that Heavy Metal (the music, the magazine, and the movie) was/were as much of an influence on my early 80s gaming style as were the likes of Dragon magazine, White Dwarf, and really, far more than most of the Appendix N books.

The news comes to us via Bleeding Cool and Multiversity Comics.

While I have not read HM in a long time, it was part of my D&D experience as much as anything. I even rank Taarna among the celebrated heroes of fantasy, right along with Conan, Elric, Frodo, Fafhrd, and the Gray Mouser.

Heavy MetalHeavy Metal Movie

White DwarfHeavy Metal Special Taarna

This is not an age that is kind to the printed word, less kind even to the printed word on paper. I don't hold out any hope that HM will return in a new form any more than I hope that Dragon will.


Thursday, June 29, 2023

This Old Dragon: Issue #261

Dragon #261
I have a few of my original Dragons left from my big box of old musty Dragons I acquired a few years back. I recently picked up a couple more collections in my desire to explore more of the 1990s and AD&D 2nd Edition.  The 90s were an interesting time for me. I began the 90s living in the dorms at my University working on my undergrad degrees and I ended the 90s married, a new baby, and working my first Ph.D. Quite a lot of difference. I also in that time "gave up on" D&D and moved to other games; something I can relate to again now.  But for right now let's focus on this issue #261 from July of 1999 of This Old Dragon.

Our cover is an amazing one from Fred Fields and his nod to Sandro Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus."  For this one, "The Birth of Night" Fields had his then-girlfriend (now wife) Sandy do the modeling.  I remember this from back then and I really liked then, still do. 

Dragons from this time period are very different than the ones I have done in the past. This Dragon (and many from the 3rd edition era when I picked it back up) was published by Wizards of the Coast, has a bunch of names I don't normally associate with Dragon (but with other RPG products), and the format has all sorts of changes. All in all, this is going to be just as much as an adventure as ones from the 1970s or early 1980s.

One new thing. Lots and lots of websites! Sadly many are no longer active. 

We get a big ad for the Planescape Torment video game. 

The Wyrm's Turn is the Editorial section that discusses this issue's theme, The Dark. Dave Gross is the editor at this time. 

Fun ad for the 25th Anniversary tour. We are reminded throughout that this is the 25th Anniversary of D&D. We are nearly at 50 now. 

Sage Advice is still here and Skip Williams offers a lot of advice about various AD&D 2nd Ed rule questions.  I half expected to see this one phased out, but there was still a need for it and not everyone was on the Internet just yet (but close). I do have to point out that Sage Advice is still by postal mail. No email address yet. I am sure this will change sometime in the next few months.

The letters section is now D-Mail. They DO have an email address you can use along with the standard postal one. It might even still be active. Just to be 100% clear, I am not sure when a lot of these changes happened, I had what we called "Grad School Guilt." That is where if you read anything not directly related to your subject matter caused a lot of guilt. So I was not reading Dragon all that much from like 1992 on until the 2000s. Oh. The letters. Right. So in something else of a red letter day for me, I recognize one the names of someone that sent in a letter! So Joe Kushner, I hope you got your answer! Later on in the same feature, I see another name I recognize from online interaction.  D-Mail is long, longer than the letters section used to be.

The general consensus in D-Mail is that Dragon Magazine has improved with Wizard's purchase of TSR. While of course they are going to publish that, and yes there is plenty of evidence to support this claim, I would personally pick the magazine back up in subscription about a year or so from this issue.

Nodwick appears as a comic strip on page 13. An order form for back issues of Dragon with issue #70 as the earliest one you can still get. $8.00 and it can be yours. This is about to get less attractive as we will see later in this issue.

Ray Winninger is up with the Dungeoncraft column. This covers building something for your game. This one starts with the notion of building up the PC's base of operations. He covers some rumors and other background building of the area and ends with a map of the tree base. Rather interesting really and set up to be easily added to anyone campaign or game. In fact I am not seeing anything here that could not be used in an OSR game or a 5e game. 

Dungeoncraft Dragon #261

George Vrbanic is next with the PC Portraits feature. This time 14 pictures of Dwarves. An ad for Baldur's Gate follows.

We get to our themed featured articles now.  Up first, Wizards of Dusk & Gloom by Tony Nixon. This covers some options for the AD&D Player's Options books. I actively disliked the Skills & Powers books. That being said these options and kits are pretty cool and add a lot of flavor to the wizard class. There are three options here, the Shadow Caller, the Shadow Seeker, and the Shadow Hunter. There might some 3e equivalent prestige classes out there or some 5e subclasses. There are also three "Books of Shadows" which gives us 17 new shadow-based spells. From what I can tell these spells did make it to the giant Spell Compendiums released by Wizards.

