Showing posts with label celtic. Show all posts
Showing posts with label celtic. Show all posts

Monday, January 29, 2024

Character Creation Challenge: Brigid for Wasted Lands

"A Bhrigid, scar os mo chionn, do bhrat fionn dom anacal."

 Something a little different today, a little bit of Wasted Lands myth-making applied to D&D rather than just using Wasted Lands as a D&D substitute.

One "character" that has been a feature of many of my games (fantasy, horror, sci-fi) is that of Brigid. My version is based on the famous saint, St. Brigid of Kildare AND the goddess Brigid of Celtic myth. I figured with Imbolc (Feb 1) coming up, it is a good time to talk about her.

Brigit (of Kildare / "Cil Dara")

Who Is Brigit?

A simple question with a very complicated answer. In the mytho-historical tales of Ireland there are two Brigits. The Goddess and the Saint. Was the saint named for the goddess? Was the goddess named for the Saint thanks to a 2000+ plus oral tradition that mostly predates writing? In the years I have paid (casual) attention to the academic debates, I have seen them shift back and forth a little (or a lot, depending on the journal).  She is also related to the ancient British Goddess/figure Brigantia, who the Romans saw as aspects of the goddesses Minerva (Athena), Tyche/Fortuna, and Victoria (Nike). She is a complicated Goddess. 

This is fascinating but only tangentially related to my games, save for how my readings add to them. 

She is a Goddess, a Saint, and a figure in Celtic Pagan Witchcraft. So yeah, I am going to find a place for her in my games. Given her influence on me, I don't think it is a surprise that I have so many redheaded witches.

In my games, Brigit is more of a force than a character. I have talked about her in terms of Celtic Myth. The Witch Guardians for D&D 3.x and 4e. As a historical figure in my modern horror games. And as Protectors of Éire for my Ghosts of Albion games.

In my games where I like to play on the themes of the Rise and Fall of Paganism vs. the Coming of the Christian Faith, Brigit is my chance to "cheat a win."  In these games, Brigit is a pagan Goddess. She has a following of women pagan worshipers who are no longer druids but not yet witches. My version of Bodhmal is a great if not prime, example of this.  In these games/set-up Brigit tucks her fire-red hair under a nun's habit and continues on.  Her witches now hiding in plain sight.

I never worked out how that works for her, but with Wasted Lands I can give it a try!  Before there was the St. Brigit of Kildare, or there was Goddess Brigit, there was the woman Brigit. She was many things: warrior, philosopher, healer, and the spirit of her land. Because of her connection to Ireland, she is remembered by many in many different forms.

Brigit (of Kildare / "Cil Dara")
Brigit (of Kildare / "Cil Dara")

Class: Warrior / Theosophist / Spirit Rider
Level: 15 (5/5/5)
Species: Human
Alignment: Light Good
Background: Animistic

Abilities
Strength: 15 (+1) A
Agility: 12 (+1) 
Toughness: 17 (+2) 
Intelligence: 11 (+1) 
Wits: 16 (+2) N
Persona: 17 (+2) N

Fate Points: 1d12
Defense Value: 5
Vitality: 114
Degeneracy: 0
Corruption: 0

Check Bonus (A/N/D): +7/+4/+3
Melee Bonus: +5 (base) +1 (str) +2 (touchstones)
Ranged Bonus: +5 (base) +1 (touchstone)
Magical Attack: +2
Saves: +2 to all saves (warrior), +2 to Persona saves, but -2 on Magic away from Ireland (Animistic).

Animistic Powers
Mystical senses, Speak with Plants and Animals,  Animal Summoning 1 (spell)

Warrior Abilities
Combat Expertise, Improved Defence, Melee Combat, Master of Battle, Supernatural Attacks (melee and ranged), Spell Resistance, Tracking, Masters of Weapons, Extra Attacks (x2), Extra Damage

Theosophist Abilities
See Dead People, Turn Undead, Summon the Dead, Channel the Dead, Protection from Undead (2/day), Command, Death Knell (Banshee Wail), Suggestion (1/day)

Spirit Rider Abilities
Innate Magic (5), Arcane Power (2), Commune with Spirit, Limited Power (outside of Ireland), Magcial Battery, Add Wits bonus to Supernatural attacks

Arcane Powers
Empathy, Precognition

Spells
First level: Gout of Flame, Restore Vitality
Second level: Eternal Flame, Lesser Renewal
Third level: Concusive Blast (Fire)

Heroic/Divine Touchstones 
1st Level: First Level Spell: Black Flame
2nd Level: +1 to melee combat
3rd Level: Charm Power
4th Level: Favored Enemy: Undead
5th Level: +1 to all checks, attacks, and saves
6th Level: Immunity to Undead Attacks
7th Level: Character ceases to age

Heroic (Divine) Archetype: Craft, Fire, Warrior

Gear
Sword, Leather Armor

Brigit in the Wasted Lands

For these stats, I played up the aspects of her character that will become important in my games: her connection to fire and her hatred of the undead. This is the warrior aspect of her personality.  Her Animitic background (from Wasted Lands) and her levels in Spirit Rider (NIGHT SHIFT) play very well with each other. As long as she is in Ireland (however I choose to define that) she is powerful and can avoid corruption, outside she is less protected.

Brigit in NIGHT SHIFT

From NIGHT SHIFT I get her Theosophist class (Core Rules) and her Spirit Rider class (Night Companion). This works well for me since it also gives me more mechanics to represent her aspects.  Brigit is still active in the world of NIGHT SHIFT since she is the head of the Daughters of the Flame coven. A world-wide organization of witches dedicated to Brigit. 

Brigit in Thirteen Parsecs

Ah...now this one is fun. How does a Celtic Goddess find her way out into the Solar Frontier? I guess this is my answer to the infamous question, "Why does God need a Starship?"  In my Black Star games (soon to be converted wholesale over to Thirteen Parsecs), there is a ship in the Mystic line, the Imbolc Mage NX-3119. This ship is the sister to the Protector NX-3120. I have not talked much about that ship because I have been using it as an NPC ship. I have also been using it as my test-run ship for ship-to-ship combat rules. Brigit herself is not on this ship, but she has a vested interest in it. 

You can get the Wasted Lands RPG and the NIGHT SHIFT RPG at Elf Lair Games. Thirteen Parsecs is coming soon.

Character Creation Challenge

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Review: FR2 Moonshae

FR2 Moonshae
 Today, I begin my journey into the Forgotten Realm properly. But even a journey as epic as the Realms needs to start out small and, for me, local. I have my guide. Now, grab some guidebooks. But which ones?  Well that part is easy. I will review the Forgotten Realms books I have on hand, literally and figuratively. I will just review the physical books and boxed sets I have here. I might buy more in the future, or I might not. I might seek out some books on purpose, others, well, maybe I found a reasonable price on them.

Up first will be a book I bought years ago (from Castle Perilous!) because I knew if I ever "did the Realms," this is where I would start.

FR2 Moonshae

by Douglas Niles, Print and PDF. 64 pages, full color, dual-sided map. 1987.

For this review, I considering both my original version and the PDF from DriveThruRPG.

Ok, why am I starting with a supplement and one not even from Ed Greenwood himself? Simple, the Moonshae islands were always that one bit of the Forgotten Realms I was really fascinated by. It was also where I knew I would set my native Realms in. It felt close enough to the Irish and Celtic myths I loved while still being "D&D" enough.  I knew enough of the history of this and the Moonshae novels by Douglas Niles to make this worthwhile to get. But I am getting ahead of myself here.

In the AD&D 1st Edition Players Handbook, Gary Gygax had this to say about Druids:

"Druids can be visualized as medieval cousins of what the ancient Celtic sect of Druids would have become had it survived the Roman conquest." - PHB, p. 21

The Moonshae Isles can be viewed as the British Isles if the Celts, the Britons, and all the rest had thrown Rome out in 55 AD.  We know that Douglas Niles was working on a Celtic-themed set of books and a new campaign setting in the mid-80s. He brought over his collection of islands, and Ed Greenwood tossed out what had been his Moonshae (or whatever was there) and used Niles' for the publication version of the Forgotten Realms. This book acts as an overview and a Gazetteer. 

