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

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Tiamat on my Mind

Been doing some research on the end game of my kids D&D 3.x game and I have been thinking a lot about Tiamat.  The kids are going to fight her in the end, but I wanted something more than the big five-head dragon of the AD&D Monster Manual, and not exactly like the Takhisis of Dragonlance.


So I hit the "books".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiamat
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tehom
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiamat_(Dungeons_%26_Dragons)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Takhisis
http://forgottenrealms.wikia.com/wiki/Tiamat (for the Forgotten Realms info)
http://www.pantheon.org/articles/t/tiamat.html

And inspirational posts:
http://gorgonmilk.blogspot.com/2012/01/tiamat.html
http://dndwithpornstars.blogspot.com/2012/05/percentile-systems-girl-voices-and.html
http://blackmoormystara.blogspot.com/2011/09/divinity-of-dragons.html


http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2010/03/drow-should-be-lawful-evil-among-other.html
http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2010/01/going-up-to-hell-cosmology.html
http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2011/05/post-666.html
http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2010/11/sohave-you-ever-killed-god.html


Well I also hit the real books too.

One thing I recall thinking up years ago was that Tiamat in the old myths was the personification of Chaos.  This idea was reaffirmed with me when I, like many others, dabbled in Chaos Math and Science (it was the 90s, all the cool grad students were doing it).   Tiamat is primordial chaos.   Well what is that in D&D?  Simple, the Abyss.  So I have placed Tiamat in the Abyss, but it is not-quite-the-Abyss.  Her realm is Tehom, the Hebrew word for abyss or deep.  It is also related to the Kabbalah, being one of the Qliphoth.  Tiamat and Tehom also are have etymological relations.

Zak even talks a bit about fighting Tiamat and the mytho-historical Tiamat near the end of his interview over at Penny Red. (1:20:00 or around there).

Tiamat and Lolth
In my games Tiamat and Lolth are strong allies (no, not like this). Mostly because I have effectively had them swap places; Lolth becoming LE and in Hell, Tiamat CE and in the Abyss.  But also because they have similar backstories.  Both were (are) gods. Both were cast out by male Gods to establish some new order.  I can see each seeing something of herself in the other, and not in a self-loathing way (Lolth in my world is full of self-loathing, no pun intended) but rather as solidarity.  Their views are radically different, but their plans for conquest do not conflict really.  So they see each other as an ally.  Not best friends or anything like that, but there is mutual trust built up over centuries.  They are evil, not stupid.   If I were to play this out then I would have an alliance between the Drow and a group of dragons.  Most likely the red dragons, like what the Githyanki do.  I might even revise that a bit and say it was a select group Drow that went to serve Tiamat and she in return had some dragons serve Lolth.  Of course they are spies, but everyone knows this.

Here is an odd entry, attributed to the Demonomicon that Lolth is the offspring of Tiamat and Alrunes, the Queen of Sorcery.   Not quite sure about that one really.  But I have conjectured that Orcus is the offspring of Tiamat.  That would give me a hook too.

Of course I had this evil thought of using  the Scales of War material for the last few adventures.

Just a little late night research.

Anything cool about Tiamat or Lolth I should know?

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

OMG: Babylonian, Sumerian and Akkadian, Part 2

I am going to spend some more time today with the Babylonian myths and focus on a couple of the personalities in particular.

Again, I am not doing this to poke holes in the scholarship of the original authors of Deities & Demigods.  We have learned a great deal more about these myths and stories than we knew back in the 1980s. AND this is not a historical text. This is a game book, it has different rules as it were.

Who's In Charge Around Here?
I do have one nitpick that I need to get off my chest and it involves Marduk.   What makes Babylonian myths well, Babylonian, is that they come from the city of Babylon.  Whose chief god was Marduk.  So who is this Anu guy?  Well...these are not easy questions.  Anu was an important god of the Mesopotamian religion and described as the father of Enlil (see the Sumerian myths) and the first main god worshiped...well ever, calling him the "Chief of all the Babylonian Deities" is a stretch.  Now if "Babylonian" = these gods and not "Babylonian" = The City of Babylon then ok.  But the chief god of Babylon was Marduk.  He was the most powerful and the one later kings of Babylon would swear fealty to; known as "Taking the Hand of Marduk".   So why isn't Marduk the 400 hp Greater God?  Well I guess this works better for this book.
Also, the physical description of Marduk has me scratching my head a bit.  None of the reliefs I have seen look like that. In fact the only other place I have seen this version of Marduk is in the Real Ghostbuster cartoon "I Am the City".
For the record. I DO think Marduk would have LOVED New York and the Ultimate City.  And I say this as a Chicagoan.



I believe the image came from descriptions of Marduk seeing twice as much/far as others, or being more than the other gods and men.

Bizzare Love Triangle
It's hard to talk about Marduk in AD&D and NOT bring up Tiamat.  Heck even in the Ghostbusters cartoon Marduk (the god of civilization) battles Tiamat the Goddess of Chaos.  Hmm.  Ok, so let's go back a bit.

The year is 1990 and young former-Physics, turned Psychology, student Tim Brannan has become disillusioned with the physics-envy in his field and wants something a little more on the start-up edge of science.   Enter Chaos Theory. The book "Turbulent Mirror: An Illustrated Guide to Chaos Theory and the Science of Wholeness" was released and I was mesmerized.   I was convinced (and still am on some levels) that my then research into human memory based on chaotic structures (see my senior honors paper and eventual Master Thesis).  I never got a far as I wanted on this.  Maybe one day.
That is not important today.  Today I want to talk about the Turbulent Mirror and Tiamat.

Now I remembered from my class in mythology some 2-3 years before that Tiamat represented Chaos.  Turbulent Mirror took this and ran with it, and took my imagination with it.

Why is Tiamat a "Lawful evil" dragon?  Shouldn't she be Chaotic Evil?
I have talked about Tiamat many times, but this post explains why I want to be Chaotic and not Lawful.

So now we have Tiamat battling Marduk and Tiamat battling Bahamut.  I used to refer to this as the "Bizzare Love Triangle" after the New Order song.  Irritated my then DM to no end.  I will need to come back to Bahamut some day.  Is he Marduk?  No. But I have no good reasoning yet.  MAYBE Marduk is the only "non-human diety" because he looks like a Dragonborn!  That would work well with what they are doing with the Dragonborn in the Forgotten Realms.

