Showing posts sorted by relevance for query leviathan. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query leviathan. Sort by date Show all posts

Monday, August 14, 2023

Monstrous Monday: Leviathan, updated

I thought today's post would be an excellent follow-up to this morning's RPGaDay post and last week's Gargantua post. 

Leviathan, ready to consume a world.

I have been thinking a lot about demons and how I want to use them in my various old-school games, which at the moment are OSE-B/X and NIGHT SHIFT.  So naturally, I was going to get to one of my biggest big bads, Leviathan, since he has a history in my D&D games and my modern supernatural horror games. 

It began really around 1986-1987 when my high school DM and I were gearing up for our world ending campaign we were calling "The War of Dragons" and sometimes just "The Dragon Wars."  For this I did a lot of research, or what I could do in the various books on mythology at our local library, on the end of the world myths. So I read a lot about Ragnarök, Revelations, and other myths. Many had a common theme or thread of a great monster coming to Earth to destroy it only to be stopped by the forces of good. I also thought this was a good thing to do with our game. Tiamat was the obvious choice, so in my youthful hubris, I rejected that. 

Later on, as things in the real world changed (most obviously, I could still get some games in over college breaks), we expanded some ideas.  My "big bad" became more demonic/hellish as I began to "incorporate" (aka steal) ideas from the Hellraiser movies. This is where Leviathan enters into the picture. While up to this point, the big bad was only known as "the Beast of the Apocalypse," Leviathan gave me a name.

Years later, I would revisit the Dragon Wars and make it a bit of history for my WitchCraft/Buffy RPG epic "The Dragon and the Phoenix."  One of my AD&D characters, Raven Ebonflame (named for Raven Swordmistress of Chaos, whose books I had not read yet.) Raven (my Raven) was, for practical purposes, a Vampire Slayer. I would make here one in name for my Buffy RPG and have her final battle with Yoln (the Hand of Leviathan) and Leviathan, the catalyst for this new game. 

It worked wonderfully

While I was more than happy to let Raven and Yoln rest. Leviathan kept coming back to me. Demanding something be done.  I re-introduced him as an Eodemon and later put up some stats for him that I was never 100% happy with.  Today is my day to revisit these.

Gargantuan Dragon (Evil, Eodemon)

Frequency: Unique
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic [Chaotic Evil]
Movement: 90' (30') [9"]
  Fly 240' (80') [24"]
  Swim 300' (100') [30"]
Armor Class: -6 [25]
Hit Dice: 25d8+125********* (238 hp)
 Gargantuan: 30d20+125********* (388 hp)
To Hit AC 0: 5 (+14)
Attacks: 5 bites or breath weapons
Damage: 3d8+7 x5 or Breath Weapon
Special: Breath weapons, capsize, digestive acid, swallow whole, dominate and summon water-borne creatures,+3 or better weapon to hit, immunity to fire, electricity, and poison, magic resistance (100%), telepathy 100 ft.
Save: Monster 25
Morale: 12 (NA)
Treasure Hoard Class: None
XP: 31,503 (OSE) 30,500 (LL) 8,600 (S&W, CL 34) 11385 (BF)

Str: 23 (+5) Dex: 18 (+3) Con:  23 (+5) Int: 20 (+4) Wis: 18 (+4) Cha: 18 (+3)

Tiâmat and Leviathan
Tiâmat and Leviathan

This demonic monster appears to have the worst features of hydras, dragons, and sea monsters, all with demonic qualities mixed in. Leviathan often appears to have the body of a giant sea creature with webbed limbs ending in wicked-looking claws. A long tail is used for swimming, and anywhere between five and seven heads (accounts differ). Each head has a mouth filled with razor-sharp teeth and appears to be some combination of dragons but no particular dragon (i.e. there is not a "red dragon" head). 

This monster is believed to be the oldest of all the Eodemons.  Leviathan is so ancient that even other demons seem in awe of “his” age and power.  It is assumed that it is a "he," though there is no evidence to suggest either way. Leviathan exists only for one purpose; to feed.  Leviathan is drawn to worlds with strong magic and powerful magic users. Here he spends his time in the deepest parts of the oceans of these worlds, where he begins to feed. After devouring 800,000 levels/hd of magical life, Leviathan will be strong enough to destroy the entire world.  From there, he moves to a new world where he rests before starting the cycle anew.

In physical form, which many believe is only a material projection of Leviathan's true form in the Astral plane, attacks with its five heads. The heads vary in color and shape from encounter to encounter due to the chaos this monster is birthed from.  The heads have the following powers. Charm: The first head's breath weapon is one of charm and domination. All creatures within a 120' long cone (60' wide at the end of the range) are Dominated. Creatures below 6 HD/Level have no save. Creatures from 6 HD/levels to 9 HD /Levels save at -2. A failed save means the affected creatures follow Levithan even to their deaths. Only a Wish or similar magic can reverse this.  Plague: This head belches forth a gout of flying insects that consume as per the Creeping Doom spell.  The cloud is 50' in radius. Leviathan is immune to these attacks. Famine: This cone-shaped breath weapon causes hunger and thirst among any who fail their save. Victims permanently lose 2d8 hp and 2 points of Constitution. Only a Wish can reverse these effects. War: This head belches forth a gout of burning blood that sticks to skin and burns. It does 6d8 hp of damage (save for half) to everyone in the affected area, a line 120' long and 5' wide. Death: The last head always appears to be a rotting, corpse-like head of a dragon. The head's breath weapon is a cloud 60' in radius where victims have to save vs. Death or die.   Two other heads are rumored to appear when Leviathan is at his greatest power, but their powers are unknown, save they can speak in melodious voices.  Regardless of function, each head can bite for 3d8 hp of damage.

Additionally, Leviathan has the following powers. Capsize: Due to his large size, he can capsize any water-based craft on a successful roll to hit. Swallow whole: Any critical hit roll of a natural 20 by a head will result in a swallow whole.  Digestive acid: The acid in Leviath's many stomachs is so strong that once swallowed whole, the victim will take 4d8 hp of damage per round. Dominate and summon water-borne creatures: While in an ocean or sea, Leviathan can summon and control any water-based creature. Intelligent humanoid creatures like sea elves or tritons are allowed a saving throw. Leviathan's hide is so thick that +3 or better weapon to hit. He also has immunity to fire, electricity, and poison, magic resistance (100%), and telepathy 100 ft.  He speaks the languages of demons, devils, and of the primordial gods.  

Leviathan is an Eodemon, the oldest of all demonic beings. Some occult scholars claim he is the first consort to Tiamat but has since left her due to how envious he was of her power.  Despite his appearance, he is not worshiped or honored by dragons. 

Leviathan as a Patron: Powerful Warlocks that share Leviathan's desire for the destruction of magic and the world can become his Exarchs. The Hand of Leviathan and the Voice of Leviathan are his heralds. The Hand appears first to destroy and sacrifice powerful spell casters. The Voice proclaims the return of their lord and opens the gate to allow Leviathan to swallow the world whole. Killing these heralds does not stop the coming of Leviathan, but it does slow him down. When Leviathan destroys a world, these exarchs and his warlocks are destroyed with it.


I am pretty happy with this. I might need to tweak the bite damage a bit. 


Monday, April 24, 2017

Monstrous Monday: Leviathan

Have not done one of these in a long time.

I thought it would be nice to present a monster from my new Warlock for Swords & Wizardry book.

In the book I introduce some new demonic races including the Eodemons or the Proto-demons.  These are creatures that lived in the lower planes long before the devils were cast down or the demons were there.  Warlocks can beseech the Eodemons for power, but there is always a danger.

Here is the Eodemon Leviathan.
Leviathan has featured in a number of my games and is the destroyer of worlds. "He" eats magic and is attracted to worlds full of magic. "He" has destroyed a number of worlds already in my multi-verse and he hungers for more.
Warlock can choose the Leviathan as a Patron, but doing so makes the Leviathan aware of the warlock's own world.  Some warlocks believe that tapping into the Leviathan's power weakens him and keeps him in a sedated state.

