Showing posts with label Monstrous Mondays. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Monstrous Mondays. Show all posts

Monday, January 30, 2023

Monstrous Mondays: The Future (???) of my Monster Projects

Wow. The OGL drama has been enough to give you whiplash

open dnd

Where are we today? Have to ask because the situation has changed so much and so rapidly. While I have been following this on all sorts of social media outlets, I have to shout out to Robert Conley over at Bat in the Attic for constantly updating his blog with the details and expert commentary.  I like to be able to read what is going on, follow the links, and not have to wade through a ton of videos.

In fact, to get the latest run-down of what is (or at least was as of Saturday, January 28, 2023) going on, I am not going to repost it, I am just going to have you read his breakdown.  Go there. Come back here.

Back? Good! Let's talk Monsters. Or, more to the point, how these new revelations will affect me and my various monster projects for this year.

Here are my three current projects.

  • Monster Mash. This one was released last week and the reactions have been great. It is getting downloaded at a steady rate and I'll have the hardcover version proof in my hands soon.  I have two others all mapped out with a lot of material ready to go for them. I am slowing down the process for now since the OGL 1.0a seems safe for the time being. 

  • Basic Bestiary. This one was the biggest causality of the OGL change back at the start of the year. Now with the OGL 1.0a a little safer I want to get this one back on.  I have spent way too much time on it to let it languish on my hard drive any longer.

  • Monstrous Maleficarum. Ah. I was so looking forward to this one too. While the newly uploaded 5.1 SRD to Creative Commons means I have even MORE freedom to do this one, my motivation for it is not really there anymore. Maybe I'll come back to this one. But for now a lot of my art for this one will be going to the other two projects.

There are also lots of new opportunities with the other licenses coming out.  There is the Paizo-led Open RPG Content License (ORC), there is Kobold Press and Black Flag, and the Creative Commons is now an option, not to mention whatever Troll Lords does with Castles & Crusades, what will happen with Labyrinth Lord 2, and what Bill Barsh does with his BX RPG (just three on my mind this week).

I will freely admit this latest change has reduced my ire against Hasbro/WotC. I will still play D&D5, but I am less enthusiastic about supporting it with my time and intellectual capital. Plus I have seen what happens when people start to support more 3rd party publishers and independent publishers. I'd like to see that continue.

So this week we have more options than we did last week and even more than last month. Let's use those options to make better games.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Monstrous Monday: Monster Mash

We have all seen the new proposed OGL. Honestly it looks like publishing under the OGL 1.0a  will soon be over, at least how it has been.  So, what am I do to with three separate monster-related projects?

Simple. I combine what I can and try to get something ready to go.

Here are the efforts of that.

Monster Mash

Monster Mash

Here, there be Monsters!

For years brave adventures have been going into dark dungeons and fighting monsters. Now the monsters are fighting back.

Monster Mash is an Old-School Essentials Classic Fantasy compatible game supplement that allows you to take on the role not of a stalwart hero but as one of the monsters.

This book features 13 horror-based classes.

The Awakened Golem, Cat Folk, Ghosts, Haglings, Hobgoblins, Revenants, Shadow Elves, Shades, Werewolves, Wererats, Vampires, Profane Necromancers, and the Gothic Witch.

New spells for Haglings, Profane Necromancers, Shadow Elves, and Gothic Witches.
New occult powers ritual spells for Gothic Witches.

Fully compatible with Old-School Essentials and other Basic-Era games.
Fully compatible with other witch books from The Other Side.

Requires Old-School Essentials Core Rules.

--

I put in a lot of the art I was going to use for this, Monstrous Maleficarum and the Basic Bestiaries.  I had wanted to get this out for Halloween (naturally) but I had a lot going on.

Now I would LOVE to get a couple more of these out. I have nearly everything I need; I just have to put everything together. 

Will this be my last publication for OSE? I certainly hope not.

Monday, January 9, 2023

Monstrous Mondays: Monstrous Maleficarum

Well...

Photo by Mike B: https://www.pexels.com/photo/close-up-photography-of-concrete-tombstones-116909/
Photo by Mike B on Pexels

I have to admit, the wind has really been knocked out of my sails here.

My plan was to produce one of these a week, every Monday. And I was well on my way to doing that. I had everything in a great database that auto-calculated everything, including a CR calculation I was very happy with.

I had over 500 monsters with over 300 done.

The desire here has evaporated even if I could find a way to do them. 

This has also killed what I wanted to do for Basic Bestiary.

I still want to do something with all these monsters. I have worked too much on them just to let them lie here, forgotten on my hard drives.  

I am looking into other licenses and other means of publication. But they most certainly will not be for D&D or retro-clones. Not until this OGL nonsense gets sorted.  I have worked well under this safe harbor of the OGL for a long time. Maybe it is time for me to branch out and give some attention to other games I enjoy. 

Monday, January 2, 2023

Monstrous Mondays: Monstrous Maleficarum, Issue #1

The first official issue of Monstrous Maleficarum is now out for 2023 to start my "Year of the Monster."

Monstrous Maleficarum #1

Monstrous Maleficarum #1

This is the first issue of my Year of Monsters, and continuing some winter and snow-themed creatures.

It is likely, given my typical thought process, that each issue will have a theme. You can be certain that there will be plenty of undead, of which this issue gives only a taste.

This issue covers the Barbegazi (Ice gnome), the Bysen (Arctic Halflings), and the Dweorgs (Ice Dwarves) and their relationships to each other. Also featured are the ancient and powerful undead, the Draugen.

All of these have been creatures I have used in the past. I have come back to them after spending some time rereading the myths of Norway, Sweden, and Finland. In particular, the tales of the Norse gods and the Kalevala. To me, these are some of the foundational tales of our hobby, and I wanted to go back to them.

Monday, December 26, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: Monstrous Maleficarum, Issue #0

I am starting off my 2023 Year of the Monster this week with something I have been planning for a while. 

So please allow me to announce the publication of Monstrous Maleficarum, Issue #0 Christmas Special.

Monstrous Maleficarum, Issue #0 Christmas Special.

From Issue #0:

My goal is to publish a regular series of monsters for the 5th Edition of the World’s First Fantasy Role Playing Game via the Open Gaming License. 

These will be monsters from my regular series “Monstrous Mondays” from my blog The Other Side.  I will be taking what I have learned from my own monster creation over the years and from my reviews on what works well.

This Issue #0 will feature some Christmas-themed monsters and replaces the fifth edition version of Krampus I published years ago. 

Each issue will cover a theme. Sometimes a closely linked set of monsters, or other times other similarities.  The themes will largely be around the myths and legends of our world and other creatures I have found or made in my readings. In particular, the readings around the myths and legends of witchcraft. Thus the “Maleficarum” part of the title.

I will also endeavor to keep each monster to one or two pages so they can easily be printed out for use in your games. Also, my personal goal is to lay out these pages so you could, in theory, print them out and use a 3-hole punch to add them to a three-ring binder like editions of old.  Collect what you want, and ignore the others.

Presently I have nearly 500 monsters ready to go. How many of them will see publication and get into your hands is unknown, but it will be an adventure for us all. 

