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

Thursday, October 7, 2021

No, 5e Devils are Not Misunderstood. But Alignment Is.

why is this Devil smiling?
Misunderstood?
It's October and one of my favorite things to talk about are devils, demons, and all sorts of fiends.

You know what I don't like talking about? Alignment.  

Why? It is boring and tedious and so many people get confused with what is written down in the rules and what they understand it to be, or not to be.  And frankly, the conversations are never very interesting. 

Conversations about alignment in the pages of Dragon actually predate The Dragon and go all the way back to The Strategic Review.  Very little new light has been shed on the topic ever since.

So alignment has largely been one of those things I give lip service to because pulling out would make a bunch of other things break.  Like the spells Detect Evil or Protection from Evil are just two examples.  There needs to be something in place so they work.  Swords with intelligence and ego. Other magic items on the small scale and the planes of existence on the larger scale.

Most of the other RPGs I play don't have alignment. D&D is the only holdout.

I am not saying I don't want universal Good or Evil, or even Law and Chaos, in my games.  I do.  I want my devils to be evil, or even better yet, Evil, with a capital E.  Demons? I want creatures that make the Devils go "whoa, hold on there dude."  But I also have creatures Beyond Good and Evil.  Not just in a Nietzscheian way, but in ways that are unmeasurable and unknowable by mortal kind.   

So when the "new" publisher (they have been publishing D&D for longer than the "old" publisher) wants to try something new like say "Unaligned" or "Typically Chaotic Evil" then I applaud the effort.  When they want to do something really interesting like remove monster alignment altogether my response is "interesting, tell me more..."

But of course, there are going to be those that freak out about it and claim ridiculous notions that "Devils are no longer evil."  This is of course a complete stretch of what the D&D 5 team, and Jeremey Crawford actually said.  Plus the examples given are NOT for all of D&D nor even for the upcoming 5.5 or 5r, though they could be.  In this case, these only apply to the optional adventure The Wild Beyond the Witchlight.  

Typically
My 2e books list them as Neutral

Still Chaotic Evil
Still Chaotic Evil, 100% of the time

Will we see some of these ideas in the upcoming D&D 5 update? Most certainly. Will we see them all in this exact manner? Maybe. 2024 is still a bit off and WotC has demonstrated they want to take in fan feedback and the editing process is a pain in the ass.  Tasha's Cauldron of Everything dropped alignments (and they were not missed) Witchlight brought them back.  So obviously they are still experimenting.

This is nothing new.  We saw this in the early days of AD&D 2nd Ed.

Monsters and Alignment

Monsters and Alignment

Monsters and Alignment

But let's say for the sake of argument they drop alignments from all monsters.  What does that mean?

In 5.5/5r it means monsters won't have an alignment.  

That is the absolute sum total of it.  It does not affect my Basic-era-B/X-OSE games.  It does not affect NIGHT SHIFT games. And you know what, it doesn't even affect my current D&D 5e games. 

They are not doing anything terribly new or innovative here. Even by adding "typically" to the alignment they are still only explicitly doing what we implicitly knew or at least did anyway.

Devils will still be evil. Demons will still be evil. Maybe, maybe there will be an odd Devil that seeks out redemption or maybe even understanding to the point where they are not evil anymore.  Or not.  I don't care about redeeming devils, I only care how quickly my player's characters can put the fiends down.  

Seriously though the only people online complaining about this are people who loudly and often will exclaim with pride that they "never bought any WotC D&D and never will."  Fine. Whatever. It's ok not to like the newest version of D&D.  It's fine to prefer older versions.  But if you complain every single time WotC does something with D&D I am going to assume your hobby isn't playing D&D but rather complaining about it.

I am reminded of the Chicken Littleing that went on last year about Oriental Adventures and the big pile of nothing that happened after.  

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

One Man's God: Norse Mythos

Norse Mythos
And here we are.  The last of my regular features of One Man's God.  I wanted to save the Norse for last because in many ways it was the myths of the Norse that showed me that there was a whole other world of myths and legends beyond the Greek.  This happened, as it turned out, during a series of events that would lead me to D&D.   In many ways the myths of the Norse are the most "D&D" of them all.  The Monster Manual might be full of monsters of the Greek myths, the Norse myths run a very close second.

The purpose though of One Man's God is to talk about demons.  So let's get to it.

There are a lot of great entries for gods here and there are some really powerful monsters.  But there isn't really anything here that says "demon" as D&D defines them.   Or is there?

