Showing posts with label demon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label demon. Show all posts

Monday, March 6, 2023

Monstrous Monday: Malarea, Outcast Duke of Hell

Malarea, Outcast Duke of Hell
I do love a good research project. 

Last week I posted This Old Dragon #91, which listed many outcasts devils for the AD&D 1st Edition game. Among these was Malarea (an obvious play on Malaria, and pronounced Mahl-ah -ree -ah).  Of course, I wanted to learn more about her, but there is precious little about her in the article.  So I started my deep dive.  

This is almost, but not quite, detailed enough for an In Search Of... style post, but it is perfect for a Monstrous Monday.

What Is Known

The Dragon article reveals that she is a former Duke (Duchess) of Hell. She wanted to be counted among the consorts of the Archdukes of Hell, even to the point where she had assaulted an unnamed Duke's consort and would kill all the other consorts to get her way. She is violent and erratic.

At some point after her exile to Avernus, she sought out the courtship of the up-and-coming Bel only to be rejected by him.

She is described as:

... tall, human-like female with huge black wings, which tower 6 feet above her own head when furled; in short, rather like an erinyes. Her eyes are fiery red, her hair long, greasy, and black, her body sleek but powerfully muscled and of a faintly luminescent, "ghostly" white hue. Her hands have long claws, and she has large, vampire-like fangs.

- Dragon Magainze (91), October 1984, p. 24

And...that is largely it to be honest. She has stats in Dragon 91 and a mention in Fiendish Codex II: Tyrants Of The Nine Hells for D&D 3.5.

So let me look into who might have been likely to interact with her.

Connections

Bel

The former Archduke Bel was once her quarry, but he had rebuffed her. This had to have made her even more furious than being rebuffed by any of the other Archdukes. After all, Bel was essentially just an elevated Pit Fiend, and she was an Archdevil. I would imagine that she would do anything to see him defeated or humiliated in some way.

Malagard

These two share similar names and some physical appearances, but they are quite different. I mention her here because, for a bit, I considered making them the same person. The deeper lore of both prevents this, really.

Tiamat

We know that Malarea went out of her way to avoid Tiamat. This was back in the AD&D 1st Ed lore when Tiamat was the ruler of Avernus. It has since been retconned that Zariel was the ruler, and Bel overthrew her.  So maybe, from this point of view, Malarea avoided Zariel. 

Zariel

The former and current ruler of Avernus is the former Angel Zariel. If we follow the 4e and 5e notions that all the Erinyes were former angels, it stands to reason that Malarea was also one. Malarea and Zariel are physically strong, given over to fits of rage and violence, and have similar appearances and backgrounds. Are they the same? Again, I am going to go with no. Both have elements in their backstory that are largely incompatible. Malarea seeks to be counted among the consorts of Hell. Zariel wants to destroy all the devils and rule Hell on her own.

Malarea Today

What would Malarea be up to today? I imagine her status has not changed much. While there have been great upheavals in Hell in the last 40 years, change still moves slowly for the most part. 

Malarea, Outcast Duke of Hell
Malarea, Outcast Duke of Hell

Large Fiend (Diabolic, Baalseraph)

Frequency: Unique
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic [Lawful Evil]
Movement: 90' (30') [9"]
  Fly: 240' (90') [24"]
Armor Class: -1 [20]
Hit Dice: 21d8****** (116 hp)
 Large: 21d20****** (137 hp)
To Hit AC 0: 6 (+14)
Attacks: 1 weapon or 2 claws, 1 bite, wing buffet
Damage: Weapon +2, 1d4+2 x2, 1d4, 1d12
Special: Baalseraph powers and immunities, magic resistance (70%), regeneration (1 hp/ 2 rounds), spell-like abilities (see below), summoning, +2 or better weapons to hit
Save: Monster 21
Morale: 12 (NA)
Treasure Hoard Class: See Below
XP: 15,250 (OSE) 15,750 (LL)

Str: 17 (+2) Dex: 17 (+2) Con: 13 (+1) Int: 16 (+2) Wis: 14 (+1) Cha: 14 (+1)

From Dragon Magainze (91), October 1984, p. 24-25:

Malarea is a bitter and envious devil. She despises many of the consorts of the Nine Hells and desires (to the point of mania) to join their ranks. If she has to slay them all to claim her rightful place among them, she will do so unhesitatingly, but rude defeats on the occasions of her bold, direct assaults in the past have made her more cautious.

Malarea remains a fiercely combative, fractious devil, given to sudden berserk rages and wild physical attacks. This temperament cost her a consortship or other position in the hierarchy of the hells, and has undoubtedly earned her her present exile. She has learned little, however: if she recognizes an archdevil, duke, or unique greater devil, she will pause to ascertain their situation and intentions before she attacks - but she almost always attacks eventually, except when faced with impossible odds. Lesser devils and intruders are her prey - she will attack any such creatures immediately, swooping at them to bite (1d4 damage) and strike with a lance, spear, or other weapon gained from a previous victim, or bare-handed with her iron-hard claws (1d4+2). Malarea is a strong flyer, and often buffets airborne opponents with her great wings, or rams into them at full speed (1d12 damage).

Malarea can use the following spell-like powers at will, one at a time and once per round:  pyrotechnics, produce flame, wall of fire, detect magic, dispel magic, detect invisibility, hold person, and polymorph self. She can shed fear in a 2' radius at will (save vs. spell to avoid), and can cast a delayed blast fireball (5d6) three times per day. 

Malarea appears as a tall, human-like female with huge black wings (28' wing span), which tower 6 feet above her head when furled; in short, she is like an Erinyes. Her eyes are fiery red, her hair long, greasy, and black, her body sleek but powerfully muscled and of a faintly luminescent, ghostly white hue. Her hands have long claws, and she has large, vampire-like fangs. She

is usually encountered wearing some gaudy trophy of a previous victim - a gleaming necklace or jeweled belt, but she cares nothing for the value of such items and will carelessly discard one for another of gaudier appearance

This was Malarea as of the mid-1980s and 1st Edition AD&D.  We know from the Fiendish Codex II that she was still an outcast as of the mids 2000s and 3rd Edition D&D.  She seems to be too strong willed and angry to have changed her status. 

How desperate is she today? Would she even approach Zariel for her consortship? I can see Malarea considering it but not Zariel. Besides, both devils are far too angry at their own situations.

