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

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Sol Invictus: The Unconquered Sun

The mountains and the canyons started to tremble and shake 
as the children of the sun began to awake. 

It's not easy pulling off a large mono-theistic religion in a FRPG, especially one where the world not only has a lot of pantheons, but also where all these goods are assumed to be real.
Fortunately there are plenty of examples from the real world.  Especially in the Christ-like figure of Mithra or Mitra and the similar Sol Invictus.

I think a god like Mithra would be interesting in D&D.

The Church of Sol Invictus
In my Mystoerth world the Church of Sol Invictus seeks to unite the faiths of the world under the banner of one Sun God.  They have a lot of influence in the temples of PholtusPelor, St. Cthubert and Ixion.  There are many similarities to this faith and the one of Taiia in 3rd Edition.

Proponents of Sol Invictus believe that their god is the only true god and all others are false gods or even worse elevated demons or mortals.

But the Church of Sol Invictus has a number of other, deeper secrets.
In addition to only recognizing the sun gods of various faiths as the only true god, they believe that these gods are really only aspects of a much greater god.
The high priests and the leader of the faith, known as "His Brilliance", feel that these aspects are in fact aspects of the god known as "He Who Was".

He Who Was was an ancient powerful god whose chief lieutenant was Asmodeus. At the behest of Tharizdun, Asmodeus tricked and betrayed this god. He was ambushed by Orcus, Demogorgon and a third demon whose name has been erased.  He Who Was managed to kill this other demon and even split Demogorgon into two.  Demogorgon later regenerated into  his current form, each half of his head regenerating in to two complete heads.  Orcus killed He Who Was and in a further act of desecration used his skull and spine as the the great Wand of Orcus.

The clergy of Sol Invictus believe then that by combining these aspects of the Sun God and destroying Orcus forever they can have their god reborn. They believe that this rebirth will make their god more powerful than he ever was.

In my larger world St. Aleena was also a follower of this philosophy and the Church of Law and Order in City of Dolmvay is just another aspect of this faith.

The major foes of this Church are followers of Orcus and pretty much any demonic cult.  Also feared and mistrusted are the faiths that follow the Moon.

The Church of Sol Invictus are among the main witch-hunters in my world.

I am planning to work elements of this church into my current game, but not sure how much detail the players are actually going to get.  The use a word my wife hates, I am going to let it grow "organically".

Some of this organic growth began when I first started pulling all this together for 4e. It was building the 4e version of Aleena that got this idea rolling again.  I guess this is one of the reasons I have not let go of my 4e books.  A lot of the fluff is still compatible with what I am doing in 5e.

Not everything is figured out though.
Given that I grew up in the 70s I would love to add some more left-over hippy shit to it all. I would love to add something like 12 houses to the faith, something along the lines of orders.  Or 7 orders and break them down by color.  The 7 orders actually fits better with some other things I had done in the past.  Each order representing a different aspect of the faith.  I had already figured out Red (Military might) and Blue (Knowledge/learning).  It should not be too hard to come up with something else.  Obviously Green could be related to growing things.  Violet could be Guidance. Why? Well it brings in a group I had created separately that could work into this faith.  Maybe they absorbed them.  I could even have a "Black" for the secret police within the faith.

I will give this some thought.  But yeah this could be fun.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Checking in on my Plan

Over the years I have discussed my Plan.  The Plan is what adventures I am going to take my kids through.

For D&D 3.x I was content to take anything as it came, make stuff up and generally going towards a  stopping the cult of Tiamat plot.  It was/has been fun and we are nearing the end of that.

For the new adventures I was looking at 3rd, then 4th, then 1st and now 5th Edition as the primary game system.

At the present here is where I am.
  • B1 Into the Unknown, levels 1-3
  • B2 Keep on the Borderlands, levels 1-3
  • L1 The Secret of Bone Hill, levels 2-4
  • X2 Castle Amber, levels 3-6 (where we are now!)
  • I6 Ravenloft, levels 5-7
  • A0-5 Slave Lords, levels 4-7
  • G123, Against the Giants, levels 8-12 (I also have the Stone Giant one from Dragonsfoot, just need to find it)
  • D12,3 Against the Drow, levels 8,9-14
  • Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits, 10-14
  • CM2 Death's Ride, levels 15-20. (Again, unless I use it in my current 3.x game which the boys want me to do)
If I don't do Death's Ride I am seriously considering the classic H series to go after Orcus.
  • H1 Bloodstone Pass, levels 15+
  • H2 The Mines of Bloodstone, levels 16-18
  • H3 The Bloodstone Wars, levels 17-20
  • H4 The Throne of Bloodstone, levels 18-100
But I would REALLY edit these since they have a lot of issues.  Truthfully my best plan is to just use H4 and add bits from H1-3 and maybe even some stuff from the 4th Ed E-Series.  But that is if I want to have Orcus as the big bad guy at the end.  It has appeal.

Also I have the mind flayer adventure A Darkness Gathering to work into the mix.

It has taken me a while to get through all this because I am alternating with my 3.x game, some AS&SH and other games.

So far the adventures have seemed random and the characters are wandering about.  But they are about to get some items in the X2/I6 series that will help them later on.  

Right now, with out their knowing about it the Drow, Vampires and Illithids have gathered together to put the final phase of their ultimate plan into motion.  The PCs will discover a little of this plan when they encounter the Slavers.  The slavers are all vampires now and they are not dealing in slaves, but human cattle.    After they have defeated them the last part of the bad guys plan comes into fruition.  

The sun goes completely out.  

There is panic. Everyone gathers in the Freecity of Greyhawk.  The Church of Pelor/Ixion is hardest hit, but also the loudest voice.  All the "big names" are there and they are trying to figure out what to do.
There is a plan to set the moon a flame, but the various clergy of the Moon Goddesses are against that.  Finally they agree to instead use a large asteroid to keep life going till they can re-ignite the sun.
While all the big names are trying to figure this out the PCs have to deal with some raids nearby of giants...

The PCs will then go through the GDQ series to discover the plan and that the drow are working with mind flayers.  After defeating Lolth in Q1 the PCs will have to deal with the vampires who have Pelor captured.  In order to re ignite the sun they will need to set him free from his prison in ..... and that is all I have.

Yeah it is kinda story-gamey.  It's my game, my house and my kids. They will eat this up.
I guess it is hard for me to get away from the idea of vampires as the big bads.

Those of you who have been reading this blog a long time might notice that there was a similar plot in my Buffy Season 7 game, Episode 12 No Other Troy.  Though that one the sun being blocked was a side effect. 

I am inclined to use Orcus as the big bad holding Pelor.  
I have a huge ass mini of him and a crap ton of material for him.

But I have also wanted to use Camazotz as the demon-god of Vampires in his abyssal plane of Xibalba.  Maybe I still can use him in some way.  It is possible he is something like a high priest to Orcus and his job is to sacrifice Pelor on a bloody altar.  Once that is done Orcus will suck up his godly powers and reign as the God of Death and Darkness.

And he would have gotten away with it too had it not been for those meddling PCs.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Gods, Demigods and Heroes

I have been thinking about Gods and the like in my games for some time now.  Now that I am going to be playing Pathfinder as well as 4e I thought I would look into some gods for my Mystoerth world.

Now Mystara didn't have gods, but Greyhawk does and so do all the other worlds I am using here.
A few I know I am going to use and where they all fit.