There will be framing text for each issue brought to you via various NPCs I have used over my 40+ years of gaming experience. Some, like my witch Larina and my undead-hunting cleric Johan will be familiar to readers of my blog. Others, like Jassic here, are maybe only known by name. 

I hope you enjoy this adventure with me. 



Monday, December 19, 2022

Monstrous Monday: Álfar Skalds

We are almost at the Winter Solstice, and Christmas is less than a week away.  

My thoughts this month have been coming back to D&D 5e and what the future for that might be.  At least for the next year or so, 5e will be largely the same, so I will be getting some 5e content out here to enjoy it.  I also just finished reading the Finnish epic poem, the Kalevala. Really one of the foundational stories of D&D to be honest. You can see where so much of D&D came from; Gygax's interpretation of this tale, and Tolkien's use of it in the formation of Middle Earth and his Legendarium. 

So my thoughts on all of these are rummaging around and I was thinking I need more types of cold creatures, bards, and more magic.  Some of that I showed off last week with my Jötunn Troll

So here is some 5e content from the frozen lands of the far North.

Elf, Álfar Skald
Elf, Álfar Skald
Medium humanoid (elf), Chaotic Neutral

Armor Class 13 (Hide armor)

Hit Points 17 (3d8 +3)

Speed 30 ft

STR 12 (+1)
DEX 13 (+1)
CON 13 (+1)
INT 14 (+2)
WIS 11 (+0)
CHA 12 (+1)

Saving Throws Con +3, Cha +5

Skills Performance +5, Persuasion +5, Perception +3, Survival +3

Damage Resistances Cold

Condition Immunities Blinded

Senses darkvision 120 ft., passive perception 13

Languages Common, Elvish, Giant

Fey Ancestry. The Álfar has advantage on saving throws against being charmed and can't be put to sleep.

Innate Spellcasting. The Álfar’s innate spellcasting ability is Charisma (spell save DC 13). The Álfar can innately cast the following spells, requiring no material components:

At will: minor illusion
1/day each: animal friendship, healing word

Fleet of foot. Like all elves, the Álfar are fleet of foot and can travel over snow and ice with no restrictions.They are immune to difficult terrain caused by ice and snow.

Protected eyes. Álfar have a protective membrane over their eyes. They do not suffer disadvantage from blizzards or poor weather.

Actions

Shortsword. Melee Weapon Attack: +3 to hit, reach 5ft. one target. Hit: 6 (1d6 +3) piercing damage.

Sling. Ranged Weapon Attack. +3 to hit, range 30/120 ft., one target, Hit: 5 (1d4 +3) bludgeoning damage.

Description

Álfar are the elves of the coldest reaches. Also known as “snow elves” they are tall (6’ to 6½’), with long straight white or light blond hair. Some, though, have long black hair. Their skin is pale and their eyes are so pale that they appear nearly white or light bluish-white. This is due to a protective membrane over the eye that allows them to see even in the coldest of temperatures or the blowing of snow.

Álfar are typically encountered in roaming bands of hunters or in warmer climes, herders of goats and sheep. They will typically be armed with a shortsword and sling with up to 20 sling stones handy.

Like all elves, they produce beautiful works of art, though they lack the raw materials of their forest-born brothers and sisters. They are a nomadic species, often following large game in their frozen territories. For this reason, their chief artistic expressions are saga songs.  These tales of ancient times, gods, and heroes can last from a few minutes to several days to perform, often with other singers (Skalds) joining in and taking over for others. Álfar skalds are revered by their communities.

Álfar bards are known as skalds. Their role in the Álfar community is to memorize the saga songs of these nomadic elves, some which take days to completely sing. Skalds advance as bards.

Monday, December 12, 2022

Monstrous Monday: Trolls of Hyperborea

It is getting cold here in Chicago, and that makes me want to pull out some Hyperborea. So I am going to be spending some time with the new Hyperborea this week. It is also Monstrous Monday, so let get a monster ready for that.  

My wife and I watched the new Netflix movie "Troll" recently. It was fun. It will not win any awards for originality, but it was fun. Reminded me a bit of the "Troll Hunter" movie from a bit back. We also watched the original "Willow" movie from 1988. It also had some trolls in it, though very different.  She had never seen the movie, and it had been decades since I had. It reminded me once again how much I don't care for the standard AD&D-inspired troll and prefer something closer to myth and legend.

Giant Troll

So. Let's put this all together with something new-ish.  So here is a troll I am reworking and presented in Hyperborea format.

Troll, Jötunn

Jötunn Troll: #E 1 | AL CE | SZ L (30') | MV 40 | DX 9 | AC 2
HD 14 | #A 3/1 (claw/claw/bite) | D 1d6+5/1d6+5/2d6+5
SV 10 | ML 8 | XP 2,300 | TC D | Special: See Below

This immense rock-skinned brute wields a tree branch for a club. Their mouths are filled with jutting teeth and tusks.

Jötunn trolls are gigantic horrors. Prowling in frigid wastes, these rapacious creatures have the same insatiable appetites of common trolls but require much more sustenance because of their excessive size. Jötunn trolls stand 30 feet tall and weigh roughly 25,000 pounds. They can live for up to 1,000 years. Their most curious feature is many will have multiple heads, sometimes even sprouting a new head after several years.  It is generally believed that the older the troll, the more heads it will have.

Jötunn trolls spawn with either their own kind or with other trolls. In the latter case, there is only a 5% chance the offspring will be a jötunn troll. Apart from brief mating periods, jötunn trolls are solitary, although some cull together bands of other giants into devastating war parties that can lay waste to entire regions. Like all trolls, the Jötunn Troll can regenerate. This begins the round after taking damage, and they regenerate at a rate of 4 hp per round in temperatures near freezing.  If the temperatures are warmer, then this slows to 3 hp per round. At temperatures of 100 degrees or more, their regeneration stops altogether. They cannot regenerate from fire or acid-based attacks.

Once every 1d4 rounds as a regular attack action, a jötunn troll can emit a cacophonous roar. All creatures within a 60-foot spread of the troll must make a save vs. paralysis or become confused for 1d4 rounds. This is a mind-affecting effect. 

A jötunn troll with multiple heads has a +4 bonus on all saving throws against mind-affecting effects. In addition, whenever a jötunn troll must make a save vs. these effects, it can roll the saving throw twice and take the better of the two results.

Jötunn Trolls have highly advanced senses. So highly tuned, in fact, they can "smell" the difference between "good" and "evil" alignments, preferring to attack, and hopefully eat, those of good or lawful alignments over evil or chaos. These senses allow them to small prey as far away as 300 ft and "smell alignment" as far away as 30 ft.

Based on the "Jotund Troll" from Pathfinder

Section 15

Troll, Jotund. Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Bestiary 3, © 2011, Paizo Publishing, LLC; Authors Jesse Benner, Jason Bulmahn, Adam Daigle, James Jacobs, Michael Kenway, Rob McCreary, Patrick Renie, Chris Sims, F. Wesley Schneider, James L. Sutter, and Russ Taylor, based on material by Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook, and Skip Williams.

Monday, December 5, 2022

Monstrous Monday: OSE and 5e books and Gruß vom Krampus

Quick one today. Feeling a bit under the weather still.

Last week I got my Folklore Bestiary from the Merry Mushmen Kickstarter.  

