Showing posts with label demons. Show all posts
Showing posts with label demons. Show all posts

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


Monday, March 14, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: The AD&D 2nd Ed Monstrous Compendiums, Part 5

MC14 Monstrous Compendium Fiend Folio Appendix
Fiends, Fiends, Fiends!

Today I delve into a dark subterranean world filled with long-forgotten creatures that have not seen the light of our sun for ages. Of course, by that, I mean the Usenet, and that age was the early 90s.  

What I think was one of the first big battles of the Edition Wars was the one concerning demons and devils.  Namely, where the hell were they for AD&D 2nd Edition?  They have not appeared in any of the Monstrous Compendiums so far and the official word was they were no longer needed.  Which everyone knew was a smokescreen for TSR caving into concerned, busy-body mothers and the religious right.  The discussions on Usenet had a LOT of opinions on why they were gone and then what to make of them when they finally came back.

Thankfully this did not last and by the start of 1991, we got demons and devils back, albeit in the names Tanar'ri and Baatezu. Ok, the names were changed but they were back.  In truth, I never minded the name change and it opened up the lower planes to have more than one type of demon or fiend. Something we are still benefiting from today.

MC14 Monstrous Compendium Fiend Folio Appendix

PDF 64 pages (70 with dividers and covers), Color cover art, black & white interior art, $4.99. 

While not full of fiend per se, the Fiend Folio has always had a place in the games of many 1st Ed AD&D players.  It was the second "Monster Manual" and it collected a number of creatures from various modules and the White Dwarf Fiend Factor column.  It was also either really loved or really hated, depending on who you asked.  Maybe that is the reason it did not get published until much later (1992) and was the 14th MC to be published.

This MC contains 65 monsters, Aballin to Zygraat, and is a fairly good representation of the monsters listed in the original Fiend Folio.  Some new (the aforementioned Aballin) but a few notable ones had appeared in other volumes already.  Drow appeared in the main Monstrous Compendium. Death Knights were moved to Dragonlance (a loosing their demonic heritage in the process) and Styx Devils had been published in the MC8 (see below).  The "oriental" Dragons are not here, but Gem Dragons are. There is no flumph here though. We don't see those again until Monstrous Compendium Annual Volume Two. 

Also there are no explanatory notes here that many of the others also had.  I guess at this point you are expected to know how to read the stat blocks. Not a complaint at all, merely an observation.

It is a mostly generic compilation of monsters and I mean that is a positive way.  These monsters can be used anywhere.  For example, I pulled out the Penanggalan and put it in my Ravenloft collection.

MC14 Monstrous Compendium Fiend Folio Appendix

MC8 Outer Planes Compendium
MC8 Monstrous Compendium Outer Planes Appendix

PDF 96 pages (102 with dividers and covers), Color cover art, black & white interior art, $4.99.  

This collection has 90+ monsters (Aasimon to Zoveri) from the various outer planes.  There are good and evil ones here so plenty for DMs taking the characters out of the dungeon and into new worlds.  There are a lot of old familiar faces and some new ones.  The "named" Demon Princes or Dukes of Hell are not here. Many, like Orcus, will never even get AD&D 2nd Ed stats. Most of the 1st Ed converts feel buffed up in stats. Even the succubus, a demon with little desire for combat, feels tougher with all her powers defined.

Demons and creatures from the Outer Planes in general really feel like they benefit from these expanded monster entries. While the Planescape Setting is still a bit away, we get tidbits of information about the Blood War and more.  Reminding us that when it comes to settings, 2nd Ed really was quite superior. 

MC8 Monstrous Compendium Outer Planes Appendix

Monstrous Compendium Planescape Appendix III

Monstrous Compendium Planescape Appendix III

PDF, 128 pages. Color art. $9.99

This book was one of the bound softcover Monstrous Compendium Appendices and it took on the trad dress and style of the Planescape line rather than the Monstrous Compendium line. The monsters inside conformed to the standard of the Monstrous Compendium stat blocks, but there was no doubt what line this belonged to.

This volume has 128 pages and 71 monsters from Animental to Xill.  Many of these monsters appear on both sides of the page, usually due to the larger art elements, and expanded details including a bit of fluff for each one.  This makes this book actually better for use in the three-ring binders.  Even though this one was never designed to be added!  Again another point for the PDFs.  That is if you don't mind printing out all the full-color pages this one has.

Interestingly enough the Xill appears here and the Fiend Folio MC 14.  In fact, many monsters from the AD&D 1st Fiend Folio also make it here. Cases in point the Quasi-elementals, the khargra (with much improved art), thoqqua, and trilloch.  The Khargra and the Xill appear in all three (1st ed and both 2nd Ed books).

Xill

This one does have explanatory notes and it also covers the ecology of the outer planes.  By this time the Planescape setting had been in pretty wide use so the "Planescape" view of the Outer Planes has superseded, for good or ill, the AD&D 1st Edition Manual of the Planes version.

