Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Recaps & Roundups part 30: Supplement IV - Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes

Released in July 1976, Supplement IV was intended to be the last D&D supplemented. In absolute terms this is plainly untrue, but as far as numbered supplements for the original edition of the game, this is the final one. It was apparently intended in part to illustrate the absurdity of many of the high-level campaigns going on around the country at the time; after all, Gygax thought, if they can see the power level that a god like Odin is operating at perhaps they'll reconsider their own style of play. Instead, it just gave those players more powerful things to kill, and better treasure to loot. So it goes.

Having read over my original post for this product, I find that it was pretty concise to begin with, so I don't really need to summarise anything. I'm going to be lazy this time around, and reproduce that post much as it was in (gulp) 2009. So if it seems familiar to you, mea culpa.

Supplement IV is a strange beastie, not at all like its predecessors. It has a much more focused goal: the presentation of a number of mythologies and pantheons for use in D&D. It's pretty much just a bunch of stats and descriptions for gods, kind of like a super-charged Monster Manual. It's not something I've ever needed to use in a game, but it could provide for some fun in high level campaigns I'm sure.

As the material here doesn't really pertain to the development of D&D and its signature mythos, I won't be going into too much depth. I'll cover each mythology presented here in brief, list the gods who get write-ups, and talk a little bit about how they'll be incorporated into the campaign. If you really want to know more about Zeus, for example, your own research will be far more effective than anything I can write here.

EGYPTIAN MYTHOLOGY: As noted these are the gods of ancient Egypt. The following gods get write-ups: Ra, Shu, Geb, Thoth, Set, Osiris, Anhur, Ptah, Seker, Horus, Bes, Isis, Tefnut, Nephtlys, Anubis, Bast, Renenet, Amset, Hapi, Tuamautef, Qebhsennuf, Apesh, and Apshai.

A number of new monsters are also introduced. The Minions of Set are powerful fighters that can turn into giant snakes. The Sphinx is a lion with a woman's head. While bloodthirsty, they may spare someone in exchange for a good story. Fire Snakes are small serpents that like to sit on piles of treasure, and can breathe fire for lots of damage. Winged Serpents also have treasure, and can spit a powerful contact poison. The Phoenix is a large flaming bird that regenerates damage and is 100% magic resistant.

Life Sceptres are weapons used by the gods. Any god wielding this weapon is unkillable, as their life force is held in the weapon itself. If the god is struck he will take no damage – only destroying the weapon can kill him.

Given that the World of Greyhawk is a parallel Earth, it is easy to say that the Egyptian gods were once worshipped there by a great many people. While this may have waned over the centuries, there are still pockets of worship here and there, and these gods can still be called upon if any character so wishes.

It's noted that some of these gods will give aid to mortals. For example, there's a 5% chance that Set is watching when a being does a highly evil act, and will gift him with some powerful minions. Ptah may aid someone who invents something useful. Horus might help a Lawful character seeking vengeance. The percentages given are quite high, and I honestly don't want such a proliferation of divine intervention in the campaign. I will restrict these chances to either those who openly venerate the Egyptian gods, or to those deeds done in the lands where they were once worshipped.

INDIAN MYTHOLOGY: The following gods are covered here: Indra and his elephant, Agni and his red chariot, Shiva, Surya and his chariot, Vishnu, Brahama and his 70-foot tall goose, Rudra, Kali, Devi, Lakshmi, Sarasuati, Ratri, Vasha, Yama and his buffalo, Varuna, Tvashri, Karttekeza and his peacock, and Krishna.

There are a number of monsters detailed as well. Maruts are wind spirits in the form of powerful warriors, the shock troops of the gods. Rakshasas have been introduced already in The Strategic Review #5, but here they are far more powerful, bearing little resemblance to their weaker cousins. Yakshas are similar to but weaker than the Rakshasas here, though still slightly stronger than those shown earlier. I suppose that Rakshasas come in a variety of power levels, and only the weakest are found commonly. Elves in Indian mythology are called Ribhus, and serve the gods directly. Indian Ogres are the same as the regular kind, except that they can polymorph themselves at will. The Nagas here come in three varieties. The Guardian Naga and the Water Naga are not much different than those already introduced in The Strategic Review #3. The Master Naga is new, having seven cowled heads and the ability to cast Cleric and Magic-User spells at 10th level.

As with the Egyptian mythos, the Indian gods were once widely worshipped but have since fallen into obscurity.

GREEK MYTHOLOGY: The following Greek gods are presented here: Zeus and his white eagle, Poseidon, Hades, Apollo, Athene, Ares, Hermes, Hera, Cronos, Coeus, Prometheus, Epimetheus, Atlas, Oceanus, Crius, Nike, Hecate, Hephaestus, the Furies, Pan, Cerberus and the Hundred Handed One.

Cyclopses are presented here as a variation on the Storm Giant. Satyrs are introduced here as very strong protectors of the forest.

Again, the Greek gods were once worshipped in the World of Greyhawk.

CELTIC MYTHOLOGY: These Celtic deities are presented here: Daghdha, Manannan Mac Lir, Donn, Oghma, Goibhnie, Silvanus, Dunatis, Nuada, Dioncecht, Git, Medhbh, Liegh, Cu Chulain, Math, and Balor.

The Torc of the Gods is a short rod that lets it wielder shapechange at will. The Tathlum is a weapon, made by coating the head of an enemy in lime and letting it harden. It will do great damage to friends or relatives of the head's former owner. Druids are prevalent in Celtic mythology, and are the same as presented in Supplement III.

The Celtic mythos are a part of the campaign in the same way as the previous pantheons.