Among the creatures, we have the children of Loki, who here is listed as Chaotic Evil, who certainly could be considered demons.  The Fenris Wolf is variously described as demonic and is Chaotic Evil. The same is true for Jormungandr.  But they really don't fit the notion of demons. There is a type of creature from Norse Myth that does, the Jötunn.

Jötunar as Demons

There are a lot of good reasons to list the Jötunn as demons, even in the classical sense. The word Jötunn is often translated as "giant" or even "troll,"  but another translation is "devourer."  This word is also the source of the word Ettin.  

They are also described as predating the gods, coming from the primordial chaos, and the enemies of the gods.  Sounds pretty demonic to me.  It also sounds like the Titans of Greek myth, but more on that later.

The D&DG tells us that,

Giants in Norse Myth D&DG

This lives on in the 4th Edition D&D mythology about Giants, Titans, and Primordials. 

Fire Giant
Jötunn, Inferno
FREQUENCY:  Very Rare
NO.  APPEARING:  1-4
ARMOR CLASS: -2
MOVE: 24" 
HIT DICE:  15+75 (143 hp)
%  IN  LAIR:  0%
TREASURE  TYPE:  E, Q (x10), R
NO.  OF  ATTACKS:  2
DAMAGE/ATTACK:  Flaming Sword 2d12+5 (x2)
SPECIAL  ATTACKS:  Fire Aura (2d6)
SPECIAL  DEFENSES: +2  or  better weapon to hit
MAGIC  RESISTANCE:  55%
INTELLIGENCE:  Average
ALIGNMENT:  Lawful Evil
SIZE:  L  (20')
PSIONIC ABILITY:  Nil

The progenitors of the Fire Giants, the Inferno Jötunn are a truly horrible sight to behold.  They tower over the Storm Giants and rival the Titans in sheer size and strength.   They are surrounded by flames and even their eyes, hair, and mouths are filled with flames. They are more violent than their cousins from Niflheim and Jötunheimr, the Rime Jötunn, but leave their lands much less often. 

Inferno Jötunn all come from the land of Muspelheim, also known as Múspell which is also another name for these creatures.  Muspelheim is a land of bright, white-hot flames that only these creatures and their fire giant offspring can withstand.

Inferno Jötunn are surrounded by flames that deal 2d6 hp of damage at all times.  They wield great swords of flame and attack with their great strength (2d12+5) twice per round.  Inferno Jötunn are immune to normal and magical fire including dragon breath.  They have magic resistance at 55%.  Rare individuals can also cast spells as a 9th level magic-user.

Their king is Sutur, also known as Surt. He commands his subjects with an iron fist. 

Frost Giant
Jötunn, Rime
FREQUENCY:  Very Rare
NO.  APPEARING:  1-4
ARMOR CLASS: -3
MOVE: 24"
HIT DICE:  18+90 (171 hp)
%  IN  LAIR:  0%
TREASURE  TYPE:  E, Q (x10), R
NO.  OF  ATTACKS:  2
DAMAGE/ATTACK:  Frost brand sword 2d12+6 (x2)
SPECIAL  ATTACKS:  Chill Aura (2d6)
SPECIAL  DEFENSES: +2  or  better weapon to hit
MAGIC  RESISTANCE:  55%
INTELLIGENCE:  Average
ALIGNMENT:  Chaotic  Evil
SIZE:  L (21')
PSIONIC ABILITY:  Nil

Rime Jötunn are the primordial Frost Giants that first rose from Niflheim.  Unlike the Inferno Jötunn, they range far and wide and are constantly battling with the Gods and other giants.

Rime Jötunn are surrounded by an aura of cold that deals 2d6 hp of damage at all times.  They wield great swords of ice and attack with their great strength (2d12+6) twice per round.  Rime Jötunn are immune to normal and magical cold including dragon breath.  They have magic resistance at 55%.  Rare individuals can also cast spells as a 9th level cleric.

These Jötunar can also adjust their size to appear as a human or elf as they need. 

Niflheim is a cold, dark place of mists, ice, and gloom.  Here the Rime Jötunn await with their lord Thrym to wage the final war on the gods in Ragnarök.  Until they will cause as much evil as they can.

--

Rereading the Norse Myths you get the feeling that the Jötunar are more elemental in nature than even the fire and frost giants of D&D. Again in this respect, D&D 4th Edition had some great ideas.

While there are plenty of supernatural creatures in the lore of the Norsemen, with trolls and giants among the more popular, they are not represented in the D&DG and indeed mainly play a lesser role to the Gods and the dwarves of Norse myth.