AD&D 2nd Ed may not have started out with fiends (of any sort) but they ended with not just a few, but a whole new outlook on them that changed how D&D would use them for the next 30 years.

Thursday, February 3, 2022

One Man's God: Gods, Demigods, and Heroes

If you pardon the play on words here, the book Gods, Demigods, and Heroes holds a place of strange honor in the pantheon of D&D books.  It was the last of the Original D&D Supplements, Supplement IV. The next thing to come out would bring the split in the D&D product line, the Holmes Basic would continue OD&D in a strange OD&D/AD&D hybrid and the Monster Manual would start the AD&D product line.   In many ways, my personal "Ur-D&D" is a combination of Holmes Basic, the Monster Manual, Eldritch Wizardry, and GD&H.  My copy is the 7th Printing from 1976 so it at least mentions all the above books on the back page. 

Gods, Demigods, Heroes, Legends and Lore

The book was certainly making the rounds in my schools' various D&D groups and it was used EXACTLY as Mr. Kask told everyone not to use it as; a high-powered Monster Manual.  I have a distinct memory of hearing a conversation in my 8th grade D&D club about how someone's character was now the head of the Greek Gods because he had killed Zeus with Stormbringer.  It was a different time.

But I am not here today to comment on the various merits of the GD&H book.  I am here to talk about what it has to offer in terms of a One Man's God feature.

To do that I first need to at least see what Gods, Demigods & Heroes has in common with Deities & Demigods.  

The Gods, Demigods, and Heroes

I am going to compare my original Gods, Demigods, & Heroes to my original Deities & Demigods.  Both books would later have various mythos removed.

The books have the following pantheons/mythos in common (in order of appearance from GD&H):

Egyptian, India, Greek, Celtic, Norse (the largest), Finnish, Melnibone, Central American, "Eastern Mythos" (Chinese)

And the only Mythos unique to GD&H: Howard's Hyborea.

If you grab the PDF or POD versions of GD&H now there are no Melnibone or Hybora sections.

In many cases, there are more entries for various gods, heroes, and monsters in GD&H than in the D&DG.  Largely this is due to the much smaller statblocks and the lack of any art.  I could spend a lot of time going over the various differences, but I am sure that has already been done elsewhere online.  There are people that live for that sort of in depth D&D scholarship.

This is a One Man's God post, so to stay on topic I am looking for demons.

Deities, Demigods, & Demons

This will be a bit harder to tease out since many of the entries do not have an alignment listed.   Yes you read that correctly one of the oldest D&D books does not even use alignment for gods or monsters.

Also, the aim of One Man's God is to cast various creatures in terms of AD&D Demons.  AD&D only existed in Gary's head at this point. Though the demons did get a jump start in Eldritch Wizardry.  So for this posting, I am going to see what monsters here could be classified as Eldritch Wizardry demons.  This is appropriate since so many of the entries here have psionic abilities.

Egypt, Greek, Celtic, Melnibone, Central American, Chinese: No new creatures.

India: The section on India gives us three fantastic choices.  The Rakshasas will later go on to appear in the Monster Manual and Lawful Evil.  The related Yakshas, called "The weaker demons" and two other possible ones in the Naga (also in the MM) and the Maruts, or the Wind Spirits. Maruts are likely to be good-aligned. 

Norse: While I commented in the past that the giants of Norse myth take the place of other myths demons, there are some creatures that could be considered more demon-like.  Garm the guard dog of the Gate of Hel is literally a Hel-Hound. The Fenris Wolf and Jormungandr are both either demi-gods or demons.  But these last two do not meet all the requirements I set out to be AD&D demons.

Finnish: The Finnish myths get a lot of expansion here and if anyone is a fan of these tales then DG&H is a superior take than D&DG. Likely to due space reasons.

Hyborea

This one is getting special attention as it is "new" and tales from Robert E. Howard really shaped the look and feel of D&D.  Interestingly enough, these gods have no psionic powers.

There are few creatures here named demons; Demon of the Black Hands, Brylukas (neither man, nor beast, nor demon but a little of all three), Thaug the Demon, Khosatral Khel the Demon, the Octopus Demon, and Yag-Kosha.

This section is really written for people who already know all of these stories as there is not a lot of description given for anything.  I know some of these stories but I am no expert by any stretch of the imagination. 

For this, I would need to defer to the expert on Conan and how to use REH in OD&D, Jason Vey.  He has done enough about this to secure his place even the official accounts of the DG&H write-ups.



Forbidden LoreAge of ConanSecrets of Acheron



And with this epilog I wrap up the original purpose of One Man's God.  
I have a couple of posts on Syncretism still to do and maybe a couple of other side quests.

