Importing Orcus-connected content into Ghostwalk

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Importing Orcus-connected content into Ghostwalk

Postby Big Mac » Tue Nov 01, 2016 1:03 am

I was chatting to Havard earlier about the H-series of modules (which he had mentioned in his 100th Level Characters topic) and he mentioned that they feature Orcus. I remembered that he had previously asked about Orcus in Ghostwalk after I had told him that Orcus is one of the gods in the campaign setting.

Havard said he was interested in learning about Orcus, so that he can get ideas for using Orcus in Mystara. I realised that I could have been doing the same thing to get ideas about expanding Orcus in Ghostwalk. :facepalm:

Anyhoo, I'd like to "catch up with Havard" now and get a list of D&D products that feature Orcus, as well as look for any ideas on how best to adapt them to fit into the Ghostwalk campaign setting. First off a list, which I will probably edit and add to, as I find more D&D products with an Orcus connection.

List of Orcus-Related Products
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Re: Importing Orcus-connected content into Ghostwalk

Postby Big Mac » Tue Nov 01, 2016 1:23 am

There seems to be a lot of content for Bloodstone Pass. :)



I've found an article about the Bloodstone Lands on Forgotten Realms Wiki.

I'll have to think of an area on the Ghostwalk map that could stand in for the Bloodstone Lands. I suppose that I could use this as the story of the takeover of Inuitea, but it might be something that could be rebooted as a Xaphan invasion of the mainland.

(Forgotten Realms Wiki also has an Orcus article, which has a "Further reading" section that I need to check out.
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Re: Importing Orcus-connected content into Ghostwalk

Postby ripvanwormer » Tue Nov 01, 2016 8:06 pm

Orcus, as a D&D demon, was originally detailed in Eldritch Wizardry and the Monster Manual.

The Immortal Set and Wrath of the Immortals for BECMI/Mystara both detail Orcus.

Orcus was in 3rd edition's Book of Vile Darkness.

Orcus was mentioned extensively in The Slayer's Guide to Undead by Gary Gygax and Jon Creffield.

The Tome of Horrors from Necromancer Games includes stats for Orcus as well as some of his powerful servants, including his lieutenant Mastiphal and his general Sonechard.

The Tome of Horrors III included an orc variant called a "black orc of Orcus."

Orcus also appeared in the Necromancer Games module Rappan Athuk 3 — The Lower Levels.

Orcus has a hidden shrine in Necromancer Games' City of Brass, and a salamander nation is looking to make an alliance with him.

On Hallowed Ground, for Planescape, describes a former servant of Orcus called Bleeding Setch.

Planes of Chaos details Orcus's realm (during the period in which he was dead and Kiaransalee ruled in his place).

Faces of Evil: The Fiends describes the demon lord Eldanoth, who was formerly a servant of Orcus.

Orcus, in his undead form as Tenebrous, is the primary villain of the supermodule Dead Gods for the Planescape setting. There is extensive detail on Orcus's history there.

Orcus and his realm are heavily detailed in Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss.

Orcus is detailed briefly in Lords of Chaos by James Jacobs.

Orcus was mentioned in The Book of Fiends from Green Ronin. In The Book of Fiends, Orcus is served by skeletal demons called skullduggers and by maggot-filled undead called vessels of Orcus.

Orcus got an entry in 4th edition's Monster Manual, as did his servant Doresain, the Ghoul King.

The 4th edition module E3 Prince of Undeath featured Orcus as the primary antagonist. E1 Death's Reach and E2 Kingdom of the Ghouls led up to it.

4th edition's Monster Manual claims that Orcus was originally a primordial corrupted by the shard of evil that created the Abyss. Dead Gods says he was once a mortal. In Wrath of the Immortals he was originally a devil swine (a kind of lycanthrope similar to an evil wereboar) in ancient Traladara.
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Re: Importing Orcus-connected content into Ghostwalk

Postby Big Mac » Wed Nov 02, 2016 2:13 pm

Thanks for that extensive list Ripvanwormer. :-)

I've heard this thing, about Orcus being a demon, before. I'm guessing that if humans can rise up to become deities in Forgotten Realms, then demons or other outsiders or monsters can also do this.

There was that cult in Ghostwalk. I guess that they could have helped Orcus break into the setting (crystal sphere/material plane/whatever) and become a deity there.

I've also heard about Orcus having a Mystara connection (as Havard has mentioned it) but I believe that Mystara sometimes treats beings as Immortals, while other campaign settings treat them as deities.

I picked up Book of Vile Darkness fairly recently, so I'll have to check that out.

The Necromancer Games stuff is interesting. I think that Clark Peterson used to use the name Orcus as his handle on RPG forums (back before he gave up roleplaying to focus on his work). If he liked Orcus enough to call himself Orcus, I bet he had some interesting ideas of what to do with Orcus.

The Planescape connection is also interesting, because you have this thing with deities getting killed and coming back from the dead. I've kind of come to the conclusion that you can "kill" a deity in one crystal sphere and they are only dead in that single crystal sphere. So you need to hunt a deity across multiple crystal spheres to kill them everywhere to truly "get rid of them".

There is also that thing with Lolth having slightly different powers in Greyspace and Realmspace. So I can kind of imagine some sort of parallel logic with Orcus, where various people are trying to kill him and he is using sneaky ways to remain alive in different avatars, so that cults in obscure places can revive him.