And here are.  The last of the regular entries for One Man's God.  I have a few specials in mind to wrap up some ideas from this series and a "Norse Mythos, Part II" in a way later this week with a new "This Old Dragon."  All in all, I am a little sorry to see it end. It has been a lot of fun.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

One Man's God: Japanese Mythos

D&DG Japanese Mythos
It's been a while I figure today is a good day for another One Man's God. A brief review of the purpose and "rules" here.

The purpose of One Man's God is to see how I can take the creatures of the various mythos as they appear in the Deities and Demigods and see how they could have been represented as AD&D demons. NOT Abrahamic religion demons, or even esoteric or occult demons, but AD&D demons as they appeared in and defined by the Monster Manual, Fiend Folio, and Monster Manual II.  

That is my first rule.  So no need to come at me saying "X culture did not have demons."  Not only are demons in D&D not real, no demons are real, so by that logic no culture has demons, but all cultures have stories of demons and stories can be retold.

Also, this is NOT a criticism of the research methods of the original authors and researchers of the Deities and Demigods.  It is easy for me to criticize sitting here in my office chair in 2021 with access to pretty every written book, scholarly article, and more in any language at my fingertips.   They had the local library.  So another rule is I can't criticize the material based on what I can research now.  I can use research from now to help inform my opinions, but that is all.

I can look a little beyond my sources here (D&DG, MM, FF, and MM2) to see what could fit into these based on the rules above.  But I am not going to add to much more beyond that. That's what Monstrous Monday is for.

Ok? Cool?  Great! 

Today I want to hit one that was HUGE back in the 80s. Japanese Mythos

Growing up in the 80s you could not help be nearly overwhelmed with references to or from Japanese culture.  Well...not real Japanese culture, a weird American version of it for mass consumption.  Ninjas, karate, Richard Chamberlain running around in a kimono on TV in Shōgun, and more than I can remember.  I even got caught up in it all and found some Japanese myths to read, in particular the tales of Momotarō (the Peach Boy). 

It was odd that almost none* of what I read connected back to the myths in the D&DG.  Now I see that their myths are too widely varied, complex, and even some had not been translated to an easily consumable English version.  Some concepts in Japanese do not have good English equivalents. My first year in grad school I took Japanese as an extra elective, I found it extremely fascinating and remarkably difficult.  The Deities & Demigods even touches on this with the concept of Kami.  We would use the word like "god" or "spirit,"  even in the Goddess Amaterasu we get the word "Omikami" or more appropriately, Ōmikami.  

*I will talk about what did connect.

The Gods and Goddesses

Despite how interesting these myths are and how much they were likely used, there are only five pages of them in D&DG and only 13 entries.  There are heroes, which is really important for the tales, most of the stories of Japan are about the exploits of the heroes. Of these, I only recall reading about Yamamoto Date.  But that has far more to do with Me not reading everything on Japanese myths.

Of the Gods the best known are the trinity of Amaterasu (the Sun Goddess, "the great august deity"), Tsukiyomi (the Moon God), and Susanoo (the God of Storms and Seas).  Now, these are the stories I know well.  I am remarkably pleased that the depictions and stats match up well with my personal ideas of what these gods are.  Amaterasu is easily the most powerful god in this book, thankfully for the mortals, she is Lawful Good.  In my games, there was no greater foe of the undead than her. And let me just say I am so pleased the authors did not take the easy way out and make Susanowo Chaotic Evil and went with the more appropriate Chaotic Neutral.

A couple of Goddesses that I remember reading about didn't make it in.  I mean I easily see why, but still, it would have been nice to see them.

Ame-no-Uzume

Ame-no-Uzume is the Goddess of the Dawn and for her role in the story of Amaterasu and the Cave she is the Goddess of Revelry.  In many ways the "darker" versions of Amaterasu and Ame-no-Uzume can be found in my "Nox" and "Syla" the goddess of the Dusk and Near Dark.

But back to Uzume.  I am not the first to point this one out and many others more read than me have done a better job.  But if you want to bring Ame-no-Uzume all you need to do is turn a few pages back to the Indian myths and bring over the similarity named Ushas, the Goddess of the Dawn. Her stats are pretty much perfect as is.  

Isshin-ryū Mizo-Game
Mizo-Game

Oh, Mizu Game. How you have vexed me over the years.

So WAY back in the day I decided to take karate lessons, their was a local place that was offering Isshin-ryū Karate and I decided to join.  I spent a couple years doing it. I was good, not great, but I felt like it achieved my then goal of getting some extra exercise.  The important part for today is the Isshin-ryū patch.  I was told that the half-woman/half-dragon goddess on the patch was Mizo-Game a Sea Goddess.  So naturally, I wanted a character that worshipped her.  But outside of Isshin-ryū I could not find out anything about her.  And you know what?  I STILL can't.  Every so often I get the idea to search for her again and I have only limited success.

