Dark Tales II – The Grove

English: Photograph by Mario Vaden, at Simpson...

This is bigger than you are. It’s bigger than all of us put together… Don’t make it angry.

When men camp in the true wilderness, tales are told – not the pale, sanitized tales told by civilized men, confident in their dominance of the world, but tales that give form to the old darkness, the terror of the night before men drove it back with walls, and roofs, and lamps.

A lumberman named Ethan – his tales polished by a decade of spinning yarns about the campfire – knows some tales of eld, preserved across the years because those who listen to, and retell such tales usually live longer than those who laugh and shrug them off…

You want to know one of the horrors of the forest? Well, there are things it is unwise to discuss there but (as he looks around theatrically) it should be all right here in a city marketplace! Come, get me a mug of ale to wet my throat and I will tell you some of the darkest secrets of the forest!”

Centuries past, Valfan the Cruel reigned over this city – and his name was well-earned! He grew tired of throwing his victims – and their families, right down to the smallest children – into the arena to die for his entertainment, and sought to attain greater amusements from their suffering.

The city was smaller then, and the wilds deeper, and filled with monsters now driven far from the lands of men. Valfan took to chaining his victims to trees as bait, to hear their screams, see them devoured alive – and to take the occasional feasting monster as a trophy for his halls.

The trees – well fed on human blood, fallen scraps of flesh, and decaying bone – grew tall and strong – and twisted.

The kings trophy collection – and his skull-goblet collection – grew, and those who would defy him trembled, and dared to meet only in deep secrecy. All went well for Valfan until he turned his wrath against a small community of elves who had dared to complain of his excesses.

The elves fought bravely, and with the archery skill of their race – but the end was never in doubt. The elvenfolk too went to feed the beasts – but one elder amongst them, who possessed some of their ancient skills, choose to invoke a terrible magic as the beasts fed upon his grandchildren and were slain by Valfan and his huntsmen. With the magics of life and death and his hearts blood he bound his and his neighbors spirits to the trees – and gave the trees a hunger for souls to match the carrion soil they grew upon.

The trees sprinkled Valfan and his men with drifting seeds.

Occasionally, when a seed touched naked flesh, it would vanish – silently and painlessly merging with it, sinking down to the very marrow of the bones. Valfan and his men never noticed that subtle peril…

Two weeks later they hunted late, beneath the stars, and settled down to sleep The night was fine, a watch was posted, and few monsters dared to threaten a powerful warrior-king and his guards and huntsmen gathered around their leaping fires.

But their bones were wood – and where their flesh was near the earth, beneath the open sky, their bones grew together, and put down roots, and began to put forth shoots… The panicked cries of the men on watch – now unable to move or fall – became a festival of screams as others roused to find themselves in the same predicament – and the agonies of having their flesh pierced by shoots and their bones becoming rough with bark began.

The campfires died, and darkness – but not silence – reigned.

To Valfan and his men came all the agonies of their victims in weeks of searing anguish before the end – and from them flowed their life force, to bring new life to the spirits bound into the parent trees. The elves were reborn as forest fey – and the tormented souls of the wicked king and his men were themselves bound in wood for decades or centuries, to haunt the grove of trees that they had become – and to prey on yet others in their turn.

Even now, in certain groves, the legacy of that curse continues, the sap of the trees runs the red of blood and seeds will occasionally fall on lumberers and passers-by. And sometimes – a few weeks later – terrible screams will echo in the woods for a time until stillness – but not surcease – comes once more.

Back in the city, when it became apparent that Valfan would not return, the people celebrated their deliverance from misrule – according to rumor, a gift from the fey, who had led Valfan and his men on a mystic hunt to a realm far, far, away. And if there were other rumors… Well, who would risk the wrath of the Fair Folk by repeating such tales? Even now it is wise to see if any are about before revealing the truth.

As most of the city youngsters gathered to listen glance nervously about, one of the older kids suddenly leans towards one of the smaller ones, looking her over with an air of startlement…

“Hey! I just saw a maple seed land on your shoulder THERE (pointing at her bare skin) and now it’s just GONE! Ohmygods! You’d better not sleep anywhere near dirt EVER AGAIN!”

And there will be an outburst of screaming panic.

Accompanying the tale comes, of course, a list of fey haunts and freeholds, faerie circles, groves where it is unwise to trespass, and haunted areas of the woods where terrible fates lie in wait and where wanderers pass only at their own risk. 

Dark Tales I – The Hunt

English: kandal malar

It should be easy to find…

Old Schlaussen was pleased to find a new audience; so few children chose to pay attention to the old tales any longer! Of course, there were tales about THAT too. When people forgot, and woke things that were best undisturbed, then there would be fire, and slaughter, and dark powers would stride the land.

His grandson sighed, and settled down to selling the packets of herbs, vials of extracts, and other herbal creations. His grandfather had a marvelous touch with compounding herbs, and knew just where to find them – a level of expertise that only a lifetime and a touch of magic could bring – but he DID love to tell his tales.

Not that he didn’t listen too – there was a reason why Gramps was still alive after all those years working amidst the dangers of the woods – but he had heard most of Gramps stories before.

Once, long past, before the world was broken and remade at the dawning of the age, men enchanted cities, made mountains fly, and bestrode the world like gods, crafting the stuff of creation like soft copper upon an iron anvil of will and magic. But, in their hubris, they overreached – and the foundations of the world trembled beneath them. The flying mountains fell, the walls between the worlds were breached, and chaos walked the world as the old laws were broken and remade.

In that time the Wolf Lord, the Dark God of Shapeshifters, Lycanthropes, and the Hunt sought his prey freely – roaming across the planes in search of primordial beasts spawned of wild magic and released from the imprisonment of eons by the foolishness of men. Where his spittle fell, those it touched were transformed, becoming a howling pack which followed in his wake.

That day the Wolf Lord hunted a creature of legend – a Paragon Stag, a creature which walked among the trees of the forest as men walk upon a meadow. In it’s flight it burst the bounds of reality, and strode forth upon the world of men. It crossed hundreds of miles, in bounds that trampled cities, shattered the ground, and spawned earthquakes in it’s wake – and the Wolf Lord, black as night, jaws agape, and eyes aflame, gave chase.

The Stag turned at bay, it’s back to the sea, less then five miles from here. The battle was fierce, blood flowed like rivers, and the earth was sundered – but while the Stag was mighty, the Wolf Lord was a god. He brought his prey low, and feasted, and the streams of the forest carried away the gore in torrents.

Men took the bones, and – in terror lest the Dark God return to their destruction – built a shrine to the Wolf Lord at the sight of the battle. Today that ancient shrine still stands, although the bones have long since begun to crumble, and have been replaced with wood and stone.

Still, beneath the shrine, and in occasional spots in the woods, deposits of the slaver of the Wolf have hardened into the crystal we call Moonstone. Where it lies beneath the ground, plants grow strangely – and are of magical potency. Where trees wrap roots around a chunk of such stone, they achieve a dim consciousness, and – when assailed – may stride forth at night as Treents, to take their vengeance – if necessary, regenerating themselves from their roots to do so. Where men bear it, epidemics of Lycanthropy break out – and those creatures, filled with the dread power of the Wolf Lord, die only when the crystals which give them strength are found and shattered. Some leave descendants amongst the beasts, and those inherit an unnatural intellect – and often a desire for the stone which can grant them a human form. Other fools hunt for preserved scraps of the Stag’s mighty bones – for, with them and a piece of the Wolf Lord’s crystal, one can assume that mighty form for a time, and use it’s power as you will – until the Wolf Lord notices, and comes to repeat his feast.

(Small Boy) “Way cool! Does he munch people all up?”

(Schlaussen) “Oh yes! Starting with your feet, so you can see him eat you up!”

Every tale-spinner in the area can tell of several places where herbs grow unnaturally, where pieces of the Wolf Lord’s moonstone occasionally turn up in streams or when digging, where it is most unwise to fell trees because terrible things happen to you when you do, and where various beasts – especially wolves, cats, and other large predators – often behave far too cleverly to be natural animals.

While these locations and facts things may or may not be real – and, even if they are, may or may not have anything to do with the story that “explains” them – they are certainly starting points.