I don't think I can use all these different Orcus ideas, as a few seem mutually exclusive, but I guess they could all be alternative legends about Orcus (with the "real answer" being lost in time).
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Re: Importing Orcus-connected content into Ghostwalk

Postby ripvanwormer » Wed Nov 02, 2016 4:17 pm

Big Mac wrote:I've heard this thing, about Orcus being a demon, before. I'm guessing that if humans can rise up to become deities in Forgotten Realms, then demons or other outsiders or monsters can also do this.


Ghostwalk says (page 85): "Vilest of all gods, Orcus is a powerful demon who became a deity by exchanging power for mortal worship."

I believe that Mystara sometimes treats beings as Immortals, while other campaign settings treat them as deities.


Yes, but there's not much distinction there. Immortals function as deities as characters in creation myths, sponsors of clerics, creators of artifacts, rulers of the outer planes, guardians of the souls of the dead, and other functions that you need gods for. There are differences in their exact game abilities, but that's true of gods in different editions of the game, too.

That said, no one has any obligation to try to reconcile Mystara canon with the canon of other settings, which is often very hard to do if you're imagining that Mystaran Immortals and AD&D gods of the same name are somehow the same entities. They might well be separate beings.

The Planescape connection is also interesting, because you have this thing with deities getting killed and coming back from the dead. I've kind of come to the conclusion that you can "kill" a deity in one crystal sphere and they are only dead in that single crystal sphere.


This is correct, but it depends on the circumstances of their death. Lolth slew Zinzerena in Realmspace and added her portfolio to her own, while Zinzerena remains alive in Greyspace. Tiamat was temporarily banished from Realmspace by the actions of Gareth Dragonsbane's party, though she returned quickly enough. On the other hand, Orcus was killed in his home plane by a multi-spherical deity and supposedly he died everywhere. Ghostwalk even references this by saying "Often, he is depicted as being alive and brimming with murderous rage, while at other times he is shown as a shadowy, undeadlike version of himself." The "shadowy, undeadlike version" of Orcus is Tenebrous, the undead form he took during the events of Dead Gods. Arguably this suggests that the inhabitants of the Ghostwalk world experienced (whether through divination or conceivably a personal visit from Tenebrous itself) the events of that module but didn't understand the implications of Orcus appearing in a different form.

Perhaps Xaphan went through a period of upheaval after Orcus's death, but the high priests covered up the loss of their patron until his return.
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Re: Importing Orcus-connected content into Ghostwalk

Postby Tim Baker » Wed Nov 02, 2016 11:29 pm

E3 Prince of Undeath for 4e is about Orcus.
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Re: Importing Orcus-connected content into Ghostwalk

Postby Big Mac » Sat Nov 05, 2016 2:30 pm

ripvanwormer wrote:
Big Mac wrote:I've heard this thing, about Orcus being a demon, before. I'm guessing that if humans can rise up to become deities in Forgotten Realms, then demons or other outsiders or monsters can also do this.


Ghostwalk says (page 85): "Vilest of all gods, Orcus is a powerful demon who became a deity by exchanging power for mortal worship."


Great. So there is a canon (Ghostwalk canon at least) way to deal with this. :)

ripvanwormer wrote:
Big Mac wrote:I believe that Mystara sometimes treats beings as Immortals, while other campaign settings treat them as deities.


Yes, but there's not much distinction there. Immortals function as deities as characters in creation myths, sponsors of clerics, creators of artifacts, rulers of the outer planes, guardians of the souls of the dead, and other functions that you need gods for. There are differences in their exact game abilities, but that's true of gods in different editions of the game, too.


The differences in exact game abilities is something I kind of need to consider if I am going to import Orcus-content from other sources (either from settings like Mystara with Immortals rules, rulesets that have Orcus at a different power level or just another setting where Orcus gets a different portfolio).

I guess that, in some ways, I don't need to import the exact content from other products that include Orcus. It could all be used to inspire similar themed stuff that is as different from the original stuff as the Nentir Vale content that was based on earlier D&D material.

You couldn't have the Wand of Orcus, in the time before Inuitea was destroyed, for example, not openly anyway. But I guess it could exist disguised as some artefact of Neistra'demos.

ripvanwormer wrote:That said, no one has any obligation to try to reconcile Mystara canon with the canon of other settings, which is often very hard to do if you're imagining that Mystaran Immortals and AD&D gods of the same name are somehow the same entities. They might well be separate beings.


True. True. In a Ghostwalk game without crossover elements, where all other campaign settings are considered not to exist, the question doesn't even need to be asked. And all the content that you are helping me find just needs to be looked a through a Ghostwalk lens.

The "Are Immortals and deities the same thing?" question really only needs to be asked if people want to pull Mystara into a Planescape and/or Spelljammer game.

Immortals could be avatars of deities. And even if an Immortal existed before a deity, it could be that the Immortal attained godhood and then his/her old body carried on as an avatar. (Perhaps all mortals that turn into deities automatically leave behind a "first avatar" that is their original mortal body.)

ripvanwormer wrote:
Big Mac wrote:The Planescape connection is also interesting, because you have this thing with deities getting killed and coming back from the dead. I've kind of come to the conclusion that you can "kill" a deity in one crystal sphere and they are only dead in that single crystal sphere.


