Showing posts with label monsters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label monsters. Show all posts

Monday, May 4, 2020

Upcoming Projects from The Other Side: Warlocks, Monsters, More Basic, and the LAST Witch Book

Well. April was kind of crazy.

I thought I take a moment to catch my breath and discuss some future projects here at the Other Side.

The Warlock
First up, I want to get the POD version of The Warlock out to you all. I am going to try for softcover and hardcover options. That way they can fit into whatever collection you like.
The printing is a little slow at DriveThru at the moment, so as soon as I get the proofs I'll get them up to you all.

Once I get that done I am going to release another Warlock book, this time for 5th Edition D&D.  No set date on that right now, but optimistically this Summer.

BECMI Month
Another big project I am starting now but won't start to roll out till June is my month-long overview of the ONLY D&D I never really played; BECMI.  I am going to spend roughly a week on each boxed set. Doing detailed reviews, overviews, and related topics. It should be fairly enlightening for me and I hope you all enjoy it.  I am looking forward to learning something new about this system.


If you know of anything BECMI related you think I should cover, let me know!

Monsters
Another project with no specific date in mind yet is the book-form of my Monstrous Mondays' posts.
The posts have been in a variety of formats and systems over the years, so I think I am going to opt to do this book to be compatible with "Advanced era" gaming, or some Basic/Advance hybrid.  So not really OSRIC compatible and not really Advanced Labyrinth Lord compatible, but something of an OGC combination of the two.  Much like how my Basic Witch is not designed for any single system, but an amalgam of Basic-era OGC.

So this would not be a simple "copy and paste" deal, I would want to rework all the monsters to fit the Advanced play better.  My goal is to have a book that would sit next to my Monster Manuals and Fiend Folio and play just like them.


Still workshoping names, but I think my own OCD requires that the name be an alliteration.

In truth, I am looking forward to trying out a "new" system for a change.

The High Secret Order: The Book of High Witchcraft
Ah. Now this one is a big one for me.  Why? Well. I am going to use this to get back to the witch class I was playing circa 1986, the dawn of my fully realized witch.  But more importantly, this will very likely be my last of the Old-School Witch books.
While I wanted this book to be the last of my Back to Basic books, this one might also need to be an Advanced Era book. Or some mix. I am not sure yet.

No date on this one either.  But this one will include the High Secret Order Witches, the Academic Warlock (with expanded Secret Masters of the Invisible College Lodge),  Hermetic Wizards and more.
I am also going to finally get my spell creation rules into one place, the same ones I have been using for years since the goals of the High Secret Order and the Invisible College is to create more magic.

This book, along with the monster book above, will represent my transition period from Basic-era to Advanced-era.   I think it is going to be a lot of fun.

The Books of the D_____
This is a brand new project. 100% Advanced-era with maybe parallel versions for 5th Edition.  Don't want to say to much about these just yet but they represent a new direction in my writing and I can't wait to get started on them.

So. I have enough to keep me busy for some time to come now.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Monstrous Mondays: How Much for a Book?

I had a Monstrous Monday planned for today but in the process of going through my monsters to make sure I hadn't already done it (spoiler: I hadn't, expect to see a Hodag soon!) I began to notice a couple of things.

1. I have been doing Monstrous Mondays for a while now.
2. I have a ton of monsters.

I went back through all my data and found I have done 230 monsters for my witch books.  About 80 for Monstrous Mondays and another 75 or so in just A to Z posts.

Counting for duplicates and overlaps that gives me over 300 monsters.

That's more than the Monster Manual had.

It got me thinking. Would a new monster book be fun to do?



Well, the answer is yes, it would be fun. I have enough monsters for sure.  They all have a general "theme" of witches, demons, undead, and the occult.  So that is something.

The biggest issues are:

1. Art. Art is not cheap and I would like to have as much as possible.  The biggest cost of the book will be this.

2. System. As of now I have written monsters for Basic-era (at least four different clones), S&W, AD&D, Unisystem, AGE, Ubiquity, and D&D5 with a smattering of others.  What system would be best to use?  AD&D/OSRIC gives me more detail, Basic/LL & S&W gives me the most audience. D&D5 gives me a little of both, but the art requirements are much higher.

3. New content. This is a big one for me really.  Despite the fact that there are over 300 monsters, all of them have appeared in one of my books or blog already. While an individual may find something they have not seen before, anyone who has purchased a book from me will see something they have already seen.

Granted, this is the exact same thing as the Fiend Folio with content from the Fiend Factory and most of the Tome of Horrors books are filled with monsters we have all already seen. In fact there is a group of demons I have taken to calling "The Usual Suspects" because they are in every book of demons there is.  I have even gone as far as to look into commissioning some art with them all in a police lineup.

Even Monsters of Mayhem #1, a book I rather enjoy, is made up completely of monsters from all the adventures from Dark wizard Games.

Obviously, I could do this as a book and sell it anyway. The enjoyment would be for me to have my very own book of monsters.  If other people enjoy it, then fantastic!
BUT that assumes that I either have all the art I need and any I need to buy will be cheap. 
I like my witch books to make a profit (so I can buy more books!) and just breaking even is not a good business strategy.

Under any circumstance, I would HAVE to include new, never before seen monsters.

Now just figure out which ones make the cut and where some gaps might be.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Monstrous Mondays: More Monster Book Reviews

Been kinda busy the last few days.  Today is my last day of vacation, so back to work tomorrow. We set up a pro Role20 account this past week and we are going to try that out.  Maybe I'll even run a game or two online.

I went looking for a monster today for something I am working on.  About a couple hours into my search of PDFs it dawned on me.  I have a lot of monster books.  I mean an obscene amount.
One of the problems I run into is not finding a monster but finding the monster and 4 or 5 different versions.


These books are my big "go-to" books for monsters.  Even though they have significant overlap each one offers me something new and fun.

Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary
PDF and Hardcover, 457 pages. B&W Interior.
If you ever only buy ONE product from BRW and the Adventures Dark & Deep line then make sure it is this one.
I love monster books. I have said so many, many times. But I also hold them to a high standard.  While I Will gladly buy any monster book, few get my high praise.  Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary is one of those few.
Let be honest upfront.  We have seen most if not all the monsters in this book somewhere else before.
Most are in the SRD or from other Open sources. The new ones are great, but they are ideas we have seen.
And none of that matters.  This is still a great book.
At 457 pages (pdf) it is a beast. Monsters are alphabetically listed by areas you would find them in.  So Wilderness and Dungeon is by far the bulk of them, but there are also Waterborne (fitting in with the rules) and "Outsiders" or monsters from the other planes.  But I am getting ahead of myself.
The book begins with two monster spell casters, the Shaman and the Witch Doctor.  Shades of similar classes from the BECMI RC to be sure. But they work here great and frankly I know someone will want to use these rules to play a Shaman one day.  Heck I once tried a Wemic Shaman in early 2e days myself.  Maybe I'll see if I can do that here.  The classes are not detailed and they don't need to be. The do what they need to do.
The Monster descriptions are a bit like those found in OSRIC though there are some interesting additions.
Each Monster has a Morale, like that found in Basic and 2nd ed, though it is not a score but an adjustment.  Attacks are listed in the stat block, though they are the attack types. This is most similar to "Special Attacks" in other rules.  Also wholly new are "Weaknesses" which is an interesting idea and one I think other OSR publishers should adopt.  Each monster then gets a couple of paragraphs of text.  Many are illustrated thanks to the highly successful Kickstarter for this (more on that later).  The illustrations are great too as you can see here.
All the monsters have General, Combat and Appearance sections in their write-ups.
Unlike 2e (and 4e) monsters are not confined to one-page entries.  Some have paragraphs, others just a few lines.  This is good since I think we would have something like 1000+ pages.  I think I read there are 1100 monsters in this book. Maybe 900.  Anyway it's a lot.  I spot checked a few monsters I thought might not be there, but sure enough they were.  Ok so the ones that are Closed via the OGL are not here, but I was not expecting those.  There are some alternates and stand ins if you really, really need them though.
The book sections are:
Wilderness and Dungeon, aka Most of the Monsters
Underwater and Waterborne, larger than expected, but not surprised given the material in the core books.
Prehistoric Monsters, always nice to have; Dinosaurs and Ice Age mammals.
Extra Planar Monsters, your Outsiders.
Appendix A details creating your own monsters.
Appendix B has something I didn't even realize was missing till I started reading the stats; a basic psionic system for psychic strikes.
Appendix C covers random creatures from the Lower Planes.  This is the first "Gygaxian" touch I have noticed in this book.  Reminds me of a really old Dragon magazine article from years ago..
Appendix D is magic resistance table
and Appendix E covers the abilities of Gods.
All of this in a PDF for just under $15.
I have mentioned before that Joe gets his work done and gets it done fast. Well this is not only no exception but it is the new benchmark.  Joe ended his kickstarter and then got printed books out to people 6 months early.  Let that sink in for a moment.  In a hobby where we tolerate (although not quietly) Kickstarters with delays of 18 months, Joe and BRW are out there, turning out product and getting it to people early.
You should buy a copy of this book on that principle alone.
So should you get this book?
If you like monsters then yes.  If you need monsters for your oldschool game then yes.  If you want to support Joe and the Adventures Dark & Deep system then yes. If you want to reward good Kickstarter behavior then absolutely yes.

Lots of good reasons to get in my book.  It is also the best book in his line. Kudos to Joseph Bloch.

Amazing Adventures! Manual of Monsters
PDF and Hardcover, 95 Pages. B&W interior art.
The Amazing Adventures Manual of Monsters manages to give me monsters I have seen before, but with a whole new take. I mean a mummy is a mummy right? Well...your old monster book won't tell you how it reacts when you fire your .38 into it. But beyond that, this book also has a lot of new monsters. Enough to make it worthwhile in my opinion.
Also as an added bonus feature is an appendix of monsters from different countries. So fight that Kelpie on its native soil. Or tangle with the machinations of the Greys.
If you play Amazing Adventures or Castles & Crusades then you need this book.

Castles & Crusades Monsters & Treasure
PDF and Hardcover 178 Pages. B&W interior art.
This is the main monster and treasure book for C&C. Here you will find what I call the "classic" monsters from the great Monster Manual. If you are familiar with 3.x then these are all the monsters from the SRD in C&C's format. There is plenty of new text here though to make this more than just another SRD-derived book. Like all the C&C books the art and layout is great. I have the physical book, the pdf and a printout of the PDF and all read great.
The Castles & Crusades Monster stat block is a nice combination of Basic's simplicity, 1st AD&D's comprehensiveness, and some 3.x style rules. Saves are simple (Physical, Mental or both), AC is ascending and there is a "Challenge Rating" stat and XP all factored in. Honestly, it really is a synthesis of the best of D&D. Grabbing a monster from another source and converting it on the fly really could not be easier.
This book though is more than just a monster book, all the treasure and magic items (normally found in a Game Master's book) are here. This is a nice feature really. One place to have your encounter information.
This really is a must-have book for any C&C fan. 178 pages and full of everything you need.

Swords and Wizardry Monstrosities
PDF 544 Pages. B&W interior art.
Some of these monsters we have seen before either in the SRD or other books.  That though does not detract from its value as this is a 540+ page book. In addition to all that there are some new monsters.  The cover is very evocative of the old-school (pre-1980) covers.
There is much in common between this book and The Tome of Horrors. Each monster is given a page of stats, descriptions and a plot hook.  While ToH used some recycled art, this all seems to be new art.  Even Orcus (which we now have 3 listings for) is new.  Actually, the art is pretty darn good and I don't mind the occasional repeat of a monster to see some new art.
Honestly, there is so much great stuff in this book that even with the occasional repeat monster this is still a top-notch collection. If you play S&W then this is a great monster book to have.
I am even going as far as to say it is a must-have for any serious S&W GM.

