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

Thursday, May 6, 2021

This Old Dragon: Issue #20

Dragon Magazine #20
This issue has been on my want list for a very long time, well this weekend I finally got a copy and I could not be happier.  My copy is a little worse for the wear, but still I am happy. So let's get right to it!

This issue comes to us from November 1978, exactly one year before I would discover D&D.  The cover is a Halloween-inspired one, and frankly, I think it is great. It has a Ravenloft feel to it, five years early.  It's one of those that rewards you the more you look into it. I can't tell who did it though. I want to say Tom Wham. 

I also should point out that this isn't "Dragon #20" this is "The Dragon #20".  

We learn from Tim Kask's editorial that the price of The Dragon has gone up to $2.00 per issue. Plus they are going to a new printer for color, things look better, but there is a cost.  Out on a Limb is coming back and I guess it was "controversial."  

Up first Marc Miller talks about his game Imperium, described as "1977's Game of the Year."  He gives us a bit of history of how the game was created and it completely invokes all my Traveller Envy.  Marc follows this up with some rules addendums. 

Some reprinted editorials from Gygax; Dragon Rumbles #19. Largely about Gen Con and Origins. Gen Con is expanding and having growing pains. 

Speaking of expanding, TSR is looking for a new assistant to Gary Gygax.  You need to have good typing, spelling, and proofreading skills.  I wonder who got the job?  I have my guesses.

Job ad, be Gary's assistant.

Mike Crane has a nice random table of various Eyes and Amulets for Empire of the Petal Throne. Easily adaptable to D&D of course, if I knew what any of them actually did. 

Nice big ad for Star Trek minis, 75mm versions at $10.95 each. 

Jerome Arkenberg is up with a great one, The Mythos of Polynesia for Dungeons & Dragons.  The format is similar to what we find in "Gods, Demigods, and Heroes."  It is detailed enough for me to do a One Man's God for it but I know so little about these myths. The gods themselves are an interesting lot. Of them all, I knew Pele and Tangoroa the best. 

Wormy is next and in full color. 

Ah. Here is the reason why I bought this issue. 

Another Look at Witches and Witchcraft in D&D by Ronald Pehr.  This article is a sequel to the article from Dragon #5, and the prequel to the ones in Dragons #43 and #114. This one is more detailed than the one found in TD#5.  This one still has the disclaimer of an "NPC Class" but offers it as a potential PC class for some DM's games.   This one also makes the connection that witches are to magic-users as druids are to clerics. The author does point out that a witch is typically neutral although individuals can be good or evil as they please.  They are not Satan/Devil worshipers even if they can summon supernatural assistance. The author points out that Cleric, Druids, and Magic-users can summon the same sort of aid.   He also dismisses the stereotype that all witches are solitary old hags indicating they need to be to work with others and in harmony with nature so a Charisma of 9 is needed at the minimum.

Presented here are 18 levels in OD&D format. They have saves and attack rolls like that of the Magic-user but require more XP, 3,000 points needed for level 2 and it scales on from there.  This witch gains several powers per level as well.  Why making a Bag of Holding comes before the more stereotypical Brew Love Potion I don't know, I do know that even I think this witch is pretty damn powerful.  

This witch also has spells up to the 8th level.  This has always felt right to me as being between the Cleric and the Magic-user.  Even in modern games where every spellcasting class has access to 9th level spells I still like the idea that Wizards/Magic-users have access to greater magics, even above my beloved witches.  She may be limited to "only" 8th level spells here, but some of these spells...damn.  "Destroy Life Level." "Wither," "Circle of Distegreation."  I don't recall if all of these made it forward to issues #45 or #114, but they are some pretty powerful spells. 

The first part covers two pages then it is continued on for a quarter page later in the magazine.  What strikes me the most is not how really overpowered this class is (it was toned down in #45 and #114), or the casual sexism in the presentation ("it provides a very viable character for ladies," it was 1978 after all), but the fact that this was the headlining article and there is no art associated with it. 

This version of the witch is the one I have typically associated with Holme's Basic set. Mostly because they share a publication time. This fits since the witch from The Dragon #5 is very obviously an OD&D witch and the one from Dragon #45 is connected to the Moldvay Basic game. Also because of the time of publication and because Tom Moldvay did a bit of the editing on that version.  This leaves the obvious connection of Dragon #114 with AD&D 1st ed.

I suppose my collection of Dragon MAgazine witches is complete, more or less. I do not have a copy of The Dragon #5, the first witch, but I do have the reprint in Best of the Dragon Vol. 1 which is identical to what was in #5.

Dragon Magazine covers featuring the witch class.

The second reason I wanted this issue, Demonology made easy; or, How To Deal With Orcus For Fun and Profit by Gregory Rihn.  This article also calls back to The Dragon #5, in particular the article on Spell Research in D&D (also in the Best of Vol. 1).  The editor reminds us that the author, Gregory Rihn also gave us a great article on lycanthropy (again, in the Best of Vol. 1) so they feel this is a worthwhile article.  This article is good. It covers the reasons why a magic-user might want to summon a demon in D&D and then how to do it!  Take a moment to breathe that one in. The Satanic Panic was just about to happen.

There is a lot of detail here and a lot of really awesome role-playability.  I mean really if your wizard or witch hasn't tried summoning some evil from the deeper dark are they REALLY living?  There are even guidelines to what needs to be in the rituals (new vestments, items, even sacrifices) and what sort of tasks of the demon can be demanded.   

This article, plus the witchcraft one, when combined can be used to add a lot of flavor to the Warlocks of D&D 5.  

Halfway, we get some photos of the various winners of awards for 1977 at Gen Con XI. Pictures of John Holmes, his son Chris as well as awards presented by Elise Gygax to Marc Miller and Tim Kask among others.

See Africa and Die! Or, Mr. Stanley, Meet Dr. Livingstone comes to us from none other than Gary Gygax himself providing a review of the game Source of the Nile.  IT is not only a pretty detailed review but also suggests some rule corrections.  The review does make the game sound fun but this is the problem in reading 40-year-old+ game magazines. All the great stuff is long out of print and expensive as hell to find. 

William B. Fawcett gives us a Traveller variant/addition in The Asimov Cluster.  Traveller! Why must you haunt my every step! But seriously, this is the exact sort of thing I would read back in the day and make Traveller feel like this epic sweeping Space Opera.  I am sure it is. I am sure there are people (and I have read their blogs) that are just obsessed with Traveller as I am with D&D who would read the D&D articles and wistfully say "someday. someday I'll play that game and it will be as epic as I imagined."   I did play some Traveller, but mine never got epic.  I don't even know which Traveller system to start with now if I wanted to get back into it.  This is my "Sci-Fi" month. I should figure this one out.