Kitsune of the Eclipse Part III

Part I covered an Introduction to the Kitsune – the creature of the legends and how it fits into a d20 universe.

Part II covered the basic one-tailed Kitsune and how the racial attributes were derived.

And now, for Part III, it’s the powers and life cycle of multi-tailed Kitsune.

Blacksmith Munechika (end of the 10th century)...

Forging with Foxfire makes for a tricky blade.

There’s even less agreement about the powers of Kitsune with multiple tails than there is about the ways of one-tailed Kitsune. In some tales they are messengers of one or another god, in some simple tricksters, in others possessing or vampiric spirits, and in still others (albeit mostly in more modern versions) they are elemental spirits of nature.

In Eclipse terms multiple inconsistent descriptions usually simply means that means that there are mutually-exclusive choices to make – and there is at least one which fits right in.

A Kitsune who’s about to gain his or her second tail faces a tough decision. Their power may be increasing, but they’re still small wild canines coming up on either age 100 or 200 (depending on the story). That’s not a good thing. It means that – without their shapeshifting magic – they are far, FAR, beyond the point of “natural death”.

And all magics have their limitations.

Some few – confident in the Wheel of Incarnations or their spirits destination – accept the way of things, and pass on. We don’t really need to concern ourselves with them. Characters who peacefully accept that there is, indeed, a time to die don’t tend to have exciting adventures after that point unless they reincarnate or something.

Others, unwilling to abandon either life or their physical forms cling tightly, employing their shapeshifting to maintain a body which should – in the normal way of things – be long since dust. They continue to be physical foxes, independent of any greater powers, and with all the frailties of flesh. They’re most commonly known as Nogitsune.

Two-Tailed Kitsune-Nogitsune Powers Template (+1 ECL Race with basic Kitsune Package):

  • +1d6 Mana (6 CP).
  • Adept (6 CP) for two sets of Rune Magic skills. While Illusion and Transformation are fairly common, a wide variety of other – principally elemental or nature-related – powers have been reported.
  • +4 to each of the four Adept skills (8 CP). This will normally be enough to get a Kitsune up to second level spells.
  • Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized/must pull a silly prank on a sapient creature of another race to get this to work (6 CP).
  • Magician (for Rune Magic) (6 CP).

Nogitsune normally gain one additional tail per additional level of spell they can use – thus a nine-tailed Kitsune can, within it’s specialities, cast ninth-level spells. Traditionally it takes a century to advance in status that way, but going adventuring – and taking horrible risks – can speed up the process a great deal.

Nogitsune may mix template levels with normal ones if they wish – a process that can lead to them wielding enormous magical power at relatively low level while remaining hopelessly frail. This is NOT recommended in d20 – where seeing a certain amount of damage coming your way is almost inevitable – but it is something of a shortcut. Of course, if you alternate template levels with normal levels meant to toughen yourself up, you’ll wind up with your basic high-level spellcaster. If you focus on normal levels your magical talents will lag,

Advanced Nogitsune Template Level (+1 ECL and +1 Tail):

  • +2d6 Mana (12 CP).
  • +4 to each of the four Adept skills (8 CP). This is enough to gain +2 effective caster levels with those rune magic abilities and +1 level of spells.
  • Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized/must pull a silly prank on a sapient creature of another race to get this to work (6 CP). Buying this ability again means that you still only get five uses – but that your Mana recovery increases by +1d6 each time. Elder Nogitsune continue to play silly tricks on people because their reward goes up and up…
  • +1 Bonus Feat or 6 CP ability of choice – although some privileges and reputation are almost mandatory at some point (6 CP).

Kitsune may also opt to abandon their physical bodies to become free fox spirits. This requires a complex balancing act, hovering in astral space while maintaining a bond to the physical world so that they can return to it and avoid being drawn into an afterlife and a maintaining a bond with an afterlife so as to avoid being drawn into the physical world and a new incarnation. That’s not easy. In fact, it requires making a pact with a spirit powerful enough to control an afterlife and willing to help you out.

In general, that means making a bargain with a god – normally offering service in exchange for help in maintaining your life. Traditionally, Kitsune make pacts with Inari, a thoroughly benign sort of deity who likes benign kitsune – but, at least in d20, a wide variety of other gods may be willing to make the relevant pact. A Kitsune who does so becomes a functionary in the entourage of a god – acquiring a sort of spiritual rank. They’re usually known as Myobu. Sadly enough, free fox spirits are still rather vulnerable. Their delicate balance between the worlds can be easily upset unless they invest a lot of time and energy in stabilizing it by taking actual levels which provide hit points. Even then, without a true physical form to focus magical energies, their powers are usually less impressive than those of Nogitsune – even if their connections are a lot better.

Two-Tailed Kitsune-Myobu Powers Template I (+1 ECL Race with basic Kitsune Package):

  • Mana as 3d6 Power (6 CP).
  • Shapeshift with Shape of Death and Incorporeal, Specialized/Shapeshift and Shape of Death only as Prerequisites, Incorporeal it costs [1 + Tails] Power to remain corporeal for an hour, Incorporeality is Corrupted/magic works against the user normally (8 CP). Yes, Myobu are spirits – and, in fact, since they are technically permanently using Shape of Death, they are vulnerable to being Turned, Destroyed, Rebuked, Bolstered, and Commanded by characters wielding positive and negative energy. They do, however, gain Turn Resistance equal to their current number of tails.
  • Witchcraft I, II, and III, with Summoning and two Pacts – at least one of Service and (usually) one of Duties, Tithe, Souls, Vampirism (darker patrons often offer this pact, or minor variants that drain energy form the natural world), or Spell Failure. (12 CP).
  • Rite of Chi with +4 Bonus Uses, Specialized/must pull a silly prank on a sapient creature of another race to get this to work (6 CP).

Myobu may continue to take template levels if they wish, with much the same consequences as a Nogitsune doing the same. Myobu, however, do not acquire tails according to the level of spell that they can access; they simply acquire them by taking Advanced Myobu Template levels – at a minimum of one template level per century.

Advanced Myobu Template Level (+1 ECL and +1 Tail):

  • +1 Bonus Feat or 6 CP ability of choice – although basic Returning (will come back after being “killed” unless special precautions are taken) and Favors/Spirits or Patron are almost required after four or five tails (6 CP).
  • Mana as +4d6 Power (8 CP).
  • +2 Advanced Witchcraft abilities of choice. (12 CP)
  • +1 to a Saving Throw of Choice (most commonly Will or Reflex) (3 CP).
  • +1 Contact (1 CP).
  • +2 Skill Points (2 CP).

So now that we have the mechanics, what is Kitsune culture like?

That one’s easy. Kitsune Culture is pretty much a myth. Foxes are common enough, but foxes who are old enough to become “civilized” are extremely rare, hence they usually model most of their behavior on the local culture as filtered through the mind of a small, fragile, wild animal that mostly hunts small rodents. Their common traits are mostly those of small canines.

  • When they fight each other it’s usually to submission or flight, not death. Fighting to the death risks serious injuries – which wild animals often will not survive.
  • Even the oldest and wisest Kitsune tend to be shortsighted, impulsive, instinct-driven, and more than a bit childish.
  • They’re very interested in mates and offspring. They also know that most of their fox-children are simply going to be short-lived wild animals.
  • They dislike confinement, and often extend that feeling to objecting confining others.
  • They respect those amongst themselves with more tails. They’re generally older and are always more powerful.
  • They usually consider each other as – at least – distant relatives. After all, given the number of descendents a hundred-year-old fox will have, any two Kitsune almost certainly are related in many MANY ways.

…and that’s about it.

Kitsune are skillful illusionists, and – if that advantage is employed cleverly – can be very effective. If it’s not employed cleverly… well, they make a decent pot of soup and a pair of fur gloves.

Try to stay out of hot water now!