I keep Tiamat mostly as she is in the Monster Manual. Save she is now Chaotic Evil.  She always acted like it anyway.



Dragon Tales
Tiamat is not the only dragon in the Babylonian myths.
Right above Druaga is another Persian import, Dahak.
Dahak, or Zahhak or Aži Dahāka is the "three-headed dragon of death".   Wow.  How could that even be remotely ignored?

Well while Dahak certainly sounds like one of the monsters that Tiamat would produce he is from Iran and not Iraq like Tiamat is (to use the modern countries).

When my oldest son was little we grabbed every book on dragons we could find.  He loved, and still loves, dragons.  He read the stories about Dahak and decided that this was the dragon he wanted to explore more.

To that end he came up with both OSR stats and Pathfinder/3.x stats.   He is working on a 5e version too since that is now his game of choice.
For us, Aži Dahāka is the offspring of Tiamat and Demogorgon.  Part of an ancient pact to provide them both with a monster capable of great destruction.  Well, they got more than they could handle.

Funny thing is that when Liam decided to take on Aži Dahāka and I had forgotton all about Dahak in this book. I am glad I could come back to him full circle as it were.

Wow. I still have more to say about this part of the world.  Looks like a Part 3 will has to happen.

You can read Part 1 here.
You can read Part 3 here.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

T is for Tharizdun and Tiamat

Yesterday I talked about the Devil as embodied in Satan.  As I mentioned I don't like the idea of using such impossible evils to kill (if it has stats it can be killed).  But near-impossible ones are fine.

I have talked about Tiamat a lot here.  Not just the D&D concept of her, but the ancient myths and what she means in my world.  She is the current "Big bad" in my kids 3rd edition game.  They began as just a small group looking into researching dragons.  In the process they discovered the rise of the old Cult of the Dragon (I am using what appeared in Dragon Magazine before it was went over to the Forgotten Realms) into a new threat.  The feel the only way to stop this evil from taking over the world is go to the source.
The twist I am planning is the artifacts I am having my kids gather up to summon Tiamat are also just what she needs to come into this world to rule it.  I am using ideas from the old Doctor Who serial "The Key of Time" and the Come Endless Darkness book by Gary Gygax (more on that book later).  They have gathered up all the relics they need; and these are true relics, they are the remains of dragons that are now "saints" in Tiamat's evil pantheon.   They are going to summon her using these relics and a few other items. Then there is going to be a big no-holds-barred fight on the Dragon Isles.
There are some parallels here with my last campaign/game "The Dragon and the Phoenix", but this one should be a lot bloodier.
Here are some of my relevant posts on Tiamat


Tharizdûn is closer to the classical idea of "The Devil" than Tiamat is.  Though I do recall at one point thinking that Orcus was the son of Tiamat and Tharizdun.  Not keeping that, but I might revisit it one day.
Unlike many of the other creatures, I have posted here Tharizdun was created whole cloth by Gary Gygax and expanded on in later books.  He is the main bad guy in the Gord the Rogue books including Come Endless Darkness (he is on the cover in fact).  In my games, he is god chained at the bottom of Hell and Asmodeus is his jailer still.  Though the millennia of Tharizdun whispering in his ear it is hard to say how much of the original Asmodeus is actually left.
He is hinted at in the T1-4 modules and then bits and pieces in S4 and WG4.  I think it would be very interesting to do the entire GDQ series under AD&D but instead of Lolth being the big bad, make her an unwitting pawn of Tharizidun.  Get the Shard of Pure Evil (from 4th Edition) so he can escape his prison and destroy the world.
Sure it is an awful lot like my Tiamat arc above.  But it works, and the stakes would be much higher.

Can't wait for my kids to fight these two!

Monday, September 17, 2018

Dragonborn in Oerth

A few questions on the various Greyhwak and Oerth related groups on Facebook have prompted me to think a little more about Dragonborn and their place on Oerth.

This is something I began thinking about during the end run of my 3.x campaign, The DragonSlayers.  The be reveal was going to happen when I ran the old BECMI adventure M3 Twilight Calling.  Here the Carnifex were roughly analogous to orcs and to the Dragonborn's elves.
I am also going to use the Tom Moldvay article on the Seven Planets from The Dragon #38.  Which also includes Len Lakofka's updated AD&D 1st Ed stats for Tiamat and maybe the first Yellow Dragon.

But I still need to run that.

I did all the background work for that adventure and came up with some ideas of where to place the Red Mesa, which is a feature of the Dragonborn's homeland.

In Krynn it is pretty easy. Dragonborn are either replaced by or used instead of Draconians.  Though there are still many differences between the two races.
In the Forgotten Realms Dragonborn are godless warriors that have been enslaved by the Dragon Tyrants of Abeir, the lost "twin" world of Toril.  During the Spellplauge (cough*4thedition*cough) bit of Abeir and Toril combined and then split again during the Sundering (clearsthroat*5thedition) leaving some behind.
Other worlds do other things.

Mystara/the Known Wolrd has a thousand places for Dragonborn and any can work into the history.  But Oerth is different.  Let's check out some potential sites.
Again this falls into another debate...what is and what isn't a canon map of Oerth. I am going to stick with the more recent one since it serves my purposes best.

The Oerth
I am going to focus on the mostly undefined West since there a lot of good places to place the Dragonborn Empire (yes I am calling it an Empire, more on that in a bit).

Candidate #1: Fireland
Like many lands on this side of the world, there is very, very little known and even less that have been published.  Fireland, by its name, seems to be an area of volcanic activity or at least much hotter than expected.  Also given its name and its location I am also inclined to draw parallels to Iceland.
I like the idea of an island because it keeps the dragonborn remote and isolated. They could have been there for thousands of years and no one would have known.
Besides, who else would live on a volcanic island? Ok, lots of people do.

Candidate #2: Draconis Island
Another island and this time that really has a good "name claim".
Draconis Island is smaller and less remote but still has a good claim.  It is just about smack in the middle of the Celestial Sea, so maybe this is the home to dragons and/or dragonborn.   It is also closer to the Eastern and more well-known areas of Oerth, so having dragonborn suddenly show up can be readily explained.
Like Fireland there is a lot of appeal to me because it is an island.  I am planning on molding MY Dragonborn Empire on the Dragon Empire of Melniboné of the Elric Saga.  Instead of humans it will dragonborn and maybe not a cruel or decadent.

