Monday, June 13, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: Angels

One of the things holding up my completion of Basic Bestiary I is honestly what am I going to do about Angels?  By that, I mean Good Aligned Outsiders that populate the upper planes and are the servants of the various forces of good.

Morgan, Evelyn de - Aurora Triumphans - c. 1886

I have posted a couple that are largely near-complete drafts, the Dirae and the Lunars. Here are my problems as they stand.

  1. I have a large number of various angel-like begins that need to be classified and codified.
  2. I want parallels between my forces of good (angels) and my forces of evil (demons) where they are appropriate.
  3. I want to include angel-like begins not just from the history of D&D (and OGC) but also from other cultures.

Much like the demons had to be spawned off into a whole other book, the angels have grown.  Though I am not likely to make a whole book for them since for the most part these are not really monsters to be fought, but you could interact with them.  Oh, I suppose evil characters could fight them.

In my research (or more accurately, literature review) I also came up with a fourth problem. Though this is one that began to creep into my High Witchcraft book.

  1. There is a lot of literature on Angels and their role in Witchcraft.

Just go to pagan publisher Llewellyn and do a search on Angels, you get over 350 publications.  The idea of Angels in Witchcraft is not just a new-agey one.  There are many pagan belief systems that have had angel-like beings.  I even mentioned last week that British Occultist Aleister Crowley had a pact with an angel he called Aiwass.  So for my High Witchcraft book including angels makes a lot of sense.

But which ones? And how?

And that is where I had stalled. But I think I have it worked out now. Rereading Gygax's descriptions of Devas, Planetars, and Solars in Dragon Magazine help jell my ideas.  

The Classification and Hierarchy of the Good Outsiders

It is said that demons are legion. It is true that their numbers far exceed that of the forces of good, but it is also true that "demon" is often used to describe any fiend of the lower planes, whether they are classified as a "Demon" or "Devil" or as a "Calabim," "Yaoguai," or a "Baalseraph."  Likewise, there are "angels" and there are "Angels."

angels (lowercase a) refer to any good-aligned outsider creature that serves the forces of good.  They are often synonymous with "Good Outsider" or "Celestial."  They often have both a humanoid (profane) and a divine appearance.  Their profane appearance is what they use when visiting the prime material and dealing with mortals. The more powerful the angel the more "inhuman" their divine appearance can be and often the more harm it will cause a mortal. For example, the divine appearance of an archangel can burn a mortal to ash. 

Angels (uppercase A) are a particular group of Lawful Good Celestials that serve primarily in The Seven Heavens of  Mount Celestia.  Their groupings include Powers, Principalities, Seraphim, Thrones, Virtues, and the mighty Archangels.  This is the group that the Baalseraph once belonged to before they fell.

Archons are Neutral Good Celestials that act as guardians and warriors for the causes of good. Their roles are clearly defined in their names; Hound, Trumpet, Harbinger and Gate Archons are among the many types.

Agathós (from Agathodaemon) are mostly Chaotic Good Celestials. There are some that serve forces of Law and Neutrality within Good and their alignments will be that of whom or what they serve.  For example, the Lunars are mostly Lawful Good.  These celestials include the ranks of Devas, Planetars, Lunars, and Solars. Given the image above I should also include Auroras.


Anyone that has followed my blog over the years will not see a huge surprise here.  These are roughly the same classifications I was using when I was running my Buffy RPG I just didn't have a solid name yet for the "Independent Servitors of Good" aka the Chaotic Good ones. 

I still have some details to work out. What are the various powers common to all these types? Should I move the Dirae from Angels to Agathós? What other sorts of creatures need to be added to these groups? Are these the only groups?

Plus I need to make sure that whatever I come with they need to be able to stand toe to toe with the most powerful demons.  

I will say this, it has been a really fun experience sorting all this out.

Saturday, June 11, 2022

New D&D Minis and Figures

So the universe has decided I need to spend more money on little plastic people. 

Up first, and very near and dear to my heart are new NECA, LJN-style D&D action figures. 

NECA SDCC exclusive figures

NECA SDCC exclusive figures

They look great, but I am mostly interested in the Skylla and Kelek figures.  I am quite excited for the Skylla one since she never had a 4" figure release.

Kelek figure

Skylla figure

I had a Kelek back in the day, this one looks a lot like that older one save that this newer Kelek looks like he has a mohawk.  

