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

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

One Man's God: Finish 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 Finish 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 Finish 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 Finish 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 Finish/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 Finish "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 Finish 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 Finish 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.  

Finish Maiden
I have mentioned her a few times above, but the personification of Finland is the Finish 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 into 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.

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 super heroes.  It makes sense really.  
Though for all of it's 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 emphasis 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 MiGo 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 multiplanuar 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 were the inclusion of demons to 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 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 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.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

OMG: Demihuman Deities, Part 2

Headed back to the Nonhuman and Demihuman Deities today.  Of all the mythos in this book this is one that gets the most updating.  Later in Unearthed Arcana and then under 2nd Ed with an entire book.  But that is in the future, today I want to deal with what is in front of me.


Last week I talked about Yeenoghu and how Gnolls (by all accounts a violent, but intelligent monster race) worship this demon as their god.  Ok cool. I like it, it works well for me.   But there are other demon lords and Princes that don't have humanoid worshipers.  Lolth does in the Dark Elves and her Clerics are at the top of their Drow Caste system.

To be blunt, what about Orcus and Demogorgon?
Now they are not in this book, so I am not going to devote a lot of time here to them. Plus I have said so much about them here before. But I do want to get to one God in this book and his relationship to the demons.

Vaprak the Destroyer
At the start of the OMG series I mentioned that Druaga the Ruler of the Devil World was the "poster boy" of this series.  But he is not the only one.  The other, though to a lesser degree, is Vaprak the Destroyer.



Vaprak is the lord of Trolls and Ogres.  Not bad. I don't even mind linking them together.

Though I often have Trolls and Ogres as Fae-adjacent creatures.  Many will often worship powerful fae Lords and some even honor the Erlking or one of the Goblin Lords.   Looking over Vaprak we see he is a demigod. Chaotic evil. Lives in the Abyss.  Sounds fairy demonic to me.

I have used Vaprak in my games many times.  I have the old LJN Advanced Dungeons & Dragons toy line Troll figure.  He makes for a perfect Vaprak.  BUT in my games, Vaprak was the old name trolls and ogres used (in some places)  to describe a creature that was attacked in the Dawn War by He Who Was.  He Who Was attacked three great demon lords; Vaprak, Orcus and one other whose name has been erased.  He Who Was unmade the last demon and nearly clove Vaprak in two with a mighty split to his head.  Orcus destroyed He Who Was and ripped out his skull and spine to make the Wand of Orcus.  Vaprak, nearly mortally wounded crawled back into the Abyss to heal.  Both halves of his head and neck healed and regenerated to give us the demon Demongorgon.

Demogorgon was Vaprak.

He still takes the worship of Vaprak and some even know the difference, but most human scholars do not.  This makes Demogorgon a little bit *more* in my game.

Laogzed
The Troglodytes worship the disgusting Laogzed.  Again, if Gnolls get a demon why do Trogs get a god?  Simple he is a god really.  Again let's look at the guy.  Chaotic Evil. Lives in the Abyss.  Demigod level.  Yeah this guy is a Demon Prince too.  There is actually a little bit more out there in later books about Laogzed than Vaprak, but nothing I could find that would contradict him being a Demon Prince.
Maybe it is the Erol Otus art, but I can't help think that Laogzed is somehow related to the Great Old Ones from the Cthulhu mythos.  I do get a solid Tsathoggua feel from this guy.  Nothing specific to be honest. Just a feel.

Sekolah
Sahuagin worship Sekolah as their god.  Here he is listed as a Lawful Evil lesser god who swims the seas of the Nine Hells.  In truth I rather like this.  I like keeping him as a god or what-ever was living in the Hells before the devils got there.  Some things were just two dangerous for even the Fallen to kick out.

I can't help but think that James Ward was thinking of the old "Jaws (1975)" movie trailer.



It is as if God created the Devil. And gave him...Jaws.

I will admit.  At 5-6 I was scared shitless by this movie.  Sekolah has a lot to live up to to be half as scary as "Bruce".

Blibdoolpoolp
A lot has been said since this book about the goddess of the Kuo-Toa.  There is even something that just came out this past week.  Also there are some books that claim that Blibdoolpoolp is not actually real.  That the insane Kuo-Toa worship anything and they come to life, something like a Tulpa.
I have talked in the past about Blibdoolpoolp just being a construct, or even an avatar of Mother Hydra to take the Kuo-Toa back to their Lovecraft roots.


I used her pretty much by the book when I ran Shrine of the Kuo-Toa last year.  Maybe I will revist her.  But I implied pretty heavily that she was of the same ilk as Lolth, both a Goddess and Demon Princess/Queen.  Maybe I'll go in a completely different direction with her.
She is also one of the keepers of the Elder Elemental Eyes in my game.  The "Eye of Sea and Sorrow".   Lolth is the keeper of the "Eye of Air and Darkness".  There is also the "Eye of Earth and Death" and the "Eye of Fear and Flame". 