Ancient beings of great power.  The next generation after the Titans and Primordials.  Gods differ from humans and the others in many respects.  Gods can have Aspects and Avatars, which are semi-independent versions of themselves that can interact in the world.  Demons and Devils can have Aspects too, but generally only one at a time and for them it is more like Astral Projection.
Gods also have the power of creation.  They created their specific races, or the lands, or even the world.

Bahmut and Tiamat -Bahmut (and his Dragonlance cousin Paladine) has become the god of Lawful Good paladins since the 3.0 days.  This is only reinforced in 4.0.  Plus he is a very D&;D god, with ties back to the first Monster Manual and featured in the Dragonlance sagas.

Tiamat is a given for the same reasons, but she was also a god in myth in her own right.  Though given that in Babylonian myth she was the god of Chaos, I would change her alignment from LE to CE and put her in the Abyss.  In fact the Abyss is there there because she was tossed into it.

 Sehanine / Selûne / Shar - Three aspects of the same moon goddess. Represent the Maiden, Mother and Crone aspects of the Triple Goddess. Neutral.

Wee Jas - Goddess of Magic and Death. The Witch Queen.  Worshiped by the Suel. Mix in bits of Hecate, Cardea, Isis and Mystra to her.  Her student was Ioun.  LN.

Bast Egyptian - Goddess of Cats and the hunt. CG
Blibdoolpoolp (Greyhawk) - Goddess of the Kuo-toa and other deep see nasties. Maybe a daughter of Dagon and consort of Demogorgon (ick). CE
Camazotz (Aztec) - the Bat God, I like having him as the god Vampires too, great rivalry exists between him and Orcus. Camazorz doesn't control vampires, but some vampires and vampire cult pay him homage. CE
Celestian (Greyhawk)-  God of the stars.  Have to include him. Neutral
Corellon - God of Elves.
Gruumsh - God of Orcs. Neutral Evil.
Istus (Greyhawk) - Goddess of Fate. Neutral
Lovitar (Realms/Finnish) - Everyone needs a crazy S&M chick.
Set - God of Evil.
Surtur - Fire Giants and Thrym - Frost Giants, both from Norse myth, but folded into the D&D myths.
Vaprak, the Destroyer - God of Trolls and Ogres. Though I have considered having this just be an aspect of Demogorgon.

I plan to use Earth myths when I can.  For example my Desert Elves worship elven versions of the Egyptian Pantheon.  Isis is an elf, but Set is human since according to these elves humans are the greatest evils in the world.

The new editions of D&D (3.x, Pathfinder and 4) have Asmodeus listed as a god.  Now I have no issues with that per se.  I even think the back story of Asmodeus rising to power that started with the Dragon Mag article "Politics of Hell", on through the Blood War stuff and finally his triumph at becoming a Dark God is an interesting one.  But it does't work for me.   See I would rather set Devils up as the alternatives to Gods.  The devils temp mortals away from the "proper" religions to worship them.  Why would a mortal worship a lesser beign like a Devil?  Simple, the devils provide a quick avenue to power.  Gods, even evil ones, require faith and worship and service, the rewards then are given based on that faith.  Devils tell the mortals "hey, why do all that work when you can work with us and get all those benefits now."  Devils also side with mortals against the Gods.  They will remind mortals that the Gods have it easy while they work and toil.  They even try to promote kinship, "hey the Gods cast us out, so we are on your side."  Of course these are all lies, but situated in enough truth that mortals keep falling for them.   Asmodeus then is not a Dark God, but the most power Arch Duke there is and his power is equal to that of a god or goddess.  The Devils will even point out that one of their own rose to such power that is should be possible for everyone to do it.
The devils now have moved beyond the "Blood War" of 2nd ed and are now going to engage in a "Gods War" with the battlefield the mortal realms.  I think a good story for the PCs would be to become part of this "Gods War".  I alluded to it a little in my Buffy adventure, The Dragon and the Phoenix.
Afterall what would be more climatic than all the heroes, each representing their God, on the field of battle against the greatest foe in humanity.    I might drop my "Vs. Orcus" idea for this instead.

The Abyss is the sewer of the multi-cosm.  Everything that gets flushed, thrown out, discarded and forgotten ends up here.  Of courses there were plenty of things here to start with.  Demons are legion.  There are thousands of types, races, and varieties.  Some, like Orcus, are "dead" Gods.  Others, like Demogorogn, used to be Titans.   Others still are cast out gods (not sent to Hell), forgotten powers or even monsters that have become very, very powerful.  There are even ones that were spawned by the Abyss itself.  If the ultimate purpose of the Devils is the destruction of all the Gods, then for Demons it is just destruction.
The Blood War, the war between the Demons and the Devils, was a minor skirmish in the long range plans of the Devils.  In fact prior to the Blood Wars, demons and devils had been on working terms.  The devils would often use demons as grunts in their battles.  This went on for so long that some species of demon were once considered to be devils and visa-versa.   Graz'zt, the Demon lord, had been an Duke of Hell, till he went native.  Succubi are constantly switching allegiances between demons and devils that they are difficult to properly classify.

Demogorgon - Older than the gods.  A Titan that has become more demonlike.  Hates Orcus.  Only worshiped by non-humans and insane cultists.  Just wants to destroy everything. CE.

Jubilex - Demon lord of slimes.  Created from the Abyss itself.  It is as if all the waste and runoff of the Abyss collected into a conscious form.  Deeply, deeply insane.  Wants the entire multcosm covered in acidic slime.

Orcus - Was a god, then demonized, killed, came back as undead, became a demon again.  GEnerally just an angry dude.  Hates undead, but hates them less than he hates everything else.  Wants to become the God of the Dead.  CE.

Primordials and Titans
Like in Greek myths, the Titans were the "parents" of the Gods.   Some gods from other games might end up here.  I prefer to figure these out as I need them.  The Scarred Lands books from Sword and Sorcery Studios were good for this concept as well.  They had a lot of interesting titans.  Theirs though were outright evil, I prefer to have my titans more uncaring about humans.  The world was theirs, now it isn't anymore and they are not happy about it.  Most of the titans are dead, others are imprisoned or converted to demons.

Primordials came even before the Titans and represent raw nature or natural aspects of the world.  Earth, Sky, Night, Death.  These things are hard to personify into human terms so Primordials are not really like the gods or titans at all.  Primordials do not care about worship or humans although some are aware of such actions.  In some cases my "Titans" are what other games "Primordials" are and my Primordials are something different.

Mad Gods
Have to include these. Things like Leviathan, Cthulhu and the rest certainly will have a place in my game.

For me Gods need to be complicated.  The characters live in a world where they can travel to the planes, commune or other wise get "evidence" for their faith.  I think I might make this a bit tougher is some cases and even out right prohibit in others.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

OMG: Demihuman Deities, Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Demogorgon was Vaprak.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, May 21, 2018

OMG: Level Setting and American Indian Mythos

To start this first post on One Man's God I wanted to set some levels on what I want to look for, in particular, what constitutes the top end of what is a demon vs. what is an evil god.

Now a couple "rules" regardless of what edition I plan to post the stats in I am starting in the lingua franca of 1st Edition AD&D.  That's what the Deities and Demigods is written for and the Monster Manual I am using today.