A Folklore Bestiary

The books are really nice and I got the Old-School Essentials and 5e D&D versions.

They compare very well to the the earlier Twilight Fables monster books for OSR and 5e I have that kickstarted around the same time.

Fabled Monsters

Both sets cover similar ground but have different approaches to what they are doing. So all four have a home now on my shelves and game table. I discussed their similarities and differences in regard to a monster I also did (but not the only one we all share) the Basajaun.

The Basajaun

OSR/OSE versions for me, 5e versions for my kids.  It all works out great.  For me a monster book should come in 5e and OSR flavors from now on.  Or like Frog God Games is doing now in their Terrible Yule Cat with 5e, OSE and Castles & Crusades.

OSE sized too!

Gruß vom Krampus!

Greeting from Krampus!

I have a new project I am working on, something that is actually ready now, but I want to wait to get it out since it will be a big part of my 2023 Year of Monsters.

Here is a sneak peek at my new Monstrous Maleficarum.

Krampus Layout

This is not a replacement for my Basic Bestiary. It is designed to complement it and to serve a different audience.  Basic Bestiary is for the Old-School crowd and Monstrous Maleficarum is for fans of 5th edition. There will be overlap in the monsters, but each will be designed to serve what their respective audiences will like the most. The two projects will have very different looks and feel. 

Both the Basic Bestiary and Monstrous Maleficarum grew out my Monstrous Mondays, but also out of my One Man's God and certainly out of all my books and readings about Witches and Witchcraft.

Also, all profits from Monstrous Maledicarum will go to buy more art for Basic Bestiary.

I have a lot to do over Christmas break (ah...the life of an academic), so I better get on it.

Monday, November 28, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: The Agathós (and other Angels)

Agathós
Running a bit behind today, so I will share something I am working on.

Much like my reclassification of all the demons and devils in the lower planes I am redoing the various forces of good in the upper planes.  Among these forces are the familiar Angels and Archons, but I am also introducing a new group, with some familiar members, the Agathós.

Much like "demon" can refer to a Chaotic Evil fiend from the Abyss or as a general term for all Evil outsiders, the term Angel can refer to a specific set of Lawful Good outsiders or all Good members of the upper planes.

The word agathós comes from the agathodaemon (agathós daímōn) or 'noble spirit.' These were spirits that aided people.  My thinking here came about while working on my syncretism posts for One Man's God and reading over the original write-up for the various angel-like creatures that would eventually end up in the AD&D 1st Edition Monster Manual II.  The Devas were in issue #63, Planetars and Solars in issue #64.  In these cases the alignment of these angels are all listed as Good. At the time assuming there are varieties that are Lawful, Neutral, and Chaotic Good. 

So in my Basic Bestariry Angels are Lawful Good, Archons are Neutral Good (working for the great good), and Agathós are Chaotic Good, working for the greatest good they can do there and then.

Agathós

Agathós are independent spirits of good.  They are often confused with angels, which they do not mind, but they are not part of the hierarchy of the Heavens and try to make their own judgments on what constitutes the most good they can do for others. Their alignments are Chaotic Good.

All agathós are immune to poison and are resistant to acid, cold, and electrical damage. They take only half damage normally and on a save take no damage.  They all have magic resistance of varying levels. They take full damage from acid attacks. All have infravision to 120'. Many are immune to the attacks of undead (level drain, blood drain, paralysis, mummy rot).

Unlike Angels, who they share similarities with, the Agathós do not have a Divine and Profane form. This is something only true Angels have. 

These are the creatures from my Basic Bestiary that are classified as Agathós.

  • Astral Deva
  • Aurora
  • Lunar
  • Monadic Deva
  • Movanic Deva
  • Planetar
  • Solar

These creatures are Archons:

  • Bastion
  • Codex
  • Exscinder
  • Gate
  • Harbinger
  • Hound
  • Lantern
  • Legion
  • Shield
  • Stag
  • Star Archon
  • Trumpet

And these creatures are Angels (capital "A").

  • Archangel
  • Cassisian
  • Chalkydri
  • Cherubim
  • Dapsara
  • Dirae
  • Dominions
  • Elohim
  • Empyreal
  • Empyrean
  • Iophanite
  • Powers
  • Principalities
  • Seraphim
  • Thrones
  • Virtues

I might still move some around. A few of these Angels might work better as Agathós for example. I can see where the Dapsara might make a better Agathós. There are also the Agathions from Pathfinder that are all Neutral Good.  I have not decided if they fit in to my work at all yet, despite the name. I did the same thing with my Qliphoth versus the Pathfinder Qlippoth.

Something to work on in December.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Monstrous Monday: The Magaga Beast

Magaga Beast
A special one today. I was inspired by recent events for this one.

The Magaga Beast

Frequency: Unique
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic [Chaotic Evil]
Movement: 60' (20') [6"]
Armor Class: 3 [16]
Hit Dice: 20d8+80***** (170 hp)
  Hit Dice (Gargantuan): 20d20+80***** (310 hp)
To Hit AC0: 4 (+15)
Attacks: Trample, Bite (every other round)
Damage: 4d12+2
Special: Cause confusion (speech), Immune to mind-affecting magics, Regeneration, Summon drumpfs 
Languages: Common*
Size: Gargantuan
Save: Monster 20
Morale: 12 (NA)
Treasure Hoard Class: See below
XP: 7,750 (OSE) 8,000 (LL)

Str: 17 (+2) Dex: 9 (0) Con: 20 (+4) Int: 5 (-2) Wis: 5 (-2) Cha: 3 (-3)

Once every four years, the dreaded Magaga Beast will rise up out of its dismal lair to attack the countryside, eating everything in its path. Standing 45' tall, the bloated Magaga Beast, and thankfully there is only one, lumbers through the countryside eating, babbling on, and worse summoning other horrible creatures to its side. It appears as a behemoth creature, vaguely humanoid in shape, though it lower half is obscured by its massive flesh. Two arms stick out with tiny, useless hands. It has slapped a large bit of yellow straw onto its own head in a close approximation to hair.

It is large and virtually unstoppable, but slow and slow-witted. It babbles on in something resembling common, but any who listens to it becomes confused. Its main attack to just trample over everything in its path. It can reach down with its giant maw and attack to eat. On a critical bite attack, it can swallow a person whole. It can only bite once every other round.

Its worse trait is it attracts a large number (2d20) of drumpf goblins to its side to encourage it on. In the presence of the magaga beast, drumphs have a moral of 12 and are more prone to violent behavior to "protect" what they see as their lord and god. The magaga beast will happily eat any drumph that gets too close to its mouth. Nearly as bad is the trail of offal it leaves behind. This offal trail can cause sickness for any that do not save vs. poison. A fail means they are incapacitated for 2d6 days. Success means they can not breathe unless they move at least 10 ft. away

The magaga beast is immune to any mind-affecting magic. Simply put there is not enough of a mind here to be affected. The magaga beast regenerates 5 hp per round, even if reduced to 0 hp it will regenerate. Though if it is brought down to 0 hp it will hibernate for another four years, stirring as soon as two years if disturbed. 

Various communities have tried different means to defeat or sway the magaga beast. Giving it food only makes it demand even more. Others have sent various warriors for justice at it. But sadly it just keeps coming back. Even when reduced to 0 hp it finds a way to come back.

