Showing posts with label Iggwilv. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Iggwilv. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The NPCs of "The Wild Beyond The Witchlight"

Skylla, my ex
While "The Wild Beyond The Witchlight" has a lot going for it the reason, well one of the reasons, I really wanted it was because we were getting some official D&D 5th Edition stats to some classic NPCs, in particular, Skylla and Kelek two "iconic" characters that I am using in my War of the Witch Queens campaign. So I want to look at these old friends and maybe a couple of new ones too.  I'll leave poor old Thaco alone with his pipe and bitterness today.  Plus it is October and Horror month, so I really just want to talk about my favorites, the bad guys.

Who Are These Characters?

Long before the use of the term Iconic Characters to refer to reoccurring D&D characters in publication, there were names like Warduke, Strongheart, Ringlerun, and Kelek.  They appeared in the AD&D toy line from LJN and in other media including coloring books, stickers, adventures, and sometimes even the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon.   It is also one of the reasons why I have to laugh when people today will see a stuffed Owlbear and complain that "WotC is selling out and ruining D&D."  They must have forgotten the Official Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Yoyo or Sunglasses.

Of all of these characters, there were a few standouts who got extra attention.  Ringlerun, the Good Wizard would be the cover boy for the Jeff Easley recover of the AD&D Player's Handook, although many at the time did not see the connection.  Kelek and Warduke would go on to get a guest spot on the D&D cartoon.  Warduke in particular would go on to be a minor celebrity in D&D iconic circles, getting 1st Ed (well...Basic really), 3rd Ed, and now 5th Ed Ed stats.

LJN D&D Toys

We would get all their official D&D Basic and Expert set stats, not AD&D, in the product AC1 The Shady Dragon Inn.  This was sort of a Rogues Gallery for BECMI D&D. You can read my review of it here

What I would like to do here today is compare these characters from the Wild Beyond the Witchlight to their Shady Dragon Inn and Quest for the Heartstone counterparts. 

Bad guys

The League of Malevolence

Heroes are great, but give me a "good" villain any day of the week.  Here are five iconic D&D villains. I will compare them to their D&D Basic versions to see what has changed and what has stayed the same.

Kelek

First up is the leader of the League of Malevolence, our Legion of Doom for D&D.  All these characters are Chaotic Evil which tracks well to their original alignments of Chaotic.  

In Basic D&D Kelek was an "Evil Sorcerer" of course at this time a "Sorcerer" was the level title for a 7th level Magic-user.  In 5e his class has become a Sorcerer.  This actually make a lot of sense and I approve of this change.  His stats are pretty much the same from edition to edition with the exception of his Charisma which goes from 7 to 17.  Charisma is the "prime" stat for sorcerers. Here he is described as a sociopath. That tracks with how I have seen him in the past

Part of this adventure is searching for a lost Unicorn horn. Well that was more or less the plot of the only D&D Cartoon to feature Kelek.  If nothing else I am saying he is still after unicorn horns. 

Skylla

Ah. My beloved Skylla.  I was the most excited and the most worried to see what the Wizard's dev team was going to do to you.  I have to say I am not disappointed. In Quest of the Heartstone, she is listed as a 6th level Warlock. Again, this time "Warlock" meaning 6th level magic-user. I do note that the TSR team avoided calling her a "Witch" at the time. Likely due to the Satanic Panic (but Warlock is fine?).  Like her former boss Kelek, the level title is translated to Class here and she is a 6th level Warlock. It fits well if you ask me

Skylla's stats are mostly the same with some tweaks to improve what she needs to be a Warlock.  Though the best changes are in her background.  For starters, her patron is not a demon (like I did) but rather with Baba Yaga (like...I did).  Additionally they tackle the Skylla/Charmay art issue head-on as sometimes Skylla goes by the name Charmay.  It's different than what I do with her, but it works out fine in my mind.

For the record, they got Skylla as close to a "witch: as D&D 5e's rules will currently allow.  I think they did a great job with her.  Kelek too.

Warduke

I do have to ask. Why does everyone like this guy so much? I never quite got it, but hey someone out there is looking at my nearly 30 posts about Skylla and scratching their head. 

That all being said, Warduke here is fairly impressive. I think the fans will be happy.  His stats are all the same in both versions.  His Dread Helm in Basic gave him Infravision to 60'.  The D&D 5e version only makes his eyes glow red.  Well, as I have said many times, I have a pencil.

Zarak

The half-orc Assassin was just an odd dude in Basic D&D that didn't have half-orcs as monsters, let alone as a character race, nor did it have assassins.  Yet there he is on page 18 of my Quest for the Heartstone. In D&D 5 he also has some strangeness. He is a full orc here BUT he is a short one to fit the AD&D/D&D Basic orcs.  Though he is still a Chaotic Evil Assassin.  His Dexterity gets a buff in 5e, but he loses his "boomerang" dagger!