This is correct, but it depends on the circumstances of their death. Lolth slew Zinzerena in Realmspace and added her portfolio to her own, while Zinzerena remains alive in Greyspace. Tiamat was temporarily banished from Realmspace by the actions of Gareth Dragonsbane's party, though she returned quickly enough. On the other hand, Orcus was killed in his home plane by a multi-spherical deity and supposedly he died everywhere. Ghostwalk even references this by saying "Often, he is depicted as being alive and brimming with murderous rage, while at other times he is shown as a shadowy, undeadlike version of himself." The "shadowy, undeadlike version" of Orcus is Tenebrous, the undead form he took during the events of Dead Gods. Arguably this suggests that the inhabitants of the Ghostwalk world experienced (whether through divination or conceivably a personal visit from Tenebrous itself) the events of that module but didn't understand the implications of Orcus appearing in a different form.


Thanks. That's some very useful information there.

It wouldn't matter in a standalone Ghostwalk game, but if I want to go down the "Manifestspace" route, it would allow for some sort of multi-world Orcus plot where Orcus was alive in some crystal spheres and dead (or existing as Tenebrous) in other places.

ripvanwormer wrote:Perhaps Xaphan went through a period of upheaval after Orcus's death, but the high priests covered up the loss of their patron until his return.


With no official link between the Ghostwalk timeline and the timeline of other campaign settings, I guess that Neistra'demos could have been Tenebrous, and the downfall of Inuitea could have happened at the same time as the return of Orcus. :?

With Orcus appearing in a number of different campaign settings, I'm not so sure there is a single Orcus-related timeline anyway. So looking at things in a general way and either having them as "things that happened in the distant past", "things that led to the downfall of Inuitea", "things that happened after the downfall of Inuitea" or "things that are happening now" might be a way to start thinking about slotting these into the Ghostwalk timeline.

But I guess that if I wanted to be able to go down the "Manifestspace route" and have a timeline that was compatible with Paul Westermeyer's Spelljammer Timline, I would need to lock down the date of the Ghostwalk book to the rest of the D&D product line.

Ghostwalk came out just as the 3.0 Era was winding up and 3.5 was due to come out, so I'd guess that it could be tied in with the date of a Forgotten Realms book of the same period. However, having said that, I believe that Sean K Reynolds and Monte Cook wrote it a long time before then and WotC sat on the manuscript. So perhaps it should be tied in with the date of a Forgotten Realms book that was finished at the same time that Ghostwalk was finished.
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Re: Importing Orcus-connected content into Ghostwalk

Postby Big Mac » Sat Nov 05, 2016 2:42 pm

Tim Baker wrote:E3 Prince of Undeath for 4e is about Orcus.


Thanks!

It looks like the entire E-Series is a connected plotline. Do E1 Death's Reach and E2 Kingdom of the Ghouls have anything in them that might work well in a Ghostwalk campaign?
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Re: Importing Orcus-connected content into Ghostwalk

Postby Zeromaru X » Sat Nov 05, 2016 4:13 pm

The plotline starts in H1, and then is resumed in E1, E2, and E3. The plot begins in H1 Keep on the Shadowfell, when some cultists of Orcus try to release him into the mortal world using the rift in Shadowfell Keep, in the Nentir Vale (you can houserule that), but are defeated by a group of adventurers. You can get Keep on the Shadowfell for free in DMs Guild if you want to know more about this adventure.

In E1 Death's Reach, a more powerful cell of the same cultists group the adventurers defeated in H1, is trying to elevate Orcus into a god (in the Nentir Vale he is just a demon prince) in a more forceful way: they want to kill the Raven Queen (or the god of death equivalent in Ghostwall). That plot lasts from E1 to E3.
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Re: Importing Orcus-connected content into Ghostwalk

Postby ripvanwormer » Sun Nov 06, 2016 12:48 am

Big Mac wrote:Immortals could be avatars of deities. And even if an Immortal existed before a deity, it could be that the Immortal attained godhood and then his/her old body carried on as an avatar. (Perhaps all mortals that turn into deities automatically leave behind a "first avatar" that is their original mortal body.)


Perhaps, for a loose definition of 'avatar.' But keep in mind that Immortals aren't weaker than gods. Immortals and gods have more or less the same abilities. Immortals can create avatars of their own.

Big Mac wrote:It wouldn't matter in a standalone Ghostwalk game, but if I want to go down the "Manifestspace" route, it would allow for some sort of multi-world Orcus plot where Orcus was alive in some crystal spheres and dead (or existing as Tenebrous) in other places.


As I said, officially Orcus was dead everywhere at once. His Abyssal realm had been conquered by Kiaransalee. If he was alive in some places, the plot of Dead Gods wouldn't make much sense. For one thing, Primus wouldn't have been surprised to see that he wasn't dead.
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Re: Importing Orcus-connected content into Ghostwalk

Postby Big Mac » Sun Nov 06, 2016 9:00 pm

Zeromaru X wrote:The plotline starts in H1, and then is resumed in E1, E2, and E3. The plot begins in H1 Keep on the Shadowfell, when some cultists of Orcus try to release him into the mortal world using the rift in Shadowfell Keep, in the Nentir Vale (you can houserule that), but are defeated by a group of adventurers. You can get Keep on the Shadowfell for free in DMs Guild if you want to know more about this adventure.


It looks to me that H1 leads into H2 Thunderspire Labyrinth and H3 Pyramid of Shadows and that I might need to be looking at both a 2e H-Series and a 4e H-Series.