Hit Dice: 25 + 19 (131 hp)
Armor Class: -6 [25]
Attacks: 1 bite (4d6)
Saving Throw: 3
Special: Capsize, digestive acid, swallow whole, dominate and summon water-borne creatures, spells, +2 or better weapon to hit, immunity to fire, electricity, and poison, magic resistance (100%), telepathy 100 ft.
Move: 24 (swim) / 9 (ground)
Alignment: Chaos
Challenge Level/XP: 34/8,600
This monster is believed to be is the oldest of all the Eodemons.  Leviathan is so ancient that even other demons seem in awe of “his” age and power.  It is assumed that it is a "he" though there is no evidence to suggest either way. Leviathan exists only for one purpose; to feed.  Leviathan can be found in the Astral realms devouring entire worlds.
"He" spends his time in the deepest parts of the oceans of the worlds that Leviathan visits. Here he consumes all living forms and is drawn to the world with strong magic.  After devouring 800,000 levels/hd of magical life Leviathan will then be strong enough to destroy the entire world.  From there he moves to a new world where he rests before starting the cycle anew.
Leviathan is completely immune to all magical attacks. Consequently, he is incapable of using magical attacks or spells.

Leviathan can appear as a large sea monster, whale or other great gargantuan creature.

Powerful Warlocks that share Leviathan's desire for the destruction of magic and the world can become his Exarchs.  The Hand of Leviathan and the Voice of Leviathan are his heralds.  The Hand appears first to destroy and sacrifice powerful spell casters. The Voice proclaims the return of their lord and opens the gate to allow Leviathan to swallow a world whole.
Killing these heralds does not stop the coming of Leviathan, but it does slow him down.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The Dragon and the Phoenix: Episode 12

Episode 12: No Other Troy

Yoln: You brought an army to stop me Slayer?
Buffy: No. I brought two.

- Willow and Tara: The Dragon and the Phoenix, Episode 12 “No Other Troy”

Episode 12: No Other Troy by ~WebWarlock on deviantART

Why should I blame her that she filled my days
With misery, or that she would of late
Have taught to ignorant men most violent ways,
Or hurled the little streets upon the great.
Had they but courage equal to desire?
What could have made her peaceful with a mind
That nobleness made simple as a fire,
With beauty like a tightened bow, a kind
That is not natural in an age like this,
Being high and solitary and most stern?
Why, what could she have done, being what she is?
Was there another Troy for her to burn?

- William Butler Yeats, No Second Troy

Oh, I love you
God, I love you
I'd kill a dragon for you
I'll die
But I will rise
And I will return
The Phoenix from the flame
I have learned
I will rise
And you'll see me return
Being what I am
There is no other Troy
For me to burn
- Sinéad O'Connor, Troy

No time, no date (Cast returns on May 19, 2003. Monday)

The cast leads an army of demons and an army of angels to Leviathan’s plane, but they discover it may require the death of one of their own to seal the portal forever. Release the souls of all the Slayer’s Leviathan has been feeding on for years. Buffy must defeat Yoln, but Willow and Tara must find a way to stop a God on his home realm.

Story Arc Elements: Willow and Tara are shown their pasts and futures by the Mouth of Leviathan, how everything they have done was constructed to bring them to this point to allow Leviathan to enter this realm. Leviathan had meant for Willow to be his instrument to be powerful enough to allow him to enter this realm. Tara was the factor he did not count on, her influence was turning Willow away from the path she was on to one more in balance with magic. Without Tara, Leviathan will enter the realm through Willow at anytime he chooses.

Game Mechanics:
Stats for various Slayers from the past. Dragons.
Sinead O’Connor “Drink Before the War” and "Troy".  Megadeth “A Tout Le Monde”, Sarah Maclachlan “Elsewhere”

Notes and Comments:
This is the big one. The finale. Designed to be both the series finale for “Buffy” and the start of a new spin-off series “Willow & Tara” and there is a lot going on.

Let’s start with the big stuff. The Cast comes through Dawn’s rift using the Spear as a guide. It takes them to a cave in an outcropping overlooking a valley. A valley filled with demons (40,000 to be exact), when they see Buffy they all begin to shout “Slayer! Slayer!” It was quite a visual.

The first act of course is to get a grip on this new demonic army. The leaders are the Mormo demons from before. The cast is also joined by a smaller, but no less effective, army of angels. Among them is Kara, who has taken Tara’s place in the armies of Heaven. In fact she has surpassed even Tara’s previous achievements. Once the cast can convince the demons and angels to fight together against the forces of Leviathan then the action begins.

For the battles I used the Army of Darkness mass combat rules with Buffy as the general, but I made sure everyone had a chance to shine.
Upon entering the realm of Leviathan the cast notices that their Con and Wills are being drained. So, we have a time limit here. Both Faith and Buffy know that the realm is draining the source of their power, though they can’t figure out why.

Dawn has to hold the portal open, so she is given a group of angels to protect her. Spike has the Hand of Yoln as a weapon and Buffy has the spear.
We spend some time battling the armies of Leviathan. His creatures combine the worse aspects of dragon, snake and demon, for lack of a better word I called them Draconians.

The cast enters Leviathan himself, anyone with a soul takes another hit to Will. Anyone without a soul is absorbed into the walls, floor, everything. Thus newly re-re-ensouled Anya and recently souled Spike are fine. Well, fine as can be. I struggled with this for a bit, do angels have souls? In the end I decided no, they have spirits like demons. So the angels that went in with the cast are lost. This is done for the obvious reasons; the cast needs to shine here, not the armies.

Buffy fights Yoln. Until next season she is the star and the big guy is going after her. Now I don’t know how many of you all use the Original Slayer in games, but she is one deadly character. I had to up Yoln to obscene levels just to deal with her. Faith and Spike are fighting at her sides (I am sure there is metaphor here, but I am not going there) and these three can quickly mow down (and did) most opponents. Spike gets his arm chopped of by Yoln (yeah I did that first too) and dumps the ash out of the glove and puts it back on.

“You think you came here to stop me and my lord. You can’t. Everything is in motion, everything had been planned before you were even born. This is not my defeat, this is my apotheosis. You are not heroes.
You are sacrifices.”
- Yoln, the Shadowreaper
Yoln becomes fully human again (or at least as human as he was before), he tells them it is a trap and the attack start anew. Yoln is stronger now, but can be killed. Buffy does kill him, which just starts the whole place to start exploding.

There is truth in Yoln’s quote since this was an adventure I had planned to do for AD&D 1st ed back in 1987. It took place during the same battle as the “flashback” from Episode 5. Then, as in now, the story focused on a battle with Yoln and his Master, then known only as “The Whispering God”, and two lovers; Morganne (the Slayer from episode 5) and a young swordsman. So this adventure had been in the works long before Buffy and crew were ever “born”. Yoln was then a demonic-human that became a death knight.

Anya and Xander meanwhile are off to discover the reason why their “souls” are being drained. They discover that the spirits all of the Slayers that have died before are stuck on Leviathan’s plane. Literally. They are stuck in the wall of the dead god’s flesh and are slowly being consumed. Anya and Xander work to free them while fighting lesser minions (giant white blood cell things). They manage to free some of the Slayers who can fight (but are still dead, but at least now they can move on) till Spike come running up telling them it is a trap.

Willow and Tara confront Leviathan “himself” in the form of The Mouth of Leviathan played by Malcolm McDowell at his evil best.

From the Mouth of Leviathan we learn Leviathan worked through Set and other gods and demons to get things done. He empowered Willow when she first gave Angel back his soul. Willow was supposed to be his instrument, a force strong enough to bring Leviathan into this world, then he would feed on Willow. In a way she was working like another one of my old AD&D influences (or rather my DM’s), Raven from the Teen Titans. Though Willow is not Leviathan’s daughter, he does need her to enter the world.

What Leviathan never worked into his plans was how much of an influence Tara was having. Tara was pulling Willow away from the self-destructive forms of witchcraft (Sorcery) and too the more “natural” Magic. At first he worked on Glory and her minions to redirect Glory to a vulnerable Tara, but that was short lived. The Mouth shows the girls thousands of alternate realities where they are together, but in each one Leviathan manages to kill Tara (or somehow turn Willow) and consume the world. So Leviathan through his agents stopped the bullet from hitting Willow and instead redirected to Tara. The various realities shown are all various fan-fictions of my playtesters and our friends on the Kitten Board. There are also scenes of various alternate versions of Willow and Tara. Lots of ones on their past lives, including one where they both die in Atlantis; a pair of Chinese sorceresses; Liath and Bodhmal from Episode 5 and “The Dark Druid” and others. There are also alternate versions of Tara, the Tara that really was part demon, the nature sprite Tara that Whedon talked about doing, vampire Tara, even the “original” plan for Tara to make her what the Amy character eventually became; the dark magic junkie. The outcome for any alternate though is the same, the destruction of the world.