I think if I were to update her some more (and I have an event coming up in my games that would fit the bill) I might make her the captain of the Erinyes. Her name has Latin roots (sorta) so I might rename her into something with Greek roots. Her name is close enough to Megaera ("the jealous one") for me to work with.  I have done a lot of work with the Erinyes, the Keres, and the Dirae, so I am "in the market" for a leader of this group of devils. Someone other than Glasya. I just need to figure out who Tisiphone and Alecto are. Alecto, in particular, will be a challenge since some of her myths overlap with Nemesis's. 

This works in another way since the Eriyes/Furies were said in Ovid's Metamorphoses to guard the gates to Dis. In D&D geography, this would put them in Avernus. 

Now I just need two more unattached archdevils.


Links

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Sympathy for the Succubus, Part 4: In Search of the Sutherland Succubus

I have stumbled on some new information so I have decided to combine an older feature, Sympathy for the Succubus, with a newer one, In Search of, for something new.  In particular, my search for the roots of the succubus in D&D. 

You can see my first three parts here:

Today I want to explore one of the "urban legends" of the early days of D&D. The David Sutherland III succubus art from the AD&D 1st Ed Monster Manual.

Let's start with what everyone knows or thinks they know. 

Two 1977 publications
Two 1977 Publications. What do they have in common?

Oh, Sheila!

Sheila Mullen
Shelia Mullen
Sheila Mullen was the Playboy Playmate of the month for May 1977.  Certainly, the time period was right. The Monster Manual was published in December 1977. There are even a few pictures that *could be* right. The one to your right is a cropped version of the biggest contender. 

This notion has been taken up by many modern writers, bloggers, and chroniclers, myself included.  

Likely the source of all of this is the Blog of Holding. Which only claims that the "body of one of these original succubi was copied from a Playboy centerfold."  Sheila Mullen was a centerfold for 1977, making her the likeliest of choices.

Except that is *mostly* wrong.

Sweet as Honey

The date of 1977 is right, but the month was October. And it wasn't a centerfold.

I apologize for not remembering who it was that first clued me in on this idea, but it sent me down a rabbit hole of searching. 

This issue is rather famous for having an interview with Barbara Streisand. I posted the cover above. The centerfold/Playmate is Kristine Winder, who sadly passed in 2011 at 55 from breast cancer. But neither she nor Sheila Mullen lived on in the pages of the Monster Manual. 

No, that honor belongs to Honey Wells.

Miss Wells was featured in the "Ladies of Joy" pictorial by John Bowers, with photography by Robert Scott Hooper. It featured women in "the world's oldest profession." 

As you can see here with the Sutherland Succubus, her photo is a good match.

Honey Wells
Honey Wells and the Succubus. Covered for your protection as much as mine

We don't know much about Miss Wells here. Save for what she tells us.

Honey Wells

So there is no real way to research Miss Wells here. I doubt that is even her real name. Not to mention that this is a 45-year-old article, so much could have happened since then. If alive, she would be in her mid to late 60s now.

Which is too bad. I wonder if she ever knew that her pictorial inspired this art and that art was held in such fond memories of an entire generation of gamers.

Now I will concede that the succubus pic is likely inspired by Honey Wells and Sheila Mullen. The hands and hair fit a similar pose on Miss Mullen (pictured above), and the overall pose is Miss Wells.

Sadly David Sutherland passed away in 2005, so I can't approach him and confirm. Indeed, it was also more than 45 years ago, and any memory is likely blurred. 

Though it is comforting that Sutherland, Wells, and yes, Mullen have a bit of D&D Immortality to call their own. 

Thursday, December 8, 2022

One Man's God Special: Syncretism Part 4, Orcus and Dispater

This post really is a transitory one.  It takes on ideas from my One Man's God and my One Man's God Special: Syncretism and transitions it in-a-matter of speaking to my new In Search Of posts. 

Today I want to talk about syncretism, but not in the sense I have in my last few posts. I covered the basics of syncretism a while back. In two different posts syncretized the Greek and Egyptian gods and the Roman and Norse gods.  It is to the Greek and Roman gods that I turn today.  In particular, I will focus on the Roman side of the Greek One Man's God posts in OMG: Greek and Roman Mythos, Part 4 Tales of Brave Ulysses, and my attention is on Orcus. 

In Search of Orcus

Demon Lord Orcus
Orcus, Demon Prince of the Undead

Orcus has always been a major bad guy in my and many others' games. Not just because he is a great demon lord and master of the undead, that is plenty of reason, but even more so from the very mysterious Etruscan background of the god Orcus

I mentioned Hades a lot in this series before. He is the God of the Underworld and was so feared that he was often never called on by name, he gains the epithet "The Rich One" and, much later on, "The Lord of this World," something that has also been later attributed to Satan. 

As Greek myths merged into Roman myths, several gods were syncretized to arrive at the Roman Pluto.  These include many gods of the underworld, the dead (but not death), and riches such as the Etruscan Atia, the Etruscan Tuchulcha, and the Roman Dīs Pater.   Mixed in all of this are the Greek Horkos and Roman/Etruscan Orcus

This is what is going on in our world. But what of the worlds of Dungeons & Dragons?

I'll be 100% honest here. I think the "official" history of Orcus is pure garbage. Orcus starting out as a human? No. Not in my world. Orcus was a god. Romans swore sacred oaths to him. He has a dwarf planet named for him. He was not some human necromancer. He was more.

But before I get to Orcus and what he was or is, I want to discuss Dis.

In Search of Dīs Pater

Dispater, The Iron Duke
Dispater, the Iron Duke

I will admit that the AD&D Dispater was always one of my favorite devils. Looking into his official background is more appealing than it is for Orcus, largely because there is not much of it.  I think role-playing wise I molded him after the devil character from the TV series "From the Brothers Grimm" episode Bearskin. Sort of the evil gentleman devil.  

In later editions of D&D, the "Iron Duke" have become akin to an infernal arms dealer and paranoid. Certainly an interesting choice but how does that square with the Dīs Pater, or Rex Infernus, of Roman myth?

Both Dispater and Dīs Pater are very wealthy. Both are considered to be the Lord of the Underworld (or at least one of them). Dīs Pater has a connection with the dead via Pluto/Hades who he was conflated later on. Dispater's only connection with the dead is via the souls he traffics in Hell.

