The Runes Of Doom, Part XI
(Don’t Settle For Imitations!)
Also: New Demons
Both Lesser And “Greater”, Or “Name”, Demons
With Some Pretentiousness
(I Wasted A Bunch Of Time Experimenting With Something Different From the “Descending Asides In Shrinking Headers” Thing, But None Of It Seemed Right. So Here We Go Again.)
We’re pretty much most of the way through the Trilogy now… in the final half of the final book. Yeah, there’s six more Arduin books, and I have a ton of stuff from Dragon Tree Press and similar I can cover, but there’s something unique and special about the original trilogy. The other books and associated products came a few years later, and the RPG world changed very rapidly after the 70s, particularly after AD&D First Edition was completed. But that’s in the future. Well, it’s in the past, but it’s in the future of the past we’re focusing on now. Got it?
Not Sure If They’re Before Or After Lord Elementals
Wait, That’s Rolemaster
The “True” elementals are, well, elementals… the four classics, plus wood, fog, and storm. The first four are pretty standard. It’s likely that Dave Hargrave was mildly dissatisfied with the D&D incarnations, and made some modifications to bring them in line with his own way of doing things. There are some notes: Fire elementals can form themselves into walls and cylinders, water elementals can flow into any shape or hold still so they appear as a stone wall, and so on. They’re present in a horizontal table format instead of the normal monster format for no readily apparent reason. Based on the construction of the rest of the Trilogy, my guess is that Dave originally wrote them up that way and didn’t feel like retyping them in a new format.
Highlight of the new ones:
- Wood elementals are basically ents.. humanoid trees.. and take double damage from magical fire over 10HD in intensity. That’s an interesting mechanic you don’t see often, even in modern games. A creature either takes extra damage from fire, or it doesn’t. “Takes extra damage only if the source is particularly powerful” is a nice way of modeling the idea of a creature whose nature should make it vulnerable to some substances or energy, but which still transcends the abilities of mere mortals (i.e., low level NPCs) to harm it.
- Fog/Mist (they’re one kind) elementals can surround and suffocate you, and can resist being blown away by winds “up to half its HD”. (You may recall that fogs and mists, in general, play a big role in Arduin, and so, spells to deal with them also exist.)
- Storm elementals can attack with lightning, wind, or “impact”, regenerate from electrical damage, and can lead the X-Men when Professor X is out of town.
- Both Fog/Mist and Storm elementals have a “*” by them, which doesn’t refer to anything I can see on the page. Old School, people!
There’s also a set of rules which apply to all elementals, but which focus mostly on conjuration, which is interesting. Evidently, summoning elementals was a big deal in Dave’s games… well, given how powerful they were (10 sided dice for hit points? And always maxed?), the relative power of an elemental summoning spell would be much higher than that of other spells of the same level.
Clearly A Microaggression. Demon Equality Now!
It’s not entirely obvious why these aren’t just “monsters”… that is, included in the monster listings. There isn’t an evident (to me) thematic link or shared set of abilities, and this was well before “monster types” like Outsider or Aberration became mechanically important. I also can’t find a section that spells out specific powers or traits applicable to “all demons”, which would make grouping them more reasonable. Mine is not to reason why, mine is but to document the madness with awe and respect.
Acid Fiends: Also known as “Acid Demons”, these are giant acid amoebas that dissolve your weapons, ooze under doors, regenerate when disintegrated, and “stoning adds hit dice (size) to it on a 1 dice per 1 level of caster ratio!”. I’ll note a lot of Arduin monsters had some form of “damaging attack doesn’t damage, but aids” features, often very random. “Player skill” in Ye Olde Dayse mostly consisted of memorizing all of these things; DMs, in turn, kept coming up with variants.
Creeping Doom: “Looks: A pulsing crawling carpet of living purple splotched green ooze”. Yeah, we had carpets like that in my house, too. It was the 70s. We didn’t know any better.
Lightning “Elementals” (Black): Well, we’ve had True Elementals, so naturally, here’s a not-true elemental. They “blast” two life levels (but only one if you save… lucky you…). They can also “sight in” and hit for “only” 4-48 “but they reach ‘into’ the target and hit the heart or brain”… which does, erm, I’m not sure exactly. A lot of early D&D-esque stuff made use of hit locations without actually providing solid rules for what they meant. Oh, and if you’re killed by one, you “crumble to dust immediately” and a “raise dead fully” must be cast within five minutes or your soul is gone forever.