Candidate #3: The Draconic Imperium of Lynn
This is a big one. Not just in size (it is the largest of the three) but also the name.  The Draconic Imperium implies a Dragon Empire. Whether ruled by dragons or dragonborn or humans that worship dragons, well it's hard to say.
The only thing we know for sure about this area is there is a great city of Lynn and it is full of sea-farers and merchants.
This also seems to be a favorite of some places online as well.

For me though I am going with my Candidate #1, Fireland.
It seems like a better fit for what I want with Dragonborn and still have them in my world.
Speaking of which.  "My world" isn't even Oerth.  I am still happily using the merged Mystara/Oerth world of Mystoerth.

In my world, Fireland is very, very far west. So far in fact it wraps back around to the East.



I get a good sized island that is far enough away to be rumor and close enough that people have heard the rumors and believed them to be true.

Rise and Fall of the Draconic Empire
By human reckoning, there were no powerful civilizations more than 6000 years ago.  This is human arrogance.  When humans were still living hand to mouth as hunter-gather tribes and elves leaving their crystal cities of azure in the Feywild for the forests and wild places of the world the Dragonborn reigned supreme and unconquered.
In their history when the gods and primordials fought in the Dawn War; Tiamat and Bahamut fought their titanic battle in the skies.  As their blood fell to the ground the Dragonborn sprang into life.  Since none knew whose blood they came from they honored both gods as their own.
It is said that Tiamat fell from the skies and crashed into the Oceans.  Her blood and fire and body rose up to become the volcanic island known to humans as "Fireland"; though in the Draconic language it is known as Arkhosia or "Cradle".  Scholars are quick to point out the exact same word in old draconic means "Tomb".  It was here that they built their empire.  The great city of Aurix'ir (the "Golden City") was built. It featured the grand palace of the Emperor whose unbroken line can still be seen today and the even grander twin temples honoring Bahamut and Tiamat. Priest of both sects interacted here and were under strict oaths never to harm the other while in Aurix'ir.

Within the center of the island, surrounded by icy peaks and volcanos lay the legendary Red Mesa and within the Red Mesa was the even more legendary Dragons' Graveyard.

For the next 6000 years, the Dragonborn expanded their empire. Both Tiamat and Bahamut decreed that the riches in the Dragons' Graveyard would belong to the Draconic Empire and thus Emporer.

The wars of the Dragonborn were in the prehistory of Humankind, but would have been glorious for a human historian.

The First Great War was against the evil Carnifex. These lizard-men were the progenitors of Lizardfolk and Trogldytes and maybe scores others creatures.  They were old, even predating the Dragonborn, and they had a prior claim to the Dragonborn Island (though it did not exist till the dragonborn did).  The enemity between the two races was great; much like that between the elves and the orcs.  Indeed the similarity does not end there.  The Carnifex were the offspring of the great lizards known as dinosaurs and they represented a much different Oerth than what it was now.  A hotter place, filled with life from beyond the stars or from deep time.

The Second Great War, sadly was inventible as it was regretable.  The Dragonborn came up against the expanding elves time and time again.  Elves, with their ability to adapt nearly perfectly to their environment, were grabbing lands faster than the dragonborn could get their own people out into these new realms.   The conflict was brief, but global.  While both sides still hold long cultural memories of this war they have decided to work more towards peace, if not just a break from the hostilities.

The Third Great War was between the Dragonborn and the formerly human, now tiefling Empire of Bael Turath.  This was the war that would last 5 generations and destroy both empires.  In the case of Bael Turath it would wipe them from the face of the world and the dragonborn would return to their island and never interact with the outside world again until recently.
Some say the war began with a distarous first meeting between the two races, others say that war was always going to happen. In truth the war began in the Nine Hells when Asmodeus, always vying for more power, created the tieflings and cast Tiamat from Hell into the Abyss.  Offended beyond measure Tiamats clerics screamed for blood and in a rare case of ancestry overriding other concerns even the clerics of Bahamut, who still consider Tiamat their "grand mother", joined them in their cries for vengence.
Soon the lands, skies and seas were filled with battle.  Dragonborn sorcerers battled tiefling warlocks.  Paladins of Bahamut and Tiamat traded blows with hellknights of tieflings. Dragons attacked with mighty breath weapons while Olitiau, monstrous war-bats returned attacks with hypersonic shrieks. When the world could not contain their battles they spread to other realms and planes.  They spilled each other's blood in the sands of Athas. They fought in airships over Khorvaire.  On Krynn both sides were so bloody that all traces of both races were gone by the time of the Lance.  Emperors on both sides had been assassinated and capitals had fallen.  The war finally ended when the dragonborn finally broke the tiefling hold on Arkhosia and sent the tieflings fleeing.  It is said that remnants of this war still remain and great and terrible magics are to be had.  It is rumored that a tiefling spellbook from Bael Turath ended up in the have a wizard in the then young Suel empire.  It is believed that the spell that caused the Invoked Devastation that came upon the Baklunish was just a fragment of a spell found.  It would also seem the Baklunish had their own source of Turathi spells with the rain of colorless fire.
When the war ended no one was a live to have remembered it's beginning.  The animosty between the races today is one more of lazy hate.  They know each other's history but also the long history of what the recovery from that war entailed.


Given the dragon's proclivity to amass things I would say that Fireland/Arkhosia has the world's largest library on magic.  Spells of every description, level, and type.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Post 666

I have reached a momentous milestone here at the Other Side.  This is my 666th post.  I feel compelled (by the Power of Satan!) to post about something devilish.

I have talked about Hell before and some of it's inhabitants and some potential inhabitants.  If I follow this logic then devils would be the ultimate foe for the elves.  Not that I don't mind this idea at all. But I think I might focus it a bit more.   Combine the story of Dante's Inferno, Milton's Paradise Lost and Lolth's shunning/betrayal and I can paint a pretty detailed idea of what Hell is in my world.

Hell is the ultimate prison for the fallen.  Gods, Angels and other powers are cast out and into hell.

Let's start with a couple of Goddess that give me some problems.

Tiamat is a Goddess and Queen of all evil dragons.  She has always been listed as having a domain on the first level of Hell.  I have never really liked that to be honest.  Tiamat is in Babylonian myth primal Chaos.  If anything she should be in the Abyss.  Using the new 4e cosmology that would place her in the Elemental Chaos, which is really the perfect place for her.  In Dragonlance her home was always called "the Abyss".  In my games I always called her realm Tehom, which means Abyss in Hebrew and is associated with the mythical Tiamat.  So she really has no place in Hell.  Who should replace her?