So a while back I picked up the Kelek and Skylla D&D Miniatures from WizKids, well their next round is coming out and I am very excited about this one too. And it should be a lot cheaper.

It looks like there will be five characters. Diana, Hank, Eric, Presto, and an unnamed cleric.



Here is our unnamed cleric.


Given the tabard, the mace, and the design I am making the guess that this is Aleena.

Missing are Shelia and Bobby, which kinda sucks really, but not a problem. Thanks to HeroForge.

Shelia the ThiefShelia the Thief Invisible

Click on the images for the HeroForge site.

Of course, WizKids might have another wave. 

My HeroForge Skylla and Kelek compare well to the new WizKids versions.

Skylla and Kelek

In any case, these are likely to suck up a lot of my gaming budget.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

This Old Dragon: Issue #63

Dragon Magazine #63
Normally with my This Old Dragon retrospectives, I talk a little bit about the time when the magazine was published.  This issue was out in July 1982. But that is not the time I associate this issue with. No, the time this issue came out for me was nearly three years later in 1985.  On Tuesday I spoke about my bumpy transition from Basic-era D&D (or just D&D as I knew it) to AD&D.  By 1985 I was fully entrenched into the AD&D camp. My previous DM had just gotten a job working nights (a job he had held until 2021!) so I needed a new group. In a tale as old as...well the 1980s...I fell into a group made up of mostly theatre kids and other science nerds. This issue, Issue #63, was in my DM's collection and I borrowed it one day and was blown away.  

I had already been reading Dragon now for a little over a year, but this one packed more punch per page than any issue I had seen to that point.  So. Come with back, not to July 1982, but June 1985 when I borrowed This Old Dragon.

Let's start with that cover. They say never judge a book by its cover and I extend that to magazines. But in this case, this cover only hints at the great material inside.  The cover gives us two bandits, perfect for the class inside. The cover artist was James Warhola and I can't tell you off the top of my head what other covers he may have done, but I love this one. 

In a preview of things to come, the back cover is an ad from Epyx Computer Games for The Temple of Apshai. For a brief moment there I could consider Epyx my favorite game software company. I had played this and later Rogue (the forerunner to Moria-like games) on my Color Computer 3. 

We jump in head first into this issue with our first article from none other than Gary Gygax himself (the first of a few for this issue).  Featured Creatures gives us some new official AD&D monsters for your game.  This is the first appearance of this feature. Up first, the Devas, servants of the good gods of the higher planes. We know that the "monsters" featured here will later go on be part of the Monster Manual II, which might have been the least controversial update to the hardcover line for AD&D.  The Devas here are depicted as just "Good" aligned and can be Lawful, Neutral or Chaotic as needed. 

Gary hits us with more official official content next with The Big, Bad Barbarian.  Or...Gary really wanted Conan and Fafhrd in AD&D (and we will get more of Gary's opinions on Conan later in the issue). This class looks more or less the same as what we find in the AD&D Unearthed Arcana.  The barbarian would go on to get more life in D&D 3 and D&D 5.  While I appreciate this article for what it is (new content is new content!) I was never a big fan of the barbarian.  I can't even recall if I ever had a barbarian character.

Smile! You're on Fantasy Camera covers how Darlene Kay Blanchard (not that Darlene) takes pictures of miniatures. 

A picture of pictures

Robert J. Kuntz is next with Greyhawk's World where he covers the events and notes from the Eastern and Southern Flanaess.  This is also accompanied by a map from Darlene (that Darlene) of the Bandit Kingdoms.  I love little bits like this to help expand the game world more.

The Other Side fan and favorite Len Lakofka is up with Leomund's Tiny Hut.  His article is about Charisma in Make Charisma Count for More.  It has what can only be described as a rough draft for the Comeliness score that will appear in Unearthed Arcana and how he proposed Charisma should effect psionics more.

With new monsters, new classes, and now this, it is a wonder that people were not screaming about the oncoming publication of AD&D 2nd Ed or even AD&D 1.5 (as we would eventually call it).

Now on to our cover story. Bandits are an NPC class (snerk...ok, whatever you say) to add to your game. The article comes to us from Tom Armstrong and Roger E. Moore. The idea is very sound, Bandits are thieves that rely on strength and ambush instead of stealth. We toyed with the idea ourselves in the few games were both my highschool DM and my Jr. High DM were both in.  I rolled up a Bandit character for myself. No, he didn't look like Burt Reynolds (though that would have been fun).  It was not long though before we discovered that there was some logic to making this an NPC class. The Bandit has some interesting skills, but in a dungeon crawl setting, he takes a back seat to the thief.  Still the class was rather fun to play.