Like the god Orcus and later on Satan, Dīs Pater is a good of riches and "Lord of the World."  This does fit into the notions of how Dispater is currently being presented.

How the Gods Die, and are Reborn

Things with Gods never should be clean-cut. If there is nothing else I want to show here, then let it be that Gods and Demons are a messy bunch.  They live, and they can die, and they can be split up and recombined.

I mentioned in my Syncretism of the Greco-Egyptian Gods that, in some cases, scholars have pointed to the syncretism of Set and Hades in early notions of the Christian Satan. There is more than this of course (see the "messy" note above), but this is a good start for me today.

One of the themes I like to play with in my games is the conflict between the old and new gods, or more specifically, the conflict between Paganism and the rise of Monotheism. In D&D this has its manifestation in the Dawn War

In my games the servants of the good gods, angels, and the like, who fell became the Baalseraph or the unique devils.  Demons have various origins, but some used to be gods.

Orcus used to be a God. 

Sort of.  In my overly complicated mythologies here Orcus was an avatar of a God of the Dead. I am currently using Hades/Pluto as a stand-in here but I will come up with something later. So this God of the Dead creates an avatar and this is Orcus of Roman myth, he also has another avatar, more akin to Dīs Pater but is more of psychopomp (like Hermes or Vanth).  Here is where things get weird. This god is killed, maybe during the Dawn War, maybe before. The two avatars do not die, but rather go a little mad, each thinking they are the rightful heir to this god's mantle. Both "fall" and are "demonized." The psychopomp of Dīs Pater falls and becomes Dispater the Iron Duke.  The other avatar is demonized to become Orcus, the Demon Prince of the Undead.

Each remembers being a god, if somewhat vaguely.  For Orcus, this manifests in his desire to become a God himself and his rage to destroy all life when he can't. For Dispater, this manifests as his extreme paranoia, his desire to control all around him, and his hoarding of his wealth.

It also has one other aspect may be unique to my games.  Orcus and Dispater hate each other. It is a deep existential dread that the other has something they need OR need to destroy. Both work against the other. Their warlocks, priests, and cultists (who have rituals that are oddly similar) work against each other.  It goes beyond anything that the Blood War might suggest; it is a personal hatred they share.

What would happen if Dispater and Orcus put aside their animosity and worked together? Or worse, what if some magic was used to re-combine them back into the God they were?  I shudder to think to be honest, but there is no way that would be good for anyone.

Maybe there is a third part of this god. A Neutral Evil one that does know what they were and what roles Orcus (CE) and Dispater (LE) play in this. Who is that entity? What do they want?

I still might take a page from Christopher Golden and Thomas E. Sniegoski's series, The Menagerie, and have Hades dead. This third creature, likely much weaker than the other two, would live in the remains of Hades' kingdom.

Links

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

October Horror Movie Challenge: Bulbbul (2020)

Bulbbul (2020)
I have not watched many films from India despite my enjoyment of many of their action films. So tonight was another choice by my wife (who also loves the all-singing and all-dancing Bollywood movies). 

Bulbbul (2020)

Bulbbul is a child bride in the Bengal Presidency, India in 1881. She thinks her husband-to-be is Satya, but instead it is his much older brother Indranil. Over the next 20 years they grow up Bulbbul becomes much closer to Satya.  So close that Indranil arranges to send Satya to London.  

Much of the movie is given in various flashbacks. We see Satya telling Bulbbul a story about a demon-woman witch (a Churel or Chudail) who lives in the trees and kills men. Her most notable feature is her feet; they are on backward. They spend the next few years writing the story out. Satya leaves for London early causing Bulbbul to get upset and burn her story. Her husband finds the partially burn book but only sees "Satya and Bulbbul" not realizing that it was both their names as authors.  Indranil goes to Bulbbul who is bathing, he pulls her out of the tub where he beats her with a fireplace poker. We don't see anything but blood.

He beats so bad that her legs are broken and her feet are deformed.  While she is in bed with her legs trussed up to heal. Shamed, Indranil leaves the manor and leaves his twin's wife Binodini in charge. His twin, Mahendra, is also mentally challenged.  While essentially tied down Mahendra comes to her room and rapes her.  Later Binodini cleaning Bulbbul up tells her that she is in a very rich family and she should just keep quiet and everything will be fine.

Back to the present Satya has returned home to discover that Mahendra is dead, Binodini is living in one of the smaller houses on the manor property and previously shy Bulbbul is the undisputed Lady of the house.  Meanwhile men in the local village are all being killed. Satya thinks it is some sort of animal, the villagers say it is the Witch.

Satya decides, because he went to Law School in London I guess, to investigate on his own.  After he finds the body of a man in a tree he decides that it must be a man doing the killing. When asked by Bulbbul "why not a woman?" he laughs her off. 

Satya begins to suspect Dr. Sudip who has been at every man's home recently.  He takes him at gunpoint to arrest him. Sudip isn't worried and is quite blasé about it. Satya says the only way he will be seen as innocent if there really is a witch. At that point, there is a thud, and the carriage stops.  Satya finds the driver dead. Satya tells the Doctor he is innocent because the witch is real and he is going to kill the witch. The Doctor tries to stop him (knowing who the witch is). Satya and the Doctor fight and in the process start a fire with their torches.  Satya runs into the forest, following the same paths he and Bulbbul did as children and he realizes that it is Bulbbul doing all the killings.

We now see (here and in flashbacks) that it is Bulbbul killing all the men. Each one had done something to harm a woman; the husband who broke his wife's bones, the husband who took a younger second wife and the first killed herself, the older man raping little girls and also Mahendra. She uses her mutilated feet to run in the treetops like the Churel in the stories. By now the fire has engulfed the forest and Bulbbul is trapped up a tree. Staya leaves.

Sometime later Indranil returns to his now deserted manor. He is lying in bed alone when he sees a cloud of smoke. The smoke solidifies into a burning figure that becomes Bulbbul.

--

Ok! This one was a lot of fun and completely unexpected. Great choice.


October Horror Movie Challenge 2022
Viewed: 39
First Time Views: 29

October Horror Movie Challenge 2022


Wednesday, October 5, 2022

October Horror Movie Challenge: Enter the Devil (1974)

Enter the Devil (1974)
1974 is a sweet spot for cheesy Italian Giallo horror. I don't think I have seen them all, but I have seen a lot.  