Zargash

The evil cleric is back.  He is 7th level, so that makes him an evil Bishop. Zargash is still Chaotic Evil and he worships Orcus. Stats are tweaked a bit, but otherwise he is largely the same.

Missing Evil Characters include, Grimsword (Evil Knight aka Anti-Paladin), Zorgan (Evil Barbarian) and Drex (Evil Warrior) all from Quest for the Heartstone. Fox Fingers (Thief) and Raven (Evil Cleric) from Shaddy Dragon Inn.  In might be fun to make Raven. She is evil (but maybe not totally), and in love with Warduke. She was once friend with Mericon. Who is up in the next batch.

Valor's Call

Our group of good hereos had the real chance of being boring on one hand and overly sanctimonious on the other.  Thankfully were spared the worse.  They are not as interesting as our bad guys, but they are still fun and there are still some tweaks that make them worth reading and using.

Elkhorn

Our Lawful Good dwarf might have been one of the more popular figures right behind Warduke.  His stats are the same in both versions.  I do like how they took an essentially blank canvas and made a dwarf that is not a Flint Fireforge clone or a Dime store Thorin and gave him some goals.  He is a staunch enemy of evil.  If Strongheart is the founder of Valor's call, then Elkhorn is its heart.

Mercion

Ok. She is no Aleena, but Mercion is the cleric of the group. Her stats are tweaked a bit to give her better Strength and a higher level, but the Mercion in 5e is much more interesting.  In what I feel is a real homage to her Basic D&D roots, she does not worship a god but rather an ideal. She believes that truth gives life to artistry and beauty.  It's kind of a cool concept. If I were to use her as an NPC I would make sure she never lies about anything, ever. In fact, the brutal truth is better for her than a sweet lie. 

Molliver

Molliver the good thief was not in the Shady Dragon Inn product but can be found in the Quest for the Heartstone. In Quest no gender is given for Molliver, so in the 5e book their pronouns are "they."  I like it. I like it because a.) it works for the character and b.) it will certainly piss off the ones that need pissing off.

Molliver is also the only Chaotic Good member of the party. A "Lawful" thief does not make much sense really. Stats are largely the same with a buff for Dex. They even have their boots of levitation, handy for a thief.  

Ringlerun

Our Lawful Good Wizard from Basic remains a Lawful Good Wizard in 5e.  Never as interesting as Kelek, Elminster, or Mordenkainen he was on the cover of the Player's Handbook and a popular figure. 

Ringlerun
His arm must be tired

He is still largely a generic wizard. He has kind of a James Randi in his later years look about him.  In my games he is dead; died of old age, but that doesn't really make sense for a wizard I guess.  I have some ideas forming that I might explore later.  Or not. After all he was never very interesting.

Strongheart

If I have one purely AD&D gripe it is that I rarely see anyone playing a paladin a good way.  "Sanctimonious Asshole" is not a Paladin. Neither is "Grim, tortured because there is so much evil in the world" isn't either.   I was worried that Strongheart was going to fall into one of those two camps. Or even worse, weak Sturm Brightblade clone.

Thankfully, that is not what we got. Instead, 5e Strongheart is the kind of paladin who is all about "we should get together to defeat evil because there is so much good in the world to enjoy!" He makes a good leader.  Again his stats are slightly tweaked to give him a better Strength (13 to 15) which, by the way, his D&D Basic stats were not good enough to make him an AD&D Paladin!

He was the character I was prepared to dislike the most (I have played paladins in EVERY version of D&D) and his actually was pretty cool.

It is mentioned that there are more characters in Valor's Call, off doing Good elsewhere.  They do have a solid feel of "The Superfriends" here. Not s big surprise I guess. Potential other members from Quest of the Heartstone include Peralay (Elf Fighter/Mage), Figgen (Halfling Fighter or Fighter/Theif), Deeth (Fighter), Hawkler (a totally NOT the Beastmaster Ranger), Bowmarc (Good "Crusader") and Valkeer, a half-giant warrior.  Of these Valkeer might the most fun to update to 5e.  Of these Peralay also appears in The Shady Dragon Inn.  

Strongheart and Warduke

Other NPCs

There are plenty of other really interesting NPCs in this book.  Many I plan to lift and convert back to D&D Basic for use in my War of the Witch Queens campaign.

Burly the Hobgoblin

Before D&D, a hobgoblin was more a trickster as exemplified by Puck or Robin Goodfellow. In Witchlight we have Burly a Neutral Good Hobgoblin.  Ok, I'll go with that. My favorite bit is he is a hobgoblin who wears a pumpkin on his head.  Now, where have I seen that before?

Pumpkin head

Bugbear. Hobgoblin.  The differences are largely academic.

Likewise, Chucklehead is a goblin with a  head shaped like a taffy apple.

Iggwilv the Witch Queen

Yes! Getting Skylla was one thing, getting a new Iggwilv?  That's just crazy good.