Level Setting
How powerful are these demons?  Well, let's have a look at our high-end examples.
The first edition Monster Manual gives us four of the biggest big bads we STILL talk about today. Orcus, Demogorgon, Asmodeus, and Tiamat.  Each one of these can be viewed as a god in their own way; two of which Orcus and Tiamat were gods in their respective mythologies. What the MM does not give us are the HD for these creatures.  Orcus has 120 hp, Demogorgon has 200 hp, and Asmodeus has 199. Tiamat has 128 but is also listed as a 16 HD monster.  This is nice since this gives us a nice example of a monster with maximum (8 per HD) hp.  So dividing the others by 8 we get:
Orcus 15 HD, 120 hp
Demogorgon 25 HD, 200 hp
Asmodeus 25 HD, 199 hp
Looking at other editions you can see them climb over the years.  Till we get to today.

Still very powerful in Mordenkainen's Tome of Foes.

What this means to me is I am looking for monsters in that 15 to 25 HD range if I want to call them Demon Princes or Archdukes of Hell.  Likely none will come up to that level, most will fall short of Prince or Archduke power.

American Indian Mythos
If there is one thing I know it's I am in no way qualified to talk about American Indian mythic traditions.  I mean I did grow up in the mid-west and I spent time going to both the Dickson Mounds and the Illinois State Museums.  So I feel my background is better than most, but still very much lacking.   The American Indian section in the Deities & Demigods in no way represents all the myths and stories of these extremely diverse peoples.  Sure there are some commonalities, but there are just as many differences. Maybe more.   Since I am limiting myself to the entries in the D&DG this one will be really fast.

There really are not many "demons" in the classical sense in American Indian myths.  I mean there are some, but not many and none of them appear in this book.   Even the monsters that do appear here are more monsters than demons and the evil gods (both of them) are more destructive forves of nature than anything else.   So not really my idea of demons to be honest.
Hastsezini is the fire "god"* of the Navajo.  I put god in quotes based on the work of Professor Grant L. Voth, Ph.D.  He claims that Amerindian did not worship gods per se but larger spirits that they honored.   This god/spirit doesn't really give me a demonic vibe.

Next time I will cover the rich and fertile ground of the Babylonian myths.  Might need to spend more than one post there.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Week in Review (and then some)

Back from vacation.  I had the Blog on Auto-post all week, so sorry if I did not get to respond as quickly as I would have liked.

So what do I know?

- Gary Con.  Sad I missed it.  I really wanted to go but was on a plane at the time.

- TARGA/DnDWPS dust up.  That was a bunch of suck.  I am going to miss Chgowiz's blog, having met him in person recently.  I still like TARGA and what they do, and I still enjoy the hell out of Zak's blog.   I just find it all odd really.  Reminds of the time my mom told my brother and I that she hated it when we watched horror movies full of killing. She said she would rather see us watching porn because at least that was some positive.  So we went out and brought a bunch of porn home.  I think Dad was happy.  So people that play a game that is basically about "killing people and taking their stuff" have some issues with some occasional dirty talk and maybe a boob?   Not getting it. Sorry.  But that is all I want to say on the issue, I don't want to add fuel to a fire that is almost out.

Reminds me of another story.  I was supposed to go to a party to meet up with a bunch of the people that I hung out with and lived with in college (this was back in like 1990).  But my buddy Scott and I had gone out and proceeded to start drinking without everyone first.  We drank, listened to the Who for a while and were generally in a really fantastic mood (it was "springtime in Carbondale!" three words that held so much meaning back then, and "Face Dances" is much better when you are little off).  We showed up at the party and we were smashed and happy and loud and there had just been a HUGE fight between one of my roommates and his girlfriend and everyone there was so not in the mood for me or Scott.  That's what I am trying to avoid here.  We left and finished drinking on the steps of the local Lutheran Church because we felt at the time the Lutherans were the most accepting of all the local churches. Especially of a drunk atheist and neo-new agey whatever Scott was at the time.

Oh, and put me in the crowd as someone that would like to see Chgowiz/Mike bring his blog back.

- Vampyres. Yeah that was fun.  I love that stupid little flick. Might be a reflection of my immaturity or (as I prefer to think of it) my esoteric tastes in horror cinema.  Plus I got to try it out in a bunch of systems.  Might be a bit before I do that again; doing a bunch of systems at once.  I have nothing else up my sleeve unless I want to drag out Willow & Tara again, and you all might be tired of hear about them from me.

- Succubi week. I post my Sympathy for the Succubus post right before and then I see a bunch of other posts.  Mostly related to succubus pic from the Monster Manual.  Cultural Zeitgiest? Collect Subconscious? Naw. Doubt it, more like it is gamers for the most part are pervs.

- Blog Persona vs Real Life. This is an interesting one. I have a some people that read this blog on the website and others that read the redirect from Facebook.  On Facebook I have friends, family, co-workers, people I know from the gaming world because I like their stuff, people from the gaming world because they like my stuff and a bunch of others.  So, how should I "present" myself?  I mean I have people at work now telling me they had read my blog and commented on some of the things I have said.  Sometimes I even get a call from my mom and she comments on something I have said.  All I have really have to say about all of that is, well, you people are supposed to know who I am by this point. ;)
I am not planing to put anything here that I wouldn't figure my mom, my wife or my boss would read and get me into trouble.

- Books & Reviews.  I FINALLY got around to reading some the books and products sitting on my "to read" pile since before Christmas.  Expect a round of reviews to start coming in.

- What Scares you the most?  During my feverish time while I was sick it came to me what scares me the most.  Look forward to a post on that too.

- Orcus.  I am going to agree with Zak on something else here.  Orcus is the most Metal of all the Demon Lords.  If I ever get a chance to re-run going to Orcus' plane in the Abyss it needs to make "Tomb of Horrors" look like "Candyland".  Then I am going to ask James Raggi to tell me how to make it more metal.  This would fill that desire I have to an adventure that has EVERYTHING in it that all those critics in the 80s said D&D was about (and were wrong).  Childish of me?  Maybe I think it is actually that part of my brain that is attracted to medical dramas and really bad movies that part that says "how bad can this get? And then what can happen to make it worse?".  In other words, I want to turn it up to 11.
Maybe I could make it something like an OSR community thing.  Contribute one thing you would find in Orcus' lair, I don't care how sick, twisted, cruel or profane. Or I could just listen to Iron Maiden for about a week straight till something pops in my head.

Monday, January 4, 2010

I Have a Plan…

It's not a great plan, or even a well thought out one, but it is a plan. I am going to be taking my two sons (and now it seems, my wife) on a massive 4th Edition D&D campaign. Yes I know this will take years, but that is fine, I have those years. I am going to place it in my "Mystoerth" world.

Given my penchant for all things horror, I am going to set up the campaign to focus on the ascent of Orcus to godhood. Orcus is a great enemy to have. He is unrepentant evil, his minions are undead and he is full of rage, horror and violence and everything a good upstanding hero would want to stop.

I'd use some of the "new" mythology of Orcus and Raven Queen, plus a bit of my own. But not all would be railroaded plot-driven arcs. My oldest son loves to fight dragons so that would also be there. Plus I want to make this very, very relaxed. The unfolding meta-plot is my extra enjoyment, but I want to do it in such a way that we all have fun.

I am going to place it in my world's version of Glantri. Glantri is from Mystara and in that world was a Principality, now I have at as Theocratic Monarchy where the King is also the head of the Church of State. So basically, Fairy Tale England, or more to the point Fairy Tale Western Europe, since I also have influences of France and Italy here. The Princes are gone, defeated in a coup, but their lands remain ruled by nine dukes under the King. The Dukes are mostly the old family of the Princes, looking for a chance to reclaim power. So I have political intrigue if I want it, but I am going to be keeping my good and evil mostly easy to spot, at least in the beginning. The Dukes allow me to use older Glantri material, I just swap out the terms. Under the Dukes are various landed nobles, typically retired adventures, known as Barons and Counts. My thinking here is to give my boys all the full D&D experiences; so there are knights and dames, courts of intrigue and chivalry, and the way for brave adventurers to return home as heroes. Sure it is not "grim-dark" or even "points of light", but it can be part of the "oncoming darkness".