This one is also known as "L'ossessa" and "The Eerie Midnight Horror Show" (complete with Rocky Horror-style lips) it revolves around a religious statue of crucified Jesus purchased by Danila (Stella Carnacina). Luisa (Lucretia Love) It is obvious from the start that the "statue" is an actor (Ivan Rassimov) in heavy makeup but that is fine.

It is 1974, so the Exorcist is on EVERY Horror filmmaker's mind and this movie is no exception. 

Danila is some sort of art expert so she is working with the statue.  But while at a party she watches her mother,  in some sort of S&M affair with a younger man she leaves to go back to work. There she is all alone with the statue.  When he starts to move it is no surprise, but I wonder what the audiences in 1974 thought?  Likely they saw the same things we do now.   Eventually, the statue transforms into a human and in one stroke rips off ALL of Danila's clothes (neat trick that) they have very enthusiastic sex while the place burns...or not. It could all be in Danila's mind.  But she does keep experiencing things and no one believes her.   

Naturally, she is possessed and tries to seduce her own father. They bring over a psychiatrist whose professional opinion is that she is unduly affected by her work. They head out to the country ("Better than any medicine" according to the medical professional) but they get a flat and Danila wanders off into an "Etruscan temple to Baal" where she sees an ancient ceremony to Satan.  In mid-hallucination, she is back in her own bed again freaking out. When the doctor examines her she does have the stigmata wounds inflicted on her in her hallucination.

I give the movie credit, they try really hard to make this a serious movie about an exorcism.  They get a priest in and I can't help but notice her room is set up similar to Regan's in The Exorcist.

The later half is basically Danila going crazy and various priests trying to exorcise her and it sorta falls apart here. 

Still, a neat idea even if not executed as well as the filmmaker might have liked.

Use for War of the Witch Queens

I love the idea of the old statue coming to life and the "Etruscan temple to Baal" just screams Orcus to me for D&D use.

Use for NIGHT SHIFT

All I could think of while watching this one was I need to figure out a way to do a psychiatrist or psychologist in NIGHT SHIFT.

October Horror Movie Challenge 2022
Viewed: 5
First Time Views: 4

October Horror Movie Challenge 2022

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Introducing the Demon Lord Akelarre!

I was going to wait until this was painted or until I worked up some more stats for him, but the truth is I am just too excited. So here is the newest 3d print fresh off our resin printer!

Demon Lord Akelarre

When painted he will look like this: 

Demon Lord Akelarre

I made him on Hero Forge, downloaded the STL, my youngest printed him out, and with a bit of luck, I'll get my wife to paint him! 

He is based on the various Demon-Goat creatures, mostly featured in the witch sabbat paintings of Francisco Goya.

Goya

Goya

Akelarre is the Basque word (where Goya is from) for a Witches' Sabbath.  The name of both of these paintings from Goya is "Akelarre."

I wanted a new demon lord, one associated with evil witches. The role in my games in the past has largely been filled by Graz'zt. But I wanted someone I had more creative control over. I also wanted someone that was also like Éliphas Lévi's Baphomet.  He will serve as the witches' "Dark Man" as mentioned in many witchcraft trials. In Europe that was always considered to be the Devil or a at the very least a high-level demon.  Well...here he is!

Before I get too deep into his history and background I want to share this print. 

AkelarreAkelarre

Akelarre

The mini is depicted as 20 ft tall, so the Akelarre himself would be 15 ft tall. So smaller than say Demogorgon in AD&D 1st ed and about the size of Orcus.

Given the work my wife did on Gog and Magog, I am really looking forward to seeing what she does with this guy.

Now...what will be done first? My wife painting him or me getting his stats done!

Thursday, June 30, 2022

One Man's God: Castles & Crusades Gods & Legends

Castles & Crusades Gods & Legends
A couple weeks back I posted a One Man's God using the AD&D 2nd Edition Legends & Lore.  I mentioned at the time that this falls outside of the scope of the original concept of my OMG posts; that is can I take creatures from the Deities & Demigods and re-classify them as AD&D 1st Edition demons. Not historical demons, not mythological demons, but 1st Edition demons.

Since I have spent this week discussing Castles & Crusades I have often talked about how this game is the spiritual successor to AD&D.  Do their books on gods also follow?  Or to be more precise, can I do a One Man's God post on the C&C god books?

When it comes to discussing gods, demigods, and heroes Castles & Crusades is really second to none here. There Codex series, written by Brian Young, is some of the best-researched material for an RPG ever produced.   

Gods and Demons in Castles & Crusades

You are not going to find stats for gods in C&C.  They are not meant to be fought. There are however plenty of gods to encounter. I covered many of these in the various Codex books by Brian Young.

There is also the Gods & Legends book which I'll cover here and use as my basis for this One Man's God.  

Demons are well covered in the Tome of the Unclean from Troll Lords.  Tome of the Unclean follows pretty close to the AD&D standard demon with what I often refer to as "the Usual Suspects," so all the "Type" demons and succubi.  So while I could more properly compare the C&C gods to the proper C&C demons, I think everything is close enough that I can continue with my original purpose of comparing these gods to the AD&D demons.  If there are any differences they are so minor as not to be an issue.  Besides. These are gods and demons we are talking about, there will always be exceptions to the rules.

Gods & Legends

For the purposes of this review, I am considering the PDF from DriveThruRPG. 

PDF. 144 pages. Color covers, black & white interior art. Bookmarked and hyperlinked.  Written by Davis Chenault with contributions by Steven Chenault, Brian Young, Jason Vey, and Todd Gray.

This book largely replaces the Of Gods & Monsters book from a few years back, though it is smaller in size, 144 pages vs 162. I say replaces, but this is a new set of work. The original Of Gods and Monsters was written by James Ward of Deities & Demigods fame.  There are similar gods in both books but this new version is a rewrite of the older work with new entires to work better with the Codex series.

This book is divided into three(ish) large sections.

The Anvil of the Gods

This section covers how gods work in a Castles & Crusades game, how the Castle Keeper can play them, and how the characters can relate to them. This section also gives advice on designing a pantheon. Unlike the original Deities & Demigods that seemed to want to shy away from religion, this book acknowledges it and all the myriad combinations (within the space of this book) religions can take.  The focus here though is not a religious academic text (and Troll Lords has at least two people, Young and Vey, on staff with graduate degrees in religious studies, literature, and history) but more on how these manifest and work in an RPG, and in Castles & Crusades in particular. To this end there is advice on how to run and play gods and how they should interact with the PCs. 