The mouth offers Willow a choice now, they can leave together, all she needs to do is drain all of her’s and Tara’s magic into Dawn. Then Leviathan will enter the world via Dawn. They can then live on Faith’s old magic dead world. Of course everyone they know or love will die.
Now at this point we had planned to go in a bunch of different directions, but the winning one, the plan that made the most sense won out.

Standing on spires (really his spine) of Leviathan’s plane Willow and Tara see their friends running back to the portal, being perused by devilish, dragon monsters, the armies still fighting. They see torn and battered Slayers limping to attack Leviathan’s creatures, even though they stand no hope of even slowing them down. Meanwhile with Yoln’s death the conduit to the mortal realm is breaking up. Dawn is fighting to keep the portal open and the land (which is really Leviathan himself) is reacting violently with “earth quakes” and volcanoes. The Earth can be seen (blocking out the sun) and rising. The Mouth tells the girls that all Leviathan needs now is enter the world through the gate, either through Willow now or Dawn (since she is holding it open) and then drain his “hosts” magic to manifest fully.

Seeing the death and destruction they realize there is only one way to keep it from getting worse. Grabbing hands, they jump into the gapping maw of Leviathan’s plane. Yup. I went for the “Thelma and Louise” ending.
Now everything goes berserk. Demons are running amok, trying to get out of the place. Angels find they are fighting the hordes of Leviathan AND retreating demons, the land is throwing fits more than ever, and then silence.
From the maw that Willow and Tara threw themselves in comes the reborn Leviathan. He was “force feed” all of Willow’s and Tara’s combined magic. Given the Anamchara rules that is quite a bit. He now stands over 200 feet tall and getting taller by the second, seven heads and full of anger. There is no way he can go through the portal now, so he is going to settle for killing everyone and everything on his plane. Time for the cast to run.

Of course I gave them the chance to get to the portal. Leviathan is chasing them down, roaring in anger. Then I need to decide what I should do with the characters. Leviathan is not a stated out monster, he is pure plot device. But I want the surviving characters to well, survive. Yeah I really, really wanted to off Spike. I felt he was representative of everything that I considered wrong with the show. The plan was that he was going to take the remote detonator for his chip and wait till the armies got on top of him then he was going to blow his own head off. But Garner convinced me otherwise. Plus I was already working on “Season of the Witch” at this point and he never showed there, but I figured I’d need him later. I did in fact for a Ghosts of Albion/Buffy crossover. I wanted to make him into a ghost and said as much very early on, but he ended up being a ghost in Angel, so I figured I could do better than that. So his player and I agreed that Spike was going to buy the rest of the cast time. He stood and fought the on coming demons and draconians to keep them a little bit at bay. That way if I needed him back I could, or if I needed him evil again then I can say Leviathan had been whispering in his ear all this time, the same thing he did to Yoln. At this point anyway I was borrowing heavily from Charmed so Leviathan’s plan was the same as the Demonic Wasteland. There were plenty of powers laying around there for someone with the will to use them. Spike could have come back (and still might who knows) like Cole did in Charmed.

The remaining cast get through the portal. Beaten, broken, but alive. They leave the ruins of the High School (they are shot out of the Hellmouth) and Dawn says the mouth is closed completely.

Cut back to a grey void where Willow and Tara are. Luna, the Seraphim, returns and offers them a choice. They can go to Heaven together as their reward, or the Summerlands if they prefer, or they can be sent back to Earth. Tara will loose some of her divine power she had before (the aura around her that induced fear in demons), but they will let her keep the ability to heal by touch.

They come back and we wrap up the game. Scenes of Xander’s and Anya’s wedding (this time a small private ceremony), Giles ends up catching the bouquet. Buffy’s martial arts class is still a big hit, we see her going on dates with Tony, the cop from Episodes 6 and 7. There are a few demons left in town, but most have cleared off. The last scene is Willow and Tara enjoying themselves (not like that!) at home. I don’t have it my notes, but they talked about how their lives are theirs to do with as they please. At that point Dawn comes in to tell Tara the phone is for her, it is her brother.

This may be one of my most favorite cover of the series. The idea was to only going to get Willow and Tara fans to write the episodes, play test and do the covers, and in particular only members of the Kitten Board. This one was done by Chris Cook who runs a website devoted to Willow and Tara in every universe. Called “Through the Looking Glass” it has tons of art, stories, and even games for the Willow and Tara fan base. The premise really mirrors that of this episode. I showed the multiverse where Willow and Tara are together in every reality. I also showed that in realities that they are not together are doomed to destruction. Chris shows us the realities where they are together. Have a look, there is even some Dragon and the Phoenix art there as well. The various realities are all from various W/T fan fiction.  The sources for them were stories from the Kitten Board, Different Color Pens fiction board and the old Willow and Tara fiction site, Extra Flamey.

And of note. This is my 100th post tagged "witch".

Next time, DS al Coda.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Willow & Tara: The Dragon and the Phoenix

Note: Work still keeping me busy.  Here is one I have been meaning to post for a while. Enjoy!

A lot of what I put up here is based on my playtest of Buffy and Ghosts of Albion.  Those playtests were part of a larger series I ran featuring the characters Willow & Tara.  I started them out in a WitchCraft game back in 2001 which led to Buffy and then to Ghosts.  But I thought I'd post the game summaries, playtest notes and actual play reports here to give context to the crunch I have posted and for the crunch I'll continue to post.

These games ran between 2001 and 2006 and reflect a lot of what was going on in my life and in my own RPG freelance career.   I hope you enjoy.

Willow and Tara: The Dragon and the Phoenix

The Dragon and the Phoenix originally began as the means for my Buffy playtest group to tell a Willow & Tara centric story in a new way. Originally titled "Road Stories", it began with the death of Tara's father and then followed Willow and Tara in their cross-country trip across the Southern US in Robert Maclay's (Tara's father) old 67' Thunderbird.

There would be some strangeness along the way. That is of course till March 2002 came around and we heard that Tara was going to be murdered. Now I was (and still am) a huge Willow and Tara fan, but most of my playtesters were even bigger fans than I was. We were angry as all hell, so we changed course rather quickly. Road Stories was scrapped, and we worked to come up with a new idea. In our talks (and we were less concerned now with playtesting and more with providing ourselves with something we had lost) The Dragon and the Phoenix was born. We were going to bring Tara back. We decided rather early that there were not going to be any of the issues that plagued Buffy herself the season before. As Lisa, one of my playtesters and the brain behind the episode Heaven Bleeds, stated "without Willow even Heaven would have seemed like Hell to Tara".

The ideas flowed in pretty quickly. The name of the series, the "past episodes" of the demonic army and Yoln came from an AD&D game I had played in the 80s just before going off to college. One of my characters, Morgan, had been a character that I had set up to die and have regretted it nearly the instant it happened and ever since. So to bring her into this and make her death parallel to Tara's (and to some extent Buffy's) was poignant on a personal level but also because I felt I could do a much better job of it. In AD&D Morgan had been a Bard (1st Edition) with a particular hatred for vampires. In The Buffy game I retconned her into a Slayer.  The death Morgan was something that had bugged me forever.  I can even recall a time walking to class in 1994 thinking I had done her wrong and that had been 7 years ago at that point.

The choice of Leviathan as the big bad was also pretty easy. I loved old Godzilla movies and had this vision in my head of the Cast standing, looking up and facing a giant monster like that. I was also using the Armageddon Playtest docs in my game, so it seemed an obvious choice. Adding that Willow and Tara are the only ones to stop it was also my snarky remark that anyone playing in a world without a resurrected Tara was doomed to be consumed by the Mad God.