Tome of Horrors Complete (S&W)
PDF 688 Pages. B&W interior art.
What can be said about this product? The original Tomes of Horrors were all great products that featured and number of "old school" monsters from previous editions of the game all under the OGL. It even had a breif "tutorial" on how to add these beasties to your own products. Now those very same monsters are back in one huge book "updated" to Swords & Wizardry stats. Nearly 700 monsters, all ready for your game. In addition to art and stat blocks for every monster there is also an adventure hook for each one. The monsters have been "scaled down" to fit the S&W rules better. One minor nit-pick. The original art is used (which I am happy about) but in their efforts to redo the layout sometimes that art is reduced in size (making it hard to see) and other times the art is placed over some text. Not often mind you and not enough for me to downgrade this product.
Now what I would like to have is one "Ultimate Tome of Horrors" that has the Pathfinder and S&W stats together with the plot hooks.

I have a few more I like.  I'll have to post about them the next time I run out of monster ideas!

Monday, January 27, 2020

Monstrous Monday: Bánánach for OSE

Working on all sorts of things, mostly getting my bits of Night Shift done and a TON of day job stuff.

I wanted to get The Pagan Witch out to you all soon, and I still might, it is done, minus some little bits. Here is something in the mean time.

Bánánach
Semi-transparent spectres of witches that haunt battlefields or other areas of great violence.
AC 3 [16], HD 5** (18hp), Att 1 × touch (1d6 +ability drain), THAC0 15 [+4], MV 120’ (40’) / 240’ (80’) flying, SV D10 W11 P12 B13 S14 (5), ML 12, AL Chaotic, XP 175, NA 1d4 (1d6), TT None

▶ Undead: Make no noise, until they attack. Immune to effects that affect living creatures (e.g. poison). Immune to mind-affecting or mind-reading spells (e.g. charm, hold, sleep).
▶ Mundane weapon immunity: Only harmed by silver weapons or magic.
▶ Damage reduction: Half damage from silver weapons.
▶ Energy drain: A successfully hit target permanently loses one point of Wisdom. This incurs a loss of all other benefits due to the drained ability (e.g. spells, saving throws, etc.). A person drained of all Wisdom becomes a wraith in one day, under the control of the bánánach that killed him or her.

A bánánach is the specter of a witch.  They are attracted to areas of great death and suffering.  They can be seen flying about the areas of death.  They drain the willpower of those she attacks. 
They are often accompanied by 2-3 wraiths.

Monday, December 30, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Painted Minis Edition

I am still on Christmas vacation and I barely remembered today was Monday.
So here are some minis my wife has painted over break.

First up, a blue dragon.







And, my favorite, a Demogorgon!







Here's to new monsters in 2020!

Monday, November 25, 2019

Monstrous Monday Review: Monster Manual II

Continuing my review of the monster books of my youth with what can be called the most polished of all the AD&D/D&D monster books, the AD&D Monster Manual II

This was the first book to feature the new "orange spine" and Jeff Easley cover art.   It is also one of the larger AD&D first ed books at 160 pages (save for the massive DMG).  Sometimes I wonder what an old-school cover would have looked like, something drawn by Tramp maybe.  That all aside, the cover of this book is great, but it doesn't quite grab you the same way that the MM1 or the FF did.  But inside is more than makes up for this "perceived" slight.

For this review, I am as usual considering the original hardcover and the newer PDF from DriveThruRPG.  There is no Print on Demand option yet for this title, but as a special feature, I'll also have a look at the miniature book from Twenty First Century Games S.r.i.

The book(s) and the PDF have full-color covers featuring art from Jeff Easley.  Inside is all black and white art from  Jim Holloway, Harry Quinn, Dave Sutherland, and Larry Elmore.  No slight to the previous book's artists, but the style and quality here is more consistent.  Some might see this as an improvement (I do) but others will point to this as a sign of the change from the Golden Age of TSR to the Silver Age.  Of course, it features the byline of Gary Gygax, though we now know that some of them were created by Frank Mentzer and Jeff Grubb.  In some ways, you can see this change in tone and feel that is happening at TSR in this book.

The Monster Manual II was the first hardcover after a year hiatus.  The book is better organized and layout than most of the AD&D hardcover books.  I have to admit I always credited this to TSR finally moving over to computer layout, but I have nothing to support this claim save for how the book looks.

There is a lot to this book too.  OVer 250 monsters there are a ton more demons, devils, and more from the outer planes, like the daemons, demodands, modrons, and even good-aligned creatures like the devas and solars.  We get a few more dragons and some giants.  We get a lot of monsters that feel inspired by the first Monster Manual. There are also many from previous adventure modules.  This book also gave us the Tarrasque, the Catlord, the Swanmay, the Wolfwere. and more.

This book also has nearly 30 pages of encounter tables at the end that covers all three books, very useful to have really and a selling point for the PDF. Get the PDF and print out the tables.

The Monster Manual II is still by all rights a classic.  While I don't get the same thrill from it as I do the Monster Manual or the Fiend Folio, but the monsters individually are great.

It remains to this day a lot of fun and a book I still get great enjoyment from.



The book from Twenty First Century Games S.r.i. is a great little reproduction. I picked this up back when it was new and paid $9.95 for it.  Now it goes for a lot more.  It is great to have but no way I can read it anymore.   The text is way too small.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Monstrous Mondays: Piasa Bird for Basic era games

Well.  It is 85 degrees and humid here in Chicago today.  But I don't care. The calendar says October-eve and it's fall.  Time to get to some of my favorite monsters.

Top of that list is Illinois' favorite, The Piasa Bird. My dad introduced this monster to me.


The Piasa Bird
AKA: The Piasa, "The Bird That Devours Men", "The Destroyer"

According to the diary of Louis Joliet, the Piasa Bird "was as large as a calf with horns like a deer, red eyes, a beard like a tiger's, a face like a man, the body covered with green, red and black scales and a tail so long it passed around the body, over the head and between the legs."

Piasa Birds in the game are larger and resemble a manticore or a dragon.
They do not keep treasure. They are only interested in killing for meat and sport.

