Showing posts with label gods. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gods. Show all posts

Thursday, November 18, 2021

One Man's God Special: Syncretism Part 3, the Roman-Norse Pantheon

Thor as King of the Gods
Let's partake in a thought experiment.  I am going to take the Gods as written from The Deities & Demigods and take them on a little trip.

This thought experiment, or Gedankenexperiment, as Einstien was fond of saying, was designed to cover a thought I had going back to my first reading of Norse Myths.   That thought was what if the Norse Gods and Greek Gods were the same groups of gods represented in different parts of the world?

Roman-Norse Pantheon 

Imagine if you will some Roman Pagans, say circa 300-500 CE.  While Christianity is becoming the official religion of the Empire, not everyone is taking up the Christian Gods. There is still a mix of Pagan Roman gods, Greek Gods, local gods and spirits, house gods, and more.  The further you are from Rome (and later also Constantinople) the more likely you are to still hold on to your local gods.

Now, far to the North, there are the Nordic-Germanic tribes.  They are the "barbarians" of Roman lore, they want Rome's treasures, its power.  But most of these people just want to find new lands to grow food on.  While the Viking raids to England and Ireland are so stamped into our collective subconscious (and for many of us, our DNA) there were other forrays into other lands.  Some we know went South.  But the bulk of these did not happen till 800s CE when most of Europe was firmly Christianized.  We do know that the Romans had interactions with the Norse and made connections between their respective sets of Gods. Romans were rather practical when came to religion.   

We also know that the Norse, when confronted with Christianity adopted a uniquely Viking view of Jesus, recasting him as a great and powerful chieftain or king

So let's imagine a time. Sometime after 300 CE but maybe before 900 CE.  The Northmen are not all Viking raiders and the Romans are not all Christian.  I joke that there is a time when this would be all true, likely for about 6 hours on a Thursday in June 634 CE, but go with me on this trip anyway.  We have a group of Roman pagans moving north, a group of Northmen heading south.  They both drift west a bit and end up in the Black Forest region of Southern Germany.  Here they meet and instead of going to war, they build a community.  Here their beliefs find common ground and since both groups are polytheists, they accept each other's Gods.  Soon. The gods, like the people, become one.  

First conceit: Since they did not go to war when first meeting their war gods on both sides will seem more "reasonable" than their antecedents.   

Now keep in mind that at this time there were versions of the "Norse" gods in these Germanic areas. We know that Wotan and Woden would change and become Odin of the Norse.  So bringing these gods "back down" is almost an unnecessary step. They were already here in a different form.  Bu this allows me to focus on the names they have in the D&DG.  Plus if I need to "smooth things out" I can use the Germanic versions.

Second conceit: While here this group of pagans will speak a version of Old German. Both groups picked it up "along the way."

While I want to focus on the names in the Deities and Demigods, I am going to allow myself to step outside of that to make for a better pantheon.  Of course, life, especially when it comes to the Gods and syncretism, is never so ordered.  But as we have seen with the D&D pantheons in the past, such order is often implied or imposed.

Some of this flows from some reading I was doing around the same time I discovered D&D.  I had found this book of world myths. It had the familiar Greek, but it also introduced me to the Norse myths for the first time.  This book also had the tale of Beowulf in the back. I began to think there was a continuity between these three separate, but not entirely separate really, groups of tales. 

I should also note that these gods have similarities to each other not just because they were all invented by people that had similar experiences, but they all draw their inspiration from the same roots of an earlier Proto Indo-European pantheon of gods.  I am not trying to recreate these PIE gods here, but I will lean heavily on that research to inform my choices.  For this reason I am also including Celtic gods in this mix for now BUT I am not explaining that connection just yet.  Though we do know that the Celtic Hallstatt culture and was in this area at this time and this grew out of the La Tène culture from earlier.  Likely though the gods were not using the names in D&DG. I am so everyone here knows what I am talking about. I do like that there are three mythoi involved here.

Who's In Charge?

Let's start with who is the leader of this combined pantheon.  We know from historical records that it was Thor, or more to the point, Thunor or Donar, and not Odin, that was the chief god of the Germanic peoples. Odin/Wotan would come along much later (8th to 9th centuries).  This is good since already there was a lot of conflating of Thor/Thunor with Zeus/Jupiter. Thursday for example is both Thor's day and sacred to Jupiter.  From this notion, we can move on in thought experiments to make other associations.  

Now I am fully aware I am taking a historical god to make a precedent for game gods.  This would be academic dishonestly since I have made no claim, nor provided support why it is ok for me to do this.  Save for one.  This is not an academic treatise.  I am building something for a game, and for AD&D 1st Edition as it appears in the Deities & Demigods in particular. The Thor/Thunor/Jupiter connection is only the pin I am hanging everything else on. 

The Gods

I am going to use the abbreviated "stat block" I used in One Man's God Special: Syncretism Part 2 when I described the pantheon of  Greco-Egyptian Gods.   Also considering that I am having this all happen somewhere in Germany I am going to give these gods German names.  They are modern German names to be sure, I am not going to try to deconstruct 7th Century German when I have enough trouble remembering how to speak 20th (yes I know what I said) Century German.

While they have gods they are syncretized from they take on their own personalities.  Thor could be a bit slow at times but was never cruel (unless you were a giant) and Zeus could be a loving father, but a terrible husband with a mean streak and a temper. 

Unser Vater
Greater God
Alignment: Chaotic Good
Worshipper Alignment: Any Good (all)
Domains: Thunder, Lightning, Sky (including storms and rains), Warriors
Symbol: A Thunderbolt
Greek/Roman: Zeus/Jupiter
Norse: Thor, with a dash of Odin
Celtic: The Dagda
PIE: Dyēws

Unser Vater, "our father," is the chieftain of the gods. He rules because he is strong and powerful.  He keeps Der Hüne at bay and protects those who pay him homage. He tries to be good and just but he has a temper that can rage out of control.  He can usually be calmed by his wife Herde Oberin.