Now with this post, it's going to mess with my search algorithms even more! 

I had hoped to find a goddess I could borrow from other myths, like I do for Uaume, but nothing came up.  She would be a Lawful Neutral demigoddess of the sea.  She related to dragons and to the other gods.

Mizo Game in Isshin-ryū

Demons

While this is all fantastic. There are no monsters here, let alone any demons. 

A while back I talked about the Yaoguai or Chinese demons.   The name means something like "strange ghost" or "strange devil."  In Japan, similar creatures are called Yōkai. Which also means "strange apparition."

In my games, Yaoguai and Yōkai are both different lineages of demons that are related.   There are no creatures listed in the D&DG that would count.  The closest we get is the Ogre Mage, also called the "Japanese Ogre" in the Monster Manual.  BUT that creature is obviously based on the Oni. 

Are Oni demons or yōkai?  I am going to say no. The tales of Momotarō, also known as the Peach Boy, feature many Oni, and while they are powerful and even a little supernatural, but they are not really demons.  Sadly even branching out into the Oriental Adventures does not help here.  Though there are also Ushi-oni that are very much yōkai and Oni are said to have come from the "demon gate/"

For demons and yōkai it would seem I am on my own and I have a lot more research and reading to do.

No Yōkai here.

Expect to see some Yōkai in future Monstrous Mondays. Will I reclassify Oni as demons?  No idea yet.

It's too bad that with all the material out there on Yōkai that so little to almost none made it into AD&D.

There is only one more set of myths left in this series and I am hoping it will be a big one!

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

SPI's Demons (1979)

SPI's Demons game
I celebrated my 26th wedding anniversary over the weekend.  I have now been married for over half my life!  We went downtown to see the Immersive Van Gogh Exhibit. I got us the Premium tickets, and glad I did, we sat through the whole thing twice!  It was completely amazing. We ate at a new fusion Thai place and of course, no date night is complete for us without a stop at a bookstore.

Since so many of the bookstores we used to go to over the last three decades are closed, we stopped at Half-Price Books.  

I found this little gem, SPI Demons.

At first I thought it was an add-on or supplement for the DragonQuest RPG.  They look rather similar really.  But closer examination revealed that it was really a board game.

In any case, I could not say no to this. Besides, look at that cover!  That demon is fantastic!

I got it home and since it was late I let sit on my dining room table for a bit.  I finally got around to looking at it yesterday.  Turns out that only is this game whole, and unpunched it looks like it is near mint condition!

Contents of the SPI Demons boxed game

Contents of the SPI Demons boxed game

Contents of the SPI Demons boxed game

Ah. Nothing says the late 70s like oil shortages. 

Contents of the SPI Demons boxed game

Contents of the SPI Demons boxed game

Contents of the SPI Demons boxed game

It is a rather attractive game in a late 70s War-Games-bleeding-into-RPGs way.

I posted some pictures of this over the weekend and I was reminded that TSR bought SPI back in the day and absorbed them.  WotC who now owns all of TSR's IP also owns SPI.  They could rerelease this if they wanted to.  Sadly there is really no reason to.  The cash cow in that arena is D&D and even DragonQuest, who could do well, suffers from comparison.   TSR, like them or not, straight up murdered SPI and the body is too dead to Raise Dead.

BUT that doesn't mean *I* can't perform a bit of Necromancy myself! 

This game could feed into my "Traveller Envy" quite well.

DragonQuest & Demons

The obvious thing to do here is use that Demons map of Albania and do it as a DragonQuest Hex crawl.  And I mean a proper Hex crawl that also just so happens to be filled with demons and wizard hunters.   The magistrate or wizard hunter's angle of the game also made me think of THIS unholy abomination.

DragonRaid vs. Demons

Maybe instead of "EdenAgain" the DragonRaiders are in the old country fighting demons?  That one is a bit of stretch really.  Also I would need some sort of converter to sit in the middle; likely D&D.  Though these both will contribute to my War of the Witch Queens campaign. 

Warlocks & Warriors & Demons

These two games share a lot of similarities in tone and publication time.  Both are essentially the bridges between war games and RPGs as board games. Both feature a wilderness area to explore, monsters (demons) to defeat, and treasure to collect.  Slightly higher on the complexity scale than Dungeon! but not quite full-blown RPGs.   You can read my overview of Warlocks & Warriors here

Demons from Mayfair and SPI

These two do not have a lot in common other than name and subject matter.  But both would be equally fun resources in my games. 

