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Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.


Okay, so a lot of people ranted about the orbs—and rightly so—but almost nobody really commented much about the items on these tables. Which is a shame, because they're a real goldmine of ridiculous garbage. A garbagemine.

Let's see...

  • Wow! You can get a sheet of paper that can be reused up to seven times, for only two thousand times the cost of a regular, unreusable sheet of paper! What a deal! Also it's red for some reason!
  • Paintbrush (fine). Only fine paintbrushes exist. Want a nice, broad paintbrush? Too bad. Want to paint your house? Well, you're going to have to do it slowly and tediously with a fine paintbrush. Or just use magic, I guess.
  • Joe Slowboat already commented on the pens, and I have nothing to add except to observe that they're named by color, just like the dumb sheets of paper... and like the suns, for that matter. We could be charitable and suppose that this naming things after colors is an intentional motif, but if so it's kind of a silly one.
  • Just how much desert does one person use in one day? Like, maybe a few cubic meters of sand and a cactus or two? (Okay, yeah, that's obviously just a typo, but in this book that, for all its other flaws, at least wasn't as riddled with typos and bad editing as some other role-playing books, it kind of stood out.)
  • Wait... there's also an entry for one day's worth of ice per person. How much ice does one person use in a day? And what are they using it for? I mean, on a typical day I don't use any ice at all. Do... do people normally go through a set quantity of ice each day, for some reason? I guess a lot of people like to put ice in their drinks, but... I find it hard to believe anyone spends more on ice than they do on fruits and vegetables, or bread. I mean, yeah, okay, maybe in a medieval setting where there are no freezers, but that doesn't seem to be the sort of setting we're dealing with here, except maybe when it apparently is.
  • Why are there separate entries for "Food (one day's worth per person)" and "General foodstuffs (one day's worth per person)"? What's the difference? And why do wizards—excuse me, vislae—spend ten times as much on food per day as they do on "general foodstuffs"? I guess maybe the "Food" is for the total of all the food, and then the other items—fruits and vegetables, meat, etc.—are kind of an itemization, with "general foodstuffs" as the miscellaneous category. Except no, that doesn't work because the other items don't add up to the cost of the "Food". I don't know what's going on here. I guess it might be explained in the text, but I sort of doubt it. The only way I can even halfway make sense of it is to note that the "Gourmet foodstuffs" cost the same amount as the "Food", so maybe by default vislae eat gourmet foodstuffs, but then why are there two entries?
  • Also, why does a day's worth of des[s]erts and sweets cost half as much as a day's worth of gourmet foodstuffs? Just how many fancy desserts does Monte Cook think people eat every day?
  • Wait a minute... a crystal orb is equivalent to ten dollars, so a day's worth of gourmet foodstuffs costs ten dollars? I guess maybe if your idea of "gourmet foodstuffs" consists mostly of Ramen noodles, this could work. (That still leaves me wondering what kind of "general foodstuffs" you could get a day's worth of for one dollar, though...)
  • Note that you can get a bubble wand that blows square bubbles, but not a bubble wand that blows ordinary round ones. WizardsVislae have no need of such banalities. Anyway, the fact that space in this relatively small table of only a couple dozen items is devoted to this bubble wand means it must be important, and not another pointless irrelevance that's just weird for the sake of being weird, right? Right?
  • So... does invisible body paint turn you invisible, or is it just the body paint that's invisible, so it looks like you're not wearing any body paint? Because if the latter, it seems completely useless, but if the former, it seems surprisingly cheap. (But maybe that's because when you're a wizardvislae, invisibility ain't no big deal.) Also, huh, does Monte insist on printing the word "Invisible" in that light gray color everywhere it appears in the book? Not just when it appears as part of the title? Okay then.

On an unrelated note...


"Gold Mycelium"? I guess maybe the creators of Eldritch Century thought they were making up a mysterious-sounding name, but, well... "mycelium" is already a word. It means the weblike underground part of a fungus. I don't think fungus filaments would make a great versatile building material even if the fungus was somehow made of gold.

EDITED TO ADD: I almost forgot—thanks, inklesspen!

Jerik fucked around with this message at 06:40 on Sep 14, 2019

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Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

That Old Tree posted:

I mean, do you really think they didn't know what mycelium is? Maybe it bothers your particular sensibilities, but it's perfectly cromulent scifi bullshit to me.

Well, I guess it's possible they knew what mycelium was and intentionally wrote about making weapons and airships out of threads of fungal tissue, but considering how little sense that makes yes, I really think it's more likely that they didn't realize it was already a word. Maybe you're right and they used the word with full knowledge of its meaning, but that might actually be worse.

[Edited because I had originally started my post with "I mean", without noticing that's how you'd started your post as well, and I was afraid that looked like I was trying to make fun of you, which wasn't my intent.]

Jerik fucked around with this message at 07:27 on Sep 14, 2019

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

All right, fine, I guess I retract my statement that the makers of Eldritch Century probably didn't know what "mycelium" meant; I may have jumped to a conclusion. Yeah, okay, given that the Zarathustrian Hegemony does seem to have some kind of theme of biological manipulation, maybe Draco Studios really did intend their "Gold Mycelium" technology to involve fungal fibers. That still strikes me as extremely silly, but eh, it's probably not the silliest thing in those excerpts.

For what it's worth (which is probably very little), a Google search for "Gold Mycelium" turns up two recurring uses of the phrase (outside of the occasional use in discussing a fungus the subterranean parts of which happen to be gold in color): There's some kind of alternative health product called "Organo Gold Mycelium" that I guess is made from the mycelium of a certain mushroom, Ganoderma lingzhi, that's long been used in traditional Chinese medicine; and a "Bits of Gold Mycelium Wallet", a bitcoin wallet produced by a company named Mycelium. The latter, at least, suggests that Draco Studios may not have been the first people to think the word "mycelium" sounded fancy and high-tech, since the company has no obvious relation to a part of a fungus either. (Okay, to be fair, on further investigation according to the company's about page it started with as a "mesh networking project", and mycelia are meshlike so I guess there could be a metaphor there.)

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

PurpleXVI posted:

But it's kind of like the Inner Planes in D&D. Neat locations, give some atmosphere, explain some of the setting's cosmology... but like 1% of 1% of all 20th level parties get bored enough to go there or have a GM high enough on drugs to create an adventure for the place.

...Hey, I've created and run adventures on the Inner Planes. Not only for my home campaigns, but I ran a Planescape adventure at GenCon one year that was set in the Elemental Plane of Water, and another year I ran an adventure in the Quasielemental Plane of Mineral. And they were relatively low-level adventures; the Inner Planes aren't suitable only for 20th-level characters.

But yeah, the canonical information on the Inner Planes was very thin. Even in Planescape, while the Outer Planes got four boxed sets devoted to them, the Inner Planes only got a single relatively thin book, and it came out very near the end of the product cycle, even after the Faction War adventure that a lot of people sort of consider to have been the end of the setting. I think the Inner Planes were unjustly neglected, and had a lot more potential than was ever realized in canon, but oh well...

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

PurpleXVI posted:

The Inner Planes have two problemsl largely, that prevent them from being more generally useful.

Firstly, most of them require specialized magic to survive(some more than others, admittedly, Earth and its offspring are generally easier to survive in, same goes for the Water and Air-based ones). So this keeps a lot of parties from going there at all.

Secondly, yeah, even more than the rest of Planescape it feels like one location in the Inner Planes is often very undifferentiated from the next. Like, I feel that the Inner Planes would have had much more potential if they hadn't been in Planescape, if they hadn't had to compete with... what... eighteen outer planes and multiple named primes? If they'd been part of a tight cosmology where it's just Prime, Astral, Ethereal, Inner, I think they would have had a much easier time seeing use. As it is, the elementals more rarely than the outer planar creatures have an interest in loving with mortal matters.

Well, the first problem, yeah, that is an issue. It's not an insurmountable one—it's possible to give low-level parties the means to survive even in the most inhospitable of the Inner Planes—but it does mean that setting an adventure in one of those planes takes a bit more care and planning than a typical dungeon delve or even a jaunt to most of the Outer Planes where the PCs don't need special apparatus or enchantments just to breathe and move around.

The second problem, though, I think lies more with the fact that the Inner Planes weren't ever developed in nearly as much detail as the Outer Planes than with the nature of the planes themselves. The Inner Planes actually slightly outnumber the Outer Planes—counting the Outlands/Concordant Opposition, there are seventeen Outer Planes; counting the Energy Planes and the Quasi- and Paraelemental Planes, there are eighteen Inner Planes. But very little was ever done with them. I really think that if the Planescape developers had put as much time and thought into the Inner Planes as they did the Outer, they could have been made just as interesting and just as ripe for adventure as the Outer Planes. (In fact, one of many things that I hope to do if the Planescape setting is ever opened to the DMs Guild—but realistically may or may not ever get around to doing even if that happens—is just that, to flesh out the Inner Planes and give them the development I think they deserve.) But the Inner Planes were always treated as an afterthought, which I think is kind of a shame.

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

Bieeanshee posted:

Yeah, they're the kind of places you go because you need something, or need to go somewhere in there specifically. I think one of the first Planescape adventure modules (The Eternal Boundary?) has a section set in the City of Brass.

In the Elemental Plane of Fire, yes, but not in the City of Brass specifically. Though that entire part of the adventure is set in a self-contained citadel that just happens to be in the Elemental Plane of Fire, so its being set in the Plane of Fire isn't much more than window-dressing.

Zereth posted:

To my understanding there's not a lot inherent to them to make you want to go there unless you need a lot of whatever the plane is about, either. "This is the Elemental Plane of Water!" "Oh boy, what's in it?" "Water and water elementals."