Common deific abilities are defined with Greater, Lesser, and Demi-god statuses. Details are given to how the gods relate to the clerics and paladin classes, alignments, and other archetypes.  Holy symbols and characters with divine traits are also covered. Divine traits include the healing touch.

Of the Gods

This is the largest section of the book, detail-wise. This covers what could properly be called the Gods of Aihrde, the Castles & Crusades campaign world.  A brief overview of the basic deity characteristics is first. Up first are the human gods of Aihrde. This is the section that is most like the older Of Gods and Monsters book.

Gods of Aihrde

Some sections are the same as in the older book, many do look to be rewritten.  The art is used from the older text but I do not see an issue with that. Many gods here get more text as well.  Many of the Aihrde gods take cues and ideas from Earth gods. This is also not a big deal and in fact no different than the gods of the Forgotten Realms. In fact I am going to go out on a limb here and say the process to create these gods (from the Chenault home games no doubt) was very similar to what Ed himself did when he created the Forgotten Realms Gods.  Maybe one day I need to go through this pantheon and the Forgotten Realms ones and see what gods they have in common.  The obvious "Earth" gods are the All Father (Odin), The moon sisters (Diana, Artemis), Frafnog (Fáfnir, Midgard Serpent), Tefnut, Toth, Unklar (Chernbog), and Wenafar (Titania).  Again, I like seeing this stuff. It immediately gives me a hook.  If Frafnog is the god of dragons and there is a Fáfnir connection beyond the surface then there is a great reason why dwarves hate dragons more than just the Hobbit connection (which is of course drawn from the story of Fáfnir and The Ring of the Nibelung). There is deep religious animosity here. Is this what the Chenaults do in their home game? No idea, but this is what is happening in mine.

Following humans, we get the gods of the Dwarves, Elves, Halflings (LOVE the art of the halfling gods!), Gnomes, and then the humanoids (bugbears, gnolls, goblins, orcs, hobgoblins, lizardmen, giants, ogres, and trolls) there are even dragon deities, fey deities, and gods of mermen and sahuagin.  It is a wide variety and shows some original ideas beyond what we typically think of in the Deities and Demigods, but not quite the level of detail as found in the very focused Forgotten Realms Demihuman Deities book.

All the Other Gods

This "section" is actually many sections, but they are mostly the same format. They cover the various gods and pantheons found in our world and are covered in detail by the Codex series.  Where the Codecies give us a lot of details on the myths and stories of those pantheons, this section just covers game based stats. No stats as in hp and AC, but alignments, worshipers, granted attributes, preferred weapons and the like.  No details on the gods themselves, for that you will need the Codies.

Covered are the gods of the Celts, Greeks, Egyptians, Germans, Norse, and Slavs.

Who should buy this book?  Anyone playing Castles & Crusades and wants to go deep into the mythologies of Aihrde.  Also, anyone that owns the Codies and wants more game content. 

I also say this is a good book for the AD&D (first or second eds.) player/game master that wants a bit more detail on the gods in their Deities & Demigods/Legends & Lore books. Or who just want a different set of or more gods than they currently have.  Indeed the title of the book, Gods & Legends, seems to state that it is a book with the AD&D books in mind.

One Man's God - The Demons of Aihrde

As I mentioned the Demons of Aihrde are already the Demons of AD&D.  But what about the monsters and gods here in Gods & Legends?  Let's see what we have here.

The obvious choices will be the Lesser Gods and the Demigods in terms of the power level near that of the Demon Princes. But I am not going to ignore the odd Greater God if they fit.

For the Aihrde human gods, Frafnog might fit the bill, though he is really powerful. Onduhl is the god of evil beings and has a strong Lucifer or Loki vibe to him.  Unklar looks like a demon and has the Chernobog connection I mentioned above, but he seems more devil-like than demon-like. 

The gods of the Dwarves, Halflings, and Gnomes do not have anyone.  The Elves have Talahnatilia but that is something other than a demon or devil really. 

It is not really to we get to the gods of the humanoids that we find good candidates.

Jarga the Bloodless is worshiped by many humanoid types (gnolls, kobolds, orcs). He is a lesser god and chaotic evil. He is a god of blood and battle. He might or might not be a demon, but he will certainly has their hatred of life. His plane is listed as The Wretched Plains, one of only three gods to claim this plane. 

Bugbear gods here are Chaotic Evil. Hobgoblin gods are mostly Lawful Evil.  This detail tracks with my own personal use of them. Bugbears are goblins with demonic ancestry and Hobgoblins are goblins with diabolic ancestry. So. If I am searching for demons I am going to look towards the Bugbears first. The bugbear gods are both greater gods and don't really fit the AD&D notion of demons. Same is true for the hobgoblins.

Gnolls have been long associated with demons in AD&D through Yeenoghu. Most of these gods are either too powerful (Greater) and/or Lawful Evil.  Here is one of the issues of trying to apply the "rules" of one game on to another. They don't have to follow the same logic or premises. 

Among the Goblins, Beerkzurd could be a demon, a powerful on to be sure. He is Lawful Evil, but he feels more Chaotic Evil really.  He is also one of those gods people pray to not so much to get boons from him, but in order for him to leave you alone.

The Orc gods are quite war-like and many are Lawful Evil. They mostly seem like larger, more powerful versions of orcs. Which I guess can be said about most gods. They are just larger more powerful versions of the people that worship them.

Vasser of Lizardmen is another good choice. Lesser God, chaotic evil, looks like a demon. The same is all true for Grudznar of the Kobolds and Barg of the Trolls. In fact, all three do feel very demon-like. The lack of proper stats are really the only thing keeping me from deciding a definitive yes or no.  Barg though is such an interesting being in a demented sort of way. I wish I had knew of him during my Troll Week a while back.

I am not considering the Dragon gods. They are really their own thing and many listed here do not fit the idea of a demon well. Yeah...I know I have both Tiâmat and Leviathan as eodemons. Plus I mentioned Frafnog above as a potential demon.

Same with the Fey. They are really their own thing. Though in my personal campaign the Fey do war against the demons. So it could be possible a "fallen fey" is a demon (fits what history did to them in our world).  Not an evil fey. A "good" faerie still has more in common with an evil faerie than they do a demon.