Zeromaru X wrote:In E1 Death's Reach, a more powerful cell of the same cultists group the adventurers defeated in H1, is trying to elevate Orcus into a god (in the Nentir Vale he is just a demon prince) in a more forceful way: they want to kill the Raven Queen (or the god of death equivalent in Ghostwall). That plot lasts from E1 to E3.


Orcus is listed as the god of Death in the list of gods on page 79

I'm not sure who counts as "the god of Death" for Ghostwalk, as things are are bit different in the setting. Both Aluvan (LG) and Dracanish (LN) have "death" in their portfolio. But they don't have the Death domain. Only Orcus has that.

Before being revealed as Orcus, Orcus took the name Neistra'dmos and was thought to be a minor death deity. So I am guessing that anything equivalent to E1 would have happened long before the fall of Inuitea.

Maybe someone could run a historical Inuitea campaign, where the cult of Neistra'dmos were trying to kill off a deity similar to the Raven Queen to turn Neistra'dmos into a death deity. :?
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Re: Importing Orcus-connected content into Ghostwalk

Postby Big Mac » Sun Nov 06, 2016 9:18 pm

ripvanwormer wrote:
Big Mac wrote:Immortals could be avatars of deities. And even if an Immortal existed before a deity, it could be that the Immortal attained godhood and then his/her old body carried on as an avatar. (Perhaps all mortals that turn into deities automatically leave behind a "first avatar" that is their original mortal body.)


Perhaps, for a loose definition of 'avatar.' But keep in mind that Immortals aren't weaker than gods. Immortals and gods have more or less the same abilities. Immortals can create avatars of their own.


This sort of thing is the reason I couldn't even attempt to run an "accurate" Mystara campaign anytime soon.

ripvanwormer wrote:
Big Mac wrote:It wouldn't matter in a standalone Ghostwalk game, but if I want to go down the "Manifestspace" route, it would allow for some sort of multi-world Orcus plot where Orcus was alive in some crystal spheres and dead (or existing as Tenebrous) in other places.


As I said, officially Orcus was dead everywhere at once. His Abyssal realm had been conquered by Kiaransalee. If he was alive in some places, the plot of Dead Gods wouldn't make much sense. For one thing, Primus wouldn't have been surprised to see that he wasn't dead.


Fair enough.

But I don't think we have any crossover links to identify how Ghostwalk lines up with other campaign settings, so the timeline could be pushed backwards or forwards to give the best fit with Orcus or any other shared elements. And Orcus is actually the only element in Ghostwalk that I actually recognise from other D&D products.

So I guess I have to look at the implications of putting the Liche War before during or after the plotline of Dead Gods. :?

If I want to line up Ghostwalk with the 3rd Edition Era Forgotten Realms, then I'm guessing that the Liche War would have to happen a long time before the Dead Gods plotline. That could weaken the undead forces of Xaphan a lot.
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Re: Importing Orcus-connected content into Ghostwalk

Postby ripvanwormer » Sun Nov 06, 2016 10:21 pm

Big Mac wrote:I'm not sure who counts as "the god of Death" for Ghostwalk, as things are are bit different in the setting. Both Aluvan (LG) and Dracanish (LN) have "death" in their portfolio. But they don't have the Death domain. Only Orcus has that.


I think Aluvan, the neutral good patron of "death, guarding and protecting souls, and ghosts," is the closest thing to 4e's Raven Queen. Dracanish is also close, the fact that he eats the spirits of the dead rather than just guarding them makes him different; that said, killing Dracanish would obviously increase Orcus's power too, if he wanted to go that route.

Keep in mind that the death domain is specifically for evil death deities. Wee Jas (who is lawful neutral with evil tendencies) has it, but it's not something that good deities would ever allow their servants to use. For good deities of death, there's the repose domain, which both Aluvan and Dracanish have. Death and repose serve the same purpose, but evil gods get death and good gods get repose. Granting the death domain doesn't make you more of a death god than repose does, it just makes you an eviler death god.

While you couldn't run a canonical plot in the present-day Ghostwalk setting involving Orcus gaining full divinity for the first time (since he's already a deity in Ghostwalk) you could still run an adventure in which Orcus tries to destroy Aluvan and add his portfolio to his own. As things stand, Orcus has power over necromancy and undeath, but no power over free souls making their way to Manifest. With Aluvan's portfolio of "guarding and protecting souls and ghosts" added to his own, Orcus suddenly has access to power from all the souls who Aluvan formerly protected from him. Suddenly he's free to prey on souls that once had a deity who guarded them. He could become the ultimate master of the afterlife, which is exactly the sort of thing he's trying to accomplish in E3.

Big Mac wrote:If I want to line up Ghostwalk with the 3rd Edition Era Forgotten Realms, then I'm guessing that the Liche War would have to happen a long time before the Dead Gods plotline. That could weaken the undead forces of Xaphan a lot.


Consider this timeline:

Prior to 100 years ago: Orcus has a presence on the world of Ghostwalk as a well-known demon, but his cult is forbidden everywhere and forced to exist in the underground and the shadows.

100 years ago: In order to increase his power on the world of Ghostwalk, Orcus creates the guise of Neistra'demos. Since no one knows who Neistra'demos is, nobody is prepared when the cult seizes control over the island of Inuitea in a coup. Once in power, the cult's leader, Xaphan, reveals that Neistra'demos was a front for Orcus all along, and at this point there's nothing anyone can do while his minions slaughter the living inhabitants of the island and replace them with undead. With an entire nation under his control, Orcus is catapulted to the status of lesser deity.