Again, I'd argue that's just because the developers never bothered to do much with the Inner Planes; they certainly could have put lots of interesting stuff there, but instead they just kind of mostly ignored them. Even then, though, there were interesting things placed in the Inner Planes; it's just that they tended to be mentioned once and then forgotten about (or came out too late in the Planescape product cycle to be followed up on). The Elemental Plane of Water, for example, has an enormous and diverse city full of portals to other planes, with multiple districts, warring merchant houses, and political maneuverings. It's fleshed out with thirty pages of description. It's a planar hub second only to Sigil itself, and in fact is often called "the Sigil of the Elements". Seems like an important place that ought to have come up a lot. But no; that thirty-page description appears in an adventure that's not even technically a Planescape product (though much of it does take place on other planes), and then the city gets a few paragraphs' worth of mention in The Inner Planes, and that's it.

Anyway, sorry, I think this kind of got turned into a derail about the Inner Planes, which has nothing to do with any of the books currently being reviewed, and that's mostly my fault. I guess this is something I feel more strongly about than I probably should; as much as I love the Planescape setting overall, its neglect of the Inner Planes is one of the things that I think it could have been better about. And I'll have more to say on this subject when (and if) I finally get to a relevant part in my eventual Planescape reviews. But if I'm ever going to get to actually reviewing Planescape, I've got to finally finish my review of Deities & Demigods first, so, uh, yeah, I'll try to have the next part of that review up hopefully in the next day or two. Anyway, I'll shut up about the Inner Planes for now. Sorry for the derailment.

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

potatocubed posted:

There's no level 5 effect in this progression.

Is that an artefact of the rules, or just a mistake?

Apparently Monte Cook has not discovered the long-forgotten (and perhaps forbidden) number between 4 and 6.

Also the long-forgotten (and perhaps forbidden) number between 6 and 8.

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

lofi posted:

I've not heard of beast, can I get the 101?

There's a review of the game by Kurieg that you can read on inklesspen's site. It's long, but worth reading if you want to know what the game's about. I just finished reading it myself recently, since Kurieg was posting a review of the Beast Player's Guide and I wanted to know the basics of the game to understand the context.

Brief summary: Beasts are people who have the souls of ancient monsters: dragons, krakens, etc. They have a Hunger that they need to Feed, which they can do, depending on the particular nature of their Hunger, by destroying things, or terrorizing people, or otherwise making the world a worse place. They half-heartedly try to justify this as teaching important lessons, but the whole lesson thing never makes any sense and the pretense is often dropped anyway.

Beast has no obvious conflicts or story hooks built in, except that people called Heroes obsessed with monster-hunting show up randomly to try to kill them. Despite the Beasts being horrible monsters that are driven to make people miserable, the Heroes are painted as the villains. Also, there's a thing about how Beasts have to balance their level of Satiety, which for some reason the writer mistakenly thinks is pronounced "SAY-shi-tee", but mostly that just gets weird because the optimal strategy is to ping-pong as quickly as possible between starving and gorged, which is especially unfortunate because becoming gorged usually requires the Beast to do something especially nasty.

(Or, you know, I think technically by the rules a Beast who doesn't want to cause anyone any harm could just hang around some other supernatural creature watching it hunt and Feed itself that way and so never have to actually attack anyone directly, but there's no evidence in the book that any Beasts actually do this, or that the writers even considered it.)

Basically, my impression of the game—and I think from other posts here (and from Kurieg's review) I'm not alone in this—is that Beasts could make decent antagonists for most of the World of Darkness splats. They're pretty much irredeemably evil, and cause nothing but suffering to everyone around them. However, the line developers didn't quite realize this, and for some reason decided Beasts would make wonderful PCs.

It's... it's not good.

Jerik fucked around with this message at 08:17 on Sep 18, 2019

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

Deptfordx posted:

This may be one of those 'varies by country' things because I'd say it that way too. :britain:

I don't know what to tell you, except that I checked with several dictionaries before posting to make sure it wasn't me who'd been assuming the wrong pronunciation (which has happened before for words I'd seen in writing but seldom heard spoken; for years I assumed the accent on "damask" was on the second syllable), and every dictionary I checked agreed that it was pronounced sa-TIE-uh-ti. Including the Oxford English Dictionary, which is published in the U.K., so it doesn't seem to be a varies-by-country thing, no. (The Oxford English Dictionary does give slightly different U.S. and U.K. pronunciations, but they only differ very subtly in the exact quality of the vowels and whether or not the second t gets turned into a /d/ sound; they're both four syllables with the accent on the second syllable.)

I mean... okay, so the fact that you say you'd say it that way too shows it's not just Matt McFarland, I guess, and I know languages evolve and dictionaries don't catch every nuance in usage and I'm certainly not going to tell you you're objectively wrong to pronounce it that way, but "SAY-shi-tee" is not a standard pronunciation according to any dictionary I looked at. Anyway, I just thought it was kind of funny that the author seemed to feel it necessary to tell the reader how to pronounce what isn't, after all, that rare a word, and then doesn't even give the standard pronunciation.

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

I'm kind of reluctant to admit this, but there is actually exactly one thing I like about Beast. Lairs. I like the idea of Lairs, and how they fit together, and how they can be customized and how they can be temporarily overlaid on the real world. I wish Lairs had been in a better game. It's a pity that absolutely everything else about Beast is complete and utter garbage.

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

Mors Rattus posted:


The world's sexiest fanart of a Phantom Pain boss.

Huh. Okay, I realize this may be a pointless observation that nobody will care about, but... I've been liking the art for this book overall, and in this case for some reason I got to wondering exactly how the artist did the burn texture, but then I took a closer look at the texture, and... bits of it are directly copied and pasted from other bits. Look at the lines of three light spots circled here:



The brightness has been tweaked a bit and the top one's been flipped horizontally, but aside from that as far as I can tell they're pretty much exact matches. Huh. I wonder why the artist did that? Did it really save that much time over texturing the areas separately?

Anyway, not a big deal; not something that really bothered me; just something I thought was odd.

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

KingKalamari posted:

Overall the following real world pantheons are represented: Babylonian, Celtic, Central American (Read “A mash-up of whatever Aztec and Mayan deities we could think of”), Chinese, Egyptian, Finnish, Greek, Indian, Norse & Sumerian (You distinguished between Ancient Babylon and Sumeria but just lumped all of Mesoamerica and the Indian subcontinent into two pantheons?).

Oh, that's easy to explain... it's because they took those pantheons straight from the 1E Deities & Demigods. And yes, specifically the 1E version; the 2E Legends & Lore omits the Babylonian, Finnish, and Sumerian pantheons, and the 3E Deities & Demigods cuts things down even further and includes only three historical pantheons. (The pantheons from the 1E Deities & Demigods did also appear in the 2E Planescape supplement On Hallowed Ground, but that seems like a more obscure and less likely source.)

As a matter of fact, that list of Babylonian gods in the previous paragraph? Also straight from the 1E Deities & Demigods. Like I mentioned in my review of that chapter, Dahak isn't really from Babylonian mythology at all, and Druaga isn't really from anything, so it's not like they could have come up with the same list independently.

KingKalamari posted:

Set, God of Evil and Night - A greater god worshipped in many forms and a huge rear end in a top hat. He typically appears as a scaled humanoid with the head of a jackal (That’s Anubis you’re thinking of, Wilderlands, Set has the head of an unknown beast that Egyptologists typically just refer to as the “Set Animal”) who likes spreading evil all over the place and loves snakes. I feel like The Wilderlands’ characterization of Set is based less on actual mythology and more on his appearance in Conan the Barbarian.

No, it's based, once again, on 1E Deities & Demigods. You can even blame the jackal head on that, and in fact that's something I was planning on getting into myself when I finally get around to posting my review of the Deities & Demigods Egyptian Mythos chapter (which should be really any day now...) Heck, even the wording is nearly identical:

Deities & Demigods Egyptian Mythos posted:

Set is a scaled humanoid with the head of a fierce jackal.

Several of the other somewhat obscure gods from real-world mythology listed here also appear in 1E Deities & Demigods (Seker, Dunatis, etc.)—and yeah, Dunatis's description in Deities & Demigods also has him throwing boulders in combat. This version of Wilderlands of High Fantasy may have been converted to 3E, but apparently the developers really loved them some 1E Deities & Demigods.

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

KingKalamari posted:

Huh, that explains a lot. Did 1e Deities and Demigods also depict Hanuman as a bloodthirsty abomination?

Nah. There's a lot here copied from Deities & Demigods, but that's one thing that can't be pinned on it. The Indian Mythos chapter in Deities & Demigods has plenty of problems of its own, but it doesn't have anything about Hanuman. That one's all on the Wilderlands of High Fantasy writers.

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

Night10194 posted:

Insanity is exactly as terrible as it is in 2e, and for the same reasons. Insanity systems are usually pretty offensive treatments of mental health issues, but on top of that, it's also basically 'retire your PC, unless you know our hardworking friend the Shallyan' since most of the effects are very crippling. Some are actually beneficial, though; you can end up Fearless from going crazy. This is actually the only way to get Fearless in 1e! It isn't a Talent/Skill yet. Similarly, Fear and Terror work exactly like in 2e.

Huh. I don't know much about Warhammer Fantasy, but this discussion of Fear, Terror, and Insanity immediately made me think of Ravenloft, with its Fear, Horror, and Madness checks. I wonder if there's any connection? Apparently WHFRP 1E came out in 1986, and the first Ravenloft boxed set in 1990, so at least chronologically it doesn't seem impossible that the former influenced the latter. Is there anyone here who's sufficiently familiar with both Warhammer Fantasy and Ravenloft to be able to say whether there's sufficient similarity between Warhammer's Fear/Terror/Insanity and Ravenloft's Fear/Horror/Madness to suggest that the latter may have taken inspiration from the former, or are they different enough that the similarity in terms is more likely to be coincidental?

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

Night10194 posted:

The specific way they work in Hams has always been 'fear is bad, terror is worse'. In the RPGs, fear makes you freeze up, terror actually makes you run away and inflicts Insanity points if you fail the save.

In Ravenloft, too, Horror is worse than Fear, though it's also qualitatively different in that Fear is more about being confronted with a direct physical threat, while Horror is more about realizing that something is wrong. (And the text explicitly says that some situations may call for both a Fear check and a Horror check.) In the original Ravenloft boxed set, Fear makes you run away, and Horror... makes you roll on a table to randomly select one of six possible effects.