This is Iggwilv after she has left the Abyss and has been hiding out in the Feywild for centuries. Here she is also known as Tasha, Natasha, and Zybilna.  There is an interaction here with Kelek that plays so well into my plans it is hard not to use it all.  There is an interesting Maiden-Mother-Crone aspect of Iggwilv here in the form of Tasha-Zybilna-Iggwilv.

Iggwilv

Now I am perfectly happy with the formerly Chaotic Evil Iggwilv becoming more Chaotic Neutral as time goes on.  What I am not 100% sure about is her desire to abandon all her research on the Abyss and Demons in favor of learning about the Feywild instead.  But...I can live with it.

The Hour Glass Coven

I like them. Very interesting bunch of witches and hags.

The Minis

This is such an interesting group of NPCs it makes sense that there is also an equally interesting group of minis to go with them.  Sadly the supply chain breakdown has pushed many of these minis till 2022.  But I am really looking forward to them.

Kelek
Kelek

Skylla
Skylla

Zyblina
Zyblina


Looking forward to them.

Friday, November 20, 2020

#FollowFriday: Tasha / Iggwilv on the Web

It is another Follow Friday here and since we are wrapping up Tasha's Week of Everything I thought it might be nice to detail some of the sites on the web and social media that feature Iggwilv, Tasha, and items from her history.

The Web

Tasha from HeroForge
Tasha from HeroForge
Lots of great stuff here really. 

Greyhawk Online has a wiki full of details.

Likewise, the Forgotten Realms wiki has some entries for her. 

She has even made appearances in Golarion from the Pathfinder wiki.  In particular as a former Queen of Irrisen.  According to the Golarion timeline, she ruled 4113 AR to 4213 AR (current year 4720 AR).
If you want some fiction about Tasha/Iggwilv then there is Tommy John Kelly's Greyhawk Stories Page
Greyhawk Online has a number of posts featuring S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth.

Blogs

Iggwilv from HeroForge
Iggwilv from HeroForge
Lots of people have had some words about Iggwilv in the blogging circles too. Here are some of them

James over at Grognardia gives her an uncharacteristically brief mention in his post about The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth.

Sean McG has written up an extensive post on the publication history of Iggwilv, which he keeps updated at the Power Score.

Mike Bridges at Greyhawkery also has a few posts.

And of course, Greyhawk Grognard has some posts. Though he is not as enamored with the adventure as I am. 

Blogger Trent over at The Mystical Trash Heap has some thoughts on S4 as well.

Paleologos at the OSR Grimoire has a post on Drelnza the Vampiress Lord and talks a lot about the original Lost Caverns of Tsojconth

Social Media

Baba Yaga from HeroForge
Baba Yaga from HeroForge
There is a ton of social media out there. What places are best for Iggwilv and Tasha?

Facebook


MeWe


YouTube

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Classic Adventures Revisited: S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth

One of my all-time favorite adventures is S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth.

A solid two-level dungeon crawl, filled with new monsters, dangers, and the promise of great treasures. Additionally, there are rumors of an ancient witch/archmage and her battles with demons and even the threat that some of those demons are still around. There is plenty of wilderness area as well. A wide expanse with a gnome community nearby and a raging blue dragon.

With its "Booklet 2" filled with new spells, magic circles, and demons it made me think that a witch class with ritual magic could be something that would work for D&D. 


There is so much great stuff in and around this adventure it is hard to know where to begin.  So let's start with the adventure itself.

S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth

The adventure, S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, was published back in 1982 by TSR. It was written by none other than Gary Gygax himself. It is listed as "S4" and was the last of the labeled "S series" or Special modules.  This includes some of the most popular adventures ever written; S1 Tomb of HorrorsS2 White Plume Mountain, and S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

The adventure itself is comprised of two 32 page booklets. The first book is the adventure itself, which I will get into detail in a bit.  The second booklet covers all sorts of new magic, monsters, and more. 

Book 1: The Adventure

The adventure is of the classic sort; the rumor of treasure and a vague threat coming from an area of the map known as Iggwilv's Horn.  The adventure is designed for characters level 6 to 10.   I have found over the last 40 years that it can be adapted to a variety of levels, though higher levels are better. Though the original tournament adventure featured slightly lower levels. Likely due to the addition of the wilderness adventure. 

The wilderness adventure is actually well put together and not the older crazy random monster encounters.  The encounters make sense for the area. Among the encounters are the Hermit, and I could not help make this the same hermit from Keep on the Borderlands (also a Gygax creation) and the Blue Dragon.  The Blue Dragon, in particular, became so much a hit the first time I ran this that in future runnings of this I changed the dragon to Korbundar from CM2 Death's Ride to have a reoccurring villain.   A lot of adventure is packed into 12 pages.

The second part of the adventure covers the Lost Caverns themselves, which includes the Lesser and  Greater caverns. This features a large variety of new monsters, some living here, some just wandering around. Even encounters such as "The Garden of One Thousand Earthly Delights" have a good (enough) reason to be there. 