The book is divided into three major sections, plus an Introduction and Appendices. 

Moonshae book and map

Introduction

This covers a bit of fiction that connects it to the Moonshae novels, particularly Darkwalker on Moonshae. I started the novel a couple of times but never got through it.  You don't need to know anything about it, though, to use this book.

Moonshae Overview

This covers the Moonshae Isles and the sorts of characters and Characters, as well as the folk and Fflok, you will meet there. It makes a very good case for this to be the starting point of the adventures. Since, to my very limited knowledge, this is the western most point on the Forgotten Realms maps at this time. You can travel east and see the entire world. 

The races are AD&D standard, but I already feel some differences here from, say, Greyhawk.  There is a good section on common conflicts. This appeals to me since one on my favorite themes to deal with in games is the waning of Paganism and the rise of Monotheism in Western Europe. The Moonshae has this theme baked in with its Druids vs. Clerics and Ffolk vs. the Northmen.

Humans are divided up into the previously mentioned Fflok (think British pagans) and the Northmen (think Norse/Viking raider pagans). There is an uneasy truce here now. I can't wait to see if this boils over or if they take a page from our world and just settle down. One of the reasons you are reading this in English now. This is illustrated with a map of the political borders, which Elminster tells us are constantly in flux in the book. 

We get another map of trade routes within the islands and to the Sword Coast mainland. Some tables on weather (it's a lot like Chicago to be honest) and lots of great random encounter tables.

The Moonshae book effectively makes the "low level" adventuring interesting where a Giant Stag is big opponent, but you could also see goblins or a faerie dragon. The Celts book for AD&D 2nd Edition would do the same thing very well. Honestly that book could be used with the Moonshae with no problem whatsoever. 

Deities of the Moonshaes

I will give Niles and TSR credit, they didn't stick a narrowly defined idea of what a god might be. The main Goddess of the Moonshaes is The Earthmother. We are told she is an aspect of the Goddess Chauntea who the rest of the Realms sees as an agricultural goddess. The Ffolk, though, do not see her like that. To them she is The Goddess. Embracing a bit of the revisionist views of British Paganism but I like it, and more to the point it works well here. If Gygax can say what he did about Druids above, then this logically follows. The Goddess has three children. The Leviathan, a gargantuan whale, Kamerynn, a large unicorn, and the Pack, a pack of wolves. All have been endowed with special qualities by the Earthmother and are her eyes and ears in these lands. There is also evil here in the form of Kazgoroth, the Beast. Who looks a bit like a wingless dragon. 

Specific Locales of the Moonshaes

This covers a dozen or so locations. Parallels can be drawn from many of these to locales in British and Irish myth and legend. And honestly, that is fine. It made figuring out where to start my grand adventure even easier. I mean I could be wrong but Callidyrr is our stand-in for Camelot, Corwell is Cornwall, Moray is like a smaller Ireland or a larger Ilse of Man, and so on. Now there are some interesting additions. What if the Vikings, when raiding, decided to set up in Scotland or Ulster and kicked everyone else out? Well, you might have had something like Norland.  I imagine the AD&D 2nd Ed Vikings Campaign book would be useful here as the Celts one was for the southern islands. 

Other areas are detailed like Myrloch, the large inland lake/sea in Gwynneth in the south and Synnoria, the land of the Llewyrr Elves. There is even Flamsterd, an island of Magic-users. You know I am heading back there sometime. 

Moonshae book

The Appendices

Appendix A covers some campaign themes for the Moonshaes, not that I need any more at this point! But it does include a note on how to bring in the module N4 Treasure Hunt into the Moonshaes, which is great really. 

Appendix B gives us some unique items of the Moonshaes. 

Elminster's Notes

There are a lot of those here. If you were to take them out, there only be about 32 pages. But they set the tone of the book and the land well. We are new here but not new to D&D so Elminster's eyes are a perfect substitute for our own. 

The maps look great and should be compatible with the clear hex grid from the Forgotten Realms set. 

A much more pleasurable work than when I first read it way back in the early 1990s. The whole "Ffolk" thing with the two "f"s bugged me, but I got over it. You could build an entire campaign and never leave these islands. Which is not what I am going to do since there is so much more out there.

Sinéad's Perspective

So, I am going to look at the people and places of this product through the eyes of my bard Sinéad. Much like Greenwood does with Elminster, she will be the eyes and ears in which I see the Realms. But I am not going to give you long-winded journal entries. That's Ed's and Elminster's thing. 

Choosing the Moonshaes as my first product and choosing the Moonshaes as the home of Sinéad makes a lot of sense together. These lands feel familiar to me. I have read hundreds of tales of Celts and Celtic heroes and monsters. Nearly as many tales of the Norse and Vikings. Tons on the Rise, Fall, and Rise again of the very particular British form of British Paganism.  I have never been here, but I know it well. Much like Sinéad, I am leaving this place. Maybe it is too early, but certainly, I will have to come back here. 

Final Thoughts

I am not sure if it was planned or not, but this does feel like a perfect place to start your adventures in the Forgotten Realms. By today's standards, the book is a bit light on the crunchy game stuff. No new spells really or specialized sub-classes. But that is fine; the fluff more than makes up for it all. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Character Creation Challenge: Boudica for Wasted Lands

 Last week I heard of the passing of James Herbert "Herbie" Brennan, the prolific author of fiction and non-fiction as well as the RPG "Man, Myth & Magic." I don't have a lot to say on the matter. I have not read any of his books and my knowledge of him comes solely through my interaction with MM&M. But I did not want his death to go unremarked here.

While I have done other MM&M characters for myself, I thought for today I might revisit one I did a while back and fit both his game and Wasted Lands: Boudica, Queen of the Icini Celts.

I have a long relationship with Boudica. She was a figure I always found fascinating, especially during my time of reading an absolute ton of Celtic history, myth, and legends. Then I wrote the Ghosts of Albion RPG, and she was a central character of that franchise, though by then, she was a ghost.  So, given Herbie Brennan's fix of history and fantasy of his Man, Myth & Magic game, doing stats for Boudica was a no-brainer.  That is also true today.

Boudica sheets

Boudica for the Wasted Lands could have gone a number of different ways. Obviously, Warrior is a great choice (and what I went with in MM&M), but she didn't start out as one; she was forced into it by the Romans, who murdered her husband and raped her daughters. From NIGHT SHIFT, I could also say Survivor is good, but then again, so is Chosen One. In the end, though, the only real choice for me was to make her a Spirit Rider from the NIGHT SHIFT Night Companion and adapt that to Wasted Lands. Something the O.G.R.E.S. makes very, very easy. Trivial even.

The Spirit Rider is a person charged with the power of a particular place. Our archetype of this is Marie Laveau who is given magic by the "Spirit of New Orleans." Cú Chulainn is the Spirit Rider of mytho-historical Ulster as Fionn Mac Cumhail is the Spirit Rider of Éire. We have debated whether Merlin or King Arthur is the Spirit Rider of ancient Britain. 

Note: As an aside it never dawned on me until this moment that I *could* have Boudica as one of my Witch Queens. I mean she is not really a witch, but her Wasted Lands and Ghosts of Albion versions both have some magic.  Thoughts for another day.

Queen Boudica
Queen Boudica

Class: Spirit Rider (Briton) (from NIGHT SHIFT's Night Companion)
Level: 10
Species: Human
Alignment: Light* (*while she killed people and burned villages to the ground she was doing what she felt was right and correct. Removing an invading force from her home.)
Background: Barbarian

Abilities
Strength: 16 (+2) 
Agility: 13 (+1) 
Toughness: 18 (+3) N 
Intelligence: 12 (+0) 
Wits: 17 (+2) A
Persona: 17 (+2) N 

Fate Points: 1d10
Defense Value: 5
Vitality: 70
Degeneracy: 0
Corruption: 0

Check Bonus (A/N/D): +5/+3/+2
Melee Bonus: +2 (base)  +1 (Heroic Touchstone)
Ranged Bonus: +2 (base) 
Saves: +4 to Wits and Persona saves (class), +2 to Toughness saves (barbarian).