--

The resemblance to any real person is purely conjecture.

Monday, November 14, 2022

Monstrous Monday: Neh-thalggu (Brain Collector)

Neh-thalggu (Brain Collector)
One of my favorite adventures is X2 Castle Amber. It covers so much of what I love in an adventure. Plus it is full of great Clark Ashton Smith homages and nods.

Among these homages is the Neh-thalggu or the Brain Collector.  It is such a creepy ass monster and I really love them. 

If the amount of OGC on them is any indication, then others like them too. You can find them for d20 3.x style, Pathfinder, and 5e.  This is in addition to official D&D stats for Basic and AD&D 2nd Ed.

Neh-thalggu (Brain Collector)

NO. ENCOUNTERED: 1
SIZE: Large
HD: 14 (d10) (77 hp)
MOVE: 60 ft.
AC: 16 (natural armor)
ATTACKS: Bite (1d10) + Poison (Save vs. Con or Paralyze), Claws (1d6) 
SPECIAL: Brain collection, Incorporeal, Spell Casting
SAVES: M
INT: Genius to Supra-genius (20-22)
ALIGNMENT: Chaotic Neutral
TYPE: Aberration
TREASURE: 8
XP: 6,000

The neh-thalggu, also known as the Brain Collector, is a creature from the Outer Darkness.

Neh-thalggus hail from distant worlds, traveling the gulfs of space on immense living ships that swiftly decay when they land upon a new world, leaving behind a deadly cargo of hungry monsters. Neh-thalggus are crablike nightmares with lamprey-like mouths, twitching eyes on their legs, and several blisters along their back that hold human brains. Some speculate that neh-thalggus encountered in this reality may merely be juveniles of their kind, perhaps exiled from their home worlds by greater kin until they can prove their worth on other worlds.

Combat: Neh-thalggu attack with their mouths they attempt to latch on with their mouths and claws to extract the brain from their victims.  They attack primarily with their mouths (bite) and then try to latch on with their claws.  On a successful bite and claw attack the victim must make a Constitution save or become paralyzed. Once paralyzed the creature will remove the victim's brain. 

Brain Collectors. Neh-thalggus are carnivores, but they do not digest humanoid brains they eat, rather, these brains lodge in one of several bulbous blisters on the creature's back and help to increase its intellect. Their brain collections may be a morbid form of currency in their home realm, or the thoughts in these brains may merely be fuel for a dark apotheosis into an even more sinister mature form.

Incorporeal: A neh-thalggu is not wholly in our reality but always remains partially extradimensional. Thus it can be harmed only by other incorporeal creatures, +1 or better weapons, magic, or psionics, with a 50% chance to ignore any damage from a corporeal source. It can pass through solid objects at will, and its own attacks pass through armor (except for its bite attack, which is treated as if a corporeal attack). It always moves silently unless it chooses otherwise.

Mind Masters. Neh-thalggu masters lord it over their lesser kin by applying the drained brainpower of their victims toward mastering psychic magic and mesmerism. They may inhabit elaborate mindscapes as their lairs or may subtly influence the thoughts and senses of creatures they lure into their lair in furtherance of convoluted plots to manipulate the societies around them while they dwell in secret. Some dwell alone or with mind-controlled slaves, while others organize clusters of their own kind to spread their sinister schemes and feed their insatiable alien hunger.

Spell Casting. Neh-thalggu can cast spells as 1st level wizard. For every brain, they collect they add one more level of spell casting for a maximum of 12 brains to 13th level wizard.  For this reason Neh-thalggu will target wizards and other magic-using characters.

--

Might need some tweaks, but yeah this is one nasty beastie. 

The plot hook is obvious. A bunch of never before seen monsters are attacking the countryside the day after a shooting star was seen. Worst of all are reports of a "ghost monster" that feeds on brains. 

Don't forget the Indiegogo campaign for Amazing Adventures going on right now!  Grab the books and you can use this guy.

Amazing Adventures


Monday, November 7, 2022

Monstrous Monday: Year of the Monster and Mastodon

I am at a pivot point with my Monstrous Mondays.

I have a bunch of projects I am desperate to get out because I am tired of them languishing on my hard drives and instead need to be on my, and hopefully your, game shelves.

So much so that I am dubbing 2023 "The Year of the Monster." I just have so much I want to do.  I ma hoping to have the first thing in your hands by December 26, 2022, the last Monday of the year. But I really need to get my butt moving on that.

In other news, I have a new place to scream into the void. I set up an account on Mastodon. I don't have much there right at the moment.  Now I have no intention nor no desire to leave Twitter. So you can still find me there.

Ok, let's bring this all together for a post.

One of the coolest things about living in Illinois is the number of mastodon fossils that can be found here. My uncle dug some giant molars from my maternal grandparent's property 60 years ago and we still have them now. I also used to love going to the Illinois State Museum in Springfield to see the Mastodons and other Ice Age fauna on display.  So why not an ode to my new social media account, one of my oldest favorite ice age creatures, and all for the newest iteration of my oldest favorite game.

Mastodon at the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago, IL

Mastodon, Undead

For Old-School Essentials

Undead remains of an ancient elephant species. Prized mounts of winter warlocks and sought-after guard animals of frost giants.

AC: 4 [15], HD 12 (45 hp), Att 2 x tusk (2d6) or 1 x trample (4d8), THAC0 10 [+9], MV 120' (60'), SV D8 S9 P10 B10 S12 (8), ML 10, AL Chaos XP 1,900, NA (0) (1d4), TT Tusks

  • Charge: In the first round of combat. Requires a clear run of 60 feet. Tusks inflict double damage.
  • Trample: 3-in-4 chance of trampling each round. +3 to hit medium (human-sized) or smaller creatures.
  • Ivory: Each tusk is worth 2d6 x 100 gp.
  • Undead: Makes no noise until they attack. Immune to effects that affect living creatures (poisons, gases). Immune to mind-affecting magics (charm, hold, sleep).  Turns as a 7-9 HD monster. 

Mastodons are larger than elephants but smaller than Mammoths.

Monday, October 31, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: D&D Undead

Libris Mortis: The Book of Undead (3.5)
Wow. It is the last Monday of October and it is Halloween.  If you think I have been saving something special for today then you would be correct.  Today I want to talk about the Undead!

Ghosts. Vampires. The Undead. These are the monsters that got me into D&D from the start. Yes it was fun to see all the monsters of mythology here, but I didn't want to be Perseus or Heracles, I wanted to be Van Helsing (I ended up as Dr. Seward, and that is fine). 

So it is to the undead that my monster-hunting eye has always turned. This has been true for every edition of D&D I have played. Second Edition AD&D had Ravenloft and The Complete Book of Necromancers. Third and Fourth Editions have had today's subjects.

Libris Mortis: The Book of Undead (3.5)

PDF and Hardcover. 192 pages. Full-color cover and interior art. For this review, I am considering both the PDF from DriveThruRPG and my hard-cover book.

Libris Mortis was the undead book for 3.5. Undead were covered in the Book of Vile Darkness for 3.0 and here they get more attention and more details.

Introduction

Tells us all about this book and the basics of the Undead and undeath.