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXXIX – Memories of Dream

After Charles got the ex-deiphages settled in on Earth for the moment, he settled down to take a look at his maps…

  • He had his original sketch-map of Yu-Shan and it’s Geomancy – a hopelessly incomplete tangle of course. While he had plenty of agents, few of them were welcome poking around Yu-Shans foundations and an awful lot of areas were closed off – not to mention that the job was colossal.
  • He has his newly-acquired map, quite complete and through – if incomprehensibly complex and limited to the original design, rather than including all of the stuff that had been added later on.
  • And, of course, he had the map from that dream that Orchid had sent… that had been kind of weird! He’d been skiing down a slope backwards while juggling cats and trying to negotiate the right-of-way with cranky Yeti who’d escaped from his video game when he’d fallen down a hole and landed in the geomantic monitoring station, with the refrigerator still open…

Hm. Maybe he should review the important bits one more time! There might be something that he’d missed! It was kind of hard to make sure that you’d got everything with dream-conferencing…

(Yes, I forgot to post this short segment; it belonged just after The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXXI – Meeting the Nocturnals. Ergo, we’re having a flashback. Sorry about that.)

So… in the dream he’d just finished getting the cats some cream when Orchid had beamed down from the Enterprise, using the openings in the wards that he’d left to allow some dream-communications. He’d run it through again from there…

Well, Orchid had been going to check with Terapishim’s captor; hopefully this was really her sending a dream-message and she’d had some results. Hm! He had to check sometime on that Quintessence Fountain he’d fixed up!

(Charles) “Hello!”

(Orchid, still in the body she’d had before) “Hi… phew, I’ve been busting my rear on this. I managed to yank the information out of one of Lotus’s friends. Lost a lot of motes on that one.”

(Charles) Do you need some?

(Orchid) “You can do that? Well, it’ll save me a lot of trouble come the dawn, so as long as they’re clean…”

She was salivating…

Charles set up a link and transferred over a hundred nice clean motes.

(Orchid) “Ah… thank the Mighty Ones. I was really worried there. You… can’t do that often, can you?”

(Charles, with some surprise) “Why not?”

Orchid went blank for a bit… Charles had to wave his hand in front of her body’s face.

Could… Could the boy really be a nigh-unlimited source of motes? That could change everything!

(Charles) “That was about ten minutes worth… but I could speed things up from the normal level if it’s important!”

(Orchid) “Okay… my boss is going to… I don’t even know what he’ll do when I report THAT! But that’s not what we’re here for… as delicious as that was.”

(Charles) “Did you need some more?”

(Orchid) “Uh… do you have a perpetual mote machine in there or something? You’ve GOT to run out eventually.”

There was more salivating. A normal god of her rank would NEVER salivate, much less let it dribble like that.

(Charles) “Why? It’s geomancy; the power comes from the tension between the underlying pure chaos matrix and the structured matter overlaying it. And there are all the second circles to contribute if needed!”

(Orchid) “Just… four more. That will top me out.”

Charles cheerily transferred four more.

(Orchid) “You… surely can’t do that for multiple entities at once. Surely not all ninety-nine…”

(Charles) “Do they all need the same amount? Cause that would take three or four hours… It’ s not so much that there’s a power shortage, but I can only transfer so fast!”

He had to wave his hand in front of her face again…

(Charles) “Does something happen that you can’t draw on normal sources?”

(Orchid) “What, you mean to heal the daily drain?”

(Charles) Yep!

(Orchid) “Boss says it goes to a good cause. All I know is it drains into the geomancy. ALL of it. I feel like a sieve sometimes; respiring Essence, but not keeping it… Enough about me, though. You came for information.”

(Charles) “Does it work if you’re in a manse?”

(Orchid) “Manses help… somewhat. I know I won’t… cease existing if I’m in one, but the hunger would be maddening. It’s still better than not having a domain at all, I’ll say that.”

She removed a map from her robes, and unrolled it to show to Charles… It was a map of the Lunargent Ecological Protectorate, but not of the above ground. The twistiness of the tunnels, and the depth to which they extended, was incredible. A dot, with a notation indicating that it was about two thousand feet down, sat between two of the gates.

(Orchid) “Good luck finding that point, even with the map. I don’t know too much, but the way my boss talked, even Sidereals have trouble finding places like that.”

(Charles) “That will be a bit tricky! (He mad a note of the location and the map). Still, it’s probably doable…”

(Orchid) “He said they’ve done it before… and then he got in the worst mood. Er… You’re… serious, right? You can support ninety-nine of those links?”

(Charles) “Well, it would take about four hours to transfer that much power to each link… But this might help!”

Charles cheerily held out a ball of blue-gold light/

(Orchid) “Still… once I report THAT, my boss will want to talk to you, succeed or fail. Wait, what’s that?”

(Charles) “It’s a linking effect… A sort of initiation really! Among a few other things, it will basically let you stay in a trio of manses while you’re out and about your business! That should help with the drain I think!”

(Orchid) “Okay… knowing you, this PROBABLY isn’t a trick.” (She tasted the orb first… Satisfied that the Essence was not going to kill her, or affect her mind in horrible ways, she undertook the attunement).

It was basically the start of Charles’s version of making “Akuma” – the usual “embed some health levels in the manses, doubling of base health, being in three rank-5 manses all the time, +1 essence. a few minor manse-based enhancements (doubled base health, fast healing, environmental protection), and three extra charms. On the other hand, it was just with some of the new planetary manses. They weren’t Adenic and didn’t provide any of the unique charms he was working on developing.

Even Charles was a bit leery of giving a deiphage a direct link to his personal energies – and Gothumg had nearly exploded at the first HINT of such a thought crossing his mind.

Gothmug was watching her as she traveled the metaphorical path though… He was getting rather inspirational levels of loneliness and depression off her… and curious about the geomancy that she was tied to. Orchid was behaving quite well though. The sky seemed to be confusing her a bit, and she was definitely having to get used to the idea of “outdoors” again, but she was nearly finished.

Still, even Charles had to admit that Deiphagy WAS sort of naughty.

Gothmug agreed. Consuming other sapient beings for one’s Essence was horribly dark and desperate.

Still… if a measure this straightforward – even if it did involve some of Charles’s exotic geomantic manses – could make that much less necessary, it would be a big improvement!

Ah! Orchid was coming out of the trance!

(Orchid) “Kid-Aden… thank you.”

(Charles) “Oh you’re welcome! Hopefully that will cut down on the problem some!”

(Orchid) “At any rate, even if I can’t hunt, I won’t die!”

Darn! He’d been hoping that – with three Rank-5 Manses contributing – it would be enough to maintain a positive energy flow.

(Orchid) “I’m not sure how much of that will go to the geomancy; it tends to take its own over time. But I’m safe . . .”

She seemed to be near tears. She was desperately trying to hide it, and appear as imperious as before, but it was showing.

(Charles, rather appalled) “That… really seems like overkill! Even as a method of ensuring that power continues to come in!”

(Orchid) “I don’t know where it’s going… but the boss says it’s vitally important.”

Hmm… It looked like the net total WAS positive – but at only about one-tenth what he’d expect from that many manses contributing… Surely she couldn’t normally hunt enough to support THAT. The drain must have responded to the new supply… Well, so long as it was positive – and it really should stay that way; she was currently contributing far more than her share!

(Charles) “I don’t think that much of anything is worth killing the people helping you! Or that good causes need a constant threat of death to make people participate!

(Orchid) “Hey, he didn’t choose this either. But when I ask him about it . . . he just says it’s always been this way.”

(Charles) “Needs fixing! Those links are pretty easy; I presume everyone else would like one?”

(Orchid) “You’d have to talk to him… and I’m not sure he fully believed what I reported from our last meeting. And then he’d have to talk to his coworkers.”

Charles wasn’t good at social graces, but he tentatively gave her a shoulder-pat.

(Charles) “Well, if anyone else needs that set up, they only need to get in touch!”

(Orchid) “I… I will see. I think I had better… well, wake up, I guess. This better not be part of the dream!”

(Charles) “Well, it shouldn’t be!

He got the feeling that – even if it was – the chances of her trying to eat him and thanking him for giving her some hope were about even… Still, if she felt any results at all, it should be real enough. After all, she’d have no idea of what – if anything – to expect. Since she’d gotten accurate information it should have worked!

The dream had faded – but Charles slept quite a lot longer; he never really did get enough sleep!