After Xaphan's destruction at the hands of seven generals, the armies of Xaphan are forced to retreat back to their island. With Orcus distracted by the war and reeling from his unexpected defeat, Kiaransalee takes the opportunity to strike: Orcus is slain, his body set adrift on the Astral Plane and his wand hidden away. The cult of Orcus within the nation now calling itself Xaphan covers up this fact, relying on the personal power of the undead leaders to keep their undead minions and the small remaining living populace cowed.

5 years ago: A surge of negative energy from Acererak's experiments in the Negative Energy Plane, combined with the prayers of Orcus's last true priest, result in Orcus returning to awareness as an undead god called Tenebrous. Tenebrous wrests control of the ancient power called the Last Word and begins to scour the planes, searching for his wand so that he can return to life and true divinity before the Last Word destroys him utterly. He stops by Xaphan and interrogates his faithless former servants there, terrifying them. The events of the module Dead Gods occur as a group of adventures desperately seeks to prevent Orcus's resurrection.

This year: Orcus returns to life. However, thanks to the efforts of the adventurers in Dead Gods, Orcus is no longer a true deity. To regain the power he had at the time of the Liche War, he needs to ascend into the ranks of divinity again. He hatches a plan to murder the god Aluvan. The plot of H1 and E1-E3 take place.

If Orcus succeeds in regaining his divinity, he resurrects his servant Xaphan and the Liche War begins anew.

This timeline obviously takes some liberties with the setting by making Orcus currently not a deity. As I suggested above, though, even if he was currently a lesser deity, killing Aluvan or Dracanish would substantially increase his power (perhaps to greater deity status), so you could probably run E3 anyway with that in mind.
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Re: Importing Orcus-connected content into Ghostwalk

Postby Havard » Sun Nov 06, 2016 10:46 pm

Big Mac wrote:
ripvanwormer wrote:
Big Mac wrote:Immortals could be avatars of deities. And even if an Immortal existed before a deity, it could be that the Immortal attained godhood and then his/her old body carried on as an avatar. (Perhaps all mortals that turn into deities automatically leave behind a "first avatar" that is their original mortal body.)


Perhaps, for a loose definition of 'avatar.' But keep in mind that Immortals aren't weaker than gods. Immortals and gods have more or less the same abilities. Immortals can create avatars of their own.


This sort of thing is the reason I couldn't even attempt to run an "accurate" Mystara campaign anytime soon.


Why not?

The key to running a successful Mystara campaign is to treat the source material with respect. This is where the AD&D 2nd Edition Mystara line failed. Rather than allowing Mystara to retain its most interesting and unique features, they tried to shoehorn (and not in a good way) the setting into the 2nd Edition Cosmology. This meant removing or changing everything that made Mystara different resulting in a vanilla fantasy setting.

What you need to do is to have Mystara be a separate Multiverse with its own rules, Immortals who are as powerful as Gods in the other Multiverse, parallell Dimensions like Nightmare, Myth and Laterre etc.

Travel between Mystara and the Great Wheel is still possible, but more diffiult than travel between Greyhawk and the Forgotten Realms.

In this scenario, Orcus of Mystara is a separate entitiy from the Orcus of Ghostwalk and the rest of the Great Wheel. However, just as Mystara has a Sun, Stars, Mountains, Elves, Dwarves etc, it also has an Orcs, an Odin, a Demogorgon, a Yeenoghu etc.

These deities are separate and different from those of the Great Wheel Multiverse, but they also have similarities beyond just the name. Even events and life experiences could mirror across the Multiverses.

This way, material written for one Multiverse could be used to gain added insight into the others.

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Re: Importing Orcus-connected content into Ghostwalk

Postby Zeromaru X » Sun Nov 06, 2016 10:50 pm

Big Mac wrote:It looks to me that H1 leads into H2 Thunderspire Labyrinth and H3 Pyramid of Shadows and that I might need to be looking at both a 2e H-Series and a 4e H-Series.


The H to P adventure series are connected by minor plots (like, In H1 Kalarel's cultists sold some slaves to a goblinoid gang who operates in Thunderspire Mountain, so in H2 you are asked to find out what happened to those slaves), but beyond those minor plots, the stories in those adventurers are totally independent one of another, and what happened in H1 bears no consecuence in H2, H3, P1, etc. In fact, you can run the adventures as standalone modules because of that. The link between H1 and E1 is only a minor plot as well: Kalarel was a low-ranking priest of the Orcus' cult that is the main villain group in E1. Only in E-series the adventures became deeply interconnected.

That was the reason a fan did this fan-conversion, changing canon stuff to connect all the stories in the H1-E3, while also making the general story more "Orcus-driven". I guess you can find the conversion useful to Ghostwall (Mind that you still need the original 4e modules to make use of this fan conversion).

Big Mac wrote:Orcus is listed as the god of Death in the list of gods on page 79


At least in canon 4e stuff, Orcus is just a demon lord (though Tenebrous also existed in the Dawn War continuity).
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Re: Importing Orcus-connected content into Ghostwalk

Postby Big Mac » Mon Nov 28, 2016 9:25 am

ripvanwormer wrote:
Big Mac wrote:I'm not sure who counts as "the god of Death" for Ghostwalk, as things are are bit different in the setting. Both Aluvan (LG) and Dracanish (LN) have "death" in their portfolio. But they don't have the Death domain. Only Orcus has that.