Story of the Piasa Bird 
The following story appeared in the Alton Telegraph (1836) by John Russel. It is claimed that this is story told to Father Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet by the native tribes of the valley.

When Marquette and Joliet came down the Mississippi river in 1673 they encountered a bluff on the east side of the river with the painting of a giant monster. When they asked the natives what this monster was, they retold for them the story that had been handed down to them for generations. Marquette named the monster "Piasa," pronounced Pie-a-saw, which means "the Destroyer."

The Legend of the Piasa bird that was related to Marquette and Joliet went something like this. Many years ago a great bird roamed the land. Every morning the people would wake in fear to the shrill screams of the great Bird. The bird awoke hungry and would carry off dozens of boys and girls to its cave to be eaten. Chief Ouatoga [OO-wa-toe-ga] was getting old. He wanted to destroy this terrible monster before he died. He called his braves to a meeting and told them he was going to ask the Great Spirit what to do.

He went up on the highest bluff. He spoke with the Great Spirit. The Great Spirit told the Chief, "Dip your arrows deep into the poison of a copperhead snake and shoot them into the body of the Bird. It  will cause its death." He returned to the camp and told his people what the Great Spirit had told him. He gathered up a small army of the strongest braves and set out to hunt the Bird. Chief Ouatoga told his braves that the plan was for someone to stand on the cliff to lure the Bird down. When the great monster swoops down they were to shoot it with their poison arrows.

The braves all begged their chief to be the one to sacrifice themselves. But the chief told them no, he would be the one since he was older. While the braves practiced with their bows, Chief Ouatoga spoke with the Great Spirit. "Think not of my life," he said, "but the lives of the children."

The next morning the chief stood tall waiting for the great bird to come. Its screams could be heard as flew down the river looking for victims. The bird saw the old chief and swooped down on him with a terrible scream.

Just as the monster was ready to attack the braves shot their arrows and all 100 met their mark. The monster fell into the Mississippi River and died. The braves carried the broken and bruised body of their chief back to the tribe. The medicine man healed him and he awoke the next day surrounded by his grateful people. In remembrance of the act, the returned to the site and painted a life-size picture of the monster. Every time a member of the tribe went down the river after that, he fired an arrow at the bluff.
In alternate versions of the story, the youngest brave stands on the cliff instead of the Chief. When he is healed the next day he becomes the new Chief.

Piasa Bird
(Labyrinth Lord, Pumpkin Spice Editon)
No. Enc.: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic Evil
Movement: 90’ (30’)
    Fly:  240' (80')
Armor Class: -2 (scales and hide)
Hit Dice: 11d8+6 (55 hp)
Attacks: 4 (claw/claw/bite/tail swipe) + fear
Damage: 1d6+2/1d6+2/2d8/1d6
Save: F11
Morale: 9
Hoard Class: None (The Piasa eats all meat and discards everything else.)
XP: 2,800

The Piasa can cause fear as per the spell once per day.

Piasa Bird
(Blueholme Journeymanne Rules)
AC: -2
HD: 11d8
Move: 90
   Fly: 240
Attacks: 4 (claw/claw/bite/tail swipe) + fear  (1d6+2 x2 2d6+2/1d6)
Alignment: CE
Treasure: None
XP: 2,214

Piasa Bird
(Old-School Essentials)
A large creature with the body of a fish, the wings and claws of a dragon, the antlers of a stag and the face of an evil man.
AC -2 [22], HD 11* (55hp), Att 4 claw  (1d6+2) /claw  (1d6+2) /bite (2d8) /tail swipe (1d6), THAC0 10 [+10], MV 90’ (30’) flying 240' (90'), D6 W7 P8 B8 S10 (11), ML 9, AL Chaotic Evil, XP 2,214, NA 1 (1), TT None
 Attacks with claws, bite and tail sipe
 The Piasa can cause fear as per the spell once per day.

STR: 22 INT: 8 WIS: 8 DEX: 14 CON: 15  CHA: 4

Monday, July 8, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Calibans

Sorry for falling off the face of the web last week!  Took a little break from everything and it was nice.  But it's Monday and that means back to work and back to Monstrous Mondays!

Today I have a little beastie that has been in the back of my head ever since I reread The Tempest a few years back.  I am doing this one for the Blueholme Journeymanne Rules since allows any monster species to also be played as a character species choice.

CALIBAN
AC: 7
HD: 2d8
Move: 30
Attacks: 2 claws, 1 bite or 1 weapon
Damage: 1d4 (claw) x2/ 1d6 (bite) or 1d6 (weapon)
XP: 25
Alignment: CE
Treasure: None
Abilities: +1 Wisdom, -2 Charisma
Climb Surfaces +5%, Hear Noise +10%, Hide in Shadows +10%, Move Silently +5%, Read Languages -10%, Read Scrolls -15%, Use Wand -10%

Calibans are creatures twisted by dark witchcraft.  No two calibans appear the same, though a full 20% can pass as an ugly human or orc.  They are humanoid, indeed many are born to human mothers or were human before their curse. They are usually covered in dark hair, scales or something that makes them monstrous. They have a resistance to magic, gaining a +1 on all saves vs any type of magical effect (spells, wands, staves) but they themselves have difficulty with magic.
A caliban share much in common with the Cambion, a creature that is the offspring of a human female and a demon. The caliban, while often demonic looking, is not the offspring of demons, but the victims/result of dark magic.
A caliban can take any class, but suffer a -5% XP penalty if they choose to be a witch and a -10% if they choose to become a magic-user/wizard.  Calibans can become clerics with no penalty since they tend to be devout servants of the gods.  Because of their low aptitude for magic wizards have taken to hiring on a caliban as cheap labor. They get a loyal (through fear) servant and one not likely to steal magic from them.

Behind the Monster
Calibans are obviously taken from Shakespeare's The Tempest.  Caliban is the monstrous son of the witch Sycorax. He is various described, but almost always as being half-human, half-monster.