He made sure to double-check Orchids links and make sure that they were working properly after he woke up though. They were fine… but the Essence regeneration on the Manses had gone down by a point an hour for others attuned to them. That was quite a drain! Far more than could normally be channeled through an individual attunement… Someone on the other end of the link had some neat geomantic tricks that he didn’t know!

Well, experience probably counted for something. A good thing he hadn’t linked things up internally! It shouldn’t bother the design purpose of the manses though; they were mostly unused at the moment, since they were designed to provide city services over their extended areas of influence – and that part seemed to be working just fine!

Still, with that much power flowing, it should have been possible to tell where it was going – besides over the extradimensional link into Yu-Shan… there had to be quite a current of power going BEYOND Orchid. Of course, if it was shielded that sort of thing did always win.

He didn’t really push it – but he did get SOMETHING… it was apparently… going into about a block of empty quarter… adjacent to a slum. It seemed to be centered on the quintessence fountain. Huh! Location, but nothing as to function…. Oh well! At least Orchid didn’t have to worry about being sucked into the Geomancy if she ran out of motes!

Return to… Well, it does bear some resemblance to Middle-Earth…

Español: Cirth n.º 19 "G", empleada ...

Rune along, why don’t you rune along home now, night is falling and the path is steep…

And here we have more of a debate over an old article… Well, I do try to respond to everyone except the spammers in detail, so – once again – here’s a complete response to Jeremy, since this is entirely too long for a comment. You can find the original article HERE, and the first response HERE.

“Now, I quite understand the desire to make your favorite characters high level.”

It has nothing to do with liking Gandalf (he’s a decent chap, I suppose) and everything to do with wanting a little internal consistency as to your standards of comparison, not to mention that it irritates me every time people attempt to pave over the fact that Istari are spirit beings incarnated in flesh whose powers stem from their pre-biological existence, and not being actual old humans who learned their magic. Whenever people just jump right in and make that completely unjustifiable comparison, it annoys me, especially when people try to spread that idea, like you — and the actual net effect is people start thinking its true.

The nice thing about using point-buy systems is that – barring math errors – they’re always consistent. As for consistency with the source material… You seem to have failed to notice that 1) The racial writeup is indeed for a spirit being incarnated in flesh (although, in Tolkien, every Elf, Dwarf, and Human is also a spirit being incarnated in flesh. Elves are even noted as sometimes getting to return after being killed). 2) The writeup doesn’t actually say anything about how Gandalf acquired his magic; that’s your own assumption being projected onto the article, and 3) Any game writeup compares disparate characters, origins, and sources of power. You can object to conclusions, but complaining about things being compared is simply demanding that your own personal comparison be taken as automatic truth. Sorry, but life does not work that way.

You’ve also failed to provide any actual references to the source material yourself. Is it that hard to actually find some segments that support whatever point it is you want to make? This would be a lot more fun if you actually supported your arguments.

The result of this mistaken line of thought (which you did not start, only perpetuate) is stuff like how I walk into a gaming store, open up a copy of MERP, full of hope, and find that it says “Oh yeah, the Istari opened up wizarding schools, so humans can learn magic too!” You go in expecting that a “Middle Earth Roleplaying Game” has some sort of accuracy instead of being a shameless D&D clone, and instead, you get the same old Harry Potter style wizards. Obviously, you didn’t start the fire, and its not your fault MERP was based more off D&D than Tolkien, and so I don’t blame you for these mistakes either.

I’m afraid that here you’re complaining that a third party’s interpretation of the source material – as adjusted to make a playable game – doesn’t agree with yours. Sadly, of course, that has no relevance here.

By the way, MERP was based off of Rolemaster, not D&D and the system is quite different. D&D clones use new wording but the same mechanics – since the mechanics cannot be copyrighted.

“Tolkien’s “Wizards” were old,”

Yup, distinctly unlike AD&D and D&D equivalents. And please don’t cite Elminister or Dumbledore — “human guy who learned magic and is now old” doesn’t even vaguely resemble “spirit who took the form of an old man.” There’s art of geezery wizards, which proves primarily that the artists for it, like most D&D fans, had the mental conception of wizards = Gandalf, but its vanishingly unlikely for any wizard PC to be old. Their starting age is going to be in their 20s and 30s — and there isn’t really an opportunity to go beyond that, 99% of the time. When there is, you will have old wizards alongside old party members in general.

Hm. You might want to do something about this Harry Potter obsession of yours, since it has nothing at all to do with the topic… Now, you do realize that the wizard stereotype goes back to the middle ages and beyond? What most people have in mind for “Wizard” is Merlin – and HERE we have an illustration for him some 700 years old. For a very nice line drawing, here’s one from Gustav Dore, 1868. A little more modern? Here’s a 1922 version by Wyeth. Considering that all three of those artists died before Tolkien came up with Gandalf, I think we can guess which way the inspiration flowed. For that matter, you might check the Artwork in first edition – where it was expected that it would take decades to rise in level, and by the time one gained the title of “Wizard” at level eleven you were quite likely to be old. Quite a few current games cover many years as well – and many player characters opt to start off older than required even if the game master doesn’t require it.

“they learned new things about magic,”

Yeah, but what makes D&D wizards distinct is that they verifiably learn new magic and add to their repertoire. I don’t think its at all clear or implied that Istari were ever apprentices — in fact, in all likelihood, Gandalf was a powerful spirit being that became a weaker being. The only time he demonstrates anything like learning new spells is after his reincarnation — and the difference between Grey and White may simply have been in an attitude shift caused by death and rebirth. The Istari were designed to give immortal council to mortals and to guide them; and indeed, an immortal being would in all likelihood be sagely. But linking their sageliness (that they have been around awhile) to their supernatural powers (which wholly stem from that they were created with that level of power) is a mistake; a connection is never implied.

Sorry, but that’s your own extrapolation again; the writeup says nothing at all about Gandalf ever being an apprentice, where his power came from, how it was acquired, or whether it would improve. You claimed that there was no evidence that the Istari learned new things about magic – and I simply pointed out that, according to Tolkien, they did indeed both study magic and acquire additional magical lore (the idea that that translated to new spells is your own interpolation again). As for the “acquiring new powers through study” making D&D wizards different… Sorry, but that’s one place where AD&D wizards are strictly according to tradition. Look at the reputation that Sir Francis Bacon acquired.

“Ah, a classic (and totally irrelevant) strawman argument.”

Its not irrelevant. D&D elves resemble LotR elves far, FAR more than the wizard vs wizard comparison, yet Gary has said many times that the only thing he actually took from LotR is that they dislike orcs (and who doesn’t?).

It’s still quite irrelevant; the point of a comparison is to look for differences – and we’re not talking about D&D Elves versus Tolkien’s elves.

“First up, we’ve already disposed of that “coincidence” theory.”

Er, no we haven’t. At no point in the quoted interview he mention wizards, and I’m pretty sure everyone knows, by now, that D&D casters are based off of Jack Vance, hence, Vancian magic. D&D takes from a wide variety of inspiration, and Gary has said, many many times, that the inspiration from LotR is purely superficial.

Incidentally, while Gandalf bears even less resemblance to a D&D wizard (or other caster) than Sauron or Morgoth do (who can actually be verified as engaging in something vaguely like magical research and even in spending XP components), you know who he does bear resemblance to? Odin, and Tolkien himself said that both Odin and

Sorry, but your argument was that there was no relationship. Being a part of the inspiration is a pretty obvious relationship. In any case, I’ve already pointed out the flaw in your argument here; I gave Gandalf all the abilities he displayed in the books; the total number of character points required made him level eight. He didn’t become level eight because of the comparison. Are you now arguing that – in terms of d20 magic – Gandalf was a wizard?

Now, if you’d read Vance’s Dying Earth series you’d know that – while a few of Vance’s spells appear in D&D – Vance’s “Wizards” rarely knew more than a few spells, but those spells were generally extremely powerful. The “memorization” and “fire and forget” casting system is based on Vance’s notions. Most of the actual spells, the progression system, the breaking up of spells into discrete levels, and most of the other details are not.

I’d also recommend proofreading your replies. Leaving out words and dropping sentences before they come to any point does not help your arguments.