My playtest group was also watching a lot of Charmed, so quite a bit of those mythos entered into our games as well. The Demonic Wasteland influenced Leviathan's plane. Warlocks became more Charmed like with their quasi-demon heritage (and thus ok to kill by characters taking a Geas never to take a human life) and witches were given other choices as a secondary power other than just TK. As development in the Buffy game progressed, so did the Dragon and the Phoenix. Each adventure was designed to take advantage of the new rules in the books. Want to play the next adventure, well you'll need to pick up the next book. But we moved from that when Buffy development slowed down. Eventually we moved all moved on to Ghosts of Albion where we were joined by the kindred spirits of Amber Benson and Chris Golden. There are a number of new rules and things we wrote for Willow and Tara that later were tweaked for William and Tamara. Given the parallels, we all felt that this was very appropriate. Did we make Willow and Tara Protectors? No, that was never considered, plus given the Anamchara casting rules there was no need. Once Ghosts got into full swing The Dragon and the Phoenix had to take a back seat but when the core of the rules were laid out we went back to it. We dropped Willow and Tara into the Ghosts of Albion world and used their current stats with the magic-richer world of Ghosts. To quote my co-author of Ghosts and Dragon Garner Johnson the amount of power they could summon up was "just sick". We knew we had done good.

We tried out the other adventures with a mix of unpublished Buffy books and Ghosts rules. In "Enemy Within" we compared Thom Marion's revised Werewolves with the Ferals of Ghosts of Albion. We used Army of Darkness' mass combat rules to detail how an army of demons and angels could fight an army of tainted demonic dragonmen. Magics were mixed and matched. The episode Silent Lucidity added cinematic Bast, but while they were nice the rules for them never gelled for us.  A lot of things worked and they ended up in the Ghosts of Albion book and some I have posted here.  Other things didn't.

We decided to "release" the adventures for people to play since there was quite a bit of controversy over Tara's death and most of the people we knew gave up watching the show at this point (myself included), so this was our replacement. Outside of Garner and myself none of playtesters had ever gamed before, but all had written fan-fiction. I grabbed them for a few reasons, first if the Buffy game was going to work it had to appeal to non-gaming fans. The fact that they learned to play the game and even get to a point to where they were working on adventures is a testament to the game. Secondly I wanted fan-fic authors, and good ones at that, because they understood dialog and plot. Most RPG adventures make good dungeon crawls but terrible "books". I wanted people to feel like they were IN the show that the adventure and drama was now indeed their own. How well did this work? I was driving home one day after going to the store and I had just been given the first draft of "Identity Crisis". The main author, Sass, had pitched to me as an excuse for Tara to do a strip tease for Willow and the two of them get caught. I had read it and of course I was amused, the dialog was great the B-plot was snappy as hell and I was building up the A-Plot (the Buffy part) and then it dawned on me. Tara was alive and well and I soon could care less what was going on in the "canon", the Dragon and the Phoenix was the only thing that was "real", anything else was just a rumor.

We also had some surprising help. Amber Benson  remarked that Garner and I now knew Tara better than anyone (except maybe for Chris). We even had a writer on the show that was sending us scripts long before the shows would film. So we worked spoilers for the other Season 7 into the narrative and mocked them. The writer has asked to remain anonymous and that is the way it will stay. This person agreed with us but was powerless to do anything. We were also hearing about how toxic the set had become and how most people were counting down the days till the show was over.

Similar to the authors I got Willow & Tara fans (collectively known as "Kittens") to do the covers for the adventures, you can see them all here.

There are a lot references to music and songs in the episodes. I do my best work to music. I wrote my dissertation while listening to the Ramones and "Ghosts of Albion" was written on a steady diet of Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden when I needed horror elements and Sinéad O'Connor, Enya and Máire Ní Bhraonáin (I guess we are distantly related), and Lorrena McKinnett for when I needed to write about the fae or ancient history. Dragon had a lot of influences, but mostly I listened to a lot of Linkin Park.

The Dragon and the Phoenix was a great success in my mind. Of the adventures we released, 1 through 5, it has been translated into German, French and Spanish. There are two "unauthorized" fan-fics by authors not related to the project set in the same universe not to mention the works of the authors involved from the dramatic ("Unexpected Consequences") to the silly (Willow and Tara's drunken adventures in a adult book store by Sass) to Lovecraftian inspired horror (Garner's "Those that Feed"). Plus two more series and a mini-series that comprise what we call "Willow & Tara the Series". "Road Stories" was later revived as "Season of the Witch" and the ghost of Robert Maclay is added to the cast. "Mid Semester's Night Dream" was a mini-series featuring a semi-retired (from monster hunting) Willow & Tara being asked to investigate a suspected vampire at a private boarding school. This lead to "Generation Hex" where Tara is still teaching at the school and they have help the next generation of hunters of the supernatural.

Series Details
The Dragon and the Phoenix - Buffy game with original cast set in an alternate season 7. Tara comes back to help the Cast defeat Leviathan. A mix of "Buffy" and "Armageddon". (2002 to 2003).

This Season is designed with the idea of bringing back the character of Tara Maclay who was murdered near the end of Season 6. This Season takes place in a different Sunnydale, though the history is the same, the future is new. The Cast must deal with the notion of what love is and what it means to be a family. Other issues are of course, working together and the handling or mishandling of power.

The following information is for all the episodes.

Special Guest Stars
Though the character of Cordelia Chase should be played as an NPC. Notes will also be given for playing Giles and/or Anya as NPCs.
Tony Foster. A rookie officer on the SD Police force who stumbles into the Slayer's world. Knows a little bit about what goes on in Sunnydale (ie not a dumb cop). Is attracted to Buffy.
Luna. A Seraphim that may be aiding the cast.
Kara Maclay. Tara's "twin sister".

Little Bads
The Knights of Elohim. These three fallen angels provide most of the problems for the cast in the first episode and reoccur in a later one. They seek to return the Earth to the demons so that they may be first in the eyes of God again.

Strawberry Switchblade. She was a friend of Dawns (introduced early) and was killed by the Vampire Chicas. Now she is pissed off at Dawn and Buffy for letting her get killed. Wants to kill or turn Dawn.

Yoln. The Hand of Leviathan. Yoln was a human general in the armies of Hell. He was part demon himself. During the Dark Ages he attempted to seize control of Earth, but during a pivotal able battle in Gaul (France) he met a girl. This girl was the only person who ever bested him in battle. They fought, but Yoln ran her through with his sword, Pillager. Though she knew she was dying, she took his sword from her body and she fought him back to his dimensional portal with his own sword. She even managed to wound him, cutting off his right hand and broke his sword in the process. This girl, Morgan, died after defeating Yoln. She was also a Slayer.

Big Bad Leviathan. Ancient. Colossal. Primordial. Leviathan is a dead god. But dead does not mean the same to gods as it does to mortals. "He" is being drawn into this world. Doing so destroys everything. The world, the cosmos, everything. He has cultists spanning the globe and there is a prophecy that he will reawaken and his birth will be heralded by the death of the Slayers. (Same Leviathan from Armageddon.)

Important Items
The Codex Albius - The White Codex. The spellbook Tara returns from Heaven with. Provides all the new spells in the series. Normally in exile Tara would have had to give this up along with her healing power, but the fact she still has both leads to Cast to believe that Tara's exile may not be exactly what they think it is. This sets up the tension of will Tara need to return when the adventure is over.

The Ankh - Given to Willow by Isis. This prevents her from feeling the effects of the dark magic. Believed to have been influenced by Set, it is learned in time that the "Dark Magic" is in fact Taint and set up by Leviathan centuries ago to use Willow as his portal into this realm. The Ankh can be later used to stop Nox in episode 11 (cast choice).

Pillager - Yoln's Hellforged Sword. His first task in the series is to find the pieces he needs to reforge it. Once he has this he goes on a killing spree, killing every demon (who he feels betrayed him in the 7th Century) and supernatural creature he can find.

The Hand of Yoln - A gauntlet from Yoln's battle with the Slayer Morgan. She had cut off his lower arm with his own sword before knocking him into a portal to the Astral. The gauntlet has been protected by an order of Witch Knights, an order blending both Christian and Pagan beliefs. The gauntlet appears as a clawed hand and may be used to kill Yoln (cast believes), in fact it is the last piece Yoln needs to fully manifest into reality.

The Spear of Destiny - Also known and The Spear of Cúchulainn or the Gáe Bolg. This is the weapon the cast must find to kill Yoln. Buffy, Willow and Tara's first quest for it takes them to 7th Century Gaul were it is being protected by members of the Church and the Ban-Drui. Yoln was leading an army of demons to take it by force but is defeated by the Slayer of that time. She dies, but passes a bit of her soul on to Tara (who tires to heal her).