Spirit Rider Abilities
Innate Magic (10), Arcane Powers (5), Commune with Spirit of the Land, Limited Power (outside of Briton), Magic Battery

Barbarian Background Skills
Perception, Danger Sense, Scale surfaces, Nature Lore, Any Weapons

Arcane Powers (used like powers)
Beguile, Shadow Walk, Detect Thoughts, Enhanced Senses, Subtle Influence

Innate Magic (used like spells)
First Level: Armor of Earth, Mystical Senses, Command, Sense Death
Second Level: Animal Summoning (usually large war dogs), Invoke Fear
Third Level: Curse, Impassible Thicket
Fourth Level: Forest Metamorphosis
Fifth Level: Shadow Armor

Heroic/Divine Touchstones 
1st Level: +1 Melee Combat: Spear
2nd Level: Luck Benefit
3rd Level: Powerful Defence
4th Level: Favored Enemy: Rome
5th Level: Divine Smite

Heroic (Divine) Archetype: Vengence

Gear
Spear, armor, sword

Wasted Lands Spirit Riders

Spirit Riders might not fit well thematically with Wasted Lands RAW, but in Wasted Lands as D&D, it works great. I might tweak it a bit working with Boudica here for slightly less magic and more options for combat prowess. Given that I am saying that Cú Chulainn was also one then something like his Ríastrad or Battle Frenzy would be an option. Maybe call it something like "Caomhnóir" or Guardian.

It would be fun to try out that is for sure. 

You can get the Wasted Lands RPG and the NIGHT SHIFT RPG at Elf Lair Games.

Character Creation Challenge

Friday, April 7, 2023

Kickstart Your Weekend: The Celts

This is very much a Peanut Butter and Chocolate moment for me.  I have always been a fan of Brian Young's work on the Castles & Crusades Codex series and in particular his Codex Celtarum. I have also been really enjoying my re-introduction to Chivalry & Sorcery.  So when I see there is a C&S book about Celts, written by Brian Young?  Yeah, I have to have that!

The Celts

The Celts

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/cns5/the-celts?ref=theotherside

I have been dying to do more with this RPG, and this might just be the perfect book for me. I really can't think of single reason why I would not want to back this. One fo my favorite topics, by an author who is an academic and RPG expert on this this topic, for a game system I really want to learn.

Win. Win. Win.

While the faux leatherette looks really nice, I also like the one pictured above since it will go with all my other books.

So yes. Let's get this thing funded!

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Review: HR3 Celts Campaign Sourcebook (AD&D 2nd Edition)

HR3 Celts Campaign Sourcebook (2e)
Again, today is a good day for this one.  I just finished my review of the Castles & Crusades Codex Celtarum so I wanted to compare and contrast it to the earlier work on a similar topic, the HR3 Celts Campaign Sourcebook for AD&D 2nd Edition.  I reviewed the HR1 Vikings Campaign Sourcebook a while back and always wanted to get back into the series.  

HR3 Celts Campaign Sourcebook (AD&D 2nd Edition)

For this review, I am considering both the PDF and softcover copies.  96 pages with color (well, green) covers and black & white interior art.  There is a color map attached to the original softcover I bought in the early 90s. The PDF has the map appended to the end.  Graeme Davis is the author here. He got his RPG start with Games Workshop.  

Illustrations are by Roger Raup and Cartography by Steve Sullivan.

The publication of this book is contemporaneous with the famous BBC-2 series, The Celts.  The one with all the music from Enya.  They do cover similar ground and if you are interested in using this for any *D&D sort of game I would recommend the series.  Yes, there has been newer scholarship since then. But are you working on a dissertation or a game?  The obvious choice for newer and game-related scholarship is Brian Young's Codex Celtarium for Castles & Crusades from Troll Lord Games. 

Chapter 1: Introduction

This covers the question of "Who Were the Celts?" and what this book is for.  The goal here is an AD&D gamebook, not one on Celtic history.

Chapter 2: A Mini-Course of Celtic History

I discussed updated scholarship above, but for pretty much any game (but especially AD&D) this chapter is a great overview of Celtic real-world history. Covering roughly 1,500 years, 600 BC to 900 AD, and all of Europe a lot does get left out.  But this is enough to get you going to the right place.  Today we have the advantage of the latest scholarship at the click of a mouse, but in 1992 this was what we had. Ok. That is not entirely true. Even in 1992, there was BITNET access for a lot of great articles and Usenet for talking with others.  But that is beyond the scope of this conversation and this book.  For an AD&D game world this will get you going rather nicely.

The timeline graphic is a nice touch.

Chapter 3: Of Characters and Combat

This covers differences from the standard AD&D 2nd Edition character creation.  In particular, you will typically only have humans.  Humans can get a random "gift" and possibly "sidhe" blood, but do not expect to see dwarves, elves, and halflings in great abundance.  

The classes also get a facelift more or less.  Fighters of course are the most important with the druids tied.  Paladins are limited to Christians on the Continent.  Rangers get a bit of an update.  Wizards are to be used sparingly. Clerics are relegated to Christian missionaries (so St. Patrick was a Cleric!).  Bards and Druids get the attention.  A new class under Priests is introduced, the Manteis or Vates is the Celtic Seer.

Names and homelands are discussed along with social class. Various Warrior "feats" are also discussed.  They take proficiency slots but otherwise "feel" like feats in the D&D 3/5 sense.

Chapter 4: Magic

Covers changes to spells and magic items.  Also makes a distinction between "gifted" and "trained" spellcasters.  If this were D&D 3rd Edition then we would call them "Sorcerers" and "Wizards" respectively. 

There are new magic items and magical places characters can find themselves in.  

Chapter 5: Monsters

I do love monsters.  This section covers all sorts.  First, we get a list of monsters that can be used unchanged.  Then a section of "new" monsters, or more to the point Celtic variations on existing monsters from the Monstrous Compendiums. Then we get whole new monsters in Monstrous Compendium formats. Not a lot mind you, but enough to give some flavor.

Chapter 6: Equipment and Treasure

This covers equipment, treasure, gifts, and the barter system used.  Coins are still used (and for ease mentioned in GP amounts). The big issue here is that a lot of older equipment will be Bronze Age and some will be newer Iron Age varieties.  An important notion given that this is not a "Medieval" setting.  

Chapter 7: The Celtic Culture

We get a brief overview of Celtic Culture through the eyes of Conall Mac Eogan.  This 15-year-old is coming of age and we see how the next year of his life touches on aspects of the culture.  Now obviously the events for Conall would be very different if this had been Deirdriu or Eithne we were talking about.  Some discussion is given on the advanced, atypically for the time, role of Celtic women.  

The topics of Fostering and Trade are also mentioned. We also get the wheel of the year (adopted by many modern pagans) and some of the gods with nods to the AD&D 2n Ed Legends & Lore book.

Chapter 8: A Brief Gazetteer

Covers the lands we typically associate with the Celts. Heavy on the British Isles and Ireland. Various "other worlds" like Avalon, Tir Na Og, and Annwvyn are also briefly discussed. 

Appendix 1: Enech

The notion of Celtic honor price is given in AD&D 2nd Edition terms.

Glossary

A brief glossary of terms and names.

The PDF ends with the map and the softcover book has it as a tear-out attachment.

Map of the Celtic world

I did not go into this expecting graduate-level work and that is fine.  It is a great source for playing in a Celtic-themed AD&D 2nd Ed game world.  If the goal had been to provide AD&D 2nd Ed rules for a Celtic world then it would have needed to have been larger, but as it is it met the scope of their requirements.

This book is also 30 years old. It holds rather well really, both physically and in terms of what it needs to do, and can still be adapted to any version of D&D you care to think about.   