“or you’d have noticed that this is an Eclipse Classless writeup (not a Wizard).”

Right. You nonetheless, of course, are comparing him to various caster types, and starting the discussion using the fact that he doesn’t use Fly, Teleport, etc. (wizard spells, generally). First establishing that he’s not a very good wizard, and then making him out to be about comparable to a level 8 caster.

Wrong again; If you had really read it, you’d realize that the point was that he didn’t use high-level spells of ANY type – which was why other spell lists and healing were mentioned. Giving him the abilities he actually displayed didn’t require a high level build – or can you provide some examples of abilities that Gandalf displayed in Tolkien’s books that the given build does not cover? I notice that you’ve skipped past that possibility – and that would be the quick and easy way to demonstrate that the build was flawed.

“Can you actually provide a quote and a page number where it says that Gandalf didn’t use his full power against Sauroman’s army? Or the dweller in the pool? Or the Witch-King? Or, for that matter, the Balrog?”

Even by your very conservative estimation of Gandalf (and rating a balrog off of Gandalf instead of rating Gandalf off a balrog), I’m pretty sure a guy who can fling spells and fight for eight days straight is going to have no trouble against mobs of orcs, yet he is never portrayed as cleaning up large herds of orcs for the Fellowship while everyone relaxes in the shade. When he fights the Balrog, its an eight day laser light show; but the most he does against typical monsters is use Fire Seeds, once, four books ago.

This, of course, was in response to your claim that Gandalf was always holding back; you do notice that you’re evading rather than answering here? OK though, lets look at that; Gandalf’s description of the fight with the Balrog is on Page 105 in my copy of The Two Towers, in “The White Rider” section…

“Long I fell, and he fell with me. His fire was about me. I was burned. Then we plunged into the deep water, and all was dark. Cold it was, as the tide of death; almost it froze my heart.

Deep is the abyss that is spanned by Durin’s Bridge, and none has measured it said Gimli

Yet it has a bottom, beyond light and knowledge, said Gandalf. Thither I came at last, to the uttermost foundations of stone, He was with me still. His fire was quenched, but now he was a thing of slime, stronger than a strangling snake. We fought far under the living earth, where time is not counted. Ever he clutched me, and ever I hewed him, till at last he fled into dark tunnels. They were not made by Durin’s folk, Gimli son of Gloin. Far, far below the deepest delvings of the Dwarves, the world is gnawed by nameless things. Even Sauron knows them not. They are older than he (1). Now I have walked there, but I will bring no report to darken the light of day. In that despair my enemy was my only hope, and I pursued him, clutching at his heel. Thus he brought me back at last to the secret ways of Khazad-dum; too well he knew them all. Ever up now we went, until we came to the endless stair.

Long has that been lost, said Gimli. Many have said that it was never made save in legend, but others say that it was destroyed.

It was made, and it had not been destroyed, said Gandalf. From the lowest dungeon to the highest peak it climbed, ascending in unbroken spiral in many thousand steps, until it issued at last in Durin’s Tower carved in the living rock of Ziraksigil, the pinnacle of the Silvertine. There upon Celebdil was a lonely window in the snow, and before it lay a narrow space, a dizzy eyrie above the mists of the world. The sun shone fiercely there, but all below was wrapped in cloud. Out he sprang, and even as I came behind, he burst into new flame. There was none to see, or perhaps in after ages songs would still be sung of the Battle of the Peak. Suddenly Gandalf laughed. But what would they say in song? Those that looked up from afar thought that the mountain was crowned with storm. Thunder they heard, and lightning, they said, smote upon Celebdil, and leaped back broken into tongues of fire. Is not that enough? A great smoke rose about us, vapor and steam. Ice fell like rain. I threw down my enemy, and he fell from the high place and broke the mountain-side where he smote in his ruin. Then darkness took me, and I strayed out of thought and time, and I wandered far on roads that I will not tell.”

1) This is odd, since Sauron predates the creation of Arda and is presumably as old as the rest of the spirits Iluvatar created; evidently Gandalf is being poetic rather than entirely literal.

Hm. I don’t see anything there about “an eight day laser light show”. They fell a long way, and hit deep water. After getting out, the fight – sword against unarmed combat, since the Balrog no longer had a weapon – continued until the Balrog ran away (apparently it wasn’t entirely stupid). Being lost, Gandalf pursued the Balrog a very long way – apparently not trying to kill it until AFTER it showed him the way out. Once out, and standing on ice and snow, the Balrog burst into flames again, and there was a lot of steam. Ice was knocked loose, and slid down the sides of the mountain. Something very noisy happened – perhaps a Lighting Bolt – and the Balrog was knocked off the peak and hit something hard instead of water this time. Oops!

As Tolkien wrote it it’s a wonderful and evocative passage, but it doesn’t imply a lot of magic anywhere. Personally, I think the desperate struggle – as much against physical limitations as against each other – is a lot more impressive and heroic than if they were two Dragonball-Z characters powering up and throwing energy bolts at each other.

Trying to count days won’t get us anywhere though. We don’t know how much time was spent fumbling around in the dark or wandering far “on roads that I will not tell”.

As for rating a Balrog off of Gandalf instead of the other way around… There’s no other choice if we’re actually going to stick with what’s in the source material. We have a fair amount of information on Gandalf, but very little actual information on Balrogs.

“Morgoth was afraid of a minor member of a host that he once opposed singlehanded.”

Wait, lets back up to the Two Trees and Ungoliant. Ignoring that Morgoth seems to take all damage as vile damage (or something) and thus for obvious reasons never fights unless he has to, I don’t think Two-Trees Morgoth really had time to weaken noticeably. Ungoliant, after sucking the Two Trees dry, is then powerful enough to challenge him. On the other hand, Gothmog (iirc) the balrog shows up to save him. We could say that Gothmog is only level 8 (or higher but still comparable to the Moria balrog, as he’s obviously strong by balrog standards either way), but it strains my suspension of disbelief to think that a sub-epic Morgoth is going to be able to go on to manufacture tons and tons of dragons and volcanic mountain ranges and what not.

Actually that’s backing up roughly four to five hundred years. Remember; the Silmarillion covers rather a long time and a lot of people have put a lot of effort into sorting out the chronology; most of the timelines (googling a few is easy) make it about that much. As for how long Morgath had to weaken before that… lets check THIS timeline, or perhaps THIS one. Hm. Yep. At that point, per Tolkien’s chronology, Morgath had had some 5000 years of Valinor – each equivalent to almost ten earthly years – to weaken. That seems sufficient.

In any case, in your (inaccurate) version here, two-trees Morgoth launched a sabotage-strike with the help of another creature against two defenseless trees and then… ran away. So; Ungoliant, swollen with the power of the two trees is a threat to someone who is pretty obviously terrible at combat. A combat specialist (actually, according to Tolkien, a LOT of combat specialists) shows up and scares off Ungoliant. That doesn’t really say much about anyone’s talents outside of combat.

Although the fact that Morgoth is pretty obviously terrible at combat by this point explains why a mortal combat specialist can give him so much trouble pretty easily.

“There are some examples (including the powers you need to purchase to be Morgoth) up on the site here.”

Point. I glanced over it; how would him creating dragons fit into those abilities?

Pretty easily; in Tolkien’s works Morgoth is the originator of evil, who infused his power into the physical world to the point where evil creatures would continue to carry out his will even after he is banished from the world. Making dragons isn’t that hard (as an evil overlord he could do it with transformation, ritual magic, or by having your support staff do the work), it’s controlling them after you make them that’s hard – and the creator of all evil gets that as a simple Privilege.

“Page 291: Balrogs and Dragons at the fall of Gondolin. Gothmog Lord of Balrogs and the Elven King kill each other. Dragons destroy the city.”

Exactly what you’d expect, personalities clash 1 on 1 and the guys that spew ridiculous amounts of fire burn everything down. The draconic claim to fame is flight and lots and lots of area effect fire, while balrogs handle individually potent adversaries.

Really? What I’d expect is for the “personalities” to lead the defenders from amidst their squads of bodyguards. D20’s sillier dungeon-crawl conventions don’t apply to Tolkien’s warfare. This is not a d20 city full mooks. It’s full of centuries-old experienced, elves, many of them combatants.