I think that wraps up the Demi-human and non-human gods.  Not sure where I want to go next.  But I am thinking it is time tohit those Lovecraftian Cthulhu Mythos.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

OMG: Demihuman Deities, Part 1

Ok a bit of a direction change here for One Man's God.  Normally I look at the myths presented in the 1st Ed AD&D Deities & Demigods, compare them to the myths from the real world and then look to see how some of the monsters can be classified as "D&D Demons", which is not exactly the same as a Judeo-Christian Demon, but I am not ignoring that mythology either.

This series will be different since the myths I am looking at now were all almost all wholesale made up by the creators of the AD&D game as it existed at the time.   So no appeal to real-world myths here is 100% appropriate, though there are some notable exceptions.

When looking over these beings though we are left with the same question as before.
Would this being be better suited as a god or as a demon?

Let's find out.


Introduction
We start out with the idea that demi-humans and non-human monsters are either Shamans or Witch Doctors.  We see this in action later in the BECMI / Rules Cyclopedia version of the D&D rules.  We are even given a new class, the Wokani, which (depending on which version of Basic you grab) are either witch doctors or witches in their own right.   But I am getting ahead of myself here.

We are also told that some of the creatures in the Monster Manual and Fiend Folio are to be treated as lesser gods.

MONSTER MANUAL
Demon: Demogorgon, Juiblex, Orcus, Yeenoghu
Devil: Asmodeus, Baalzebul, Dispater, Geryon
Dragon: Bahamut, Tiamat

FIEND FOLIO
Demon: Lolth (detailed in D&DG as well)
Elemental Princes of Evil
Slaad: Ssendam, Ygorl

So, if they have a unique personal name then they are essentially lesser gods.  Sort what I am doing here really.

Right off the bat some of these creatures are gods and others are named as demons.  The are some that fall in the in-betweens and those are the ones I want to investigate further.   I am also going to work from my own biases here. I think certain creatures are certain things.  Want to do it differently? Great, do it your way.

Gods Among (Demi)Men
Who in this listing of gods are undisputable gods?
I think the following beings make the list.
Skerrit (Centuars), Moradin (Dwarves),  Corellon Larethian (Elves, and most of the elven gods), the gods of the Giants, Garl Glittergold (Gnomes), Yondalla (Halflings), Gruumsh (Orcs) (but more on him later).  Others are ify.

Side note: I always loved Yondalla. I thought of all the gods of the demi-humans she was perfect. Exactly the kind of goddess the Halflings would have.

Maglubiyet, Hruggek and Gruumsh
In my game world, Goblins are actually a faerie race.  They are often evil, but some are just good enough to be considered Neutral.  For this reason, I see them more as Chaotic.  Hobgoblins in my world are related more to Hobs or more to the point, "Old Hob" aka the Devil.  I consider them goblins with a touch of Devildom about them.  Much in the same way that tieflings are to humans.  Bugbears, on the other hand, are more demonic. Bugbears come from the same root of words that give us boggles, boggleboes, and boogeyman.   I have played around with various ideas of goblin gods for a while.  At first, I went with Maglubiyet, but there is something about him I don't like, or rather, I don't like in this role.  Then I went with the Erlking as Lord of the Goblins and also Jareth as a Faerie Lord king of the Goblins.  I even went with atheist goblins for a while after reading GURPS Goblins.  I think I am more happy with a Jareth/Erlking blend these days.
That leaves me with Maglubiyet, the Lawful Evil god of Hobgoblins who also is a lesser Duke of Hell (his names sounds like a Duke of Hell to be honest) who wars with Gruumsh.  And way over in the Abyss we have the monster Hruggek who is a Chaotic Evil Demon Lord that is the patron of the Bugbears.  His name also sounds more demonic to me.
This leaves both beings relatively the same as they were before.

Gruumsh is a different story.  The one-eyed Gruumsh is obviously a nod, conscious or not, to Sauron.  Also, the orc of Tolkien's world are much more demonic that the orcs of D&D and other modern fantasy.  In The Silmarillion, we learn that orcs were created by the Vala Melkor, later Morgoth.  So there is an idea of divine creation perverted.  Would Melkor be a demon?  He is more closely related to Lucifer is analysis, but that only muddies the waters really.   I also like the idea that orcs were once related to Elves.  Of the two main species in D&D only elves and orcs can mate and produce offspring with humans.  So here is a heresy.

Orcs, and indeed Gruumsh, were all elves.  Gruumsh was Corellon's brother.

Somewhere, somehow, Gruumsh betrayed Corellon (orcs say it was the other way around) and Gruumsh the orc was born.  I just need a good Elvish sounding name to give him before this fall.
Personally, I find this FAR more compelling than the tale of Lolth.
Speaking of which.