Like I say though I might not figure out how to get these to all work together (or even some of them) but it will be fun trying.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Monstrous Mondays: Qliphoth, Gamaliel

One of the things I am most looking forward to in my Basic Bestiaries is developing new and different demonic lineages. One of these I have spoken about in the past is the Qliphoth.

The Qliphoth are the discarded husks of primordial beings.  It is natural to think of them like the husks or used exoskeletons of cicadas, or even the skins of snakes. Since these beings were more than mortals currently are and became even more ascended, their husks are more than just leftover skins or skeletons.

Case in point the Gamaliel.  

Gamaliel as a Sensory Homunculus

When the Primordials shed their "husks" or "peels" to be the Luminous Beings, one such husk was their dark sexual desires.  As hyper-intelligent immortal and immoral kindred, their desires were particularly dark. As they shed their evil desires their conscious and subconscious sexual desires and yearnings became the Gamaliel.

Gamaliel based on the Sensory Homunculus
Gamaliel

Medium Fiend, Qliphoth (demon)

Frequency: Very Rare
Number Appearing: 1 (1d6)
Alignment: Chaotic [Chaotic Evil]
Movement: 120' (40') [12"]
Armor Class: 8 [11]
Hit Dice: 6d8+6*** (45 hp)
Attacks: 2 hands, 1 tongue + special
Damage: 1d6+1 x2, 1d4+1
Special: Cause delirium, Qliphoth immunities
Save: Monster 6 
Morale: 12 (12)
Treasure Hoard Class: None
XP: 1,250 (OSE) 1,280 (LL)

Str: 14 (+1) Dex: 14 (+1) Con: 18 (+3) Int: 12 (0) Wis: 7 (-1) Cha: 2 (-4)

The Gamaliel, or the Obscene Ones, were among the first of the Qliphoth to be formed.  They appear as medium-sized nearly humanoid-looking creatures.  Their hands, feet, lips, tongue, and sexual organs are enlarged to grotesque sizes in comparison to their otherwise small bodies.  They always appear nude as a mockery of the forms their progenitors eventually took on. They may appear as male or female.

Gamaliel lives for one thing only, sensory stimuli. They want to feel everything, touch, taste, smell and hear everything they can.  Yes, when possible they also try to copulate with anything and everything they can.  They lack the subtlety of the Liliam or Baalseraph or even the guile of Calabim or Shedim.  They are nearly mindless beasts that take no heed of anything but their own twisted desires.

They can attack with their huge hands for 1d6+1 points of damage each.  They may also attack with their tongues at 1d4+1.  Their saliva is such that anyone exposed to it via an attack or touch must save vs Paralysis or become delirious.  This state lasts for 2d6 turns in which case the victim is completely unaware of what is going on around them.  There is a 1 in 6 chance that if they were in a combat situation they will keep on fighting with melee attacks. Targets are chosen at random.

Gamaliel can be easily distracted by auditory and visual illusions. They save at a -2 penalty against such magics and can be effectively distracted long enough to be attacked. 

Like all Qliphoth Gamaliel have the following adjustments to damage types: 
Immune: Mundane/Cold Iron/Silver weapons, Poison
Half Damage (save for none): Acid, Cold, Electricity, Fire (Dragon/Magic/Mundane), Gas
Full Damage: Magic Missile, magic weapons, holy/blessed weapons

Unlike other Qliphoth death (their's or others) is not the goal of the Gamaliel.  A dead foe might have an interesting smell or touch, a live one is more interesting and you can do more with them.  For this reason, the Gamaliel are sometimes considered to be not as evil as other Qliphoth; this is a very erroneous and dangerous assumption. They are every bit as evil.  A quick death is far more merciful than being captured and becoming the plaything of a Gamaliel.

--

The mental image I had of the Gamaliel was immediate. They were life-sized versions of the "Sensory Homunculus" we used to talk about back in cognitive psychology undergrad days.  I always knew I aw going to make a monster out that one day.

They are the Qliphoth counterparts to the succubi with roughly the same HD and some powers.  As I define the Qliphoth more I might increase or decrease various abilities, powers or HD/hp. I might even make them Small sized.  Still working out all the details, but that is where the fun is!

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Basic Bestiary Updates

Been a little quiet here I know.  So I figured I'd share an update.

Work is progressing nicely again on my various Basic Bestiaries.   I am still working out the kinks of my semi-universal stat block and work on what looks like will be an obscene number of demons.

Basic Bestiary updates

The complete column is the number that is 100% complete, ready for the last pass of edits.  Started has everything from just a name to almost everything minus one or two details. It also includes the complete. 