An additional source for Calibans is the movie Clash of the Titans which features the character of Calibos.  He was a human that was cursed to be a monster.  Interesting to me is that his mother, Thetis, was played by Dame Maggie Smith (one of my all-time favorite actresses) who also played the most badass witch Minerva McGonagall. 

The 3rd Edition of Ravenloft from Sword and Sorcery Studios/Arthaus, now Onyx Path, featured a race called Calibans.  These calibans were no more than reskinned Half-Orcs in truth. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

OMG: Greek (and maybe Roman) Mythos, Part 3 Hecate

Hecate is getting her own post.

There is no way I am going to say everything about this Goddess; either for D&D or in general.  So keeping that in mind, let's go.

Hecate, or sometimes, Hekate, is the Goddess of Witches, Ghosts and the Crossroads OR she is a Titan. OR she is something different. 

Like some of the Olympian Gods, she is of the third or fourth generation.  Her Great grandparents are namely Gaia (Earth) and Ouranos (Sky), same as Zeus' own grandparents.  Their offspring was Crius, whom the D&DG gives as the Greater Titan of Gravity.  Gaia (Earth) and Pontos (Sea) gave birth to Eurybia (Winds and Constellations; things that seemingly comes from the sea). Crius and Eurybia give birth to Perses (Titan of Destruction). He joins with the Titaness Asteria the Titan of stars and nighttime oracles.  She herself was the daughter of Phoebe and Coeus, making her a half-sister to Leto the mother of Apollo and Artemis.   Though there are other claims to her parentage.  Some also claim she the daughter of Leto, which would make her Apollo and Artemis' half-sister.

Hecate then is the daughter of Peres and Asteria and of the same generation of Apollo, Artemis, Hermes, and Dionysus.  While she is their generation she is often considered to be a Titan.

Like many of the Greek and later Roman Gods, Hecate has more than one, in what D&D came to call Portfolio.  She is the Goddess of Nighttime as opposed to Nox the Personification of Night. She is the Goddess of Oracular power based on stars (as opposed to her semi-cousin Apollo who is the God of Oracles), one of the Goddess of the Moon.  Her torches light the night.  She is the goddess of the Crossroads. With her three faces, she can see the past, present, and future.  And most notably, she is the Goddess of Witchcraft, Creatures of the Night and Ghosts.
Due to her rather complicated lineage, she also has dominion over Earth, Sky, and Sea.

She has been associated with the Goddess Demeter having been mentioned int he Homeric Hymns to Demeter.  She is believed to have lit the way to Hades for Demeter to find Persephone. While Persephone is in the underworld she and Hecate are companions.  She helps Persephone on her trip to and from the underworld.  This gives us one of our first triple-goddesses, with Persephone, Demeter, and Hecate as the Maiden, Mother, and Crone.

As a Goddess, she is often seen in the company of large dogs from the Underworld, the Hellhounds and common house cats.

She is depicted in the D&DG as being Lawful Evil.  I am not buying it.  Lawful I can live with, but so much of what she does is both good and evil that Lawful Neutral is the much better choice.

Hecate is one of the few gods that retains her name in both the Greek and Roman versions.  Though there is the Roman Goddess Trivia that also takes on some of what makes Hecate.

Goddess of Witchcraft
We know that many tablets and surviving scrolls have her mentioned in many curses and spells of protection against creatures of the night.  According to Hesiod, "Hecate whom Zeus the son of Cronos honored above all. He gave her splendid gifts, to have a share of the earth and the unfruitful sea. She received honor also in starry heaven, and is honored exceedingly by the deathless gods."

Interestingly enough her domain over witchcraft relates to her being worshipped by Circe and Medea. Medea, in fact, is called a Priestess of Hecate. Medea is almost always described as a witch.

Hecate also appears in Shakespeare's Macbeth and mentioned in Hamlet. Each time due to her association with witches.

Lampad the Nymphae Avernales
The lampads are described as Underworld Nymphs.  They were the constant companions to Hecate as a reward for Hecate taking part in the war against the Titans.  Sometimes described as the Daughters of Nyx or of Daimones, they share a similar relationship to Hecate as the forest nymphs do with Artemis.

Lampads appear in the Pathfinder game, in Bestiary 4.  Here is my interpretation.

Lampad (Nymph)
Armor Class: 9 [10]
Hit Dice: 3d8 +16 (30)
Attacks: 0 (see below)
Damage: None
Special Attacks & Defenses: Cause feeblemindedness, malaise and death
Movement: 120’ (40’)
No. Appearing: 0 (1d4)
Save: Witch 3
Morale: 8
Hoard Class: IX, XI x 10
Alignment: Neutral (Chaotic)
XP: 100
Nymphs are stunningly beautiful female fey creatures that closely resemble elven women. The lampad are nymphs of the underworld and desolate places.  They appear similar to drow (dark elves), with grey ashen skin and long white hair.  Anyone that sees a lampad must make a save vs. spells or become feebleminded as per the spell.  If more than one lampad is present the victim is instantly killed on a failed save.
Lampads have the spell-casting abilities of a 6th level witch. They have their own language and speak common and the languages of the infernal realms.

Tears of the Lampad:  These tears are extremely magical if a tear touches a mortal (not an elf though) they must make a save vs. poison at -4 or enter into a depression so deep they are unwilling to move or do anything.  A victim will starve to death before they will attempt to bring themselves out of this malaise. Only a remove curse spell will allow them to return to their normal life.

The Empusa
I have used the Empusa many times in a lot of games.  I have often categorized them as Lilim, or the Daughters of Lilith (who also shares a lot with Hecate) but in ancient myth they are the daughters, or at least the offspring, of Hecate.

