The Loxoth of Wildspace, Part I

April 5, 2014

My first article on Wildspace, the Spelljammer Fanzine Blog, is now public. Read more over there…


Iallanis the Tender One

February 14, 2014

Just in time for Valentine’s Day is the giantish goddess of love, Iallanis. She is one of the youngest members of the Ordning, born after Hiatea’s acceptance by Annam. Her long-term goal is to bring all giants into the fold of good, including the other members of the Ordning, even Memnor and Karontor. She is patron of love in all forms, and the mercy and forgiveness that comes from it. Enjoy! Read the rest of this entry »

Karontor the Deformed One

January 26, 2014

Karontor, with Grolantor, is one of the two “runts” of the Ordning—the smallest and weakest of the giantish pantheon, and the most degenerate and disappointing to their father Annam. His pursuit of dark magical powers corrupted his body and spirit, as well as those of his followers, the fomorians and verbeeg. For his crimes against the Ordning, he was banished by Annam and stripped of his magic, and so now he seethes in anger, hatred, and jealousy, waiting for the day he will regain his power and return to wreak “justice” upon the other giantish gods. Enjoy! Read the rest of this entry »

Hiatea the Huntress

January 10, 2014

Hiatea is one of the most powerful members of the giantish pantheon, having taken over Annam’s responsibilities with Stronmaus after their father withdrew from active leadership of the pantheon. She is a dual aspected deity, representing both community and wilderness, and has adopted the firbolg and voadkyn as her primary followers. Hidden by her mother upon her birth, she worked to prove herself worthy of her parentage, and appearance before Annam as a masterful hunter triggered his revelation that his extreme preference for sons may have been the cause of so much evil in the race of giants. Enjoy! Read the rest of this entry »

Memnor the Deceiver

December 10, 2013

Memnor is one of the more interesting of the evil giantish gods. As patron of evil cloud giants, he is directly opposed to Stronmaus and Annam, and in myth, is often said to be brother of one or the other. His worship is fairly complex, as it is subtle and focuses on charm and deception. In my research for divinities in other sources, I stumbled across an adventure in Dungeon #16 that offered a perfect opportunity to craft an alternate persona for Memnor, as not all of the giants know of his evil; the adventure “Palace in the Sky” by Martin & John Szinger included a very brief mention of a deity named Vilya in an evil cloud giant castle which I was able to incorporate into Memnor’s description as a false god of the openly evil cloud giants (as opposed to evil cloud giants within larger giantish society). Enjoy!  Read the rest of this entry »

Hit Dice for Monster Deity Avatars

September 1, 2013

I came to the realization recently that I’ve been doing some of the hit dice for the giant deity avatars incorrectly. The avatars of many of the giants, as well as other deities that are essentially divine versions of powerful monsters (for the most part only dragons), should actually include a monster Hit Die component; calculating them as human or demihuman deities doesn’t really give them as many hit points as they probably should have. I had noticed that the avatars for the Elemental Deities in Faiths & Avatars, as well as the entry for Null in Cult of the Dragon did this, although the Hit Points don’t quite match how they should be calculated, at least as I understand it. I’m sure this won’t be of interest to many people, as almost no one actually uses avatars in game play, but I have to “get it right” due to my obsession with the format.  :) And, well, I figure it would be beneficial to anyone else who is like me and is creating their own deities using the full Faiths & Avatars format.

To calculate the hit points for such an avatar, the basic process is the same as that described in Faiths & Avatars, but you can add, say “20-HD Giant” or “20-HD Dragon” (similar to how Akadi’s avatar is a 30-HD Air Elemental) to the list. Hit points are still generated in descending order of magnitude, however, with Constitution bonuses only applying towards class hit dice. For example, you created a deity whose avatar is a 24-HD Dragon, a 36th level wizard, and a 30th level Priest with a Constitution of 18. The highest hit points for the first 9 “levels” would come from the Priest class, at 8 + 4 hp each level (maximum class hit points per hit die, plus Constitution bonus), for a total of 108 hit points. For “levels” 10-24, the most hit points would come from the monster hit dice, for a total of 120 hit points. Then for the next 6 levels, the avatar would get hit points from the Priest class again, for 12 hit points, followed by the last six levels from the mage, for another 6 hit points. Thus, the avatar would have a total of 246 hit points.

This sort of calculation would really only apply to deities who are essentially divine versions of powerful monsters. In general, unless the god matches an existing monster with 10 hit dice or more, it is best to calculate them as normal for a humanoid avatar. A good example is the god Stalker, from the goblin-kin pantheons; he doesn’t really match any existing monsters except maybe a shadow, and a shadow only has 3 HD. You could of course list him as a 20-HD Shadow, but there’s really no reason to, as it doesn’t offer anything to the avatar that can’t be arrived at through a description of his appearance and powers. Having normal class levels commensurate to the avatar’s power makes Stalker powerful enough on his own.

Of the deities in Monster Mythology, only the actual giantish deities, the dragon deities, Jazirian, Koriel, Shekinester, Emmantiensien, Great Mother, and Gzemnid would probably warrant this treatment.

Specialty Priests and Balance

August 15, 2013

I’ve seen a lot of talk on forums over the years about “Balance” with regards to Specialty Priests. In general, most of the arguments, in my opinion, are ridiculous or (at best) looking at the issue in the wrong way.