My world has a Blackmoor, a Desert, a Hyborea, not mention Greyhawk, Glantri and Kara-Tur all in one world. So, more than enough to keep me and my family busy for years to come really. Though there are only four of us, I might have to bring in some others, maybe some of their friends as well. This is one of the main reasons I am going with 4th Edition as opposed to say an older version (the D&D Rules Cyclopedia would be so awesome for this) or another game (like Ghosts of Albion). I am more likely to find others that play 4E than some other game AND it just makes the most sense really given all the tools for 4E out now.

Here is the "Hero Tier" to borrow a phrase. These will be local and be the Mystara flavor of the epic.
  • T1 The Village of Hommlet, levels 1-2. I do have the 4th Edition update for this.
  • B1 In Search of the Unknown, levels 1-3 (can run this one in my sleep)
  • B2 The Keep on the Borderlands, levels 1-3
  • B3 Palace of the Silver Princess, levels 1-3 (using bits from both the "Green" and "Orange" versions).
  • L1 The Secret of Bone Hill, levels 2-4
  • X1 The Ilse of Dread, levels 3-7
  • X2 Castle Amber, levels 3-6 (place it in the Shadowfell, which is the new Ravenloft anyway)
  • C2 The Ghost Tower of Inverness, levels 5-7. Though I won't run it as a tournament module and that is if I don't use it as a converted Doctor Who adventure.
  • I6 Ravenloft, levels 5-7. That is if I don't use it as a convert Ghosts of Albion adventure. Use some of the Ravenloft campaign/world setting stuff here too.
  • S2 White Plume Mountain, levels 5-10
  • I10 Ravenloft II, House on Gryphon Hill, levels 8-10 (maybe. They might be burned out on undead by this time.)
Now begins the "Paragon Tier" and I will start with the Gygaxian canon.
  • S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth (with some of the info from the 3.5 update), levels 6-10
  • WG4 The Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun, levels 5-10
  • S1 Tomb of Horrors, levels 10-14 (though some of the instant kill traps changed, more skill challenges)
  • S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, levels 8-12
  • G123, Against the Giants, levels 8-12
  • D12 Descent into the Depths of the Earth, levels 9-14
  • D3 Vault of the Drow, levels 10-14
  • Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits, levels 10-14
  • CM2 Death's Ride, levels 15-20. This sets up the next tier, or I could even make this the start of the next tier and keep the Epic levels nothing but Gygaxian Greyhawk. I like that idea.
I can also fit Gary's "Dungeon Land" and "The Land Beyond the Magic Mirror" adventures here as well to complete the Gygaxian saga. But I need to re-read those to be sure.

Now here would also be a good spot for the DA series Blackmoor adventures for made for the Expert D&D set, but there is a lot of high tech stuff mixed in with those. I might pick and choose things, but I think I am more likely to go with the newer d20 Blackmoor stuff.

The "Epic Tier" is harder, but here some ideas.
Some of the Master level modules (M2, M3 and M5 in particular) look like they would work well. Plus they have the Mystara high fantasy feel that some of the Greyhawk modules don't have.
Of course I would do the Bloodstone series here, just make them harder, maybe even pair them up with the Orcus related adventures for 4e (the new "E" series), though old H4 and new E3 cover a lot of the same ground. I would want to add some other planes adventures here too. So to follow my rule of thumb I should try to find at least 6 more adventures for this tier.
  • H1 Bloodstone Pass, levels 15+
  • H2 The Mines of Bloodstone, levels 16-18
  • H3 The Bloodstone Wars, levels 17-20
  • H4 The Throne of Bloodstone, levels 18-100
I could also do a sub-campaign in my desert area using:
  • B4 The Lost City, levels 1-3 (though I am using this one now in 3.5)
  • I3 Pharaoh, levels 5-7
  • I4 Oasis of the White Palm, levels 6-8
  • I5 Lost Tomb of Martek, levels 7-9
  • X4 Master of the Desert Nomads, levels 6-9
  • X5 Temple of Death, levels 6-10
  • I9 Day of Al'Akbar, level 8-10. Useful for the Cup and Talisman of Al'Akbar.
Now granted these levels are all for AD&D and Basic D&D and might not translate well into 4E. But I have a lot of tools at my disposal to help with that. I have a load of maps, a DDI subscription, monsters and even some third party stuff to make it all work. If I plan everything out correctly I can have them go up a level at the end of every adventure. I like that too. Also I can set up a titanic army of the undead using all the previous "bosses" from these adventures. So Strahd, Drenzula, Korbundar, Acerak, and more I know I am forgetting. Plus some GM PCs I'd love to try out that I know I'll never get to play in a 4th Ed game.

To borrow a Klingon quote, "It will be glorious!"

Thursday, February 2, 2012

"Let's Play 1st Ed. Dad!"

Those are the words I heard after I told my boys that 5e was on the way and there were going to be reprints of the 1st Ed AD&D books.

Part of me is thrilled, another part of me is wondering what the hell am I going to do with all the 4e stuff I bought. ;)  You might recall my Big PlanTM was going to be have the kids fight Orcus.

Here are the adventures I am thinking of running with them at the moment.  You will note that these all have a large amount of undead and "horror" themes to them.  As with the "Dragonslayers" I'd run this to level 20 or so.

    • T1 The Village of Hommlet, levels 1-2. 
    • B1 In Search of the Unknown, levels 1-3
    • B2 The Keep on the Borderlands, levels 1-3 (this should be higher really, the caves are a killer)
    • L1 The Secret of Bone Hill, levels 2-4
    • X2 Castle Amber, levels 3-6 
    • I6 Ravenloft, levels 5-7. That is if I don't use it as a convert Ghosts of Albion adventure. Use some of the Ravenloft campaign/world setting stuff here too.
    • I10 Ravenloft II, House on Gryphon Hill, levels 8-10. (maybe)
    • I9 Day of Al'Akbar, level 8-10. Useful for the Cup and Talisman of Al'Akbar.
    • S1 Tomb of Horrors, levels 10-14
    • S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, levels 8-12 (this is an odd one.)
    • G123, Against the Giants, levels 8-12
    • D12 Descent into the Depths of the Earth, levels 9-14
    • D3 Vault of the Drow, levels 10-14
    • Q1 Queen of the Demonweb Pits, levels 10-14 (maybe)
    • CM2 Death's Ride, levels 15-20. (If I don't use it in my current games. Thematically it fits better here.)
    Then there are these modules:
    • H1 Bloodstone Pass, levels 15+
    • H2 The Mines of Bloodstone, levels 16-18
    • H3 The Bloodstone Wars, levels 17-20
    • H4 The Throne of Bloodstone, levels 18-100
  • Interestingly enough this is almost EXACTLY the same path my characters took when I played back in the day.  Some of these will be my first time running, others (B1, I6) I can run in my sleep.

  • Others I have a bigger issue with.  As muchas I LOVED the D series, we live in a post Drizzt world.  Drow are not the TOS era Romulans anymore.  They are the DS9 era Romulans.  The mystery is gone. Drow are no longer a big secret anymore.  Plus how does Lolth fit into the Orcus plot?  No idea.  She doesn't have too, but I want a big sweeping epic.  Something my kids will talk about when they are older.