Other Gods follow.

Hüne Vater
Lesser (Intermediate) God
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
Worshipper Alignment: Any evil
Domains: Creation, destruction
Symbol: Fire
Greek/Roman: Chronos/Saturn
Norse: Surtr
PIE: Archdemon

Hüne Vater is the father of the current generation of the Gods. He killed his father and we in turn defeated by his own son. He is the leader of Die Hüne. Before his defeat he cursed the gods and all humankind with death. In Proto-Indo-European myths, he is the Archdemon.  He sits imprisoned in exile. 

Großvater & Großmutter
Lesser God
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral (Evil)
Worshipper Alignment: Any 
Domains: Father of Die Hüne (the Titans/Jötunn), Chaos
Symbol: The night sky
Greek/Roman: Caelus/Uranus 
Norse: Ymir
Others: Tiamat

Großvater/Großmutter is the name given to the quasi-anthropomorphic manifestation of the father/mother of the Die Hüne (the Titans/Jötunn).  He was destroyed by his son Vater Hüne to make the night sky.

Herde Oberin
Greater Goddess
Alignment: Lawful Good
Worshipper Alignment: Any good 
Domains: Home, hearth, women, childbirth
Symbol: Distaff
Greek/Roman: Hera/Juno, Hestia 
Norse: Frigg
PIE: Diwōnā

Herde Oberin is the wife of Unser Vater and one of a trinity of Goddess.  She represents the Mother aspect of the trinity and is the protector of home and hearth and the family.  She is responsible for all things that happen within the home.  Unser Vater may be the chieftain of the gods, but in the home her word is law. 

Mutter Natur
Greater Goddess
Alignment: Neutral
Worshipper Alignment: All
Domains: Nature, the wild
Symbol: Tree or a sheath of grain
Greek/Roman: Demeter/Ceres
Norse: Frigg with bits of Odin
Celtic: Danu
PIE: Dhéǵhōm

Mutter Natur is the mother goddess of all of nature.  She is sister to Vater Hüne and aunt (and maybe mother) to Unser Vater. She is an old Goddess who provides and destroys at her own times of choosing. Newer religions believe they control or tame her, but the people of the forest know better. 

Note: I am undecided on whether or not Herde Oberin and Mutter Natur are not aspects of the same goddess. Often times you see gods and goddesses getting reduced as the pantheons age.  BUT also you see gods and goddesses splitting off.  In this case, I am keeping them separate for now.

Ôstara (Geliebte)
Lesser (Intermediate) Goddess
Alignment: Neutral Good
Worshipper Alignment: All
Domains: Spring, Rebirth, the Dawn
Symbol: Half-risen sun or an Egg
Greek/Roman: Persephone/Proserpina with aspects of Dionysus / Bacchus
Norse: Ēostre and bits of Baldur.
Celtic: Brigit and Ceridwen
PIE: Hausos

Ôstara is the daughter of Mutter Natur and one that has retained her old name.  She is the goddess of the Spring, the Dawn, and rebirth.   Her title is "Geliebte" which means "beloved."   Persephone/Proserpina and Baldur are both loved by the gods and their "deaths" greatly affect all involved.

Liebhaberin
Lesser (Intermediate) Goddess
Alignment: Chaotic Good
Worshipper Alignment: Any good, lovers
Domains: Love, sex, sexuality, conception
Symbol: hand mirror or fire
Greek/Roman: Aphrodite/Venus 
Norse: Freya
Celtic: Brigit and Áine

Liebhaberin is the forever young patroness of love and sex. She serves as the Maiden in the trinity of Goddesses.  She is the spring maiden that stirs the blood and brings the world back to life. She is the patroness of nymphs and dryads. 

Note:  Again, I am unsure whether or not Ôstara and Liebhaberin are just different aspects of the same goddess.  

Helga
Lesser (Intermediate) Goddess
Alignment: Neutral
Worshipper Alignment: Any, witches
Domains: Death, magic, underworld
Symbol: woman's face in a hood
Greek/Roman: Hecate, Hades
Norse: Hel, Frau Holt, Heiðr
Others: Isis
Celtic: The Triple Goddess* (reconstruction)

Helga is the Witch Goddess, the Ghost Queen, and the Crone of the trinity.  She knows all secrets since they are whispered to her by the dead.  Thus she knows all the secrets of magic.

Hüter
Lesser (Intermediate) God
Alignment: Neutral
Worshipper Alignment: None
Domains: Death
Symbol: Skull
Greek/Roman: Hades/Pluto, Hermes/Mercury
Norse: Njord, Odin
Celtic: Arawn
Others: Osiris

Hüter is the dispassionate lord of the dead.  He is neither good nor is he evil. His role is to make sure the dead stay dead. Therefore undead are blasphemous to him. He controls the underground realm and thus all riches that come from the ground are his.

Betrüger
Lesser (Intermediate) God
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral
Worshipper Alignment: Any
Domains: Trickery
Symbol: Fox
Greek/Roman: Hermes/Mercury
Norse: Loki/Hermod
Others: Reynard the Fox (though this is about 900 years too early for Reynard)

Betrüger is the trickster of the gods.  He often appears in the form of a talking fox. His jokes can be somewhat dangerous, but he is rarely cruel.

Kriegskönig
Lesser (Intermediate) God
Alignment: Lawful Neutral
Worshipper Alignment: Any, warriors
Domains: War, Battle
Symbol: Sword
Greek/Roman: Ares/Mars
Norse: Tyr/Vidar
Celtic: Nuada

Kriegskönig, the War Lord, is the general of Unser Vater's armies. He commands legions to fight against Der Hüne.  He lives for war and when he is not involved in a war he is looking to create new wars. 