You can see that when I did this screenshot I was at 623 demons.  That number has jumped by three completed demons and 10 more incomplete/started.   The 10 are my Qliphoth demons I talked about way back in April.   The Qliphoth are just one of the man new demonic groups I am going to be introducing in this book.  

If you have been following my work for a while now you know I have Lilim, Eodemon, Shedim, Baalserph, and Calabim fiends among all my "demons."  This book will introduce the Qliphoth, Asura, Tarterian, Yaoguai, and Yōkai demonic lineages.I have a total of 11 lineages so far.  I just need to find a better name for the Neutral Evil Daemons. 

AD&D 2nd ed renamed them the Yugoloths, which I kind of liked to be honest, but the name is not OGC.   Even Pathfinder still calls them Daemons.  I mean it works yeah and it helps make it easier to use my books with your old AD&D ones.  But I think I can come up with something better really.   I mean I already split the devils into two separate lineages of the Calabim and the Baalseraph, so I am certainly not being tied down by tradition or nostalgia here. Not to mention my Qliphoth are quite different than Pathfinder's Qlippoth.

So why are there FOUR Basic Bestairies? Ah.  So back in April (I think) I was beginning to realize that my Basic Bestiary had grown too large.  I had already portioned off the demons (good plan) and the book was growing more and more.  Even right now I am at 387 complete non-demonic monsters.  So, I made another cut.

Basic Bestiary I, Monsters & Maleficarum, covers all the monsters that kept coming up in my research over the years on witches and witchcraft. This includes many of my Monstrous Mondays posts.

Basic Bestiary II, Books of the Dead, covers all the undead.  At least half of the book will be vampires.  

Basic Bestiary III, Demons & Devils, is pretty much what it says on the cover.

Basic Bestiary IV, covers...well, let me hold on to that one a little bit longer.

The goal was to release them all in 13-week intervals over the course of a year.  Though now I am giving thought to BBI and BBII to be released right away.  I suppose it depends on how much art I can buy and how much of BBIV I get done.

Speaking of art, I had some great art for these, but now I am planning on using that elsewhere.

I am still planning on releasing these in both hardcover and softcover formats so they can fit on your shelf next to your Advanced and Basic-era books respectively.

Basic Bestiary IBasic Bestiary I

Basic Bestiary IIBasic Bestiary II

Basic Bestiary IIIBasic Bestiary III

I am going with the Romantic period Goya and Füssli because they capture the mood of these books perfectly.  BBIV also goes with Füssli.  

I am quite excited to get these to you.  There will be some familiar faces here, but hopefully changed a bit to make them feel new.  My undead book for example takes all the undead combat rules I have used and puts them all in one place. I also universally use my new draining rules here too.  Demons get updates across the board and even what I call "the usual suspects" get a boost. 

My hope is you get as much fun out of these as I did working on them!

Thursday, May 6, 2021

This Old Dragon: Issue #20

Dragon Magazine #20
This issue has been on my want list for a very long time, well this weekend I finally got a copy and I could not be happier.  My copy is a little worse for the wear, but still I am happy. So let's get right to it!

This issue comes to us from November 1978, exactly one year before I would discover D&D.  The cover is a Halloween-inspired one, and frankly, I think it is great. It has a Ravenloft feel to it, five years early.  It's one of those that rewards you the more you look into it. I can't tell who did it though. I want to say Tom Wham. 

I also should point out that this isn't "Dragon #20" this is "The Dragon #20".  

We learn from Tim Kask's editorial that the price of The Dragon has gone up to $2.00 per issue. Plus they are going to a new printer for color, things look better, but there is a cost.  Out on a Limb is coming back and I guess it was "controversial."  

Up first Marc Miller talks about his game Imperium, described as "1977's Game of the Year."  He gives us a bit of history of how the game was created and it completely invokes all my Traveller Envy.  Marc follows this up with some rules addendums. 

Some reprinted editorials from Gygax; Dragon Rumbles #19. Largely about Gen Con and Origins. Gen Con is expanding and having growing pains. 

Speaking of expanding, TSR is looking for a new assistant to Gary Gygax.  You need to have good typing, spelling, and proofreading skills.  I wonder who got the job?  I have my guesses.

Job ad, be Gary's assistant.

Mike Crane has a nice random table of various Eyes and Amulets for Empire of the Petal Throne. Easily adaptable to D&D of course, if I knew what any of them actually did. 

Nice big ad for Star Trek minis, 75mm versions at $10.95 each. 