Anyway, this article provides details on the Asimov Cluster with a lot of planets here to provide points of interest for your Traveller game.

A really cool ad for the D Series modules from TSR.  I bet these will be cool.  Followed by a preview of the Ralph Bakshi "Lord of the Rings" movie.

The Drow series and Lord of the Rings

Lyle Fitzgerald gives us a breakdown of character death in It's a Good Day to Die (Death Statistics of D&D Players).  I should note that these are statistics only from his local gaming group. And it is not Players that are dead but rather Characters.  Though props for using this as a title 10 years before Worf would utter the same words.  Though like most things it is better in the original Klingon.   It's an interesting read and might even be a good snapshot of the times.  Maybe I'll create a poll one day to get some more data.  Not that I honestly care much about character death, I just like statistics.

Allen Hammack, a very prolific Dragon writer back in the day, has a rule variant for hidden movement in the War of the Ring game.

Finieous Fingers is up. People talk about being able to judge the generations of games by their feelings on Tracy Hickman. I also say you can make the same judgment on the generations just prior to that on their opinion of FF.  It's fun, but does not fill me with nostalgia.

The Convention Schedule fills a quarter of a page. In a couple of years, it will expand to several pages.

Our last article is about Demonic Possession in the Dungeon from Charles Sagui, a name I don't think I have seen before.  It's a good guide and, as the author points out, something not used enough in games with demons. This article presents demonic possession as sort of a trap to be found in dungeons (well, that is the title after all) and a good use of it. Reading this it is easy to expand on it a little more and get your Regan and Captain Howdy types. 

A nice big ad for the new Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Player's Handbook.

Back cover is an add for the Space Gamer magazine. 

Ad for the Player's HandbookAd for the Space Gamer

Counting covers a total of 36 pages, but a lot has been packed into these pages.

It is interesting to read a Dragon from this time period when I was imprinted on Dragon from the Kim Mohan/80s period.  This one feels a little more like a White Dwarf magazine to me.  If you are curious, White Dwarf #9 was published around the same time.  

Also there is a feeling of embracing more games here.  It feels like gamers were far more open about trying out other games than with what some of the older gamers today would lead you to believe.  This is also consistent with how we all played back then.

So yeah. I paid a lot of money for this issue and I don't regret it at all really.  I still have my Dragon CD-ROM with all the PDF files, but having this in my collection is still worthwhile in my mind.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

I'm Going To Hell!

Well.  Not actually, but I am considering completely redoing all the Outer Planes in my D&D-like games, and the lower planes in particular.

My goal here is to restructure it is such a way that it works better for me and what I am doing in my games, and yet still be compatible enough with other iterations of the game, de that original game, OSR, or other OGL sources, that I can grab something off the shelf and make it work.  

Devil

Over the years I have talked about Hell, the Abyss, and other places such as XibalbaTartarus, and Tehom.  Pathfinder has added some of these realms into OGC, or rather have made SRD connections to Public Domain names (like Abaddon). 

I would also like to work in places like Sheol as well and homes for all the demon species I have been working on. 

Hell

Hell of the D&D universe is much more akin to the ideas of Hell from Greek myths, Dante, and Milton than it is from Judeo-Christian sources.  There are some ideas here from other myths as well.  

According to Dante, the main named devil in Hell is Lucifer/Satan.  He also mentions Geryon and names 12 individual Malebranche devils ("evil-claws") on Hell's eighth level, called here Malbolge.

According to Milton, the main devils are Beelzebub, Belial, Mammon, Moloch, and Satan. But on his way to Hell, possibly when he passes through Night and Chaos, are Orcus, Demogorgon, and Hades.

One of the first things I need to do is at least come up with some names for the Nine Circles / Nine Layers of Hell.  At least most people agree on nine.

Layer Name (D&D) Name (Pathfinder) Name (Dante)* Deadly Sin (Dante)
1 Avernus Avernus Limbo Virtuous Pagans
2 Dis Dis
Lust
3 Minauros Erebus
Gluttony
4 Phlegethos Phlegethon
Greed
5 Stygia Stygia City of Dis Wrath
6 Malebolge Malebolge
Heresy
7 Maladomini Cocytus
Violence
8 Caina Caina Malebolge Fraud
9 Nessus Nessus Pandæmonium* Treachery

I can't use the "D&D Column" with an OGL/OGC book, but the "Pathfinder" one is fine.  Well. It is fine, but lacks something for me. For now though I am going to use these.

*City of Pandæmonium

From Milton (Not Dante). This is the great city in the lowest circle of Hell. I am certainly going to use this.

Once I get my layers worked out I'll need to figure out who rules them.  The current (and some former) rulers are here.  Using D&D layer names.

Layer Name Archdevil Deadly Sin (Mine)
1 Avernus Druaga/Tiamat/Bel/Zariel
2 Dis Dispater Envy
3 Minauros Mammon Greed
4 Phlegethos Belial/Fierna Sloth
5 Stygia Geryon/Levistus Wrath
6 Malbolge Beherit/Moloch/Malagard/Glasya Lust
7 Maladomini Baalzebul/Beelzebub Gluttony
8 Cainia Mephistopheles Pride
9 Nessus Asmodeus *

I do like the idea of aligning Lord/Layer with a Deadly Sin. 

Now, not all of these Archdevils are OGC, and frankly I would rather use one of the Ars Goetia demons as the rulers.  In other cases, I am making changes.  Tiamat is a Chaotic Evil "Eodemon" in my games. Geryon is also now a "rage demon."  Druaga, or maybe now just Druj, will also be something else. 

At the moment I have about 650 demons and devils detailed for my Basic Bestiary II but none are sorted or detailed beyond basic descriptions. I need to start figuring out who "lives" where.

Links

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

One Man's God: Syncretism and the Gods

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

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

Gods are messy. 

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

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

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

Syncretism

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

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

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

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

Hermes Trismegistus

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

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

The Triple Moon Goddess Heresy

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

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

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

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

Syncretic Gods make FANTASTIC witch and warlock patrons.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am planning on expanding these ideas further. 