The final encounter is in the center of the Greater Caverns and it is not for Iggwilv's Treasure, but rather against Iggwilv's Treasure; the vampire Drelnza.  She is a bit more powerful than your average vampire and she has magic to help her out.  Eventually, she will succumb to heroes and the treasure will be found including the infamous Demonomicon of Iggwilv, Daoud's Wonderous Lanthorn, and the Prison of Zagig.

Book 2: Monsters and Magic

This second booklet, as I have mentioned, grabbed my attention as much as the first, if not more.  Listed inside were new monsters, only some appeared in the adventure, including new demons and demon lords. There were the mysterious Xag-ya and Xeg-yi, the Derro and the awkwardly named (for the early 80s) Valley Elf. All these creatures would later be reprinted in the Monster Manual II for 1st Edition. This is fitting since the original tournament adventure introduced monsters that would become part of the first Monster Manual.  There are some magic items including some wonderful artifacts mentioned above.  Of these The Demonomicon of Iggwilv capture not just my imagination, but that of hundreds of others. The Demonomicon became a feature in Dragon Magazine and even a 4e book of the same name. Iggwilv went from a "long-dead archmage" to "The Mother of Witches" and the premiere demonologist in D&D.   This little booklet also contains plenty of new spells.  

This was classic AD&D at the end of its 1st Golden Age.

The adventure is extremely playable and I have adapted it over the years for AD&D 2nd ed, D&D 3rd, and 5th Editions as well.

If you want to play it for 5th Edition D&D then the team over at Classic Modules Today has made a 5e conversion

There are also maps you can print out with DM's notes.

And other realistic maps also for printing

The Sequels

The first true sequel to this adventure was WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun (though no WG1-3 were made*). This was published the same year and dealt with a Temple of Tharizdun. It was designed to be played right after S4 and used the same wilderness map.  The adventure fits in well enough. I justified in my games by saying that Iggwilv, like Tsojcanth before her, chose this area due to its arcane and eldritch properties.  The adventure also has a wealth of information on the World of Greyhawk and Tharizdun.  All of these will be explored later in Gary Gygax's novel series about Gord the Rogue

S4 and WG4 would also get a review in White Dwarf #44 and both get 9/10 from Jim Bambra. He calls them the last of the Golden Age adventures.

*The rumor is that WG1 was Village of Hommlet, WG2 Temple of Elemental Evil and WG3 was The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, or Tsojconth in the original.


Another sequel of sorts was The Dancing Hut of Baba Yaga. Published much later in 1995 for 2nd Ed AD&D and written by Lisa Smedman, this adventure was labeled "S5" but it never appears in any of the classic reprints of the S Series adventures.  While the connection is little more than any of the other "S" series, there is the connection of Iggwilv, then Tasha as the adopted daughter of Baba Yaga.  Lisa Smedman would also work on Ravenloft and ShadowRun. Some Ravenloft monsters make their way into this adventure.


Yet again another sequel, this time for 3.5 D&D, was published in 2007.  Iggwilv's Legacy was published in Dungeon Magazine in October 2007 and appeared for free on Wizard's of the Coast website well into the 4e era. Sadly no longer available, it added another level to the caverns to explore, The Hollow of the Horn, the areas left behind by Tsojancth himself with the implication that even Iggwilv was afraid of these areas. The adventure and the additions were converted and updated to 3rd Edition.  I ran this version for my family at their first Gen Con in 2009.  Here we meet the half-demon  archmage Tsojcanth and his vile witch mother Vilhara.


The Reprints

As part of the much-loved S-series, the Lost Caverns of Tsojanth has been reprinted twice.  Both times bundled with the other three S-series adventures.

The first reprint was called Realms of Horror and it was all the S-series adventures combined into a loosely tied together "Super Module" that was all the rage in the late 80s.  All the maps were reprinted in a small booklet and personally, I found them harder to read.

The second reprint was the more faithful reprint from Wizards of the Coast, Dungeons of Dread, in 2013. 


The Original Tournament Adventure

The original tournament adventure, the Lost Caverns of Tsojconth (note the spelling) appeared at the Wintercon V game convention in 1976.  This would have been akin to a playtest version of AD&D.  Also Iggwilv is described as being dead, and male.

While the adventure does not feature the wilderness areas, the caverns seem to have a more mystical bent to them, with the center "nexus" described as the connection point between worlds to help explain all the new and weird monsters in it.  It would make sense, to be honest, and help explain why Tsojcanth and later Iggwilv possessed it. 

Paleologos at the OSR Grimoire talks a lot about the original Lost Caverns of Tsojconth.