  • If I do keep with 4e, I can do my original plan.  In both cases the Big Bad is Orcus.  And I kinda like that idea to be honest.

  • If do 1st Ed I am very likely to include information from JB's B/X Companion Rules and the Rules Cyclopedia to deal with the higher level play.

  • Who knows, maybe 5e will give me the power to use all this stuff under one game system.

  • Of course there is one other option.  Play the 1st ed games as a "Flash back" game or even (gasp!) a time travel one.  The characters (whether 4e or 5e) spend some time in the past.  I would stat up the characters as 1st Ed ones.  I kinda like this idea to be honest.  Play my 4e plan, and then hit some of the past adventures too.  I could then be more selective about which older adventures to use.

  • So many games to play and so little time....
  • Monday, November 29, 2010

    So...Have you ever killed a God?

    As you know I am gearing up for my Dragon Slayer's campaign end game.  One of the goals of the Dragon Slayers has always been to kill Tiamat on her own plane.

    This could have some fairly epic effects.
    If this were the last game then no big deal, but we are moving to 4e after this and will using the "kids" of the characters  that are retiring.  I have already decided that the kids can have a magic item each given their famous and powerful parents.  But what of Tiamat?  And the idea of the 4e modules is to kill Orcus and maybe even others.

    Will she still be "dead"?  What does that mean to all the evil dragons?
    While talking with Jason Vey today he says that in his world that unless every worshiper is dead then the god can't die.  I like that idea myself.  But what does that mean the Dragon Slayers did?

    Tiamat is at least a bit easier.  She can have a daughter, Takhisis who will become the new Dragon Queen in time.  Didn't Marduk kill Tiamat once too?

    Orcus is also not a big deal.  He is a demon, demons can be replaced.  Plus I could put my own demon lord or put Vecna in as God of the Undead (though he doesn't seem like a good fit to me).

    What if I continue my plan to have Orcus as nothing more than a blunt tool and have Asmodeus as the Big Bad?  What if the characters kill him?

    So what have you all done?
    Have you killed a God before?  What happened afterwards?

    Thursday, July 1, 2010

    Revised Plan; Generational Mega Plots, Part 2

    So.  I started to put my plan into action for the first major campaign arc I have planed out from square 1 and ran since the Dragon and Phoenix. My boys are excited, my wife will buy me adventures (how cool is that?!) and we will get going.

    I told the boys that they can play two characters.  A character and a companion character via the 4e rules.  We need the extra characters because they wont survive otherwise.  So far we are going to have a Dragonborn Paladin, a Dragonborn Sorcerer, a Ranger with some thief skills and a "sword guy".  I am thinking the "Sword guy" will be a Warlord to get at the Leader role.  But we certainly need a Cleric if for nothing else than for undead battling.  Given that this is 4E I do want the roles to be covered.  So I have a defender and a couple of strikers, I need a controller and a leader.  The "Sword Guy" would work, but I am going to look into all the Leaders we have so far and see what would fit the best.  He would love a Swordmage, but that is a defender. Bard is a good choice, but I would really prefer a Cleric I think.  I like the Inovker as a potential controller too.

    I am going to start to lay the seeds in my current game for this new one.  The 4e characters are the descendants of the 3.x characters.  So yeah I am likely to give 1st level characters a magic item each.  I  know some of you old-schoolers are cringing at the thought.  So some clues will be laid out about Tharizdun, the Raven Queen and Orcus.  I will have the Raven Queen kill Nerull sometime before the 4e game starts.  The result will be massive amounts of undead roaming the lands due to the "backlash of necrotic energies".  The Raven Queen is getting them under control, but this backlash has not escaped the attentions of Orcus and Vecna.  Orcus wants to use this time to kill the Raven Queen and put himself in her place.  She is still just a "godling" in age, but controls vast amounts of power.  Vecna wants her power pure and simple.  I can begin the 4e adventure with a story on how one horrible day all the dead got up and attacked.  There was a mini-Rekoning (ala WitchCraft RPG) and magic went crazy and now everything is new again.  Better than ramming a planet into my world.   If that is the case then I might want to run CM2 Death's Ride for the current 3.x group, build up to that.  Plus Death's Ride has something else I want, some great NPCs for the characters to fight as an arch nemesis.

    The Raven Queen is going to be a combination of Death from The Endless, the Raven Queen of D&D world and the Morrigan of Celtic Myth.  So less like Xena becoming Death and more like Teen Titans' Raven becoming Death.  Or some combination.  I like the idea of the world's most powerful god being a teenage goth chick.  With her being younger it would help my kids relate to her more.

    Some things to consider while I look over my adventures and books some more.

    Sunday, July 11, 2010

    4e Purchases

    I picked up some new 4e books this weekend that are not due out till July 20th.
    Benefits of living near a huge game store.

    First Up, Demonicon
    An interesting book and I have always liked demons as the ultimate foes in D&D.  Of course I dislike the name, but it has been with us since Module S4 so it's a little late to part with now.  At least it is better than the 2nd Ed era wimp out "Fiendonomicon".  Gah.
    The cover, to me anyway, brings up images of Eldritch Wizardry, the first D&D book to feature demons.  The blonde on her back in obvious sacrifice.  These are not misunderstood monsters, these are demons and they are evil.
    Lots of demons. Lots of history on the Abyss.
    I like the way they have tied in Tharizdun to whole mythos now.  So this will be great when I run S4-WG4 for my kids and they actually find a copy of the Demonomicon of Iggwilv.  I like that Demogorgon, Orcus and Baphomet were once Primordials.  Something I was doing anyway.  I like that there is more for Tharizdun, even though I can see he will also soon get on my nerves if he keeps popping up.    But I always liked him since reading about him the "Gord the Rogue" books by Gary.
    There are some cool demonic lairs that can be used on their own or as part of a larger campaign in the Abyss.
    Now see this is where not having the PDFs of the books is a real pain.  I would have loved to have had a PDF of this to print out and put in a binder with all the information on the Abyss from The Plane Below and Manual of the Planes, all the information from various Dragon and Dungeon articles, and all the demons from the Monster Manuals all in one place.  Made a complete Demonomicon if you like.  I had started this exact idea for 3.x, though rather late in the game and never got everything printed out.
    I dislike the whole "Asmodeus is at the center of all evil plots" idea that has pervaded the last two editions of D&D, but with some of the new information in this book, I have some ideas.  All in all, I like this book, but I expected that I would.  I do have one quibble.  They do list Malcanthet as a demon lord.  Well, she was demon lord of the Succubi in the last edition.  Succubi are no longer demons...