Flathin of the Sahuagin also is a good choice as a demon. If we take the myths of Flathin and his sister Trimon it could be that Flathin was "cast down" as the patron of mermen and now is the patron of their evil counterparts, the Sahuagin. He is a chaotic evil lesser god and looks like a giant octopus with 10 tentacles (a decapus?). He grants little to his followers, save for what they get at their religious/war ceremonies.  

Again. I might be extending my One Man's God to the point of breaking.  Let this be a lesson in how scope creep or extending your theories beyond your testable hypotheses is a bad thing.

Other gods from Earth mythologies have been covered in previous postings of One Man's God.

Monday, June 20, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: Die Hüne

David faces Goliath in this 1888 lithograph by Osmar Schindler
Today I want to delve a bit more into an idea I had been playing around with a little while ago, the combined pantheon of Greek and Norse mythos into a Roman-Norse syncretism. Both groups have many common features, but one that sticks out is the use of a race of giants that predate the gods that represent the forces of chaos.

In my syncretized myths these creatures are called Die Hüne, (plural. Singular: Der Hüne).  This is what I said about them before:

Die Hüne are the Titans and the Giants of both myths. Primordial beings of great power that the gods defeated but still trouble them. In this myth, the Gods fought Die Hüne and brought order out of chaos. These are not just giants and titans, these creatures are the demons of this mythology.

In my mind, they are something of a combination of giant, elemental, and demon. The Gigantes of Greek myth (not AD&D) were more monstrous creatures.  The jötunn of Norse myth likewise were more demonic. As time goes on these titans and jötunn become more and more human-looking till we have something like the giants of D&D. 

My goal with Der Hüne is to get back to those older, more monstrous giants. Given that this mythology is half-Roman, these people will have been familiar with some of the tales of Goliath, the Anakim, and others from Jewish mythology.  So maybe some of those tales entered into their thinking.

Here is how they will be used in my various D&D/OSR/FRPG games.

The giants Fafner and Fasolt seize Freyja in Arthur Rackham's illustration of Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen.
Erde Hüne

These creatures are also known as Earth Giants.  They are the forebearers of the Hill, Mountain, and Stone giants as well as ogres.  They stand 12 ft tall and are said to have bones made of stone.

These creatures are Chaotic Evil and have the most dealings with humans. While some certainly are stupid brutes, others are sufficiently intelligent and sophisticated enough to lead human armies. They have a taste for human flesh; both in the culinary and carnal appetites. There are some very tall, very evil humans that can trace their ancestry to one of these creatures.  We get the word "Hun" from "Hüne."

Note: These take the role of the "evil giants in the bibles and other tales" giants like the Anakim.  Though I covered some of this ground with Gog and Magog. I had Gog and Magog as a type of Balor or Baalor in my games.  Maybe I could turn up the demonic influences on them and make Gog and Magog the named Erde Hüne.  Balor are also 12' tall.  The myths about Gog and Magog certainly have them more human-looking. This would also bring them closer to the Ogre idea I originally had.  Worth thinking over to be sure and it would give me the demonic influences I want. 

I think just to be "that guy" I am going to make them 13' tall.

Meer Hüne

These giants are found in the oceans to the far north. They are related to the Frost and Sea giants. They are not the progenitors of these creatures but are the offspring of the Rime Jötunn along with the Frost Giants. Sea Giants are the offspring of the Meer Hüne.  

These creatures avoid humans but are no less evil. They have been known to wreck ships where they keep all the treasure and eat the humans aboard. In my myths, they would also be the forebearers of the Viking raiders that would swoop down and raid the villages of these people. 

Note: On Earth, these giants populate the North Sea, the Baltic Sea, and the Norwegian Sea. In my desire to have my cake and eat it too I would picture these guys looking like the stereotypical Vikings. Including "Hägar the Horrible" horned helmets, though no idea how they make such helms. 

Feuer Hüne

These creatures are made of pure living fire.  They are the generation after the Inferno Jötunn and the "older brothers" to the Fire Giants.

Note: Right now these creatures are not significantly different enough from either the Fire Giants or the Inferno Jötunn to merit another distinct monster entry.  

Äther Hüne

These creatures are massive with some towering as high as 36 feet tall. It is said their bones are made of clouds and their muscles are made of storms.  They are the progenitors of the Cloud, Storm, and Fog giants. 

Note: This is my "Jack and the Beanstalk" Giant (though in truth an evil Cloud Giant covers that readily). 

Though anytime I work on giants this image comes to mind.

giants

This image comes from the Creationist idea that there were giants in biblical times. This speculation all grows out of Genesis 6:4 "There were giants in the earth in those days", meaning the fallen angels or Nephelim or whatever.  I spent a lot of time talking about this on my old Atheism blog, The Freedom of Nonbelief

Here is how I use that image above.  These are closer to AD&D heights than D&D 5e. 

  1. Human
  2. Stone Giant
  3. Troll
  4. Ogre
  5. Hill Giant / Erde Hüne
  6. Fire Giant
  7. Frost Giant
  8. Cloud Giant
  9. Storm Giant

There. That is far more useful. 

How do I work through the Square-Cube Law?  Magic!

Of all these creatures I think I will develop the Erde Hüne (Earth Giants) and the Meer Hüne (Sea Giants) more. Fire and Frost are already covered well in the various jötunn of Norse myths. The progenitors of the Storm and Cloud Giants I think are also handled well by the Greek myths.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Review: DragonQuest, First Edition (1980)

DragonQuest First Edition
I have a history with DragonQuest. Not a complicated one or even an interesting one, but history all the same.  Back in 83 or 84 or so I would head to Belobrajdic's Bookstore in my hometown every weekend. There I would get a new edition of Dragon or whatever sci-fi novel piqued my interest and then check out all the new RPG materials.  One I kept going back to time and time again was DragonQuest.  This was the 2nd Edition softcover and looked really different than anything I had played so far.  The barbarian proudly holds the severed head of a dragon. 

The game intrigued me so much. I flipped through it many times and even it got to the point that I annoyed the owner, Paula Belobrajdic, that she told me I should buy it.  In retrospect, I wish I had.  Though had I I likely would not have picked up the great-looking first edition boxed set next to me now.