The era of 1976-1978 was an interesting time and lead to some interesting styles of play.  We had the Holmes Basic Set and the B1 In Search of the Unknown (1978) adventure out and we had the AD&D Monster Manual.  This Holmes + Monster Manual actually became the game of choice for many.  I would later play this same hybrid of D&D/AD&D in 1979.
Likely as a way to replicate that Demos Sachlas/Paleologos over at the Vaults of Pandius recreated the original tournament adventure, along with some descriptions from the full 1982 S4 adventure and reformated it to fit the style of B1 to give us a "Holmes version of the Lost Caverns of Tsojconth."  This adventure is a tight 16 pages with two more pages for maps.  It feels like a late 70s offering.  Reading through it I do get the feeling that B1 and S4 could be bookends of a classic 70s adventure series.  All it is missing a nice monochrome cover.  I might need to mock one up someday.

Greyhawk Online has a side-by-side comparison of the 1976 Tsojconth and the 1982 Tsojcanth.

If you want to buy your own Noble Knight Games has one on sale for only $7,195.50. If you are worried that is overpriced it does come with the original zip-lock bag. 

Playing in Hyperborea

Normally at this point in my Revisted posts I would talk about using this adventure with other games.  But instead, I think I just want to focus purely on Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.

A while back I posted about HS4 The Lost Caverns of Acheron, a Hyborian Age reskinning of S4 from the Hyborian Age site dedicated to the d20 Conan RPG.  They have a lot of adventures including some reskinned ones on their Adventures in the Hyborian Age page.  But it is S4 that interests me today.

Combining this idea with the Holmes flavored Tsojconth above you could have a perfect game for AS&SH.  The idea came to me while reading Eric Fabiaschi's Swords & Stitchery blog.   He even pointed to me that he had done exactly this. 

The pulp sensibilities of Gygax's adventures comes through in S4 with vampires in lost temples, ancient eldritch forces, and strange creatures from beyond.  Pairing this with AS&SH and the Lost Caverns of Acheron turns it up to 11 as it were. 


With its history of magic, archmages, witch queens, vampires, and demons it is no wonder that this is one of my favorite adventures. Like B1, it is one I like to come back to again and again. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Tasha's Cauldron of Everything

Today is the day I was waiting for.  The release of Tasha's Cauldron of Everything.  I just picked it up about an hour ago so I have not had a chance to get into it in detail, but here are some initial thoughts. I am also going to talk about it from the point of view of an Old School Gamer and how well does it mesh with the established history of Iggwilv.

Tasha's Cauldron of Everything covers

The Book

The book itself is 192 pages, full color.  Both covers retail at $49.95.

The big update here is the various classes and subclasses.  We get a new(ish) class, The Artificer, bringing the total to 13 classes for D&D.  The artificer gets the subclasses Alchemist, Armorer, Artillerist and Battle Smith.  

Each of the 12 standard classes also gets one or more new subclasses.  Also, many of the spellcasting classes get new spells, detailed later.  There are a lot here, among the one I like the best are Cleric Twilight Domain, Druid Circle of Stars, Fighter Rune Knights and Psi Warrior, this is in addition to all sorts of maneuvers the fighter can get for the Battle Master.  The Ranger gets the Fey Wanderer, the Rogue gets the likely new favorite.  The Wizard gets another Bladesinger (not sure how different this one is) and one I am looking forward to trying the Order of the Scribe.  There are a lot more, but those are the ones I want to try.

One of the new ideas is Group Patrons.

These are essentially people, things or organizations that fund your characters' adventuring career.  This is something that was kinda done ad-hoc or less explicitly. This entire section can be used AS IS in any version of D&D with no changes. 

A book about/by/from Tasha would not be complete without new Magic. In this case some new spells and magic items.  We get some explicit spells for traveling to other D&D worlds, as befitting Tasha.


Some old familiar items back their 5e comeback including Baba Yaga's Mortar and Pestle, the Crook of Rao, The Mighty Servant of Leuk-O, and the Demonomicon of Iggwilv.  There are also rules on personalizing spells and some magical tattoos. 

The is also a section on DM's Tools.  This can also be adopted by players of any version of the game.  There is some advice on Session Zero which includes how did the party come together, a useful bit in light of the new Patron rules. A bit on social contracts as well as hard and soft limits. 

Something sort of new is the idea of Sidekicks.  These are "semi" or NPC classes that go along with the party or adventurer.  These are a restating of the 3.x Edition NPC classes from the Unearthed Arcana' Warrior, Expert, and Spellcaster. Substitute Fighter, Thief, and Magic-User if your version is older and you can do the exact same thing. 

There is a section on parleying with monsters, something I have seen used since the Moldvay Basic set.  Environmental hazards of supernatural, natural, and magical regions. 

And the puzzles. Again easily used as-is for any versions of the game.

So like it says on the tin, a little bit of everything.

I was talking with my friend Greg just a bit ago and not only did we just miss each other at our FLGS, he said the book has a solid Unearthed Arcana feel to it.  I have to agree.

Is it Tasha?