Empusa (Lilim)
Armor Class: 3 [16]
Hit Dice: 8d8+4** (40 hp)
No. of Attacks: 2 claws and 1 bite or 1 weapon
Damage: 1d6 / 1d6 / 1d6 or 1d10
Special Attacks & Defenses:  Magic resistance (25%), Lilim abilities, magical abilities, +1 magic weapons to hit, Intelligence drain
Movement: 120' (40')
   Flying: 240’ (80’)
No. Appearing: 1d4
Save As: Witch 9
Morale: 8
Horde Class: X, XI
Alignment: Chaotic (evil)
XP:  2,380
These are believed to be the daughters of Lilith or Hecate and the various proto-demons. They are the most “demonic” of all of the Lilim. The Empusae (or “forcers-in”), like all Lilim, can appear as a stunningly beautiful woman or as a demon. The demonic form of the Empusa is one of the most hideous of all of the Lilim. The body remains mostly humanoid and female but covered in fine scales. Its legs become like those of a horse or ass and end in hooves that are made of brass or bronze. Its back supports a set of large leathery bat-like wings, similar to that of a succubus. It is its head that features its most horrible transformation. The creature’s long flowing tresses are replaced with a mass of snakes similar to that of a medusa. Its facial features are blocked by an area of complete darkness, only it’s glowing eyes are visible. It is said among sages that face of the Empusa is not shrouded in darkness, but it is so horrible that our minds block the vision from us. It is also said that other demons can actually see the Empusa’s face and run in fear from it. Its former delicate hands now end in razor-tipped claws. A long reptilian tail completes the picture.
An Empusa can appear as human, or it can also shapeshift into a large dire wolf (statistics as per Dire Wolf).
Unlike the combat avoidant Succubus, Empusae live for battle. They can either use their natural claw/claw/bite routine or use a flaming sword that strikes for 2d6 points of damage plus 1d6 of flame damage. Empusa gain to hit and damage bonuses due to their high strength as well.
The touch of an Empusa drains the Intelligence of the victim at 1 point per barehanded, not weaponed, attack.



Hecate / Heka Connections
The Greeks and the Egyptians had a long and complicated relationship.  Greeks scholars used to say that everything they know came from the Egyptians.  Back when I was doing the research for OMG: Egyptian Mythos I came across this saying all the time.  This lead me to the Egyptian God of magic Heka.  Like many before I noticed some similarities with Hecate and Heka.  Both are their respective gods of magic. Both are heralded as "gifts" to the human race by their respective heads of their pantheon.  Despite the similar portfolios and similarity in names there is no linguistic connection between the two.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Avenging Angels, The Dirae for Basic-era Games

A little thing I have been working on.  More of this later.  Greek and Roman mythology purists, I take a lot of liberties with the myths.  A lot.
--
Avenging Angels, The Dirae

"Every angel is terrifying." 
- Rainer Maria Rilke

“They say that by the time you hear their war screams you are already dead.” 
- Brix, Imp assigned to Malbolge


When the Erinyes abandoned their duties and sided with the Devils in the War at the Gates of Dawn they left a vacuum of power that the gods, in their weakened state could not fill.

Originally known as the Eumenides, or the Kindly Ones, their divine task was to rightfully punish wrongdoers and the breakers of oaths.  They pursued this task with a fervor that only divine justice can inspire.  It was this devotion that made them an easy target for Asmodeus’ designs.

They fell, along with other angels and servitors of good, until they landed in Hell.  Here they took on new forms and became the Erinyes or the Furious Ones.

Their power, their divine cause, and their roles were left untouched for time untold.

Until one night.

A small coven of proto-Druidic nature worshipers danced around a full moon.  The parishioners, all women from the local village, danced and lept with pure joy. Unknown to them a group of raiders from a few villages over had heard of the moonlight dance and figured the women would be easy targets. They were. They were defenseless and without weapons or armor.  These raiders believed they had stockpiles of gold and silver, but nothing like that existed.  In outrage, the raiders slaughtered them all.

The murders caught the attention of the coven’s Goddess, Rhamnusia. Aggrieved and enraged she appealed to the other gods. “Please!” she cried out, “please let them know the vengeance they deserve.”   But this was the time after the War at the Gates of Dawn and the gods were weak and weary. Not only did they fear to give up any remaining power they had, but secretly they could not do so; such was their weakened state.  Only the God that had prompted the raiders on did not fear.

Rhamnusia screamed in rage. Cursing the impotent Gods She flew off till she found Death.

Death granted Her the power She asked for, but at a cost.  No more of Her followers would ever be able to come back from the Realms of Death as part of a cycle of Life-Death-and-Rebirth.  The Goddess Rhamnusia, hearing only the souls of her followers crying for vengeance, agreed.

With this power, She raised her followers. She equipped them with arms and armor and sent them on a mission of vengeance. Their forms were same; the Goddess wanted to these raiders to know that it was the once peaceful coven now come for their deaths.  With sword and wing; armor and scream, the new angels flew to their targets.  Like the Eumenides of old, their unerring flight sought out the guilty and they destroyed them.

They then continued to attack and destroy anyone that had harmed another innocent. Saving their greatest fury for those that killed women or children.

Enraged at loss of so many of His followers the God of the raiders demanded justice of His own.  No sooner than He had uttered the words than the screams of the Angels were heard.  They attacked this God, the forced Him back to his own plane and here they slaughtered Him.

More than that, they Unmade Him.

He would never come back, no matter the form, no matter what other gods or His worshipers did.

The Angels had tapped into the righteous fury left behind by the Erinyes. The power that was of thousands of Angels of Vengeance and Retribution now flowed through the bodies of less than a score beings. Gone was the peaceful coven. In their place stood the avatars of Vengeance and Death, and even the gods themselves were not immune from their justice.

Their Goddess too was changed. Rhamnusia took on an aspect similar to Her angels.
Gone were the accouterments of a pastoral Goddess.  Sheaves of grain were replaced by a scourge. The sickle of the harvest became a sword of silver fire. Her rustic tunic became armor of the same silver.  Rhammusia was gone.

In Her place stood Invidia, the Goddess of Vengeance. Her brothers were Fear and Terror and mortalkind called her Nemesis, "She whom none can escape."

Her Angles became known as the Dirae, the “Terrible Ones” or the “Vengengful Ones.