    Tomb of Horrors
    There are very, very few adventures as notorious as the Tomb of Horrors.  It is also held up to some unrealistic standard for modules that it must be a "good thing" to kill off characters.
    Well I am reasonably certain that Tomb of Horrors for 4e will get cries of "blasphemy" and "sacrilege" from certain quarters; but I am also reasonably certain that those quarters were never going to buy this book anyway.
    The new adventure is not just one, but 4 Tombs scattered all over the new D&D4 cosmology.  Clever really if you are wanting to introduce what is cool in this new world to players that pick this up remembering the original ToH.
    Speaking of the Original Tomb, it is here, in it's abandoned form.  Note: WOTC Guys,  you copied the original Tomb map perfectly, too perfectly in fact.  The scale of the original map was one square = 10 feet.  Scale on the new map is the more common for 4e 1 square = 5 feet.  So our entry hallway is now 10 feet wide instead of 20 feet wide.  Minor quibble, I can explain it away in any number of ways, but still.
    There are rules and notes in here about how to play the Tomb just like the old days, but they explain why they didn't design the module like that to start.  All in all it is a neat module and adventure.  It is still a killer module, as in it will kill characters if they are stupid.
    I am not going to try to blow any sunshine up your ass, if you love "Tomb of Horrors" and hate D&D 4 you will hate this. If you liked ToH and like D&D 4 then this is nice little "Return to the Return of the Tomb of Horrors".
    What I like about it is it assumes that the characters do not live in a vacuum.  The Tomb of Horrors is legendary to players and characters. This module assumes it was cleared out in the 70's and 80's and now the next gen is here to see what is new.  It's the exact same thing I doing with "B3 Palace of the Silver Princess" and the same thing I did with the whole "Road Stories" arc of "Season of the Witch" for my Willow & Tara game.

    While reading through them both I can see elements that I will use in my big D&D 4e campaign against Orcus.    Acererak could be allied with Orcus, or more likely Tharizdun.  Though I had not considered Tharizdun to be a huge player in this game.  He is chained up after all.  In fact it has helped me solidify a few ideas.

    Thursday, January 14, 2010

    Going (Up) to Hell? Cosmology

    I was reading a very interesting post by Mike Mearls the other day about dropping the structure of the planes in favor of something more local. Read his post here,

    Ok? good.

    I think his reasons of course are sound and fit nicely with something I have wanted to do forever. When I first picked up that 1st Ed copy of Deities and Demigods I loved the Planes. It had so many interesting places and so many things to do. I got very attached to the Great Wheel cosmology that I began to evaluate fantasy and later horror on how closely it fit that model. Then I began to get lazy. Not in the sense that would not write, quite the opposite, I would come up with elaborate schemes to make things fit the model or not. Whether it needed to or not. Even in my AD&D Grand Opus Adventure the characters went to Hell to confront the evils that invaded their world there was still the Great Wheel. It worked, then, but now I feel it's limitations. Well along came 3rd Edition and suddenly the planes are mutable, changing and even expected to be different depending on how you look at them; 4E changes this even more.

    Mike Mearls mentions in his blog that one of the issues of the planes being "out there" that they lose some of their value. History tells us that demons, devils and other bad things came from under-ground, or beyond that mountain or from across the sea; here there be monsters. Monsters come from "beyond the sky" in Lovecraft related fiction, which is fine for tentacle horrors, but devils at least are concerned with the same things humans are. Devils need to be close. They need to be something the common man, woman and child fears. Not just because they are evil, but because they are nearby.

    Mike says move the Abyss to your world, I say move Hell.

    Hell in 4e now seems to be a planet floating somewhere in the Astral Sea. This puts it on par with everything else, even Heaven. Now I am not a religious person, but doesn't Hell lose some of what makes it Hell if it just a planet with bad environmental conditions? They describe it as planet some 7,000 miles in diameter with the "layers" lower and lower subterranean continent sized caverns. Like Mearls, I say take all that and shove it inside your world. Drill down a few hundred miles and there is the entry way to Hell. Just like Dante described. What keeps the devils in? Same thing that keeps them there now, gates. Like the roach motel it is, it is easy to get, impossible to get out. Or nearly such. Of course the point between the Underdark and Abyss sharing a nature is sound, I think I can get the same thing with the Nine Hells really. In fact I might even make Lolth more like a devil (she is more devil like than demon like anyway) given her status as former Goddess, cast out and down. Sound familiar? It certainly fits with what Hell is supposed to be better, an underground dungeon for the damned. The Abyss is a maelstrom of evil and chaos, it fits better in the planes.
    Of course this is not without issues. First, and the one that concerns multi-versal games the most, is that Hell inside a planet means that for every copy/twin/multiverse that planet is in there is a corresponding Hell. This might be fine really. I don't care for some of the changes made to some of the Arch Dukes in the last few books (3 & 4), but I can write that off as that is just the way things are in that universe. Which is something we all do anyway, I am just making it explicit. Of course the new 4e cosmology also gives us the Shadowfell and the Feywild, which I like, but if they are dark and twisted reflections of our own world then what about the Hell for those worlds? I say that their Hells are ours. That if you drill down in the Shadowfell you end up in the same Hell as if you did it in the Feywild or the campaign world.
    Back in the day there was a great series of Dragon articles about the various Arch Dukes and Dukes of Hell. The article began with a bit of fiction about a Paladin (a holy warrior for good) marching on to Hell to defeat evil at the source. This scene works better today than it even did then with Devils now generally evil rather than exclusively "Lawful Evil". And it works better if the Paladin is marching to Hell, not paying a wizard for an Astral Projection spell.

    Sure *where* it is physically located might mean little to PCs and DMs with access to magical means of travel, but the world should make sense to normal people too. What is there to fear about a creature, evil and immortal or not, if it takes a great amount of magic to get them here.

    Gygax was a reader of Dante, Milton and of Ovid. These authors, as much as anything and maybe more so, shaped what we think of when we think of Hell. "Planet Hell" inside the Earth/World then fits very well with all these writers. More than a plane "out there" somewhere. Which does bring up an interesting point. Here is a quote from Milton's "Paradise Lost",

    "Orcus and Ades, and the dreaded name Of Demogorgon."
    — John Milton, Paradise Lost II. 966.

    So. Lucifer is cast out of Heaven and down into Hell, he meets up with these demons in some…what, ante-chamber of Hell, a place where Chaos rules with Night. Sounds like the Abyss, but where is that again? I have often wanted to merge Hell and they Abyss into one place where demons are the masses of creatures and devil are the upper-class. If I put Hell inside my world (or the Abyss like Mearls) then do I have room for both? Do I need both? Are they the same thing with different names? Then there are other issues I have avoided because of the aforementioned laziness. Tiamat is described in myth as "chaos" and her body is destroyed to make the firmament of the Earth. But then she gets tossed into Hell? Sure, it fits the outcast god model, but Tiamat is chaos. Lilith is also cast out, but she wants order, her own order, but order all the same; at least that is how I read it. Grazzt looks like a Devil, but is a Demon or maybe he is not. And there is the bit from Milton. So what is a world builder to do? And where is this antechamber of Hell were Demogorgon and Orcus act as the Welcome Wagon for Lucifer and the cast out Angels, now Devils? Hell has the River Styx, where the souls of the dead are ferried across, but now the souls of the dead move through the Shadowfell. This makes me want to break out the WitchCraft RPG seprioths and see if I can't make it all work.

    Well here is my stab at it. The Antechamber is of course the Underdark. It is hundreds of miles below the surface of the planet. Here in the deepest pit was where the fallen angels were cast. It is here that they meet the demons. There is a great battle, Orcus (then a dark god) is killed only to come back from the dead, Demogorgon has his head cleaved in half (to regrow as two heads) and Ades…well that was the last anyone heard of him. The devils (as they are now known) take the realm once controlled by demons. Once there though the devils discover that Hell is not the home of the demons, it was only the realm they could control this close to the world. The devils seal the opening to the Abyss, place Tiamat there to guard against demonic entry and the devils themselves descend lower into Hell. Physically the Abyss and Hell (and Tarterus and Pluton and Gehenna) are all the same place locked deep within the Earth in a area were the Prime Material, Shadowfell and Feywild all intersect. The nine layers controlled by the Arch Dukes and Devils is known as Hell. Everything else is simply "The Underworld". The conditions are, well Hellish, it is inside a planet afterall, but great and powerful magics keep the denizens alive, though it warps other magic and prevents them from escaping. The areas known as the Abyss are open and there is much fighting, the area known as Hell is gated. It is supposed to be a prison after all.