Lolth on the other hand is better fit.  Her story is more in line with the casting out of the Angels into Hell.  Though I am not sure I want her in Hell proper, maybe more of the Ante-chamber to Hell, near the Underdark. This would be similar to the first level of Hell that Dante claimed the Pagans went too.  So I am trading a giant dragon for a giant spider.   For a bit of tongue in cheek continuity I would make Tiamat and Lolth allies.  They have different goals and motivations, but I see them as felling they have a common history so if it benefits them to share an alliance, then they would. Lolth's realm is still called the Demonweb and she still has a number of demons in her employ.

Devils in my Game
Demons are easy.  They are evil, chaotic outsiders bent on destruction of everything.  Devils are much more complicated.  I say in my game Devils are only Fallen Angels.  That means there are a finite number of them and once they are gone, that is it.  There are a lot of creatures that are called devils, but most of them are demons pressed into service.  Since they have been forced into service by the Devils they have changed, they can evolve into greater forms.  Pit Fiends are those fiends that have reason up in ranks.  The True Devils still look down on them.

Since I started this post, Dreams of the Lich House posted a bit about using Satan/The Tempter in your games.  It is a good read.  It also ties in nicely with the Milton/Dante-ish cosmology I want to use for Hell.  I would keep the 9 layers.  The top most being the "Ante-Chamber of Hell" and the rest each ruled by an Arch Duke.  Also each Arch Duke is responsible for one of the Seven Deadly sins.

Layer Name Arch-Duke Deadly Sin
1 Avernus none na
2 Dis Dispater Envy
3 Minauros Mammon Greed
4 Phlegethos Belial Sloth
5 Stygia Geryon Wrath
6 Malbolge Glayssa Lust
7 Maladomini Baalzebul/Beelzebub Gluttony
8 Cania Mephistopheles Pride
9 Nessus Asmodeus *

Glayssa was given Lust, Asmodeus' old sin since he is now in charge.  His though is the sin of betrayal.
In the 4e cosmology Asmodeus was the angel guarding the prison that Tharizdun was held in.  Tharizdûn corrupted him and Asmodues and his angels all fell.  I have decided that Tharizdun is still chained, but the greatest deceit is that he is not where all the gods think he is.  He is in fact buried deep in Hell where Asmodeus taps his power. This is how he has been elevated to near Godhood.  Of course this might be Tharizdun plan to to trap Asmodeus in his thrall even more.


Chances are good that the Dragonslayers will run into the cult of Tharizdun sometime soon.  I just need something to do with them.

I am not planning on the Dragonslayers going to Hell anytime soon, so this all might be for nothing.

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?

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Retrospective, Review and Refit: M3 Twilight Calling (BECMI)

If there is an "Alpha and Omega" to my D&D games with my kids then the title could be held by Gary Gygax, but most likely the titleholder would really be Tom Moldvay.

It has been his adventures that my family have enjoyed the most.

X1 Isle of Dread (w/ David Cook)

His Basic set rules are what really got me deep into D&D, maybe even more so than Holmes. 

So it is really not such a surprise that when I began to look for a "Big Finale" sort of adventure my attention would turn to the Master Series.  

While I initially thought that Bruce Heard's M1 Into the Maelstrom would be my choice (and it is still a fine choice, for something else I have in mind) it was quickly replaced when I discovered Tom Moldvay's M3 Twilight Calling

Twilight Calling is actually rather perfect.  It is a high-level adventure that feels like a high-level adventure. The main focus of the adventure is around a rising power among the Immortals, Alphaks the Dark.  He wants to release the ancient Carnifex race (more on them in a bit) who are sealed away in an extra-planar pocket dimension.  He can't do this himself, only Lawful creatures can enter the realms protecting it and thus break the seals.  The adventure begins all the way back in the "Broken Lands" of the D&D Expert Set (both B/X and BECMI) but soon the characters go on an extra planar romp through the "Seven Realms" to the final location, Carnifex Castle.

The Carnifex
Carnifex are an evil species akin to both lizards and dinosaurs.  We get a good insight to Moldvay's Pulp sensibilities here where evil lizard men with alien brains and cold-blooded evil are the bad guys.  For me, it works. Works much better than orcs or even drow.   They are described as lizard-like humanoids.
Not much more than that.  So given the adventures I had been taking the kids through a thought occurred to me.  What if the Carnifex are the progenitors of all the reptilian races of the D&D?  Lizardmen, troglodytes, Yuan-Ti, and others.  We learn very, very little about them in this adventure.
We know that Carnifex means "butcher" in Latin. It also translates also into executioner, hangman, tormenter, murderer, scoundrel, and villain. So yeah, these are not supposed to be nice guys. 
This all made me think about the Silurians from Doctor Who. An ancient race related to the dinosaurs.  This also made me think of the "Dinosauroid" or the "Dino Sapiens" that scientists have imagined as a humanoid descendent of the Troodon.


If you are thinking of a Sleestak you are not alone. 

This is fantastic really.  But for my Dragonslayers' game has no context for Alphaks the Dark.  And the Carnifex really could be anything.  So.  How do I take this adventure and make it work for my group?

Enter The Dragon. Well The Dragon #38 to be exact.

Dawn & Twilight: Dragon 38 (1980) and M3 Twilight Calling

Dragon 38, still called The Dragon then, was one of those issues that are just full of great ideas.  I had a copy on my Dragon Magazine CD-ROM, but I knew about it beforehand for the famous Gygax From the Sorcerer's Scroll article "Good Isn't Stupid, Paladins & Rangers."  I played a lot of Paladins back then so this was a must read.  BUT that article pales in comparison to what the rest of the issue gave me.
In the same article it is mentioned that dwarf women have beards.  Great. But I said dwarf witches do not. In fact that is the surest way to be called a witch in dwarven culture, if you can't grow a beard.
There is a story from Gardner Fox, a comic by Darlene that is better looking than most of the comics in Dragon before or since. But three articles in particular grabbed my attention.

Tesseracts by Allen Wells gave me some wonderful ideas for when I ran Baba Yaga's Hut and other crazy adventures.  It gave me the frame of reference of how I wanted to run M3.