Even more sadly for this argument, winged dragons that can fly do not appear until the War of Wrath (The Silmarillion, page 302). The notion that “Balrogs handle individually potent adversaries” is entirely your own interpolation – or can you provide a quote and a page reference? Still, if you had been correct about the flying dragons, then the Balrogs would have made a rather minor – and stupid – contribution. Why get killed instead of letting the dragons rain fire on the heroic types until they died?

“Hm. Group of dragons versus two elvish armies – including Fingon. Elves need rescue – but it takes two Balrogs, including probably the most powerful one ever, to take down Fingon on his own.”

Yes… I would definitely expect a swarm of one comparable thing to do more than merely two comparable things? Not to mention that huge hordes of firebreathers facing off against tree-loving mooks is going to end in obvious tragedy.

Really, I hate to have to ask, but did you actually read the books, or are you basing your opinions on secondary interpretations? After all, if you had actually checked this section, you’d find that “Morgath loosed his Balrogs” upon the city – that is to say, a lot of them. So much for “a swarm” versus “merely two”. Secondarily, these are Noldor – centuries old, lovers of cities, highly experienced, and not at all “mooks”. Who do you think Fingon practiced with? (Are you thinking of the elves who preferred not to go to Valinor? They might fit in under “tree-loving mooks).

“Evidently quite a few got away and didn’t need to hide.”

Not to mention that dragons improve and get better over time.

The other important thing is that, if we assume Morgoth and balrogs are so emaciated in the power level department as you say, then dragons get completely crazy by comparison. There is a dragon that was so huge that, when it died, it collapsed an entire dwarven civilization underground. That’s quite beyond even a Colossal Red Dragon. Not to mention that, as you say, the dragons had a good chance of taking the Valar. I find it difficult to believe that total scrubs on par with level six elves are going to be able to create dragons that are hundreds of times their power level.

Ah; I see that you’re skipping past the War of Wrath section. You do realize that when you skip past an argument instead of answering it you concede the point? Here you’re attempting to skip past the “Dragons versus Balrogs” discussion to complain that dragons are too powerful… For that you want a quote and a page number. You also want to avoid trying to drag standard d20 dragons into things, since the discussion is about the exact opposite – converting Tolkien’s creatures to accurate d20 representations; how powerful a standard d20 dragon is is totally irrelevant.

As for creating weapons that are more powerful and destructive than you are being hard to believe… I take it that you do not believe that mankind has developed tanks, bomber planes, and nuclear weapons either since those are better at destroying things than an unarmed engineer is?

“Basically the argument in this complaint is entirely circular”

The pot calls the kettle black.

Okay, How does the level 5-8 elf king thing square off, again? Morgoth (lv?)needs help vs Ungoliant (lv?) from Gothmog (lv8?), and Gothmog later kills and is killed by the Elven King (lv5-8?). Morgoth doesn’t manage to harm Ungoliant at this point at all, so we can assume she’s at “full,” and this suggests that Ungoliant is grown to a power level over Morgoth even moreso than Morgoth was over Fingolfin. Gothmog (level 8, apparently) pretty much immediately drives Ungoliant off. That suggests Ungoliant was at least two levels below Gothmog, so she’d be about level 6. She herself whooped Morgoth, so he’s probably another two levels below her, which leaves us with a level 4 Morgoth. Gothmog and the Elven King (elite awesome heroes are, apparently, level 5-8, so ) are about evenly matched and kill each other. Meanwhile, Fingolfin would have to be about… level 1, tops, as Morgoth would be about as strong as your average troll — and that would have been way back before his diminishment.

Of course, to your point buy system, you could simply add “Kryptonite: Vs Spiders” to Morgoth, “Kryptonite: Vs Balrogs” to Ungoliant, and “Kryptonite: Vs Elves” to Balrogs.

Lets see… Morgoth (Noncombatant and physical coward, as seen at the end of the War of Wrath, Silmarillion, Page 303) is intimidated by a freshly-empowered Ungoliant (Nasty spider-monster). He gets tangled up in webbing, and calls for help – and a sizeable number of his Balrogs come and run Ungoliant off. To check that section…

“But Ungoliant had grown great, and he (Morgoth) less by the power that had gone out of him, and she enmeshed him in a web of clinging thongs to strangle him. Then Morgoth sent forth a terrible cry, that echoed in the mountains… Far beneath the ruined halls of Angband, in vaults to which the Valar in the haste of their assault had not descended, Balrogs lurked still, awaiting ever the return of their Lord… they came to Lammoth as a tempest of fire. With their whips of flame they smote asunder the webs of Ungoliant, and she quailed, and turned to flight, belching black vapors to cover her”. – The Silmarillion, Page 86 – “Of the flight of the Noldor”.

So; we have intimidation, webs (and now you know why flame is an instant cure for the Web spell!), and a swarm of Balrogs – who suffice to scare off a giant spider. No actual combat takes place – and power has nothing to do with it unless you count Morgoth’s ability to scream so piercingly that it’s heard many many miles away.

Of course we’ve also established that you do not remember the books clearly, and are not bothering to refer to them to make your arguments; You stated that Gothmog (not mentioned) drove Ungoliant off – not that a swarm of Balrogs did so. Arguments based on your personal third-party reinvention of the books are not convincing.

Gothmog and an Elven King did kill each other. Therefore we can say that they were either about equal, or one was already wounded, or external aid was involved (it’s not like they were having an isolated white-room duel), or one was lucky.

Sorry, but this argument is still based on your own personal reinvention of what happened in the books and on the notion that levels are all-important – when even in basic d20 they’re not; the situation, your particular build, how you use your abilities, and the luck of the dice can be far more important than your level.

Its especially bizarre to imagine that the great heroes of an immortal and magical but biological race would be judged by the same level standard as the best historical Earth heroes, when the latter only had one lifetime to improve, and the former can gain levels indefinitely. It is even more bizarre when the dragons vs Valar battle soundly demonstrates that magical and immortal, but biological creatures do grow over time — massively so — and can even become strong enough to take on Valar.

Is the craftsmanship of Eru just that much suckier than that of Morgoth that dragons ramp up in power level with age and experience but elves can’t?

Here you have entirely missed the point; the greatest elven heroes are indeed superhuman – but “superhuman” starts around level five in d20, which was what was being pointed out. That’s also an independent line of argument, but it does tend to support the basic premise.

Of course, Tolkien’s world doesn’t have levels. It’s characters do not tend to gain much in power over time; Legolas did not incredibly overshadow everyone but Gandalf did he? In Tolkien’s world – just as in Christian theology – uncorrupted spirits, and the corrupted ones that do not try to create their own minions, have constant power. Those spirits who put their power into other things are weakened permanently thereby. Sauron permanently weakened his personal power by making the One Ring. Morgoth spent so much of his power as to cripple himself. Feanor didn’t just pick up a couple of levels and make Silmarils Mark II; he made them, some of his power passed into them – and he would never be able to make such a thing again.

Yes, the elven heroes are mildly superhuman. That puts them around level 5-8. Now, can you actually present a reference from Tolkien’s books that says that dragons grow more powerful after they finish growing? That’s a D&D convention – not a Tolkien convention.

You’re contradicting yourself; first you point out that there was little indication that Gandalf grew in power (although he certainly learned things), and then you want to apply d20 leveling conventions to the elves. I’d agree that Gandalf didn’t show much power growth through the books unless (and it is unless, since Tolkien made no definite statements on the matter) his powers improved after he was “sent back” – and that probably wouldn’t have anything to do with “experience” anyway.

I’d really suggest calming down and a careful re-reading of the primary source material – The Hobbit, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the Silmarillion.

The Chronicles of Heavenly Artifice LXXVIII – The Primordial Archives

English: Juniperus morrisonicola near summit o...

Somewhere out there!