Monday, December 6, 2021

Monstrous Monday: Demon Prince Orcus fo AD&D 2nd Edition

Going back a bit to do some more level setting and based on a conversation I had last week with a friend.  He was looking for some stats for Orcus for 2nd Edition AD&D.  I have stats for all versions of AD&D/D&D for him, but none for 2nd Ed.  I had always felt that Orcus was dead throughout all of 2nd Edition (thanks to The Throne of Bloodstone) but the events of Dead Gods brought him back. 

I did have some older AD&D 2nd Ed stats I had created in something I call the "Red Book."  The notes are largely cribbed from 1st Edition sources. 

To rebuild this I am going to also look to other sources like Swords & Wizardry and Pathfinder.  

Orcus for AD&D 2nd Ed

Orcus, Demon Prince of the Undead

Climate/Terrain:  The Abyss
Frequency:  Unique
Organization:  Solitary
Activity Cycle:  Any
Diet:  Carnivore
Intelligence:  Supra-genius (20)
Treasure:  P, S, T, U
Alignment:  Chaotic evil
No. Appearing:  1 (Unique)
Armor Class:  -6
Movement:  18, Fl 36 (B)
Hit Dice:  25 (130 hp)
THAC0:  7
No. of Attacks:  3 (see below)
Damage/Attack:  1d10+3/1d10+3/2d4 + special
Special Attacks:  Fear, spell-like powers, summon and command undead, Wand of Orcus
Special Defenses:  +3 or better weapons to hit
Magic Resistance:  85%
Size:  L (15' tall)
Morale:  Fearless (19-20)
XP Value:  36,000

Orcus is the Prince of the Undead, and it said that he alone created the first undead that walked the worlds.

Orcus is one of the strongest (if not the strongest) and most powerful of all demon lords. He fights a never-ending war against rival demon princes that spans several Abyssal layers. From his great bone palace he commands his troops as they wage war across the smoldering and stinking planes of the Abyss. Orcus spends most of his days in his palace, rarely leaving its confines unless he decides to leads his troops into battle (which has happened on more than one occasion). Most of the time though, he is content to let his generals and commanders lead the battles.

Appearance:  Orcus is a grossly fat demon lord, some 15 feet tall.  His huge grey body is covered with coarse goatish hair.  His head is goat-like, although his horns are similar to those of a ram.  His great legs are also goat-like but his arms are humanoid.  Vast bat wings sprout from his back, but these are usually tucked out of sight when he is not in flight.   His long, snaky tail is tipped his a poisonous head.

Combat: It is probable that this creature is one of the most powerful and strongest of all demons. If he so much as slaps with his open hand the blow causes 1-4 hit points of damage. His terrible fists can deliver blows of 3-13 hit points. If he uses a weapon he strikes with a bonus of +6 to hit and +8 on damage. Additionally, his tail has a virulent poison sting (-4 on all saving throws against its poison), and his tail strikes with a 15 dexterity which does 2-8 hit points each time it hits.

Orcus prefers to fight using his wand. (see below)

Orcus radiates a 60-foot-radius aura of fear (as the spell). A creature in the area must succeed on a saving throw vs. Spell or be affected as though by a fear spell (caster level 30th). A creature that successfully saves cannot be affected again by Orcus’s fear aura for one day. 

Orcus can, at will, use any one of the following powers: 

Orcus can command or banish undead as a 15th-level cleric, controlling up to 150 HD worth of undead at one time. He casts spells as a 15th level cleric and 12th level magic-user, and can use the following magical abilities at will: animate dead, charm monster, darkness, dispel magic, ESP, fear, feeblemind (1/day), lightning bolt (12 die), speak with dead (as 20th level cleric), symbol (any) and wall of fire.

Additionally, he has an 80% chance of gating in any demon of type I-V (but only a 50% chance of gating a type VI or VI and will never call upon another prince). 

Orcus furthermore is able to summon the undead, for he is their prince. If random calling is desired by the referee the following is suggested:

  • 4-48 Skeletons
  • 4-32 Zombies
  • 4-24 Shadows
  • 2-8 Vampires

Habitat/Society: When not warring against rival demon princes, Orcus likes to travel the planes, particularly the Material Plane. Should a foolish spellcaster open a gate and speak his name, he is more than likely going to hear the call and step through to the Material Plane. What happens to the spellcaster that called him usually depends on the reason for the summons and the power of the spellcaster. Extremely powerful spellcasters are usually slain after a while and turned into undead soldiers or generals in his armies.

He has a following of human worshippers as well; warlocks, death masters, necromancers, and evil priests.

Ecology: Orcus controls several levels of the Abyss he claims as his own including the 113th and 333rd layers.  When not at war with the forces of good and life he wars with all the other demon princes for control of all the Abyss.  Orcus' goal is to see all life extinguished and death reigns supreme. 