Note: Because my two sets of travelers did not immediately go to war with each other when they met this tempers the way the ward god is looked at.  He is not a warmongering asshole like Ares nor even the god of justice that is Tyr.  War is unfortunately a reality of life and one that must be respected or it quickly gets out of hand.

Jäger
Lesser (Intermediate) God
Alignment: Lawful Neutral
Worshipper Alignment: Any, hunters
Domains: the sun, hunting, poetry
Symbol: Sun
Greek/Roman: Apollo
Norse: Freyr/Bragi/Uller
Celtic: Nuada 
PIE: Sehaul

Jägerin
Lesser (Intermediate) God
Alignment: Chaotic Neutral
Worshipper Alignment: Any, women, hunters
Domains: Hunting, women, gathering Die Kriegerin
Symbol: Cresent Moon
Greek/Roman: Artemis/Diana and bits of Athena/Minerva
Norse: Freya / Skaði
Celtic: The Morrigan
PIE: Mehanot

Jäger and Jägerin are the twin god and goddess of the sun and moon respectively. They are also the god and goddess of the hunt since hunting in this area is important. They are based on both sets of twins Apollo and Artemis/Diana from the Greco-Roman and Freyr and Freya from the Norse.  If there were elves in German at this time then they are the gods of them as well. 

When needed Jägerin can don the armor of war and gather Die Kriegerin, the Goddesses of war (much like the Valkeries).  When the moon eclipses the sun it is said that Jägerin has put up her shield to protect her and her brother in battle. 

Others include, 

Schmied (Hephaestus/Vulcan and Wayland and Goibhnie) the God of Smiths.  I really should give him more detail. 

Vater Meeren (Poseidon/Neptune and Njord, Ægir, and Rán and Manannan Mac Lir) the God of the Sea (lesser importance here). 

Verwildert (Pan/Faunus and Freyr/Óðr/Vættir and Péhausōn) the God of Wild Nature and protector of wild places (greater importance now). 

Magni Stärke (Heracles and Magni) and Muthi (Iphicles and Modi) are the twin demi-gods of Strength and Courage respectively. Bits of Romulus and Remus and Hengist and Horsa are also here. 

Siege (Nike/Victory and Sigyn) and Glücke (Tyche/Fortuna and Hamingja) are the twin lesser goddesses of Victory and Luck respectively.

Fata Norne (The Fates and The Norns) are the three Fates. Even the gods have to answer to the Fates.

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.  

Jäger and Jägerin are twins.  Magni and Muthi are twin brothers. Nike and Tyche are twin sisters. These sets are all examples of the Divine Twins we see in many, many myths. Something I like to include in many of the myths I create. 

I like it. It combines a lot of things that I have scattered notes on here and there. This also explains why this one has taken me a few months to write (it was Part 1 of this series at one point). I have notes dating back to the late 80s on a wholly new pantheon I was creating.  This is not that pantheon, but it is a good approximation to what I wanted there.  It's not the same, but it fits in the same sized hole.

Right now it is a little too "clean" and ordered.  There is no drama with these gods. Granted this is the same as what you could read in the Deities & Demigods, but we know the stories are much messier. 

I might need to come back to this one sometime. It would work well in my games to be honest and I even have some ideas on how to incorporate the ideas of Sol Invictus into this to set up one of my favorite themes, the battles of Monotheism vs Pagan Polytheism.  

If I write more and can come up with a stat block I like I might release it under Creative Commons or the OGL so others can add to it.  I hope to do more than just randomly recreate the PIE gods with new names.

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.

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.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Sword & Sorcery & Cinema: Clash of the Titans (1981, 2010)

Double Feature!

Clash of the Titans (1981)

I can't talk about monsters all month and NOT pop in the stop motion masterpiece of Clash of the Titans.

If you come to this blog I have no doubt you know this move and this story.  So instead lets talk about the production.  Let's get good look at the casting for the gods. Laurence Olivier as Zeus, Claire Bloom as Hera, Ursula Andress as Aphrodite, Maggie Smith as Thetis. Seriously these WERE the gods in 1981. Add in relatively unknown (pre L.A. Law) Harry Hamlin as Perseus and the captivating Judi Bowker as Andromeda then our cast is set.  Throw in some Burgess Meredith for comic relief and a bunch of Ray Harryhausen stop motion creatures and you have a classic.

I am not sure if Medusa was ever depicted as a half snake-woman before this movie, but she sure was after it.  Maybe more so than anything outside of Tolkien has left it's stamp on D&D more than the Greek myths and no movie did as much as Clash of the Titans.  Even people that have never seen the movie know "release the Kraken!"

The film almost has a Disney quality to it with it's score and cinematography. Cinematographer Ted Moore had worked on a lot of 70s Bond films and two of the Sinbad movies, the spiritual forefathers to this one.

Re-watching now (and again) the story holds up and the special effects are more charming than dated. Even Bubo was less annoying in reality than in memory. 

Clash of the Titans (2010)

Ok. The Greek myths endure because they are stories that can be told and retold again and again.  A remake then should always be welcome.  And on paper this one sounds good.  First lets look at our Gods again. Liam Neeson as Zeus, ok do we even care who else is playing the gods at this point?  Ralph "Voldemort" Fiennes as Hades.  Luke Evans (Dracula Unbound, The Hobbit) as Apollo, Danny Huston as Poseidon and Alexander Siddig (Deep Space Nine, Game of Thrones) as Hermes. Ok so, this is all good.  Sam Worthington as Perseus. Ok a good actor, but lacks a certain Harry Hamlin-ness. Alexa Davalos as Andromeda, also good.

Plus we know the special effects were going to be better since this was the new age of CGI.