Looking at his geomantic map of Yu-Shan – as sketchy as it still was – Charles had begun to get an uneasy feeling that, what with so many of it’s gates now drifting in space, or no longer linked to anything of any geomantic importance, Yu-Shan was basically scrounging for motes to remain functional. All those endless conveniences, canals, powers, and bindings… It really looked like it was more than the local geomancy could support unaided – and the damage made things far, FAR worse. Creation was originally much, MUCH smaller of course – but it had funneled motes to Yu-Shan through prayer and – Charles suspected – through the gates. The Blessed Isle might have been almost as optimized as Yu-Shan, but the hinterlands of creation had brimmed with untapped power…

The increased drain on the remaining useful gates, coupled with the disruption of Earth’s geomancy, would neatly explain why demesnes were rare and why so many manses were mostly powered down; Much of the power was being drained off – and even Essence could only cross interstellar distances so fast, as Gramps knew all too well!

His gate-survey showed that the gates to tiny planetoids in space were mostly “dead” – in fact, in many cases they were active drains on Yu-Shan’s dragon lines. The ones to earth showed an enormous variance in power flows; some were at their limits, some were moderate, and most were very low due to a lack of earthly power sources. The result was power losses and massive imbalances. It looked like the normal response of Yu-Shan would be to shut things down and conserve power. Presumably the underlying activities – preventing elsewhere coordinate drift, maintaining basic security and structural stability (and perhaps the Games of Divinity) normally took priority.

Of course, the tendency of the more active gods, and the Sidereals (who admittedly had a lot more to worry about than the Geomancy of Yu-Shan) was to… shunt more reserves into play to keep the services running. But wherever the divine energy to keep things going was originating from, it was nowhere near the Central Metropolitan Zone.

Still the greater deiphages seemed to be constantly scrounging for motes and feeding them into the Geomancy. Was that why more wasn’t being done about deiphagy? Still, from the survey that only seemed to affect the abandoned areas – although the one he’d fixed the quintessence fountain in appeared to be expanding slowly. No more than a tenth of an inch an hour – but it was radiating from… beneath that fountain.

Well, there WAS more power coming in there… That fit in with the “Abandoned” areas having a higher energy level… And – from the little research on the topic he could find (mostly from the Bronze Faction and the Bureau of Heaven) – it looked like an area was abandoned as more unemployed deities fell to deiphagy – and deiphagy attacks increased in accordance with their increasing numbers. Deities moved away, and there were consequent changes in the local geomancy…

Which looked to be quite wrong. The spread was very slow – but it was the changing geomancy that turned areas into abandoned territories and divine abandonment followed… As the geomancy changed celestial services were disrupted, the area cooled, the lighting changed (instead of glimmering, it bathed buildings in rather naturalistic green and brown hues. Mortals ware of varying preferences – but most gods found it horribly offputting), breezes blew, and a wide variety of aesthetic differences developed. As the “abandoned” geomancy came to dominate there were more disruptions in the canals, irregular computer and communications services, and extended response times to blue jade emergency pillar activations. Eventually, once the abandoned geomancy was totally dominant, using the pillars would instead summon deiphages – although, luckily for most of Celestial society, you had to get pretty deep before that started happening.

The occupied regions functioned at lower power, but were geomantically quieter – and much, MUCH more stable in terms of services.

What was the overall purpose that power was diverted from for all those services and things?

There wasn’t any help for it. It was time for a trip into the Primordial Archives! It would be nice to know what Yu-Shan actually DID before he started hooking up massive power sources. His research was suggesting that the results might be a lot more complex that simply powering up the city services and such again.

A good thing he now had plenty of geomantic resources. He should be able to get a LONG way into the archives…

He went looking deep and early – searching for material on manses, geomancy, and the earliest days of Yu-Shan. Old, old, OLD material. From the first days of creation, the primordial dawn…

He poured tremendous amounts of power from Aden into manifesting as much as possible of the recursive archives, extending the fractal pattern with hundreds upon hundreds of geomantic relays. Were it not for the Veilward, the humming and Essence vibrations would be blatantly obvious across half of Yu-Shan.

The power outflow would be obvious soon enough anyway, as the excess discharged itself into the local Dragon Lines, pouring through them like a flash flood raging through a network of valleys.

Situated as it was in the Fulgent Administrative District, Dudael was well-protected against deiphages, and Charles had enhanced those protections – if only be reactivating the Veilward – to the point where only the mightest deiphages could get in. Thus, the first sign of trouble was the phone call.

Charles was several levels down by then… Past the implied and potential architecture, and on his way from the theoretical architecture into the extrapolations…. He’d reach the hypothetical levels soon enough!

At least he would be if he could find the right route… essence was whirling dramatically (ir relatively harmlessly) throughout Dudael’s interior architecture, coalescing into things that even he could not predict.

His current attackers were a wild thesaurous and a couple of sets of encyclopedias, all three taking form as rather nasty bestial and metaphorical behemoths, with some rather weird powers! They encyclopedias were attempting to index his internal organs, while the thesaurous was altering the description of his defenses one near-synonym at a time, opening larger and larger loopholes with each translation!

Drat it! As geomantic manifestations of an nigh-indestructible manse they were pretty much impervious to direct assault! And his phone was ringing!

(Charles) “Er… Yes?”

Rebuild his ward, put up another, there’s a GOOD behemoth, oh blast immune to that… Ow! That was seriously nipping at his defenses and he didn’t WANT an index!

(Shengxi, Celestial Lion) “Hello, Charles? Is everything okay where you are?”

And now there was a… major storm spirit, absorbing his power and building up for an x-ray / antimatter level series of bursts!

(Charles) “Uhm… sort of! Does anyone there know what to do about sevenfold storm spirits with symmetrial essence-nodes? The nodes seem to absorb almost anything I use on it and throw it back as lightning-like energy discharges! And… Ow! Encyclopedias! Shoo!”

(Shengxi) “Whaa… is this related to the geomantic disturbances one of the reclaimed territories is reporting over there? What in Malfeas are you doing!?”

(Charles) “I’m down in the archives! And this section is loaded with stuff that didn’t make it into creation!”

The connection wavered over a dozen possible origins as Charles was forced to fall back on his evasion-charm; the dratted Thesaurous had managed to define several of his primary wards as “Children in his care”!

(Shengxi) “Archives? I thought that place was a factory-cathedral. Hey Xiaoxiao, find me some information on Dudael-and try to get it to me on the way…”

Meanwhile, the Thesaurous was reciting synonyms for rending, and was attempting to pierce Charles’s remaining protections.

(Charles, busily counterspelling) “Oh it is! The archives only have a theoritical existence until you channel in enough geomancy to start actualizing them – but then you can find almost anything!”

Uh-oh! The Sevenfold Storm Spirits’ nodes were whirring and sparking ominously… in multiple places.

(Shengxi) “Not going to blow up, is it? Place of that power exploding would be disastrous.”

Charles performed a fast OCR Scan on the Thesaurous and ran a spellcheck program on it… It should have enough old spellings to be confused for awhile – and he had Gothmug (who had more or less been viewing this as an excellent training exercise) put some walls around the storm spirit!

(Charles, a bit short of breath) “Oh, no! All the power goes into expanding the archives, but they’re potentially near-infinite.”

(Shengxi) “Hrm. Well, kid… I’m still sending a squad down to keep an eye on the place. Can’t have you experimenting without somebody monitoring. And that archive sounds… risky.”

(Charles) “Oh, it’s just got some theoretical monsters!”

Wait… the Thesaurus… Oh! Of course! Synonyms, the foundations of language… These were linguistic encyclopedias! For Primordial! The linguistic interface function! He had to HARNESS them, not get past them!

For a moment, Dudael appeared outwardly the same – but Charles got the distinct feeling that the walls were evaporating, just as the encylopedia-behemoths were bludgeoning their way through his wards!

Ah! He threw them some quick printouts of updates to incorporate and let them graze on new facts for a bit!

(Shengxi) “All the same, kid, I want to be sure… and in any case, that’s probably attracting deiphages by the score. I wouldn’t want them having you for supper there.”

Hm… Dudael was handling the powerflow without difficulty – as it should – but “space” was losing it’s definition… The walls were becoming slightly transparent and it would obviously be easy to wander into another dimension if you weren’t careful! Still… that was also a sign of getting close! Things at the period he wanted – when the Primordials had been shaping the Wyld into the Shinma and had been planning Yu-Shan – weren’t very defined.