I think Aluvan, the neutral good patron of "death, guarding and protecting souls, and ghosts," is the closest thing to 4e's Raven Queen. Dracanish is also close, the fact that he eats the spirits of the dead rather than just guarding them makes him different; that said, killing Dracanish would obviously increase Orcus's power too, if he wanted to go that route.


I guess that if you have multiple death gods in a campaign setting and one deity can murder one or more of the others, they might gain more control over death.

In Ghostwalk they seem to be splitting dead people (ghosts) away from undead. So I wonder if there should be more aspects to death there than in any other campaign setting. :?

ripvanwormer wrote:Keep in mind that the death domain is specifically for evil death deities. Wee Jas (who is lawful neutral with evil tendencies) has it, but it's not something that good deities would ever allow their servants to use. For good deities of death, there's the repose domain, which both Aluvan and Dracanish have. Death and repose serve the same purpose, but evil gods get death and good gods get repose. Granting the death domain doesn't make you more of a death god than repose does, it just makes you an eviler death god.


That's an excellent point. We are used to "good" being opposite "evil" and "law" being opposite "chaos", "water" being opposite "fire" and "air" being opposite "earth", but there could be an entire spectrum of domains that are opposed to other domains (not necessarily from a good/bad view - it could be a "support/enhance" vs "control/oppress" poit of view). :)

I think that generally, the core rules and the SRD was a bit sparse for my liking. Most of the canon D&D campaign settings added in some extra clerical domains. But I always thought that the core system was much "smaller" than the Spheres of Influence that it was supposed to replace.

I'll have to think some more on this, as there could be some interesting conflicts set up if deities could have opposing abilities for their clerics (or if characters like Blackguards could also flip domains other than the "good" domain).

ripvanwormer wrote:While you couldn't run a canonical plot in the present-day Ghostwalk setting involving Orcus gaining full divinity for the first time (since he's already a deity in Ghostwalk) you could still run an adventure in which Orcus tries to destroy Aluvan and add his portfolio to his own. As things stand, Orcus has power over necromancy and undeath, but no power over free souls making their way to Manifest. With Aluvan's portfolio of "guarding and protecting souls and ghosts" added to his own, Orcus suddenly has access to power from all the souls who Aluvan formerly protected from him. Suddenly he's free to prey on souls that once had a deity who guarded them. He could become the ultimate master of the afterlife, which is exactly the sort of thing he's trying to accomplish in E3.


That's very sound logic.

I think I would like to find a way to get that idea to work with Ghostwalk canon (rather than reboot Ghostwalk), but given that Ghostwalk is such a barebones thing, I'm thinking that a lot of people might find it easy to reboot the book to fit in with other setting material.

One thing I've been thinking about is the time period. Moving to Ghostwalk's past would allow for this sort of plotline to be used as the "arrival of Orcus" (in an Arcane Age Ghostwalk game). I think it might also be possible to make Orcus a deity, but still have him want to kill other deities and steal more power.

ripvanwormer wrote:
Big Mac wrote:If I want to line up Ghostwalk with the 3rd Edition Era Forgotten Realms, then I'm guessing that the Liche War would have to happen a long time before the Dead Gods plotline. That could weaken the undead forces of Xaphan a lot.


Consider this timeline:

Prior to 100 years ago: Orcus has a presence on the world of Ghostwalk as a well-known demon, but his cult is forbidden everywhere and forced to exist in the underground and the shadows.

100 years ago: In order to increase his power on the world of Ghostwalk, Orcus creates the guise of Neistra'demos. Since no one knows who Neistra'demos is, nobody is prepared when the cult seizes control over the island of Inuitea in a coup. Once in power, the cult's leader, Xaphan, reveals that Neistra'demos was a front for Orcus all along, and at this point there's nothing anyone can do while his minions slaughter the living inhabitants of the island and replace them with undead. With an entire nation under his control, Orcus is catapulted to the status of lesser deity.

After Xaphan's destruction at the hands of seven generals, the armies of Xaphan are forced to retreat back to their island. With Orcus distracted by the war and reeling from his unexpected defeat, Kiaransalee takes the opportunity to strike: Orcus is slain, his body set adrift on the Astral Plane and his wand hidden away. The cult of Orcus within the nation now calling itself Xaphan covers up this fact, relying on the personal power of the undead leaders to keep their undead minions and the small remaining living populace cowed.

5 years ago: A surge of negative energy from Acererak's experiments in the Negative Energy Plane, combined with the prayers of Orcus's last true priest, result in Orcus returning to awareness as an undead god called Tenebrous. Tenebrous wrests control of the ancient power called the Last Word and begins to scour the planes, searching for his wand so that he can return to life and true divinity before the Last Word destroys him utterly. He stops by Xaphan and interrogates his faithless former servants there, terrifying them. The events of the module Dead Gods occur as a group of adventures desperately seeks to prevent Orcus's resurrection.

This year: Orcus returns to life. However, thanks to the efforts of the adventurers in Dead Gods, Orcus is no longer a true deity. To regain the power he had at the time of the Liche War, he needs to ascend into the ranks of divinity again. He hatches a plan to murder the god Aluvan. The plot of H1 and E1-E3 take place.