And...yet it all falls so flat.  Zues' "release the Kracken" doesn't have Sir Laurence Olivier's gravitas and we know Liam Neeson can deliver a line.  Hades...exactly WHY was Hades here anyway? The rest of the gods were blink an you miss them.

The Kracken was underwhelming, but still fun.  Medusa, well. Actually I liked this one. While the first medusa was a spectacle of stop motion puppetry the new one with the face of supermodel Natalia Vodianova seemed more human. It also was one of the first certainly not the last time the story made you feel properly sad for Medusa.  But that is topic for another day really.


The movie is all glitz and spectacle and no heart.  The sign where they toss Bubo from the original movie aside might have felt funny, but it is a good example of the entire film.

Still for a popcorn flick it is fun.  You can even see this as a prequel of sorts to the Greek gods in Wonder Woman.

--

Game Material

Pretty much the entire movie to be honest. The original is so deeply imbedded into the DNA of 80s roleplaying it would be hard to tease out today what came from the Greek myths before this movie vs. after.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

One Man's God: Syncretism and the Gods

Hermes Trismegistus
Hermes Trismegistus
In the pages of the Deities & Demigods (or Gods, Demigods, and Heroes) the Gods and their Pantheons are fairly clean-cut affairs.  Greek over here, Egypt over there, Mesopotamia over there a little more. Norse WAY the hell over there.

In real-world mythology and religion, it doesn't work like that. Zeus was, and was not, exactly Jupiter. Ra was Ra, unless he was Amun-Ra or Aten.  Dumuzid was Tammuz, except for the times he was his own father. This is not counting the times when religions rise, fall, change and morph over the centuries. Today's God is tomorrow's demon.  Ask Astarte or the Tuatha Dé Danann how things fare for them now.

Gods are messy. 

It stands to reason that gods in your games should also be as messy. 

Now, most games do not have the centuries (game time) and none have the real-time evolution of gods in their games. We use simple "spheres" and give the gods roles that they rarely deviate from.  The Forgotten Realms is an exception since its published works cover a couple hundred years of in-universe time, but even then their gods are often pretty stable.  That is to make them easier to approach and to make sales of books easier.  The Dragonlance books cover more time in the game world, but their gods are another issue entirely.

While I want to get back to my One Man's God in the proper sense I do want to take this side quest to talk about Syncretism.

Syncretism

According to the ole' Wikipedia, "Syncretism /ˈsɪŋkrətɪzəm/ is the combining of different beliefs, while blending practices of various schools of thought."  For our purposes today we are going to confine ourselves to just gods.

For game purposes, I am going to use Syncretism as the combination of two or more gods into one.  The individual gods and the syncretized god are considered to be different and separate entities.

Now years ago when I proposed the idea that gods can be different than what is stated I go some grief online from people claiming that gods are absolute truth. For example, you can cast a Commune spell and speak to a god and get an answer.  But a commune is not a cell phone. It is not email. It is only slightly better than an Ouija board.  You have no idea who, or what, is on the other end.  If you are a cleric all you have is faith.

So what is a syncretic god like? Some examples from the real world and my own games.

Hermes Trismegistus

Our poster boy for syncretism is good old Hermes Trismegistus or the Thrice Great Hermes.  He is a Hellenistic syncretism of the Greek Hermes and the Egyptian Thoth.  Now, the DDG has these as very separate individuals.  Thoth is a Neutral Greater God of Knowledge, Hermes is a Neutral Greater God of Thieves, Liars, and more.  From this perspective, there does not seem to be an overlap.   But like I say above, gods are messy.  This figure is believed to have written the Corpus Hermetica, the collection of knowledge passed down to the various Hermetic Orders that would appear in later antiquity and during the Occult revivals.   Even then the Thrice Great Hermes of the Hellenistic period could be argued to be a completely different personage than the Thrice Great Hermes of the Hermetic Orders.

But is Hermes Trismegistus a God?  If you met him on the street would that mean you also met Hermes, Thoth, and Mercury? Or can all four walk into a bar together and order a drink? That answer of course is a confounding yes to all the above.  Though this is less satisfactory than say having stats for all four in a book.

The Triple Moon Goddess Heresy

Back when I was starting up my 4e game and deciding to set it in the Forgotten Realms I wanted to make sure I had a good grasp on the gods and goddesses of the world.  I was also already mulling some thoughts that would become One Man's God, so I decided to go full heretic.  I combined the moon goddesses all into one Goddess.  I also decided that like Krynn, Toril has three moons, but you can't see one of them.   I detailed that religion in my post Nothing Like the Sun... and I did something similar to Lolth and Araushnee in The Church of Lolth Ascendant.

Sehanine Moonbow, Selûne and Shar
Sehanine Moonbow, Selûne, and Shar by Ben Honeycutt

As expected (and maybe a little wanted) these tended to shuffle the feathers of the orthodoxy.  Thanks for that by the way.

This is all fun and everything, but what can I actually *do* with these?

Syncretic Gods make FANTASTIC witch and warlock patrons.

Witches in many pagan traditions in the real world believe that their Goddess is all goddesses.  That is syncretism to the Nth degree.  I already have a case with Hermes Trismegistus and the Hermetic Order. 

Here are some syncretic gods from antiquity and potential roles as patrons.

Apollo-Belenus, Patron of the sun and healing.  From the Greco-Roman Apollo and the Gaulish Belenus.

Ashtart, Patroness of love, marriage, and sex. Combines the Goddesses Aphrodite, Astarte, Athirat, Ishtar, Isis, and Venus. Sometimes depicted as the consort to Serapis.

Cybele, or the Magna Mater, Patroness of Motherhood and fertility. She combines many Earth and motherhood-related Goddesses such as Gaia, Rhea, and Demeter.