Roger Moore is back with last of the Demihuman Perspective articles, The Humanoids: Goals and Gods of the Kobolds, Goblins, Hobgoblins, & Gnolls. Again much of the material from this series will end up in Unearthed Arcana, though not this article in particular.  I used this article to help formulate some of my ideas about goblins and how Hobgoblins are different from Bugbears.  The only one I was not happy with here was the gnolls. I was already moving my gnolls to be more demonic.  I had read at some point (likely the Wildlife Treasury Cards we used to get; used the Vampire Bat as a bookmark for my Expert Book) that hyenas are led by an alpha female, so I figured gnolls had to be matriarchal.  This is something that others had grabbed onto as well since I now see it all over.  

The section continues with a few gods for each of these creatures and the Shoosuva the demonic undead gnoll. 

My Dragon goes from page 32 to 49.  So something is missing.  Checking my Dragon CD-ROM (and this rather meta for this issue, more later) I see it is an adventure named Chagmat by none other than Larry DiTillio.  The adventure is for six to eight characters of 1st to 4th levels. Now by my own rules I can't review this piece because it is not in my physical copy.  So...moving on. 

Dragon Magazine Centerfold

The Man, Myth & Magic ad is interesting since it lists all sorts of Hobby Shops that carry it.  My FLGS is not listed here since it will not open for a bit, but one jumped out at me because it is a.) close to my home and b.) an address that I recognize.  Sure enough The Compleat Gamer in Palatine, IL used to be a game store. Now it is the home of Nancy's Pizza, one of the three pizza places in the Chicag- land area to make the claim of inventing the Chicago-style deep crust.  I mean I used to live just 8 mins away from Games Plus my FLGS, but to have this one here too?  What a treat that would have been.

Ed Greenwood is next with Plan Before You Play. Seems like obvious advice to me but then again right now I have 43 years so of experience. That's 20 years more than Ed was in age at this point, not to mention experience.  BUT I will say this. If nothing else doing these "This Old Dragons" over the years has given me a greater appreciation for the work and scholarship Ed Green brought to the early days of the game.  Gary might get all the glory in this issue, but Ed is here just quietly turning in good material every month. 

An ad/notice from the RPGA.

Gary has a couple more articles discussing the Games Fair 82 convention in London. I should compare this to what White Dwarf was saying at the same time.

There is a mini-section next starting with some Phil Foglio art about Computers in D&D.  Micheal Brian Bently is up first with Computers Games Have a Way to Go.  He talks about how computers for simulating D&D games are not there yet. While the article is interesting as a historical perspective, I don't think the author, or any of us really, knew then how fast computer technology was going to explode.  There are typically two types of software commonly discussed in and around D&D circles; the DM's assistant and the immersive RPG experience type.  By 1986 the DM I had borrowed this Dragon from and I had already written a piece of software for the TRS-80/Tandy Color Computer we called "BARDD" that handled many of the tasks needed to simulate combat.

In fact it was this very computer:

TRS-80 Color Computer 2

I can only imagine what I would have thought of Skyrim back then!

Speaking of computers even not more than 15 years or so later would Dragon see another breakthrough in computers when Wizards of the Coast released the Dragon Magazine CD-ROM, the same one I mentioned above.  Unfortunately, it was because of articles like this one from Micheal Brian Bently that would be the reason we never saw any updates.  Why?  Because Micheal Brian Bently retained the copyright on his article (as was his prerogative) and TSR and thus WotC did not own it and could not reprint it. 

Computers and Dragons

We get a note on Dragon's Policy on Programs

The Electric Eye from Mark Herro gives us two BASIC programs for Top Secret.  Developed for the TRS-80 Model I, Level II BASIC it should be usable by the Apple II or Atari 400/800.  I know from personal experience that the BASIC interpreter shipped with IBM XT machines at the time was a bit different and all programs would need tweaking to your particular machine. Don't even try it on an IBM PC Jr.

David Nallo has an interesting article on coinage with historical examples in For the Sake of Change. We played around with different coinage ideas a bit back then.  I tried to set up a silver-based economy vs. a gold-based one at one point after a discussion in history class about the US using a Silver standard in its early history. But in the end it never really made that much of a difference in the day-to-day lives of adventurers. 