Leomund’s Tiny Hut: The mighty dragon by Len Lakofka gave me the hook I was looking for, though not in the way I am sure he thought it would.  Len's article is a great one and it gives us out very first look at the Yellow, Orange, and Brown dragons.  Brown dragons, of course, would later appear in the Mater Rules as the Chaotic counterpart to the Gold Dragon.  I did a version of my own Orange dragon (really more of a Pumpkin Dragon) in my Pumpkin Spice Witch book.   The Yellow Dragon then was a new one. And it fit perfectly into a hole I had.  In M3 there are different color realms that all correspond to the color of a chromatic dragon; Green, Red, Black, Blue, White, and then Yellow.  But no Yellow dragon.  Until Len gave me one. He also has updated stats for Tiamat and Bahamut.
This got me thinking.  What if Aphaks was not just some rogue would-be immortal?  What if he/she were a third Dragon god?  The Master's set has four dragon rulers. The Forgotten Realms has more than two as well (IIRC). Or how about even a better idea.  What if Aphaks was Apsu, Tiamat's "dead" consort? The Carnifex could have been his creations.  The ancient evil enemy of the Dragonborn?

The Seven Magical Planets by Tom Moldvay can read a proto version of M3.  This article leans more on the alchemical aspects of the seven planets, the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn. They do not line up as well with the M3 sequence, so I might change them a bit.  If I go with Babylonian/Summerian ideas then I would rename the planets to their Summerian names. Mercury with Nabu (Nebo), Venus with the goddess Ishtar, Mars with Nergal, Jupiter with Marduk, Saturn with Ninurta (Ninib), for the classical planets (and suggested by Moldvay in the article) and Sin/Nanna for the Moon and Utu/Shamash for the Sun.
I am not sure if the alchemical correspondences still line up. In the end it might not matter all the much as long as the feel is right.  This is a D&D game, not a Hermetic study on Alchemical principles. 

So where does this leave me?

Well, long ago Tiamat reigned.  She battled with the gods over her creations, the dragons.  Her blood was spilled and from that the Dragonborn were created including their god Marduk. Gilgamesh in this world view was the first Dragonborn King.  Enkidu was "like an animal" or human.

When the Dragonborn came into this world they encountered the evil Carnifex. They had been old even when the Dragonborn where new. They harkened back to a deep time of the world when it was a hotter place and populated by reptilian beasts and eldritch horrors. Their wars were long and bloody and they could only defeat them by sealing them up in a demi-plane of imprisonment.   I posted about this in my Dragonborn in Oerth

I have an evil, or at least corrupt, god, Apsu, who is murdered by his own children.  His former consort, Tiamat then gives birth to dragons to fight the gods that killed Apsu.  But maybe he is not dead in the same sense that humans consider.  Maybe he is now in the realm of death (like Aphaks the Dark). This helps explain the undead encountered in M3 (and there is a lot) and why he would want the Carnifex loose.  Destroy the world your children made by letting their ancient enemy out.  It's a good plan really. 

I might need to find a copy of Dragon #38 just to have really.  I'll have to check my FLGS.


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 17, 2018

All Hail the Prince of Demons!

Wide on the wasteful Deep; with him Enthron'd
Sat Sable-vested Night, eldest of things,
The Consort of his Reign; and by them stood
Orcus and Ades, and the dreaded name
Of Demogorgon
— John Milton, Paradise Lost II. 961-965

Ever since I first picked up the Monster Manual way back in 79 (or 78, I started playing in 79) there were some names that jumped out at me as an invitation to use them in some way;  Orcus, Tiamat, Asmodeus, and Demogorgon.

Back when 4e was the new hotness I picked up the Orcus mini. No surprise, he is the bad guy of not one, but two campaign capstone adventures.  He is also the "mascot" of both Necromancer Games and Goblinoid Games. So yeah, he is pretty popular.

Before that, I picked up the Mage Knight Apocalypse Dragon to stand in for the full Tiamat.  Works well.

For Asmodeus, I figure just about any devil will do really. He doesn't even really need to be big.

I have my Tharizdûn and my Lolth.
What I didn't have was a good Demogorgon.

Until now.

Last year I picked up a Demogorgon last year at AdeptiCon. Earlier this year I grabbed the Classic Creatures Collection from WotC which had two Demogorgon figures; a full size and an aspect.

I was ok, though I wished all of them were bigger.  THEN I discovered the Loot Crate DX Demogorgon.   Well, I wished I hadn't because I became obsessed with finding one.

Finally, this weekend my quest ended.


He is huge!



As you see he compares nicely to 4e Gargantuan Orcus.



He compares even better to his smaller "aspects".  That is my demon-hunter paladin there.  I hope he is ready!

None are exactly the same and that is a good thing.  Demons, especially this demon, should have shifting forms.

Right now I have him hidden.  My kids know all about the older Demogorgons (and Orcus and Tiamat), but this one will be a surprise.

My wife saw it too and I told her what I was doing and she is very excited.  I can't wait to pull this bad boy out!

Now I all I need is a good Graz'zt mini.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Tiamat/Takhis research

Anyone have anything on Tiamat or Takhisis for D&D?

I need to go beyond the normal web-crawl/wikipedial-trawl and get some deep, hard research.

Something beyond this post I made in the summer.
http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2012/06/tiamat-on-my-mind.html

Thanks all!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Dragonslayers: An Epic Epic of Epicness

So after my Book of Vile Darkness enhanced version of S4:The Lost Caverns of the Tsojcanth, the characters all for the most part hit 20th level and frankly I don't want to stop.

So I am pouring over the Epic Level Handbook now.  This is not something I used back when I was play 3.x, and it has taken this long for the boys to get to this level.  I have some issues with it, for example the editing seems bad in places. But man this book is just full of great ideas.  Some of which would be great for Epic Level Play in D&D4 or 20+ level in D&D Bacic/BECMI.
Really it is kind of a fascinating book.  It takes the rules into places the original designers I don't think expected, but yet there is such an enthusiasm for it that it makes the reality of a 30-level D&D4 a no brainer.

They have not leveled up yet, they are still in the caves.  I am merging the 3.x rewrite of the LSotT with the Forgotten Temple of Tharizdûn.  I now have the temple far, far underground where the dengerate Norkers dwell and keep millennia old rituals alive to a God no one remembers.  There will be demons, monsters of pure chaos and all sorts of evil.  Maybe even a rogue Brain Collector.  Love those guys.