Iggwilv is a storied character in D&D lore.  But in truth what we know about her is very, very limited.  For 1st Edition AD&D we know her from the modules S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojanth and WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun.  Most other details come to us from 2nd ed and beyond. Maybe the most we learn from her is actually from 3.x era.  So to make the claim "is this Gary's Tasha/Iggwilv" is a fallacious one; there never was a Gary's Tasha.  "She" was, in fact, a "He" in the first drafts of the "Lost Caverns of Tsojconth."


There are little sidebars and enough information here to make a few things clear. This is Tasha before she became Iggwilv.  So I am placing it at or around CY 395 to CY 406 (Current year is CY 597 or so).  This Tasha has wit and charm and maybe a little bit of a caustic or salty sense of humor.  She is not really interested in killing Mordenkainen (nor really do I think she ever was) but she does want to take him down a peg or two.




She acknowledges she was Hura (Hura appears in Ket around CY 297) and plenty of references to Baba Yaga. This is very much the remembrances of a powerful spell caster on what would be considered her "University Years."

Is it Tasha?  Yes. This is the person that would later go on to become the ruthless and amoral Witch Queen Iggwilv.  Spend some time as a prisoner of a Demon Prince, especially one as depraved as Graz'zt, and see if that doesn't change you a little.

The art really gives you the feeling of "brilliant university girl trying to show her teachers she is smarter than they are" vibe. 


Old School Content

I mentioned in a few places that there is a lot here that old-school D&D players can use and that is true.

A lot of it can be used right out of the book as-is.  The classes would need some work, but as many in the old school community are so quick to point out that the differences are largely one of role-playing. Ok, here are some role-playing ideas.

Some things, like the fighter maneuvers, feel like they could be right at home in BECMI.  The tattoos, something I have used here before, can be easily translated.

Was it worth the wait? Yeah, I say it was.  Looking forward to trying some of the ideas here.

Things it Didn't Cover that I Wish it Had

Or. I just have not found them yet. 

I would have liked to know more about Tasha's face tattoo and why Iggwilv no longer has it.  Related when did Tasha's stop calling herself that and instead became Iggwilv. We do learn that her tattoo is an Eldritch Claw tattoo.

Given her timeline, I am sure it had a lot to do with her summoning of Graz'zt and her imprisonment in the Abyss. Also likely around the time she fled Greyhawk with the Tome of Zyx.


Definitely, a lot to use in this book.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Monstrous Monday: Daughters of Iggwilv

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

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

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

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

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

Iggwilv taken to Orcus
I think I have something.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Tasha Cosplay (Start of Tasha's Week of Everything)

You know I love my theme-Weeks.  On Tuesday we get the new "Tasha's Cauldron of Everything" from Wizards of the Coast featuring Tasha, aka Natasha the Dark aka Iggwilv.

So far we have learned that this book will be focusing on the younger Tasha. The girl who was adopted by Baba Yaga.  While I have always thought that Eva Green would make a fantastic Iggwilv, here is cosplayer, D&D streamer, and all-around cool gal Ginny Di cosplaying AS Tasha in a WotC sponsored shoot.

Her Instagram, https://www.instagram.com/p/CHdiPg0FUgb/ 

View this post on Instagram

"Tasha, in her brilliant curiosity, is untroubled by the various moral variations in the planes of existence." ⁠⠀ — Jeremy Crawford, Lead Rules Designer of "Tasha's Cauldron of Everything"⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ I couldn't resist my own little attempt at recreating the cover of the new @dndwizards sourcebook!! Mine has a completely different vibe, but I still love it. 💛⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ By the way, thank you to everyone congratulating me on the partnership with Wizards!! I couldn't believe it when they emailed me saying they wanted to sponsor a costume, and it has been such an incredible experience working with them on this project and seeing all these names I recognize complimenting the cosplay on Twitter 🙈 I'm so grateful for how the tabletop community has welcomed me over the last few years, and I can't wait for what the next few years hold!!⁠⠀ ⁠⠀ ✨ Tasha is from Dungeons & Dragons⁠⠀ ✨ Costume made & modeled by me⁠⠀ ✨ Watch the whole build on YouTube (link in bio!)⁠⠀ #TashasCoE #sponsored #tashascauldronofeverything #tashathewitch #tashacosplay #dnd #dungeonsanddragons #dndwizards #dndcosplay #dndcostume #witch #witchyvibes

A post shared by Ginny Di 📆 #Natural2021 (@itsginnydi) on


And her YouTube video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ySRmaMYaV6I


This is just another example of what I love about the new gamers to D&D, they bring so much love and energy to their creations in and out of the game.

Let's hope the book lives up to all this hype. But even if it doesn't this has all still been great fun!

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

One Man's God: Finnish Mythos

Suomi Neito the Maiden of Finland
"Suomi Neito" the Maiden of Finland.
She is in the shape of Finland.

Seems like a good day to talk about fallen gods and demons.  We are also getting into mythos I know less and less about. So let's begin our tour in a country I have always liked, Finland.