Dirae (Angel)
No. Enc.: 1d4 (2d8)
Alignment: Lawful (Lawful Good, Lawful Neutral)
Movement: 60’ (20’)
   Fly: 240’ (80’)
Armor Class: 2
Hit Dice: 8d8 + 16 (52 hp)
Attacks: 2 or 1 or special
Damage: 1d8 / 1d8 (sword) or 1d10 (scourge, see below) or scream (see below).
Save: Fighter 8
Morale: 12
Hoard Class: Nil
XP:  3,840
The dirae appear as angels with dark wings touched with silver.  They are often armed and armored. All dirae are female, but it can often be difficult to tell when their helms are donned. They do appear attractive, but there is a quality of sadness, anger or purpose about their appearance that makes most mortals uncomfortable.  The guilty fear them and the devoted see them as manifestations of justice.

The dirae are tasked with punishing the guilty. Petty crimes are beneath their attention as mortal laws are designed to deal with those.  The dirae focus their vengeance on the worst crimes committed; those against the innocent.  Not all crimes can be punished by the dirae; there are too few of them, but when they set out to punish a mortal nothing can stop them.

Dirae attack with a sword two times per round or a scourge.  The scourge does damage and acts as a Rope of Entanglement.  Both weapons are considered magical and holy when dealing with other creatures.  They slay evil creatures without hesitation or remorse.  If they are sent to slay a human then they will do so as quickly as possible. If someone is in their way or prevents them from their task they will slay that creature as well.   Three times per day the dirae can Scream.  This attack causes fear (as per the spell). Creatures 5 HD and lower are affected with no save.  Creatures 6 HD and higher are allowed a save vs. spells. Affected creatures cannot attack.

Dirae have the following spell-like abilities, usable at will: detect invisibility, fear (was the wand of fear), invisibility, know alignment, locate object, polymorph self, produce flame, holy word, and gate (50% probability of success) a dirae or (75% probability of success) another angel of a lesser sort.

A group of dirae is known as a “flight”.

Dirae and Erinyes
As agents of good and evil respectively, the Dirae and Erinyes often are at cross purposes, but in their roles of vengeance, they will sometimes see their purposes aligned.  Due to ancient pacts that go beyond gods and devils the Dirae and the Erinyes are forbidden to act against each other directly.  They can’t harm or interfere with each others’ hunts.
If a mortal is claimed by both groups, then by the same ancient pacts they are given over to the Erinyes, the Dirae cannot interfere.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Monstrous Mondays: Monster Book Round Up, 1st Ed style

You can never have too many monster books in my mind.  Even I use one or two per book and my players are surprised or go "what in the hell is that!?" then it is money well spent.   Monsters have taught me so much over the years.  Monsters lead me to Greek Mythology. Monsters helped me learn how to write code to create databases and then later helped land a DBA job while I was still in school.   One day I'll update my old Access95 Monster Database, but that will have to be later.

Until then here are some of the monster books I am enjoying a lot right now.

Blood & Treasure 2nd Edition Monsters
For the Blood & Treasure 2nd edition game, but can be used with any Old-school game.  The system is a mix of Swords & Wizardry and AD&D 1st Ed/OSRIC so reading the stats is really easy.
215 pages, over 600 monsters.  Color cover, black & white interiors.
This one has all the usual suspects from the various SRDs and that is fine for me really.  There are some new descriptions and there are new monsters.
There are things in this book that make it more worthwhile than just monster stat blocks.  There are a number of conditions and definitions ported over from 3.x OGC that are very welcome additions to the "OSR Ruleset".  There are guidelines for Monsters as a Character Race which are quite nice.
Another import from 3.x are Monster Templates.  Now you can a Celestial Gnome or a Draconic Goblin among other things.  Really expands your creature database.
There are even four mini-adventures included.
Not at all bad for just under $10.  Highly recommend!

Blood & Treasure 2nd Edition Monsters II
The second book for the Blood & Treasure 2nd edition game.  This one has 197 pages, over 500 monsters. Color cover with black & white art.  No this is what we buy monster books for! New Monsters!  At 500 some odd monsters there are some here that can be recognized from the records of myth and fairy tales, (lots and lots of dragons!) but there a plenty of more that are completely new to me to edge it out over Monsters I.  There is similar material from the Monsters I book; conditions, attack descriptions and the like.  But the bulk is dedicated to new creatures for your game. This book also has a Chimerical Monster table for making your own chimeras. Tables on mutant dinosaurs and vermin.  Also a combined monster listing of both books.

If you have Blood & Treasure Monsters then you will want this one.  If you just like new monsters then get this one too.

Malevolent and Benign
Malevolent and Benign has long been a staple on my game table.   128 pages with 150 monsters, all in OSRIC format.   The monsters are all new (to me), with some converted from other OGC sources.  The art is quite good and the feel of the book is something like a Monster Manual 3 or a Fiend Folio 2 really. It sits on my shelf right next to my monsters books, or in theory, it does. It is actually out on my game table more often than not. The softcover is very nice to have and the PDF is fully bookmarked.
The book also has a small section on new magic items associated with these monsters.
For $10 it is a good deal.

Malevolent & Benign II
In many ways I actually like M&B2 more than M&B1.  This book is 110 pages with 150+ monsters.  Again we have a color cover (which is fantastic by the way) and black & white interior.  In fact all the art is a step up.
If M&B 1 was akin to a MM3 or FF2 then this one is the next in line, but with no loss of quality. The monsters are new and quite deadly or at least the ones that are not deadly are interesting.
I have not picked up the softcover yet, but the PDF is fantastic.
10 bucks for the pdf or 20 for the pdf + softcover book is a pretty good deal.  Especially for a bunch of new monsters.



Found Folio Volume One
A collection of creatures from various 3.x sources converted back over to "Advanced era" stats. What it lacks in art it makes up for in the number of monsters (typically two per page). Lots of 3.x faves here, ready for your OSR games!
130 monsters in 70 or so pages.



Honorable Mentions. Almost AD&D1 stats.