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

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Character Creation Challenge: Spellcraft & Swordplay

Spellcraft & Swordplay cover
Spellcraft & Swordplay was one of the very first retro-clones or near-clones on the market.  In my mind, it was always much closer to original D&D than say Swords & Wizardry was mostly because the core mechanic of S&S was a 2d6 like the original combat of Chainmail.  It was the "Alternate Combat" method in OD&D that gave us the d20.  I enjoyed the game so much in playtesting that I had to do a witch class for it. I also did a warlock, one of my first ever.

The Game: Spellcraft & Swordplay

Spellcraft & Swordplay was released in 2009 and it became one of my favorite games. Super easy to learn, and very fast to play it captured that "Oldest school D&D" feel better for me better than some of the clones on the market at the time.  S&S is powered by O.R.C.S. (Optimized Roleplaying Core System) which is the forerunner to the O.G.R.E.S. (Oldschool Generic Roleplaying Engine System) we use in NIGHT SHIFT. There is something like 90% compatibility between the two, but that 10% is a bit different. 

After I played the game I went to Jason and asked to do a witch book for it.  The result was Eldritch Witchery, which presented the witch and warlock as "Elite Paths" to the Cleric and Wizard respectively.

It remains one of my favorite books.

Spellcraft & Swordplay book

The Characters: Runu and Urnu

Runu and Urnu are characters in my game with a bit of history.  They began as drow elves, then shadow elves, and then Shadar-kai elves.  They are twins and I modeled them to be the "evil Wonder Twins."  In 3e they had drow working with my big bad necromancer Magnus.  I know they killed their parents and they are/were pariahs in drow society.  They might be half-drow, half-shadow elf or something.  In any case they are fairly evil and are steeped in the darkest necromancies.

For Spellcraft & Swordplay, they are elite paths. Runu is a warlock (wizard) and Urnu is the witch (cleric). In an inversion of drow norms, Runu is the warlock/wizard and her brother Urnu is the witch/cleric.   Since Spellcraft & Swordplay features a native Necromancer class (wizard elite path) in the core rules, S&S has a good number of Necromancer spells to choose from.

Runu
ePic character by Overhead Games
Runu
Female Dark Elf 1st level Warlock (Wizard), Fraternity of Bones Lodge
Alignment: Evil

S: 11
D: 12
C: 13
I: 17
W: 15
Ch: 17

HP: 4
AC: 7 (leather)
Attacks: 1

Familiar: Bat

Powers: Hexes, Arcane Blast, Occult Powers

Spells
1st: Bane

Runu considers herself the oldest, though the two twins were born so close together that no one knows for sure who was first. Since they caused their mother's death in childbirth no one can ask her.

Runu, like her brother, invert the norms of their society, so she is a warlock (wizard).  Her coven is small, only her, her brother, and their leader.

Urnu
ePic character by Overhead Games
Urnu
Male Dark Elf 1st level Witch (Cleric), Demonic Tradition
Alignment: Evil

S: 12
D: 11
C: 13
I: 15
W: 17
Ch: 17

HP: 5
AC: 7 (leather)
Attacks: 1

Familiar: Rat

Powers: Read Magic, Occult Powers, Coven Spells, Herbal Healing

Spells
1st: Ghostly Slashing

Urnu follows his twin sister, and like her, considers her the oldest.  He is a witch (cleric) dedicated to the Demon Lord of the Undead.  This makes them doubly rejected by their people.  Their devotion to undeath also makes them outcasts among other witches.

He is part of a small coven dedicated to the Demon Prince Orcus.  They dedicate kills to him and when they are higher level they will also create undead for him. 

Since S&S has a good number of necromancer spells I allow them to dip into those as well.

I like the way she turned out to be honest.  It's a shame that I think she might be dead! 

Character Creation Challenge

Tardis Captain is the originator of this idea and he is keeping a list of places participating.  When posting to Social Media don't forget the #CharacterCreationChallenge hashtag. 

RPG Blog Carnival

This month's RPG Blog Carnival is being hosted by Plastic Polyhedra. They are doing Characters, Stories, and Worlds, so that fits right in with everything we are posting this month.

Check out all the posts going on this month at both of these sources.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Character Creation Challenge: Pathfinder 1st Edition

Pathfinder Core Rulebook
Paizo's Pathfinder was a bit of a revolution in the RPG market.  Paizo had been a solid d20/3e publisher in the heyday of the d20/OGL boom, with the zenith of this time actually publishing Dragon and Dungeon Magazines for a time. When WotC opted to move on to 4e, Paizo began their work on an update to the 3.5 OGC ruleset for their own game.  In 2009 the Pathfinder RPG was released and soon there became two "Big names" in the RPG biz; Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder. 

The Game: Pathfinder, 1st Edition

Pathfinder quickly took on players that played D&D 3.x but who did not want to go on to D&D 4. Pathfinder was informally called "D&D 3.75" and moving between Pathfinder and D&D 3.x was fairly trivial compared to D&D 3.x and 4e.  Additionally, Paizo gave Pathfinder robust support both in terms of online presence and their Pathfinder Organized Play.  Releasing the rules as an open playtest was deemed so successful that many other companies, including WotC for D&D5, adopted it.

Paizo also released a number of high-quality sourcebooks, many of which are backward compatible with D&D 3.x. I am particularly fond of the Advanced Player's Guide, Book of the Damned, Bestiary 4 (for the mythos monsters), Occult Adventures, and Horror Adventures. I consider these part of my "core" for Pathfinder.  The witch-centric "Regin of Winter" Adventure Path is a must-have for me.

I have posted a lot about Pathfinder here. I enjoy the game but I don't play it all that much anymore. Still, I enjoy reading over the material.

My "Core" Pathfinder books

The Character: Labhraín

I played in a Pathfinder game that I treated as an alt-Universe version of my 3e/4e game universe. I held the idea that the two universes I was playing (4e vs. Pathfinder) had a similar start (3e) and then diverted.  The Pathfinder universe had devils as their "big bad" while 4e (running the Orcus-themed HPE series) had demons. Some characters were the same in each world.  Labhraín was the Pathfinder version of Larina. 