Dragon #261 Ads
An interesting set of ads. A single page with a bunch of companies and their web addresses. Among them are Guardians of Order (with a Sailor Moon book), Eden Studios (featuring the Abduction Card game), and RPGnet.  

By Any Other Name covers Dwarven Names from Owen K.C. Stephens. A fun little set of tables to build a new dwarf name. 

Objet d' Art is from Dawn Ibach and details the types of treasure you can find in a hoard. Very detailed and quite extensive really. Also can be used in any edition of the game.

Our fiction section is from J. Gregory Keyes, The Fallen God

Me and My Shadow continues our Shadow and Dark feature.  This article is by Spike Y. Jones. This covers a number of shadow-centric magic items.  This flows into the next article Conjuring in the Dark. This covers 13 new shadow-based spells. 

Johnathan M. Richards is next with an Ecology of... article, this time Ecology of the Dark Naga. The article seems longer that the previous Ecology articles. While it seems more detailed than the previous ones from the Golden Age, but lacking some of the charm of the old Ed Greenwood ones. Though this one is good, just not sure if the fiction elements live up to the rest of the article. Call me weird, but my preferred Ecology of articles always treated their subject as some sort of scholarly discussion. 

Ecology of the Dark Naga

Peter Whitley gives us something that will be something more and more common; AD&D monsters from a computer game. This time some monster from Myth: The Fallen Lords. There are four new monsters in AD&D Monstrous Compendium format.

John Kovalic is up with Dork Tower

A Little Bit of Magic from Lloyd Brown III covers how to measure out magic items in a campaign to keep it from going too Monty Haul.  Examples include magic items with Noncombat Effects, Intermittent Effects, Self-Destructive, Limited Time periods, and items with charges. Advice is given to avoid armor and weapons with pluses to all things.  So a sword +1 is great but it means you will need bigger and better (and more magical) ones later. A sword that just +1 vs say undead keeps the players excited for any magical sword. Or armor that is magically light, but doesn't provide any better protection than normal armor of the same sort. While it was far to late in the game for me at this point, this would have been good advice for me to revisit later on in the 3e and 5e days.

In something that seems really familiar, some Marvel characters. Though this time the Marvel SAGA system (if I am remembering correctly). This time we get Dark Phoenix (Jean Grey) and Phoenix (Rachel Summers) writeups from Jeff "Zippy" Quick and Steve Miller.

Role Models gives us some Alternity alien minis. 

The Convention Calendar gives us the best conventions for the Summer of 1999. A couple of things to note for me. There is a Capitol Con XV at the Prairie Capitol Convention Center in Springfield, IL. That not only was not very far from where I grew up, it was new when I still lived there! I don't think I ever knew about it. Despite it being listed in Dragons before. I can't find any more details on it. Interestingly enough there are listings for August, but Gen Con is not one of them. 

The Ares section is back, this time with Alternity branding. Stephen Kenson (of Green Ronin fame) is up with The Twilight Jungle. This not only continues the magazine's main theme, but the aliens here look very much like something you could find on Pandora from Avatar, only 10 years before the movie came out. The article is fun but highlights the fact that I always wanted to try out Alternity. Something about it just always grabbed me and I just never got the chance to play it or even read it much.  Maybe one day I'll get back to it. 

Dragon Mirth has our comics of the month, plus a sort of find a word puzzle that looks fun. There is a Love Canal joke that I am not sure many would get these days. 

Knights of the Dinner Table has a two-page spread. 

TSR Previews (yes it is still called that) gives us new products for the next couple of months. A few books listed still have their concept covers. Of note are the Forgotten Realms interactive atlas (which I never owned) and the Dragon Magazine CD-ROM which I grabbed the moment I could from my FLGS, which was now for me actually local (and the same one I still use today). A few novels including two I would later read; Ru Emerson's "Against the Giants" (which I only sorta liked) and Ed Greenwood's "Silverfall: Stories of the Seven Sisters" (which I enjoyed more than I thought I would).

TSR News lets us know that the 25th Anniversary Edition boxed set will be released in August. Better grab one of these while you can, the after-market prices are going to crazy! In other news, Gary Gygax will be at Gen Con in August, running games, holding seminars and signing copies of the 25th Anniversary boxed set. 

Finally in Profiles, Steve Kenson gives us some background on cover artist Fred Fields.

So really a good issue. I had a lot of apprehension about approaching this era of Dragon/TSR. I can recall sitting on my couch reading one of the first WotC-produced TSR Ravenloft books and thinking maybe the company and game I had enjoyed for so long but was feeling quite apathetic too was turning around. This issue of Dragon redoubles that. There is a sense of optimism for the future of the game that I had not personally experienced in the late 90s and did really feel until the 3rd Edition Era.  Wizard of the Coast did save D&D and the proof is in these pages.