To keep the sense of evil, dread and most importantly fear, I am still going to use the Book of Vile Darkness (both the 3.0 and 4.0 versions) but I'll also include some elder scariness from the Epic Level Handbook too.

The idea here is to build to something big, apocalyptic even.  That is why I bought this thing.


The Mage Knight Apocalypse Dragon to stand in for the full Goddess form of Tiamat.  That is the 3.x era Aspect of Tiamat and the 4e Orcus.   I am not sure how powerful she is going to be, but I am expecting HP in the low 1000 area, at least 30-35 HD and enough magic the stomp a small city-state.  I want it to be so epic that the boys will tell their own kids one day.  Just like the time that my characters had to defeat Orcus in the original H4 Throne of Bloodstone back in that far off time of 1987 and that mystical land sages once spoke of, Southern Illinois.

But since I also want to make all the battles leading up to this one epic in feel I am also reading other's play experience with these two modules.

Beedo over at Dreams of the Lich House has a great post on his group's battle in the Temple of Tharizdun.  This is a great run down and shows that all in not quiet in this so-called Forgotten temple.  James of Grognardia gives us his retrospective as well.  What both bloggers offer me is something I already knew, but was glad to see it all spelled out again.  The Forgotten Temple is not a simple dungeon crawl. Sure it looks like one, but it isn't one. This is alien horror.  This is Lovecraft meets the Satan Pit.
There is no over ridding goal to this adventure.  This is uncovering a plot and then running the hell away. I'll give them chances to acquire some magic items, even face some ancient, eldritch evils.

If I ever do Tharizdûn it will have to be even bigger than the Tiamat battle.


Tharizdun. Now there is name.  You don't need to know anything else about this guy other than his name to know he is up to no good.

In Gygax's Oerth he is the next best (worst) thing to Satan.  He is the Source of All Evil, to borrow a page from Charmed.  He is the biggest baddie there is.  I'll take his "Satan" aspects and his "Thasaidon" aspects and maybe even pepper in a bit of Lovecraft for good measure.

Links I am currently reading for "inspiration".
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Forgotten_Temple_of_Tharizdun
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tharizdun
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clark_Ashton_Smith_deities#Thasaidon
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghaunadaur#Ghaunadaur
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elder_Evils
http://forgottenrealms.wikia.com/wiki/Tharizdun
http://www.canonfire.com/wiki/index.php?title=Tharizdun
http://www.canonfire.com/wiki/index.php?title=Elder_Elemental_Eye
http://www.canonfire.com/cfhtml/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=968
http://grognardia.blogspot.com/2008/11/retrospective-forgotten-temple-of.html
http://grognardia.blogspot.com/2010/08/pulp-fantasy-library-dark-eidolon.html
http://ulmo.mux.net/greyhawk/tharizdun.html

Anyone else run an Epic level game?  Or take on the Temple of Tharizdun.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Gen Con 2011 Haul

I picked up:

OSRIC hardcover from the OSR booth.  Figured I should support the cause and I didn't have an OSRIC book anymore.

Call of Cthulhu 30th Anniversary Ed

DC Adventures Heroes and Villains

A bunch of the old Mayfair Role-Aids "Demons" books.  Four books and two boxed sets for 15 bucks. All still in their shrink wrap.
It's for 2nd Ed AD&D, but there are a lot of stats on the sheet (including ability scores) that all they are missing are skills and feats for 3.x.



And the Mage Knight Apocalypse Dragon to stand in for Tiamat when the Dragon Slayers battle her in the final battle of their campaign.
I spent more on this than I should have and more than my wife wanted me to, but I figure it is for the kids' last D&D 3 game so it should be worth it.


Shown here with Aspect of Tiamat and Orcus.  AoT takes up 3x3 squares, Orcus 4x4.  The Apocalypse Dragon, or in our game it will be the full manifestation of Tiamat, takes up 7x7.
It will be brutal.

The swag bag this year had magic cards, some True Dungeon tokens and a coupon for the Gen Con d6.  Though out of 4 bags we only got one coupon.

Game reviews later.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Old School Horde!

So I spent Thanksgiving with my family and look at what my younger brother dug up for my kids.  A set of a bunch of the old Dungeons & Dragons toy figure monsters!  A couple of these were mine (the Ogre, neo-otyguh and Kalak, who is missing, and maybe one of the others), some were my other brother's (the Bullywugs and orcs I am sure) and some are my youngest brother's (Tiamat).  Of course my son LOVED them.



You can see all I have left of Kalek is his spellbook.  Maybe I'll put that in my witch figure display in my game room.  I really like the ogre and the hook horror.  That hook horror looks like he walked out of my Fiend Folio and I still prefer this look to the "revised" one we get in D&D 3.x.



Of course what my son is most psyched about is the Tiamat figure.  She does not have her wings anymore, but he quickly said "she is the god of dragons, she can fly without wings if she wanted to".  Plus he has been coveting my aspect of Tiamat D&D mini for a very long time.  So this is a nice little prize for him.



While I doubt I'll use these in any of our games, my "Dragon Riders" campaign with my son using D&D 3.x is so off the wall gonzo now that they certainly would not seem out of place. Certainly the Skeleton Warriors could pass for say skeleton Cloud Giants. The Chimera, while goofy looking, is probably more to scale than the D&D mini one.

Of course while my oldest son got these, my youngest had to make do with a bag full of Generation 1 Transformers.  My inner geek self is still smiling. 
And no.  Nothing is for sale. Sorry. ;)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

A Few Updates

Here are bunch of updates all at once as I am getting ready for Gen Con.

Hybrid Class Playtest and Character Concept IVb

Tried out Bodhmall as a straight Druid out of PHBII. HATED it. Didn't fit her at all. I also tried the shaman by itself, hated that one too. So in this case the hybrid Shaman/Druid is greater than the sum of it's (half) parts. I still will try this with Expeditious Retreat's "Nature Priest", which I think will make a much better fit in terms of her concept. Oddly enough I find myself once a again moving towards a Bard/Warlock or Bard/Sorcerer hybrid to do this. Hmm. Lots of choices really.