Chapter 1: All About Undead

Gets into the detail of the undead including how they manifest; largely along the traditional Corporeal/Incorpeal lines. Undead physiology and details like metabolism and feeding are covered. There is a useful table of various undead monsters and whether or not they feed, what they feed on, and whether it is needed or just desired. This also covers their senses which can be very different than the living stock they came from. All Undead have Darkvision 60' for example, but their sense of touch is limited. 

Also, undead psychology is covered. Namely, how does one deal with being nearly immortal and never changing? There is a bit on undead religion including some gods (in 3.x format) of the Undead. Some of these we have seen before or have seen mentions of. Doresain the King of Ghouls, Nerull the Reaper, and our good friend Orcus are all mentioned here. 

Though one of my favorite sections is the Fighting Undead section which covers weaknesses and tactics that can be used in fighting the undead.  Much like Professor Hieronymus Grost informs us in Captain Kronos – Vampire Hunter, all undead (not just vampires) have a means to their destruction.  This section should make the undead scarier than other monsters. Orcs and Dragons die the same way. You reduce their HP enough with weapons and they will die.  Not always so with Undead.

Chapter 2: Character Options

This is a 3.5 book so there are going to be character options. These start with the feats. They are split between undead-friendly feats and undead-hunting feats.

Building off of the Savage Species there are rules for Undead Characters. This includes level adjustments for undead characters. Not every group will want undead characters, but these rules do help. There are even some Monster Classes. Of course, the best use of these is to make unique undead NPCs to threaten characters with. 

Chapter 3: Prestige Classes

3.x was all about the prestige classes. And there are several here that I found a lot of fun. There are Death's Chosen (high level lieutenants for the undead),  Dirge Singer (a fun bard idea), Master of Radiance (one my Paladin went into), Master of Shrouds (their evil counterpart), Pale Master (Prestige Divine Necromancer), Sacred Purifier (another good undead fighting class), True Necromancer (Prestige Arcane AND Divine Necromancer).  The True Necromancer advances in both Divine and Arcane spellcasting classes and gets special powers. It is also an odd Prestige Class in that it has 14 levels. Obviously to give the maximum effect of taking three levels in a divine class (need Knowledge Religion 8 ranks, cast summon undead II) and three levels in an arcane class (need Knowledge Arcan 8 ranks, cast command undead). I also can't help but think this is an obvious nod to the Death Master.

There are also Undead Prestige Classes such as Lurking Terror, Master Vampire, and the Tomb Warden.

At this point, I could run a 3.5 campaign and battle only undead and never run out of combinations and permutations of monster, class, feat, and prestige class combinations. 

Chapter 4: Spells

Covers spells for Assassins, Blackguards, Clerics, Druids, Paladins, and Sorcerer/Wizards. There are many here that are new. I'd have to go line by line to see how many came from the Complete Book of Necromancers. 

Chapter 5: Equipment

A shorter chapter that covers new equipment. There are alchemical substances, toxins, poisons as well as undead grafts and magic items. 

Chapter 6: New Monsters

Nearly 50 new monsters here and only a few seem to come from previous versions of D&D. The Brain in a Jar stands out as a previous one, but the rest are new. 

I never get tired of new monsters, especially undead ones. 

Chapter 7: Campaigns

This covers the last quarter or so of the book. It covers how to use undead in various roles including using them in encounters. There is also a great section on variant undead. I believe that all undead should be unique in some fashion, often relating to how they lived or died (see "A Christmas Carol"). Only a few examples are given, but they can be extended to all sorts of undead. 

There are various cults here that can be used anywhere and in any version of D&D. There are also adventure sites and seeds which can also be dropped anywhere but require some minor conversion for other versions of the game. 

This is one of those books I keep coming back to for more ideas. Yes I have been using the undead in my own games for more than 40 years now, but there is something else to do, something else to learn, and more to the point, more monsters to fight. 

Open Grave: Secrets of the Undead (4e)
Open Grave: Secrets of the Undead (4e)

PDF and Hardcover. 224 pages. Full-color cover and interior art. For this review, I am considering both the PDF from DriveThruRPG and my hard-cover book.

This book has a solid pedigree. First off one of the authors of this, Bruce R. Cordell, was also one of the authors of Libris Mortis: The Book of Undead.  He was also one of main designers of the epic HPE series of Orcus-focused adventures for 4e. This means to me at least that if you are running the HPE series and using undead (and of course you are) then this book is a must-buy.  There are more details in this book that make it a great book on D&D Undead, but I will get to those in due time.

Chapter 1: Undead Lore

This book starts much like it's 3.5 Edition counterpart. This chapter covers the hows, whats, and whys of undead. There are sections on physiology, outlook, and psychology, as well as society.  These sections are very similar to the 3.5 edition, which makes sense, with the addition of edition specific details.  

For my point of view, the two books (Open Grave and Libris Mortis) both compliment and complete each other. Together they are not the final words on Undead, but they cover quite a lot. 

The section that is newest here is the one on Shadowfell (and thus why it is a great resource for the HPE adventures). 

There are few undead monster stat blocks featured here as well. 

Chapter 2: DM's Guide to Undead

This covers DM's rules. In particular there are skill challenges, how to handle hauntings, and building undead into campaigns. This section in particular is good advice to any DM of any edition wanting to use undead in their games. 

There are also some artifacts detailed here including the Mask and Sword of Kas, the Soul Sword, the Von Zarovich family sword, and more. Like 3.5 there are even some undead grafts. 

New rituals are also detailed. Something I felt D&D 4e never had enough of.  

Chapter 3: Undead Lairs

Location-based encounters were a big deal in 4e. This covers ones with an undead flavor to them for Heroic, Paragon, and Epic level tiers. Three of each are featured with character levels from 1st to 26th. As with all 4e encounter listings, there are plenty of quasi-unique monsters here. Sometimes they are new, and often they are just an edit on an existing creature.  

Chapter 4: New Monsters

Ah, here is what we want! There are more than just undead here, there are the "unliving" as well; monsters that have cheated death but are not undead themselves. There are 122 statblocks of monsters here. These included variations on the Ghoul, Lich, Mummy, Skeleton, Vampire, and Zombie. There are new creatures including undead constructs and oozes. Our old friend the Brain in the Jar from Ravenloft is also back. So many of these are at least familiar to me and some are new.

Undead Hall of Infamy

This flows from the Chapter 4 material and is nominally part of Chapter 4, it is its own section. Here we get some stats for some of the biggest undead names in D&D history. They include Acererak, Ctenmiir the Cursed (from White Plume Mountain), Kas the Betrayer, Kyuss, Osterneth the Bronze Lich (a new NPC but has the relic, the Heart of Vecna), Strahd von Zarovich, and Vecna himself.

Templates

Also part of Chapter 4 these are templates for undead creatures.

Alternative Powers

Undead should be unique, so these are alternate power for various undead that replaces one or more of the powers they have listed. 

The utility of this book to the 4e DM can not be overstated. Especially if you are running the HPE adventures or dealing with any undead.

Undead

For me, these books complement each other well. They cover the same basics but go into different sorts of details even outside of their system-related materials. 