As for Madness... turns out that's not in the original Ravenloft boxed set after all; Madness checks weren't added till the second version of the boxed set in 1994. Huh; I hadn't noticed that before. I guess that makes it less likely that Ravenloft's Fear/Horror/Madness checks were inspired by WHFRP's Fear/Terror/Insanity, and suggests the apparent similarity probably was coincidental after all...

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

Ah, yes, I'm of the right age for the Gil Gerard Buck Rogers TV series to have been a part of my childhood. Enough so, in fact, that... well...

The establishing shots of the city that was Buck Rogers' home base showed a big cylindrical glass building with external elevators running up and down the sides. This wasn't a set or a miniature made for the show; this was a hotel in downtown Los Angeles, the Bonaventure Hotel, which I guess the production used for those establishing shots because they thought it looked futuristic.

My father worked for the Department of Water and Power in downtown L.A. when I was a child, and every year just before Christmas the LADWP had a "take your children to work day", and so he would bring my siblings and me to his office. For lunch, we would always go to the nearby Bonaventure Hotel, which decorated its lobby with white wicker reindeer for the holidays. Now, I don't remember whether my siblings and I knew the real name of the hotel, but if we did, we never used it. To us, it was always the "Buck Rogers Building".

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

Halloween Jack posted:

If anything, she didn't interfere in the design process enough... On the whole, I think there should have been greater variety of games and campaign settings, with more unified rules design.

Huh. I thought the common wisdom was that having too many campaign settings was a major contributor to TSR's financial struggles—that having so many campaign settings split the fanbase and they didn't sell as well as they needed to to recoup the production costs. In fact, it was my understanding that Wizards of the Coast in their own analyses arrived at that conclusion and so made the conscious decision to limit the number of campaign settings they supported in later editions.

Granted, when I say this is "my understanding", I mean it's my understanding based on Things I Read On The Internet and not on any kind of inside information, and this could all very well be completely wrong. Actually, I kind of hope it is completely wrong, since I very much like the fact that TSR released such a variety of campaign settings during the 2E era, and would like to hope that wasn't really a terrible business decision.

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

Halloween Jack posted:

Well, that conventional wisdom comes largely from an old Gamespy article and commentary from Ryan Dancey.

Bill Slavicsek's "many buckets theory" is sheer loving nonsense...

All that is very good to hear. (Or... read.) I wasn't being at all facetious when I wrote that I hoped the conventional wisdom about TSR's having torpedoed itself with too many campaign settings was completely wrong. I'd seen it stated enough I figured there must be something to it, but it never really sat well with me, and it's good to see a different take.

Halloween Jack posted:

Can you tell the difference between Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, Mystara, and Birthright by looking at the cover of the sourcebook?

Well... maybe not just by the sourcebook cover, but in content I'd argue that Birthright, at least, has enough that's unique about it to stand out from the others at least a little. But the Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, Mystara, yeah, I'd agree they're pretty much all samey Generic Fantasy Worlds. I'd tentatively lump Dragonlance in there, too; I think its success owes mostly to the popularity of the novels, but as a campaign setting it always struck me as... completely uninteresting. (I say "tentatively", though, because I never really bothered to look into the setting in depth and don't know that much about it, so I can't rule out that there might something more interesting about it that I missed.) Yeah, when I say I liked the variety of settings TSR released for 2E, I'm referring mostly to the more distinctive and imaginative settings like Planescape, Ravenloft, Spelljammer, and Dark Sun. And yes, I definitely would have liked it if TSR had released more unusual settings like those.

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

Nessus posted:

I think my uncle has a physical copy of one of the big collections of Every Spell They Ever Published where it is very clear that someone did a find-replace to turn "mage" into "wizard," because a lot of things deal dawizard to things.

I have that too. My collection of D&D 1E and 2E materials is... by no means complete, but much closer to complete than it has any right being. There are probably much better things I could have spent all that money on. (Especially now that all those books are available cheaply in PDF form anyway, but of course I had no idea at the time that that would one day be the case.)

(e: and, honestly, even if I had somehow known that, there's a good chance I would have bought the books anyway, because I'm more of a collector/hoarder than is probably healthy.)

Jerik fucked around with this message at 23:55 on Sep 24, 2019

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

hyphz posted:

IMMERSION IS THE STUFF OF NIGHTMARES

Hey now, let's not put the blame on the concept of immersion. I like immersion. It's one of the main things I play RPGs for. I just don't see how constantly heaping misery on the PCs is supposed to be a "recipe for immersion". If anything, having a GM who's so clearly out to get the PCs is antithetical to immersion, unless it's a feature of the setting that fate is supposed to be actively working against the characters.

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

lofi posted:

I hate how the npc writers in Enemy Action just throw in "physically cannot use the right tense" - can you imagine trying to speak like that while GMing Hollyhock Godding a game?!

Eh, honestly I don't think it would be that hard to speak like that (I mean, yeah, chances are you'd slip up occasionally, but your players probably wouldn't notice or care), and I think it's actually sort of an interesting and unusual quirk to give a character. Or would be, if they'd given it to only one character. But the fact they gave such very similar glitches to two characters so close together in the book is kind of off-putting, yeah.

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

So far most of these angels have been a lot more sympathetic than I was expecting. Though I get that's probably at least partly intentional to provide for the possibility of nudging them toward a Fall and turning them into allies.

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

Mors Rattus posted:

He's lost his human cover entirely and spends most of his time immaterial, so he's not going to become a demon - he's at risk of becoming a sliver, a dangerous, insane and completely unfixable remnant of an angel that warps reality by its very presence.

Whoa, wait a second, this is the first I remember hearing of slivers. Are slivers detailed anywhere else, or is this the only mention of them? I don't suppose we get any sample slivers in this book...

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

Selachian posted:

IIRC, the bludgeoning rules are the only thing that's not ported more or less wholesale from AD&D 2E. I think Pondsmith just wanted to have rules for those times when the hero clonks a guard over the head to sneak into the villain's base.

Well, unless I'm misinterpreting something, there also seems to be this, which I thought was interesting:

Maxwell Lord posted:

A table gives THAC0s for the various PC classes and for NPCs dependent on hit dice: Warriors, Scouts, and creatures with d10 hit dice get the fastest progression, d8s get a middling progression that stalls out in later levels, and d6 progression starts very slow but ends up lower than the d8s.

That seems to imply that different monsters have different sizes of hit dice. Is that correct? Because if so, that's something that definitely wasn't in 2E—all 2E monsters had eight-sided hit dice. (Not counting those monsters that had a fixed number of hit points and didn't have hit dice at all.) Different hit die sizes for different types of monster wasn't a thing till 3E.

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

Mors Rattus posted:

I can't quite put my finger on why this face weirds me out.

I think it's mostly that the eyes are way too close together. You're right, it does look off.

JcDent posted:

Ah, the acrobatics done to make the kid sympathetic. He thinks he's destroying the souls of people to impersonate them, but he actually isn't, so he's not a monster you should whack!

I haven't read the actual book, and maybe it's wafflier about the matter, but at least from Mors's writeup I didn't get the impression Liam's supposed to be sympathetic at all (unlike many of the other characters in this book). He seems to be pretty unambiguously presented as completely selfish and uncaring about who he hurts.

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

Okay, this one wonky illustration is probably getting a lot more attention than it deserves, but I wondered whether it could be significantly improved by just moving one eye, and... I think it kind of was?

BEFORE:


AFTER:


The only change between the two pictures is that I moved Grace's right eye four pixels left and one pixel down. (And did a tiny bit of blending between her eyes to patch the gap where I'd moved it from.) It still doesn't look perfect—and maybe I should have moved the eye another pixel or two down, I don't know—but I think it looks a lot less weird and unnatural than it did originally. The exact placement of that eye really seems to me to make a difference.

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

Deities & Demigods 1E
Part 13: There's a 5% Chance That This Will Make Sense

(No, that's not what I said in the last post would be coming "Next Time", but it's been long enough since then I figured nobody would remember anyway.)


You're probably guessing that those hieroglyphics in the upper right don't actually mean anything. You're probably right.

And so finally we get to one of the Big Three... the three ancient mythologies that even the average American who has little or no interest in history and anthropology will have some passing familiarity with, and will be able to name a few gods from. Most such people may not recognize the names of Anshar or Nuada or Guan Yin, but they've almost certainly heard of Thor and Aphrodite and Anubis. (Not coincidentally, these would also be the only three ancient mythologies to make it into the 3E Deities & Demigods.)

The plus side of these mythologies being so well known is that Kuntz and Ward don't get them as drastically wrong as some of the other mythoi. That's not to say their treatment of the Egyptian, Greek, and Norse myths is completely faithful to actual mythology, by any means, but they're not as utterly, deliriously wrong as most of the other mythoi we've seen so far.

This was kind of a long chapter, and I turned out to have kind of a lot to say about it, so, yeah, I went over the character count again and am going to have to split it into two posts. Sorry about that; I really don't expect this to keep happening with every chapter.


This Erol Otus drawing only appeared in Deities & Demigods starting with the third printing—apparently TSR decided that if they were going to remove the Cthulhu Mythos they ought to at least add a full-page drawing as a consolation prize.

This mythos, too, appeared in "Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes", of course—in fact, it's the very first mythology in the book. (As I've mentioned before, the mythologies in "Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes" aren't in alphabetical order—or any other sort of systematic order as far as I can tell.) As with the Chinese Mythos, though, I'll only comment on the entries there if there's something particularly interesting about them or significantly different from their presentation in Deities & Demigods. In fact, let's just assume that's the way things are going to go from now on unless I specify otherwise.

Here's the introduction to the Egyptian Mythology section in "Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes":

Egyptian Mythology posted:

The ancient Egyptians had a culture lasting over 3,000 years. It is only natural that their faith would undergo a change. Their Gods aged with Ra starting as the ruler and growing senile and Osiris taking over after being killed by Set. The pantheon presented is one with Ra in prominence only because there are more Gods in this early group.