All in all I am as happy with it now as I was when I got in 92.

Review: Castles & Crusades Codex Celtarum, 2nd Printing

Castles & Crusades Codex Celtarum, 2nd Printing
If there was any doubt where Dr. Brian Young's true love lies in this series, the new second printing of the Codex Celtarum should dissolve those.   This new book brings the original Codex in line with the other codies in terms of style and feel.  This new book is also expanded to 256 pages, up from the previous 178 pages.  It is without a doubt also my favorite of the codies. 

Castles & Crusades Codex Celtarum, 2nd Printing

For this review, I am considering both he PDF and hardcover copies.  256 pages with color covers and black & white interior art. 

The Codex Celtarum is written by Brian Young.  He is a gamer and an academic in Celtic history and languages and an all-around nice guy.  Honestly, he is the kind of person I want writing this sort of thing.  You talk to him and get the feeling that he could immediately tell you a story from the Mabinogion and it would roll off his tongue like the bards of old.  This is the guy you want working on your Celtic game.

Introduction

The first thing I noticed in his introduction was his acknowledgement of the differences in legend and in history and where he was putting his cards.  For me, as someone that has had to have the same tug of war, the value of this book went up several degrees.   

Before moving on to the book itself I spent a lot of time with Castles & Crusades again, this time from the point of view of a Celtic-themed game.  Like the others in this series, it could be used with any D&D-like game.  Now at this point it should be noted that the design of this book is to play in a Faery realm, so it is something you can drop into any game world.  There are some game-based assumptions made, but nothing to keep you from making this your own.

This section also talks a bit about the changes from the 1st to 2nd printing.

Chapter 1: In Lands Far Away

This covers the lands of the Celts and how the Castles & Crusades player can drop their game into this world.  The advantage here is this 2nd Edition does talk about how you can use the Codex Germanica along with this.  This covers not just the expected British Isles, but all (mostly all) Celtic Europe. 

Chapter 2: Mythical Locations

This brief chapter discusses mythical locations like Hyberborea and the Hercynian Forest.  These lands were assumed to be real just "over there."

Chapter 3: Once Upon A Time 

This chapter covers the history of the Celtic real-world universe including the various wars that happened at the dawn of time and various involved countries/lands in Europe.  

Chapter 4: Otherworldly History

This is the "myth" part of the mytho-historical background of the Celts.  It overlays the stories of the gods and other powerful beings on top of the history of the Celts.  This chapter is rich in storytelling and follows a tale very familiar to me, but there are always new things to read and learn.

Splitting Chapter 3 and Chapter 4 into two separate and distinct chapters is good since for most books on the topic they are intertwined so much that it is hard to tease out the "myth" and the "history" from the mytho-historic events. Certainly one has had a profound effect on the other and I think Young demonstrates this well.  

Also while I am 100% behind his enthusiasm here (and I share it) we have yet to see anything game-related and we are 75 pages in.

Chapter 5: The Otherworld of Faery

This chapter covers the various "otherworlds" (yes plural) of the lands of Faery. Usually tied to a physical location in the real world.  It reads like an unreal Gazeteer of Europe to be honest, a mist-shrouded tour into a land that is similar but still very different. The faery lands don't have the same rules of nature as the mortal realms. So there are some tables about the odd passage of time or the nature of the land.  

Chapter 6: There Lived a People 

ALmost everything you want to know about the Faery races.  This includes traits faeries can have and their weaknesses.  This also includes a list of the giants of Wales.

Chapter 7: Great of Magic and Power 

This details, what else, magic.  If human wizards study magic and human priests pray for it then the Fae ARE magic. The distinction is not a subtle one.  The magical powers here are listed as spells. So they can be used by the fae as if they were spells, but that robs them of what makes them so interesting. Instead, go with the suggestion in the book that each member of the fae gets a number of special powers based on their intelligence.  And there are plenty of powers here!  If you are anything like me and love magic, spells, or powers for characters then this chapter alone is worth the price of the book.  

It is one of the largest chapters so far and has the most "game" material.

Chapter 8: With Great Gods and Lords 

This covers the gods, demigods, and named faeries of the lands. There are no stats for these gods or heroes.  Why? That is easy. They are not meant to be killed or even interacted with.  They are the legends of this land. If you have any familiarity with the gods of Celtic myth and legend you can find them here. 

Appendix A: The Druidic Order This covers the druid classes for Castles & Crusades within the Celtic world. There is the Druid (Wisdom), the Celtic Bard (Charisma), and the Druidic Seer (Wisdom).

Appendix B: The Secrets of the Druids This appendix covers the Ogham writing and runes.

Appendix C: Druidic Spells What is says, the spells the various druid classes can use. 

At this point, I wonder if all three could not have been combined into one Appendix. 

Appendix D: The Enchanted of Faerie Here we get a nice discussion on Faery Metals and how they can be used.  There is a list of divine items (artifacts in other games) listed by the owner; that's right the Gáe Bulga is not just lying around waiting for you to find it. No this +8 spear (!) is well in the hands of Cú Chulainn.

Appendix E: The Severed Head discusses the importance of taking the head of your enemy.

Appendix F: The Feast Hall details the Celtic hero's feast.

Appendix G: The Celtic Chariot. what it says on the tin.

Appendix H: The Celtic Warrior Society. Gives us a very brief overview of the importance of warriors and how they were organized.  I wish this one had been much longer. 

Appendix I: Accoutrements of War. Deals with the arms and armor of the celtic warrior. 

Appendix J: Strong Feats and Deeds. Covers the tales of the heroes of the Celtic myths and legends. 

Castles & Crusades Codex Celtarum
Honestly, Appendices E to J should be combined into a chapter on Celtic Warriors. This is what the other Codices have done. 

Appendix K: Holidays & their Customs.

Appendix L Celtic Themed Adventures.

Appendix M: Monsters

Also, this should have been a chapter. There are 30 pages of monsters here. Many are very familiar to me, but again are closer to their "roots."

Ok. So what can say here?

The book is fantastic and I loved every bit of it.  BUT, I find the new organization of the 2nd Printing to be inferior to that of the 1st Printing.  I felt some of the material could have been organized and combined a bit better. I still find it a delight to read, but is that due to this book or the subject matter?

Again, there is no doubt that Brian Young is not only an expert in this field, he also loves it.  That enthusiasm shows and I am sure he could have written a book twice this size.  I do love the expanded history and the raised importance of the continental Celts over the typically well-trodden lands of the Irish and British Celts.  Looking over my review of the First Printing this is exactly one of the things I thought was missing from that version. Though some of the material from the first edition (some classes) are missing from this edition.  I guess I should keep both on hand.


Still, if you are a fan of Celtic myth, Faery lore, or Castles & Crusades then I highly recommend this book.  Even if you don't play C&C, I would get this book.

Friday, December 10, 2021

Kickstart Your Weekend: Vaesen RPG – Mythic Britain & Ireland

There are few things I love more than Creepy Folk horror and one of those things is creepy Gothic Horror.  I was quite pleased to see that Free League Publishing of Sweden was doing a horror Mythic Britain and Ireland, you know it has my attention.

Vaesen RPG – Mythic Britain & Ireland

Vaesen RPG – Mythic Britain & Ireland

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1192053011/vaesen-rpg-mythic-britain-and-ireland?ref=theotherside

I picked up Vaesen based on solid recommendations while I was at Gen Con this past year.  The game is gorgeous, but I have yet to play it.  But this?  This looks like it was tailor-made for me.

Once again the art looks amazing and the game itself?  Well, I am hooked and already thinking of a game I could run with it.  

Check it out and throw them a Krona or two.

Monday, April 19, 2021

#AtoZChallenge2021: P is for Púca

It began with Harvey. 

A little odd piece of trivia for you. Back in High School and College my knick-name was Harvey. Not because of the movie of the same name, but for other reasons too long to get into here. But people always asked me if it was because of the movie. I got tired of hearing about it so I watched the movie, as was my habit, with my dad.  He loved it of course, it had been a you man (younger than I am now) when it came out so he had good memories of it.  I enjoyed it too, but I enjoyed mostly because my dad did.  But that was my first introduction to a "Pooka."