Serapis, the Patron of Law, Order, rulers, and the afterlife.  He is a combination of the Gods Osiris and Apis from Egypt with Hades and Dionysus of the Greek. Besides Hermes Trismegistus, he is one of the most popular syncretic gods and the one that lead archeologists and researchers to the idea of syncretism. 

Sulis Minerva, Patroness of the sun and the life-giving power of the earth. She is chaste and virginal where Ashtart is lascivious. 

And one I made up to add to this mix and smooth out some edges,

Heka, the Patroness of Magic. She combines Hecate, Cardea, (who might have been the same anyway), Isis, with bits of Ishtar (who has connections to Isis too), and Ereshkigal with some Persephone.

In my own games, I have always wanted to explore the Mystra (Goddess) and Mystara (World) connection.  

This also helps me answer an old question.  Why would a Lawful Good witch be feared or hated?  Simple that Lawful witch is worshiping a god that the orthodoxy deems as a heresy. 

A Witch (or Warlock) of the Tripple Moon Goddess in the Realms is going to be hated by both the followers of Selûne and Shar, even if they are the same alignment.  Cults are like that.

I am planning on expanding these ideas further. 

Another thing I want to explore is when a god is split into two or more gods or demons.  In this case I want to have some sort of divinity that was "killed" and from the remnants of that god became Orcus and Dis Pater, or something like that.  Orcus, Dis Pater (Dispater), and Hades have a long and odd relationship. This is not counting other gods that have floated in and out of Orcus' orbit like Aita and Soranus.

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

One Man's God: Finnish Mythos

Suomi Neito the Maiden of Finland
"Suomi Neito" the Maiden of Finland.
She is in the shape of Finland.

Seems like a good day to talk about fallen gods and demons.  We are also getting into mythos I know less and less about. So let's begin our tour in a country I have always liked, Finland.

I don't think it is too much to say that the myths and characters presented in the Deities & Demigods for Finland are largely, if not exclusively taken from the Finnish national epic, The Kalevala.  I have a copy of the audio-book I had been meaning to listen to before this, but since I no longer drive to work it has been taking a bit longer to get through my backlist.   I have had some exposure to the myths in comparative mythology books and of course, every D&D gamers knows that Gary Gygax was also a big fan of these stories.

The Mythos of the Finnish people are maybe some of the most relatable to long time D&D players since so much of them have been adopted into D&D proper.  Goddess Loviatar and Mielikki have been adopted wholesale into the Forgotten Realms campaign and remained unchanged from the D&DG counterparts. Mordenkainen sounds like he could have been a traveling companion to Vainamoinen and Lemminkainen.  Let's also not forget the Louhi, the Witch Queen of Pohjola is also an alternate name/guise for Tasha/Iggwilv.  

It is hard to say if the Finnish Mythos have a more D&D feel to them because of how they are presented in the D&DG OR is because so much of D&D has strands of Finnish/Kalevala DNA in it.  Those ties only got deeper as the development of D&D from the early 70s to the 80s went on.  So it would then reason that any Finnish "demons" would convert over to AD&D demons fairly well.  

Except there is one little problem.

There are no monsters listed in the D&DG Finnish mythos that could even be considered demonic, with maybe one exception.  The mythos are filled with Gods, but they are more background to the stories of the heroes.  The Kalevala is a Heroic epic.  So it has more akin with the stories of Gilgamesh and Heracles than it does with say the neighboring Norse myths which tend to be more about the exploits of the Gods.

So let's look at what we have and expand it out.

Page from the D&DG featuring Louhi, Loviatar and Mielikki
Louhi, Loviatar and Mielikki
Loviatar/Louhi
There is not a single male D&D player aged 40 and up that doesn't know Loviatar from the D&DG. Expand that outward and there isn't a single Forgotten Realms player of any age that doesn't know Loviatar.  She is the beautiful, cold, and strikingly topless, Goddess of Pain.  She is the intersection of D&D Dungeon Masters and S&M Dungeon Masters. she has been sexed up and everyone knows her.

Or do they?

In the Kalevala Loviatar is the blind daughter of Tuoni/Tuonetar.  The part about the cold wind blowing is spot on, but she is also the mother of the Nine Diseases.  Back in my AD&D witch playtests (late 80s) I had a witch of Loviatar who specialized in disease spells. So I do recall reading that much then in this comparative mythology book. 

There is also some conjecture that in the earliest tales Loviatar and Louhi were the same characters. Called Louhi in some areas and Loviatar in others. Though I think you would have trouble telling a Forgotten Realms fan that their Maiden of Pain is an ancient wrinkled crone. 

At one point I wanted to stat out the nine sons (or in my mind, eight sons and one daughter) of Loviatar as demon-like monsters.  But I never got it to come together in a way I liked.  I may try again after reading the Kalevala. 

If Loviatar went in one direction, Louhi went in the opposite.   Loviatar might be more popular with the D&D crowd, but it is Louhi who is more well known.  A lot can be said about Louhi and maybe one day I'll devote some more time to her. We do know that she was the model/alternate name for Tasha/Iggwilv. Which brings up an interesting idea. We know she has a son and she is the main antagonist of the Kalevala, though she also sometimes helps the heroes.  

Side note: I am sorry, the whole time writing this I keep hearing "Bring me the Sampo!" from the 1959 movie "The Sampo" or better known here in the US and to MST3k fans as "The Day the Earth Froze."  It has been my tradition to watch an MST3k movie while decorating for Christmas ever since I first saw this one. 

I do find one thing about the whole Louhi/Iggwilv connection interesting.  You have a Finnish girl (Louhi) essentially kidnapped and raised by a Russian witch, Baba Yaga.  Allegorical of the Russian occupation of Finland from 1809 to 1917? Maybe.  OH! here is an idea.  The PCs need something from Iggwilv's past BUT her past is in Russia and Finland during the Victorian era.  Would give me a chance to play some Ghosts of Albion.  It would work well since the "Suomi Neito" or the Maiden of Finland is a concept similar to "Britannia" or "Éire / Ériu" and what the Protectors are. 