Wand of Orcus

Wand of Orcus: Mighty Orcus wields a huge black skull-tipped rod that functions as a +3 heavy mace. It slays any living creature it touches if the target fails a saving throw. Orcus can shut this ability off so as to allow his wand to pass into the Material Plane, usually into the hands of one of his servants. Further, the Wand has the following magical powers: 3/day—animate dead, darkness and fear; 2/day—unholy word.

--

Might need to tweak it some for my own uses, but this looks like it works well enough.  These stats are not perfect by any stretch, but they feel pretty close. 

I reject the fan theory that so many have adopted that Orcus was once human.  Though this does fit in with the Mystara/BECMI Immortals Set version of Orcus. Though THAT Orcus also has 39 HD and 620 HP.  

I prefer my own where he is a remnant of a former god. He has memories of God-like power, but nothing else.  After all according to Milton Orcus was in Hell when the Devils first arrived.

In any case, I do see that Orcus became more powerful after the events of Dead Gods. Maybe also explaining why he went from being "immensely fat and covered in grey hair" to the red demon of 21st century D&D. 

Links

Thursday, October 28, 2021

This Old Dragon: Retrospective, Devils and the Nine Hells

It's the last full week of Halloween (October to you mundanes out there) so what better topic than the go over all of the Devils that have appeared in the pages of Dragon Magazine. 

Dragons #75 and #76

This Retrospective could go on for a long time, so I think I am going to limit myself to mostly 1st Edition treatments.  Thanks to TSR bowing to the moral panic of the time we got exactly one article about Devils proper that I can find for the 2nd Ed days.  They pick back up for D&D 3rd Ed, but that is getting beyond the scope of "This Old Dragon."

dragon magazine 13 demons
"The Dragon" Days

These were some of the earliest discussions on the Devils and the Nine Hells. They typically coincide with the release of the AD&D 1st Edtion Monster Manual when we introduced devils to D&D for the first time. Demons had already been added in Eldritch Wizardry for OD&D and had become a staple as these articles show.  This also set the divide of Chaotic Evil Demons and Lawful Evil Devils that persists to this day.  But before we get to devils proper, let's have a look at some early articles on Demons.

The Dragon #13

This issue comes to us from April 1978.  This issue is notable in our discussions for two reasons. First is an ad in the back for the Monster Manual and secondly, there is the brief one-page article on Demon creation.  Ok, so not devils, but the same logic could apply. 

The Dragon #20

I covered this one in a proper This Old Dragon a little bit back. In this issue we have Demonology made easy; or, How To Deal With Orcus For Fun and Profit by Gregory Rihn.  This expands the above article and makes it more AD&D than OD&D.  Again these are demons, but the same rules can apply to devils.

The Dragon #23

This is the third attempt at a random demon system, this time from Gary himself. This one draws from the first two. Random Generation of Creatures from the Lower Planes is exactly what it says on the tin really.  We should make a note here. This is for creatures of the Lower Planes, not just demons.

The Politics of Hell

Dragon #28, or more specifically for me, The Best of Dragon Vol. II gave us a landmark article that is almost entirely fluff; The Politics of Hell by Alexander von Thorn. Mr. von Thorn's only other contribution to Dragon would be 10 issues later with some skill for Traveller. He continued working, mostly on GURPS, and is still active online.  

Politics of Hell

This was a landmark article that among other things it lets us know why Asmodeus, a lesser demon from the Tobit originally, was the ruler of Hell and where Satan was.  The mythology presented here is extremely Judeo-Christian, so that may or may not work for a lot of games and gamers.  It did however introduce me to Astaroth and by extension Astarte. 

Dragon #42 would make a good choice for a future This Old Dragon.  I'll have to see if I have it in my big old box of Dragons.  This is the October 1980 Halloween-themed issue and has a few articles on Devils and even features on of the most famous pictures of Orcus ever.

The article "Demons, Devils and Spirits" comes to us first from Tom Moldvay.  This one features four new spirits that are Lawful Good, Neutral, Chaotic Evil, and Lawful Evil. So a full house!  Ashleigh Parker is next with The Possessors, or demons that can possess others.  Lewis Pulsipher wraps it up with Patron Demons, a forerunner to what we will see in warlock pacts

The Nine Hells by Ed Greenwood

Not since Dragon #28's The Politics of Hell did Devils and Nine Hells get as much attention as they did in the pages of Dragons #75 and #76.  There is a faint hint of the Realms here, but not so much that I felt this was world-specific.  In fact, in the summer of 1983, we were still a couple more years away from the Forgotten Realms being a thing for the rest of us.

The Nine Hells, parts 1 and 2

These two articles cover every layer of the Nine Hells in descending order and discuss the Dukes that rule them, their consorts, their advisors, and even some of the other devils that can be found here.  There are shades of Dante's Inferno here but this is pure D&D.

This series casts such a long shadow that one would be forgiven if they forgot that Gary opened the series with the Devils that would appear in the upcoming Monster Manual II.  This includes the Abishai devils, which are the spawn of Tiamat.   Even though in my personal campaigns I have taken Tiamat out of Hell, the Abishai remain and are still her spawn. 