Since then I have run into the pooka in other places. Robin Goodfellow of the Bard's Midsummer Night's Dream is another fine example. The creature always seemed perfect for D&D yet I can't find many examples of it outside of Celtic-focused gamebooks.

Puck (Fuseli, 1810-1820)
Púca
AKA Phooka, Puka, Pwca
Small or Medium Fey (Chaotic)

Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Neutral [Chaotic Neutral]
Movement: 120' (40') [12"]
Armor Class: 7 [10]
Hit Dice: 2d8+2* (11 hp)
   Small: 2d10+2* (9 hp)
THAC0: 9 (+10)
Attacks: 1 bash 
Damage: 1d6-1
Special: Fey, invisibility, shape-shifter, vulnerable to cold iron
Save: Monster 2
Morale: 10 (NA)
Treasure Hoard Class: None 
XP: 35 (OSE) 47 (LL)

Str: 8 (-1) Dex: 16 (+2) Con: 14 (+1) Int: 12 (0) Wis: 10 (0) Cha: 14 (+1)

The púca (pl. púcaí) is a shape-shifting fey creature related to both goblins and to brownies. The natural shape of the púca is debated by scholars, but it is believed to be a small fey creature with animal-like features such as rabbit years, whiskers and pronounce front teeth.  It is suggested that they even have little horns.

While not an evil creature, the púca delights in causing all sorts of mischief. They can take the shape of any animal they choose from Small to Large. They can even shapeshift into a medium humanoid creature. They will appear human, or elflike, but will have some feature of an animal such as goat legs, rabbit ears, or a tail.  A favorite trick of a púca is to shift to a magnificent horse and tempt humans to ride it. Once the rider is on they burst into breakneck speeds and give their rider a terrifying ride. They will then deposit the confused and worn-out rider miles away from where they started. Another favorite trick is to shift into a small adorable animal such a baby bunny or kitten. When a human picks them up they will begin to yell at them in common speech and shift to a small, but ugly goblin. The púca delights in these pranks and never means to cause injury or harm. 

The púca prefers to avoid all combat situations. They are not strong fighters at all and will use their invisibility to stay out of most fights. They can become invisible at will and remain invisible until attacked. If force they can usually bask with a fist or head bash. The púca's innate fear of iron prevents them from picking up and using any weapon.  Iron weapons cause double damage to a púca.

Púcaí though can be bribed and even befriended if presented with their favorite blackberry wine.  A drunk púca can foretell the future in a limited fashion, resulting in anyone sharing wine and stories with one a +1 on any roll between the sunrise the next day and the next new moon. A drunk púca though is a handful as it randomly shape-shifts throughout the night.

There are tales of evil púca the eat humans or drink their blood. But this is likely some other creature. 

--

So not a creature you are going to go out to pick a fight with.  Not that you can't but there is not much point in that.  While I am keenly aware that D&D can often devolve into a game of just fighting monsters (and I have enjoyed those games in the past too), monsters don't have to exist just to be killed by the PCs.   Our púca here is a good example of that.


April 2021 A to Z


Friday, April 16, 2021

#AtoZChallenge2021: N is for Nuckelavee

Much like the Merrow, this creature has been rummaging around in the back of my mind for the better part of 25 years.  I just never could get it the way I wanted it. I think today is that day! One of the true monsters of Celtic myth and legend, I present to you the Nuckelavee.

Nuckelavee by James Torrance (1859–1916)
Nuckelavee
Large Monstrosity (Aquatic)

Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic [Neutral Evil]
Movement: 90' (30') [9"]
   Swim: 180' (60') [18"]
Armor Class: 6 [13]
Hit Dice: 8d8+8* (44 hp)
   Large: 8d10+8* (52 hp)
THAC0: 9 (+10)
Attacks: 2 claws or weapon + Breath Weapon
Damage: 1d4+3 x2 or 1d8+3, 
Special: Breath weapon (fetid gas), dark vision
Save: Monster 8
Morale: 10 (NA)
Treasure Hoard Class: None 
XP: 1,200 (OSE) 1,240 (LL)

Str: 18 (+3) Dex: 13 (+1) Con: 15 (+1) Int: 10 (0) Wis: 10 (0) Cha: 4 (-2)

The nuckelavee is a monster in the truest sense of the word. It appears to be a large horse with a human rider, but closer inspection reveals the true horror of the creature.  The "rider" and "horse" are the same creature.  The "human" part has a huge grinning mouth with arms that are so long that its claws drag the ground.  The "horse" part has legs that end in both fins and hooves, giving it the ability to move about on land and the sea. The "horse" head has one huge eye in the middle of its forehead.  The entire creature is skinless and the muscles and sinew are visible. The creature is covered in black blood.

The nuckelavee hates all life and will attack anything in its path.  It prefers to stay in the salt-water sea, freshwater is treated like acid to it (1d4 hp of damage per vial), so it will not come ashore when it is raining.  It hates the smell of burning seaweed and will come ashore to put out any fires burning seaweed and kill whoever is doing the burning.

Nuckelavee will attack with their claws most times. They are capable of wielding weapons and will choose a club or spear, but they prefer to use their own claws. They are strong (Strength 18) but only average intelligence (10).  The worst attack of the nuckelavee is their fetid breath.  From their horse head, they can breathe out a fetid poisonous gas that affects all in a 60' long, 30' wide (5' base) cone. Victims must save vs. Poison.  Those at or under 7 HD must save or take 4d8 hp damage (save for half), those over 7 HD save or take 2d8 hp of damage (save for none).  Anyone failing the save will incapacitate for 2d8 rounds and unable to move or attack. 

Nuckelavee prefer the flesh of warm-blooded creatures. It ignores merrows and selkies, though they can usually out-swim the nuckelavee in the sea and outrun them on the land.  

Water Horses

The nuckelavee would be a natural enemy to the kelpie and likewise, save for the fact that nuckelavees can not enter fresh water and kelpies rare venture out into the sea. There seems to be a relationship between the nuckelavee and the each-uisge.  The nuckelavee is also related, somewhat distantly, to the nøkk, though both creatures refuse to acknowledge this.  The best way to offend a nøkk is to ask if it is a nuckelavee.  Kelpies, each-uisge, nuckelavees, and nøkks are all either descended from a common creature or have all adapted similar forms as a means of capturing prey.  

--

Returning today are the Ability scores. I played around with them a bit more and have been getting some feedback so I wanted to pull them back out.  I think I am going to keep them in the stat block.

This creature is large and therefore has two lines for HD/hp.  In my games I will use the increased hp total. 

All in all I am happy with this one!

April 2021 A to Z




Thursday, April 15, 2021

#AtoZChallenge2021: M is for Merrow

I have commented on how it is Greek mythology that brought to D&D via the Monster Manual and this month is largely a celebration of that. While Greek myths got me here, it is Norse and Celtic myths that have kept me coming back for more.

Today I had an undead monster ready to go, and it was fine, it was a good monster.  But it didn't excite me very much. It's great for my book, but not so much for a blog post trying to get excitement for that book.  So instead I am going with some more fey creatures, but this one is a little different.

John William Waterhouse - Mermaid
Merrow
Gwenhidw, Jennys
Medium Fey (Aquatic)

Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1d4 (1d6)
Alignment: Chaotic [Chaotic Good / Chaotic Evil]
Movement: 90' (30') [9"]
 Swim: 240' (80') [24"]
Armor Class: 8 [11]
Hit Dice: 1d8+1 (6 hp)
THAC0: 18 (+1)
Attacks: 1 weapon
Damage: 1d6
Special: Magic cap
Save: Monster 1
Morale: 6 (8)
Treasure Hoard Class: Special
XP: 19 (OSE) 21 (LL)

Merrows are shy water faeries that appear off the coasts of the oceans.  They prefer to spend their time frolicking in the shallows of tide pools and having swimming contests.  All merrow seen by land dwellers will be female.  The males refuse to have anything to do with the people of the land and will not come close to it.