That's not only the introduction to the Egyptian Mythology section in "Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes", as it happens; it's also very close to the first paragraph to the introduction to the Egyptian Mythos chapter in Deities & Demigods. Yes, while in the other chapters we've seen so far the introduction to the "Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes" section has been significantly different from the introduction to the corresponding chapter in Deities & Demigods, in this case Deities & Demigods just copied the introduction from "Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes" almost word for word:

Egyptian Mythos posted:

The ancient Egyptians developed a culture lasting over 3,000 years. It is only natural that their faith would undergo a change in that time. Their deities aged, with Ra starting as the ruler and growing senile and Osiris taking over after being killed by Set and being brought back to life. The pantheon presented is one with Ra in prominence only because there are more beings of power in this early grouping.

Now, it's true, of course, that the Egyptian mythology changed over time (like every other belief system that lasted for a significant length of time), and it's certainly fair enough to choose to present the mythology as it existed in one particular time fairly early on. I do, though, have maybe three or four eensy objections here. First of all, Osiris certainly grew in importance over time, but he never really supplanted Ra as ruler of the gods; in mainstream Egyptian mythology I think Ra was pretty much always considered the head of the pantheon, though he was sometimes conflated with other deities. (In fact, the third-edition Deities & Demigods and the listing of gods in the fifth-edition Player's Handbook both reflect this, listing as the head of the Egyptian pantheon not Ra by that name, but "Re-Horakhty", a combination of Ra and Horus.) Even if we do accept that Ra's importance faded somewhat with time, I don't think there's any mythological basis for claiming that he was growing senile; that just seems like a... really weird thing to say. (It's true that in later Egyptian myths, there was a belief that Ra aged along with the sun over the course of the day, but, you know, that meant he was old and arguably senile in the evening, but by the morning he was young again.) But whatever, sure, I guess now Ra is rooming with Odin at the Woodshead Hospital.

Second (or maybe third if you count the above as two separate issues), it also strikes me as a bit strange to say that the early myths had more gods. Surely the ancient Egyptians may have added to their myths over time, but I don't think they were known for removing gods from their pantheon. Now, granted, technically the text in Deities & Demigods (unlike the corresponding text in "Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes") doesn't say there were more gods in early myths, only that there were more beings of power, and I guess you could make an argument that later myths put the spotlight on a smaller number of gods and left more gods on the sidelines, but even so I'm not sure that's true. I mean, obviously I'm not an expert on ancient Egyptian mythology (just like I'm not an expert on American Indian mythology, or Babylonian mythology, or Celtic mythology, or Chinese mythology, or...), and maybe there's more to this than I think, but it doesn't sound right to me.

The last objection here is maybe a bit more of a nitpick. I'd mentioned in a previous part of this review that Set wasn't originally considered evil in Egyptian mythology; he was originally a benevolent protective god, and only became villainized relatively late in the course of the civilization, more or less coinciding with Osiris's rise in popularity. So if you're going to say you're specifically drawing on the mythology from before the rise of Osiris, that means you're specifically drawing on the mythology from a time when Set was still widely honored and respected. So what's he doing as a lawful evil enemy of the rest of the pantheon? But of course, D&D writers have always loved their evil gods, so it was probably inevitable they would have made Set evil given the slightest excuse to do so.

Anyway, that's the end of the introduction to the Egyptian Mythology chapter in "Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes", but the introduction to the Egyptian Mythos chapter in Deities & Demigods goes on for another three paragraphs. The first paragraph is about Egyptian temples.

Egyptian Mythos posted:

Temples were many in Egyptian society, but each city had only one major deity. All the other deities could be worshiped, but only in an inferior position. Temples always follow the same design and differ only in size and splendor.

The rest of the paragraph describes that design in depth. The next paragraph gives three more sentences about the temple sanctuary and really probably should have been part of the same paragraph—I guess the writers thought that paragraph would have been too long (which, okay, I guess it kind of would have been), but the paragraph break comes in a really odd and arbitrary place. Then the third paragraph discusses the duties of Egyptian clerics. Apparently the Egyptian gods are sexist:

Egyptian Mythos posted:

Female clerics can rise no higher than the 9th level in ability, but it is necessary for all 11th level males or higher to take on a female cleric as a consort and advisor, and these women often rule in the stead of their male counterparts when the males have to be away from the temple. The female clerics keep all official temple records.

This can't, incidentally, be attributed to historical authenticity, since historically in the ancient Egyptian priesthood men and women were actually of surprisingly equal status, and during the New Kingdom era the priestess holding the position of God's Wife of Amun was the most powerful priest in Egypt.

Also, besides being sexist, the Egyptian gods in Deities & Demigods are really mercenary:

Egyptian Mythos posted:

Egyptian clerics can only rise in levels by donating large sums to the sect for its use (in AD&D terms it is necessary to donate the equivalent of the needed experience points in gold in order to rise in levels).

Again, I'm... pretty sure this doesn't have any historical basis.

So, on to the gods. Starting, of course, with:

RA (sun god) "Pharaoh to the Gods"


"Take that, illustration border!"

As the introduction says, the leader of the mythos is Ra, who is neutral good and for some reason lives on the Prime Material Plane.

Ra posted:

He rides through the air in a huge war galley made of part of the sun and called the Matet (this galley changes into a simple barge at night called the Semktet). It travels at a rate of 24", is surrounded by flames (which inflict 40 points of searing damage on contact), and is never affected by magic.

Yes, that's right. Not only do we, as usual, get lots of useless information on Ra's combat abilities, we get statistics for the combat abilities of his boat, too.


Also an illustration. Wait... who's steering the ship?

Ra posted:

This god prevents fighting among the other beings of the pantheon and is able to reduce all conflict to a state where only the clerics of each sect are able to do battle, with their respective gods never taking a hand, unless Ra himself is out of commission.

Uh, wait, so was Ra out of commission when Set personally murdered Osiris? Except from the introduction I guess we're basing this on an early version of Egyptian mythology and that hasn't happened yet. So... will Ra be out of commission when Set personally murders Osiris? Eh... whatever.

The only difference worth noting in Ra's entry in "Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes" is that instead of saying it inflicts damage it says it "is immolated for 40 points", which makes it sound like the barge is burning up.

ANHUR (god of war)


Anhur, doing a classic cartoon villain "Curses!" pose.

Anhur "always appears as a human", except that we're told in the next sentence that he "shape changes", which seems to imply that he does not always appear as a human, unless he only shapechanges to the form of another human. However, he only shapechanges "when attacked by more than one being", except then we're also told that he "commonly fights in +4 scale mail", so does his armor shapechange with him, or...

Anhur posted:

A worshiper of Anhur offers sacrifices to him in battle, in the form of powerful enemies. If a follower of Anhur promises the god a foe's life as a sacrifice, and the foe is at least twice as powerful as the worshiper (considering levels, hit points, special abilities, etc.), then if the worshiper is successful, there is a 1% chance that Anhur will immediately grant him or her sufficient experience to raise one level of experience.

On the one hand, there would seem to be no incentive not to just offer the life of every powerful foe as a sacrifice, just in case that 1% chance happens. On the other hand, how often in any edition does a D&D character fight and win against a foe twice as powerful?

Like Ra, Anhur lives on the Prime Material Plane for some reason.

Oh... he's also "unusually tall". That's... important, I guess.

ANUBIS (guardian of the dead)


I'm not sure what the top of that staff is supposed to be shaped like.

Anubis doesn't live on the Prime Material Plane. He lives on the Astral Plane. So... okay. The Egyptian gods just want to be different; they don't want to hang out on the Outer Planes like those plebeian gods. Well, all right, most of the remaining Egyptian gods do live on the Outer Planes. Most, but not all; we'll still get a couple more gods living on the Prime Material Plane, three on the Elemental Planes, and one on the Ethereal Plane... but I'm not sure why so many of them are on the Prime Material Plane. Huh.

Anubis posted:

Anubis appears as a man with the head af a jackal.

Anubis has what I think is the most circumstantial combat ability so far: he can animate any statue of himself, which I guess can be handy if he ever... gets in a fight near a statue of himself. Which I guess he sometimes does, because there's a 5% chance that he will come and kill anyone who robs a tomb with an image of himself, because the writers of Deities & Demigods really loved having small random chances of the gods doing things, which seems pointless because that means those chances almost never matter, but the DM still (theoretically) has to roll just in case this time they do. Anyway, if the "tomb has been consecrated especially to Anubis", the chances of his appearing go up to 10%, but that "involves the intercession of a 10th level priest and the sacrifice to Anubis of 50,000 gp worth of precious gems."

By the way, in "Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes", the chances of Anubis's showing up are larger—he has a 5% chance of coming to kill the robber of any tomb, and it rises to 25% if the tomb has an image of him in it. Also, he has the head of a dog instead of a jackal. He still animates statues of himself, though.

But, getting back to Deities & Demigods, the writers aren't done throwing random percentage chances into Anubis's entry. We're then told that since Anubis is the "collector of souls for transportation to the house of the dead"... um, actually, this part is sufficiently longwinded and awkwardly worded that I'm just going to quite it rather than try to summarize it.

Anubis posted:

In his role as the collector of souls for transportation to the house of the dead, there is a 20% chance that a dead being (worshiping any Egyptian deity) will, while in the process of being raised from the dead by a cleric, attract the anger of the god, and as a result that cleric will be forced to go on a quest for the purpose of increasing the power of the cult of Anubis (no saving throw; judge's option as to the quest).

Yeah, okay.

Finally we're told that while Anubis can use magical powers in combat, he's especially fond of just biting enemies to death. Oh, Anubis. Have some dignity.

APEP (king of serpents)

Apep is presented as a unique monster rather than a god, which, really, is fair enough; I don't think anyone in ancient Egypt ever worshipped Apep. Which, of course, didn't stop Wizards of the Coast from making Apep into a full-fledged god (or at least demigod) in third edition.