Here, because of the influence of various devil cults from the former Chelaxian Empire, Labhraín hid her status as a witch.  I took a page from "Prime World" Larina, who faked being a wizard to hide as a witch, to Labhraín faking being a priestess to hide being a witch.  I did not do much with the character but use her as a backstory to my cavalier character that I was playing at the time.  The belief was that Labhraín was dead.  I detail my other character tomorrow.

ePic Character Generator portrait of a witch
ePic Character Generator
Labhraín

Human (Ulfen) witch 1 (Pathfinder RPG Advanced Player's Guide 65)
LN Medium humanoid (human)
Init +0; Senses Perception +1

Defense

AC 10, touch 10, flat-footed 10
hp 7 (1d6+1)
Fort +0, Ref +0, Will +3; +1 trait bonus vs. divine spells

Offense

Speed 30 ft.
Special Attacks hex (charmAPG)
Witch Spells Prepared (CL 1st; concentration +4)
   1st—charm person (DC 14), cure light wounds
   0 (at will)—daze (DC 13), light, read magic
   Patron Fate

Statistics

Str 9, Dex 11, Con 11, Int 16, Wis 12, Cha 16
Base Atk +0; CMB -1; CMD 9
Feats ScholarISWG, Silent Spell
Traits classically schooled, history of heresy
Skills Bluff +4, Diplomacy +4, Disguise +4, Knowledge (arcana) +9, Knowledge (religion) +6, Spellcraft +8
Languages Common, Elven, Infernal, Jistka, Skald
SQ witch's familiar (cat named Scamall)

Special Abilities

Charm +1 (3 rounds, DC 13) (Su) Improve attitude of humanoid or animal in 30 ft. by 1 step(s).
Empathic Link with Familiar (Su) You have an empathic link with your Arcane Familiar.
Familiar Bonus: +3 to Stealth checks You gain the Alertness feat while your familiar is within arm's reach.
Scholar (Knowledge [arcana], Knowledge [religion]) +2 bonus on two Knowledge skills.
Share Spells with Familiar Can cast spells with a target of "You" on the familiar with a range of touch.
Silent Spell Cast a spell with no verbal components. +1 Level.
Witch's Familiar (Ex) Gain the services of a special familiar that stores spells.

Hero Lab and the Hero Lab logo are Registered Trademarks of LWD Technology, Inc. Free download at https://www.wolflair.com Pathfinder® and associated marks and logos are trademarks of Paizo Inc.®, and are used under license.

I like the way she turned out to be honest.  It's a shame that I think she might be dead! 

Character Creation Challenge

Tardis Captain is the originator of this idea and he is keeping a list of places participating.  When posting to Social Media don't forget the #CharacterCreationChallenge hashtag. 

RPG Blog Carnival

This month's RPG Blog Carnival is being hosted by Plastic Polyhedra. They are doing Characters, Stories, and Worlds, so that fits right in with everything we are posting this month.

Check out all the posts going on this month at both of these sources.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Monstrous Monday: Daughters of Iggwilv

image of Drelnza holding Daoud's Lantern
It's Tasha's Week of Everything this week here at the Other Side.  So I thought I'd start Monstrous Mondays with a monster that has been suggested to me over the years.

Today's monster comes from a variety of sources. First, there is Iggwilv-Louhi connection that I talked about it in the Finish Mythos.  Louhi, despite being an old witch is said to have lovely maiden daughters that the heroes often seek out.  By extension shouldn't Iggwilv have some daughters too?

If we go with "yes" (and I always go with yes) then there are two issues, what are they like and who is the father.  Let's go with the father question first.  Among the candidates of "people" she has been involved with include the Demon Prince Fraz-Urb'luu, the half-demon Arch-Mage Tsojcanth, the wizard Zagig Yragerne, even Mordenkainen himself is a possibility and of course the Demon Prince Graz'zt.

We know all about Iggwilv's love affair with Graz'zt.  We know from other sources, chiefly the Gygax Greyhawk novels, that Iuz is the offspring of Iggwilv and Graz'zt.  Or maybe not. In the World of Greyhawk Fantasy Game Setting entry for Iuz it is suggested that he is "some by-blow of Orcus."  I personally liked the idea that Orcus had mortal agents in the world.  While this idea was later dropped it became an element of the Forgotten Realms, where I think it works out a little better.  But it still is a tantalizing idea.  

While Louhi might have daughters known as "the Maidens of Pohjola" I am not expecting Iggwilv's daughters to be so innocent. Her only other daughter, Drelnza, was a vampire, described as a "false Disney Princess" (she is not the damsel in distress, she is the monster), and most certainly not the offspring of Graz'zt.  Going back to the Louhi/Lovitar connection for a bit, Lovitar is known as the mother of the Nine Diseases.  Nine is a good number.

Iggwilv taken to Orcus
I think I have something.

When Iggwilv was defeated by Graz'zt the former master was now the slave.  Graz'zt had intended to keep the fallen Witch Queen in the Abyss to have her suffer an eternity of imprisonment as she had kept him.  Iggwilv however was more clever than the Demon Prince knew and soon she went from prisoner to consort, to confidant to his main advisor.  While she was rising in the ranks of Graz'zt courts she was "traded" to the Demon Prince Orcus over a loss Graz'zt had suffered at the hands of the Demon Prince of undead.  

Taken from Azzagrat in chains she arrived in Thanatos at the feet of the Lord of Undead to serve a tredecim (13 years) of service between CY 503 and CY 516.

Enraged, Iggwilv plotted revenge on both Graz'zt and Orcus.  Her carefully constructed lies and seductions learned from Fraz-Urb'luu that were so effective on Graz'zt held no sway on Orcus. Save for the occasional bit of violence Orcus showed no interest in the Witch Queen other than to deprive Graz'zt of her.  Within that century though Iggwilv gave birth to nine daughters that she was able to keep secret from both Orcus and Graz'zt.  These nine daughters were all of the same fierce, dark beauty as their mother, but had the taint of undeath like their father.  In secret, Iggwilv taught her daughters the ways of witchcraft and fashioned Abyssal weapons for each of them.  Once they were grown their curse of undeath took hold and they became something akin to vampires. Iggwilv sent them into the world to cause as much havoc and chaos as they could and, most importantly act against the designs and will of both Graz'zt and Orcus.

Noidan Tytär
Noidan Tytär
Medium Undead (Demonic)
Frequency: Unique (only 9 are known to exist)
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment:
Chaotic [Chaotic Evil]
Movement: 240' (80') [24"]
  Fly: 180' (60') [18"]
Armor Class: -4 [20]
Hit Dice: 14d8+42**** (105 hp)
Attacks: by special weapon, claw/claw, or by magic or special
Damage: 1d10+6, 1d4+4 x2, special
Special: Magic required to hit (+2 or better), Vampire abilities, Witch spells, Undead
Size: Medium
Save: Monster 14
Morale: 12
Treasure Hoard Class:
Special, see below
XP: 5,150

The Noidan Tytär, or Daughters of the Witch, are a unique group of undead demonically spawned creatures.  These creatures, as beautiful as they are powerful, evil and deadly, are thankfully very, very rare. In fact, only nine are known to exist.  Thankfully they also never work together by order of their mother the Witch Queen. 