I don't think it is too much to say that the myths and characters presented in the Deities & Demigods for Finland are largely, if not exclusively taken from the Finnish national epic, The Kalevala.  I have a copy of the audio-book I had been meaning to listen to before this, but since I no longer drive to work it has been taking a bit longer to get through my backlist.   I have had some exposure to the myths in comparative mythology books and of course, every D&D gamers knows that Gary Gygax was also a big fan of these stories.

The Mythos of the Finnish people are maybe some of the most relatable to long time D&D players since so much of them have been adopted into D&D proper.  Goddess Loviatar and Mielikki have been adopted wholesale into the Forgotten Realms campaign and remained unchanged from the D&DG counterparts. Mordenkainen sounds like he could have been a traveling companion to Vainamoinen and Lemminkainen.  Let's also not forget the Louhi, the Witch Queen of Pohjola is also an alternate name/guise for Tasha/Iggwilv.  

It is hard to say if the Finnish Mythos have a more D&D feel to them because of how they are presented in the D&DG OR is because so much of D&D has strands of Finnish/Kalevala DNA in it.  Those ties only got deeper as the development of D&D from the early 70s to the 80s went on.  So it would then reason that any Finnish "demons" would convert over to AD&D demons fairly well.  

Except there is one little problem.

There are no monsters listed in the D&DG Finnish mythos that could even be considered demonic, with maybe one exception.  The mythos are filled with Gods, but they are more background to the stories of the heroes.  The Kalevala is a Heroic epic.  So it has more akin with the stories of Gilgamesh and Heracles than it does with say the neighboring Norse myths which tend to be more about the exploits of the Gods.

So let's look at what we have and expand it out.

Page from the D&DG featuring Louhi, Loviatar and Mielikki
Louhi, Loviatar and Mielikki
Loviatar/Louhi
There is not a single male D&D player aged 40 and up that doesn't know Loviatar from the D&DG. Expand that outward and there isn't a single Forgotten Realms player of any age that doesn't know Loviatar.  She is the beautiful, cold, and strikingly topless, Goddess of Pain.  She is the intersection of D&D Dungeon Masters and S&M Dungeon Masters. she has been sexed up and everyone knows her.

Or do they?

In the Kalevala Loviatar is the blind daughter of Tuoni/Tuonetar.  The part about the cold wind blowing is spot on, but she is also the mother of the Nine Diseases.  Back in my AD&D witch playtests (late 80s) I had a witch of Loviatar who specialized in disease spells. So I do recall reading that much then in this comparative mythology book. 

There is also some conjecture that in the earliest tales Loviatar and Louhi were the same characters. Called Louhi in some areas and Loviatar in others. Though I think you would have trouble telling a Forgotten Realms fan that their Maiden of Pain is an ancient wrinkled crone. 

At one point I wanted to stat out the nine sons (or in my mind, eight sons and one daughter) of Loviatar as demon-like monsters.  But I never got it to come together in a way I liked.  I may try again after reading the Kalevala. 

If Loviatar went in one direction, Louhi went in the opposite.   Loviatar might be more popular with the D&D crowd, but it is Louhi who is more well known.  A lot can be said about Louhi and maybe one day I'll devote some more time to her. We do know that she was the model/alternate name for Tasha/Iggwilv. Which brings up an interesting idea. We know she has a son and she is the main antagonist of the Kalevala, though she also sometimes helps the heroes.  

Side note: I am sorry, the whole time writing this I keep hearing "Bring me the Sampo!" from the 1959 movie "The Sampo" or better known here in the US and to MST3k fans as "The Day the Earth Froze."  It has been my tradition to watch an MST3k movie while decorating for Christmas ever since I first saw this one. 

I do find one thing about the whole Louhi/Iggwilv connection interesting.  You have a Finnish girl (Louhi) essentially kidnapped and raised by a Russian witch, Baba Yaga.  Allegorical of the Russian occupation of Finland from 1809 to 1917? Maybe.  OH! here is an idea.  The PCs need something from Iggwilv's past BUT her past is in Russia and Finland during the Victorian era.  Would give me a chance to play some Ghosts of Albion.  It would work well since the "Suomi Neito" or the Maiden of Finland is a concept similar to "Britannia" or "Éire / Ériu" and what the Protectors are. 

In the D&DG Louhi has 45 total levels of spell casting, she is certainly a very powerful character. She stole the sun and the moon for example. 

Edvard Isto The Attack
Edvard Isto "The Attack" 
The eagle of Russia attacks the Maiden of Finland.
Again her shape is the shape of the country.

Hiisi and Lempo
The closest thing we have to a demon is Hiisi the God of Evil.  I say closest, but the entry in the D&DG does not lend itself to being a demon.  Sure he is Chaotic Evil, but he seems to be more human or at least a giant. 

When doing my research I found that much like "The Devil" and "devils" Hiisi is both the name of a god of evil, evil beings in general and the place name where these beings are found.

We know from the D&DG that no evil creature can cause Hiisi damage.  Could it be that these evil creatures are his?   The plural of hiisi is hiidet. It usually translates to "malicious creature " or even demon.