Gary is back one more time in his role as a film critic in A Couple of Fantastic Flops. He reviews and rather hates the new Conan the Barbarian movie and The Sword & The Sorcerer.  We get more about the D&D movie coming out in 1984 or 85 and it is going to be better than Star Wars or Raiders of the Lost Ark!

We end with What's New? with Phil and Dixie talking about computers in RPGs and WormyDragonmirth has some comics. One, titled Charisma Roll has a player dreaming that the rolls will give him "Richard Chamberlin, Robert Redford, Harrison Ford..." but the dice are thinking "Ernest Borgnine."  Now I am going to say this, after the article we had from Len I would say Ernest Borgnine had a very high charisma. He was a funny, likable guy with a wonderful personality.  

In the end a pretty solid issue of Dragon punching WAY above its weight class here.  The material introduced here is still being used today and it is all good stuff.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Review: Xanathar's Guide to Everything (D&D 5e)

Xanathar's Guide to Everything (D&D 5e)
Less of a full review but more along the lines of reveiw/my thoughts on what was essentially the Unearthed Arcana of D&D 5th Edition.

Why this particular book now?  There are a few of the classes that I am considering back-porting over to B/X era D&D that my kids have expressed an interest in playing.  I may or may not post those.  They are not OGC and I have no plans to even "file the serial numbers off" to try an post them.  Sometime I do things just for me or for fun.

Xanathar's Guide to Everything

2017, Hardcover. 192 pages. Full-color covers and interior art. 

I called this book the "Unearthed Arcana" of D&D 5 and that is more or less on point. Much of the material here appeared in the pages of the online version of Unearthed Arcana.

The book has a wide variety of tools for Players and the DM and all are listed as being optional. This was published in 2017 so there is no hint here of anything that might be "5.5" or "5r" related.

The book is divided into an introduction, three chapters and two appendices.


This covers what the book is about, and its origins from the online Unearthed Arcana. Wizards of the Coast has worked to get the layout of their D&D 5th ed books to be one of clean efficiency.  Maybe not as much as say Necrotic Gnome has with OSE, but still really nice.  For example their Table of Contents fits on a single page.

We get a (tiny) bit of background on who Xanathar is. Not being a huge FR fan I did not know but figured it had to be the same beholder from the 1st Edition AD&D Waterdeep and the North.

Xanathar's Guide to Everything pages

There is a page on "The Core Rules" which is really nice to have. There are ten rules that cover most situations.  These are all from the PHB and DMG, but nice to have them repeated here.

Chapter 1: Character Options

We start with a listing of the 31 new subclasses for the twelve base character classes.  Now before someone start screaming "rules bloat" these are not subclasses in the way that AD&D 1st Ed meant them.  These are archetypes of the main twelve classes. So for example the Cleric has the Life and War domains (among others) in the PHB now gains the Forge and Grave domains here.  Each subclass is tailored to the main class. So with Clerics they are "Domains" for Bards they are "Colleges" and Warlocks have "Pacts."   So they are more like the AD&D 2nd Edition Kits.  Both in good and bad ways. There is not much power creep yet. 

This chapter covers about 65 or so pages, so a third of the book. Each main class gets some details that worked for any subclass of that class (Bards get more instruments, clerics have more details on their temples for example). There are a lot of classes in this book. I am not going to get into every subclass here. But I would like to point out a few.

The Bard College of Swords is the spiritual descendent of the AD&D 2nd Bard kit known as the Blade; aka the moment I knew 2nd Ed Power Creep was happening.  The Blade Kit sucked. The fiction for it sucked and the NPC they used as their iconic Blade REALLY sucked. The College of Swords Bards are also called Blades. Their AD&D 2nd ed origins are very plain, BUT there is none of the power creep and thankfully the edgy NPC "Dark" is also gone.

Grave Domain Clerics are the other side of the coin of the Life Domain Clerics.  Where the Life Cleric (PHB) tries to preserve life, the Grave Domain Clerics make sure the dead stay at rest. They are the "good" option of the Death Domain Clerics (DMG).  Cleric Domains have their origin in 2nd Ed and were expanded greatly in 3rd Ed.