Apep posted:

This creature of the Abyss is the deadly enemy of the gods, particularly Osiris. Apep is the physical embodiment of chaotic evil in the Egyptian mythos. He is usually attended by 5-50 flame snakes (q.v.), who act at his will.

Apep doesn't appear in "Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes", but it has a different evil reptilian being in his place:

APESH   GOD OF GREED AND EVIL

Apesh posted:

Apesh looks like a dragon turtle straight out of D&D. Its main attribute is the power to summon 1-4 of any evil creature per day to fight for it. In battle it relies on its shapechanging power to kill its enemies. It is very fond of allowing maps to its many treasures to be found by lawful beings and then taking a personal hand in killing them when they try to take the gold.

And no, this isn't just a typo or another name for Apep; Apesh and Apep were distinct beings in Egyptian mythology, though Apesh was rather more obscure. I'm not sure the writers of Deities & Demigods knew they were distinct beings, though, since they never appeared in the same D&D book.

Also, it probably goes without saying that in Egyptian mythology Apesh did not look like a dragon turtle, which... wasn't a thing. He did look like a turtle, though, so, uh, close enough?

APSHAI (god of insects)

quote:

Apshai is a great praying mantis, able to shape change at will and call an insect plague on a person, town, or country. He can control any type of insect (of a non-divine nature).

Yeah, that's all we get about Apshai except for a sentence about his, ugh, combat abilities.

This god is kind of a weird one. Yes, Apshai really does come from Egyptian mythology, but he was definitely not a major god. He wasn't really a god at all. He was just kind of a... well, an insect that the dead had to confront on their way to the afterlife, mentioned briefly in the Egyptian Book of the Dead. He doesn't seem to have really been a praying mantis, either. More likely a flesh-eating beetle.

So why was such an obscure entity included as a god in Deities & Demigods? Well, I had a theory as to why:


Please note that there are no dragons in this game.

That's the cover to the instruction manual of Temple of Apshai, one of the earliest computer role-playing games. This game took place in a temple of "Apshai, the insect god", now a buried ruin inhabited by monsters including six-foot antmen that smelled like vanilla. The game was released in 1979... the year before Deities & Demigods was published.

So that seems like a likely inspiration, doesn't it? Well, that's what I thought at first, until I realized something that completely falsified this theory.

Sure, Deities & Demigods was published in 1980... but "Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes" was released in 1976, before Temple of Apshai, and Apshai was in that book too (and, as in Deities & Demigods, was an insect god in the form of a praying mantis). So no, I guess Apshai wasn't in Deities & Demigods because of Temple of Apshai. Rather, Apshai was in Temple of Apshai because of "Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes". As with Tower of Druaga, the D&D entry came first.


No dragons, but there are plenty of ants.

So that brings us back to the question, then, why was this obscure entity in "Gods, Demi-Gods, & Heroes"? I don't know. Maybe because Kuntz and Ward were thumbing through the Book of the Dead at random, ran across the mention of Apshai, and decided to throw it in. Why not.

BAST (cat goddess)

:nws:Link to NSFW image on external site:nws:

Bast posted:

Bast's bitter enemies are Set and his minions. When fighting evil with her claws, she often teleports about and shape changes so that she can use more claws in battle.

Uh... so what does she shape change into? Like, just a giant ball of claws, or...?

Not that it matters, because again, we're talking about a god's combat abilities, and who cares.

Anyway, returning to the persistent theme in this book of gods having pointlessly tiny chances of reacting to things, there's a 2% chance of Bast noticing when someone kills "one of the cat race", and if she does there's a 5% chance that she'll react to it, either by killing the slayer or by demanding "that he or she devote one-half of the rest of his or her life to Bast." So, you know... I guess by these rules every time the PCs slay a giant lynx or a kamadan or a luck eater or a nonafel or one of the dozen other cat monsters that exist in first-edition D&D, the DM is supposed to roll to check for the one in a thousand chance that Bast will show up and kill them. Or force them to serve her.

("Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes" has Bast significantly more reactive: there's a 40% chance that she's see a being killing "one of the cat race", and if she does she'll come and kill them, period, unless they're "very powerful", and then she'll demand "that he or she raise the cat to life and devote one half the rest of their life to Bast." So... yeah, don't kill a cat in OD&D. Though OD&D didn't really have any cat monsters anyway except for the displacer beast, which was introduced in the first supplement, "Greyhawk". So, yeah, I guess in OD&D RAW if you kill a displacer beast there's a better than one in three chance that a literal goddess shows up to avenge its death.)

Also, all of Bast's priests have special powers against snakes. Because clearly that's a cat thing. No, really, I think it's because Bast is an enemy of Set (in Deities & Demigods, that is, not in actual Egyptian mythology), and Set... is connected with snakes, I guess? I mean, he didn't really have any connection to snakes in Egyptian mythology (if anything, his opposition to Apep made him an enemy of snakes—or at least of one snake), but in Deities & Demigods he... doesn't really have much connection to snakes either, actually. Though his symbol is a coiled cobra for some reason, so I guess that's enough.

BES (god of luck)

Bes posted:

Bes appears as a mountain dwarf as described in the MONSTER MANUAL.

Also not a thing in Egyptian mythology: dwarves. Though yeah, in a lot of his ancient Egyptian depictions, Bes did kind of look like a dwarf, so, okay, fair enough I guess.

Anyway, Bes likes people who take gambles, and if he's "really pleased (judge's option)" by seeing someone take a big risk, there's a :sigh: 5% chance that he'll "give the being a luck stone, no strings attached. (DMs must exercise discretion in this.)" Yeah, because the luck stone (or, as it's actually called in the DMG, the "Stone of Good Luck (Luckstone)") is one of the most potentially powerful items in first-edition D&D, not least because it affects even rolls to randomly determine treasure. Are you hoping to find a specific extremely rare magic item? Well, the luckstone can multiply your chances by a factor of well over a hundred.

FLAME SNAKE

Flame Snake posted:

This creature is an enemy of the gods, and is related to the great serpent Apep. It appears as a small harmless grass snake and is most often found sitting coiled on the highest pile of treasure in a tomb... The Egyptian hells swarm with flame snakes.

We saw these mentioned in Apep's description; now we get stats for them. They're chaotic evil monsters that are... kind of pathetic, actually; they only have one hit die, and their bite does a maximum of two hit points of damage. The best thing they have going for them is a breath weapon that does fifteen hit points of damage. Also, they have magic resistance and a decent armor class. Still, these things are enemies of the gods? Somehow I don't think the gods are going to be too scared.

By the way, flame snakes did appear in "Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes", even though Apep didn't. Except they were called fire snakes. And they were actually a lot tougher; they had 20 hit points and their breath weapon did 35 hit points of damage. They still looked like grass snakes and sat on piles of treasure, though.

GEB (god of the earth) also known as Seb or Qeb


Okay, so Anubis isn't the only Egyptian god to have a staff with a tip shaped like nothing in particular.

Obviously the names of most if not all ancient Egyptian gods have multiple different English transliterations, so I'm not sure why only Geb gets alternate versions listed of his name. Anyway, Geb's description is almost entirely about his combat abilities. In fact, the only part that's not about his combat abilities is the first sentence, "Geb appears as a heavily muscled man." So moving on...

HORUS (son of Osiris) "The Avenger"


Insert topical Avengers joke here. I don't know. I haven't seen the movies, but I'm sure there's some reference that can be made. Maybe something about Hawkeye?

According to some sources, there were actually at least two different Horuses in ancient Egyptian mythology, sometimes called Horus the Elder and Horus the Younger. It's Horus the Younger that was the son of Osiris, while Horus the Elder was one of the oldest gods, so I'd say the version in Deities & Demigods represents Horus the Younger, except that I'm not sure Kuntz and Ward were even aware of the difference. Then again, I'm not sure how much the difference was important to ancient Egyptians, who may very well have just seen the two as aspects of the same god and not worried about the contradictions in their origin stories, so, eh, I guess I'd give them a pass on that.

What I won't give them a pass on is the fact that once again the vast majority of his description is about his combat abilities. We get half a sentence of description, "Horus appears on the earth as a muscular man with a hawk's head," and then we launch into a lengthy paragraph of what he does in combat. (I say "half a sentence" because while the quoted clause could stand on its own as a sentence, it doesn't—it's the first half of a compound sentence the second half of which is about how his "main attribute is the ability to triple the power of any weapon or magic item he uses.")

We do get a second, much shorter paragraph that isn't about his combat abilities, but which is about Deities & Demigods' other pointless obsession, that being a god having a tiny random chance of reacting to some event. In this case, we're told that "When a 'good' person seeks righteous revenge, there is a 5% chance that the god will aid by increasing all of the being's ability scores to 19 until the deed is done." And yes, "good" is in quotation marks. I'm... I'm not even going to bother speculating as to why.

ISIS (goddess of magic and fertility)

:nws:Link to NSFW image on external site:nws:

Okay, yeesh. There are four goddesses in this pantheon, but only two of them have illustrations, and both of those are drawn in costumes that leave their perky breasts fully exposed. I guess it's possible that the artist for this chapter (Jeff Dee) thought the ancient Egyptians really dressed that way, but I think it's much more likely he just wanted to draw boobs.

"Isis usually appears as a beautiful well-proportioned female," because of course she does. She likes creating "magical charms" that each resist the effect of a single spell, and she has a 5% chance :sigh: of giving them to anyone who creates a new spell or magic item. Did any DM ever consistently roll for all the tiny chances for all the gods' reacting to various events?

NEPHTHYS (goddess of wealth and protector of the dead)

Nephthys is the twin sister of Isis, and of course she also appears as a beautiful woman, and she almost certainly would have walked around with her breasts hanging out if Jeff Dee had bothered to draw her.

Nephthys posted:

Nephthys was once married to Set, but she left him when that god turned to evil.