Monday, October 24, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: Devils

Last week I concluded my This Old Dragon retrospective of the Devil and the Nine Hells as they appeared in Dragon Magazine. Today for Monstrous Monday I want to look at some books about devils and show how there is a direct line continuity from those Dragon articles in 1983 to the 3.5 Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells from 2006 and even the 4e The Plane  Above in 2010.

Devils 3e and 4e styles

Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants of the Nine Hells (3.5)

Tyrants of the Nine Hells
PDF and Hardcover. 158 Pages. Color covers and interior art.

This book does for Devils what the Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss did for demons. Sadly there is no Fiendish Codex III. For this review I am considering my hardcover I bought back when it came out and the PDF on DriveThruRPG.

Preface: This might one of the more important bits of D&D fiction out there. Devils in D&D have always had a problem. No not from busy-body mothers and evangelicals looking to ban D&D because of devils and demons (they would find something else anyway), the issue is that the very nature of the devils in question tie them closely to the Abrahamic religions.  Asmodeus is a Jewish demon, Baalzebul comes to us from Beelzebub, another demon found in the Bible by way of Judaism. Mammon comes from the New Testament and Belial from the Old Testament.  Remove the Judeo-Christian origins who are these demons? This new(ish) preface gives us the new origins of these devils and how they fit into the D&D cosmology and the Blood War.

Introduction is just that, tells you what this book is about.

Chapter 1: All About Devils covers devils and hell. The only valuable things in Hell to the devils are souls.These are what they strive to collect, to barter, and bargain with.  Where demons are spit up from the nature of the Abyss itself, devils need souls to make more devils. This should imply there is a distinct dichotomy in the devilish hierarchy; devils that were raised up from souls to devils that fell. Speaking of hierarchy this chapter goes into that and how devils rise up from one form to the next. Also discussed are Demons and Devils and the Blood War. 

There is advice on running devilish encounters and how to deal with Faustian Pacts, devil worship and infernal alliances. Yeah, this in not 80s D&D.  Pretty much everything in this chapter can be used with any edition of D&D.

Chapter 2: The Hells. A detailed "guided tour" of Hell. We are going over some of the same ground back when Ed Greenwood took us here in 1983 in Dragon #75 and Dragon #76. There is more details here and some layers have changed a bit; Avernus comes to mind. Throughout the layers, we also get a listing of the various D&D Gods that live in the Hells. Something that I spent a lot of time covering in my series One Man's God.  There are updates not just from the AD&D 1st ed time of Ed Greenwood's article and the Blood War material of late 2nd Ed AD&D, but from 3.0 D&D as well. Phlegethos is now controlled by Fierna instead of jointly controlled by her and her father and Glasya in the newly anointed Lord of Malbolge having offed the Hag Countess. All great material and more than I'll ever use in a game.

Chapter 3: Game Rules. This cover the 3.5 D&D specific rules. There are Hellbred characters, new feats, and new Prestige Classes. Of special interest to me is the Hellfire Warlock. There are also plenty of new spells. 

Chapter 4: Devils are our new monster listings of devils. The Abishai are back, along with 16 other devils, some new and some updated.

Chapter 5: Lords of the Nine detail the Nine Archdukes. You can pretty much tell what version of D&D you are using by who the Archduke of Avernus is. In 3.5 it is Bel. Though I think he might have been it for late 2nd ed as well. All the Archdukes get a bit of a makeover from their 1st Ed days. Dispater has hair now, Mammon has a new cursed form, Levistus is the lord of Stygia, and Glasya gets the best upgrade and is now Lord of Sixth Layer Malbolge. Baalzebul still looks like a slug. Mephistopheles is still working on Hellfire. Only Asmodeus is constant. As he demands it. 

As its sister product, this is a great book on Devils and the Nine Hells for any edition of D&D.


The Plane Above: Secrets of the Astral Sea (4e)

PDF and Hardcover. 160 Pages. Color covers and interior art. I am considering both my hardcover (one of the last D&D books I ever bought at Borders I believe) and the PDF from DriveThruRPG.

4e reordered the Cosmos and that is fine for me really. In 3e they explained that how one perceives the outer planes is largely based on how they believe they should perceive them. So Hell in 4e is both a "Lower Plane" and an "Upper Plane." No contradiction really.

This book has the same relationship to The Plane Below as the Fiendish Codices have to each other. 

Chapter 1: Astral Adventures cover adventuring on the Astral Sea. Again it is easy to see why Wizards of the Coast moved their version of Spelljammer to the Astral. The seeds for that are all here. Indeed Spelljammers are mentioned on page 19 as a means of siling the Astral Sea.

Chapter 2: Divine Dominions deal with the homes of the gods and the afterlives of mortals. Different sorts of creatures are detailed here; gods, angels, the exalted, and Outsiders. A few divine domains are also detailed. Arvandor is the home of elves and eladrin. Celestia the Seven Heavens. Chernoggar is a plane/world that essentially has the Lawful Evil Gods of War Bane and Gruumsh fighting it out for all of eternity. 

The Nine Hells get their own special sections. This repeats some of the details (but not copy-paste) from 3e about the fall of Asmodeus and the creation of Hell. [Aside: D&D really needs its own Silmarillion, Kalevala, or Enūma Eliš] There some small adventure encounters here too. A few more domains are also detailed.

Chapter 3: The Deep Astral Sea is very far removed from the normal lives of mortals. Here various new races are discussed like the familiar Githyanki, and the less familiar Maruts and Quom. Here there are also forgotten and "shattered" domains like Carceri and Pandemonium. 

Chapter 4: Astral Denizens cover our "monsters." Here are 44 new monster stat blocks including six new devils. Among these, there is the return of Bahgtru, Luthic, and Other Side favorite Vaprak

This book would make for a great trilogy of books with "The Plane Below" and "Manual of the Planes." With the PDFs from DriveThruRPG it would not be too difficult to print them out and rearrange as needed.  It would be a 480-page book, but it would also be the ultimate source of the planes knowledge in D&D 4e.

Monday, October 17, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: Demons

I have spent the past year or so going through all the various D&D monster books. Seeing what makes them work well and what doesn't. My homage, as it is, to the book that introduced me to D&D in the beginning.

Today I want to cover some of my favorite creatures to use (and pit players against) demons.

Demon books in D&D

Demons, as D&D describes them, are Chaotic and Evil. But more than that they are of unrepentant evil. You never hear of demons becoming good, ever. So rare that when it does happen, it becomes a thing of legend

It also means that the only appropriate way to deal with a demon is to send it screaming back to the Abyss from where it came. 

So if 2nd Ed AD&D was the golden age of Settings. Then 3rd and 4th Ed D&D was the golden age of fluff and story.  Here I have some books about Demons and the Abyss with details that are still in use in 5th Edition today.

Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss (3.5)

Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss (D&D 3.5)

PDF and hardcover. 162 pages. Color covers and interior art.

Published in 2006 this product had three aims. First, update all the various demons to the 3.5 D&D rules. Second, introduce new rules about the Abyss and new demons. Finally to provide a more "PG" sort of book rather than the "R" rated Book of Vile Darkness. This book expands on everything we know so far. Indeed for a chaotic race, the power structure of the Abyss has been in place since the introduction of Eldritch Wizardry 30 years prior.