Similar to a mermaid, the merrow appears to be a beautiful humanoid woman's upper half. Her hair is often green, usually seafoam green, but darker sea plant colors are also common.  Her fish-like tail is of the same color.  The most notable thing about them though is their bright red cap. This is their only treasure.  

If she is spotted the merrow will immediately flee to swim back to her home under the waves. They will avoid combat whenever they can. Though some will curious enough to seek out any humans.  Merrow are curious about humans, in particular human men. Their own males are evil, brutish, and ugly.  By use of their magic caps, a merrow can change her shape to that of a human and walk on land.  As long as she posses this cap she can move freely between the sea and land.  As a sign of trust and love a merrow can give another human her cap and thus tying her to the land forever.   Land-based merrow are indistinguishable from normal humans, though they will often learn witchcraft.

Merrows are also known as Gwenhidw or "Jennys," but this could also be the name of one of their most famous members. The offspring of merrows and humans are completely human, but they feel a call of the sea and make exceptional sailors or sea witches.  A merrow still tied to the sea does not have a soul, but if they commit to the land then they are granted a new soul.  

Male Merrows: These creatures are as ugly as the women are beautiful and evil where their counterparts are good.  They never come to the surface when they can avoid it and they are generally not welcomed. Their faces are the worst combination of humanoid and fish and their whole body is covered in green fish scales.  It is said that when a Jenny comes to land and chooses a human husband her merrow father will follow her to bring her back.  The merrow will challenge the human to a game, usually, a drinking game, if the human wins the merrow returns to the sea and leaves his daughter behind.  If the merrow wins he returns to the sea with his daughter and the soul of the human.  Particularly old and evil merrow have a collection of these souls they keep in cages at the bottom of the sea as humans might keep a pet bird in a cage. 

--

This entry pulls together a lot of threads that have been rummaging around in my head for years.

Starting with the idea of Jennys and Merrows, they *might* two different creatures, but it is hard to tease apart all these myths especially when they are all so close to each other; both in content and in geography.  I like the idea of the merrows, or Jennys, as being genuinely curious about humans. Plus I liked the Jenny character from Anita. The Jenny stealing a kiss from Anita convinced me that these creatures were not evil and actually kinda liked humans.

 The idea of the Merrow men and the soul cages has been with me forever it feels like, though they were very nearly demons.  Here they are just assholes. Evil, dangerous, but still assholes. 

To say these ideas were not influenced by this would be disingenuous.

There are a lot of parallels between the merrow and pagans from the British Isles and the general belief that the Fey do not have souls.  In a game set in a magical Medieval Europe then a Jenny would need to be baptized before she would get a soul. Then of course she is no longer a merrow.   There are likely some unpleasant parallels here involving the patriarchy, salvation, goodness vs. freedom, choice, and more.  And it is all completely intentional.   Remember I am usually on the side of the pagans and freedom here.    I would rule that a Jenny deciding to stay on land with a witch would not need to give up her power or autonomy.  That's because witches understand this. 

April 2021 A to Z

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

#AtoZChallenge2021: K is for Kelpie

Another "revised" monster today.  This one though is a revision of a monster that appeared back in the AD&D Fiend Folio from 1981.   Now I loved the Fiend Folio. While the Monster Manual was the first D&D book I ever looked at, the Fiend Folio was the first hardcover monster book I ever bought.  I would use it with my Basic and Expert Sets (Moldvay/Cook) and that would be my game.

One creature though I more or less ignored until I began reading Celtic myths was the Kelpie.

Now in the Fiend Folio, the monster Kelpie is a plant-like creature that is only superficially related to the Scottish Kelpie.  In fact, the creature in the FF has more to do with kelp (as in seaweed) than a kelpie.  So I figure I would update the creature a bit.

The Kelpie by Thomas Millie Dow, 1895
Kelpie
aka Water Horse
Medium Fey (Aquatic, Monstrous)

Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1d4)
Alignment: Chaotic [Chaotic Evil]
Movement: 90' (30') [9"]
   Swim: 120' (40') [12"]
Armor Class: 3 [16]
Hit Dice: 6d8+6* (33 hp)
THAC0: 12 (+7)
Attacks: grab
Damage: NA
Special: Charm, Shapeshift, Water breathing
Save: Monster 6
Morale: 8 (10)
Treasure Hoard Class: XIX (D) 
XP: 650 (OSE) 680 (LL)

The kelpie, also known as a water horse, is a shape-shifting creature of the fey that lures men to their watery lairs to their deaths.  The kelpie can appear as a beautiful woman, a handsome lad, a magnificent horse, or in its true form, a skinless, blood and slime-coated monster that combines the features of both humanoid and horse.   They live in dark and dangerous rivers and fast-moving streams.

The kelpie can only attack with its charming song which attacks like a powerful Charm Person spell. The kelpie will charm the person to approach her, in either her nymph or horse form. Once she gets her victim into the water she wraps herself around them with her strong limbs and drags them to the bottom of her lair where they drown. Victims are allowed a save vs. Spells at a -2 due to the power of the kelpie's song.  Once in the "arms" of the kelpie, the victim will need to make a simple Strength check (roll a d20 to roll under their strength score). They may attempt this in the first round they are underwater. They may recheck each round at a cumulative +2 penalty (added to their roll) each round hereafter. So +2 in round two, +4 in round three.  Once the penalty is greater than the victim's strength they drown.  

A kelpie in humanoid or horse form can move about the land but are recognizable by a few signs. In humanoid form, their hair always seems wet and they will wear a silver chain around their neck. In equine form, their hooves will appear to be backward from that of normal horses. They must return to their watery lair each new moon.  While in their humanoid or equine shape they may be "turned" by a cleric.  This turning treats them as a 6 HD creature, but they are not undead.  On a successful turning check, the Kelpie will revert back to their normal form and must get to her watery lair. All charm effects she has cast at that point end.

The Kelpie appears to be related to the nøkk of colder more northern waters.  They share a certain number of similarities, but the nøkk is not evil. 

Each-uisge. This creature is related to the kelpie and is if anything more monstrous and evil. Where the kelpie lives in rivers and streams, the each-uisge lives in lakes (lochs).  While it is unknown what the kelpie does with the humans she kills, the each-uisge has been known to eat its prey.

--

Updates.  

In the description line, the kelpie gets both an Aquatic and a Monstrous descriptor.

Since the Kelpie has better than average strength (14 in this case) I updated my THAC0 calculations to support Strength bonuses. This will not change most of my monsters since most have average strength.  But it will change others and give monsters in this book an edge over their counterparts in other books.   Of course, the Kelpie doesn't cause HP damage so her strength is not a factor in that.   

This is also one of the first "Variations" I have posted that don't require a full second set of stats, like the Faun and Greater Faun from last Wednesday.  The each-uisge is essentially the same creature, stats-wise, just from a different location and temperament.

Contrast this with the nøkk which is a similar creature but of a completely different temperament and nature.  While I could have used the same stats (and they are similar) they are different enough to make them a completely separate entry.  This means I should do a Nuckelavee too.


April 2021 A to Z


Saturday, April 3, 2021

#AtoZChallenge2021: C is for Cat-sìth

Another creature in the guise of an animal and we do not go too far astray from the homes of the barghest. This time the animal is a cat and creature is a Cat-sìth.   

Cat-sìth
Cat-sìth
aka Cait Sídhe
Medium Fey

Frequency: Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1d8)
Alignment: Neutral [Chaotic Neutral]
Movement: 180' (60') [18"]
Armor Class: 3 [16]
Hit Dice: 4d8+4* (22 hp)
THAC0: 15 (+4)
Attacks: 2 claws, 1 bite, + special
Damage: 1d4+1 x2, 1d6+1
Special: Bad luck, fear, low-light vision (120’), scent, speech
Save: Monster 4
Morale: 6 (6)
Treasure Hoard Class: None
XP: 200 (OSE) 215 (LL)

Cait Sídhe or Cat Sìth (Caught SHEE) are magical cat-like creatures that populate the same lands of faeries and other woodland creatures. They appear to be large cats with black fur and a spot of white on their chest. Sometimes they have white paws or even white faces.  All cat-sìth have eyes that glow yellow, orange, or green. In the lands they call home the cat-sìth are often feared to be demons or a witch in the form of a cat. In any case, the appearance of a cat sìth is a sure sign that a witch is nearby.