In Egyptian mythology, Nephthys was indeed married to Set, but I'm unaware of any myths in which she left him. I guess Kuntz and Ward just didn't think a chaotic good and lawful evil god could be married. Even though the chaotic good Chalchiuhtlicue was said to be married to the lawful evil Tlaloc in the Central American Mythos. Hm.

OSIRIS (god of nature and the dead)


Osiris, seen here doing jumping jacks as part of his morning exercise routine.

quote:

Osiris usually appears as a muscular green man. He is the lord and protector of the dead. Vegetation or anything made out of vegetation has no effect on the god. His also is the power to raise the dead, no matter how long in that condition.

Then we get the requisite long paragraph about his combat abilities, and the almost as requisite shorter paragraph about his having a 5% chance of doing something. In this case, "if one [of his clerics] does a great deed for the religion (judge's option). that cleric may (5%) be given a wish." ("Gods, Demi-Gods and Heroes" doesn't have the 5% chance; it just says straight out that "if one [of his clerics] does a great deed for the religion (judge's option) the priest is given a wish." Still includes that wishy-washy "judge's option", though.)

quote:

Osiris is second only to Ra in power and rules in Ra's absence.

He's actually given a full 400 hit points like the leader of a pantheon, though as mentioned above I don't think he was ever really the head of the gods in actual ancient Egyptian mythology. Osiris was considered the king of the dead, and sometimes also the "king of the living", but he was never the king of the gods.

PHOENIX


Is it just me, or does it kind of look like it has a windmill tattooed on its wing?

Phoenix posted:

The phoenix was said to exist and be watching at the time of the creation of the universe, and it stands for everlasting life beyond even the power of gods to attain.

The phoenix wasn't Egyptian, so I'm not sure what it's doing in this chapter. Well... the Greek historian Herodotus did repeat accounts of the phoenix being found in Egypt, but then Herodotus also wrote about griffins in northern Europe and "headless men with eyes in their breasts" living in Libya. To Herodotus's credit, he didn't relate these accounts uncritically as unquestioned truth; he generally explicitly said they were things he had heard of but could not personally vouch for—and that goes for his account of the phoenix as well, which he admitted he had never seen and that he didn't believe all the stories about. So anyway, the only connection the phoenix had with Egypt is that a Greek guy said they were found there. Certainly there are no mentions of the phoenix in any ancient Egyptian sources—there was a magical bird called the Bennu that some scholars have suggested may have inspired the Greek phoenix, but even that is dubious at best. So, yeah, if Kuntz and Ward wanted to include the phoenix in Deities & Demigods, it really belonged in the chapter on Greek Mythology, not Egyptian.

Anyway, the phoenix is of course presented as a monster, not a god, and it's pretty much what you probably think: it's on fire, it attacks with its wings and beak, if killed it explodes and is reborn 3-18 rounds later.

Phoenix posted:

There is no way by which the phoenix can be killed permanently. Even if its ashes are destroyed, it will rise again, seemingly out of nothingness.

Being that it's just a giant bird that doesn't seem to be hurting anything, I'm not sure why anyone would be interested in killing it permanently anyway.

In "Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes", the header for the phoenix reads "PHONEX (Phoenix)". I don't know why. Did anyone ever spell it that way?

PTAH (creator of the universe) "Opener of the Ways"


Is he wearing a bald cap?

Ptah posted:

Ptah appears as a dwarf with eyes that reflect the universe. He exudes a feeling of great power. According to legend, Ptah formed the Prime Material Plane out of the Ethereal, and created the Egyptian pantheon of gods. However, he is not really a member of their group, and generally makes his own way.

We also get information about how Ptah is a "master of planar travel" and can force people to other planes or "teleport anywhere in the multiverse with accuracy", and then we get information about :sigh: his combat abilities and :sigh: how he has a 5% chance of rewarding people who come up with "highly useful" inventions. (15% if they're worshippers of Ptah, and 20% if they're clerics.) He rewards them with a special magic item called a Thet which is only mentioned here inside Ptah's description instead of having its own entry. Anyway, it's a charged item that lets wielders become ethereal or create an anti-magic shell that doesn't affect their own spellcasting. There is absolutely no information on what a Thet looks like, so you can use your imagination. A jellybean? A spork? It's up to you!

Okay, I looked it up online, and a thet looks like this:


So kind of like a stick figure guy with his arms at his sides, though that's probably not what the ancient Egyptians were going for.

Also, it was strongly associated with the goddess Isis, so why Ptah is handing these things out is anybody's guess.

SEKER (god of light)


This time the artist just completely gave up on deciding what the tip of his staff looked like.

Seker posted:

Cousin to Shu, Seker appears as a rather ordinary man.

What a vivid description. He's not just ordinary, he's rather ordinary.

Seker posted:

Seker is one of the gods of the afterworld, and protects neutral good souls (of the Egyptian cults) after death.

And that's all the information we get about him besides his combat abilities. One of which is that he "casts shafts of light from his hands that kill any undead they touch (range 500 yards)". Which I mention only because we get a bonus drawing of his doing just that:


At least, I assume that's what's supposed to be happening here, although the middle figure looks less undead and more blob of Play-Doh. Also, I like the way the mummy looks like it's trying to hold the bandages in place over its forehead.

In Egyptian iconography, incidentally, Seker was often shown with the head of a falcon. I only bring this up because it seems a bit odd that he's not given the head of a falcon in Deities & Demigods, despite many of the other Egyptian gods being described with animal heads. I mean... you could make a case for the Egyptian gods having animal heads (because that's the way the ancient Egyptians depicted them), or you could make a case for them having regular human heads (on the grounds that the animal heads in their depictions were meant as symbolic), but let's be consistent.

The description of Seker in "Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes" is basically similar, though shorter, but it does have one interesting bit:

Seker posted:

[Seker] can use all of his powers shapechanged as opposed to all the other Gods who cannot.

Wait... so usually gods who can change their shape lose their powers when they're not in their normal form? And this is something you didn't think was important enough to mention anywhere outside of the entry of the one god who's apparently an exception to the rule?

SET (god of evil and the night)


Set, seen here making use of his specially designed posing stool.

Set posted:

Set is a scaled humanoid with the head of a fierce jackal. He is totally dedicated to the spreading of evil and has attributes to match.

Okay, we've already covered how Set wasn't originally evil, and we've touched on his implied but not explicit association with snakes; now let's talk about that "head of a fierce jackal" thing. (Though this was already touched on in KingKalamari's review of Wilderlands of High Fantasy, since Wilderlands apparently heavily drew from 1E Deities & Demigods.) I don't think any jackals have ever had heads remotely like Set's head in the illustration. Still, saying that Set has the head of a jackal isn't actually completely unfounded. Some Egyptologists have indeed proposed that the animal whose head Set has—and the full body of which is often shown in other depictions of Set, or in hieroglyphics representing him—was meant to be a jackal (and that the differences in the depiction of Set's head with Anubis's are intentional for the purpose of distinguishing the two gods). Others have identified it with different animals, including the donkey, the okapi, or the aardvark. All of these, however, are minority views; the mainstream modern consensus is that this animal, called the Set animal or the sha, is an entirely fanciful beast that was never meant to correspond to any real-world animal. As amusing as it might be to have a god with the head of an aardvark.


Fear Set, bane of ants and termites everywhere!

He can turn people into evil Minions of Set with a touch, regardless of their original alignments, and there's (ugh) "a 5% chance that Set may be watching when one of his worshipers does a highly evil act, and if so, Set will lend that being 2-20 Minions of Set for 12 weeks."

Hey, remember this part from the book's introduction?:

Dungeon Mastering Divine Beings posted:

If an entreaty for aid were heard one time in 100, surely each and every deity would be as busy as a switchboard operator during some sort of natural disaster.

Because given all these gods' having 5% chances or whatever to respond to various events, I'm not sure the writers remembered it. Apparently the gods are far too busy to actually respond to prayers, but they have plenty of time to personally kill tombrobbers and avenge cats and reward inventors and whatnot. They have their priorities.

Anyway, we've had a few mentions of a "Minion of Set". What's a Minion of Set? Well, it's the next entry in the book, that's what.

But I think I'll stop here for now and save them for the next post.

Next time: Curse Be On You Forever

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

Robindaybird posted:

To be fair, from what can be gathered, Egyptian women did in fact go topless in certain periods, but the illustrations are definitely more for 'artist is horny' than 'historical accuracy' reasons.

Yeah, if he'd drawn them completely topless that might actually have been better. Instead, they're fully dressed, but in costumes with gaps for their exposed breasts and apparently specifically designed to draw as much attention to those breasts as possible.

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

Deities & Demigods 1E
Part 14: Curse Be On You Forever


Okay, let's finish up the Egyptian Mythos. When we left off, we were just about to get to the...

Minions of Set

So, minions of Set are lawful evil "go-betweens for Set and mankind" who can turn into giant snakes, and some of them can also turn into "cave bears, giant crocodiles, or giant scorpions". And that's about it. Here, have a picture.


It's Bruce Campbell's evil twin.

SHU (god of the sky)

Shu posted:

Twin brother to Tefnut, this god appears as a normal man.

Not a rather ordinary man, mind you. Just a normal man. These distinctions are important.

And all the rest of his description is about his combat abilities. What do his worshippers do? Does he have any special ceremonies? Who knows? Let's move on.

TEFNUT (goddess of storms and flowing water)

Tefnut posted:

Shu is Tefnut's brother, and he is very protective of his sister. Anything that dares to harm her will suffer his immediate vengeance, and there is a 75% chance that Horus will also help.

Deities & Demigods was secretly a plot to sell percentile dice.

Anyway, that's all we get about Tefnut besides her combat abilities, the only one of which worth noting is that she has the ability to summon water monsters. Which is italicized as if it were a spell, but... isn't a spell.

THOTH (god of knowledge)


"Wait... am I pointing this thing the right way? I can never remember."

Thoth posted:

Thoth was the teacher of the gods, and this role allows him full knowledge of everything and anything, particularly magic. His spells always inflict maximum possible damage (saving throws are still applicable).

Yup. We get one sentence of potentially useful (if vague) description, before we dive right in to combat abilities.