My history with the first edition is not as long or as storied. I bought it a while back and it has sat on my shelves for a bit. I did do a character write-up last year, Phygor, for DragonQuest and I really liked how the character came it. 

For this month of D&D, I figure a look into the game that tempted me so much would be neat to look into.

DragonQuest, First Edition (1980)

This game was published by SPI in 1980.  SPI had been a wargame publisher and decided to get into the RPG market. I am sure they were seeing their market share being eaten away by RPGs, and D&D in particular.  This is important since this game does feel very wargamey. This includes how the rules are presented and even how combat is run. While D&D/AD&D at this time was open to minis and terrain maps this game requires them. Or at least chits and the included maps. 

DragonQuest 1st Edition Boxed Set

The boxed set I have contains three soft-cover books. Some chits. Some ads, a comment card, and a tactical hex map.  My set does not have dice, but I also don't think it originally came with dice.  I added two d10s myself.

The First Book of DragonQuest: Character Generation, Combat
The First Book of DragonQuest: Character Generation, Combat

Our first book is the smaller of the three at 32 pages.  The format is three-column and the rules are all presented in "wargame" style.  So Adventure Rationale can be coded as II.1.A.1.  I won't be using this much but it does make it easy to find any rule. A little cumbersome at first and then it gets really easy. 

This was an interesting time. The Introduction (I.) and How to Play the Game (II.) don't spend a lot of time with the "This is a Roleplaying Game" and instead gets down to business. Requirements for play are discussed as well as Game Terms (III.).

We get into Character Generation (IV.) This is not a completely random affair as D&D was at the time.  You roll and get a pool of points. Though with a high number of points, your maximum is low, likewise a small amount in a point pool will give you a higher maximum.  The traits are Physical Strength, Agility, Magical Aptitude, Manual Dexterity, Endurance, Willpower, and Appearance. Scores are 5 to 25 for the human range.  So you roll a 4d5 (1d10/2) which will generate a score from 4 to 20.  Compare this to the table under 5.1. This table gives you your point pool (82 to 98) and a Group (A to G) These groups refer to the maximums. A = 25, B = 24 and G =19.-

There are even some rules for developing other types of abilities if the Game Master desires them. After this other details are figured out; Gender (or even genderless), handiness, human or non-human (such as Dwarf, Efl, Giant, Halfling, Orc or Shape-changer), various Aspects, and Heritages.  It can be a complex character system all for what is nominally an 18-year-old.   This all covers the first dozen pages.  There are no classes (rather famously so) and more to your character from the next books.

The last half+ of this book covers combat. All movement and combat is done on a hex grid, not a square one. Gives it an interesting twist and again a holdover of their wargame roots. Plenty of diagrams and examples are given. Combat rounds are 10 seconds and can be made up of an undefined increment of time called a Pulse. There are Strike Zones, Fire Zones, and all sorts of fun bits.  I am reminded of combat in D&D 3rd Edition here to be honest. 

Damage is an equally detailed affair with damage affecting Fatigue and Endurance. When Fatigue is 0 damage starts happening to Endurance, there is a similar idea here in D&D 4th edition. Maybe when TSR bought SPI DragonQuest didn't entirely disappear.  There is also Grievous injury which is much worse. 

Personally, I feel any D&D player could get a lot out of reading this combat section, at least give it a play-through once.  

The Second Book of DragonQuest: Magic
The Second Book of DragonQuest: Magic

Ask anyone that has ever played both DragonQuest and D&D about what sets the two games apart the most and you are likely to hear "Magic."  In 1980 DragonQuest took an approach to magic that would not be seen in other games until much later.  What made it different then? Three pretty good reasons. Mana, different kinds of spells, and Colleges.

Mana in DragonQuest fuels the magic an Adept can use. Spell casting can be tiring and there is never a guarantee that the spell will work. It could fail or backfire. Even when it works the target can be resistant to it.  And Adepts can never wear metal to top it all off. This notion is pretty commonplace now, but then it was new and exciting. I have lost track of how many "spell points" and "mana" systems I have seen applied to AD&D over the years and that is not counting systems like Mage and WitchCraft that use some form of Essence or Quintessence. Ass expected Magical Aptitude is important here, but so is Willpower and even Endurance. 

The different sorts of spells the adept has access to. Nearly every adept has access to at least one magical talent (I'll get to that). These talents can be thought of as a power that can always be used and they are related to the Adept's college.  Then there are "normal" spells. These are the most "D&D" like and each college has its own lists and there is very little crossover, though each college has something going for it. The limiting factors here are how many spells you know.  Finally, there are rituals. These are like spells that take longer, usually much longer, require more components but have a far better chance of success.  

I have talked a bit about them already, but DragonQuest's adepts learn their magic from distinct Colleges. There are twelve colleges: Ensorcelments & Enchantments, Sorceries of the Mind, Illusions, Naming Incantations, Earth Magics, Air Magics, Fire Magics, Water Magics, Celestial Magics, Black Magics, Necromancy, and Greater Summonings.  Each college has its own requirements.  After the college descriptions, we get [xx.1] restrictions, [xx.2] modifiers, [xx.3] Talents, [xx.4] Spells, [xx.6] General Rituals and [xx.7] Special Rituals.  There are 30 pages of these.

This should all sound familiar. AD&D 2nd adopted the college idea in their schools of magic; though there is more overlap in spells.  D&D 4th Ed gave us at-will, encounter, and daily spells that mimic this setup.  All have been recombined one way or the other in 5th Edition. Again, this was all brand new in 1980.

Also, something that flies in the face of all things of the 1980s is the last 25 pages. Here we get a listing of demons straight out of the Ars Goetia of The Lesser Key of Solomon. Who they are and how to summon them. And the Christians were going after D&D. 

The Third Book of DragonQuest: Skills, Monsters, Adventure
The Third Book of DragonQuest: Skills, Monsters, Adventure

Overtly the Game Master's book. 

Skills can be roughly thought of as professions or even, dare I say it, classes. You get professional skills like Alchemist, Assassin, Astrology, Beast Master, Courtesan, Healer, Mechanician, Merchant, Military Scientist, Navigator, Ranger, Spy, Thief, and Troubador.  Each one is covered in detail along with what each profession allows the character to do. 