In the D&DG Louhi has 45 total levels of spell casting, she is certainly a very powerful character. She stole the sun and the moon for example. 

Edvard Isto The Attack
Edvard Isto "The Attack" 
The eagle of Russia attacks the Maiden of Finland.
Again her shape is the shape of the country.

Hiisi and Lempo
The closest thing we have to a demon is Hiisi the God of Evil.  I say closest, but the entry in the D&DG does not lend itself to being a demon.  Sure he is Chaotic Evil, but he seems to be more human or at least a giant. 

When doing my research I found that much like "The Devil" and "devils" Hiisi is both the name of a god of evil, evil beings in general and the place name where these beings are found.

We know from the D&DG that no evil creature can cause Hiisi damage.  Could it be that these evil creatures are his?   The plural of hiisi is hiidet. It usually translates to "malicious creature " or even demon.

Hiidet
FREQUENCY:  Very Rare
NO.  APPEARING:  1 (1-3)
ARMOR CLASS: 5
MOVE:  12"/24"
HIT DICE:  10+30 (60 hp)
%  IN  LAIR:  95%
TREASURE  TYPE:  Nil, Special
NO.  OF  ATTACKS:  2 fists or 1 weapon
DAMAGE/ATTACK:  2d6 x2 or 2d8
SPECIAL  ATTACKS:  None
SPECIAL  DEFENSES:  +1 or better weapon to hit, hide 90%, Immune to cold and fire
MAGIC  RESISTANCE:  10%
INTELLIGENCE:  Animal (savage)
ALIGNMENT:  Chaotic  Evil
SIZE:  L  (12' to 18' tall)
PSIONIC ABILITY:  Nil

Hiidet are often confused with hill giants, ogres, and trolls.  Each one is unique in that it takes on the coloration and form best suited to its chosen lair.  A Hiidet of the stoney mountains will appear to made of stone with moss-like hair.  One living in the forests will have brownish or greenish skin and leaf-like hair.  This camouflage is part of their demonic heritage and is set once they find a lair to settle in.  It does not change though as they move around.  It does confer a 90% chance that they will remain unseen in their lairs. 

Hiidet attack with their fists or a weapon. They are immune to the environmental effects of cold and are immune to both fire and cold effects including magic and dragon breath.

Hiidet are something of a cross-species between elementals, giants, and demons.  They are quick to anger and will lash out at anyone invading their lands, but they are also cowards who will avoid attacking large parties.  Their lairs are natural areas such as caves, or holes in the ground that would fit them.  They keep nothing of value, preferring to eat their victim whole.  Every so often though a rare magical item will be found in their lairs (10%). 

Lempo is a similar case.  There was a god (sometimes goddess), Lempo, of love, but of the irrationality of love that causes people to make bad decisions.  Lempo seems similar to the god Pan in many respects including his "demonization" by Christians.  Another character, Paha, is also mentioned. 

Lempo
FREQUENCY:  Very Rare
NO.  APPEARING:  1
ARMOR CLASS: -1 or 9
MOVE:  24"/48"
HIT DICE:  6+6 (42 hp)
%  IN  LAIR:  0%
TREASURE  TYPE:  Nil
NO.  OF  ATTACKS:  NA
DAMAGE/ATTACK:  NA
SPECIAL  ATTACKS:  Cause chaos
SPECIAL  DEFENSES:  +1 or better weapon to hit, invisible
MAGIC  RESISTANCE:  25%
INTELLIGENCE:  Average
ALIGNMENT:  Chaotic  Evil (Chaotic Neutral)
SIZE:  L  (12' to 18' tall)
PSIONIC ABILITY:  Nil

Lempo are nature and fertility spirits that have been corrupted by evil.  Their former function was to ensure fertility and crop growth, they became corrupted and now sow lasciviousness and chaotic behavior.  They cause faithful couples to stray and young people to behave in an erratic manner.

As spirits, they have no physical presence in the world. Though any weapon that can target ethereal creatures can strike them (AC -1).  Likewise they have no physical attacks save their corrupting influence.  The tactic of a lempo is to rest on the roof of a home to cause all inside to come under it's influence. Characters and creatures under 4 HD have no save and act in a chaotic manner.  Creatures 4hd and above are allowed a save vs. spells.

A priest of 4th level and higher can see the lempo, it appears as a humanoid shape (male or female) with a crow's head, feet, and wings.  The priest can "turn" this creature as if it were a wriath.  A result of T means the lempo has fled but is not destroyed.  A result of "D" means the lempo has been forced out of the spirit realm into the physical.  Here it may be attacked with magic weapons (AC 9), but it has no attacks to counter. 

If the lempo has fled or has caused enough damage in one village it will move on to the next one.

Lempo–Hiisi is also a trans-Neptunian trinary object along with Paha. Like many of these planetoids, they are named for creatures and characters from the underground, afterlife, and chthonic gods/creatures. 

Depending on your read, Hiisi, Lempo, and Paha could be three unique characters or one with two lesser cohorts, or the name of all such creatures.  

Finnish Maiden
I have mentioned her a few times above, but the personification of Finland is the Finnish Maiden.  I am not sure if there is any relation between them and Ukko's Air Maidens from the D&DG, but it does seem like there could be a thread connecting them.

"Suomi Neito" the Maiden of Finland with map of Finland
Finland and her maiden

She joins the others from nearby lands, Lady of the Mountains (Iceland). Ola Nordmann (Norway), Holger the Dane (Denmark), and Mother Svea (Sweden).

My feeling is there is a lot more to these myths and stories and like always the D&DG is just scratching the surface.  Again, this is not a bad thing.  The D&DG is not a textbook on mythology. 