Each of the Noidan Tytär is a skilled fighter and possesses both superior arms and armor. Typically magical plate mail of etherealness +2, and a bastard vorpal sword +2 that they wield with one hand due to their preternatural strength. 

In addition to their fighting ability, the Noidan Tytär are also undead akin to vampires. Magic is required to hit them and they are immune to charm, hold and sleep magic as well as any mind-affecting magics. Unlike vampires, they do not require blood to survive but drain the life energy (Constitution points) at the rate of 2 points per touch.  They can go long periods without feeding but it will cause them to go into a deep stupor until a victim can be found.  They can not enter a personal dwelling or holy/blessed land like a vampire and holy items can keep them at bay and cause damage.  They are however immune to the effects of garlic. A stake through the heart will destroy them, but if the stake is removed they will reform in one round.  They can become gaseous, but cannot assume the shapes of animals.  They can fly as per the spell.

They can be Turned as Special (14 HD) by a cleric of high enough level. Any result of a D only discorporates them until the next new moon.  The only way to truly destroy them is stake them, remove their head, and burn both the body and head in separate pyres.  An exorcism or cleanse spell must then be used to force their spirits back to the Abyss. 

Additionally, each Noidan Tytär can cast spells as a 7th level witch of the Mara Tradition. 

The Noidan Tytär are often used as mercenaries for powerful chaotic rulers, demon lords, and evil cults. Secretly they work to undo the efforts of Graz'zt and Orcus.

Thursday, November 12, 2020

This Old Dragon Retrospective: The Gods and Goddess of the Suel

World of Greyhawk books
Something a little different today.  I had always wanted to combine two of my regular features, "This Old Dragon" and "One Man's God" into a series of the gods and goddesses presented in the pages of Dragon Magazine.  I can think of a few examples off the top of my head without cracking the musty pages.  I had always wanted to start with the Suel Pantheon, but I wanted to wait till I was done with the Deities & Demigods.  

Well, last month we all learned about the death of Len Lakofka and I wanted to mark it in some way.  I thought maybe this would be a good way of doing that.

Introduction

A little bit of background here on This Old Dragon. I had purchased a couple of large gaming collections over the last few years. My brother also gave me a box of Dragons in really bad shape. After combining, keeping some, selling off others, and tossing (yeah, had too) ones that were in terrible shape I was left with about 100 or so Dragons that were in pretty bad shape. Most were missing covers, many are missing pages and maybe one or two are fully intact. In This Old Dragon, I am grabbing an issue out at random and reviewing them. I can only review what I have, so if it is missing I won't talk about it. The only exception I make is the covers. If I feel too much is missing or something important is missing I'll check my Dragon-Magazine CD-ROM. 

One Man's God is my feature on the various mythos, gods, and goddesses as presented in the AD&D 1st Edition Deities & Demigods.  Here I look through the various gods and monsters and see which ones would be better classified as AD&D 1st Ed Demons as defined by the Monster Manual.  When there is nothing I look to the original myths to see what we can find.

Today I am going to do both features for the Suel Pantheon.

This Old Dragon: The Suel and their Gods

This feature began in Dragon Magazine #86 from June 1984 to #92 in December 1984. Or in my prime AD&D time.  The feature was authored by Len Lakofka and had Gary Gygax's official stamp of approval on them.  Len had also created the L Series of modules and the Lendore Isles.  So in my mind, that meant there was still active Suel worship in the Isles and that the wizard on the cover of L1 The Secret of Bone Hill was a worshiper of Wee Jas.  But I am getting ahead of myself. 

The Suel made their very first appearance in the pages of the first The World of Greyhawk folio as an ancient empire whose language was still used. The Gods would get names, but not information blocks in the boxed set World of Greyhawk Fantasy Game Setting.  Soon after we began to get the gods in Dragon.

Before I get into the Gods proper, there are a few other issues we should cover.

Dragon Issue #52

This issue gives us a very new looking Leomund's Tiny Hut from  Len Lakofka. This is so new in fact that I think this might be the first-ever Tiny Hut article.  There is an introduction by Gary himself.  This installment covers giving more depth to the humans and languages of the Flanaess.  Cool article and one that every Greyhawk DM should have handy.  Actually, it is good for most DMs. The article is pretty long, longer than most Tiny Hut articles in my memory.  

This is the article that lets us know that Suel are very near albino looking save with shades of violet for eyes.  Given that these were the forerunners of the Lawful Evil Scarlet Brotherhood then it was kind of obvious that the Empire was some kind of a cross between the Melnibonéans and the Nazis.

Dragon Issue #55

In his From the Sorcerer's Scroll Gary gives us some more details on the Suel and how they moved across the continent to the Snow, Frost, and Ice Barbarian lands and how these peoples are the purest strains of the Suel bloodline. If the picture being painted is these are not particularly nice people then consider the painting done.  Still, there are some interesting tidbits and it made me want to find out more and it made me want to find an offshoot of the Suel that weren't such xenophobic dicks.

I think Len made a lot of that possible in his series.

Dragon Issue #86

Dragon #86 was one of those issues that punched way above its weight class. I mean there was just so much in this that one would be excused if Len's article, Presenting the Suel Pantheon, was ignored.  Here we are introduced to Lendor (the chief god) and Norebo (the god of thieves).  The gods are presented in the same format as the D&DG gods; which sadly in the early 80s meant these were creatures that could be fought and could be killed.  But I want to ignore that for bit and instead focus on what is really one of these first full (A)D&D pantheons.  In the 3e era some of these gods would be folded back into the "Greyhawk" pantheon, but here they are on their own with their fellow Suel.  

Lendor has a solid Odin feel to him and Norebo (maybe one of the most popular gods during my AD&D years) is like a slightly less evil Loki.  This trend is going to continue.

A box of old Dragon magazines

Dragon Issue #87

This issue covers the gods Kord and Phaulkon.   Kord is the son of the lesser gods Phaulkon and Syrul, though he himself is a greater god.  He is also one of the most popular and worshiped Suel god.  He is the god of battle, swordsmanship, and berserk rage. He has thousands of semi-mortal/semi-divine children, any of which who meet his challenges can claim demi-god status.  If you are thinking Thor with a sword mixed with Conan then you are not too far off.  Since this issue also featured the Ecology of the Dryad, I figured that Kord had a particular affection for them.  In fact I am going to say that the Korreds, who would later appear in the Monster Manual II, began as the offspring of Kord and the multitude of dryads he..uh.seduced. Sure let's go with that word. 