Well, we do get a little more in the next few paragraphs: he's instantly aware of any new knowledge discovered on the Prime Material Plane, and his worshipers are primarily interested in the acquisition and spread of knowledge. Also, he has "a set of 3 books that detail all clerical knowledge, all magical knowledge, and all divine knowledge. They have been stolen several times during his existence, much to the regret of the thieves when Thoth caught up to them."


The third book is Deities & Demigods.

Then we get to this chapter's one magic item:

TRUE ANKH

True Ankh posted:

This magical device, carried by all of the gods of the Nile at one time or another, enables them to raise any dead creature fully (as the spell) as long as all of the body pieces are present at the time of the raising. The device will kill by fire any non-divine being that touches it. It is about one foot long, with a cross shope, having a loop on the top. It is usually bright blue in color. There are only 7 of these in any given plane at any one time.

It's bright blue? What the heck is it made of? And saying there 7 "in any given plane" implies there could be more on other planes. So what happens if you try to bring one from another plane to a plane where there are already seven? Does it just... not work? Or is that there can have more than seven True Ankhs on a given plane but just currently aren't?

There's actually still a page and a half left in this chapter, but before I get to that, let's go over the gods, monsters, and items that are in the Egyptian Mythology section of "Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes" but not in Deities & Demigods. We've already seen one, Apesh, but he's not alone. Here are the rest, in the seemingly random order in which they appear in "Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes":

RENENET   GODDESS OF GOOD FORTUNE

quote:

Renenet looks like an ordinary woman

Oh, good, this again. Kuntz and Ward's raw descriptive power never ceases to amaze.

quote:

and when looking upon another being gives them the Luck of the Gods. The being will make their saving throw every time, will always hit their enemies, and will never be struck by their foes.

:eyepop:

I... wow. What? How long does this last? Is it permanent? She can just look at someone and make them... basically invulnerable forever? Well, technically I guess people with the Luck of the Gods would still take damage from area spells that do half damage on a save, but still... dang.

(Bast, incidentally, has no area of effect abilities, so I guess if you get Renenet to look at you, you can slaughter displacer beasts with impunity.)

Okay, maybe I can see why she was left out of Deities & Demigods. I mean, sure, the writers could have just changed her powers, but that would have been too much work.

AMSET   GOD OF THE SOUTH
HAPI   GOD OF THE NORTH
TUAMAUTEF   GOD OF THE EAST
QEBHSENNUF   GOD OF THE WEST

Yeah, these are four separate beings, each with their own stat block, but they're listed right next to each other and are obviously related. They all have the same stats, and the same powers, and differ only in their appearance: Amset "looks like an extremely short man", Hapi "like an extremely short dwarf right out of D&D", Tuamautef like "a man with a crocodile head", and Qebhsennuf like a random sequence of Scrabble tiles. I mean, "like a man with a hippo's head".

SPHINX

Sphinx posted:

A sphinx is one of the most powerful of all Egyptian magical beasts. It has the body of a lion and the head of a woman, sometimes having wings, but not always.

Well, uh, that describes the Greek sphinx, but not the Egyptian. Oh well.

Sphinx posted:

While it is very short tempered and likes the taste of human blood, it is also curious and will spare a person with a good story (judges option). ... Its saving throw against everything is 02 and it loves riddles.

Riddles? Oh, goddammit, this is just the Greek sphinx. You're not even trying.

WINGED SERPENT

Winged Serpent posted:

These snakes are about 1 foot long with 2 foot long wings. It flies about its treasure and has only one power; it can spit a contact poison that will seep through even armor at a distance of 30 yards. This snake will try not to close with an attacker, spitting every melee round.

What do these have to do with Egyptian mythology? Search me.

LIFE SCEPTER

Life Scepter posted:

A magical weapon found only in the hands of Gods.

Oh, great, another of those.

Life Scepter posted:

Its main power is the ability to make the being holding it unkillable.

Uh... I think gods are pretty close to unkillable already. (Unless you're Waldorf.) So what does the life scepter do for them?

Life Scepter posted:

It acts like the magic jar spell but it holds the hits points [sic] of the being. The holder can be hacked at forever with no harm because whenever he wishes he can return his hit points to his body.

That... kind of makes it sound like hit points are tangible objects that fly out of the gods when you hack them like candy out of piñatas, but okay.

Life Scepter posted:

It is made out of a woody material and is easily affected by anything that affects wood and destroying it destroys the user.

Wait, hold on. That's not making the gods unkillable. That's doing the opposite of making the gods unkillable. It's a lot easier to kill a god if all you have to do is destroy some dumb wooden stick they're holding.

But this point does not go entirely unaddressed:

Life Scepter posted:

It is not used often by the Gods except Thoth because he is able to negate all the forms of damage inflicting wood.


He... he is? I don't recall that being mentioned among his powers. I guess aside from its making him the only god for whom the Life Scepter is remotely useful, it must not come up very often.

Anyway, that's it for the Egyptian Mythology section of "Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes", so let's get back to that last page and a half of the Egyptian Mythos chapter of Deities & Demigods. These last pages deal with a single topic:

HIEROGLYPHS

We get a few paragraphs of description, which I'm just going to go ahead and quote in full because I'm getting tired of trying to summarize things.

Hieroglyphs posted:

Egyptian written language did not use an alphabet as we know it; rather, ideas were conveyed by means of hieroglyphs, or word-pictures. Each hieroglyph could mean one simple word, or it could stand for a whole phrase or concept.

Well, no, I don't think it was normal for hieroglyphs (if you're using "hieroglyph" to mean a single symbol) to stand for entire phrases. They didn't even all stand for entire words. Many hieroglyphs had phonetic values, and could be used to represent particular sounds within a word or name. But let's continue.

Hieroglyphs posted:

A hieroglyph could be altered slightly with the effect of negating, emphasizing, or otherwise modifying the meaning of the base hieroglyph; however, this practice tended to confuse meanings when artists couldn't agree on their depictions. Later, archaeologists would face these same difficulties in trying to uncover the meanings of the hieroglyphs they found.

DMs using the Egyptian pantheon may wish to use hieroglyphs on maps, scrolls, temple writings, and anywhere else runes might be found (warning of danger ahead, etc.). These hieroglyphs con be combined to make phrases and sentences; for more information consult The Book of the Dead, a translation of ancient hieroglyphs found in Egyptian tombs.

The bibliography (which we'll get to in the appendices) does indeed include The Egyptian Book of the Dead, specifically the translation by E. A. Wallis Budge. Now, this does not strike me as necessarily the most logical source to look to for more information on hieroglyphics. Yes, it does include translations of passages of Egyptian hieroglyphics, with the English translations presented below the hieroglyphics they're translating, and yes, I guess by looking through it you could make some guesses about what hieroglyphs corresponded to what English words. But it doesn't really include a summary of how hieroglyphics worked, and it certainly doesn't include any ordered lexicon or dictionary that would allow you to look up specific words. Unlike Budge's two-volume An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary, which, well, includes exactly that. So why did Kuntz and Ward suggest The Book of the Dead as a source for information on hieroglyphs, and not the much more apt An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary by the same author? I don't know, but I'm guessing maybe only the former was available in their local library.

To be fair, of course, old books like that weren't as easily accessible when Deities & Demigods was written as they are today. I happen to have physical copies of both Budge's translation of The Book of the Dead and his An Egyptian Hieroglyphic Dictionary—I've had them long enough I don't actually remember where I got them—but even if I didn't, both books are old enough now they're in the public domain, and easy to find online. But obviously that wouldn't have been the case back in 1980, and Kuntz and Ward's access to these books would have been more limited. Of course, there's also the fact that since those books are so old, they're kind of outdated; anthropologists have learned more about ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics since then, and revised some of Budge's translations, but for the purposes of the following discussion I'll go ahead and use Budge's Hieroglyphic Dictionary anyway.


Here's what E. A. Wallis Budge looked like, in case you were wondering. You probably weren't wondering.

Anyway, the rest of this section is taken up by a big chart, filling the rest of this page and all of the next, giving the hieroglyphs (supposedly) corresponding to various English words. I'm not going to reproduce the whole chart here, but I'll show the first bit of it to give you the idea:


Creative writing challenge: Come up with a short story using only the words in this chart.

Now, I admit as a child I found this chart pretty nifty, even though I don't think I ever used it in a game. But how accurate is it? Well... not entirely, of course, but maybe more than you might expect. (Certainly more than I expected.) I didn't take the time look up every hieroglyph (or set of hieroglyphs) in this chart, but from those I did look up, it seems that the hieroglyphs for the gods, at least, are somewhat mangled but at least close to correct (though not unique; the important gods had multiple variant sets of hieroglyphs that could be used to represent them). The other words are a bit more of a mixed bag; most of them are more or less correct ("at", "behold", "bones", "crown", "every"), but others have entirely different meanings from the ones the chart ascribes to them ("before", "blood"—according to Budge those hieroglyphs actually mean "to know" and "magical protection", respectively). There were some I was unable to locate in Budge's Dictionary, but I'm guessing that's because Kuntz and Ward misinterpreted and/or miscopied them; I get the impression they were at least trying to give authentic hieroglyphs and meanings, even if they didn't always succeed. That is to say, I don't think they made any of these hieroglyphs up, though they did get some of them wrong.

Their choice of words to include, however, is somewhat baffling. Why fire and earth, and not air and water? Why before, but not after? Why come, but not go? Life, but not death? Yesterday, but not tomorrow? And, but not or? He and his, but not she and her? This, but not that? Right, but not... wrong, or left, depending on which "right" they meant? (For that matter, why didn't they specify which "right" they meant? "Right" as in the opposite of left and "right" as in the opposite of wrong happen to be the same word in English, but that's certainly not true in most languages.) Why are there no numbers or colors, two very common and useful categories of word? It could be that this is simply because they didn't run across those words in their perusal of The Book of the Dead, of course, but it does somewhat limit the sentences that can be made using these charts. Still, I guess you could write a sentence like "Enter hidden door within north passage", though certainly not in the way that the ancient Egyptians would have really written it, given that the book gives no information on ancient Egyptian grammar and word-for-word translations from one language to another don't really work.