    At the bottom there is a dark chasm who feeds into the elemental chaos. I like the description of the Abyss in the new Manual of the Planes, it makes it sound like a black hole in the Astral.

    It needs some work to be sure. Demons, like Demogorgon, Orcus, Pazuzu and others have more interest in human affairs than the mindless hoards of demons because they are more devil like, and thus, more human like. Older demons such as Dagon are more elemental chaos. Even Tiamat now is more demonic than diabolic. This helps explain the Bloodwar a bit better, explains the similarity between demons and devils and why in popular parlance (in the world) they are often confused. It also helps explain why some seem to switch sides every now and then. Or simply put, devils are the cast out immortals of good that betrayed or otherwise became evil. Demons always were evil.

    Of course I could keep the Abyss as is in 4th Ed. There are plenty of good reasons to keep it in the elemental chaos in the Astral. Demons are more elemental, more chaotic obviously and more alien. Of "demon" can just be a term to refer to anything that is evil that is not a devil. If I go that route then "Devils" would refer only to the Fallen and things like Ice Devils, Malebranche and the like are demons, just a different kind. After all, Succubi were demons and now they are devils, so it's not like there isn't precedent.
    What does removing the demons and devils from the "outer planes" rob us of in D&D? Well, Planescape to a large degree would need to be rethought. To a lesser extent the nature of Tieflings will need to be changed, though maybe not. Typically to get to those outer planes takes characters of some power, so there is the build up to go to their home turf and fight that is now gone; ie. anyone can find the opening to Hell and stumble in.

    OR maybe demons come the "Hells" of the Shadowfell and Feywild.

    Of course there is one huge advantage of reshaping the planes. I can shape them in a way to work with either my 4th Ed game or my OSR/Basic game or even something like Ghosts of Albion.

    That is the fun thing about fantasy cosmology, it can be a mutable as I need it to be.

    Wednesday, May 22, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Demogorgon has been featured here before and likely will again

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

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

    Tuesday, 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.


    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, March 12, 2015

    The 30 Greatest D&D Adventures of All Time

    Been kinda of obsessed with lists lately.  But this one does have a point for me.  A while back (2004 in fact) the Pazio run of Dungeon Magazine listed their top 30 adventures of all time.

    I have been going through what I call the "Classical Canon" of D&D.  Not just so I have the experience of running them all, but so my kids can also enjoy these great adventures.  I also am looking for what makes a truly great D&D adventure; something that people still talk about years later.

    Anyway here is the list with my thoughts.

    30. The Ghost Tower of Inverness, 1980 (C2)
    This is great one, but an odd one to run with a party in an ongoing campaign.  So I used it in my Doctor Who Adventures in Time and Space playtest and ran it as "The Ghost Tower of Inverness, Illinois".  I used this as the location of the "Ghost Tower" which is actually a malfunctioning Time Beacon.

    29. The Assassin’s Knot, 1983 (L2)
    Personally I prefer L1, Secret of Bone Hill, but this is a great sequel and I can see why many people like it more than Bone Hill.  Assassin's Knot works well as a murder mystery, but not great if your players are wanting to go in a bust skulls.

    28. The Lost City, 1982 (B4)
    I played this one in 8th Grade when it was new and had a blast.  I ran it again for my kids a few years back and still had a blast.  There were so many things in it I had forgotten and I spent most of the module smiling to myself in memory.  It is a Moldvay classic really and really has the feel of early 80s Basic D&D.

    27. The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, 1981 (U1)
    This was one I played back in the day but I have yet to run.  I have it all ready to go with my 3rd Ed. conversion notes.  Of course at the time I thought this was great because I was deep into my Anglophilia and I thought ANYTHING from England was perfect. Given that it was written (in part) by Don Turnbull then it was bound to be good.  If I remember right I played this one after Lost City.  I loved the tenor and mood of the module. It inspired an adventure I wrote in 88 called "Home by the Sea".  Parts of that adventure were then later used in my Ghosts of Albion adventure Blight, which took place in Ireland.  So it all came full circle.

    26. City of Skulls, 1993 (WGR6)
    This is an odd one. I never played it, never ran it and never really heard anything about it.  This was near the end of my Ravenloft games and very, very close to the time where I took a huge break from D&D.  I will check it out sometime, but doubt if I'll ever run it.

    25. Dragons of Despair, 1984 (DL1)
    I never played or ran any of the Dragonlance modules.  I enjoyed the books when they came out and I liked the idea that everyone playing was going through it all at the same time.  Hey, maybe someone should revive this for the next D&D Encounters!  I loved the idea and I loved the new design of the modules, but even then it felt a little railroady to me.  Plus I wanted to use my own characters.

    24. City of the Spider Queen, 2002
    I am not a good judge of this one. I don't like Drizzt. I don't like R.A. Salvatore. I never really cared for the Forgotten Realms till about 4th Edition.  I don't really know anything about this module. I suspect it was added to the list because there was a dearth of "modern" adventures and most of the others were "Greyhawk" related.

    23. The Forgotten Temple of Tharzidun, 1982 (WG4)
    Now this adventure...This one I can get behind.  I never played this one, but I have run it twice. It's a death dealer and a peak into what might have been coming as a narrative arc if Gygax had been into such things.  This module is one of out first peeks into the horror that is Tharzidun, a god that is part Cthulhu and part Satan in my game.  I am weaving material from this module into my larger campaign.

    22. The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, 1982 (S4)
    The same is true for this module. I remember buying it as soon as it came out and I begged my DM to run me through it.  I have run it myself twice since, the most recent time with my Dragonslayers group.  This is one of my most favorite modules. It has a vampire, Iggwilv, tons of new demons (many that later became part of the Monster Manual II) and just enough puzzles to keep the players on their toes. Running it this last time was a lot of fun.

    21. Dark Tower, 1979 from Judge’s Guild (JG 0088)
    While I would argue that this is an obligatory JG entry, this one is actually a lot of fun.  I never played it myself and it is so rare on eBay that it has been cost prohibative.  Thankfully we have PDFs of the Original and of the 3.5 update.

    20. Scourge of the Slave Lords, 1986 (A1-4)
    Another classic getting the reprint treatment.  I remember playing this one in 8th grade as well.  My DM at the time folded the Lost City into the A series to make a campaign out of them. Also he had a copy of Grimtooth's Traps which made everything deadlier. Or as he said "better".  I still have a thief stuck somewhere in a pit trap.

    19. Against the Cult of the Reptile God, 1982 (N1)
    I have never played or run this one.   I have though always wanted to use it as a start of a "Second" campaign,  After running the Classical Canon, I would start with a new campaign focusing on reptiles as the enemy.  Work in some modern "Reptoids" and have a go at it.  Maybe someday I will still do this.  But this is a fun adventure to read.

    18. The Hidden Shrine of Tamochan, 1980 (C1)
    Another great old module I never played, but read many times.  Like N1 I always hoped that I could use this one as part of a second campaign.  Though given some of the elements I would not be amiss using it in my "Come Endless Darkness" campaign.  I already have too many modules/adventures for the 5-7 level range.