Lolth, The What Queen?
Lolth is a lesser goddess. No, wait she is a demon. She was Araushnee, but that doesn't come till later.
I have talked about my issues with drow in the past and how they are really Lawful Evil and not Chaotic Evil.   Plus if I can make a Lawful Evil Goddess Tiamat into a Chaotic Evil I should be able to do the opposite for Lolth.  Which of course means she would not really be a demon anymore.  She is more of devil.  BUT. I like the idea that she is a demon.  Can I make a LE Demon? no. not really.

I think the simple answer here is that Elves, Orcs, and other fae creatures like Goblins don't fit into the Devil-Demon dichotomy very well.   I am inclined to pull them out and let them be their own thing.  Lolth is called the "Demon Queen" but that is more due to her "Fallen" status than anything else.



Despite my stated goal of trying to pull these beings into the likes of demons, I am happy with them being their own thing.

Gnolls and You Know Who
Before I end today's discussion I should point the example that falls right into line with what I am doing.  Gnolls and the Demon Prince Yeenoghu.  Here we have a strong non-human species and they worship a demon as their god. It works. It works well.


Too well.  Why does a weak-ass demon prince (ok relative) like Yeenoghu have humanoid, intelligent worshipers but more powerful ones like Orcus and Demogorgon do not?  I will dig into it next time.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

OMG: Greek and Roman Mythos, Part 4 Tales of Brave Ulysses

Ok kids, time to put away your Homer and Hesiod and pick up your Ovid and Virgil.  It's time to get Roman with these myths.

A lot of what we know about the "Greek Myths" comes from the Roman counterparts in Ovid's Metamorphoses.   In truth I can go on and on (and on and on) about Ovid and Metamorphoses. I could spend a couple of posts on just his influences on Shakespeare for example.  But that is not the scope of OMG.  I really want to look into a couple of things in this respect. How do gods grow and evolve (say from Greek and Etruscan to Roman) and how this produces our Monster Manual demons.

Let's get down to business and look at the second big demon in our D&D Pantheon and his strange origins.  Of course, I can only mean Orcus.

Hades and Pluto and Orcus and Dīs Pater

No. Not a crazy comedy from the 70s.  Well, I suppose it could be.   But I want to talk about the God of the Underworld.   I mentioned Hades a lot in this series before. He is the God of the Underworld and was so feared that he was often never called on by name, he gains the epithet "The Rich One" and much later on "The Lord of this World" something that has also been attributed to Satan. 
As Greek myths merged into Roman myths several gods were syncretized to arrive at the Roman Pluto.  These include many gods of the underworld, the dead (but not death) and riches such as the Etruscan Atia and the Roman Dīs Pater.   Mixed in all of this is the Greek Horkos and Roman Orcus.

So how do we go from a God, one of the Olympians no less, to a demon AND a devil (I didn't forget about you Dispater)?  Well, the thing about myth there can several, sometimes even mutually exclusive stories, and all are true.  Now I have personally never cared for the history of the Demon Prince Orcus as told in the Dead Gods book (though an otherwise great sourcebook). Orcus was once a human? Balderdash and Poppycock!  Sounds like lies told by Demogorgon cultists.

Instead, I propose this.  As Hades was starting his transformation to more benign Pluto he sloughed off his evil like a snake sheds an old skin.   In Milton, this would have been when Lucifer first came to hell or sometime before Lucifer fell.  It could be that the dæmon Horkos picked up the skin and became Orcus.  OR even Horkos was killed and was filled with the evil from Hades to become Orcus.  I like that better than a "fat, evil necromancer" became one of the most powerful demon princes in the game. It also ties him into the undead more and helps explain why Orcus' motivation is often to become a real god.  He has "memories" of a time when he was a god.

Also, for this reason, I have a bitter rivalry between Dispater and Orcus.  They both could have been created at the same time from Hades' skin of evil (if that sounds familiar, it should).  Dispater was a Fallen who encountered the remaining evil and he too has "memories" of time when he was a god.
The newest version of D&D refers to Dis/Dispater as the "foremost arms dealer" in the lower planes.  I can work with that.  His forces can help out the PCs in my current game against Orcus.

So we can have a Greek titan, turned demon in a rivalry with Roman godling turned demon.   I have said a lot about Orcus and I am likely to say more.
Moving on from Orcus, there are a lot of creatures in the Roman myths that find the idea of demons rather well.   One, in particular, is one I have mentioned before.

Vanth

Like Orcus, Vanth is another Etruscan chthonic god depicted as a demon and she adorns funerary art.

I learned about Vanth, not through mythology, but through one of my very first loves, astronomy.  Vanth is the largest moon (only moon so far) of the Trans-Neptunian Object/Dwarf Planet Orcus.  Vanth orbits Orcus in a tight precise circle and they are tidally locked. Vanth is never far from Orcus then and she always keeps her face toward her master.   Vanth has a very different spectra than Orcus, so the two were not formed together like most other satellite systems.  Vanth is likely a captured Kuiper Belt object.  To take another page from mythology Orcus stole Vanth from another god/demon/master to be his psychopomp, maybe even from Pluto, or given her torch, from Hecate.  In that case, she would be somewhat similar to the Erinyes.