Star Demons: First, I love the name. Don’t ask me why. It seems so simple, a generic “adjective+demon” combo, but something about it is evocative to me. Second…
Here’s a Ghost Crab. They were discussed in The Arduin Grimoire, so naturally, they’re illustrated here. They’re a kind of undead. You know, there are very few undead that don’t strongly resemble the being they were when alive, at least in vague outline. The idea that you die and, somehow, come back as a giant undead crab is outre and yet as logical as coming back as an undead anything. Making a mental note to write up more “polymorphed undead”.
Greater (Name) Demons Of The Arduinian Cycle
Arduinin Cycle? Seriously? I Mean, Pretentious Much?
We learn, in the introduction, that greater demons possess near-infinite power on their own planes, and the stats presented on the following pages represent their weakened, conjured, forms… and that’s enough, trust me. Hargrave warns, though, that simply massacring characters foolish enough to summon a greater demon takes all the fun out of it.
So, how to handle these? Each demon is a large, dense paragraph. Every sentence is something memorable. Here, look at the first one:
I love that his locust has a name. And that buried in this wall-o-text is the handy notation that demons don’t give a rat’s patootie about mana points. That’s… really, really, unbalancing, even by Arduin standards, and Arduin is about as well balanced as my checkbook. Most of the spells can be pumped indefinitely with mana. I’d houserule that demons cast all spells at the minimum level — no “additional” mana to boost duration, range, damage, etc.
They’re all like that. Most are even better. This whole section is an absolute and perfect distillation of gonzo greatness, awesome madness purified and condensed into paragraph form. Concentrated, highly-refined, old-school. I’m going to try to limit myself here. Be aware that for every snippet I comment on, there’s probably ten more just as cool.
Amon-Ra: The “god” (quotes in original) of wargs and wolves. “A neutral demon.” (Uhm… ) Hates rocs and elves. He can appear as a wolf or a snake, because, why not? And he breathes poison gas.
Apharoe: I just noticed… all of the demons have Dexterity scores that look like this: “Dext 18, spells. 18, body.” I’m guessing this is relative to initiative, depending on if they plan to make a magical or physical attack in a given round? Anyway, Apharoe is another “neutral” demon, and she is 7′ tall and so beautiful that “all men” (quotes in original, not sure why…) have a 50% chance of falling in love with her, while women have a 50% chance of being jealous. Arduin was clearly in a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” phase. Once a century, she goes out into the world to seduce someone and produce a half-demon baby.
Arioch: Black-furred (“like an otter”) humanoid with a giant ruby eye. Arch-enemy of “NODENS” and messenger of “SHUG-MIGGURATH”. (No, not “Shub-Niggurath”.)
Boak: “Not a real greater demon but listed here because it is always with one.” A 10HD demon horse who breathes poison gas. He likes black dragons, but hate griffons and people who play emotional games. As a particularly nifty trick, he will reflect back any polymorph spell cast upon a him. I’ll bet that led to some fun times…
Boreas: 18′ tall, made of ice, can summon the “north wind” which is “like a Djinn wind and an ice storm combined”, and claims to be Lord Of The Ice Demons. Claims to be, you ask?
I love these tiny snippets of backstory. From such small seeds do mighty epics grow.
Hides inside a sapphire?
Calyandagg: Giant furry spider that attacks clerics on sight. (“He hates ’em!”) He has the usual assortment of deadly attacks and personal immunities and allied folk, but also… his fur can break off if it hits bare skin, work its way inside the victim, then transform into a giant maggot that eats its host from the inside out.
Cimmeries: Rider of Boak. “grossly male and very nude”. (As opposed to “slightly nude”? What?) He has a whip of balrog leather, which is pretty darn awesome, though I wonder what the balrogs think about it? Fully half the total text is taken up describing his sword, because, like most old school characters, his gear has more backstory and personality than he does.
Well, that’s about enough for now… we’re
a bit a week late, but this is also longer than average. We’re done with the “C’s”. There’s seven more pages of wonderment to go in this section alone! Damn, but Hargrave was not kidding about the density of information in this “final” Arduin volume!
That Calyandagg hair trick sounds like something tarantulas actually do, I think.
I mean, not with the transformation and the maggotyness, but just with the hairs that get lodged in attackers.
You know, there are a lot of great ideas here. The problem, I think, is that a lot of them are really steeped in a kind of specific old-school sensibility. You can update the idea of the Hell’s Key To Hell Which Opens The Way To Hell sword easily enough, but there’s a particular je ne sai qua to X-ray vision, Ego 18, and so on.
This is actually a problem I’ve noticed with some of the Pathfinder adventure paths. The Kingmaker adventure path is a glorious recreation of Ye Olde Hex-Crawl And Ascend to Name-Level progression, but the old-school bits of it integrate very poorly with the more modern rule-based Pathfinder systems. Do you find it straightforward to port the glories of the past to a more modern gaming system?