Cat-sìth makes sudden sprints to bring down prey. It prefers to attack small mammals and birds and rarely physically attack humanoids, though it has been recorded of a Cat-sìth adding a pixie or brownie to their diet once in a while. When dealing with humanoids a cat-sìth can defend themselves physically but prefer to use their spell-like abilities.

Bad Luck: The cat-sìth can target one victim as a recipient of a Bad Luck curse.  This cast as a Bestow Curse spell by a 4th level witch.  The victim is at a -2 on all rolls till sunrise the next day. The cat-sìth may do this up to 3/day but multiple uses on the same target are not cumulative.

Fear: The sight of a cat-sìth is so disturbing to most that it emanates a Fear Aura that acts like a fear spell cast by a 5th level caster. The difference is that the aura is limited to 5’ and the victim must be able to see the cat sìth.

The cat-sìth has low-light vision to 120’. A cat-sìth is capable of speech and can speak any language its intelligence allows. They can speak Common, Sylvan, any local language, and the language of Cats.  

The cat-sìth makes an excellent familiar. Their association with witches is long and not without cause.  Most cat-sìth avoid humanoids, with the exceptions of the fey, so the only ones likely to be encountered by humanoids are the ones in the charge of a witch. They are all believed to be in the service of the King of Cats (Cat Lord).

--

A fun little beastie.  This one adds an "AKA" line under the name, many monsters are known by other names as well. 

While this one looks like a cat it is actually a faerie creature.  Now I could have listed it as Beast (Fey) like the Barghest is Beast (Demonic), but I felt that it fit better as a proper creature of the fey.   


April 2021 A to Z


Wednesday, March 17, 2021

One Man's God: Celtic Myths, Part 2

Irish Witchcraft & Demonology
Lá Fhéile Pádraig sona daoibh!

Been a LONG time coming for this part 2.  I wanted to read some more myths of Ireland and Wales in particular before moving on.  One book, in particular, I wanted to make sure I read was Irish Witchcraft & Demonology by St. John D. Seymour. It is such a fun book that I could not pass up owning a copy, especially when I could buy it from the personal collection of Wednesday Mourning!

One of the things we must keep in mind when reading any Celtic myth or story is that the ones we have now were handed down to us from oral traditions and then recorded by Irish Christian monks.  While I am sure they did their best to preserve what they could they undoubtedly recorded them from the point of view of a Christian.  Even the later King Cycle of Irish myths included Christian themes. 

What does that mean to us, or more to the point, me and One Man's God?  Often it is not easy to tell if a "demon" from a Celtic Myth is a demon in their own world view OR a demon from the Christian world view.  Don't claim they all have to be Christian, we don't know and the experts are also split. But that honestly should not matter to us.  I don't care if they are a "Celtic demon" or "Christian demon,"  are they a "Monster Manual Demon?"

Thankfully we have some candidates. But first let's go back to our primary source, the AD&D Deities & Demigods

I mentioned in my Part 1 that there are not a lot of great candidates for demons in the text of the D&DG. I even disagree with the idea that Arawn is Lawful Evil. After rereading the First Branch of the Mabinogi I see the Lawful, but not the Evil.  Lawful Neutral is a better fit really. His abode, Annwn, is described as beautiful, unchanging, and without pain or suffering.  Hardly the MO of an evil god.

There are creatures though that could be described as demons.

Irish Witchcraft & Demonology and Celtic Myths

Air Demon

I did a write-up a bit ago about the Swan Maidens and the Children of Lir.  In the tale Aoifé, step-mother of the Children of Lir, turned the children into swans. As punishment, she was changed into a Demon of the Air.  We know from the tale that demons of the air are immortal.  

Air Demon
FREQUENCY:  Very Rare
NO.  APPEARING:  1-4
ARMOR CLASS: 2
MOVE:  0" Fly 24"
HIT DICE:  4+4 (22 hp)
%  IN  LAIR:  0%
TREASURE  TYPE:  Nil
NO.  OF  ATTACKS:  1
DAMAGE/ATTACK:  Wind Blast 1d6 (60')
SPECIAL  ATTACKS:  Chill (2d4) x3, Invisible
SPECIAL  DEFENSES:  +1  or  better weapon to hit
MAGIC  RESISTANCE:  25%
INTELLIGENCE:  Average
ALIGNMENT:  Chaotic  Evil
SIZE:  M  (5')
PSIONIC ABILITY:  Nil

Wind Demons are among the weakest of demons.  They lack physical bodies and are functionally invisible.  Detect magic, detect evil, or detect invisible will reveal the location of the demon, which will appear as a faint outline of a humanoid creature.  The creature's evil intent is dampened only by their inability to interact with physical items including people. 

They try to cause havoc as much as they can in their own limited way.  They can attack with blasts of wind that whip up items to cause damage.  Additionally, three times per day the Air Demon can cause a blast of chill wind for 2d4 hp of damage to anyone within 15' of the location of the demon.

Air Demons are pitied more often than feared.  Their blasts of wind are ineffective from a distance and their howls of rage are sounds of a gale. They are immortal but lacking substance they can never interact with anything.  Even other air demons are as mist to them.

Demon Boar

The importance of the wild boar and the boar hunt in Celtic myth and even life can't be understated. The Welsh prince Twrch Trwyth was transformed into a boar.  Diarmuid the Irish warrior and member of the Fianna goes on a boar hunt but is killed by the Great Boar of Ben Bulben who had been his transformed half-brother. There are plenty of other examples of boars as monsters in Irish my including one with Cú Chulainn about a giant boar with tusks of gold and a hide as thick as armor. 

Demon Boar
FREQUENCY:  Very Rare
NO.  APPEARING:  1
ARMOR CLASS: -1
MOVE:  18"
HIT DICE:  9+9 (50 hp)
%  IN  LAIR:  25%
TREASURE  TYPE:  Nil
NO.  OF  ATTACKS:  1 gore (slashing)
DAMAGE/ATTACK:  2d8+4
SPECIAL  ATTACKS: Cause Fear
SPECIAL  DEFENSES:  Magic weapon to hit
MAGIC  RESISTANCE:  25%
INTELLIGENCE:  Low
ALIGNMENT:  Chaotic  Evil
SIZE:  L  (8')
PSIONIC ABILITY:  Nil

The demon boar is a demonic spirit that inhabits the body of a boar and creates a true monster. 

The boar grows large and fierce. Its tusks become gold and razor-sharp.  Its hooves become iron and cause flames to erupt as it runs.   Its natural hide is thick as armor. It is immune to all but magical weapons.

The Demon Boar is intelligent enough to plan and scheme.  Some can even speak.  Its normal tactic is to encounter a group of hunters and use its Cause Fear to scatter them into smaller groups.   It then will pick off the hunters one by one.  It relishes in the death and fear it causes.    It lives only to kill great heroes.

Only great weapons such as the Gáe Bulg of Cú Chulainn or the Claíomh Solais of Nuada Airgeadlámh have any chance of bringing this fiend down.

Irish Ways and Irish Laws

I love Celtic myth and history. It is all just so fantastic and fascinates me a in way that Greek and Norse myths never did, though the Norse myths come close.

Since I mentioned the book Irish Witchcraft & Demonology I should link out to the write-up I did on Ireland's most notorious witch, Alice Kyteler.

One of my favorite bits of Irish and Celtic mythology for a game is Brian Young's Castles & Crusades Codex Celtarum.  Brian has a Ph.D. in Bythronic languages and has been a gamer even longer.  He is exactly the sort of person I'd want to write a book like this.  Sure, you don't need a Ph.D. to write game materials, but it sure helps! 