The weirdest bit is the "curse be on you forever", the longest multiword phrase represented in the charts, and in fact the only multiword phrase besides "magical charm", "magical powers", and, oddly, "to give", which unlike any other verb in the charts includes the "to" with the infinitive. Please note that the charts do not include the words "curse" and "forever"; they do include the words "is", "on", and "you", but the hieroglyphs it gives for those words don't match anything in the "curse be on you forever" hieroglyph. (Well, okay, they do include "eternity", which I guess could be used for "forever", but the "eternity" hieroglyph doesn't appear there either.) Apparently Kuntz and Ward just thought this one specific phrase was useful enough to warrant inclusion, and that no Dungeon Master would ever have occasion to refer to curses in any other context. Unfortunately, this is another hieroglyph they rather badly misinterpreted... I may not be getting the meaning exactly right, but as far as I can tell, the hieroglyphs they've translated as "curse be on you forever" actually mean something more like "shrine of Ptah".

Anyway, I guess that's a good note to end on, which is fortunate because this is the end of the chapter anyway.

Next time: "All Mothers Will Conform to the Following Statistics"

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

Xelkelvos posted:

I'd really like someone more familiar with D&D 5e to do an F&F of Wendy's Feast of Legend.

Hm, it's been over a week since this post and no one's taken this on... I'm kind of considering tackling it myself, except that I'm in the middle of the 1E Deities & Demigods review, which has been going very slowly, and I want to get that done. On the other hand, much of the reason that review has been going so slowly is because of the research necessary, and that's something that wouldn't be an issue for Feast of Legend; I could probably knock out those posts relatively quickly between Deities & Demigods posts. Eh, what the hey; I guess if no one else comes forward in the next day or two and says they want to do it I'll go for it.

(Honestly, there were other factors lately delaying the Deities & Demigods posts; I'd had the Egyptian Mythos posts almost done for a few weeks before they were posted, but then my laptop's screen cracked and was rendered useless, and then I had to go out of state for work (without a laptop, unfortunately), so events kind of conspired to make it difficult to post. I maybe also put some blame on the nWoD reviews here, because one thing that's been taking up a lot of my time recently is working on some projects I want to release through the DMs Guild, but now the nWoD reviews have piqued my interest in that and given me ideas for things I want to write for the Storytellers Vault too, so that means I've been having to read through the nWoD books to familiarize myself with the rules and lore... but anyway...)

So, hm, I guess if anyone else has any interest in reviewing Feast of Legend, speak up by Friday, or I'll go ahead with it.

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

Yeah, OK, never mind; disregard previous post. I won't bother with it, then.

I also wasn't aware that Wendy's corporate was that awful... that's too bad; I actually like their burgers (though I think their social media presence is annoying). I'd ask what Wendy's had done that's so terrible, but I don't want to derail the thread; I guess I can do some research online and find out on my own.

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

Zereth posted:

Most of the big chain fast food places joined up with some kind of thing about not using ingredients harvested with literal slave labor

Wendy's, notably, did not do this

Yeah, I hadn't known about this before, but after making that last post I did do some web searching and found some articles on the matter. Wow. That's... really something. Guess I won't be buying any more of their burgers, at least not unless they make some serious changes.

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

Ultiville posted:

(I’m sure D&D’s other source material is similarly complicated, I just don’t know it as well).

Well... not so overtly, at any rate. Probably D&D's biggest original influences—more so than Tolkien, really—were sword and sorcery stories by authors like Fritz Lieber and Robert E. Howard, and they... didn't have Tolkien's literary ambitions. I don't mean they were bad writers, or that they didn't put effort into their stories; I just don't think they had specific points they wanted to make about history and society the way that Tolkien did. That's not to say there aren't any themes to their stories or that they don't reflect the authors' worldviews, of course, but those themes aren't as close to the surface or as consciously developed as they are in Tolkien's writings. Those stories really are closer to pure escapism than Tolkien's epics.

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

Joe Slowboat posted:

Conan has really direct, often blatant themes, though? Howard has a lot to say, sometimes artlessly, about civilization and ‘barbarism.’ And that arrived in D&D in a worse way than it appeared in Conan.

Fair enough; I admit I haven't read much Howard. Though again, I wasn't saying there weren't themes in those stories, just that they weren't as consciously developed as in Tolkien's—I don't think Howard set out with the intention of writing stories about civilization vs. barbarism; that just sort of came into his stories because of who Howard was and his mindset. I certainly don't think Howard's writing is as "deep" or "complicated" as Tolkien's in the sense that Ultiville was talking about.

You can certainly find themes in Lieber's stories, too; they're full of casual cynicism and distrust of authority. But again, I don't think including those themes was a main priority for him the way Tolkien's themes presumably were for him. Any writing is going to include some sort of themes and reflect the authors' mindsets, because authors are people and they have prejudices and opinions both conscious and unconscious. But some authors intentionally weave those themes into their stories more than others. And in this regard I just don't think Howard and Lieber are nearly on Tolkien's level. I don't mean in terms of writing quality—I'm not really a big Tolkien fan, and I think Lieber was a good writer—but just in terms of how much thematic depth they consciously put into their stories.

But yeah, whether the themes are put into the stories consciously or not, they're still there, and yeah, Howard's imperialism probably is reflected in D&D.

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

Yeah, OK, never mind; as I said, I hadn't read much Howard, and I guess I had a mistaken impression about him and didn't realize how overt his themes are. Or actually, I think it's more that I was trying to draw a distinction between Tolkien's writing around his themes and themes entering into Howard's and Lieber's stories without their really being the point of the stories—but yeah, you're probably right that that's not a meaningful distinction, or maybe even a real distinction at all.

As for Lieber, I wasn't trying to sell him.short; as I said, I think he was a good writer; I just don't think he was overt about his themes as Tolkien (and apparently Howard)—but to be completely honest it's been a while since I've read his stories and it's entirely possible I'm misremembering or that there are just things that I missed, so I could be wrong about him too.

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

Fun fact, for those who may not be aware of it: The Dark Eye is one of the twenty or so game systems to have a Community Content program through DriveThruRPG, like the DM's Guild for D&D and the Storytellers Vault for White Wolf games: The Scriptorium Aventuris. So if anyone's ever wanted to write and publish your own The Dark Eye supplement, that is apparently now something you can legally do. (You know, as long as you're okay with only being able to publish it through DriveThruRPG and with half the revenue going to DriveThruRPG and Ulisses Spiele.)

Not that anyone here is actually likely to want any such thing, but for whatever it's worth the option is apparently open.

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

Moldless Bread posted:

To the east lies the Giant's land which actually has a land bridge in the northeast of Aventuria, but it and all possible landing points for ships are blocked by the Brazen sword (Brazen, really? Does that make sense in english?)

Sure, why wouldn't it? "Brazen" just means made of brass. Admittedly, nowadays it's probably more widely used in a metaphorical sense to mean "shameless" (how brass in particular got metaphorically associated with shamelessness I'm not sure, but eh), but literally it just means made of brass, and swords can be made of brass, so, sure, this seems to me like a perfectly reasonable name. Much more so than a god named "Huge", anyway.

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

hyphz posted:

except that for some reason it uses the older version of the word "quite" - where it means "very", instead of the more common modern usage where it means "kinda" - so that a puppet who is "quite strong" is stronger than one who's just "strong".

Is this a regional thing, maybe? Because to me, "quite" has always meant "very"—I don't think I've ever seen it used to mean "kinda". I'd find it very confusing if a game tried to define "quite strong" as meaning less strong than "strong".

Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

Omnicrom posted:

Is it particular to Mormonism? I ask because I read a blog post a few years back where someone argued that Ender's Game is set up to be an "Innocent Murderer" and the author of the piece goes through the litany of ways that responsibility for everything is very very very carefully insulated from Ender, with the commentary suggesting this is a particularly Mormon thing happening there without actually going into how it's particularly Mormon.

Eh, as an ex-Mormon myself (raised Mormon, my immediate family is still Mormon, but I no longer believe in it or associate with it), I can't think of anything specific to Mormon doctrine or culture that would lead to this trope. That's not to say there may not be some connection I'm overlooking, but nothing obvious comes to mind.

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Jerik
Jun 24, 2019

I don't know what to write here.

Joe Slowboat posted:

I think there’s also something specific about the official Mormon position on the historical bad things Mormons have done, like all the racism?

Oh, the Mormon church has certainly done plenty of bad things. There are reasons I'm no longer Mormon. (Well, most of those reasons are more along the lines of "You know, there's actually no good reason I should believe this", but the church's sordid history didn't help.) The church has certainly preached doctrines and pursued policies that were racist, sexist, and homophobic. But I don't see how any of that directly relates specifically to the "Innocent Murderer" thing that Omnicrom was talking about.

Not that Mormon doctrine hasn't included its share of "innocent murderers". The Book of Mormon certainly contains accounts of supposedly righteous heroes who murdered people for ostensibly good and virtuous reasons (and so does real early Mormon history, though the church doesn't like to talk about that). But that's not unique to Mormonism; it's not that different from, for instance, the Israelites being commanded to slaughter the inhabitants of the Promised Land in the Old Testament.

That being said, though, it did occur to me that there is maybe something specific to Mormon doctrine that may tie in with the "Innocent Murderer" trope. Early in the Book of Mormon, the pious and obedient Nephi is commanded by God to murder a man named Laban to get his hands on some brass plates that contain a record of his people. Again, it's not too much different from the many other times in the Book of Mormon and the Bible where people are supposedly prompted by God to kill people, except that in this case the whole "for the greater good" aspect is made especially explicit and laid on particularly thick: "It is better that one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief." This isn't an obscure bit of Mormon esoterica; it's a Book of Mormon story that's frequently taught to Mormon youth, so I guess there is a possible connection there.

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