Phaulkon is the winged god of air, flying and archers. If Kord is the superior melee combatant, then Phaulkon is the superior missile combatant. He can speak with any bird or any creature that uses wings to fly, including demons and devils.  He is Chaotic Good so I always felt there would a natural rivalry between Phaulkon and Pazuzu, both striving for control over the air and air creatures. 

Wee Jas by Jeff Butler
Dragon Issue #88

Here we get Syrul, Fortubo, and Wee Jas the unrequited love of my life (circa age 14).  Wee Jas, of course, grabbed my attention like nothing else in this issue. She was a gorgeous goddess of magic known as the Witch Queen?  How in the hell was I supposed to ignore that?  For years I thought this art was a Larry Elmore piece, but it is actually Jeff Butler.  I think the wide eyes are what really sets this piece off. Bella Donna indeed.

Of all the Suel gods it is Wee Jas that has had her best life in the years following this publication. What do we learn about her?  Well at this point she is still a greater goddess of magic and death.  She knows every magic-user spell and all other spells to 5th level (why only 5th??).  She can cast up to 9 spell levels worth of spells each round; so 1 9th level spell or 9 1st level or any combination.  She has 90% magic resistance and a globe of invulnerability that floats around her. She is attractive (Charisma 20) and always appears so.

If she is anything she is very lawful.  To the point where good and evil are mostly meaningless to her just as long as you are not chaotic.  In fact, she pretty much hates anything chaotic except for the chaotic neutral god Norebo; who is her brother (or half-brother) and occasional lover.  Gods. Go figure.

In the letters section in a couple Dragons later it is mentioned that Norebo's entry mentions Wee Jas, but Wee Jas' doesn't.  The editors reply that it is because Wee Jas is loathed to admit it and Norebo could also be bragging.

Also, have a look at her name "Wee Jas" or "Wee" and "Ja" or "Oui Ja".  She is the goddess of the Ouija board as well. Magic. Death and Spirits. Clever Gary.

Syrul is the evil goddess of lies and false promises.  Fortubo is the dwarf-like god of mountains, stone, and metals. Neither are half as interesting as Wee Jas.  Well, Fortubo was interesting on his own, but not compared to my 1984 girlfriend here. 

To stretch out Norse analogies a bit Wee Jass is a bit of Hel and Freyja combined. But there is also a good amount of Hecate in her.

Since Len also created the Death Master NPC class I figured at least a few Death Masters were aligned with Wee Jas instead of Orcus.  This was part of their strong rivalry for the dead. 

Dragon Issue #89

This issue continues those wonderful Denis Beauvais "Chess" covers.  So therefore the Suel Empire invented chess on Oerth.  

In this issue, Len features Pyremius, Beltar, and Llerg.  It is interesting to see which of these gods survived to today. These gods made it to the 3.x Living Greyhawk Gaz and Complete Divine. Pyremius is the God of Fire, Poison, and Murder. He looks like a conehead to be honest.  The next goddess, Beltar, just has a Conehead sounding name.  She is the Goddess of Deep Caves, Pits, and Malice.  She appears as an old crone, a beholder or as a Type V, or Marilith, demon.  I would say she has a few of both types of creatures under her command.  Llerg is the God of Beasts and Strength and appears a bear-like man. He seems like a decent enough god. He prefers to live on his own in the woods and deals more with animals and other beasts. I was half-tempted back in the day to also make him the God of Bears, in the sub-culture sense. Now I am fully tempted. 

This issue also gave us the first Creature Catalog from Dragon. Here are a number of creatures that could easily be re-classified as demons; at least in the OMG sense. These include the Fachan, the Ghuuna (already has a demonic origin), and the Utukku.  Beltar in particular would have Utukku under her control. I went back to the original myths and did my own Utukku and Umu demons for Ghosts of Albion and a completely different version was created for Pathfinder.

pages from the Creature Catalog

Dragon Issue #90

Before we get to the Suel article proper, Out on a Limb covers the seemingly impossible relationship between chaotic to the core Norebo and hard-line lawful Wee Jas.  Kim Mohan makes two suggestions. First, opposites attract and Norebo has a big mouth.  Second, they goofed.   I like the idea of them being together, to be honest.  Gods need to be complicated.  Though given that Norebo and Wee Jas are also half-siblings, I guess really complicated. Well, no one bats an eye when it happens in Egyptian and Greek pantheons. 

You can also go with Mike's take on it over at Greyhawkery.

On to the article proper we have a collection of sea gods. Phyton, Xerbo, and Osprem.    Phyton is the God of Beuty and Nature, he is our ersatz Baldur.  Xerbo is our God of the Sea, Money, and Business, so a cross between Nord and Poseidon/Neptune.  Osprem is the Goddess of Sea Voyages. Our two sea gods Xerbo and Osprem both have tridents.  I guess there is a rule that sea gods must have one. They only have cool relations with each other.  They try not to fight each other and when a threat challenges the seas they are allied. But otherwise, they do not get along.  Osprem is in particular worship in and around the Lendore Isles.

This issue also featured the Incantatrix. Under normal situations, I would figure out a way to bring her into the fold with the Suel gods, but the write-up is not only so Realms specific, the Incantatrix has a history in the Realms.  So she stays where she is. 

Dragon Issue #92

Here again, we come to the end. Not just of 1984, but of this series. 

This issue also covers some new rules and ideas for clerics. Since I played a lot of clerics back then I rather enjoyed this issue.  Gary offers up some advice ("Clerics Play by Different Rules")  and a few others. This issue also gave us installment III of Pages from the Mages, but that was covered in a previous retrospective

Out Suel gods are Lydia, Bralm, and Jascar.  Lydia is the goddess of light and song. Bralm the Goddess of Insects and Industriousness, and Jascar the God of Hills and Mountains. No mention of his relationship to the other mountain god, Fortubo.  These gods and their write-ups were a nice working model of what Gygax was saying above about how clerics need to be different.

That is all the Suel gods from the World of Greyhawk.  These gods all survived to the 3rd Edition Living Greyhawk Gazetteer with some edits.  I guess the Suel Empire is not so forgotten after all!

One Man's God: The Demons

The nature of these articles did not include demons or even demonic creatures. They were very focused on the Gods themselves.  For demons that fit into this pantheon, I would suggest we go back to the source, the Monster Manual.  Here are the demons of this pantheon.  