Combining these we can see there is a certain level of world-building that has gone on past the publications of books like the Deities & Demigods.  In particular, all non-Devil Gods have been kicked out of the Hells.  I took this a step further and even removed Tiamat and placed her on her own plane.

The articles are long and just filled with great information.  It would not be until the later AD&D 2nd Ed years that we would get this much detail on Devils.  

For Dragon #400, Wizards reprinted the entire series, with AD&D 1st ed stats.

Dragon #91

Greenwood (and Gygax) are back a little more than a year later.  Gary has a revised Goristro demon from Monster Manual II. But the big news is Ed has more Nine Hells with some details left out of the original series. It is quite a long one to be honest.  Of note for me there is a devil "Gargoth" that should replace "Astaroth" from the Politics of Hells article. We are told that Astaroth is a demon prince, but that is all.  Astaroth/Astarte just can't catch a break at all.

This is followed by Eight Devilish Questions, something of a FAQ about devils. 

Interestingly enough, this is also the issue that Ed gives us the sword that would change my campaign in very profound ways; Demonbane.

What the Hell is a Baatezu?

Dragon #223

It will be a little more than 10 years before we get anything else about Devils in the pages of Dragon.  This time it is a similar article to Politics of Hell but the new Lords of the Nine only have a little connection to old lords. Some are the same like Dis, others are related, like Fierana, and others still are new or so heavily disguised they might as well be new (Levistus and the Dark Lord respectively).

Honestly, it wasn't until Wizards of the Coast bought TSR that we ever got proper Devils back.  These lords though have been woven back into the history of the Devils since 3e.  Even in this article the term "Devil" to mean these fiends is never used. 

Final Thoughts

Doing a retrospective like this is mostly just time-filling fluff unless I want some takeaways from it all. 

Cosmic Chicken

There seems to be a game of cosmic chicken going on in the early depictions of devils. While there are some that are different in their mythological origins, Geryon from Dante's Inferno and the Erinyes from Roman Myth to name two, the vast majority of these creatures, especially the ones in Dragon, are from Judeo-Christian sources.  That is of course except for The Devil himself.  The authors are willing to pour through all the Medieval demonologies for names, but when it comes to Satan they blink. That is except for one article.  I get it.  There is a lot of baggage with "The Devil" both for religious and cultural reasons.  If you are going to mine "The Inferno" and "Paradise Lost" then why leave out one of the main characters?

Though I will admit I have also struggled in using the Big D in my games, only because it needs to be something special.

Worlds Apart

While a lot of "game rules" can be applied to both demons and devils equally, I am reminded in this retrospective that they are not, and should not be the same.  So while I was mentally looking over the differences and resorting (something that D&D 4e tried to do as well and met with some successes but most criticism from the fans) them into different categories, one category began to show itself in a surprising way.

Gary was better at creating demons and demon-like devils, Ed Greenwood was better at devils.  So for this reason I have decided that in my games demons take a larger interest in the world of Oerth (Greyhawk) and devils take more of an interest in the world of Toril (Forgotten Realms).  There are some exceptions of course.  Orcus has tried to make headway into the Realms many times.  But generally speaking in the games I have run and the D&D novels I have read, this seems to hold true.


Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Featured Artist: Rosaleen Norton

I have not done one of these for so long.  I am watching "The Witch of Kings Cross" the documentary of artist Rosaleen Norton.  The movie is great and it reminded me how much I love her work.  Before I get into talking about Roie, I want to mention that actress Kate Elizabeth Laxton who plays Roie in the documentary is just fantastic.  

Ok. On to Roie.

Rosaleen Norton

Rosaleen Miriam Norton was born October 2, 1917 and lived till December 5, 1979.  She was considered to be an esoteric artist and one of Australia's most notorious artists.  She was one of the first women to ever be charged with obscenity for her art. 

So I guess fair warning for the art that follows.

satanic orgies

She referred to herself as a "witch" and used altered states of consciousness to make her art. She often called herself "Thorn," much like a craft name.  But her friends all called her Roie.

I came to know her via her art "The Seance."  I thought she had tapped into something deep and maybe even a little dark.  For someone young and obsessed with witches and the writings of C.G. Jung she seemed like some sort of prophetess or seeress to me. 

The Seance by Rosaleen Norton

Later I learned her art was fueled by drugs, sex, and trying to commune with other powers, in particular Pan.  Sounds perfect to me.  

If The Seance grabbed me, then her Lilith cemented her in the pantheon of people that influenced my RPG writings.


Lilith

The Spinner by Rosaleen Norton

She does a lot of Jungian archetypes in her art and I use the same ones when I wrote my first books on witches.

Bacchanal by Rosaleen Norton

Firebird by Rosaleen Norton

Fohat by Rosaleen Norton

Her demon Fohat (above) was something of her personal demon or even a Jungian Animus. 