I will give episode summaries and actual play reports in the future.

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Dragon and the Phoenix: wrap-up

The Dragon and the Phoenix ran for 13 episodes and it was great fun.

We set out to show we could tell a great story and even a better one than the source material and I think we succeeded.
Here are some random things we learned while writing and playing these episodes.
Their first semester living together Willow and Tara arranged their schedules to always be near each other.

They also rearranged classes so they could both come home during the day to watch "Jerry Springer" though they told everyone else it was so they could watch PBS.

Tara's first meal back as a human? Chicago style deep dish pizza. She tried crawfish etouffee but discovered she was in fact still allergic to shellfish.

Tara does not drink at all. She has smoked some pot in the past (mostly highschool) but no longer.

While Willow was in high school she discovered some old journals of Jenny Calendar where she talked about being "outrageously bisexual" with her roommate in college. It made her feel more comfortable about her own questioning sexuality.

Dawn has walked in on Willow and Tara having sex 4 times. Xander has walked in on them 0 times.

Willow can disco. It is not something she is proud of or even talks about, but her father (a HUGE Saturday Night Fever fan) taught Willow how to dance when she was little, she remembers it all to this day.

Willow is ambidextrous, she can write equally well with either hand.

Tara hates ponies. She loves to ride horses but thinks ponies are evil.

Tara has a set of witchcraft ritual tools. She prefers to cast rituals with her athame when she can. Tara discovered that Willow is also capable of using Tara's ritual tools (not something that is normally done).

The Cast has both memories of Tara and memories of her sister Kara. Generally there is no conflict with these.

Tara's mother was named Megan, her grandmother Deidre. Her father's name was Robert. Tara's middle name in Ann. Her brother would tease her and call her "Annie", to this day she hates the name and will not use it.

Dawn knew she was psychic as early as Episode 1. In the finale she was given a glimpse of her futures as well. One where she was a doctor and another where she becomes a physicist.

Anya and Xander split up after a couple of months. They do not get divorced until some time later. I toyed with the idea of Anya also being pregnant and might still do that.

Buffy begins dating the police officer Tony Foster. In one possible future shown by the Mouth of Leviathan she and Tony are married.

Spike is not seen or heard from again. He is rumored to be "alive" somewhere.

Clem the Demon can do complex mathematical calculations in his head.

Giles had a religious upbringing. While his mother was a duty-bound English Watcher, his father was a Irish Catholic. Giles was brought up in both the Catholic and Angelican churches. No wonder he rebelled.

Luna the Seraphim was one of my D&D characters from back in the day. Her original character sheet says she was rolled up in 1982.

Charmed influences abounded. Rack was a "Charmed" style Warlock and had no soul. He was in fact stealing powers from the magical kids in his thrall. Cordy had become a Whitelighter.

The plane of Leviathan was taken from the Monster Smackdown book, it was augmented based on the old Dragon Magazine adventure "Nogard", the demonic wasteland from Charmed and the last planet in the Heavy Metal movie. Leviathan himself is Leviathan from Armageddon. He is demonic as well as a mad god due to all the demonic "souls" he has been feeding on over the millennia.
We took a break and then went into the next season of episodes, Season of the Witch,  those were not as playtested as much.

I'll post the Season of the Witch reports starting next year I think.  Holidays coming and all.

Friday, April 5, 2013

E is for Eodemon

Eodemons are another "new" race of demons I am working on.  Eodemons are the "Dawn Demons" or Proto Demons.  These are the demons that were already old and evil and sulking in the Hells.  Unlike the "devils" that were once good and then fell or "demons" that are relatively new to the scene, the Protodemons were old and evil. Their motivations are often alien to mortals and other demons.  Their numbers are few, but each one is extremely powerful.  Many are worshiped as gods, or at least, dark gods.

These are not to be confused with the Eudaemons, or beneficial demons.  Also many believe that Lilith herself is an Eodemon, but this is something she denies.  Also some scholars use the more archaic form Eolim to describe these demons.  Not to be confused with Elohim, which are also servants of Good.

For my take on these demons I am taking really, really old myths.  The one that everyone knows is Pazuzu.
How do you know him?  He was the demon in The Exorcist.

Only five Eodemons are being detailed. There maybe more, but they have thankfully remained unknown.  As a group they are more powerful than the Baalseraph, but are too independent and chaotic to work to the same ends.

While I am connecting the Baalserasph Lords with the Deadly Sins, I see the Eodemons as representing a classical element.

Dagon: Lord of the depths. This Eodemon combines the worst aspects of fish, octopi, sharks and strangely mankind.  Like most Eodemons his form constantly shifts and rearranges itself to suit his need, environment or whim.  One constant is his large, dead looking eyes. Always described as the “eyes of a fish” or a “drowned man”.
His element is Water.

Leviathan: It is supposed that this is the oldest of all the Eodemons.  Leviathan is so ancient that even other demons seem in awe of “his” age and power.  It assumed that it is a he though there is no evidence to suggest either way. Leviathan exists only for one purpose; to feed.  Leviathan can be found in the Astral realms devouring entire worlds.
"He" represents the Fifth Element of Quintessence.

Pazuzu: The Lord of the East Wind is a demon of the skies. He appears to be a well proportioned athletic male human with bronzed skin. His head is a bizarre combination of human, dragon and hawk.  His double set of wings could indicate a semi-divine nature but Lord Pazuzu denies such things.  Lord Pazuzu says a lot actually, he is the most active Eodemon in the affairs of mortals.
He represents the element Air.

Tiamat: The Queen of Monsters and Primal Chaos.  Tiamat was once a primal goddess of creation. But she desired only to destroy.  She was cast out and was already old in the hells when the Baalseraph arrived.  Evil Dragons and evil monsters still revere her as their queen and goddess.
She represents the element Water.

Tsathogga: This great demon appears as some sort of titanic frog-like monster.  It appears to be at least 50’ long or as much as 75’. There is a vague humanness about this this demon, but it’s countenance is one of an evil frog. It’s mouth is filled with rows of sharp, shark-like teeth the length of a grown man’s  arm.  It’s body is covered in open sores where oozes pour out.   Tsathogga does not bother to attack mere humans and will summon 4-9 (1d6+3) Demodands loyal only to him. Tsathogga, when he does attack, will use his tongue to attack the nearest opponent.  Human cultists worship Tsathogga, but the Demon Lord cares little for humanity.
The Lord of Toads represents the element Earth (I know, not a great fit).

So a nice collection of different myths here.

Monday, August 14, 2023

#RPGaDay2023 Favourite CONVENTION purchase

 There have been a few to be honest. But my most memorable was the purchase of the Mage Knight Apocalypse Dragon back at Gen Con 2011.

Shown here after I got it home with the Aspect of Tiamat and Orcus.  AoT takes up 3x3 squares, Orcus 4x4. The Apocalypse Dragon takes up 7x7.

This beast was originally going to be Tiamat in my games.  But later on WotC would release their own monstrous Tiamat. 

Tiâmat and Leviathan
Tiâmat and Leviathan

What about that Apocalypse Dragon?  I still want to get my money's worth out of him.  So he has been redubbed as Leviathan.  Fitting, given the history my games have had with him.  I will need to revisit my stats for him, though. 

This gives me a chance to use both dragons.

Gen Con 2011 was also the same year I picked up all of the Mayfair Demons sets for AD&D 2nd Edition. I might need to go back to those and see if they had a Leviathan write-up. Might be fun.

I also should adopt as much as possible from the Mage Knight rules.


Friday, September 10, 2010

The Dragon and the Phoenix: Episode 3

Episode 3: The Serpent of Destiny 

December 13, 2002 Friday

The cast are transported to the legendary Thebes of the Gods. Here they learn that the god Set has been corrupting Willow with magic for his own nefarious needs. The God Osiris also has issues with Willow. The Goddess Isis intercedes when they learn that Willow and Tara’s battle with Leviathan was foretold on millennia old cartouches. Isis gives Willow an amulet to protect her from dark magic.

Story Arc and Game Design elements: Willow receives The Ankh to protect her from “dark magic”. Try to make some sense out of “dark magic addiction” to a group that has a collective 90+ years on writing about magic and witches. Do away with magic addiction rules.
Soundtrack: Santana “Black Magic Woman”.