If Orcus succeeds in regaining his divinity, he resurrects his servant Xaphan and the Liche War begins anew.

This timeline obviously takes some liberties with the setting by making Orcus currently not a deity. As I suggested above, though, even if he was currently a lesser deity, killing Aluvan or Dracanish would substantially increase his power (perhaps to greater deity status), so you could probably run E3 anyway with that in mind.


I do want to keep to Ghostwalk canon, as much as possible, but this is really creative. It would probably be an easier fix than sticking closer to the canon. :)
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Re: Importing Orcus-connected content into Ghostwalk

Postby Big Mac » Mon Nov 28, 2016 9:31 am

Havard wrote:
Big Mac wrote:
ripvanwormer wrote:
Big Mac wrote:Immortals could be avatars of deities. And even if an Immortal existed before a deity, it could be that the Immortal attained godhood and then his/her old body carried on as an avatar. (Perhaps all mortals that turn into deities automatically leave behind a "first avatar" that is their original mortal body.)


Perhaps, for a loose definition of 'avatar.' But keep in mind that Immortals aren't weaker than gods. Immortals and gods have more or less the same abilities. Immortals can create avatars of their own.


This sort of thing is the reason I couldn't even attempt to run an "accurate" Mystara campaign anytime soon.


Why not?


I literally don't have the time to answer this.

Let's just leave it at the fact that I would not be satisfied with any attempt to run a Mystara game.

Havard wrote:The key to running a successful Mystara campaign is to treat the source material with respect. This is where the AD&D 2nd Edition Mystara line failed. Rather than allowing Mystara to retain its most interesting and unique features, they tried to shoehorn (and not in a good way) the setting into the 2nd Edition Cosmology. This meant removing or changing everything that made Mystara different resulting in a vanilla fantasy setting.

What you need to do is to have Mystara be a separate Multiverse with its own rules, Immortals who are as powerful as Gods in the other Multiverse, parallell Dimensions like Nightmare, Myth and Laterre etc.

Travel between Mystara and the Great Wheel is still possible, but more diffiult than travel between Greyhawk and the Forgotten Realms.

In this scenario, Orcus of Mystara is a separate entitiy from the Orcus of Ghostwalk and the rest of the Great Wheel. However, just as Mystara has a Sun, Stars, Mountains, Elves, Dwarves etc, it also has an Orcs, an Odin, a Demogorgon, a Yeenoghu etc.

These deities are separate and different from those of the Great Wheel Multiverse, but they also have similarities beyond just the name. Even events and life experiences could mirror across the Multiverses.

This way, material written for one Multiverse could be used to gain added insight into the others.


If Orcus in Mystara is different, then it could be than Orcus in Ghostwalk is also supposed to be different.

There was a general turning away from The Great Wheel/Planescape in 3rd Edition campaign settings and Ghostwalk is not generally a good fit for the Great Wheel.

It might just be easier to use your logic and reboot Orcus to fit Ghostwalk canon (i.e. make him a deity).
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Re: Importing Orcus-connected content into Ghostwalk

Postby Big Mac » Mon Nov 28, 2016 9:38 am

Zeromaru X wrote:
Big Mac wrote:It looks to me that H1 leads into H2 Thunderspire Labyrinth and H3 Pyramid of Shadows and that I might need to be looking at both a 2e H-Series and a 4e H-Series.


The H to P adventure series are connected by minor plots (like, In H1 Kalarel's cultists sold some slaves to a goblinoid gang who operates in Thunderspire Mountain, so in H2 you are asked to find out what happened to those slaves), but beyond those minor plots, the stories in those adventurers are totally independent one of another, and what happened in H1 bears no consecuence in H2, H3, P1, etc. In fact, you can run the adventures as standalone modules because of that. The link between H1 and E1 is only a minor plot as well: Kalarel was a low-ranking priest of the Orcus' cult that is the main villain group in E1. Only in E-series the adventures became deeply interconnected.

That was the reason a fan did this fan-conversion, changing canon stuff to connect all the stories in the H1-E3, while also making the general story more "Orcus-driven". I guess you can find the conversion useful to Ghostwall (Mind that you still need the original 4e modules to make use of this fan conversion).

Big Mac wrote:Orcus is listed as the god of Death in the list of gods on page 79


At least in canon 4e stuff, Orcus is just a demon lord (though Tenebrous also existed in the Dawn War continuity).


It seems that rebooting the 4e canon, to fit in with Ghostwalk canon is probably also the way I would need to go.

Thanks for the advice. :)
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Re: Importing Orcus-connected content into Ghostwalk

Postby ripvanwormer » Tue Nov 29, 2016 11:32 pm

Big Mac wrote:I think that generally, the core rules and the SRD was a bit sparse for my liking. Most of the canon D&D campaign settings added in some extra clerical domains. But I always thought that the core system was much "smaller" than the Spheres of Influence that it was supposed to replace.


3e clerics don't compare to 2nd edition specialty priests in terms of customization. From what I understand, adding clerical domains at all was a late decision in response to playtesters complaining that clerics were all mostly the same.

I think this is mostly a good thing because I always thought 2nd edition specialty priests were a pain—giving every deity its own custom character class is a lot of work, and different sourcebooks couldn't agree on how many spheres they were supposed to get or what was too powerful. And it took up an enormous amount of space—full write-ups for all the Forgotten Realms deities took up three huge softcover books and still left enough out that AuldDragon is continuing a Monster Mythology update project to this day.