Black Magic

Norton art

Rosaleen Norton



Norton art

Norton art

Norton art

Interviewer: What would be the state of the world if evil ruled?
Roie: Exactly as it is now.

If I could, her art would be the covers for all my books.

"I came into this world bravely, and I will leave this world bravely."

- Last Words of Rosaleen Norton

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

One Man's God Special: Syncretism Part 2, the Greco-Egyptian Gods

In the mythologies of the Ancient World, there are two that really stand out. The Greek and the Egyptian.  Both cultures grew to great prominence and fundamentally shaped our world.  Both had fascinating tales of gods, monsters, and heroes. 

Thanks to the trade and eventual rule of the Ptolemaic Pharos, we have a set of syncretized Greco-Egyptian gods.

While I would happily sit here and talk about these gods in an academic sense, my goal with OMG is really to present these from the lens of D&D, and from the Deities & Demigods in particular.  I am going to stick with gods that were actually worshiped, or at least recognized.  For this, I am going to rely on the scholarship of others, in particular, that of Dr. Kathrin Kleibl at the German Maritime Museum in Bremerhaven.  I am drawing heavily from her chapter (Chapter 41) in The Oxford Handbook of Ancient Greek Religion.  She has written more, ok lots more, and her work could form the cornerstone of a new pantheon for a new Deities & Demigods II if such a thing were feasible. 

Ptolemaic Egyptian Mythos

In 323 BCE Alexander the Great controlled Egypt, his reign, however, was short-lived and his general Ptolemy took control and his family ruled until 31 CE when they were taken over by Rome. The famous Cleopatra (Cleopatra VII) was the last of their line. The Ptolemaic Pharos or Ptolemaic Kings were not Egyptian but were Greek.  They ruled and lived a Greek lifestyle.  Only Cleopatra is recorded to have actually learned some of the Egyptian languages.  The gods they created or were created around them had a unique blending of both Greek and Egyptian features.  Not just physical features, though that is true as well, but religious features and aspects.

Bust of Zeus-Serapis, Roman copy of a Greek original from the 4th century BC, from the Serapeum of Alexandria
Zeus-Serapis

By the time Ptolemy took the throne, there was already syncretism happing in the Egyptian worldview.  Serapis was a new popular god figure that combined Osiris with the Apis Bull.  In some places, Serapis had already supplanted Osiris as the main God.  Zeus-Serapis was an "artificial" conflating of Zeus with Serapis.  I say artificial because it was believed he was created by the ministers of Ptolemy I to have a God that could be worshipped by Greeks and Egyptians alike.  Newer research has shed some doubt on this interpretation, but for our uses here it does not matter his actual source, only what he became after that. 

Zeus was the god of the sky, Osiris was the god of the dead and the god of the Pharos.  Zeus-Serapis became the God of the Sun and of Healing. In this, he effectively takes over the "portfolios" of Apollo, Helios, and Ra. As protector of the dead, this also includes the benevolent nature of Hades.

Isis

Isis went from the wife of Osiris and potentially one of the most powerful goddesses in the myths to the Mother of the Gods and thus the pharos.  The Ptolemaic Pharos would often take on the epithet of "Sons of Isis."  Isis remained a popular goddess well into the Roman age.

Isis was also combined with Aphrodite, a goddess of unknown origin herself.  Given the connections between Isis and other goddess like Astarte, Innana, and Ishtar, this sets Isis up as the primary female divinity of the Ancient world. 

The "Mysteries of Isis" became a mystery religion that had some outward similarities to the Greek Eleusinian Mysteries associated with Demeter.  Her cult with tied to that of Zeus-Serapis, effectively becoming a Father and Mother figure to the Ptolemaic dynasty.  In this respect, she takes on the kinder natures of Hera and the dedication of Isis.  she would be the one called upon by women in childbirth. Especially when we consider what is going on with Horus.

Isis Aphrodite Isis and Horus

Horus/Harpokrates

To complete the "holy trinity" of Father-Mother-Child the Greeks renamed Horus, or 'Har-pa-chered' literally "Horus the Child." as Harpokrates.  Where he was envisioned as a child-like divinity.  Gone was the Avenger Horus and now we get a proto-Christ Child in his place. 

Images of Isis nursing the infant Horus would later go on to influence the depictions of the Virgin Mary with infant Jesus.

Anubis/Hermanubis

While not equated with any Greek God in particular Anubis appears as a guide to Isis and advisor of Zeus-Serapis.  Some of Osiris' duties as lord of the dead get transferred to Annubis.

In some cases, we have a syncretized Hermes-Anubis, or Hermanubis, as a psychopomp and protector of the dead. 

Seth

Going a touch outside of Dr. Kleibl's work we get the god Seth. Also known as Set and Suketh and Setekh.  He originally was the good protector god of Upper Egypt. But this was 3,000 years before the Ptolemies.  More time between us and the Ptolemies to be honest.  Over the centuries Set changed from this benevolent god to the murderer of Osiris and the force of all evil and chaos in the world.   