Fighters now have an Arcane Archer subclass (known as a Martial Archetype here). This is the 5e update of the 3rd Edition Prestige Class.   Monks (Monastic Traditions) get a Way of the Drunken Master and a Way of the Kensei. Paladins get new Oaths. Rangers get new Archetypes including the Gloom Stalker, a Ranger adept at working in dark places but my favorite is the Monster Slayer.  Rogues get the Mastermind and Scout Archetypes.

The Sorcerers are next.  Their subclasses are known as Arcane Origins, or essentially how you became a sorcerer. In addition to these are some tables on various supernatural marks (think witch mark) and other weirdness due to your bloodline. The one I wanted to convert is the Divine Soul. You have a bit of divinity in your blood.  I would convert these as a B/X Magic-user and allow them to have some free cleric spells based on their divine blood. Cure Light Wounds and Bless for Lawful for example.  Their Charisma would need to be high, like 14 and that would be their Prime Requisite ability too.  While they get the spell for free, they can only still cast it once per day. At the 14th level, they gain their Otherworldly Wings.  There is also the Shadow Magic Sorcerer. This feel like it is from the Shadowfell Player's book from 4e. 

Xanathar's Guide to Everything pages

Warlocks also get new marks and new invocations. There is a Celestial Pact for people that want to play "good" warlocks.  Before anyone dismisses this idea remember that Aleister Crowley had a pact with an angel he called Aiwass and believed was his personal guardian angel to who he made invocations to every day. 

Wizards have Arcane Traditions that more or less equated to "Schools of Magic."

The next section of this chapter covers a variety of character background ideas such as origins and life events with lots of random tables. Like an Old-School collection of random tables.  ALL of them are also perfectly adaptable for use in ANY version of D&D.  They remind me a lot of the tables from the 1st Ed AD&D Unearthed Arcana.  

There are some new racial feats, but unlike 3e or even 4e, 5e is not feat centric. You can even have a character that never takes a feat at all.  These are largely mechanical rule manifestations of possible background ideas.  Have weird eyes? Ok, you have weird eyes, jot it down on your sheet. Do these weird eyes do something special? Well, you might need to take a feat for that then.

Honestly, I did not see anything in this chapter that I could not easily convert to an earlier edition of and D&D. 

Chapter 2: Dungeon Master's Tools

This chapter covers a wide variety of topics but mostly expands on material already in the DMG. Topics like Falling, Sleep, Tying Knots, Adamantine Weapons, and Tool Proficiencies are all discussed. Lots of tools. 

Spellcasting gets a bit of special treatment here. The area of effects on a grid is detailed. d6s are used as visual aids to show how to set up on a grid. 

Some more detail on building monster encounters is also discussed, including single and multiple different types of monsters. There is an eye towards balance, but there is no requirement to do so. The only real advice is "avoid monsters that can drop a character in a single hit."  I have seen more than a few TPKs in D&D 5e. 

Again we are treated to what I can only describe as pages of old-school-style random encounter tables. 

Xanathar's Guide to Everything pages

There is also a section on Traps that while not quite as gleeful as a Grimtooth product, will still make that Chaotic Evil DM smile. How much?  One trap has a save DC of 20 and does 24d10 damage.

There is a discussion on downtime and the reason why my youngest bought this book, magic item creation rules. More magic items are also detailed.

Chapter 3: Spells

This last full chapter covers new spells. About 30 pages worth. The spell economy of 5e is different. There are no Cure Light Wounds, Cure Moderate Wounds, and Cure Serious Wounds spells for example. There is only Cure Wounds and it is a low-level spell for Bards, Clerics, Druids, Paladins, and Rangers.  IF you want a more powerful version you cast it at a higher spell level. So instead of a 1st level spell, it is treated as a 5th level spell for example. This means less print space is needed for spells. 

Xanathar's Guide to Everything pages

Appendix A: Shared Campaign

This covers working on interlinked campaigns and working details out.  Not everything you need to know is here, some more could have been written, but it is a great start.

Appendix B: Character Names

This section is just tables and tables of names. Various cultures (English, French, Egyptian, and more) as well as other nonhuman ones ( Elf, Dwarf, Dragonborn, and more).  The nonhuman includes a personal name and a family or clan name as well.  I did notice that two Tieflings from "Brimstone Angels," Farideh and Havilar, are listed under the Dragonborn names.  Why? Well their adoptive father Mehen (51-52 on a d100) was a Dragonborn so he gave them Dragonborn names. 