While many will debate the various "ages" of the game; when was the Golden Age, when did the "Silver Age" begin and what was the time post-Gygax and pre-WotC? One thing for certain for me is that the time between say 1994 and 1999 is a big mystery to me that I did not get to investigate in any detail until I got my Dragon Magazine CD-ROM. Even that only took me to Issue #250.

Dragons in print and pdf

For this new exploration of Dragons, I am setting my "end date" as Issue #275. It's a nice number, it takes us just inside the changes for 3e and it was just before I resumed my subscription.  I guess by that logic I am setting my "starting" Issue at #151 or so. I have already done some past that. 

Personally, I think these "newer" Dragons will be every bit as interesting to me as the ones from the late 70s and early 80s.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

One Man's God: Legends & Lore, 2nd Edition

AD&D 2nd Ed Legends & Lore
For this post, I am moving further outside of my original purpose of One Man's God but certainly still within the spirit of why I was doing it.  In truth one of the seeds of what would lead me to do One Man's God to start with was planted while flipping through the AD&D 2nd Edition Legends & Lore and my complaints about it. 

A brief recap. My series, One Man's God, dealt with going through the original Deities & Demigods book and working out how various gods, monsters and/or heroes would work in the cosmology of AD&D 1st Edition demons.  I took each myth/pantheon and looked at them through the lens of AD&D demons. Not Christian demons, though that can inform my view, and not Ars Goetia demons, or any other sort. Just AD&D ones.  I went through the book and took on some ancillary topics as well like Syncretism and how to build my own myths

AD&D 2nd Edition though is a different sort of creature.  For starters, we didn't even have demons or devils at the start. Secondly, the cosmology of the Outer Planes or the "Great Wheel" became something of its own setting in Planescape later on. So a lot of assumptions going into One Man's God are called into question in this new cosmological viewpoint. 

Though I think I could make the argument that I can take the Legends & Lore book and look at it independently of later developments and certainly Planescape and still apply the rules I was using for OMG.  I am going to cover a lot of ground in this one, but it is very familiar ground.  Sometimes very, very familiar.  But before I do that maybe an overview/review of Legends & Lore is in order.

Legends & Lore, AD&D 2nd Edition

For this review, I am considering the hardcover book published in 1990 and the files from DriveThruRPG. 192 pages. Color cover and inserts, black & white and blue interior art. 

My history with Legends & Lore is a complicated one. Deities & Demigods was my very first AD&D hardcover purchase.  I was playing a Cleric in D&D B/X at the time and wanted to expand his role in the game. I thought a book of gods would be a great in. Plus it was mythology that got me into D&D to begin with, so it was a natural choice for me. 

Like many at the time I also, rather immaturely, chaffed under the name change of "Deities & Demigods" to "Legends & Lore" feeling that TSR was bowing to the smallest, but loudest, contingent of people criticizing the game. But I would later buy a copy so my collection of AD&D hardbacks would be complete.  Fast forward a couple of years and now AD&D 2nd Ed is the new game on the block and there is a new Legends & Lore out.  This time I did not mind the name, maybe because I was now in college and saw that it fit the content better. I recall sitting in the apartment of my old High School DM and his cousin was there (he lived in the apartment below) and we were discussing the new L&L book. I can't say the discussion was very favorable towards the new book.

Gods, circa 1990

Before I delve into that, let's look at the book and I'll bring up that discussion as it pertains.

Legends & Lore was written by James M. Ward (who gave us Gods, Demi-gods, and Heroes and Deities & Demigods) and Troy Denning. This book has the advantage of being the one that is most in common with three different versions of the D&D game.  The book is called revised and updated, and it is certainly that, but there are plenty of similarities between this book and the 1st Edition one.

This book contains 11 different mythologies, down from the 17/15 of the previous edition.  This was one of my first points of contention with the book back in 1990.  Where were the Babylonia and Summerian? The Finnish or the Non-humans? One could have easily combined (and made a good argument for it) the Babylonian and Sumerian myths.  Combined they still were not as long as the Egyptian myths cover. 

My second point of contention, and even then I knew this was a very weak leg to stand on, is that the stats were gone.  Oh sure there were brand new stat blocks for worshipers and what the gods can do and there were the stats for their "Earthly" avatars, but the long, and let me just say it, Monster Manual-like stats were gone. Yes. These are not supposed to beings you can, or even should, hunt down to kill.  

My last complaint, and again this one is weak, is that so much of the art was reused for this edition.