Seth was the name the Greeks called him, and they associated him most with the monster Typhon.  Interestingly enough, I find no conflation with Seth and Hades inDr. Kleibl's text.  While both were seen as dark, chthonic figures, the Greeks in Egypt did not equate them.  But there are still some.

Set/Nephthys and Hades/Persephone

While the associations are not perfect there is a similarity between the relationship of Set and Nephthys with that of Hades and Persephone.   Both Nephthys and Persephone are considered goddesses of the underworld and mourning. Both are attached to husbands they would rather leave.  Both Hades and Set are complicated gods that are often viewed as evil. Both have been accused of raping or at least coercing their future wives.  

I have not found any direct relationship to suggest that they were synchronized, the option certainly feels valid.  The conflation of Set with Hades is one of the suspected origins of the Christian Devil; in particular the association of the devil in the desert or "the wilderness" (in Matthew) when he tempts Jesus. Set is the god of the desert and wild places.  Though I am not aware of any scholarship that has uncovered a synchronized Set-Hades (see Serapis above).

Nephthys was also commonly conflated with the Greek Nys, Goddess of the Night.  As it turns out "Nephthys" is already the Greek name for the Goddess the Egyptians knew as Nebt-het or Nebhet.

Hermes Trismegistus

Not part of Dr. Kleibl's work, but one that really put me on the road to this. Hermes Trismegistus is the synchronized version of Hermes and Thoth.  Hermes Trismegistus may have been less of a worshipped figure and more of a translation error when the Greeks were translating the Egyptian writing (hieroglyphic and Demotic).  Hermes Trismegistus became more important in later medieval times as the author of the Hermetic Texts.  

Heka

This one is also not part of Dr. Kleibl's research but one of my own creations based on her, and other, research.   I talked about the Hecate / Heka connections back when I did OMG: Greek Myths and OMG: Egyptian Myths. With the loss of Isis as the Goddess of Magic we have Heka as the new Goddess of Magic and the Underworld.  Her relationship with Isis is the same as that of Ishtar with Ereshkigal.  This also makes her the perfect goddess of witches.  

Hecate was also conflated with the Egyptian Heqet, the Goddess that was the midwife to Isis when Horus was born. Indeed the Greeks also conflated her with Ereshkigal.  In this respect she could be considered the sister to the Mother Goddess Isis. 

Others

There were plenty more, but it is difficult to know whether these were worship syncretic gods or part of the Interpretatio graeca where the Greeks often substituted names of other gods for their own gods. 

For example, the Greek Asclepius is often equated with the Egyptian Imhotep to become the patron of Healing.   

The Greek Adonis is equated with the Egyptian Osiris, the Sumerian Dumuzid, and the Phoenician Tammuz to all be equivalent Gods of Agriculture and Grain.  This is the same "God figure" of James Frazer's "The Golden Bough."  Another god that fits this is the Greek God Dionysus, who is also conflated with Adonis and Osiris.

Looking over this "pantheon" I quickly note there is no god of war.  There was Montu for the Egyptians, but the "god of war" was also served by Anhur, Ra, Sekmet, and Set at various times.  The Greeks and Romans had Ares and Mars respectively in addition to Athena-Minerva.  You see more syncretism with Ares/Mars in later periods, especially with the gods of the Celts and European peoples. 

The Greeks did know of Anhur and they called him "Onuris."  This is the god of war and battle. His primary goal is to drive out the enemies of Egypt (and Greece).  If we were so inclined we could add all the "avenger" aspects lost by Horus when he became Harpokrates. In this, he takes on the role of Protector of Isis, which of course means the protector of Egypt and the line of the Pharohs. 

Game Play Uses

It was not AD&D that sent me down the road of this Ptolemaic Egyptian Mythos, but rather Gary Gygax's other game, Dangerous Journeys.  Gary's Ægypt fascinated me when I first read about it in the 90s.   So much so that when I wanted an Egyptian-like land I used large chunks of this along with Arypt from Mystara and Erypt from the World of Greyhawk.  All of this together gave me my Ærypt

While it would be best to use the Egyptian gods, RAW, from the Deities & Demigods, using these has appeal, even if I have no idea how the "Greeks" got into my world.  Maybe something else altogether is in order for that.  A future post maybe.

For this "new" Pantheon I would want to relate these Gods in AD&D terms.  This is after all the primary focus of One Man's God, not as a treatise on comparative religions. I also don't want or even need, D&DG-style stat blocks.  These are not "monsters" to be fought. 

I am taking the important bits from the AD&D D&DG, namely"power" levels of the various gods, their alignment, and their worshipper's alignments.   While not stated as "Domains" (that's a 3rd Edition term) I am using them here. These are roughly the same as 2nd Ed's "Spheres."