The best equivalent to 2e specialty priests in 3rd edition is prestige classes. Green Ronin's The Book of the Righteous, which aimed to produce the equivalent of Faiths and Avatars for a 3rd edition pantheon, included a new prestige class for each of the 22 or so deities included in the book. Which, again, is a breathtaking amount of work (although if one thing 3e is not short of, it's prestige classes), but it allows for the level of customization specialty priests got in 2e (and it's a little easier to tell what "balanced" is supposed to look like).

Book of Vile Darkness has prestige classes for the servants of the various archfiends included there, including Orcus.

I'll have to think some more on this, as there could be some interesting conflicts set up if deities could have opposing abilities for their clerics (or if characters like Blackguards could also flip domains other than the "good" domain).


Another innovation from The Book of the Righteous (and its counterpart, The Unholy Warrior's Handbook) was creating domains for paladins and blackguards (and similar characters, all of which were grouped together as holy or unholy warriors). Depending on which domains you chose, you could create a standard paladin or something very different.

I think I would like to find a way to get that idea to work with Ghostwalk canon (rather than reboot Ghostwalk), but given that Ghostwalk is such a barebones thing, I'm thinking that a lot of people might find it easy to reboot the book to fit in with other setting material.


The only change you'd have to make to my timeline above to keep it canon is to say that Orcus was resurrected as a lesser deity, and he's targeting Aluvan to give himself more power still. After all, nothing in Ghostwalk says that Orcus wasn't dead for a while during the period when Xaphan wasn't conquering anyone (and the description of Orcus as a shadowy figure implies he probably was). He wouldn't have to be dead for 95 years, either—any amount of time allows Dead Gods to be played as written.

The main problem, if you plan on playing through Dead Gods as well as the 4th edition adventures, is that if Orcus is resurrected as a full deity it means the PCs failed, or at least it means that their efforts didn't matter that much. I don't think it affects the Ghostwalk setting much whether Orcus is a lesser god or a demon lord with greater ambitions, anyway.

One thing I've been thinking about is the time period. Moving to Ghostwalk's past would allow for this sort of plotline to be used as the "arrival of Orcus" (in an Arcane Age Ghostwalk game). I think it might also be possible to make Orcus a deity, but still have him want to kill other deities and steal more power.


The problems with setting a campaign in the past involving such a major figure is that:

1. If this is the story of how Orcus became a god, then it's predetermined that the PCs will fail.
2. If the PCs succeed in preventing Orcus from becoming a god, then your goal of making modern Ghostwalk canon-compliant fails (which is one reason that this is probably a bad goal to have; in general, dogmatic canon-compliance is probably toxic and counterproductive in a tabletop RPG).
3. If this is the story of how the PCs prevent Orcus from becoming the only god of death, or a more powerful one than he would otherwise be, then it's predetermined that the PCs will win, or else some other party will come along and fix things, thus making all the PCs' efforts meaningless.
4. Or else you have Orcus as more powerful or all-powerful in modern Ghostwalk (which I guess is only a problem if you intend on using modern Ghostwalk in the same continuity).
5. If you invent a new god for Orcus to kill (or just use the Raven Queen) and the PCs succeed in preventing this, then modern Ghostwalk now has yet another god of death cluttering the setting (altering the setting, depending on how obscure the other deity is).
6. If you use an existing Ghostwalk god like Aluvan and the PCs fail to save him, then modern Ghostwalk has one fewer god of death (thus altering the setting significantly).
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Re: Importing Orcus-connected content into Ghostwalk

Postby MPA » Wed Jan 18, 2017 3:02 am

Big Mac wrote:
Immortals could be avatars of deities. And even if an Immortal existed before a deity, it could be that the Immortal attained godhood and then his/her old body carried on as an avatar. (Perhaps all mortals that turn into deities automatically leave behind a "first avatar" that is their original mortal body.)


This has always been a curiosity of mine. For some reason many gamers think Immortals are somehow inferior to gods. I can only assume it is because they don't know the game mechanics and so they assume they must be an Immortal like a water nymph or something. lol

But if it helps. Immortals are gods. Perhaps the only difference being Gods were either born from the birth of the universe or from other gods. Why they are called Immortals is probably the same reason why demons were called Fiends. It may have had something to do with the religious crusades against both D&D and AD&D at the time?

Anyhoo. Here's a summary of Immortals powers from "Wrath Of the Immortals": Immortals have their own planes. They can also create celestial bodies, stars and even entire planes. They can use any spell from any spell caster group, without any of the side effects. On their home planes they are nearly invincible. Like any god they can, at will, change how the laws of physics (and magic) work on their own planes.

They have a Manifestation form, that is nearly indestructible. When it comes to mortals, no mortal magic has any effect on them, they can only be hit by +5 weapons and even then mortals can only do the minimum damage. Only Immortal magic affects them, to include artifacts/relics and even then it has to get past their natural anti-magic shell, and if that fails, they still get their savings through. Moreover, they even get a save against a fellow Immortals physical attack for half damage.

Finally, when it comes to death. Like the demon lords and Gods in AD&D, killing an Immortal on any plane other than their home plane simply sends their essence to their home plane. Only on their home plane can they be permanently killed, and that is easier said than done.
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