Notes and Comments:I can't tell you how much I hated the magic addiction rules. Well, not the rules themselves, but the concept from the show. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid! It was everything I felt went wrong with the show. Playtesting rules for them was like polishing a turd.  We opted for a different metaphor.  We originally wanted to go with Taint from WitchCraft.  But for various reasons we didn't.  I think if I were to do this again I might go with Taint and the Ankh would still draw off the Taint from Willow.  The Ankh plays a greater role in the Willow-centric episode "Shadows in the Rain" later in the season.

We also wanted to add more mythos for other cultures to our game, this is the Egyptian one. Dealt with the whole Osiris nonsense. We began more myth building here and establish that Willow and Tara had been through other lives before and were together then too. Their connection to Leviathan via Set is also established.

Author Kirk Baldridge was one of the people that helped me with the Road Stories ideas and this was his second adventure.  His first was second season episode, Deep in the Heart. 
The cover was designed by Kitten artist Shinnen, whose work I have always liked.  The interior art was done by me and featured some Egyptian cartouches that detailed the events coming up in the series. These disparate events and prophecies became part of the larger Elder Prophecies which has appeared off and on throughout all my games.  Again basically saying that if a world does not have a living Willow and a living Tara it is doomed to be consumed by Leviathan.  Sorry for your world if this not the case. ;)

The plot kicks up next week in Episode 4 where we meet our enemy and Tara becomes a stripper.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Monstrous Monday: Tiâmat

I have talked about Tiamat since the earliest days of this blog.  No surprise really given my love of mythology and my oldest son's obsession with dragons.  It really is a natural fit for me.  I was working on this post a lot over my Thanksgiving break and I went back and forth on a lot of different ideas.  But circumstances came together and I finally decided, last night, what to post.

My oldest started Descent into Avernus this weekend for his 5e group.  We thought that a nice early Christmas present would be the new Gargantuan Tiamat miniature. 

Tiamat "mini"
The Tiamat "mini." Feiya and Larina for scale.

This thing is, well, gargantuan!

Up till now, we had been using the Aspect of Tiamat, the D&D Icon of the Realms Tiamat, and the Mage Knight Apocalypse Dragon (more on that guy in a bit). The Queen of Dragons enters a lot into our games. 

This also got me thinking about how I handle dragons in my Old-School games.  In particular how I want to handle them in my Basic Bestiary.   Over the years here I have experimented with various ways to present dragons so they are a constant challenge to any party regardless of size or levels.  There have been some really good innovations over the years starting with the dragons in AD&D 2nd Ed and into 21st Century forms of D&D.  I want to capture the best of the best design principles and also allow them to fit into the design I have already been using with my own monster stats.

I am not really 100% there yet.  

But I am at a point where I can present unique dragons like Tiamat (or Tiâmat as I am presenting her).  I still have a few issues to work out, but since I want to get my money's worth out of that figure here she is.


Gargantuan Dragon (Evil)

Frequency: Unique
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Chaotic [Chaotic Evil]
Movement: 90' (30') [9"]
  Fly 180' (60') [18"]
  Swim 180' (60') [18"]
Armor Class: 0 [19]
Hit Dice: 30d8+240****** (375 hp)
 Gargantuan: 30d20+240****** (555 hp)
To Hit AC 0: -2 (0) (+21)
Attacks: 5 bites + 1 tail lash or breath weapons or spell + special
Damage: 3d6+7 x5, 1d6+7 or Breath Weapons or spell
Save: Monster 30
Morale: 12 (NA)
Treasure Hoard Class: Special
XP: 30,250 (OSE) 30,250 (LL)

Str: 30 (+7) Dex: 10 (+0) Con: 32 (+8) Int: 28 (+7) Wis: 24 (+5) Cha: 22 (+5)

Tiâmat is the mother of all dragons, good and evil.  She was destroyed by her grandson Marduk and was cast out.  Formerly a god she now represents the primordial chaos of the deep sea or even the infinite abyss.  For this reason, she is often seen with the heads of all the major evil dragons, Black (Acid), Blue (Electric), Green (Poison), Red (Fire), and White (Cold). Fittingly, the mother of dragons makes her home in the depths of the Abyss in a layer known as  Têhom, or the "deep".  She is also considered to be the mother, or at least the Grandmother, of all evil and chaotic monsters.

Tiâmat can attack with all five heads per round.  Each head can bite, use their respective breath weapons, or use spells. The bite attacks do 3d6+7 hp of damage each, but the individual heads cannot attack the same Medium-sized or smaller victim at the same time.  A Large or larger-sized target can be attacked by two heads at the same time.  Tiâmat can attack up to five (5) separate targets this way.  Each head can also use their respective breath weapons doing 10d8 (45 hp) up to three times per day.  She will typically attack with her breath weapons first, to overwhelm and awe her opponents and then resort to spells and bite attacks.  Tiâmat believes that opponents need to be dealt with in the quickest, most deadliest, of ways.

Her aura of dragon fear is such that all, even true dragons, have to make a saving throw vs. magic or fall under the effects of a Cause Fear spell. This will affect all creatures regardless of HD/level.  Each head can additionally cast a Magic-user/Wizard spell per round in lieu of a physical attack.  The white head can cast 2 first-level spells and 1 second-level spell.  The black head can cast 2 second-level and 1 third-level. The green head can cast 2 third-level and 1 fourth. The blue head can cast 3 fourth, 2 fifth, and 1 sixth-level. Finally, the red head can cast 3 sixth, 2 seventh, and 1 eighth-level spell.  Tiâmat chooses her spells at the start of her day. She typically opts for spells of control, damage, and ones that can summon support. She does not need somatic or material components for her spells, they come naturally to her. 

Due to her size, Tiâmat cannot make claw attacks while on the ground.  She can attack with her foreclaws when she is flying or swimming.  She is immune to charm, hold, mind-affecting magic, and sleep effects.  She is additionally immune to all sorts of poison. She takes half damage from acid, cold, and fire. She also has 75% magic resistance.

As the Queen and Mother of Dragons Tiâmat she is served by five consorts. These are dragons of largest size and greatest age of their respective dragon types, White, Black, Green, Blue, and Red.  Each one is utterly loyal to Tiâmat, failure to be anything but this will result in their immediate death and their skins put on display.  Tiâmat can summon 2d6+1 evil dragons of any type once per day.

Tiâmat's home plane is known as Têhom, or the "deep." Here there are seven distinct areas that represent the preferred habitat of each of the five evil dragon types. Each one is governed over by her consorts. The sixth area is an ocean, so deep and so dark that no bottom has even been seen.  Tiâmat makes her home here along with sea dragons of all sorts. It is rumored that the great dragon Leviathan also resides here. The seventh and last area is an island that Tiâmat often visits. Here her treasure horde can be found. This land is populated only by undead dragons.

Tiâmat as a Patron
Dragon Tradition Witches and Draconic Pact Warlocks take Tiâmat as their patron.  Chaos mages also look to the Mother of Monsters as their patron, inspiration, and even Goddess.  All dragons, good and evil, regard her as their mother or the first of their kind but only evil dragons and dragon-kin worship her. 



I like this stat block quite a lot.  I can look at it though and tell I still need to define my demons and dragons both a little better. There are ideas I want to express that I am currently not doing.

She is a Gargantuan creature.  So because of that, I am going to be using my alternate HP calculations. A gargantuan creature uses a d20 for HP determination, not the standard d8.  Even with this she is at 30 HD so in standard games she ends up with 375 hp. In my games that is boosted to 555 hp.

A bit on that HD.  Yeah, she has 30 HD.  She is big and bad and is not a monster you find on level 20 of some random dungeon. This flows from the level setting I was doing in One Man's God. Tiamat is not just on the top of the scale, she should be the top.  A former Goddess now cast into the Abyss, that means two things for me. One she is powerful and two she should be a demon of some sort.  She is obviously something more. I have her listed as "Gargantuan Dragon (Evil)" but she would certainly also be an Outsider or even a Fiend possibly. She could even be an Eodemon

Alignment.   I have been playing Tiamat as "Chaotic Evil" since I first started reading Chaos Theory back in the 90s. It always made far more sense to me.  Plus she never really fit into the hierarchy of Hell as far as I was concerned.  I do borrow a page from Paradise Lost and say she was there when the Devils fell.  But that was only one of her lairs in the cosmos. 