Serapis
Greater God
Alignment: Lawful Good
Worshipper Alignment: Any Good
Domains: Law, Sun, Sky (including storms and rains), the Dead, Rulers
Symbol: Sun

Isis
Greater Goddess
Alignment: Neutral Good
Worshipper Alignment: Any Good, Women (Mysteries of Isis)
Domains: Motherhood, the Home, Childbirth, Love, Fertility
Symbol: Moon or the Roman symbol for Venus

Harpokrates
Greater God
Alignment: Lawful Good
Worshipper Alignment: Any Good
Domains: Life
Symbol: Ankh

Seth
Greater God (or Intermediate God)
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
Worshipper Alignment: Any Evil
Domains: Darkness, Chaos, Desolation
Symbol: Coiled Snake

Nephthys
Greater Goddess (or Intermediate God)
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral
Worshipper Alignment: Any
Domains: Night, Darkness, the Underworld
Symbol: Dark moon

Hermes Trismegistus
Hermes Trismegistus
Greater God (or Intermediate God)
Alignment: Neutral
Worshipper Alignment: Any
Domains: Knowledge, Wisdom, Secrets
Symbol: A circle within a square within a triangle within a circle.

Heka
Lesser Goddess
Alignment: Lawful Neutral
Worshipper Alignment: Any, Witches
Domains: Magic, Witchcraft, Childbirth, Darkness
Symbol: Crescent moon

Adonis (Dionysus-Osiris)
Lesser God
Alignment: Lawful Neutral
Worshipper Alignment: Any
Domains: Agriculture, Grain, Wine, Life-Death-Rebirth
Symbol: Sheath of grain

Onuris
Lesser God
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral
Worshipper Alignment: soldiers, warriors
Domains: War
Symbol: Spear 

Asclepius-Imhotep
Demigod
Alignment: Neutral Good
Worshipper Alignment: Any, Healers
Domains: Healing
Symbol: Scalpel 

What About the Demons?

This is all fun and everything, but what about the demons of this mythology?  We have a "devil" in the form of Seth.  I would say that given Egypt's history with demons that some would still be around, but maybe in an altered form.  I think given the Greek connection that Demogorgon would be a good choice too.  Especially if I move Seth over to Lawful Evil (more devil-like).

With the influences of the Greeks and Romans, Late Period Egypt had an increase in creatures that were more related to the Greek daimon.  Demons went from creatures that guarding firey gates to creatures that plagued the Earth with troubles. Egypt at this time was also part of the larger trade routes of first Greece then the Roman Empire, so many gods, goddesses, and demons were filtered through the lens of both ancient and "modern" Egyptian religion.

Guardian Demons

Gate, or Guardian Demons, or demon were the most common sort and were usually created by the Gods.  Their job was to keep mortals out of their realms.  They are demons in the sense that they are supernatural creatures that are neither mortals nor are they gods. These creatures were also described in funerary texts, their names or epithets placed on coffins to protect the dead. They were fierce creatures.  Apep and Ammit from the OMG Egyptian Myths could fit this role, but there are others with names like In-tep, Chery-benut, and Ikenty.  Ikenty was a large bird-like monster with the head of a cat.

Wanderer Demons

The other class of demons were the Earthly or wanderer demons, . These are the demons who cause problems on Earth, gave people nightmares, caused disease, and possessed humans.

I have a Part 4 of this series to do later.  I plan on incorporating some of the work of Prof. Panagiotis Kousoulis of the University of the Aegean, Greece.  Most of his work is in Greek, so I am digging around for English translations.  Part 4 takes this concept of syncretism and demons and dials it up.

But I need to do my Part 3 first.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Gen Con 2011 Haul

I picked up:

OSRIC hardcover from the OSR booth.  Figured I should support the cause and I didn't have an OSRIC book anymore.

Call of Cthulhu 30th Anniversary Ed

DC Adventures Heroes and Villains

A bunch of the old Mayfair Role-Aids "Demons" books.  Four books and two boxed sets for 15 bucks. All still in their shrink wrap.
It's for 2nd Ed AD&D, but there are a lot of stats on the sheet (including ability scores) that all they are missing are skills and feats for 3.x.



And the Mage Knight Apocalypse Dragon to stand in for Tiamat when the Dragon Slayers battle her in the final battle of their campaign.
I spent more on this than I should have and more than my wife wanted me to, but I figure it is for the kids' last D&D 3 game so it should be worth it.


Shown here with Aspect of Tiamat and Orcus.  AoT takes up 3x3 squares, Orcus 4x4.  The Apocalypse Dragon, or in our game it will be the full manifestation of Tiamat, takes up 7x7.
It will be brutal.

The swag bag this year had magic cards, some True Dungeon tokens and a coupon for the Gen Con d6.  Though out of 4 bags we only got one coupon.

Game reviews later.