So. I picked up this book for the various subclasses, but found a wealth here for many of my other D&D games.

I would say that most of this book is easily adaptable to any version of D&D you choose to try it with.  The exception might be 4e. There are some seriously interlinked mechanics there.

Xanathar's did quite well for a splat book and was even listed as one of Publisher's Weekly best-selling books for December of 2017

Despite his name and picture on the cover there is not a lot of material on Xanathar himself outside of the sidebars.  Wizards would later do a much better job with Tasha in her book.

Xanathar's Guide to Everything covers

The art is amazing as to be expected.  The layout is a step up from the Core Rules and shows what the design team has learned in the last few years.

You can see bits and pieces of D&D's DNA from all editions here, though this is largely true for 5th edition in general. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

D&D Edition Wars: Why CAN'T I Play a B/X Paladin?

All D&D
It's June and I have mentioned that it is D&D month around here. 

The natural question then is, "Which D&D?" All of them! "Even that one?" Yes. Even that one.

I was going through a bunch of material I need to review and Review (reading for my own benefit vs. a full review) and it got me thinking about a bunch of topics.  Should I play more Castles & Crusades? What should I do with all this Pathfinder stuff? Where did my copies of Dungeoneer's and Wilderness Survival Guides go? (seriously. where are they??).

This got me thinking about the various editions and edition wars.  I want to share the story of my first skirmish in the never-ending edition wars, but first I want to talk about the latest side battle in it and my point of view on this in general.

D&D Edition Wars

I am not sure if this will be a regular feature or not.  Typically I avoid edition wars and find them remarkably pedantic to be of any actual use. Don't like a particular edition? Fine. Don't play it.   BUT every so often something bubbles up that takes my notice and I want to comment on it.  The latest one comes to us courtesy of Stranger Things.

If you have not seen the new Season 4 of Stranger Things, please do. It is back to form and good drama.  Sure there are a LOT of characters now and no one is getting the spotlight for very long, but the last episode of Part 1 did a great job of tying together many of the seasonal arcs to set us up for the epic finale.  

They also get to play some D&D.  There is a bit where they deal with the Satanic Panic of the 80s.  I would talk about that now, but I have done that already and most recently back in April. So no real need for me to do that. But in the same milieu of edition wars we are getting some nagging from older gamers like myself complaining that Erica Sinclair's character should have been a Thief and not a Rogue. Well. That is technically correct yes. It was supposed to 1986 and the Rogue does not come into play until 1989. Lots of people are claiming this is a mistake.  Here is my point of view on that.

The Duffer Brothers did not make a mistake. 

Look in the very next scene of their game Dustin (played by the wonderful Gaten Matarazzo; seriously this kid is going to be a hell of an actor someday) drops lines about Vecna (the focus of their game and the season) having been destroyed by Kas. They already mentioned the lack of an eye and hand.  This is not deep lore to us, but to the causal viewer, it is.  And that's the thing. This show has to appeal to all viewers. Those that know D&D but mostly the vast majority that do not.  Here is her line.

"My name is Lady Applejack, and I'm a chaotic good, half-elf rogue, Level 14. And I will sneak behind any monster you throw my way, and stab them in the back with my poison-soaked kukri."

Remember the character is Chaotic Good (which we all understand) and supposed to be a heroic character.  IF she had said "Thief" it would not have the same level of understanding to the causal viewer as "Rogue" does.  Han Solo was a rogue. Robin Hood was a rogue. The normies get what a rogue is. A thief is someone who steals. Yes, yes, it has a different connotation in D&D but that is not the majority of the audience.  I posit that the Duffers knew exactly what they were doing. 

It reminds me of when my main character at the time was a Paladin.  I'd explain to others, who I was trying to get into the game, that my character was a Lawful Good Paladin. Which would ALWAYS be followed by "what's a Paladin?"  Eventually, I gave up and just started saying "Knight."  This is the same thing.  Also it is a nice segue into my next section.

Why CAN'T I Play a B/X Paladin?

The 80s were an amazing time for a lot of reasons. Even in my small home town there were multiple independent D&D groups and clubs happening all the time.  I got invited to a game by a friend one evening. This had to have been either very late in Jr. High I am guessing summer of 82 or 83.  In any case, I was going with my regular DM, he got to play for a change, and a bunch of people I never met. The DM called me ahead of time and asked if I would be willing to play a Lawful Good Paladin. I said sure! I was already playing a Lawful Cleric in my other game so this seemed like a good fit (and it was, but more on this).  Now is the time to be pedantic.  See I was playing a "Lawful Cleric" as in B/X D&D. My regular DM played AD&D and we ran our games as an unholy mix of the two. Not uncommon from what I know now and we had a lot of fun. My first experience with D&D was Holmes Basic and the AD&D Monster Manual.  My new DM just told me to bring my Expert book.