Jerome Arkenberg is up with a great one, The Mythos of Polynesia for Dungeons & Dragons.  The format is similar to what we find in "Gods, Demigods, and Heroes."  It is detailed enough for me to do a One Man's God for it but I know so little about these myths. The gods themselves are an interesting lot. Of them all, I knew Pele and Tangoroa the best. 

Wormy is next and in full color. 

Ah. Here is the reason why I bought this issue. 

Another Look at Witches and Witchcraft in D&D by Ronald Pehr.  This article is a sequel to the article from Dragon #5, and the prequel to the ones in Dragons #43 and #114. This one is more detailed than the one found in TD#5.  This one still has the disclaimer of an "NPC Class" but offers it as a potential PC class for some DM's games.   This one also makes the connection that witches are to magic-users as druids are to clerics. The author does point out that a witch is typically neutral although individuals can be good or evil as they please.  They are not Satan/Devil worshipers even if they can summon supernatural assistance. The author points out that Cleric, Druids, and Magic-users can summon the same sort of aid.   He also dismisses the stereotype that all witches are solitary old hags indicating they need to be to work with others and in harmony with nature so a Charisma of 9 is needed at the minimum.

Presented here are 18 levels in OD&D format. They have saves and attack rolls like that of the Magic-user but require more XP, 3,000 points needed for level 2 and it scales on from there.  This witch gains several powers per level as well.  Why making a Bag of Holding comes before the more stereotypical Brew Love Potion I don't know, I do know that even I think this witch is pretty damn powerful.  

This witch also has spells up to the 8th level.  This has always felt right to me as being between the Cleric and the Magic-user.  Even in modern games where every spellcasting class has access to 9th level spells I still like the idea that Wizards/Magic-users have access to greater magics, even above my beloved witches.  She may be limited to "only" 8th level spells here, but some of these spells...damn.  "Destroy Life Level." "Wither," "Circle of Distegreation."  I don't recall if all of these made it forward to issues #45 or #114, but they are some pretty powerful spells. 

The first part covers two pages then it is continued on for a quarter page later in the magazine.  What strikes me the most is not how really overpowered this class is (it was toned down in #45 and #114), or the casual sexism in the presentation ("it provides a very viable character for ladies," it was 1978 after all), but the fact that this was the headlining article and there is no art associated with it. 

This version of the witch is the one I have typically associated with Holme's Basic set. Mostly because they share a publication time. This fits since the witch from The Dragon #5 is very obviously an OD&D witch and the one from Dragon #45 is connected to the Moldvay Basic game. Also because of the time of publication and because Tom Moldvay did a bit of the editing on that version.  This leaves the obvious connection of Dragon #114 with AD&D 1st ed.

I suppose my collection of Dragon MAgazine witches is complete, more or less. I do not have a copy of The Dragon #5, the first witch, but I do have the reprint in Best of the Dragon Vol. 1 which is identical to what was in #5.

Dragon Magazine covers featuring the witch class.

The second reason I wanted this issue, Demonology made easy; or, How To Deal With Orcus For Fun and Profit by Gregory Rihn.  This article also calls back to The Dragon #5, in particular the article on Spell Research in D&D (also in the Best of Vol. 1).  The editor reminds us that the author, Gregory Rihn also gave us a great article on lycanthropy (again, in the Best of Vol. 1) so they feel this is a worthwhile article.  This article is good. It covers the reasons why a magic-user might want to summon a demon in D&D and then how to do it!  Take a moment to breathe that one in. The Satanic Panic was just about to happen.

There is a lot of detail here and a lot of really awesome role-playability.  I mean really if your wizard or witch hasn't tried summoning some evil from the deeper dark are they REALLY living?  There are even guidelines to what needs to be in the rituals (new vestments, items, even sacrifices) and what sort of tasks of the demon can be demanded.   

This article, plus the witchcraft one, when combined can be used to add a lot of flavor to the Warlocks of D&D 5.  

Halfway, we get some photos of the various winners of awards for 1977 at Gen Con XI. Pictures of John Holmes, his son Chris as well as awards presented by Elise Gygax to Marc Miller and Tim Kask among others.

See Africa and Die! Or, Mr. Stanley, Meet Dr. Livingstone comes to us from none other than Gary Gygax himself providing a review of the game Source of the Nile.  IT is not only a pretty detailed review but also suggests some rule corrections.  The review does make the game sound fun but this is the problem in reading 40-year-old+ game magazines. All the great stuff is long out of print and expensive as hell to find. 