What about that Apocalypse Dragon?  Well, I still want to get my money's worth out of him.  So he has been redubbed as Leviathan.  Fitting, given the history my games have had with him.  I will need to revisit my stats for him though. 

Tiâmat and Leviathan
Tiâmat and Leviathan


Links to other Tiamat postings here on the Other Side.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Season of the Witch: Episode 7

Episode 7: Desert Rose

Winter 2005
Roswell, NM

The Cast rolls into Roswell, NM. They decide to stay and check out the cheesy tourist traps and even get a “tUFO” Burger (made of Tofu). Bob complains that this is distracting them from the mission, Tara reminds him they are not on a mission but a vacation. A couple of times during the day Willow notices a coyote, first in the road (no surprise) but then again at the restaurant.

They check into a local motel (“where all the aliens visiting our galaxy stop!”) and proceed to get down to some very hot and heavy sex. Hot being the operative word, since the air is out. Bob materializes in the room interrupting Tara’s demonstrating what she can do with that mouth other than sing. Tara blows up and begins yelling at Bob. He leaves, she feels bad and goes to follow him.

Willow, the moment now gone, decides to get her clothes back on when she sees the coyote in her room. Scared at first she watches as the coyote grabs her new boots and runs out the door. Willow chases after it.

Tara returns with Bob in tow. He feels bad and agrees not to do that again (his player though is less enthused!) then they notice Willow is gone. Nothing has been moved and there is no struggle. A quick search shows nothing. Tara calls on Cordy, who takes a long time to respond. She says something is up with this place. Like it is in some metaphysical fog. She also asks Tara why her body temperature is so high. Tara asks Cordy to find Willow. She tries for a bit and says that see can’t find her anywhere. It is like she has been removed from this plane. Tara freaks, Cordy says to try scrying, see if that helps. Tara scrys and nothing comes up. She gets angry at Cordy for not finding her and Bob for making her run out, she waves her arm and the TV in the room catches fire. Tara runs to get the fire extinguisher to put it out. Cordy asks her what the hell is going on and Tara can’t explain it. In fact the only difference she has noticed with herself is she has been more excited than usual, and in the carnal way.

Tara tries to scry again, this time the crystal lands on Area 51, some 900 miles away. Tara asks Cordy to orb them all there. She can’t. She doesn’t know why herself, but the area is off limits to supernaturals, and Angels and Whitelighters are forbidden to go there. Tara tells her fine. She will go by herself then. She packs up the car and gets ready to drive out there with Bob protesting all the way. He tells here how it is the most heavily guarded military base there is and there is no way she could get in. Tara says that is they are holding Willow then that is the only thing that might stop her, but she doubted it. Slamming the car into drive she heads out into the night.

Willow meanwhile is still following the coyote. She either lost track of her steps and of time cause she finds herself in the middle of the desert. The coyote stops, drops her boots and then gets up on its hind legs and shifts (but not shape shifts) into Oz (complete with clothes). Willow tells it that she knows he is not Oz. Coyote tells her he took a shape she would trust and he admitted, he thought Oz was cool. He says he is only borrowing this visage. Willow asks if that means Oz is dead. Coyote does not answer that. She asks him what he wants. He tells her, ”you.”

Tara is still driving, but her adrenaline is now running out and she is falling asleep at the wheel. Bob tries to keep her awake, but even though he can touch her (she is magic) he is having trouble. Something about the desert is effecting him. At this point to stay awake I have the two players both tell me stories about Tara and Bob as they see them. They story is one of when Tara was in an equestrian contest and she wanted to ride a horse that was much too spirited for her (she was 7 or 8). She rode the horse anyway and did well, but soon lost control and was thrown and hit her head. She talked about how bad she felt because she lost, and Bob talked about how he sat with her night after night until she regained consciousness. This is an expanded version of a brief outline I had given both Bob and Tara’s players back in Episode 2. I gave them quite a few extra drama points for this. They continued driving until Tara finally did fall asleep at the wheel. Bob tried to wake her but the car smashed into an invisible barrier around the base. Tara hit the steering wheel hard and was knocked out. Bob was even thrown out of the car due to the magical nature of the barrier. We cut to a scene of Tara falling out of the car, bleeding from several deep cuts on her head.

Willow instantly feels the pain and wants to go back to Tara. Coyote says she can’t, not yet, because there are still things she needs to learn. Coyote explains that the world is about to change. It changes all the time, but this time will be big, maybe too big. He tells Willow she is the agent for change and that she is destruction. Willow denies this saying that future won’t happen now, Leviathan won’t enter this realm. Coyote says Leviathan was only the blunt tool of change, it was always Willow that was going to change it. He tells her that whether it was Leviathan or the time after Tara was killed, she was destined to destroy the world. She argues saying no, that won’t happen, besides she has Tara and every reason to remain in the world. Coyote just laughs. He says “Like it or not Willow Rosenberg. You will destroy the world and There. Is. Nothing. You. Can. Do. About it!”

Bob has gotten to Tara, who is in really bad shape. He calls for Cordy, but she has trouble orbing in. Bob, desperate, uses some of Tara’s own blood and calls for Cordy. She materializes, though it is obviously painful. (Player asked if in Bob’s past he would have seen “blood magic”). Cordy tries to heal Tara, but it is taking longer than it should. She doesn’t know if it is because of all the magical interference or something else. She says it is almost like Tara is not a witch anymore. They get her stabilized only to have a group of soldiers surround all three of them. They are arrested and taken to the base.

Willow is still arguing with Coyote. He tells her not to feel bad, he is also an agent of change and change is good. He asks her if she has even noticed the changes within herself over the last few days. She says nothing. But finally she asks, if she is change, what is Tara? Coyote only says, that is something she will need to find out. She tells Coyote she wants to see Tara now. He pauses and finally says, “ok. Just go over that ridge, there will be people expecting you.” Willow walks on and Coyote has shifted back to a coyote. She gets to the ridge and sees the base of Area 51. There are soldiers there who seem surprised she snuck up on them. They arrest her as well.

Tara, Bob and Cordy are all handcuffed (yes even the ghost) and lead into the base. The base CO, a Lieutenant General Ashby. He laughs at them, saying he has been expecting them for some time since they fouled up their Bureau business last year. He looks at Bob and says to him a Marine should know better than to drag his little girl into a fight that will get her killed. But he laughs anyway and says they might as well come on down and see what it is they came all this way to see since they were never going to leave this base ever again. The Lt. General goes on about Roswell and how everyone knows what happened in Roswell and how there are thousands of conspiracy nuts out there spreading this tale in sixteen thousand different ways. He stops and laughs, and says “do you know how much money a snow job like that would cost Uncle Sam? And I got every idiot Fox Mulder-wannabe with a camera and a website keeping my secrets for me.” He goes on.

“Everyone knows what happened in Roswell New Mexico in 1947. But I am here to tell you ladies and gentlemen, that everyone is wrong.”

He flips the switch for lights and bunch of high watt halogen-lamps fire up to show a holding area with one prisoner. He is trapped, spread out like a butterfly in an insect collection. His skin is bruised and his long wings are tattered and torn. Once they must have been magnificent and white as snow.

Tara gasps. Bob says “dear lord”. Finally Cordy says “Oh God! It’s Uriel.”

To Be Continued…

(Notes after I post Episode 8: Heart of Light)

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Dragon and the Phoenix: Episode 4

Episode 4: Identity Crisis

Willow: So you are saying that whole season of ‘Facts of Life’ was nothing more than unrequited lesbian love between Blair and Jo?
Tara: Absolutely, they were totally into each other, that’s why they fought so much.
Willow: Now you’re just playing with my emotions.

- Willow and Tara: The Dragon and the Phoenix, Episode 4 “Identity Crisis”

January 8, 2003 Sunday

Willow’s first big dive back into magic is to recreate Tara’s identity and remove all references of her death. A magical surge created by Yoln, the Shadowreaper, causes the magic to go awry and creates a duplicate of Tara who believes she is Kara, Tara’s twin sister. A magic ID provided by Anya also goes awry and the personality of a dead stripper is imprinted on Tara. In addition, the cast have to deal with hungry snake demons, a small gang of mobsters and a 7ft tall, one handed killing machine.
Story Arc elements: Establishes Tara’s “twin” sister Kara and Murl the demonic identity merchant. Introduces Yoln.