And finally here is one I just found today, but it has been up for a bit.  FilmRise has the entire 1987, 6-part BBC Studios documentary, The Celts, on YouTube.  This fantastic documentary educated many on the history and archeology of the Celts as well as introducing the world to the music of Enya.



Go n-éirí an bóthar leat!

Monday, March 8, 2021

Monstrous Mondays: Gwragedd Annwn (Swan Maidens)

I have been digging through some old documents this past week. Some old Ravenloft ones (the new Ravenloft book has me excited), some stuff on Irish myths (it is March after all), and even some of my old Color Computer files (I have...my reasons).  One thing that came up a few times was an adventure I had written for Ravenloft back in 88 or 89 that featured a group of Swanmays and their betrayal and the hands of a drow assassin. 

While the adventure itself would need some serious reworking to make it ready for primetime, I did do a lot of research on Swanmaidens, Swan women, and other similar creatures.

I figured an update was in order.

Gwragedd Annwn (Swan Maidens)

Medium Humanoid (Fey)

Frequency: Rare
Number Appearing: 1d4 (1d6)
Alignment: Lawful [Neutral Good]
Movement: 120' (40') [12"]
   Fly (in swan form): 180' (60') [18"]
   Swim: 150' (50') [15"]

Armor Class: 7 [12]
Hit Dice: 2d8* (9 hp)
   Gwragedd Annwn, 3rd level: 3d8* (14 hp) 
   Gwragedd Annwn, 4th level: 4d8* (18 hp) 
   Gwragedd Annwn, 5th level: 5d8* (23 hp) 
   Gwragedd Annwn, 6th level: 6d8* (27 hp) 
   Gwragedd Annwn, 7th level: 7d8* (32 hp) 
   Gwragedd Annwn, 8th level: 8d8* (36 hp) 
   Gwragedd Annwn, 9th level: 9d8* (41 hp) 
   Gwragedd Annwn, 10th level: 10d8* (45 hp) 
   Gwragedd Annwn, 11th level: 11d8* (50 hp) 
   Gwragedd Annwn, 12th level: 12d8* (54 hp) 
   Gwragedd Annwn, 13th level: 13d8* (59 hp) 
   Gwragedd Annwn, 14th level: 14d8* (63 hp)
 
Attacks: claw, claw, bite
Damage: 1d6+4 x2, 1d8+4
Special: Shape change, magic required to hit, Swan Song
Size: Medium
Save: Fighter 2-14
Morale: 10 (12)
Treasure Hoard Class: VI (U)
XP: 25 (OSE) 29 (LL) 
    3rd level: 50 (OSE) 65 (LL) 
    4th level: 125 (OSE) 135 (LL) 
    5th level: 300 (OSE) 350 (LL) 
    6th level: 500 (OSE) 570 (LL) 
    7th level: 850 (OSE) 790 (LL) 
    8th level: 1,200 (OSE) 1,060 (LL) 
    9th level: 1,600 (OSE) 1,700 (LL) 
   10th level: 1,600 (OSE) 1,700 (LL) 
   11th level: 1,900 (OSE) 2,000 (LL) 
   12th level: 1,900 (OSE) 2,000 (LL) 
   13th level: 2,300 (OSE) 2,450 (LL) 
   14th level: 2,300 (OSE) 2,450 (LL) 

The Gwragedd Annwn, also known as Swan Maidens, are humanoid maidens capable of turning into a swan. They only have this power while they remain unmarried. In this state, they are also considered to be creatures of the Fey.

All Gwragedd Annwn are rangers of a level equal to their HD. They will be equipped accordingly. Instead of cleric and magic-user spells these warriors may choose druid and witch spells respectively. They are fierce enemies of evil and chaos and fight it wherever they can.

They can attack with any weapon of their choosing. Most prefer to use finely crafted swords or longbows.

Employing a feather token they can transform into a large swan. It is believed that once they take a husband, they must give this token to him. Many are loathe to do that.

Many feel they can trace their lineage back to the great king Lir whose children were transformed into swans by their jealous step-mother.

Swan Song: If a Gwragedd Annwn is reduced to 0 hp she can begin a Swan Song.  This song is similar in power to the Banshee keening, and will cause all around her, foe and friend, to experience profound sadness and will be unable to take any further action (no saving throw permitted).  If she is heard by her sisters they will fly to her in swan shape to return her to their sanctuary.  At this point she will either be healed or will die.  It is believed that a swan song can only be used once in the life of a Gwragedd Annwn.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Character Creation Challenge: Keltia

Keltia, the Chronicles of Arthur Pendraeg
First of a two-parter today!  I delve into a game I REALLY wanted to play more of, but is now out of print from it's English publisher.  The games are Keltia and Yggdrasill, two games that really capture the feel of the Post-Roman Celtic and Norse worlds.  Both use the same base system and both really grab my attention. Today for part one I will focus on Keltia.

The Game: Keltia

Keltia, or Keltia, the Chronicles of Arthur Pendraeg, is from the French publisher Le 7ème Cercle (The 7th Circle) and was published in English first by my good friends at Cubicle 7.  The game is set roughly in the years following the exit of the Romans from Britain.  There are mentions of Roman civilization and Christianity, but this is a purely Celtic world.  Or rather, it is a world of the Celts of Myth, Legend, and Folklore.

It is the Dark Ages, but this isn't the one you read about in history books. This is a game-world; so not Britain exactly, but Ynys Prydein.  It uses a lot of Welsh so already it has my undivided attention.

This game is quite good and character creation was pretty fast.  Again, there are a lot of options and I really must come back to this one in the future.  I can see using this in conjunction with Troll Lord's Codex Celtarum for Castles & Crusades.  Both cover similar ground and one would easily work as a background and as a supplement for the other.

I am rather fond of the Mind/Body/Soul stat groups.  I was working on something similar a long time ago, but that work eventually became NIGHT SHIFT.

Lars and Siân

The Character: Siân ferch Sinéad

In a lot of ways Siân is not just the main reason I wanted to try out Keltia, she is also the reason I wanted to do this challenge.   Siân ferch Sinéad is the mother of my iconic witch Larina.  Tomorrow I will feature her father Lars. If you have been a long time reader here you will recognize her as also being one of my playtest characters for The Craft of the Wise: The Pagan Witch Tradition for Old-School Essentials.

Siân (along with Lars) was featured with her "Irish" name, Siân nic Stefon.  She is the daughter of Stefon and Sinéad; nic and ferch being the Irish and Welsh (respectively) way of meaning "daughter."

These though are Siân's and Lars earliest days.

Siân is the daughter of a Druid and High Priestess, so she follows in her mother's footsteps and will become a high priestess as well. She is a bit haughty and this comes out in her Arrogance weakness.  She certainly feels her culture is superior to all others.  It is not until she meets Lars, a "Gogleddwr" (Northman), that her ideas begin to change.

Siân ferch Modron
Siân

Siân ferch Sinéad
Archetype: Wise One
Profession: Priestess of Avalon
Kingdom: Cymru

Gifts: Blood of the Ancients, Scholar
Weakness: Arrogant

BODY
Strength: 1
Vigor: 2
Agility: 2

MIND
Intellect: 2
Perception: 3
Tenacity: 2

SOUL
Charisma: 3
Instinct: 2
Communication: 2

Reaction: 7
Physical Defense: 6
Mental Defense: 6

HP: 26

Furor Pool: 6

Skills
Art (song) 3, Knowledge (Ritual) 7, Languages (Brythonic), Ogham 7, Traditions 6
Awen 7
Short Weapons 3

Spells (Priestess of Avalon)
Sense Awen 1, Blessing of the Gods 1, Read Omens 1, In the Arms of Dôn 1

I like how this character is shaping up.  I would use Keltia and the Codex Celtarum to inform how she would be played in Old-School Essentials.

Looking forward to seeing how her future husband turns out tomorrow!