Hiidet
FREQUENCY:  Very Rare
NO.  APPEARING:  1 (1-3)
ARMOR CLASS: 5
MOVE:  12"/24"
HIT DICE:  10+30 (60 hp)
%  IN  LAIR:  95%
TREASURE  TYPE:  Nil, Special
NO.  OF  ATTACKS:  2 fists or 1 weapon
DAMAGE/ATTACK:  2d6 x2 or 2d8
SPECIAL  ATTACKS:  None
SPECIAL  DEFENSES:  +1 or better weapon to hit, hide 90%, Immune to cold and fire
MAGIC  RESISTANCE:  10%
INTELLIGENCE:  Animal (savage)
ALIGNMENT:  Chaotic  Evil
SIZE:  L  (12' to 18' tall)
PSIONIC ABILITY:  Nil

Hiidet are often confused with hill giants, ogres, and trolls.  Each one is unique in that it takes on the coloration and form best suited to its chosen lair.  A Hiidet of the stoney mountains will appear to made of stone with moss-like hair.  One living in the forests will have brownish or greenish skin and leaf-like hair.  This camouflage is part of their demonic heritage and is set once they find a lair to settle in.  It does not change though as they move around.  It does confer a 90% chance that they will remain unseen in their lairs. 

Hiidet attack with their fists or a weapon. They are immune to the environmental effects of cold and are immune to both fire and cold effects including magic and dragon breath.

Hiidet are something of a cross-species between elementals, giants, and demons.  They are quick to anger and will lash out at anyone invading their lands, but they are also cowards who will avoid attacking large parties.  Their lairs are natural areas such as caves, or holes in the ground that would fit them.  They keep nothing of value, preferring to eat their victim whole.  Every so often though a rare magical item will be found in their lairs (10%). 

Lempo is a similar case.  There was a god (sometimes goddess), Lempo, of love, but of the irrationality of love that causes people to make bad decisions.  Lempo seems similar to the god Pan in many respects including his "demonization" by Christians.  Another character, Paha, is also mentioned. 

Lempo
FREQUENCY:  Very Rare
NO.  APPEARING:  1
ARMOR CLASS: -1 or 9
MOVE:  24"/48"
HIT DICE:  6+6 (42 hp)
%  IN  LAIR:  0%
TREASURE  TYPE:  Nil
NO.  OF  ATTACKS:  NA
DAMAGE/ATTACK:  NA
SPECIAL  ATTACKS:  Cause chaos
SPECIAL  DEFENSES:  +1 or better weapon to hit, invisible
MAGIC  RESISTANCE:  25%
INTELLIGENCE:  Average
ALIGNMENT:  Chaotic  Evil (Chaotic Neutral)
SIZE:  L  (12' to 18' tall)
PSIONIC ABILITY:  Nil

Lempo are nature and fertility spirits that have been corrupted by evil.  Their former function was to ensure fertility and crop growth, they became corrupted and now sow lasciviousness and chaotic behavior.  They cause faithful couples to stray and young people to behave in an erratic manner.

As spirits, they have no physical presence in the world. Though any weapon that can target ethereal creatures can strike them (AC -1).  Likewise they have no physical attacks save their corrupting influence.  The tactic of a lempo is to rest on the roof of a home to cause all inside to come under it's influence. Characters and creatures under 4 HD have no save and act in a chaotic manner.  Creatures 4hd and above are allowed a save vs. spells.

A priest of 4th level and higher can see the lempo, it appears as a humanoid shape (male or female) with a crow's head, feet, and wings.  The priest can "turn" this creature as if it were a wriath.  A result of T means the lempo has fled but is not destroyed.  A result of "D" means the lempo has been forced out of the spirit realm into the physical.  Here it may be attacked with magic weapons (AC 9), but it has no attacks to counter. 

If the lempo has fled or has caused enough damage in one village it will move on to the next one.

Lempo–Hiisi is also a trans-Neptunian trinary object along with Paha. Like many of these planetoids, they are named for creatures and characters from the underground, afterlife, and chthonic gods/creatures. 

Depending on your read, Hiisi, Lempo, and Paha could be three unique characters or one with two lesser cohorts, or the name of all such creatures.  

Finnish Maiden
I have mentioned her a few times above, but the personification of Finland is the Finnish Maiden.  I am not sure if there is any relation between them and Ukko's Air Maidens from the D&DG, but it does seem like there could be a thread connecting them.

"Suomi Neito" the Maiden of Finland with map of Finland
Finland and her maiden

She joins the others from nearby lands, Lady of the Mountains (Iceland). Ola Nordmann (Norway), Holger the Dane (Denmark), and Mother Svea (Sweden).

My feeling is there is a lot more to these myths and stories and like always the D&DG is just scratching the surface.  Again, this is not a bad thing.  The D&DG is not a textbook on mythology. 

ETA: I am also submitting this as part of November's RPG Blog Carnival.