Here she is for Basic-era D&D (yeah I should do AD&D, but I am on a Basic kick).

Vanth, Psychopomp of Orcus
No. Enc.: 1 (Unique)
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
Movement: 60’ (20’)
Fly: 240’ (80’)
Armor Class: 1 [19]
Hit Dice: 11d8+ 11 (61 hp)
Attacks: 1
Damage: 1 sword (1d10+4)
Special: Flight, Magic resistance (55%), regenerate (3 hp/round),  +2 or better weapons to hit.
Save: F12
Morale: 12
Hoard Class: X
XP: 3,600

Vanth is the vassal of Orcus. Responsible for bringing him the choicest souls to be corrupted into foul undead.  Vanth is never far from Orcus then and she always keeps her face toward her master.

Vanth shares a role similar to that of Charon.  She brings the souls of departed to the underworld. She has a torch to light her way, a key to unlock the gates of the underworld, a scroll with the information on the deceased and a sword. According to myth Vanth appears as woman, much like an Erinyes and described as young and vibrant.

There are other demons similar to Vanth such as Culsu, Charun and Tuchulcha.

Vanth

Tuchulcha


This also marks the end of the "Classical" Myths of antiquity.  After this, we get into what could be called the Pagan Myths.  I already did one part of the Celtic Myths, so I will need to revisit them.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

A_MAY_zing Adventures: American Gods

This month the Troll Lords have a bunch a sales going on.  Now as many of you may know I am good friends with one of the Trolls, Jason Vey.  Jason and I worked on Buffy at Eden Studios, playtested each other's games for Eden and have worked on a lot of other titles together for a bunch of different companies.

We were talking about his game Amazing Adventures a little bit ago.  I had been reading through all of Brian Young's Mythology Codecies, also by Troll Lord, and it dawned on me that these can, and should, be used together.  Because what you get when you do is American Gods.



Amazing Adventures has been reviewed here in the past, so no real need for me to go over it all again.  I am going to consider the following books though for my American Gods game.


For the Codices, I  have only reviewed the Celtic and Classic ones, but have them all.


The idea behind American Gods is that when folks came here from the "Old Country" they brought their gods with them.    People in this world, and thus this game, are normal humans.  So no spell casters and no psychics.   I am including the Book of Powers for an odd sort every so often and to cover some of the powers of the Gods in America and some of the "normal humans".

The Codices all give us background.  While the world has moved on the Gods haven't, or at least, not all of them and not every one of them the same way.

Where American Gods is a personal story of Shadow Moon, there are other stories that can be done.  Take a page from Mage: The Ascension and have the agents of the New Gods fighting the followers of the Old Gods.  These new followers could then be spellcasters or powered characters as they criss-cross the US battling each other and other forces.  Throw in a bit of Chill or Supernatural in there for good measure.   Maybe this war is also waking up all the old creatures so werewolves, vampires and others are also on the move once again.

Actually, this sounds exactly like the games from around 1999-2001 when "millennium anxiety" was creeping in everywhere. 

The more I think about the more I like this idea of this game.  While Amazing Adventures is overtly a "Pulp Action Game" there is nothing at all stopping you from using as a low-key (Loki??) supers in a modern supernatural setting.  In fact, that is exactly what the Book of Powers is all about.

Hmmm.

Stealing another idea from Jason's blog and his Wasted Lands concepts, maybe the players could also BE the gods themselves.  Now there is a fun idea.


This is worth developing much more.  I'll need to reread the book, it's been a while, plus I should really finish Anansi Boys someday.   I think I would also use Gaiman's "Lucifer" because that would be a lot of fun.

OH. And be on the lookout for the new Amazing Adventures 5th Edition, compatible with 5th Edition D&D!

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

OMG: Greek (and maybe Roman) Mythos, Part 2

I have really been enjoying going back and rereading and reanalyzing the myths and stories that got me into D&D to start with.  I can't help but feel like this is the start of 1979 instead of 2019 with my reading list lately.  Only now at 49, I can really enjoy them in a different light than 9.

Let's continue with One Man's God and see what sort of demons the Greek Myths give us.


The Furies, Erinyes and the Dirae
Part of my prep for this has been to go back over my Hesiod (7th Century BCE) and Ovid(1st Century BCE and CE) (and other sources, but that is later) to see how these myths changed over the centuries.  One of my favorites was the various different interpretations of the Erinyes also know as the Furies and the Dirae (Roman).  Like I mentioned in Part 1, they are the archetype of what OMG is trying to do.  Their new life in the Monster Manual as a devil is not just in line with the myth, it also makes a certain level sense given the internal logic of the D&D multiverse.
I took it a step even further with my own Avenging Angels, The Dirae.