This book gives us the notion, likely introduced in the 2nd E and I may have missed it, that demons are spawned from the Abyss itself, which may also be alive. 

Chapter 1: Demonic Lore 

This covers what is currently known about demons and the Abyss. It also introduces a new source of demonic knowledge, the Black Scrolls of Ahm. We get a bit on demonic physiology, in this case, a dretch, though it is also noted this can vary from demon to demon. A bit on the nature of death in demons. Demonic roles and possession. 

Chapter 2: Demons

Ah. Now I was one of the first ones to complain about the bowdlerization of Demons into Tanar'ri during the AD&D 2nd days. D&D 3rd Edition kept them, but also kept demons. Here is the payoff for them doing that. Tanar'ri are but one of three (in this book) types of demons. Green Ronin began this with their demon books early one and I even did it back at the end of my 2nd Ed days.  It is a natural and logical assumption in my mind. And one I am glad to see here.  The two new types are Loumara subtype (a new type of demon) and the Obyrith (an ancient, primeval type of demon). Each has different traits. So now demons are listed as something like "Always CE Medium outsider (chaotic, evil, extraplanar, tanar'ri)" or similar. There are still chaotic evil monsters in the abyss that are not any of the three demon sub-types.   

Among the Loumara we have: Dybbuk, Ekolid, and Guecubu. For the Obyriths we have the Sibriex. There are more Obyrith lords coming up.

Chapter 3: Demon Lords

Here we have names going all the way back to the beginning, but all updated. The art for Demogorgon reminds me of the cover of Eldritch Wizardry. There are plenty of old favorites here. As well as plenty of new and somewhat revised ones. There are Obyrith lords like Dagon, Obox-ob, Pale Night, and Pazuzu. Dagon has had an interesting history in D&D due to the god, devil, and Lovecraftian creature that all share the same name. This Dagon tries to, and largely succeeds in, uniting all three into one horrible creature. 

Chapter 4: Trafficking with Demons

Deals with demonic followers, both human and demon. It's 3.x so there are feats to be had here! There are also new spells and uses for skills. We are introduced to the Black Cult of Ahm and their lore including the various scrolls of Ahm. There is the Abyssal Mundus, the Black Writings, and the Rubric of Tulket nor Ahm. There is also the Transcriptions of Ergon, rumored to be an apprentice to Tulket nor Ahm.

Chapter 5: Into the Abyss

I mentioned this was a golden age of story and fluff, this chapter is a good example. We get a brief history of the Abyss, the various demon types, and of course The Blood War. We also get details on various Abyssal layers and areas. We get Graz'zt capital of Zeltar which exists on three layers simultaneously. The infamous Demonweb, Orcus' layer of Thanatos, and many more.

Appendix I covers all the lords of the Abyss, their titles, areas of concern, and their layers.  Appendix II covers the known named layers of the Abyss and their rulers. Appendix III covers demonic monsters from other 3.x books. 

Even if you are not playing 3.x or any system similar to it, this is still a great book on demons.

The Plane Below: Secrets of the Elemental Chaos (4e)
The Plane Below: Secrets of the Elemental Chaos (4e)

PDF and hardcover. 162 pages. Color covers and interior art.

This book also expands on demonic lore. This time for 4e. Though this book also expands on various chaotic and elemental forces. Making the connections between the Abyss and elemental chaos stronger. 

 This is divided in five chapters. 

Chapter 1: Chaos Incarnate

This chapter covers the nature of the Elemental Chaos of the Astral Plane. You can see the start here of why Wizards of the Coast is setting Spelljamer in the Astral and not Wildspace. It makes sense. This deals with the nature of chaos, traveling in it, and features of the plane including hazards and various skill challenges. 

For warlocks, there are even three new Patrons. And "new" cults like the Cult of the Elder Elemental Eye. And "new" artifacts like the Crystal of Ebon Flame.

Chapter 2: Races of Chaos

This covers Archons, Djinn, Efreets, Genasi, Giants and Titans, Githzerai, Slaad, and brief entries on others like Dao, Dwarves, and Primoridals. No stats, all background information.

Chapter 3:  Elemental Locales

Various important locales in the Elemental Chaos. These include The Brazen Bazaar, Canaughlin Bog, Gloamnull the City of Rain, Irdoc Morda, the Pillars of Creation, The Riverweb, the Glittering Mine (with encounters), and The Body Luminous (with adventure). Save for the last two there is only minor game-related details. So use in any game would work.

Chapter 4: Into the Abyss

Same title as Chapter 5 of Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss this covers similar ground.  Travel and hazards of the Abyss, the so-called "bottom" of the infinite elemental chaos. We get a listing fo demons from other 4e books and ideas for adventures and skill challenges.

Some demonic locations are given and these are for the most part different than what we have had before.

Chapter 5: Creatures of Chaos

Now, this is the reason I pulled this one out for today. We get new oozes, new archons, and of course new demons. There are mostly elemental creatures here and chaotic ones like Slaad who are largely chaotic evil here. There are some unique creatures as well including Ygorl the Lord of Entropy.

Demonomicon (4e)
Demonomicon (4e)

PDF and hardcover. 160 pages. Color covers and interior art.

Easily one of my favorite D&D 4e books. This one presages the 5e books with excerpts from the infamous Demonomicon of Iggwilv. 

This one has three chapters, but each one is packed.

Chapter 1: Demonic Lore

Here get the introduction to the Demonomicon of Iggwilv, its history and its special features.  We learn the first of six volumes titled the Demonomicon of Iggwilv was based on an earlier work, the Tome of Zyx.  What follows is said to be from these tomes.

We go back to the birth of the Abyss with the Obyriths coming into this universe from their dying one. Here Tharizdun planted the "Seed of Evil" into the Astral Sea and from it, a tear in reality opened creating the Abyss.  Here we learn that an ancient Primordial came to the Abyss to become one of the first Demons, he became known as Demogorgon. Here Dagon, an Obyrith, challenged Demogorgon for control while Obox-ob claimed the seed and became the first Demon Prince.

Here in this Dawn Time, the Cult of Elemental Evil was formed. Demons rose, Angels fell and soon even Tharizdun fell and was chained. Here we get the start of the Blood War.

Much like the Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss we get some details on Fiendish physiology. Most notable is how demons adapt to their environments by changing their physiology. We cover topics of demonic possession, demonic ascension, lords, cults, summoning demons (with one reused bit of art), and legions. There are legions for every demon lord but only a few are detailed here. 

Quite a bit of material here that feels like an expansion of the material that came before it.

Likewise, there is some reused art, but it is good art so I can't complain.

Graz'zt and Iggwilv

Chapter 2: The Abyss

This one covers the nature of the Abyss, expanding on what the Elemental Chaos book covered. Many layers are also covered, most getting a few pages of content. Graz'zt layer of Azzagrat gets some detail. While some of this is familiar to readers of Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss it also provides new details and different information. This is true for some other layers as well. 

There are also minor realms and Abyssal portals, delves, and temples. Some with encounter information.

Chapter 3: Demons

There are 45 new abyssal monsters here which are mostly demons (Tanar'ri and Obyrith) and a few Demon Lords not covered in the Monster Manuals.

If you are playing 4e and dealing with demons (which many of the adventures do) then this is really a must-have book.  If you like the history of demons in D&D then this is also a must-have.