ETA: I am also submitting this as part of November's RPG Blog Carnival.




Tuesday, June 30, 2020

BECMI: Immortals Set Review

“I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam.”
- Frodo to Sam, Return of the King


And here we are. 
June is drawing to a close and we are here in the last week of BECMI month.  Fitting too that the last week, as short as it is, is dedicated to the oddest set of rules in the set.  The Immortal rules set. We see some major changes here and in TSR as well.  So. Let's jump right in.


I am reviewing both my rather beat up and water damaged version of the Immortal set (I only have the books, not the box) and the PDFs from DriveThruRPG.

A couple of notes.  The set now lists Frank Mentzer as Author. No mention of Dave Arneson nor Gary Gygax here.  The year is 1986 and Gygax had been removed from TSR the previous October. Frank had been very closely allied with Gary so his time at TSR was also going to come to an end soon.  The Immortals rules and the module The Immortal Storm would be his last books for the company.  This had two rather obvious impacts on these rule books.  First, the art that had been getting more sparse with each set now hits an all-time low.  No in quality mind you! But in terms of amount. There is just not that much art in these books.  
Secondly, it also meant that the company focused more on its perceived cash cow, the AD&D line.  Gary had been talking about the AD&D 2nd Edition game, but now that project was turned over to Dave "Zeb" Cook of the B/X Expert Set rules.  Others have played the conjecture game of what might have been, so I will not go into that here.  What I will say though is it left Frank and the BECMI line alone for the Immortals set to go in some very weird directions.

If BECMI is the ultimate update of the OD&D rules, then the Immortals rules cover part of what Eldritch Wizardry and Gods, Demi-gods & Heroes introduced.

Players' Guide to Immortals
32 pages, color covers, black & white art.
Your character, now 36th level and has pretty much done everything from dungeons to the planes hears the call to become an Immortal! Certainly, this was the goal of those quests and battles. Immortality.  But now the game, both actually and metaphorically, has changed.  Just like when you moved from Jr. High/Middle school or Grade school to High School you go from being the most powerful of mortal kind to the least powerful of the immortals.
This book covers how your character now becomes an Immortal.  There are five spheres, four of which characters can access, detailed here.  These are the same spheres that have been hinted at since the Companion set and introduced in the Masters set; Matter, Energy, Though, Time, and Entropy.  characters choose one of the first four usually corresponding to the class they had in life; Fighter, Magic-User, Thief, and Cleric respectively.
Experience points gained will alive now become PowerPoints on a 10k to 1 basis.  We get our first hints at a proto-point buy system in D&D here since PowerPoints can be spent. Now the Initiate Immortal can begin to do some Immortal things. PowerPoints are used for a lot of things, but mostly for magical or spell-like effects.  Your sphere will determine which ones you can do easily and which ones are harder.
There are a lot of interesting rule changes along the way.  AC is now Ascending for Immortals; so Immortal AC 20 is the same as mortal AC of -20.  AC 0 is the same. Ability scores can be raised. First to a max of 25 (the AD&D max of the time) but also all the way to 100!   
In a lot of ways, the PP mechanic is similar to what we see in other Point Buy systems used for superheroes.  It makes sense really.  
Though for all of its detail there is very little information on what an Immortal should do. Right now they seem, at best, super-powered mortal characters.  There is some implicit ideas, but nothing spelled out yet.

DM's Guide to Immortals
64 pages, color covers, black & white art.
The DM's book spends some time covering the planes of existence.  While a lot on specific planes is left vague, there is a lot of details on how planes are designed.  The artwork and some of the notes appear as if the author and artists were checking on what the AD&D team was doing "down the hall" there is a unique feel to the BECMI multi-verse.  A lot of emphases is given on "doing it yourself" including room for the DM to pencil in their own % for monsters occurring.
There is a bit more here about the planes, in particular the Prime plane.  We learn that the Known World doesn't just look like Earth from 150 Million Years ago, it IS Earth from then.  This explains the map a bit better. We also learn that this Earth is the predecessor to our lands.  Though, in the spirit of everything else in the book, this can be changed.  The Solar system is the same, save for a few notable differences. Mercury and Pluto are not in their orbits yet and between Mars and Jupiter where the asteroid belt is there is a planet called Damocles. Fitting named for a doomed planet but doesn't fit with the names of the Roman Olympians. Damocles will be destroyed and the two largest pieces will fly off to become Mercury and Pluto.  Imaginative to be sure!  But Mercury is only 35 million miles and Pluto is closer to 3 billion miles from the sun. The asteroid belt is roughly 300 million miles from the sun.  So Damocles is not really in the middle of that.  No big deal, this is D&D, not Astronomy.  I DO however love the idea of a doomed planet in the current or future asteroid belt. Maybe a Mi-Go outpost or something like that.   I want to talk more about the Known World/Earth a little more in just a bit. Plus there is one more bit of information I want to collect.
It would be interesting to compare and contrast the multi-planuar mechanics and rules here with the various Manual of the Planes.
This is followed by the Immortal Campaign.  Or, what do Immortals do? There are some ideas given but for the number of rules on immortal characters and planes you would expect some more to be honest. 
Our "Monsters" section is now called "Creatures" since they "cannot be adequately called monsters."  All these monsters...creatures now have expanded stat blocks to cover their immortal statuses.  
One of the first things I noticed was the inclusion of demons to the roster of D&D BECMI monsters.  I am not sure why this surprised me since these are the same demons from Eldritch Wizardry.  Well...same in name but these demons got a serious upgrade.  Let's compare.  A Succubus in AD&D is a 6+6 HD creature (average hp 33), her physical attacks are not great, but her kiss drains 2 life energy levels.  In BECMI a Whispering Demon has 15* HD and 70 hp! Oh and her AC is -6.  Orcus and Demogorgon have 39 and 40 HD with 620 and 660 hp respectively!  Yikes!  We do get some art of them. 