Granted sometimes the older art was used to great effect.

Otus art

Other times, less so.

That's not Cú Chulainn

Thelb K'aarna art for Cú Chulainn? Nope. Not buying it. They would have been better using Moonglum.

The book does though do a very good job to laying out the powers of Greater, Intermediate (new to this edition), Lesser,  and Demi- Gods. Power common to all gods are discussed and powers they grant to their clerics, in general, are discussed, with the details of each god.  Ok. So this means each god takes up more space. That explains some of the loss.  

There is a solid human focus here and that is by the design of the book since they are drawing more from history. 

Each of the pantheon/myths is presented in more or less of the same format. We get a covering of the myths and an explanation on where they come from.  There are some new spells listed and some new magic items.  We follow with the Gods, usually the most powerful first working our way down to demi-gods and ascended heroes.  Where appropriate there are also monsters and sometimes maps/plans of centers of worship. Pyramids for the Aztecs and Egyptians, temples, and so on.

Also included with each god are the duties of the priesthood and what their requirements are. These will include alignment, ability score minimums, Weapons the priests are allowed to use, armor restrictions, what spheres of clerical magic they will have access, what other powers might be granted, and whether or not they can turn or command undead or even have no effect on them at all. This is the forerunner of 3rd Edition's Channel Divinity power for Clerics. 

The myths include American Indian, Arthurian Legends, Aztec, Celtic, Chinese, Egyptian, Greek, Indian, Japanese, Newhwon, and Norse.

One Man's God

Now I want to look at each of these and see how they would fare using the lens of One Man's God. Or, to put it easier. Are there any demons here?

American Indian

Covers some similar ground (as all the myths do) as the original Deities & Demigods. No monsters here, but a lot of heroes.

Arthurian Legends

No gods at all here, despite how important Christian mythology, especially around the Holy Grail, is to these tales.  Only a note that "Authur's deity remains distant and unapproachable."  The Grail is mentioned as a magical relic, but not much more about it. There are only two monsters here, The White Hart and The Questing Beast.

Aztec

Aztec myths are full of demons and demon-like creatures. What does 2ne ed give us?  A paragraph about how the mythology is lacking in fantastic creatures. Sorry, not buying that one. 

Celtic

Now Celtic myths have monsters, and I have talked about many of them before, but only a very few could be considered demons in the AD&D sense of the term. Here we get a lot of gods and only one hero, Cú Chulainn.

Chinese

Again China has tons of creatures that could be called demons in the AD&D sense. The Neglected Ancestral Spirit could be considered demonic. But are they AD&D demons? I am going with no. 

Egyptian

Not sure I am liking that blonde-haired, green-eyed version of Isis here. It is likely that our first concept of demons came from Egyptians. Well.,, I would argue they came from the Sumerians who would then influence the Egyptians. Also, Egyptians have a ton of gods, so no monsters at all in this section. Not even Apep and Ammit. 

Greek

Many of the primordial titans of Greek myth would get new life in Roman myths and then get ported over to Christian mythology. Geryon is one notable example. As far as Greek myths go this one has the gods a bit better organized.  The Furies or Erinyes are now "Lesser Gods" which tracks with some myths and here their alignment is Neutral. Among the monsters are Cerberus (NE) and the Gigantes (CE) which are bit like the primordial versions of the giants. These work great for my Hüne which are bit like demons. 

Indian

One of Kali's great powers is her ability to scare away demons. It's why she is put at the head of armies. Does this book give us any?  Sadly no monsters are mentioned here.

Japanese

This one feels a bit more research than the original D&DG. While no demons, the god Amatsu-Mikaboshi would make for a reasonable devil or some other type of fiend; a unique, Prince level one. He is a rebel god and would not submit to the other gods, so there is a bit of Lucifer in him. That and the fact he is called the "Dread Star of Heaven."

Nehwon

Our odd one out since it is not a world myth but rather the creation of Fritz Leiber.  Again Tyaa could pass for a demonic queen in many settings along with the Birds of Tyaa. 

Norse

The Norse gave us fire and frost giants and many of those primordial giants are quite demon-like. Lots of heroes here, as to be expected, and some monsters. Garm and Fenris Wolf could both be considered to be like demons as well.

In the end this book represented a paradigm shift that was not just part of AD&D 2nd Edition but happened along with it. Even future books that dealt with gods handled them a little different than this, but along the same paths of evolution. 

What was the outcome of my story about talking with my friends about this book?  Well if you see the image of the cover I used, well that is my own book. I didn't buy it right away, in fact it was many years later before I picked up a copy of Legends & Lore.  Strange that a book that was really one of my first purchases for AD&D would in the very next edition become one of my last.