--

All three add to the sum total knowledge of demons in D&D. Having the PDFs I am tempted to print out the fluff sections and add them to a guide of demons I have had since the 2nd Edition days.

Maybe D&D is about demons after all?

Monday, October 10, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: Books of Vile Darkness

It is the spooky season out there and we need spooky material to work with. So today I am going to cover the two different Books of Vile Darkness for the D&D 3.0 and D&D 4.0 games.  But first a bit of an explanatory note.

Books of Vile Darkness

History

The Book of Vile Darkness was a magic item / semi-artifact found in the original Dungeon Master's Guide. It was a book of power for evil clerics. It raised your wisdom by 1 point and gave you enough XP to move up one level. Its counterpart for good was the Book of Exalted Deeds. 

For both reviews, I am using my physical copies and the PDFs from DriveThruRPG

Book of Vile Darkness (3e)
Book of Vile Darkness (3e)

PDF and Hardcover. 192 pages. Color covers and interior art.

This one caused a bit of a stir when it was first released. For starters, there was a warning label on the cover "WARNING! Content is intended for mature audiences only." There were discussions online about it before it was released, many thinking there was nothing but shock value here. It even took some hits from Dragonlance co-creator Tracy Hickman. The book does cover more than a few topics people might find distasteful and there is more nudity in this book than ever seen in an official D&D book.

The book however was less shocking than expected and it even received praise for the author Monte Cook.

The book is filled with all sorts of ideas and if you are planning to send your players to any of the lower planes then this is a book you should consider. 

The first six chapters are, briefly:

Chapter 1: The Nature of Evil. This covers evil as a very real force in the multiverse of Dungeons & Dragons. There are a few new evil gods, some purely evil races, and notes on creating evil villains and some examples. There is a very cool demon-possessed blue dragon, Enesstrere.

Chapter 2: Variant Rules. This short chapter has rules for possession, sacrifice, disease, curses, and aspects of evil. 

Chapter 3: Evil Equipment gives us torture devices, execution equipment, drug, magic, and quasi-magical alchemical items. 

Chapter 4: Feats and Chapter 5: Prestige Classes have our D&D 3.0-specific materials.  Some of the Prestige Classes are rather fun like Demonologist and the Diabolist. Many Devils also get a "Disciple of ..." prestige class.  Demons likewise get a "Thrall of ..." class.  I will note that the Thrall of Graz'zt on page 69 features art very reminiscent of the witch on the cover of Dragon #114. Not the pose mind you, but it could be the same character.

Chapter 6: Magic is exactly that. Spells and magic items of an evil nature. There are lot of spells here and quite a few evil magic items all the way up to evil major artifacts including the Ruby Rod of Asmodeus. 

Chapter 7: Lords of Evil and Chapter 8: Evil Monsters are the chapters that bring this book to my attention today.

Lords of Evil gives us a brief description of the lower planes and a bit of background on the Blood War. then it gets to the good stuff. Up first are all our Demon Lords. Most of the big names are here too, Demogorgon (before his Netflix fame, though I am not a fan of the art), Graz'zt, Juiblex, Orcus, and Yeenoghu. Arch-devils are also covered. Bel is lord of the First layer here, latest (well for 2003) in a line of lords of the First. Dispater, Mammon (looking like Geryon), the incestuous Belial/Fierna (if you look closely you can see she it flipping the bird in the art on page 152), Levistus, the Hag Countess as Lord of the Sixth (a new one for me back then), Baalzebul, Mephistopheles (now a master of Hellfire), and Asmodeus. Each one is listed with major servants, lieutenants, and followers.

Evil Monsters gives us a bunch of old favorites and some new ones. In particular, we got the new Eye of Fear and Flame and the reptile-insect monsters, the Kython.

While I would not buy this for the monsters alone, it is worthwhile for the Lords and the magic chapters.

Book of Vile Darkness (4e)
Book of Vile Darkness (4e)

PDF 128 pages. Two soft-cover books 96 and 32 pages. Color covers and interior art.

This one is a bit different. The physical edition comes in two softcover books in a cardstock slipcase/sleeve.

The 32-page book is a replica of the Book of Vile Darkness on outside (great to show players) and on the inside has character options (in line with the original BoVD). This includes character themes, of the Cultist, the Disgraced Nobel, Infernal Slave, Reaver, and my favorite the Vile Scholar. Paragon Paths include the Blood-Crazed Berserker, Contract Killer, Demonlogist, Idol of Darkness, and the Vermin Lord. We get one Epic Destiny, the Exemplar of Evil. 

The 96-page book covers many of the same topics from the 3e version. This includes the nature of evil and running evil games. But does not go into the detail that the 3.0 version did.

There are some monsters here, but not a lot. There are Fallen Angels, something new to this book. A demon, a devil, and a new type of hag.  So not as dark as its predecessor. 

Still, it is one of the 4e books I have held on to because there are some good ideas here. 

Monday, October 3, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: Fiend Folio (3e)

Fiend Folio (3e)
Welcome to October. If there is any time of year to remind me of my love of monsters it is now. Watching horror movies (or "monster movies" as my dad and I used to call them when I was little) is so deeply tied into my love of both Halloween and D&D that it is hard to tease them apart.  

This month I want to cover some horror-themed monster books for review. My ultimate goal here is to get a good feeling of what makes a monster book "good" and what doesn't. Or maybe what makes them good for me. All year I have been focusing on D&D monster books of all sorts. My second goal is to wrap up this process before 2023 when I do something a little different.

Given I have some D&D 3.x books still cover and five Mondays in October I am going to cover some of these or at least the ones that have the most horror elements to them.

Up first, the Fiend Folio.

Fiend Folio (3e)

PDF and Hardcover. 226 pages. Color covers and interior art.

This is the third "Fiend Folio" we have gotten for *D&D over the last 20+ years.  Like the first one for 1st Ed AD&D, this one is a hardcover book. Like the second one for 2nd AD&D, this one expands the list of monsters. 

This Fiend Folio lives up to its title a little bit more by giving us a lot more fiends. There are demons and devils here as well as the demodands (originally from the AD&D Monster Manual II). Here they get the alignment of "often Neutral Evil."  There are plenty of new demons and devils here too.

There are some Fiend Folio "repeats" here, or my updates is the better term.Just eyeballing it there is the Blood Hawk, Caryatid Column, Dark Creeper and Stalker, Death Dog, Disenchanter, Flame/Fire Snake, Fossergrim, Huecuva (now a template), Iron Cobra, Kelpie, Necrophidius, Skulk, Slaad, Yellow Musk Creeper, and Zombie.

No flumphs though. 

There are also plenty of new monsters too, like the Bacchae and Feytouched which are fun. All in all 167 monsters for D&D 3.0 (3.5 is still a couple of months off).  We are a point in the 3.x development cycle where the monsters still run from one to the next, like the original Fiend Folio. 

This book also includes some Prestige Classes, some Grafts and Symbionts, 

There was a free "Web Enhancement" back when this was new called Fiendish Fun which extended some of the ideas in the Fiend Folio. It is still out there thanks to Archive.org.

This is one of the books I consider central for a D&D 3.x horror campaign. The rest, well that is what the rest of this month is for.