Notes and Comments:This is the adventure that made me forget that the show was even still on TV. Once we got to this episode things were moving great. The ideas flowed much faster. This was also our most comical episode despite the fact that it began with a dead stripper. We have "two" Taras running around, demonic identity merchants, would be gangsters, and a 7 foot tall man in armor with one arm. Plus there is the whole Tara-as-a-stripper scene.

The identity merchant was a great idea.  These are demons that make a living integrating other demons into human society.  They do it by having the demon assume the identity of someone that had died and they get all their effects, basically becoming that person.   Anya gets the id of a recently killed japanese stripper.  We also wanted to do one "Willow's magic screws up" episode and ehen never do it again.  She is supposed to be the most powerful witch on the planet afterall.  In truth her magic didn't screw up it was the combination of her magic, the dead stripper's id and the magic of Yoln.

Special note: Because of this episode Tara can still speak fluent Japanese, Amber Benson made a remark at a con a while back along the lines of "well I guess I can speak Japanese" when talking about the afterlife of fan fic. Wish I could find the link for you all.

Yoln of course is the proxy for our big bad.  We find out more about him next episode, but we learn he is the "Hand of Leviathan" whom he calls "The Whispering God".  Yoln was also an old D&D NPC that plagued my characters.

Kara, Tara's "straight" sister was an inside joke that began on the Kitten describing the soap oprea like plotting we were seeing in the show up to Season 6. We decided in the alternate past that Kara had a hugh crush on Giles. The ophidians were an old AD&D monster of mine.

The author of this adventure, Sass, has a better grasp on Willow than anyother author I have ever met. She gets her on such a fundamental level that her fiction should be required reading for anyone wanting to play Willow in a game.

Kara was not just a proxy for dead Tara, but Dawn as well. We established that she was as real to everyone, including memories, as Dawn, and a spell took her away. This was part of the alienation plot for Buffy and Dawn. Both were feeling like they were less and less human than the people around them, though for different reasons. I disliked the Slayer-as-demon (the episode where the girl was raped by a demon to make her a Slayer had not happened yet) and wanted to go a different direction, so we began by having Buffy become stronger and faster than before, becoming something other than human, or so she thought. For Dawn it was the start of her psychic powers.  I wanted both characters (via the players) to struggle with what it means to be human, or maybe no longer human.

And true to our cause here  "Candy", the dead stripper, gets avenged in the end and her killers are met with justice at the hands of the Yakuza.  Tara also gets a marker from the Yakuza boss.  The boss was named Tatsou which means "Dragon".  There is no connection, just a pun on my part to keep some element of the overall plot in every episode.

The quote above is an in-play quote between Willow and Tara.  All this terrible stuff is going around them and they are having a discussion about the lesbian sub-text of the Facts of Life.

In this episode we also established that Willow & Tara's favorite indie band is Lipkandy. They were playing the night after Tara's birthday.

At this point we began to insert a lot more crunchy stuff to our games.  Previously we had been content to use the playtest material of Buffy, but now we were moving along at good pace.  Episodes 4 and 5 were our playtests of the new Magic Box book, but we wanted to add more.

New Monster

Motivation: Eat humans
Critter Type: Demon
Attributes: Str 7 Dex 6 Con 6 Int 2 Per 2 Will 5
Ability Scores: Muscle 20 Combat 14 Brains 15
Life Points: 70
Drama Points: 1
Special Abilities: Armor Value 10 (scales) Qualities: Hard to Kill 3
Dodge: 14
Claw: 16 18 dam Str x 3
Bite: 15 21 dam (Str + 1) x3,
Tail slap: 15 14 dam

Ophidians are said to be a young race by demon standards, thought to exist only for the last 3 or 4 thousand years, since early Egyptian times. They are an isolationistic race, known to spend time only with their own kind, and have little regard for other demons. While most demons are decidedly carnivorous, the Ophidians are one of a few whose diet is thought to consist solely of the flesh of human beings. It is known that almost all Ophidians worship some sort of a serpent deity, but whether this is Set or Leviathan is unclear.
These Ophidians worship leviathan, but it can’t be a coincidence that many also worship Set and the cast just dealt with Set.

New Spells

Magic Missile
Quick Cast: Yes
Power Level: 2
Requirements: Witches and Warlocks need only shout “dissolvo.” Other magicians also need to meditate for one minute.
Effect: A ball of light shoots from the caster’s hand and shoves the target one foot per Success Level rolled. This spell could knock someone down or push them free from someone who was holding them. It normally does no damage, but if the target is shoved into a wall or some other hard surface, she takes double the casting roll’s Success Levels in Bash damage.
Note: This is the spell Tara used in “Bargaining”. It is assumed that Kara has it as well.

Quick Cast: Yes
Power Level: 1
Requirements: Command word calling on the gods of sleep (Hypnos, Morpheus, or ‘the Sandman’) and a bit of sand.
Effect: Target must make a Will check. If failed the target falls into a deep sleep for one hour per level of sorcery skill.
Note: This spell is know to both Tara and Kara.

Undo Spell
Quick Cast: Yes
Power Level: 5
Requirements: Witches and Warlocks need only to command that the spell be ended. Others need to concentrate on the spell for 1 minute per power level of the original spell. If the caster does not have the sorcery levels required she can bring in other casters.
Effect: Undoes one spell or magical effect.
Since the magical effect in not natural, the magic is easy. But the witch needs to be able to overcome the level of the original spell as a resisted check.

Next Week:  Tara and Willow are targeted by assassins and they learn more of their mission here.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Marissia, Daughter of Zelligar, The "First Witch"

In my post yesterday I talked about my favorite adventure, B1 In Search Of The Unknown.

One of the things that brought back memories for me was Cavern #43.  It is blank in the adventure, but I added something special, a witch named "Marissia" (sic, I was 11 ok).  She might not be the very first witch I ever made, but I am having a hard time figuring out who exactly was.  Until some other proof comes up, it will be Marissia.

Her name comes from me mishearing the Jerry Reed version of "Pretty Mary Sunlight".  I thought he was saying "Pretty Marissa mine".  Hey, I was little and I certain I had heard it from The New Scooby-Doo Movies.  In fact, a lot of my early ideas about witches came from Scooby-Doo. It is also very, very likely I based her and her name also on Millissa Wilcox, The Ghost Witch of Salem, from the Scooby-Doo episode "To Switch a Witch." An interesting episode since it featured a gravestone for the witch with a Leviathan Cross on it.   I mean seriously, a goddamn Leviathan Cross in 1978? That was a ballsy move on the eve of the Satanic Panic.

7th level Witch, Mara Tradition

Strength: 11
Intelligence: 17
Wisdom: 17
Dexterity: 12
Constitution: 15
Charisma: 18

AC: 7
HP: 36

Magic items: Dagger +1, Ring of Protection +2

Occult Powers
Familiar: Dog (looks like a Hell Hound)
Dream Invasion

First: Allure, Bewitch I, Cause Fear, Chill of Death, Ghostly Slashing
Second: Bewitch II, Death Armor, Scare, Summon Olitiau
Third: Bestow Curse, Danse Macabre, Lover’s Vengeance, Summon and Bind Imp of the Perverse (Ritual)
Fourth: Intangible Cloak of Shadows, Witch's Cradle

I made her into a Mara witch since I wanted her to be a Basic-era witch and the Mara was one of the first traditions I ever wrote.  Marissia was also an early archetype of the evil, or at least chaotic, seductress type witch. Something the Mara does perfectly.  Marissia was not actually all that evil, just a little evil or really mostly chaotic.

Also, I thought let's make her Zelligar's daughter. Seemed liked a good thing. Given the Caves of Chaos she should be a witch of Ereshkigal, but I likely at the time thought more about Hecate.  Maybe a syncretized Ereshkigal with Hecate.  She is a nice perky blonde goth witch.  She was my late 70s Taylor Momsen.

I found these images of Elmore's Green Witch and Early Snow witch pained by the same artist.  The images are really perfect. First off these minis are the same ones I have used for my Larina.

This one is blonde (which Marissia was), wearing green (ditto), and a purple dress. It is a nice call-back to the Scooby-doo witch above.  I wish I had a spare $330.00 to buy them both.

This has been a fun romp down memory lane. It's like reconnecting with an old girl-friend and hearing she is ok and doing great.