The Old School Renaissance Will Eat Itself, Part 2

I was not expecting the amount of discussion this one would bring me. In particular very useful insights from posters D7 and Thasmodious. I am still certain that the biggest hurdle that the OSR faces is not new editions of the game (those are hurdles we should not even try to go over) but rather the in-fighting and exclusionist nature. I am still very interested in what people have to say on this subject, I just don't always expect to agree with what they say.

Quest for the Dragon Part 4

This one is totally new and an update only in the broadest sense. Today my son and I did Part 4 of his great quest in D&D 3.0. His characters (I am letting him run a couple) and his hirelings (a bard to record their deeds and three goblins hired to carry their stuff) were in the deserts today searching for the fourth item they need to be able to summon Tiamat so they may defeat her. Today it was the scale of a green dragon located in a desert. We decided that there are five relics of Tiamat's greatest consorts, but they betrayed her so she killed them all and disperse their bodies amongst her cultists. Each relic was found in a place where that dragon type is never found. So a white dragon claw was found in a volcano range, the blue dragon skull on a tropical island, the green dragon scale in the dessert and a black dragon wing in a dungeon full of undead. He needs a red dragon tooth, found deep in the arctic, to complete the ritual, summon Tiamat and defeat her once and for all. After this he is retiring all of those characters and we will begin a new game where his heroes are the stuff of legends. I give the little guy credit, yeah I normally would not let a player detail the game so much, but this has been a lot of fun.

After this who knows? A retro clone or D&D RC? Maybe 4th Ed? I am sure whatever it will be it will be fun.

Gen Con

Getting ready. Blight is done and ready to go. Obsession has a few more props I need to print out, but looking good! I am running more games this year than ever before and playing in less. I want to stop by and see the guys at Starkweather Studios and check out their Shadow Girls project. I want to stop by and say hi to Jamie Chambers and Malcolm Harris, and hopefully get a game in with all of them. And yes of course, stop by and see the guys at Eden Studios!

Monday, June 4, 2018

OMG: Babylonian, Sumerian and Akkadian, Part 1

Then were they known to men by various Names,
And various Idols through the Heathen World.
- Milton, Paradise Lost, Book 1

For this posting of One Man's God, I thought it best to go back where it all began for me.

The Babylonian myths in the Deities and Demigods are one of the most interesting collections of characters in the book really.  I was fascinated by them and when I got to college I jumped at the chance to take a mythology class and learn more.  There Professor Joan O'Brien (yes I remember her 30 years later, she was that good) told the story of Gilgamesh and Marduk and many others in the Enûma Eliš, or When On High.   So I am likely to spend a couple of posts on this topic just because it is so rich.

Now I want to clear about one thing.  I am not here to dismiss or deride the research done by James M. Ward and Robert J. Kuntz.  They did what they did without the benefit of computers, the internet and the collected archeological knowledge I have access too since 1980.  For example, there were some pretty significant finds in 1984 and published in 1992 that would have changed some things.  Plus they were not writing for historical, archeological, or mythological scholarship.  They were writing first and foremost for the AD&D game.  So let's keep that all in mind when digging through the rubble of ages.

Alas, Babylon
The myths of the Sumerians, Akkadians, and Babylonians represent some of the oldest myths and stories mankind has intact.  Dating back to 3500 BCE these are quite old. Sumer, Akkad, and Babylon (the Empire, not just the city) roughly share the same area between the  Tigris–Euphrates rivers, they also shared related languages; Sumerian, but mostly Akkadian.  They used the same cuneiform writing and they recorded them on clay tablets. They shared gods and they shared a culture.  While there is more time (more than twice the time really) between the rise of the Sumerian city-states and the fall of the last Babylonian empire than there is between Babylon and now, we tend to view them as related.
Because of this I am more likely to treat the Babylonian Mythos and the Sumerian Mythos of the D&DG as being one and not two.

Druaga
Let's start with what can only be called the Poster Boy for this series.  Druaga, Ruler of the Devil World.   We really don't know much about this guy other than he is a real monster.  We know he never appears to anyone the same way twice, yet he has a true form that frightens others.  He is Lawful evil and can summon devils (except Archdevils) and can turn victims of his mace attacks into devils.

Is it me or does his mace remind you of Asmodeus' Ruby Rod?



I have a lot of issues with Druaga here.

If you thought he doesn't really seem to fit the Babylonian gods then you are right.  He doesn't appear to be one of their gods at all.  There is a connection to "Druj" which is an Avestan (proto-Iranian) spirit of corruption.  But that concept comes from later and further away than Babylon.  He appears to be made up whole cloth for this book.  The only other reference to him in anything like this form is from a 1984 video game and later anime; Doruāga no Tō or The Tower of Druaga.  The game features Gilgamesh and Ki, who seems to be based on the Sumerian Goddess Ki (yeah I have some issues with her too...).  Druaga even looks similar to the D&DG version.


There is also the issue that despite his obvious power there is no place for him in the devils' hierarchy.  He is more powerful than Asmodeus and can create new devils besides.  So what gives?

In my own games, I took Druaga and I put him on the first layer of Hell in place of Tiamat (more on her in a bit).  First, I figured he was a better fit since I wanted Tiamat to be Chaotic Evil and he had the look.  I had already started dividing my devils into the ruling and serving classes.  The rulers were the fallen angels or everyone from a pitfiend up.  The servers were the less human looking devils (Eventually called "Shedim" or Demons of Rage in my games)  Druaga was their leader.
To steal from the greats I had made my Hell already filled with some creatures.  Some the Fallen took over and others they kicked out.  I also made my first level of Hell the place where the pagans go, ala Dante's Inferno.

Over the years we have gotten a number of Rulers of Avernus; Tiamat, Bel and now Zariel.  Maybe Druaga was there first.

Looking at his stats he is pretty powerful.  Strength at 24, Intelligence at 18, Dexterity at 23, Constitution at 25, and a Charisma of -4.  Only his 13 Wisdom fails to be godly.
He is listed as a 15th level fighter, 15th level magic-user, and 15 level assassin.  If we give him 15 HD and maximum hp (d8+7 for Con) then that gives us 225 hp.  Not far off from his 230.
He has 75% magic resistance as well as being immune to breath-weapons.

So why is he not ruling hell?

If we go with the Politics of Hell article as a guide, Druaga was the ruler but was deposed when the Angels fell and became Devils.

For starters, I am happy with 15 HD, though higher is also nicer.  The 1e AD&D Monster Manual sets the Pit Fiend at 13 HD, so 15 HD for a former ruler, reduced in power works for me.