D&D Expert vs AD&D

Well...that was a mistake. I brought my Expert D&D book to an Advanced D&D game and you would have thought I had brought a D&D Coloring book instead with the reactions I got.  Thankfully my DM was still cool about it, even if the other players held their noses in disgust.  

Nowadays of course people talk about their B/X days with pride and fond memories. Especially me.  But that was a contributing factor to me not picking up the BECMI sets when they came out soon after.  I was all in on AD&D from that point on.  No "kiddie" D&D for me! 

That was the first salvo in what I would later come to know as "The Edition Wars." There were many skirmishes between the Basic and Advanced folks back then. Nothing major, I can recall though.  The next battle was fought over the fields of "Unearthed Arcana" and then the "Proficiency Battles" connected with Dungeoneer's and Wilderness Survival Guides (seriously, where the hell are mine??) 

I still have my Paladin from that game. He went on to great glory in the Bloodstone series. I would also roll up my own paladin later, he was the son of my B/X Cleric. 

Now thanks to the OSR scene I have a lot of options to play a B/X Paladin.

B/X Paladin

If Johan II was my Advanced D&D Paladin and son of D&D Cleric Johan I. Then maybe I need to make a Kara Foke II as an OSE Paladin, son of Kara Foke that AD&D Paladin I played so long ago. 

Monday, June 6, 2022

Monstrous Mondays: Faerie Lord, Scáthaithe, The Umbral Lord

Scáthaithe, The Knight of Swords
I have been in a bit of a creative slump here lately. By "lately" I mean the last few months.  I do want to get my various monster books done though.  So here is a guy been rattling around in my brain now for a while.  I am combining a couple of different ideas here that I have wanted to explore for a bit.

Faerie Lords

I have been working on a number of Faerie Lords for the Basic Bestiaries and the High Witch book.  These lords provide a number of interesting background NPCs and are also the various Powers that both Faerie Tradition Witches and Fey Pact Warlocks can honor/serve.   I have already detailed a few here, Titania, Queen of FaerieNicnevin, Faerie Queen of Witches, the Queen of Lies, and the Prince of Beasts.

My focus lately has been building the court of Nicnevin (also known as Nic an Neachneohain).  Hers is not a court of deep intrigues like Mab's or Titania's, but a powerful court all the same. Since those Courts are typically (if somewhat incorrectly) described as the Dark and Light courts (more properly Winter and Summer) I need a few independent "Shadow" Courts.  Nicnevin is the Queen of the Autumn Court.  Not a major court to be sure, but still powerful.  

Shadow Elves

There are more than one "Shadow Courts."  Last year I did a big series on Shadow Elves and various other shadow fey.  I was trying to come up with a good idea for Shadow Elves in my world and I looked to the Shadow Elves of Mystara and the Shadow Fey from Kobold Press and even into the ideas of the Shadowfell from D&D 4th Edition.   This lead me to do an adaptation of Kobold Press' The Dusk Queen.  But she is PI so I won't be using her in my books, save for maybe as a special guest in my home games. 

While reading more about the Shadowfell, the mortal world, and the Feywild for D&D 4 and 5 I came up with an idea of my own.

Just as the Mortal World (the Prime Material) intersects with the Shadow World (Shadowfell) and the World of Faerie (Feywild) they also intersect with each other.

So less this:

Planes according to D&D 4th Edition

And more this: 

The Three Worlds

Excuse my lack of artistic ability here.

All three worlds intersect.  The intersection point of the Mortal and the Faerie is already detailed in many D&D books as the Feywild.  The intersection of the Mortal and Shadow is the Shadowfell.  The Shadowfey is the intersection of the Realms of Shadow and the Faerie Realms independent of the mortal world.  This is the area I am working on.  This is the home of the Umbral Elves.