Of the ones mentioned above, I think Orcus, Pazuzu, and Yeenoughu are the obvious choices.  

The Demihuman Mythos from the D&DG is another good source.  The Oerth gods though do have their own "devil" in the form of Tharizdûn.  He is a god, or was, or still is, but a fallen one. 

The Suel were a people of such xenophobia that any non-lawful god, godling, or monster would have been considered a demon. The Suel in fact would have more in common with devils and the 4e lost empire of Bael Turath.  In fact there could even be a link between Bael Turath and the Suel Empire.

In my own games, the Suel Empire were still the xenophobic dicks they always are, but they also had a special hatred for demons. The great artifact sword "Demonbane" was of Suel manufacture.

There is always more to hear about the World of Greyhawk and the Suel. Sadly one of the voices is now no more.   Gonna miss you Len!

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Shadow Week: The Shadows of 4e

It seems not many people like 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons these days.  While not surprising it is a bit disappointing. There was a solid game there and some fantastic lore built.  Creatively the authors were at the top of their design game even if the execution was a little short of the design goals.  Never the less I like to page through my 4e books as use the a lot of the fluff, and even a little bit of the crunch, for my 5e and Basic-era games. 


The following products helped define the Shadowfell, a region in the D&D Universe adjacent or part of the Plane of Shadow and connected to the Prime Material like the Feywild (Land of Faerie) is.  Essentially the Shadowfell would be that part of our world where TV shows like The Twilight Zone or Tales From the Darkside would have occurred.  So as you can imagine I was drawn to it rather quickly.

In every case I am reviewing the PDF and physical copy of the product.

H1 Keep on the Shadowfell & Quick-Start Rules

The Keep on the Shadowfell was the first-ever adventure published for the D&D 4 game.  We are introduced to the game world and the rules via a quick-start set of rules included with the game.  Nearly everything you need to get started with the D&D 4 game is here.  The adventure itself is designed to invoke memories of another keep, the Keep on the Borderlands, but here ante has been raised.  The keep is not near some giant monstrous humanoid condo, but on the veil between the material plane and the mysterious Shadowfell.   There is a lot more going on and it can feel very combat heavy and even a touch predictable.  But that is fine for a 1st adventure.  Everyone is still too busy figuring out moves and markings and surges to worry whether or not rumor X or rumor Y turns out to be true.  

It is here we are introduced to the newest god of the D&D pantheon, the Raven Queen, and this adventure starts an epic quest between the forces of good and the forces of evil in the form of Orcus.  Eventually, in later adventures the players will learn that Orcus is trying to steal the Raven Queen's power and become a God.  So there are also, er...shadows of the Throne of Bloodstone series (1e) here and eventually Dead Gods (2e).  It is also here we are re-introduced to the Shadar-kai, a humanoid race that lives in the Shadowfell and how it has changed them. It changed them a lot actually since in 3e they were elves.  Here they are human.  In 5e they will become elves again.  

I ran this adventure using the 4e rules and then again years later converting it to 5e.  It ran fantastic each time.  I also wrote up a set of conversion for BECMI style D&D Basic. I have run it, but it looks like it should work well with that too.  I start the characters off at 5th level for that. 

If you can find a copy in print it is a fun introduction to the D&D 4 game. The PDF is free at DriveThruRPG so it only costs you a click. 

Player's Option: Heroes of Shadow (4e)

The Shadowfell is now a feature of the D&D 4 landscape and many products have discussed it including many of the adventures and Monster Manuals.  With the Player's Option book we get classes and races based on the shadow realms and how they can be used.

One of D&D4's greatest strengths was it's modularity.  Adding or subtracting material from the game was easier than ever before.  It is a feature that 5e adopted, though not as radically as 4e.  Adding more classes then never felt like a bloat since you could limit the number of classes or races or any other feature.  The Player's Option books were that in execution. Heroes of Shadow introduces the Assassin class, the Blackguard Paladin option, the Vampire class, the Binder option for Warlocks, and additions to other classes such as clerics (death domain),  warlocks (gloom pact for hexblades), and the Necromancy and Nethermancy schools for wizards.  Since classes are so detailed this covers the majority of the book.

The Vampire class should be mentioned since it is different.  The idea behind it is that no matter what a person was before this, they are now a vampire and they can progress in power as a vampire.  Not for everyone, I am sure but there was an elegance to it that can't be denied. It also worked quite well to be honest.

There are some new races of course. The Revenant is back from the dead with the power of the Raven Queen with them. The Shade has traded some of their mortality for Shadow stuff.  This is the best version of the Shade since 1st ed. The Vryloka are living vampires, one of my favorites in 4e, and variations on Dwarves, Elves/Eladrin, Halflings and Humans.

There are new Paragon Paths for many classes and Epic Level Destinies.  A handful of new feats and some new equipment. 

It is a fun set of options that really had the feel of the shadow-soaked 4e world down. 

Plenty of great ideas for a 5e game using the same classes (all have 5e counterparts) or as fluff for other versions of the game. 

The Shadowfell: Gloomwrought and Beyond (4e)

Gloomwrought is a large city located in the Shadowfell. This product came in a box with a 128-page Campaign Guide, a 32-page Encounter book, a poster map of Gloomwrought, monster counters, and a 30-card deck of Despair cards.  The Despair cards were a nice feature since they could add to the mood of "gloom, despair, and agony on me."  While the cards had mechanical effects, the vast bulk of this product is fluff.  The crunch amounts to some NPCs and encounters, all easily converted. There are a couple of monsters, but they analogs in every other version of D&D. 

Gloomwrought gets the most ink here and that is fine. The city is something of a crossroads in the Shadowfell and it is likely where characters will end up.  

One of the nice things about the D&D4 Shadowfell line being done is it is now easier to go back and include something like Gloomwrought in the HPE series of adventures that had come out three years prior.  In fact, it is entirely possible to make ALL your D&D 4 experiences live and act within the Shadowfell if one chooses.  I find this personally satisfying since my 2nd Ed AD&D experiences are largely molded by my chosen campaign world of Ravenloft. 

Use with BECMI or 5e

If you look back at my "sunk costs" posts I have been building this idea of running the HPE series with either BECMI or 5e from a 4e conversion.  These books could work rather well with those ideas.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

One Man's God: Basic Demons (BECMI Demons, Part 2)

Last week I cover the topic of Demons in BECMI D&D and Basic Era D&D in general.  I want to expand on that a bit today. Again, this is a bit of a different tone for One Man's God, but it does get at the heart of what OMG is about.