Druaga, Former Ruler of Hell
FREQUENCY:  Unique
NO.  APPEARING:  1
ARMOR CLASS: -2
MOVE:  12"/24"
HIT DICE:  15 (230 hp)
%  IN  LAIR:  95%
TREASURE  TYPE:  J,  R
NO.  OF  ATTACKS:  2
DAMAGE/ATTACK:  6-15/6-15 (1d10+5)
SPECIAL  ATTACKS:  See  below
SPECIAL  DEFENSES:  +3  or  better
MAGIC  RESISTANCE:  65%
INTELLIGENCE:  Exceptional
ALIGNMENT:  Lawful  Evil
SIZE:  L  (9' tall)
PSIONIC ABILITY:  Nil

When the Angels fell after the War in Heaven, Druaga was already there.  When faced with the legions of the Fallen, Druaga surrendered his ruby mace to the leader of the Fallen.  Eventually, it came into the possession of the Arch Duke Asmodeus.

Druaga still holds considerable power.  He lives in a giant ziggurat temple on Avernus where the souls of the damned still perform service to him.   He can summon any devil of Pit Fiend status or lower to his aid once a day in numbers from 2-20.
Druaga has all the same immunities as do other Devils, he is also 100% immune to the effects of all breath weapons.

Next time we will talk dragons.

You can read Part 2 here.
You can read Part 3 here.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Monstrous Monday: Scorpion Men

I first ran into Scorpion Men, not in the pages of an AD&D Monster Manual (which still would not appear till 2nd Edition Monstrous Compendiums, though I do seem to recall them in a module for 1st ed, can't remember right now), but in the pages of the infamous "Simon" Necronomicon from the 80s.  You remember this one.  It was sold in books stores right next to the D&D books near the occult books.   Hell. We treated it AS a D&D book!

We used them a bit back then, often as reskinned Driders, using the Necronomicon name, "Akrabu".

Later they popped up again in 2nd Ed under the name Tlincalli and Manscorpion.   Though I never really used them then since I was deep into Ravenloft and these creatures didn't fit what I was doing at the time.

Much, much later I revisited these guys and used them in my Buffy/Willow&Tara/Unisystem game The Dragon and the Phoenix.   Here I went past the rather thin details in the Simon Necronomicon and included more detail from Babylonian/Sumerian/Akkadian myths.  Here they were called Aqrabuamelu or Girtablilu, names later picked up by later D&D authors and homebrewers.

Whatever the name these creatures all shared a number of traits.  They were huge scorpions with the centaur-like upper bodies of men, covered in red chitin like that of giant scorpions.  Some had human hands, others had the pincers of scorpions.  The first ones were created by Tiamat to avenge the death of her consort Apsu.  They are one of the creatures that were responsible for her name "Mother of Monsters".   Later it is said they guard the gates of Darkness so the Sun God may enter at the end of the day. Their site is terrible to behold and they cause death with a glance.

Additionally, there were the "Tzitzimime" of the Aztecs which were believed to be the spirits of fallen gods (demons?) that took the form of scorpion men.  Hedetet of the Egyptians was a scorpion headed goddess who would later be absorbed by Isis.

Here are the Scorpion Men for the Blueholme Journeymanne Rules, my current "Basic" of choice these days.

SCORPION MEN
AC: 3
HD: 10d8
Move: 45
Attacks: 2 claws, 1 sting, or 1 weapon
Damage: 1d6 (claw) x2/ 1d4 (sting) or 1d8 (weapon)
Special: Sting save vs. Poison 4d8 (half with save)
XP: 1,700  (2,200 xp for Scorpion Women)
Alignment: CE
Treasure: None
Abilities: +2 Strength, -3 Charisma
Climb Surfaces +15%, Hear Noise +5%, Read Languages +5%, Read Scrolls +5%, Use Wand +5%



And for D&D 5e.

Scorpion Man
Large monstrosity, chaotic evil

Armor Class 16 (natural armor)
Hit Points 90 (10d10 + 40)
Speed 45 ft., climb 45 ft.

STR DEX CON INT WIS CHA
18 (+4)     16 (+3)     18 (+4)     13 (+1)     14 (+2)     8 (-1)    

Skills Perception +5, Stealth +9
Senses darkvision 120 ft., passive Perception 15
Languages Draconic, Undercommon
Challenge 6 (2,300 XP)


Spider Climb. The scorpion man can climb difficult surfaces, including upside down on ceilings, without needing to make an ability check.

Web Walker. The scorpion man ignores movement restrictions caused by webbing.

ACTIONS

Multiattack. The scorpion man makes three attacks, either with its longsword or its longbow. It can replace one of those attacks with a sting attack.

Sting. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one creature. Hit: 2 (1d4) piercing damage plus 18 (4d8) poison damage.

Longsword. Melee Weapon Attack: +7 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d8 + 3) slashing damage, or 8 (1d8 + 3) slashing damage if used with two hands.

Longbow. Ranged Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, range 150/600 ft., one target. Hit: 7 (1d8 + 3) piercing damage plus 4 (1d8) poison damage.

Description

Scorpion Men (and Women) are horrid creations from the dawn of time.  Believed to have first been created by the Goddess Tiamat, they have since moved on into the service of other gods.  Set is known to employ many of these creatures and ones that are less evil serve Hedetet.
Standing over 7 feet tall and 9 feet long these creatures are large and strong.
They can attack with their claws or weapon as some (50%) have scorpion claws for hand and others (50%) have humanoid hands that can hold weapons.  All possess a stinging tail like that of a scorpion that can sting one attack per round.  The attack does 1d4 points of damage plus poison. The poison of the attack can do 4d8 points of damage or half with a save vs. poison/Constitution.   Those immune to poison attacks take no poison damage.
Scorpion Men are often used as elite guards. They typically armed with a long spear, a khopesh sword or a longbow.

Scorpion Women: These creatures appear as their male counter-parts save for a scorpion's head on top of a female torso. Their lower parts are still that of a scorpion.
Due to their connection to both Tiamat and Hedetet, they make excellent magic-users and witches.
They may cast spells as a 7th level witch or magic-user.   Scorpion women are much rarer than males, being outnumbered 1 to 10.

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, http://kotgl.blogspot.com/2010/01/kill-planes-abyss.html.

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.