Adventures Dark and Deep Bestiary
If you ever only buy ONE product from BRW and the Adventures Dark & Deep line then make sure it is this one.
Let be honest up front. We have seen most if not all the monsters somewhere else before. Most are in the SRD or from other Open sources. The new ones are great, but they are ideas we have seen.
And none of that matters. This is still a great book. At 457 pages (pdf) it is a beast. Monsters are alphabetically listed by areas you would find them in. So Wilderness and Dungeon is by far the bulk of them, but there are also Waterborne (fitting in with the rules) and "Outsiders" or monsters from the other planes. But I am getting ahead of myself.
The book begins with two monster spellcasters, the Shaman and the Witch Doctor. Shades of similar classes from the BECMI RC to be sure. But they work here great and frankly I know someone will want to use these rules to play a Shaman one day. Heck, I once tried a Wemic Shaman in early 2e days myself. Maybe I'll see if I can do that here. The classes are not detailed and they don't need to be. The do what they need to do.
The Monster descriptions are a bit like those found in OSRIC though there are some interesting additions. Each Monster has a Morale, like that found in Basic and 2nd ed, though it is not a score but an adjustment. Attacks are listed in the stat block, though they are the attack types. This is most similar to "Special Attacks" in other rules. Also wholly new are "Weaknesses" which is an interesting idea and one I think other OSR publishers should adopt. Each monster then gets a couple of paragraphs of text. Many are illustrated thanks to the highly successful Kickstarter for this (more on that later). The illustrations are great too as you can see here and here.
All the monsters have General, Combat and Appearance sections in their write-ups.
Unlike 2e (and 4e) monsters are not confined to one-page entries. Some have paragraphs, others just a few lines. This is good since I think we would have something like 1000+ pages. I think I read there are 1100 monsters in this book. Maybe 900. Anyway, it's a lot. I spot checked a few monsters I thought might not be there, but sure enough, they were. Ok so the ones that are Closed via the OGL are not here, but I was not expecting those. There are some alternates and stand-ins if you really, really need them though.
The book sections are: Wilderness and Dungeon, aka Most of the Monsters Underwater and Waterborne, larger than expected, but not surprised given the material in the core books. Prehistoric Monsters, always nice to have; Dinosaurs and Ice Age mammals. Extra-Planar Monsters, your Outsiders.
Appendix A details creating your own monsters. Appendix B has something I didn't even realize was missing till I started reading the stats; a basic psionic system for psychic strikes. Appendix C covers random creatures from the Lower Planes. This is the first "Gygaxian" touch I have noticed in this book. Reminds me of a really old Dragon magazine article from years ago. Appendix D is the magic resistance table and Appendix E covers the abilities of Gods.
All of this in a PDF for just under $15.
I have mentioned before that Joe gets his work done and gets it done fast. Well, this is not only no exception but it is the new benchmark. Joe ended his Kickstarter and then got printed books out to people 6 months early. Let that sink in for a moment. In a hobby where we tolerate (although not quietly) Kickstarters with delays of 18 months or longer, Joe and BRW are out there, turning out product and getting it to people early. You should buy a copy of this book on that principle alone.
So should you get this book?
If you like monsters then yes. If you need monsters for your old-school game then yes. If you want to support Joe and the Adventures Dark & Deep system then yes. If you want to reward good Kickstarter behavior then absolutely yes.
Lots of good reasons to get in my book. It is also the best book in his line.

Swords and Wizardry Monstrosities
The first of two HUGE monster books for the Swords & Wizardry game.  This one is also my favorite of the two by just a tiny bit.
This has mostly new monsters but some of the monsters we have seen before either in the SRD or other books. That though does not detract from its value as this is a 560+ page book since in addition to that there are some new monsters. The cover is very evocative of the old-school (pre 1980) covers. I love this cover. There is much in common between this book and The Tome of Horrors. Each monster is given a page of stats, description and a plot hook. While ToH used some recycled art, this all seems to be new art. Even Orcus (which we now have 3 listings for) is new. Actually, the art is pretty darn good and I don't mind the occasional repeat of a monster to see some new art. Honestly, there is so much great stuff in this book that even with the occasional repeat monster this is still a top-notch collection. If you play S&W then this is a great monster book to have. I am even going as far as to say it is a must have for any serious S&W GM.



Tome of Horrors Complete - Swords and Wizardry Edition
What can be said about this product? The original Tomes of Horrors were all great products that featured a number of "old school" monsters from previous editions of the game all under the OGL. It even had a brief "tutorial" on how to add these beasties to your own products. Now those very same monsters are back in one huge book "updated" to Swords & Wizardry stats. Nearly 700 monsters, all ready for your game. In addition to art and stat blocks for every monster there is also an adventure hook for each one. The monsters have been "scaled down" to fit the S&W rules better.
Color covers, black & white interior art.  688 pages (that's right!)

Converting these to AD&D1/OSRIC/Advanced Labyrinth Lord should not be an issue.

Eight monster books and somewhere over 3,300 monsters (lots of duplicates sure, but all unique presentations).

Monday, February 18, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Fiend Folio POD

More Old-School mail call from the weekend.  Two boxes from different printers for some Old School joy.


I will admit it, it's not a popular opinion, but I love the Fiend Folio.  I goes back to the time when I was just getting into AD&D and I equated everything British/English as being better than American. (In many ways I still think that!)

So imagine my delight when I saw that the Fiend Folio on DriveThruRPG was now offering a Print on Demand option.  So, of course, I had to get it.  It was soft cover only, but I thought it would work nicely next to my Games Workshop printing softcover Monster Manual.
I was not wrong.



Other than one is a hardcover and the other is a softcover it is very difficult to tell them apart.


Even the interiors compare well.



Compares well to the mini version out a few years back (I guess a "few" now means 20).

Around the same time I ordered this I found a mock-up of an "orange spine" version of the Fiend Folio made by R Nelson Bailey.

A little bit of Lulu legerdemain and I now have something from a parallel universe.


I didn't get the cover perfect, but that is fine really.




The interior of this one looks pretty good too.

My next project needs to be a Fiend Folio II.