Typhon and Echidna
Another candidate for a demon is the god/titan Typhon.  I have used Typhon as a demon in the past.  Essentially a Balor whose primary aspects are lightning, storms, and rain rather than smoke, darkness, and fire.  I still like that idea, but it really isn't Typhon is it?  Typhon is the offspring of Gaia (Earth) and Tartarus (the underworld) so there is some connection to him being a Cthonic deity (like Nox) and he certainly looks like a demon.  Also, the Ptolemaic Greeks (and earlier) associated and conflated and syncretized Typhon with Set.
I think in this case I am going to have my cake and eat it too. There is Typhon, the titan locked away in Tartarus and there are the Typhon demons, demons of storm and wind that might be his offspring.

Echidna is the "mother of all monsters".  In a way that sounds like another "Other Side" favorite, Lilith the Mother of Demons.  Though aside from the similar titles that is where the commonalities end.  Echidna is a half-woman, half-snake creature born "to the sea" (depends on who ask) and was the mother to some of the most fearsome monsters of the Greek Myths, including Orthrus, Dioskilos, and Cerberus.
As with Typhon, she seems to remain more of a titan to me. As the mother of monsters, I can see that she is the mother/progenitor of the harpies and even the Marilith aka the Type V demons.  Given her and Typhon's affinity for snakes, it makes sense.  I also think that I would say that she lays eggs, a nod to the animal Echidna; an egg-laying mammal.

In truth, any monster of demon can be the offspring of Typhon and Echidna.


Demogorgon
Orcus and Ades, and the dreaded name
Of Demogorgon
— John Milton, Paradise Lost II. 966.
Time to address the titan in the room.
Is Demogorgon a part of the Greek Myths?

Well, he is not listed in the Deities & Demigods as part of the Greek Myths, so this is a stretch of scope for this OMG, but Demogorgon is so central to the mythos of D&D that he can't go unmentioned.

Many scholars now believe that the word Demogorgon was badly translated from the Greek δημιουργόν (dēmiourgon) or demiurge. As an aside, does this mean he could be the Demiurge in the game Kult? NOW THERE is a fun idea!  Throughout the study of the name, there are two basic threads.  1. Demogorgon is some sort primordial progenitor of the Gods.  and 2. It is a grammatical error given life as a god.  Certainly, the look given to Demogorgon in the Monster Manual is a pure fabrication on the part of authors and artists of  D&D (note: this is not a bad thing).
From Milton above, we learn that Demogorgon was already in Hell waiting for the arrival of Satan.  He is picked up as a prince of darkness in Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene.

But my favorite one has to be from Shelley's Prometheus Unbound which takes influences from Paradise Lost.  Here Demogorgon is the son of Zeus/Jupiter and Theris and is known as "the supreme Tyrant" of "the shadow realm".  Here the gods, Jupiter, Hades even Typhon are all dead.  In this Demogorgon defeats Zeus/Jupiter as he did Kronos/Saturn before and Ouranos/Uranus before that.  Maybe much like the prophecy, Metis was given of Zeus' son defeating him this happened, but only it was his via Thetis instead. 

So what does all that mean to us?
Well Demogorgon, as he appears in the Monster Manual, is not really Greek. This is fine.  But grabbing all sorts of elements of his/its past we can come up with an old demon whose goal is to destroy the Gods (as one interpretation).  If we look into his origins as quasi-Greek then it is interesting that his chief rival is Orcus a demonic version of an Etruscan/Roman deity.   But more on Orcus in the next OMG.

Demogorgon has been featured here before and likely will again


That's a lot for today and I feel like I have barely scratched the surface, and there are still Roman Myths to cover!

The more I think about it.   The world of Kult is one where Demogorgon has succeded in killing most of the gods.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Review: Castles & Crusades Codex Classicum

The Castles & Crusades Codecies series are great books to add some flavor and history to your game.  While overtly for the Castles & Crusades game they can be used by nearly any game.  I reviewed the Codex Celtarum a while back and I loved it. So I picked up all the others.
Since I am currently on a big Greek Mythology kick, let's have a look at Castles & Crusades Codex Classicum.

Castles & Crusades Codex Classicum
For this book, I am reviewing the PDF only since that is what I have at hand at the moment.
The PDF is 146 pages with color covers and black & white interiors.  The art is up to the high standards you should expect from Troll Lords with plenty of evocative art from Peter Bradley.   Like the other books in this series, this one was written by Brian Young, who has the educational background to tackle these books.
Brian introduces us to the material with an apology that this book could have been twice as large and not cover everything.  Indeed, the book's scope is ambitious with what we normally consider Classical Mythology; the stories of the Greeks and the Romans with some Etruscans thrown in for good measure.  Ambitious indeed.

Note: There are a couple of errors in the hyperlinked table of contents in the PDF, but nothing that keeps anyone from enjoying the book.

Chapter 1 covers the actual history of the Greeks, Etruscans, and Romans...or as much as can be done in 20 or so pages.  There are actual history and mythical histories.  The myth in this section and book takes heavily, as can be expected, from Hesiod's Theogony.  It's like being back in Freshman Classics all over again!  The section, for its brevity, is well thought out and hits on the big pictures and themes.  I suppose if you want more you can always read Theogony yourself.  In fact, do that, anyone that is a gamer should have a basic understanding of the Classical Myths.