NORSE MYTHOLOGY: The following Norse gods are in the book: Odin (and his many accoutrements), Thor (ditto), Tyr, Bragi, Balder, Heimdall, Hoder, Vidar, Vali, Uller, Forseti, Loki, Frey, Njord, Frigga, Freya, Idun, Aeger, Ran, Hel, the Norns, the Valkyrs, the Einheriar, various giants (Hyrm, Surtur, Mimir, Sterkodder, Hymen, Vafthrunder, Skyrmir, Mokkerkalfe), Garm, the Fenris Wolf, the Midgard Serpent.

In addition, various monsters are detailed. Dragons of the green, red and white varieties are here with no changes. Dwarves here are statistically the same as in D&D, but have a number of cultural differences. Light Elves are the same as D&D Elves. Dark Elves are mentioned in D&D for the first time, as evil subterranean dwellers. Nissies are dwarves with pointed red caps. Neck are like a hybrid of Nixies and Harpies. Mermen are the same as in D&D. Fossergrims are mermen that live in waterfalls.

The characters from the Sigurd Saga are given here, mostly focused on Sigurd himself. I'll need to research these stories to see if they can have any historical context for the World of Greyhawk.

The Norse mythos are a part of the campaign in the same way as the previous pantheons.

FINNISH MYTHOLOGY: The real stars of Finnish mythology are not gods but powerful heroes. Those presented here are: Vainamoinen, Lemmikainen, Kullervo, Joukahainen, Ilmarinen, Ilmatar, Louhi, Thumb Height Man, Sampsa Perlervoinen, Water Hero, Tounelea, Old Crone of Pohjola, Son of Pohja, Maiden of Pohja. There are gods shown here as well (Ukko and Ahto the only two given full entries) followed by a selection of unique monsters. Even the mothers of the various heroes get a general write-up, and are pretty bad-ass.

The Finnish mythos are a part of the campaign in the same way as the previous pantheons.

HYBORIAN MYTHOLOGY: I've already established that Robert E. Howard's Hyborian Age is a part of the history of my World of Greyhawk. Here we get write-ups for many of the gods and monsters from Howard's stories.

We start with Conan himself, who is presented as a 15th level Fighter with the abilities of a 9th level thief. It's evident here that the D&D rules were never good at modelling fictional heroes, because Conan doesn't conform to the rules much at all. And his ability scores are obscenely inflated.

In additon we get entries for Crom, Mitra, Set, Asura, Tsathoggus, Hanuman the Accursed, the Blood-Stained God, Yama, Thugra Khotan, Thoth Amon, the Black Seers, Epemistreus the Sage, and many other monsters and items. Any of my readers out there who haven't read Howard's Conan stories are urged to do so. Not only are they a major influence on D&D, they're ripping good yarns in their own right.

MELNIBONEAN MYTHOLOGY: This is the mythology of the Elric stories, as written by Michael Moorcock. Now, we already have the Hyborian Age in the recent past. A bit further back in the past we have Tolkien's Middle Earth. The world of Elric can be incorporated even further into the past than that, before the world was reshaped by the war between Law and Chaos. Again, if you haven't read the Elric stories, get out there and do so. They're awesome.

Elric gets an entry here, of course. He's a 10th level Fighter and a 19th level wizard, and has a magic ring and the sword Stormbringer on top of that. Other characters given entries are: Moonglum, Yyrkoon, Theles Kaarna, Arioch, Lord Xiomberg, Orunlu, Mordagz, Fate, the Dead Gods, The Mountain Gods, Kakatal, Straaash, Grome, Misha, Meerclar, Haaashasstaak, Roofdrak, Muru-Ah, Lileet, Nnuuurrrr'c'c. Elenoin, Grahluk, and a whole bunch of unique monsters and things.

MEXICAN MYTHOLOGY: The following divine entities are given entries here: Quetzacoatl, Tonatuh, Huitzilopochtli, the Goddess of the Jade Petticoat, Tezcat, and Mictantecuhtli. There are Water Women that act as Nagas, and Water Monsters that are like OD&D's Sea Monsters.

This mythology is treated in the same manner as the other real-word mythologies in this book.

EASTERN MYTHOLOGY: The following gods are shown here: Huan-Ti, Chih-Chiang Fyu-Ya, Shan Hai Ching, Lei Kung, Yu Shih, Fei Lien, Feng Po, Wen Chung, the Spirits of the Air, Lu Yueh, the Beings Called 'Center', 'Spring, 'Summer', 'Autumn' and 'Winter', Shang Ti, Tai Yang Ti Chun, Yama, Chung Kuel, Kuan Yin, Tou Mu, Lei Chen Tzu, Chao Kung Ming, No Cha, the Shen Shu, and Ma Yuan Shuai.

Eastern Demons are the same as Indian Rakshasas. Their Fairies are small winged humanoids with powerful magic. There are also Evil Spirits that can inhabit statues and animate them.

Eastern Dragons are very different from the regular D&D types. They have three stages of metamorphosis. When young, they have the head of a horse and a lizard's body. In their middle years they have a camel's head, demonic eyes, metal skin and spotted wings. In old age they look like regular D&D dragons. They get a number of abilities not found in the regular types: polymorph self, invisibility, and ESP. Green dragons are lawful, and immune to anything made from wood. Blue dragons are made of the sky, and immune to anything launched into the air. Red dragons are evil fire-breathers. Gold Dragons can be any alignment. There are Yellow Dragons, also known as Imperial Dragons, that can breathe fire and summon storms. They live underwater and are fond of eating pearls and opals. There's also a type of dragons that draws treasure to it like a magnet, and is coated in gold and gems like armour. Its breath weapon is twice as strong as a gold dragon's.

This mythology is treated in the same manner as the other real-word mythologies in this book.

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