Last Bits

Among other things I also needed a Faerie Lord, or at the very least a high level Faerie/Elf to be the father of a particular character.  I needed to have that character spend 13 years "stuck" in the faerie realms while she was getting instruction by her "faerie godmother" (Nicnevin).  And finally, I needed to develop a group of Elven Cavaliers for various reasons.  This particular group of Cavaliers is linked to witches and witchcraft.  Essentially they are the Elven Cavaliers from Dragon Magazine #114 tied more closely to the witch class that appears in the same issue. 

I also wanted a character that recalled the B/X Elf class that used sword and spell with equal proficiencies. 

Putting all of this together a new Faerie Lord emerges.

Scáthaithe, The Umbral Lord
Faerie Lord

Frequency: Unique
Number Appearing: 1 (1)
Alignment: Neutral [Chaotic Neutral]
Movement: 120' (40') [12"]
  Fly: 240' (80') [24"]
Armor Class: 2 [17]
Hit Dice: 13d8+52*** (111 hp)
To Hit AC0: 6 (+13)
Attacks: Sword +2 x3 or by spell
Damage: 1d8 +2 x3 or by spell
Special: Attacks three times per round, darkvision, harmed only by cold iron and magic weapons, 30% magic resistance, Wizard spells (12th level) 
Languages: Common, Elven, Sylvan, Giant, Abyssal
Size: Medium
Save: Magic-user 13
Morale: 12 (NA)
Treasure Hoard Class: U (VI) x10, See below
XP: 5,150 (OSE) 5,300 (LL)

Str: 16 (+2) Dex: 18 (+3) Con: 20 (+4) Int: 20 (+4) Wis: 16 (+2) Cha: 24 (+5)

The Faerie Court of Autumn is ruled very loosely by Nicnevin the Faerie Queen of Witches.  Her sometimes consort and Cowan is a being known in court as the Knight of Swords. He is also known as Scáthaithe ("skaw-he"), the Umbral Lord.  He is the melancholy lord of the Shadow Elves. 

Scáthaithe appears as a tall (7') tall elf-lord.  His skin is pale with an almost bluish tint to it. His hair is long and black and often tied back.  His eyes are bright green and his pupils are slitted like that of a cat's.  He wears the armor of a knight and carries a long darkened sword he calls "Moonblade."  He is often astride a black warhorse with large black wings.  The barding of this warhorse makes it at first appear to be some dark unicorn but is more akin to the pegasus.

When not in the court of the Witch Queen he will be found with his six sons, the Umbral Knights, patrolling the lands of the Shadowfey.  His sons act as 8-10 HD versions of their father. Their role is to patrol the Shadowfey and keep intruders out. This includes mortals and creatures of the outer planes.  Elementals can be found here if they have the leave of the local lords or ladies. 

Scáthaithe will attack intruders to the Shadowfey with both sword and spell.  He will use a long-range spell, such as magic missile to start with and then switch to his sword which he can attack three times per round.  He can cast spells as a 12th level magic-user.

The Umbral Lord has a keep deep in the Shadowfey, Scáthchoimeád where he resides with his sons. He had a Lady, his sons' mother, but that was long ago and he never speaks of her.  Presently he has taken up with a young human witch. It is also rumored that he is the son of a great lord of the Summer Court and a great lady of the Winter Court, possibly even Oberon and Mab. 

Scáthaithe as a Witch/Warlock Patron:  By agreement with his Queen Nicnevin, Scáthaithe does not take on witches as part of the Faerie Tradition. Though he can be invoked by these witches through Nicnevin.  He does however work as a Patron for warlocks. He can be used as a Fey Pact Patron and is particularly well suited as a Pact of the Blade warlock.  His warlock can manifest a dark sword similar to his one Moonblade.  He is also favored by half-elf warlocks who see themselves as being a member of two different worlds and also being of neither; like a shadow.

Scáthaithe, The Umbral Lord

Scáthaithe and an impressionable young witch

Friday, June 3, 2022

It's STILL June!

 I know. Redundant.  A few things.

1. I was spending some time going through old posts and I have a bunch of dead links, more or less dead pages, and the like.  So I was thinking a site redesign might be in order.  Nothing confirmed yet.

2. Have you been OUTSIDE yet?  I don't about where you are, but here in Chicagoland it is GLORIOUS! I am thinking of moving my work laptop out to my patio and working there the rest of the summer.

Hardening a few more plants

3. I have an profile now.  No idea what I am going to do there.

4. Stranger Things. Watch it. Now.

5. I promise this will get back to D&D.

6. Seriously. Go outside.