Chapter 2 details the all-important geography of the area.  Why "all-important"? Because the Greeks and the later Romans were products of their environments; their history, religions and myths were influenced by their geography to an extreme extent.  From the Greek city-states of early antiquity, to rise of the power Athens and Macedonia and in the literal center of it all, the Mediterranean Sea.
Again, this chapter is a quick overview, but a better one than I have seen in other game books.
This chapter also covers mythical locations (but not the mythical worlds just yet).  Remember to the Greeks these places were places just as real as everything else.  One could, if they so desired, walk to the underworld. That is if they knew the way.
This chapter also introduces the Explorer/Adventurer class.  Something that feels right at home in the world of the Greeks or the worlds of Gygax.  Some should convert this to another system and see how it plays out.

Chapter 3 features the monsters and beasts of the Classical World.  There are a lot of old favorites here and well as new representations of other favorites.  Of course, this is one of my favorite chapters.  Greek myth got me into D&D via the Monster Manual and there are a lot of monsters here that get right in the 1979 nostalgia.  My only disappointment here is that is no art of any of the monsters. I know we all know what most of these creatures look like, but I still feel a little cheated in not getting enough Peter Bradley art.

Chapter 4 is my favorite.  Monsters got me into D&D and RPGs, but it was magic that kept me coming back. Chapter 4 features Greek and Roman sorcery and magic including necromancy and prophecy.   Even the most casual reader of the classic myths should know how important Oracles are to the tale.  From Jason to Perseus to the tragedy of Oedipus, Oracles move the story forward. Here we get our next class, the Oracle (with notes on how these mouthpieces of the gods work in the other Codies).  Unlike the Pathfinder Oracle, this one is not a spellcaster but a reader of omens. It also requires a fairly experienced player to play to make proper use of it.
Also featured here is the Nekuomantis, or the classical Greek necromancer.  In many ways, this is the true necromancer before RPGs got ahold of the archetype.  These characters speak to the dead to learn secrets and the future.

Chapter 5 deals with the Gods and Titans and other immortal creatures.  It is fairly comprehensive compared to all other game books and very helpful in populating the ranks of the Immortals.

Chapter 6 focuses more on the humans and mortals of the world.  The heroes and their issues.  The basics of the Greek and Roman armies are also covered.  This chapter also introduces the Gladiator class.

All in all a great overview but also leaving me with the desire for some more.  Still I rather enjoyed it and can see a lot of uses for it.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

OMG: Egyptian Myths, Part 2

Wrapping up the myths of Egypt today for One Man's God.   A brief note about the objectives of these posts. I am trying to go through the various myths as presented in the AD&D 1st edition Deities and Demigods and trying to reconcile them with the implied cosmology as presented in the AD&D game and Monster Manual in particular.  Sure I can, and will, draw from many other sources from real-world mythologies and religion to other editions of D&D and even other games.

Ok back to the business at hand.
You can find Part 1 here.


Apep
Last week I talked a lot about Apep.  He has been a lot on my mind of late.  From the reviews I did of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea 2E to Serpentine - Oldskull Serpent Folk, snake gods are getting a lot of coverage on my blog of late.  This is really no surprise.  My Second Campaign is gearing up for the trek into the great desert of the world and it will have a lot of Egyptian influences as well.

Right now my plan is to take the big desert adventures of classic A/D&D and make the end of my campaign with them.

The Desert of Desolation series:
and the Desert Nomads/Temple of Death series:
and then the two stand-alone adventures:


The adventures span several designers, worlds and even games, but all link back to the idea of ancient Egypt.  Known as Eyrpt on Oerth, Ayrpt on Mystara, and Aegypt in Gary Gygax's original Dangerous Journey Necropolis and then later Khemit in the 3rd edition version.  I combine them all into one. I call my series "The Deserts of Desolations and Death".

Apep and Yig will play a big part in this.  If Apep/Yig (yes I combine them) is an Eodemon like Dagon, then also like Dagon he invests some power in Demogorgon.  Demogorgon is a Greek name, so maybe the Egypt of my adventures is similar and this represents the Ptolemaic/Greek rule era.

Aten
Not mentioned in the DDG is the god Aten, the god of the sun disc.

Already we are getting into something about the Egyptian myths that I will talk about more in detail later.  Aten is the God of the Sun. Ra/Re is the God of the Sun.  Who is the god of the sun here?
Well, both.  And for a while, it was also Osiris.   Egyptian gods were more fluid than say the Greek or Romans ones (but they still had this quality).  Gods could be subjected to Syncretism where two of more gods were fused together into one god, their beliefs fused.  We see this in Amun-Ra (the King of the gods and the sun god).