In addition to being able to summon other demons, Orcus and Demogorgon can summon Gargantua. 

We get more inhabitants of the nightmare dimension like the Diabolus which are...checking the description...well they basically tieflings. And they can take any human class. So all the Grognards out there complaining about "monster races" have no ground to stand on. Here are the rules from 1986. 
The Dragon Rulers are updated to Immortal stats and so are some of the elemental rulers.  There is the Megalith and it is ... WHAT???  More on that in a bit!
A few more creatures and some, ok a lot, of tables on magic.

Crisis on Infinite Urts
So there are a couple of new-to-me bombshells in the Immortal rules.  First, the world of the PCs, aka the Known World is Earth of 150 mya. Secondly, this Earth is in actuality a creature known as a Megalith ("big rock") and it is known to the Immortals as "Urt."
It's tucked away in two different places, but this is a revelation really.  The Known World as a living planet known as Urt.  Imagine what the "Mystara" line might have been about had this thought continued?  No Hollow World to be sure. Frank Mentzer pretty soon left TSR soon after this and the Immortal Storm were complete, so we never really got to see what his ultimate vision was.  We do know that Gygax considered his Oerth and later Aerth for his Dangerous Journeys to all be alternates of Earth. Aerth was a little more on the nose about it.  Frank was set to design parts of Oerth a few years back, but that project fell through.  It might have been the closest we would have seen to a fleshed-out Urt.  
At some point between 1986 and 1991 (the publication of the D&D Rules Cyclopedia), the world of Urt became Mystara.

So here at the end of all things what can I say about the Immortals rules? It is an inconsistent set of rules to be sure. There are a lot of really interesting ideas connected together with bits of fluff that may, or may not, work well.  The concepts of Immortals is a compelling one and D&D would come back to it in big ways at least two more times with Wrath of the Immortals and Dungeons & Dragons Fourth Edition where Immortally was the goal after 30th level. 

Still. One can be impressed with the scope of the rules and how it caps off a set of rules that began in 1983 but has roots going back to 1977 and to the dawn of D&D.  For that reason, it gets a few points more than it might have gotten on its own. 

Back in the day, I had only two characters gain immortality via a route similar to this. More like my DM read these rules and figured his own way of doing it. One would be my character Johan Werper the Cleric and bane of the Undead. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

OMG: Indian Mythos

One Man's God: Indian Mythos

It's 2020 and welcome back to my series One Man's God (OMG).  I look at the various gods, monsters and everything in between and see how well they could (or would or would not) fit into the AD&D 1st Monster Manual as demons.

Before I jump back in a few introductory notes.
I use the word "demon" a lot.  By this I don't usually mean the Christian meaning of the term, but rather the much more generic meaning as a usually evil spiritual creature.  This is important here since I am going to jump feet first into the Indian myths and they have a lot of demons, and many are called demons too.

I am also limiting myself to AD&D 1st edition here.  While I do draw from other editions and games, it is AD&D 1st ed I am most interested in.   How do these creatures and monsters fit the AD&D (not Earth's) cosmology?



So in preparation for this, I grabbed my copy of the Ramayana to help me out.  Though the focus here is not on the myths and stories themselves but rather on how the Deities & Demigods presents them.

It would be difficult, if not impossible, to collect all the myths and stories of India collate them, sort them and then put them into a gamebook and have them make sense.  Indian myths, like and maybe more so than other mythologies in the D&DG, are far too dense and scattered over time to fit the needs of a book publisher with a handful of pages to spare.  So I am not going to fault the creative choices made by the authors and editors here.  The authors acknowledge this in their first sentence of text for these myths.   So the list of gods, goddesses and creatures here combine Hindu, Buddist, Shakta, Jainism, and other beliefs.  Much like India itself.

Indian mythology is ancient, with Hindu texts going back to at least 1500 BCE.  I remember reading the Rig Veda in college and the Ramayan a while back.  What struck me then and again now is how much color and vibrancy there is to these tales.  I could go on and on, but that is not focus here.

In the Indian Myths as presented in the D&DG there are many gods and goddesses that look monstrous but are not.  This will be a classic example of not judging someone by their looks.

Kali
Kali might be one of the more recognizable personas from the Indian mythos.  She gained notable status soon after the D&DG came out thanks to the Indiana Jones and Temple of Doom movie.  But Kali is much, much more complicated than that. Kali is needed and required in Hindu mythology she is the one who dances with Shiva to destroy and then rebuild, the world.  Here name means "Time" and thus is a complicated character. 
In the D&DG she is reduced to just a goddess that can instill fear in demons and devils. She should be more.

Rakshasa
The rakshasa from the MM (and every Monster Manual hereafter) is often described as a demon.  Throughout D&D's history they have been consistently Lawful Evil. They are featured in many of the ancient tales, and in the Ramayana in particular.  Originally I wanted to re-classify them as Chaotic Evil, but after rereading the Ramayana I think I'll stick with Lawful Evil, with some odd individuals as Lawful Neutral or even Lawful Good.  Even in some tales Shurpanakha, the demonic sister of Ravana, the rakshasa king of Lanka, becomes so good that her beauty comes back to her.

Vitra and Susna
Both of these creatures are described as "dragons", "serpents" or "snakes" and often as a demon of drought.  They are typically blocking rivers or damming up waters and Indra has to fight them.

In this case, he could be related to any number of world-threatening serpents such as Apep or even Azi-Dahaka.  I honestly could use the same stats for it as I did for Apep.  Or in his "human" form that of a Balor.



A bestiary of all the monsters and demons from India would fill their own book.  It would be a fun book too!

Though if I were to do such a thing I'd rather do it for Ghosts of Albion and set it in the early Victorian Age.