William B. Fawcett gives us a Traveller variant/addition in The Asimov Cluster.  Traveller! Why must you haunt my every step! But seriously, this is the exact sort of thing I would read back in the day and make Traveller feel like this epic sweeping Space Opera.  I am sure it is. I am sure there are people (and I have read their blogs) that are just obsessed with Traveller as I am with D&D who would read the D&D articles and wistfully say "someday. someday I'll play that game and it will be as epic as I imagined."   I did play some Traveller, but mine never got epic.  I don't even know which Traveller system to start with now if I wanted to get back into it.  This is my "Sci-Fi" month. I should figure this one out.

Anyway, this article provides details on the Asimov Cluster with a lot of planets here to provide points of interest for your Traveller game.

A really cool ad for the D Series modules from TSR.  I bet these will be cool.  Followed by a preview of the Ralph Bakshi "Lord of the Rings" movie.

The Drow series and Lord of the Rings

Lyle Fitzgerald gives us a breakdown of character death in It's a Good Day to Die (Death Statistics of D&D Players).  I should note that these are statistics only from his local gaming group. And it is not Players that are dead but rather Characters.  Though props for using this as a title 10 years before Worf would utter the same words.  Though like most things it is better in the original Klingon.   It's an interesting read and might even be a good snapshot of the times.  Maybe I'll create a poll one day to get some more data.  Not that I honestly care much about character death, I just like statistics.

Allen Hammack, a very prolific Dragon writer back in the day, has a rule variant for hidden movement in the War of the Ring game.

Finieous Fingers is up. People talk about being able to judge the generations of games by their feelings on Tracy Hickman. I also say you can make the same judgment on the generations just prior to that on their opinion of FF.  It's fun, but does not fill me with nostalgia.

The Convention Schedule fills a quarter of a page. In a couple of years, it will expand to several pages.

Our last article is about Demonic Possession in the Dungeon from Charles Sagui, a name I don't think I have seen before.  It's a good guide and, as the author points out, something not used enough in games with demons. This article presents demonic possession as sort of a trap to be found in dungeons (well, that is the title after all) and a good use of it. Reading this it is easy to expand on it a little more and get your Regan and Captain Howdy types. 

A nice big ad for the new Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook.

Back cover is an add for the Space Gamer magazine. 

Ad for the Player's HandbookAd for the Space Gamer

Counting covers a total of 36 pages, but a lot has been packed into these pages.

It is interesting to read a Dragon from this time period when I was imprinted on Dragon from the Kim Mohan/80s period.  This one feels a little more like a White Dwarf magazine to me.  If you are curious, White Dwarf #9 was published around the same time.  

Also there is a feeling of embracing more games here.  It feels like gamers were far more open about trying out other games than with what some of the older gamers today would lead you to believe.  This is also consistent with how we all played back then.

So yeah. I paid a lot of money for this issue and I don't regret it at all really.  I still have my Dragon CD-ROM with all the PDF files, but having this in my collection is still worthwhile in my mind.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Mail Call! Minis, Blue Rose and Old Dragons

I got a bunch in the mail this past weekend so let's have a look!

Mail call items

HeroForge

Up first,  Some new minis from HeroForge.

Graz'zt in 25mmBold and True, Johan Paladin of Light

Graz'zt and my paladin Johan.  His sword, Demonbane, is on fire because it is a demon-hunting sword and Graz'zt is near.

You can get a better look at Graz'zt below.

Screenshot of Graz'zt

If you click on the HeroForge link here you can even see he has six fingers on each hand!

I forgot who made this, the post on Facebook is gone, but she did a great job.

He compares well to the official mini that was made for him.

Graz'zt minis

Graz'zt minisGraz'zt minis

And he looks good next to my HeroForge Iggwilv.

Graz'zt and Iggwilv minis

Blue Rose Adventure's Guide

The Blue Rose Adventure's Guide is out as a DriveThruRPG POD and it looks great!

Blue Rose Adventure's Guide

Pages from Blue Rose Adventure's Guide

Pages from Blue Rose Adventure's Guide

Pages from Blue Rose Adventure's Guide

Pages from Blue Rose Adventure's Guide

This allows you to play a Blue Rose game using the D&D 5th Edition rules. It is surprisingly complete.

Blue Rose Core and Blue Rose Adventure's Guide

You do not need the Blue Rose core rules to play this, but you do need the D&D 5th Edition rules.

A full review coming soon.

Dragon #20

And last, but not at all least, I finally got a copy of Dragon #20 with the Witch class and demonology guide.

Dragon Magazine #20

Witchcraft pages from Dragon Magazine #20

Witchcraft pages from Dragon Magazine #20

Expect a "This Old Dragon" post on this one soon!