The biggest deal with Aten was his worship by the Pharaoh Akhenaten, who may have been the father of Tutankhamun, was the pharaoh that brought monotheism to Egypt in 1350 to 1330 BCE.  This predates the other big monotheistic religions including Judaism and Zoroastrianism (and obviously Christianity and Islam, thought the roots of all of these go back that far).

When working on my ideas for Sol Invictus I always wondered what it would have been like if Egypt had continued the worship of Aten.  Or if Aten instead of being wiped out of existence with the return of the original gods and Amun-Ra had been killed by Set or Apep.   Since my campaign deals with events of the Dawn War and He Who Was, maybe that is the same sort of god as Aten.

Aten is a great place to start if you want to make a monotheistic religion in D&D's otherwise polytheistic approach.

I have not looked at length but I think Kobold Press has Aten in some of their books.

Hermes Trismegistus
Now back onto the topic of syncretism. What do you get when you take Thoth the God of Knowledge and combine him with Mercury the Messanger of the Gods and a dash of Imhotep?  Let it stew for a bit in Ptolemaic Egypt?  You get Hermes Trismegistus or the Thrice Great Hermes.

From Hermes Trismegistus, we get Hermeticism; a pre-science esoteric way at looking at the nature of the world.  In many RPGs (Mage and Ars Magica are good examples, as it WitchCraft) this leads to the Hermetic Traditions.  These are magical and alchemical traditions.

Often the Hermetic Traditions are classified as "High Magic" with witchcraft and pagan practices as "Low Magic".  Disclaimer. This is a remarkably simplistic view of what would go on to be one of the largest movements in Western Esotericism. I am just going to the beginning and following one branch of this tree. 

In any case, Hermes Trismegistus is not a god you would find in the DDG.  If some he could be an Egyptian/Greek god of Alchemy and Magic eventually (as sadly these things happen) taking over the role of Magic from Isis and Hecate.  Maybe there is this God in my campaign along with Aten.

Library of Alexandria 
So from this, I am building a Ptomliac Egyptian area that is post-Aten-heresies where Hermes Trismegistus is the god of Alchemy and Magic and Apep is still a real threat.

Spoiler for when I do the Greek Myths (and I think I should do them next).
How are Heka the Egyptian God of Magic related to Hecate the "Greek" (and I'll explain that later) Goddess of Witches, Magic and the Underworld?

Next time on One Man's God.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

OMG: Egyptian Myths, Part 1

Ancient Egypt spanned more than 3,000 years of history.  So much history in fact that there is as less time between us and Queen Cleopatra VII (reign 51 BCE to 30 BCE) than Cleopatra and the construction of the Pyramid of Khufu (2560 BCE) and Egypt was already 500+ years old by the time that was built.  There are "Intermediate Periods" in Egyptian history where very little is known about what was going on that lasted longer than the run of most countries today including the United States.

It is really no wonder that Egypt has fascinated us for millennia. 

The entries in the Egyptian Mythos section of the Deities and Demigods is no different.  The authors of the DDG acknowledge this time and mention that the religion had changed in that time.  So we are only given a few of the "big gods" and the ones that are the most common names.  This I think is perfectly fine.  A book on ancient Egyptian gods would fill many volumes this size.  Ancient Egyptian religion is very complex, but relatable to all of us I think because of a lot of ideas we have in religion now came from then.  The Trinty? First seen in Egypt.  The death and resurrection of a god? Egypt.  An afterlife? Egypt again.  A monotheistic religion? Yes, even Egypt did this (for a while and I'll get to that).

The purpose of these "One Man's God" posts is to square the mythology as presented in the DDG with the other bits of the D&D (primarily AD&D) cosmology. In particular with demons and devils and other fiends.  Not really to discuss whether or not the DDG is a good guide for religion or history (it's not, nor is it trying to be).

So. Did Egypt have demons?  Well...let's have a look.

One thing we get right from the start is that Egypt has a lot of gods and many of those gods are very powerful.  The cap given on all gods in the DDG is 400hp for the greatest god in the pantheon. Egypt has two gods at 400 (Ra and Osiris) and many more at 300 or above.  I would argue, given her predominance in the myths that Isis should also be at 400, or at least at 395 to Ptah's 390.  Some important gods, like Amun or Aten, don't even appear.

If there are a lot of really powerful gods, there are uncounted minor gods.  While some might fit the bill as a "demon", demigod or quasi-god might be a better name for them.  Of course the chief of these lesser gods, at least for mortal concerns, was the Pharoh, a god on Earth.
The Egyptians had "night lands" or an "underearth" but no Hell to speak of.  Places that "feel" like the Abyss (in abstract terms) but lacking the evil. Good or evil people would die and then continue their lot in the next life.  They could build these little statues that would do the work for them if they had enough money.  The worst thing that could happen to you is that you would be forgotten. Prayers no longer said for you and in later times if you could be mummified, having your body destroyed.  It could be our practice of burial comes from this. That and the pragmatic concerns of not wanting to see dear old depart granddad being dragged off to be eaten by jackals.