The arguments tend to frame it as if all priests should be equally appealing to players, with equivalently powerful abilities at specific levels, and similar sphere distributions. But why should that be the case? Gods can represent a wide variety of portfolios, some of which work well for adventurers, some of which do not, but are by no means less crucial to the fantasy society they are designed for. Gods of fire, magic, luck, and healing will probably be more appealing to players and more useful on adventures than gods of peace, architecture, or history. For that reason, a DM creating specialty priests for the latter powers should not feel they have to choose specific powers that will draw players to want to play them. As adventurers are only a small subset of the population, those other priests would be quite useful to society as a whole, in addition to being useful to adventurers as NPCs between adventures, and their powers should reflect what the populace would look to them to do regularly. And, of course, some players may want to play them, just for the added challenge; there’s nothing wrong with that.

Besides some portfolios being better aligned to adventuring careers, certain portfolios align better with certain spells or abilities. For example, deities of music or love may get access to the power to charm person, but a deity specifically of enchantment/charm magic will probably get charm person earlier or get more daily uses of it, because the spell more closely aligns with the deity’s portfolio. Is this unbalanced? Not at all. It takes into consideration what the deities represent. One should expect that a deity of a very specific subject matter would grant priests greater powers over that subject matter than a deity that is much more generalized, or a deity whose portfolio only touches upon the matter. Similarly, the former two gods may get some other enchantment/charm spells from the wizard spell lists, but the latter deity, as a power specifically of that type of magic, may open that whole school of magic to his priests. Meanwhile, the former two deities would grant abilities that the third would have no access to at all. In fact, having more spells available to a priest can be a curse in disguise, as they have harder choices to make when praying for spells, and may be more likely to take specialized spells that turn out to not be very useful in upcoming situations. Usually only ample time to prepare and knowledge of what is to come truly turns a large spell selection into a significant advantage.

Of course, that’s not to say that a specialty priest of a god of meteors should be allowed at-will use of meteor swarm at first level. There are, after all, multiple types of game balance, and that would clearly violate one of them. But there’s also no rule that says certain powers, such as meteor swarm, can only be granted at Nth level; with suitable restrictions, or with greater usage or flexibility, powers can be granted at a variety of levels without causing problems with gameplay.

Surtr the Black

August 10, 2013

Surtr is the patron of fire giants, and of the same generation as Thrym and Skoraeus. Like his brother Thrym, he has also become obsessed with the affairs of the Aesir, in part due to his hatred of the god Freyr. He is much more patient than his chaotic brother, and is willing to wait until the right time to make his move and lead his armies against Asgard, and slowly builds the strength of his warriors. Enjoy! Read the rest of this entry »

Spellcraft: Stoneskin

August 1, 2013

It amazes me how often people fail to understand how AD&D 2nd edition (and 1st ed and OD&D, as well) are written using standard English, primarily. Jargon usage is minimal, especially compared to later iterations of D&D, as well as many other RPGs. A case in point is the stoneskin spell. The spell is written in English, rather than jargon, and yet people still seem to insist that it does things it does not, such as block touch effects from spells (shocking grasp) or touch based-effects, such as those of ghouls or vampires. However, even though the latter are usually caused by a damaging attack by claws, it isn’t necessary. All of those abilities would take effect, if the creature wished it, from a simple hand shake or a pat on the shoulder. The relevant line in the spell description is “the affected creature gains a virtual immunity to any attack by cut, blow, projectile, or the like;” the key point here is that damage by forceful strikes are what is blocked. None of the abilities mentioned above, which are often claimed to be blocked by the spell, fit the description of attacks that are blocked. Similarly, the use of “attack” in that line, as well as the line “This limit applies regardless of attack rolls and regardless of whether the attack was physical or magical” has led many people to claim that you don’t roll attack rolls at all. But that begs the question: if you roll no attack rolls, do the attacks automatically hit and cause no damage, or automatically miss? In either case, what’s the logical reasoning for believing *either* of these cases is true? Simply put, the spell claims nothing of the sort; you still technically need to roll attack rolls regardless of whether or not the stoneskin spell will completely block the effects of the attack or not. A DM can handwave attack rolls if there is no chance of an attack having an effect or not, but even so it is often better to require attack rolls in order to let the PCs discover on their own that a foe is protected.

The silliest thing about arguments against the way the spell is written, though, are the lengths of twisting people will go to in order to preserve their belief. For example, I’ve had people claim that Skip Williams, the author of Dragon Magazine’s Sage Advice column and the DM’s Option: High Level Campaigns, where clarifications of the spell have been published, is wrong so often that everything he says should just be discarded entirely. In addition, I’ve also seen the argument that since the word “blow” is not defined in the game, it can mean anything from a “giant’s maul to the touch of a feather,” which completely disregards what the word means in the English language. If you have to disregard the English definitions of words used by the game to make your argument valid, your argument is not valid.

Thrym, the King of Ice

July 25, 2013

Thrym is of the same generation of giantish deities as Skoraeus and Surtr, and like them, he has chosen to be patron to one specific breed of giant, the frost giants. His narrow focus on just one breed of giant, evil nature, and obsession with Freya and the other Aesir and Vanir have made him a disappointment to his father Annam. Enjoy! Read the rest of this entry »