Each "profession" skill gets a listing [xx.1] to [xx.9] that covers what is needed to learn each skill (prereqs), what it does, and how it does it. For example, according to 53.1, a Beast Master must have a Willpower of at least 15. In 54.1 we learn that while Courtesans do not have minimum scores there is an XP penalty if they don't meet certain requirements (Dexterity, Agility, Physical Beauty) and a bonus if they have higher scores.   The back cover of this book gives the XP expenditure to go up a rank in each. 

Personally. I think this should have been part of the Characters' book.

The next section is all about Monsters. They are divided by like types. So all the primates, apes and pre-humans are in one section, cats in another, birds and avians, land mammals, aquatics and so on all get their own sections. Dragons get their own section, naturally, but wyverns are part of reptiles.  The usual suspects are all here, but not much more than that. There are however enough points of comparison that converting an AD&D monster to DragonQuest would be easy enough. There are some differences too. Nymphs have the lower half of a goat, like that of a satyr. Gnolls are dog-faced. Kobolds look like tiny old men, neither dog nor lizard-like, and tend towards good.  Medusa and Gorgons are the same creatures. Not much in the way of "new" monsters, even for 1980.

The last section covers Adventure. For a game that has such tactical wargame DNA, I expected a little more here, but I guess I am not surprised, to be honest. We also get a few tables.

--

There is so much packed into this box. I can really see why this game, more than 40 years later, still has such a following. While I lament that TSR (and by extension Wizards of the Coast and Hasbro) have let this IP fall into disuse, I do see where bits of it live on in nearly all the post-1990 (AD&D 2nd ed Ed in 1989 too) versions of D&D. Schools of magic, tactical battle movement, mini use, all of these became standard.  I can't say that all of these directly came from DragonQuest, but they are certainly all headed in the directions that DragonQuest started. 

My issue right now is not counting D&D and its various forms, editions, and offsprings, I have a lot of Fantasy RPGs.  Many of my favorites are more or less dead.

Dead Fantasy RPGs

They are all great fun but with DragonQuest I am right where I was back in 1984; It's a great-looking game, but no one around me is playing it.  If I Am going to play like it was 1984 I am going to pull AD&D 1st Ed off my shelf.

The obvious reason to choose one over the other is how well does it play? Well, DragonQuest is above and beyond many of the others in terms of rules and playability. Also as I mentioned there is a huge amount of online support, informal as it is. 

There is also the idea that with DragonQuest, and adding in SPI's Demons, I could create a fun demon summoning game.  But again I have to ask, can't I do this with D&D now?

DemonQuest

Maybe DemonQuest is a game I could try out!

What are your thoughts and memories about this game? 

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Review: Tome of the Unclean (Castles & Crusades)

Tome of the Unclean
Last week I spent a lot of time with the Castles & Codex series and it was great fun.  But there is another book that also works well with my universe building and it is not about the gods.  Rather quite the opposite.

Tome of the Unclean

Back in October of 2017 Troll Lords launched their Tome of the Unclean Kickstarter. With the idea to bring demons, devils, and other fiends to the Castles & Crusades game.  It would also work with Amazing Adventures (which is what I would end up doing later).  I was immediately hooked and knew I needed this book.

Fast forward to 2019 I got my book in the mail and I had been picking up the PDFs (they released as they were completed starting in Jan 2018) all throughout. 

I have just been really slow at getting my review up.

For this review, I am considering both the hardcover print version from the Kickstarter and the now final PDF from DriveThruRPG.

144 pages. Color covers, black & white interior art.

The book follows a format that is now common to many books about fiends.  A part that deals with Demons and Lords of the Abyss.  Another that covers Devils and the Legions of Hell. And a third, which often differs from book to book, covers other fiends of Gehenna and the Undead.  Adding in the undead is a nice touch in my mind and a value add for the book.

Demons & Devils

This covers the basic differences and how these creatures fit into the World of Aihrde, the game world of Castles & Crusades.  It also covers the basics of the monster stat block.

Lords of the Abyss

This is our section about Demons and the Abyss.  It cleaves pretty close to the AD&D standard with what I often refer to as "the Usual Suspects," so all the "Type" demons and succubi. The new material here includes Abyssal Oases which are areas that are habitable by mortal-kind that seem to come up at random.

Covered here are also traits about the Abyss and powers and traits common to all demons. 

The monsters are all alphabetical, so common demons are not separated from the lords.  There are a few lords present. Demogorgon and Orcus return.  But also Oozemandius (as a Juiblex stand-in) and Buer. Graz'zt is mentioned a few times, but no stats are given.  There are 32 total demons with four as lords.

Legions of Hell

This section follows a pattern similar to the Demons one.  The Hells are described, including the nine layers.  They have some new names and some differences, but if you are wed to the Ed Greenwood Dragon articles about Hell then there is not a lot to convert here.  

There are 53 devils, with 16 of these listed as unique Arch-Devils. There are more new devils here than there are new demons.  

Gehenna

This is our "Neutral Evil" plane in the Great Wheel cosmology of the world of Aihrde, taking the place of Hades or the Grey Wastes from AD&D.  This is home to the daemons.  Like the previous chapters, this covers the features of the land and it's inhabitants.  Reading through it is feels like equal parts of the Greek Hades and the Underworld of Kur in the Babylonian myths where Ereshkigal rules.  

Only four deamons are detailed here, with one, Charon the Boatman, as the only unique member.

Undead

The name of the book is the Tome of the Unclean. While demons and devils take up the vast majority of the book there is still some space for the Undead.

18 undead creatures are detailed here, most of favorites (but creatures Vampires are missing) and some new ones. 

Denizens. Fauna, & Flora

Covers various types of evil, non-fiendish, non-undead, monsters that can also be found.

We end with Aihrde specific information and our OGL page.

Tome of the Damned is a fantastic resource for anyone wanting more information on demons, devils, and their ilk for anyone playing Castles & Crusades.  In fact, if you are playing C&C and want demons then this is a must-have book.

The advantage of Castles & Crusades is that it can be adapted to AD&D or any OSR game easily.  So if you want more than what the Monster Manuals I & II can give you, then this book is also a good choice.   I f you are playing AD&D 2nd ed then this book will fill in many of the gaps left by that game.

Now, I have an entire library of books dedicated to demons, devils, and all sorts of evil monsters.  There were only a few things here actually new to me.  But I still rather enjoyed this book quite a lot.  It is a good addition to my Castles & Crusades library.

Castles & Crusades