One of Basic D&D's features vs. Advanced D&D is its alignment system of Law vs. Chaos with Neutrality in the middle.  Now a lot of ink and pixels have been spilled over the pros, cons, and everything else about alignment. I am not going to go into that here.  Although I am currently rereading Søren Kierkegaard for the first time since college and he is "still stuck on Abraham," so I wonder if I am going to do a proper talk on demons I might need to go back to the basics and address alignment someday.


So my discussions on demons in BECMI were covered in my Immortals Set Review and One Man's God: The Immortals and Demons of BECMI

Writing so much about witches you can't help but have to read about and write about demons.  The two subjects have been conflated for so long that "witchcraft" and "demonology" are either synonymous in some circles or so tied up together that separating them is difficult. 




Demonic Families and "The Usual Suspects"

Succubus
One of the Usual Suspects. ePic CG
For the "Basic-Era" demons were introduced in the classic D&D (OD&D) Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry.  Here we get what I call "The Ususal Suspects" of demons; Type I to Type VI, Succubi, Orcus and Demogorgon.  The same group appears in the AD&D Monster Manual (with some additions and some names) and then again in the D&D Immortals Set under new names again.  The AD&D game introduces Devils as a separate type of fiend.  Though it should be noted that D&D 4 looked over all the fiends and moved some around.  Notably, the Succubus became a type of devil, due to some machinations of Asmodeus in the "Brimstone Angels" novels.  They became an "independent" type of fiend in D&D 5.

Despite all of that, there is a good reason to include Demons (a chaotic evil fiend) into the milieu of D&D and its cosmic struggle of Law vs. Chaos.   Devils?  Let's save them for AD&D.  Besides, the division is artificial at best.

This division became more pronounced in the AD&D 2nd ed era when TSR caved to the Religious Right and pulled demons and devils.  

Tanar-what? Baate-Who?

One of the Unusual suspects, ePic CG
Demons and Devils would return in Planescape with the bowdlerized names of Tanar'ri and Baatezu respectively.  I remember at the time I was very disappointed in TSR for caving to the pressure of what I felt was a fringe group of religious nutjobs.

While I disapprove of why TSR caved, I approve of what became of it. "Demon" became a generic term to describe any evil outsider.  The "Tanar'ri" were now a specific group of Evil Outsiders that also happened to be chaotic and inhabited the Abyss.  They certain features, such as resistance to various magic and other attacks and certain vulnerabilities too. They were a family of creatures related by certain phenotypical descriptors. Now we have different demonic "families" of fiends. Add Yugoloths/Daemons and Demodands to the official rosters.  We don't have to be limited by "demon" or "devil" alone.  
Sometimes the constraints force us to be more creative.

Later in D&D 3rd Editon era we would get the official Obyrith and Loumara families of chaotic evil demons.  In Green Ronin's Armies of the Abyss and then later Paizo's Pathfinder then added Qlippoth, the OGC version of the Obyriths. Mongoose Publishing gave us the Tzaretch family.  Back at the end of 2nd Edition, I made the Lilim family.  In my Eldritch Witchery (use the link to get it at 50% off!) I introduced the Calabim and Shedim families and the Baalseraph, which is sort of like a family.  In my various Warlock books, I also added Eodemons, or dawn demons. My take on the first of the demonic families.

The scholars can then argue who belongs where.

Spend any time reading demonology text you will soon figure out that these "learned scholars" were just pulling things out of thin air. Sure sometimes you see the same names or even some descriptions that are similar, but otherwise, there is no more validity to the Ars Goetia of the Lesser Key of Solomon than there is to the Monster Manual II when it comes to naming and categorizing demons.  For me, the "key" to unlocking this was the demon Astaroth.

Astaroth and Astártē
What really got me going was what Christian demonologists did with the Goddess Astarte.  Astarte, also known by many other names including Astoreth, was Goddess of love and lust (sex), fertility, and war.  She was obviously connected to Ishtar, Innana,  Isis, and maybe even Aphrodite. She appears throughout the Middle East and even makes an appearance in the Hebrew texts and even in later Christian writings.  But her transformation from fertility goddess to nature goddess to a demon is odd, but not uncommon.  Early Christian writers saw any other god or religion as demonic or even devil worship.  Early Jewish scholars usually never had an issue with other gods. So it is conjectured that when Christian writers and scholars saw Astarte/Astoreth and her crescent moon horns she became a demon.  And a male demon, Astaroth, at that.  It is the primary example for me of how "one man's god is another man's demon." 

Often who was on what list of demonic entities depended on who was writing it and when. One can claim to "go back to the research" but when you are researching what is essentially a completely made-up topic it is not difficult to find something to support your claim.   

For me, that leaves only one satisfactory conclusion.  
Classify these creatures as I like. 

Demons In Basic-Era Games

Do demons belong in (my) Basic-era games?

I figure I have witches, vampires, all sorts of fey creatures, and other monsters.  So yeah there is no good reason to keep them out. 

So there are "demons" in the sense as the world defines them. And there are "demons" as I plan to use them here or, more to the point, have been using them here.  
Translation: Some devils are now demons in my game. 

I have been doing this with the lesser devil types like the barbazu, cornugon and gelugon.  They are all part of the Shedim or demons of rage.   Erinyes remain fallen angels, so technically I suppose that makes them Baalseraphs.

One thing that came up in my review of the Immortals set was how powerful the BECMI demons are vs. their AD&D counterparts.  My idea is to scale them back down.  I like to think of all creatures as being Normal Human focused since that is the world they are in. Player Characters are the rare exceptions. So when a succubus drains life levels with her kiss then it needs to be scaled so that if she chooses a normal human the kiss can still be deadly, but not always so.  I mean someone needs to survive to tell their priest/cleric so it can be written down in a demonology somewhere.

Every version of the game has translated these creatures somewhat differently.  Though there are more commonalities between them than say Medieval demonologies from the so-called experts.  
Demons are legion and defy classification attempts, but that is exactly what I am trying to do.  Essentially make my own "Demonomicon of Iggwilv."


I think if I pursue this idea more I would have to come up with my own demonologies and groupings.  I like the ones I have been using so far, maybe a couple of others might be nice too.   Could be a fun exercise.

Maybe even come up with a witch to do the authoring of it.  I can't really use (nor do I want to use) "Demonomicon" or "Iggwilv." Plus someone new would be fun for a while.

What do you do? Do you have Demons in your Basic, not advanced, games?