Apep, the King of Serpents
One of the few god-level monsters in the DDG is Apep, the King of Serpents.  If you recall from a Monstrous Monday a few weeks back I featured snakes and snake people.  Fear of snakes is old. Really old. The Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Mulism) all have a snake as the first enemy in Eden.  Other religions follow suit.
In the DDG Apep is described as a "creature of the Abyss" and "the physical embodiment of chaotic evil".  The stats for Apep put him inline with the Demon Lords/Princes like Demongorgon and Orcus.
In the mythology of D&D it is very, very likely that Apep was one of the original demons, like Dagon and Pazuzu. Called Obyriths in current versions of D&D, I called them Protodemons or Eodemons.  Apep certainly fits the bill.   If Demogorgon has the "backing" of Dagon (see 4e and beyond) then I would argue that he also has the backing of Apep.  These two ancient Obyriths/Eodemons could be the reason why Demogorgon has the title Prince of Demons.

Apep
FREQUENCY:  Unique
NO.  APPEARING:  1
ARMOR CLASS: -4
MOVE:  18"
HIT DICE:  18 (250 hp)
%  IN  LAIR:  100%
TREASURE  TYPE:  H (x3)
NO.  OF  ATTACKS:  2
DAMAGE/ATTACK:  3-30 (bite)/4-24 (constriction)
SPECIAL  ATTACKS:  Poison, Breath Weapon (6-60)
SPECIAL  DEFENSES:  +3  or  better weapon to hit
MAGIC  RESISTANCE:  40%
INTELLIGENCE:  High
ALIGNMENT:  Chaotic  Evil
SIZE:  L  (300' long)
PSIONIC ABILITY:  Nil

This creature is older than the demons and all but the most powerful stay away from his layer deep in the Abyss.  He is attended by uncounted numbers of snakes and can summon 5-50 snakes of any sort to his aid as he is their King.
This monster has a poisonous bite (3-30 points of damage and save at -4 or die), can breathe flame every other round for 6-60 points of damage (10" long and 4" wide cone) and can constrict for 4-24 points of damage.  He has slain and eaten many mortals, demons and gods. 
Some scholars speculate that he is also the same creature known as Yig to some and Jormungandr to others.

Set, The Evil God
Set is a problem.  I mean yes he is a problem because he is evil, but also a problem with how he is wedged into the cosmology here.  For the ancient Egyptians, the gods lived in their temples.  Set who is listed as Lawful Evil is placed naturally in the Nine Hells.  But...that doesn't really work.  Not for Set and not for the Hells.  Druaga we can fit in, but Set is much larger. In later Dragon magazines, Ed Greenwood in his now very famous articles on the devils and the Nine Hells places Set in Acheron or rather he is trying to build his own plane between Acheron and the Nine Hells.  While a neat idea I also don't think it works 100% for me.  Set is a bad guy, he kills his brother Osiris and tosses his body parts all over Egypt.  But he also rides on Ra's solar barge to fight Apep and even some Pharaohs were named to honor him.  So he is a complicated, but still largely evil, god.

Ammit
Not presented in the DDG is Ammit, the crocodile/hippopotamus/lion beast that devours souls/maat of the dead that fail to get into the afterlife.
Ammit certainly meets the criterion for a demon.  She is a monster that eats the souls of the dead. Horrifying visage. Certainly evil and used to scare people into moral behavior.
While she is missing from the DDG (though Erol Otus puts her in the full page art just before the myths) she does appear at Ammut in the AD&D 2nd Edition Al-Qadim Monstrous Manual.

Ammit
FREQUENCY:  Unique
NO.  APPEARING:  1
ARMOR CLASS: 3
MOVE:  12"
HIT DICE:  12 (102 hp)
%  IN  LAIR:  100%
TREASURE  TYPE:  Nil
NO.  OF  ATTACKS:  3
DAMAGE/ATTACK:  1-10 (claw)/1-10 (claw)/2-20 (bite)
SPECIAL  ATTACKS: 
SPECIAL  DEFENSES:  +1  or  better weapon to hit, Immune to all attacks from Undead
MAGIC  RESISTANCE:  70%
INTELLIGENCE:  Low
ALIGNMENT:  Chaotic  Evil
SIZE:  L  (15' long, 7' foreleg to head tall)
PSIONIC ABILITY:  Nil
Ammit is the demon that waits in the afterlife.  If Anubis judges a person's heart is heavier than the feather of Ma'at then Ammit eats the heart and the person then must roam the outer darkness to "die a second time".  In some cases Ammit eats the heart and tosses the body into the lake of fire she resides near. 
Ammit is a huge animal like demon. She has the head of a crocodile, the mane and hindquarters of a lion, and the forequarters and belly of a hippopotamus. She is grossly fat since she has no end of wicked hearts to feed on.  For her size she is fast on both land and water.
Ammit will also attack the living if they interfere with her feeding.

Next time lets talk about Aten, how I am going to use Apep and what the hell is up with Hermes Trismegistus, the Thrice Great Hermes.
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