    17. Ruins of Undermountain, 1991
    Ah. This is one that I have always known about but never really bothered with.  It was Forgotten Realms so I never gave it much thought.  Though I always thought this was more of a campaign expansion, ie part of the the whole Underdark deal so I never considered it an adventure.

    16. Isle of Dread, 1980 (X1)
    Oh the hours I spent pouring over this map.  This was Tom Moldvay's love letter to the pulp era and to such classic horror movies as King Kong. This also included the first full map of the Known World.  I ran it many times as a kid and it was one of the first modules I ran for my son.  He wanted to go an island of monsters, "like in Godzilla".  This did not disappoint him or me.  More so than any other adventure, the Dragonslayers were born here.

    15. Castle Amber, 1981 (X2)
    Another great. Again Moldvay's pulp horror influences are showing here, in particular his love for the works of Clark Ashton Smith. This time we enter an old house full of crazy characters and plenty of dangers.  This could have come off as a "fun house" dungeon, but something in the presentation is different.  Maybe it is the undertones of horror and dread.   My players in our 5e game are going through this one now. I have dropped the first hints of the "coming darkness" to them here.
    This is one of my personal favorites. Certainly part of my top 5.

    14. Dead Gods, 1997
    Dead Gods is not an adventure I have ever run or been in, but it is one I have used quite a bit.  There are a number of elements in it that I use for my "Rise of Orcus" plot. Especially back in the 4e days and the rise of Orcus adventures.  Honestly there are enough adventures out there that you could build a universe (and edition) spanning mega campaign on nothing more than stopping the machinations of Orcus.  One day I should give that a try.

    13. Dwellers of the Forbidden City, 1981 (I1)
    This is a great adventure and part of my "Second Campaign" (AGGHHH too many adventures to play!) it is also at the 4th-7th level sweet spot.  This one is a key part of that idea since it introduced the Yuan-ti, a monster I have used repeatedly; often calling them Ophidians.   It has elements that would fit in nicely with my 5th edition group, but I have too many adventures for this level.

    12. The Forge of Fury, 2000
    So this is our obligatory 3e adventure I think.  I never played it or ran it, thought I have read it.  Personally I think The Sunless Citadel was better and should have been on this list.  It was the first and introduced a generation to Meepo.  Sure he was no Aleena, but you could also say that Aleena was no Meepo!

    11. The Gates of Firestorm Peak, 1996
    Ugh.  Sorry, but there is a lot about this module I just don't like.  I don't care for the shoehorn plot for starters and I hated the Skills & Powers books. Som much that it threw me off of D&D till 3e came out.  It was "Lovecraftian" and I did like that.  I suspect that is why it is on this list to be honest. Though many of the ideas in this module came into sharper focus during the 3e years.

    10. Return to the Tomb of Horrors, 1998
    You have to admit. This is a total cheat.  I have it, I enjoyed it and I like the idea that the Tomb is something that people can keep going back too (whatever the edition).  As a sequel there is a lot to like. As a stand alone and on it's own merits though it might be passable.

    9. White Plume Mountain, 1979 (S2)
    I am inordinately fond of the S series of modules.  This one is no different.  It of course makes 0 sense, but works great as an epic D&D adventure. Plus it gave us Wave, Whelm and Blackrazor.

    8. Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil, 2001
    In many ways I like this one better than the original. I like the idea of returning to the Temple I also like the idea of talking in game about adventures that came before.  Gives me a sense of continuity.   This is one of my favorite 3.x era modules to be honest.

    7. The Keep on the Borderlands, 1979 (B1)
    What can I honestly say about this one?  The Cave of Chaos were as well traveled as a local Mall in the 1980s.   When I think "Classic Canon" this is the first thing that comes to mind.

    6. The Desert of Desolation, 1987 (I3-5)
    Another total cheat this "super" module is made up of Pharoah (I3), Oasis of the White Palm (I4) and Lost Tomb of Martek (I5).   Though to be totally fair they are linked together. Another really great set of adventures I would LOVE to play or run (read them many times) but not likely to.  Maybe if I do my "Second Campaign".  There is a lot in these I have used elsewhere though.

    5. Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, 1980 (S3)
    "You know what AD&D needs?  Freaking laser guns! Lasers and killer robots!"  Seriously. Has there ever been a module to encapsulate everything the late 70s and early 80s was all about more than this one?  It even has a karate instructor robot.  I am going to add in a break-dancing robot that moves to a funky Herbie Hancock beat when I run this next.  Which should be soon. I am going totally gonzo with it too. I am grabbing bits of Gamma World and Metamorphosis Alpha too.   In fact since the characters are higher level than the module requires I am doing a sort of "Return to the Barrier Peaks" spin on it. I am going to add some material from The Illithiad as well.

    4. The Temple of Elemental Evil, 1985 (T1-4)
    Another of the classic canon. If you didn't start your adventure in the keep, then chances are you started it here.  I have always wanted to run this one and never have.  I have used pieces of it before.
    I suppose if I do my "second campaign" I will start with this and change the temple a bit.

    3. Tomb of Horrors, 1978 (S1)
    We just finished this one and it was every bit the meat grinder it was rumored to be.  I had gone through back in the day, but running it was a completely different experience.  Now I might be branded as a heretic here but it is not really that good of an adventure.  Really it isn't. There are lot things in the adventure that don't make sense except in a D&D world.  That being said it is a rite of passage and everyone should try it at least once under their favorite edition or at least once under 1st ed as Gary intended it to be.

    2. Ravenloft, 1983 (I6)
    Here we go. This is my favorite module on the list. I just love it; warts and all.  Yeah there are some real leaps in logic in this one and there are plenty of reasons NOT to like it, but I don't care. I think it is great. It's a Hammer Horror film in D&D form right down to the small "Hammer Hamlet" village with terrified peasants.  There are vampires, gypsies, werewolves, really strong zombies, gargoyles. Even a huge pipe organ played by the vampire.  You can almost hear Toccata and Fugue in D minor while running it. I have played through this once and I have ran it three or four times.  I would love to try it sometime under the Ghosts of Albion rules.  I am going to take my 5e group through it when they complete Castle Amber.

    1. Queen of Spiders, 1986 (G1-3, D1-3, Q1)
    The first AD&D campaign arc.  We talk alot about being "plot free" in our adventures but when it get right down to it we love a good story arc and the GDQ was that.  I am not 100% sure that Q1 lived up the promise of the G and D series, but damn was it fun.
    This super module was made up of:

    Back in the day EVERYONE was going through this. It was the D&D Encounters of it's time.  The only problem was no one was doing it at exactly the same time or way.  So I know dozens of stories about how these turned out. I have dozens of my own.  Plus that Bill Willingham cover of the Giants is one of the most iconic covers of the age I think.

    There you are. The 30 greatest adventures as ranked by Dungeon Magazine.
    Do you agree or disagree?  What is missing?

    Here are my honorable mentions.

    In Search of the Unknown, 1978 (B1)
    Every adventure starts somewhere. Mine usually start here.  This is my go to module for a quick a easy sandbox style dungeon crawl.  I have run it half a dozen times or more with new groups and it is always a thrill.

    Palace of the Silver Princess, 1981 (B3)
    Yes it is a rather silly adventure, but I really enjoy it.  Plus the backstory on it makes it a lot more fun.

    Palace of the Vampire Queen, 1976 from WeeWarriors (V2)
    The first ever published adventure or "DM's Kit" as it was called then.  What it lacks detail it makes up for in style.  I have ran this one twice now under various systems.  It works with everything to be honest; it is that sandboxy.