Meanwhile, the sevenfold storm spirit had unleashed a brutal flurry of electricity against the walls around it, assailing several other dimensions with mighty arcs of power in it’s attempts to find a route around Gothmugs indestructible barriers to get at Charles. The thesaurous was gorging itself on old spellings, and Encyclopedia-Behemoths A-SA had fallen asleep from their feeding frenzies.

(Shengxi) “Hey, kid, the call’s breaking-“

(Charles) “Sorry! It’s the dimensional distortions! I should be done in a little bit!”

Well maybe that part had gotten through! The call was lost!

Of course, Dudael’s walls were now almost fully transparent. So was the entire neighborhood outside – and everything in Dudael as well. Essence saturation was reaching the point where almost anything was possible, and so the choice of reality was almost purely theoritical… Which meant the end of the archives – and that almost anything at all should be accessible from this point!

Charles focused his concentration on the information he wanted, reached out, and tried to pull it out! He needed the overall designs and purposes of Yu-Shan! To compliment the geomantic survey he was running now!

While nearly everything at street level was transparent, the streets themselves were not. Where major streets of jade would be in modern Yu-Shan, there were… simple paths, carved out of the adamant beneath. The geomantic lines ran along these paths. The original structure beneath the overlay… Unfortunately, there was nothing he recognized as Solar, Lunar, or Sidereal Essence in the geomancy. The geomancy of the five elements was present, in about the same amount as in the Yu-Shan he knew. And there was a collection of eclectic Primordial Essence here… all connected by an Essence type he did not recognize. That was the type that ran along the paths, connecting the others. The power level… felt like the empty quarters, but much more stable. It wasn’t quite at the level of modern Yu-Shan’s inhabited regions, but it did feel like it could, potentially, be active – as in “alive”. That essence type would be dominant if it could, but something centered on the Jade Pleasure Dome was holding it back. As it was, it was… moderating the other varieties of Essence.

Oh dear! It looked like the sleeping or bound primordial theory had just picked up some support!

The Sky Dome above was… blank. Then, suddenly, it flickerd. Old Realm numeric characters ran along the adamant surface, written in a cramped and ragged hand. Then there was some text… “TESTING… TESTING…”

That was very slow – operating at a divine time scale. A reality computer? Bother! This was just producing even more theories! Worse, while he could watch a little longer, he’d have to power things down soon…

There was an announcement, reverbating throughout the entire city. A female voice, speaking an archaic dialect of Old Realm.

(Voice) “Overseer 1-A to Overseers 1-BA through 13; Test 1 go. Report to stations for monitoring. (There was a pause) Also, unauthorized entry in Western Sector 52-395. Five, Six, track target and send Operators to location.”

Huh! That was his current location! This should be an archival replay… If it was interactive, it was a very realistic replay! Or was this just… another way of looking at Yu-Shan? Dudael was a pretty mysterious place, and even HE didn’t know all its secrets yet!

(Charles) “Hello! I was trying to check on the original design of Yu-Shan and what it was for! I need to know what will happen when I start fixing things up!”

Dudael… spit out a perfectly solid map of the geomancy – but static was starting to snow around him… It was probably time to start powering down and retreat!

(Overseer 1-A) “What… you… Mighty… fix? Just… the place… want to help… Empyrean.”

And the static became VERY sharp, and loud.

(Charles) “I’ll try to sort it out! Is there some less drastic way to get in touch?”

There was no answer – and Dudael was solidifying much as it went transparent.

(Charles) “Thank you Dudael!”

Through the geomancy, Charles sensed frantic attempts to trace him, but they were getting outpaced by his shift back to reality… He threw out an arcane link (and a cell phone number! You never knew) and a trail of sorts…

Then Dudael was back to normal; the encyclopedia was just an encylopedia again, the thesaurus just a thesaurus, and the sevenfold storm spirit was nowhere to be seen – but the map remained.

Charles headed back up, letting the archives close up behind him as things powered down. The Essence displays diminished rapidly – but the Celestial Bureaucracy was sure to send investigators now. Still, he had the geomantic map/design! That should help a lot!

Outside he could hear what sounded like a skirmish, just past the wards. It looked like… Shengxi and his squad holding back what appeared to be several dozen lesser deiphages – which were lashing out at the lions with fangs, claws, and more esoteric means of absorbing Essence.

Charles handed off the map to Aden and headed out to ward them…

(Charles) “Excuse me! I have teacakes, snacks, and fruit! It’s time for a break!”

The Lions stopped attacking when it became apparent the deiphages were no longer deiphages – but they kept a vigilant watch over the group.

(Charles) “Lunch?”

(Xiaoxiao) “Well…” (Checking with the goggles) “He’s blocked it off. And got any shortbread in there?”

(Charles) “Oh yes!”

(Shengxi) “Yeah, shortbread would be great. (He take a look at one of the former deiphages.) Damn… you’re right. Not everyone can do that.”

(Charles) “It needs fixing!”

(Yuchan) “That’s an understatement. So… uh, Shengxi, what are we going to do with these gods?”

(Charles) “Oh, I usually take them to earth to see about some domains while they’re safe from the deiphagy effect!”

(Xiaoxiao) “I believe standard procedure is take them to the nearest reclaimed territory and let the Bronzers handle it. Or we could do that. Your call, you’re the one in charge.”

(Shengxi, thinking) “Eh… domains?”

(Charles, with interest) “Ah, so some of them have gotten the ward-pattern working! And they need their domains restored or substituted!”

(Xiaoxiao) “Like Shengxi says, it’s not something anybody can do. The Bronzers usually grab Sidereals who can quickly.”

(Shengxi) “And tell me more about how you’re going about that. Not that they don’t need employment for their own safety, but I DO need something for the post-mission files.”

(Charles) “Well… what were all of you gods of?”

The pack was somewhat of a rarity among deiphages: gods of defunct technologies.

(Charles) “Hm! Well, that’s slightly awkward… Still, those usually have descendents, and the local positions work…”

(Shengxi) “What, going to stick them out in space?”

(Charles) “Why not?”

(Shengxi, shrugging) “Well, that’s out of my jurisdiction… for some reason. I’d still like to process them as they leave… bureaucracy.”

(Charles) “What does that involve?”

(Shengxi) “They’ll have to sign forms stating they’re moving to the Terrestrial Bureaucracy-such as it is. Way things are today, that’s officially exile. I’m pretty sure you’ll be backing them for Celestial positions. Chengdu told me you were the type – and since nobody stops the Lunars, hey, no jade off my hide.”

(Charles) “Well, a vacation won’t do them any harm!”

(Xiaoxiao) “No, certainly not.”

Wait… Charles had taken a bunch of Gods through a gate not so long ago… Was this a HABIT of his?

Return to Middle Earth – Gandalf and the Eclipse

Gandalf (DragonCon 2007)

Yep. “Wizard”. Can’t you tell?

Over the past few years Tolkien’s work has come up several times in relation to Eclipse d20. That’s no surprise really; Tolkien’s works – most notable The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and the Silmarillion – are deeply entangled in the foundations of fantasy gaming.

Thus we’ve had Eclipse conversions for the Fellowship of the Ring, for the Charms and Talismans of the Rings, for Gandalf and the Balrog, for the Silmarils, and even for Morgoth and Sauron – albeit as Identities (temporary roles that you can drop into while visiting that dimension) for the Manifold Campaign.

Guidelines for converting literary characters for RPG’s can be found HERE – and here is Darth Vader for another example.

Now, occasionally someone objects – and anyone who puts in a large objection gets a large answer. Here’s the latest from Jeremy, in reply to the Gandalf and the Balrog post. As always, I’ll be going through the entire thing bit by bit in order.

-The idea of a level 8 balrog is pretty shocking, and based on a trainwreck of false assumptions.

Now, I quite understand the desire to make your favorite characters high level. What I suspect you’re missing is that Tolkien set his tale against a fairly realistic background; Most of his characters were level zero or one. World-class experts were level two or three.

An eighth level character was, in comparison and in the setting, of incredibly high level. For a discussion of that, try the Converting Literary Characters link.

“Tolkien’s Middle-Earth was magic-poor. When you came right down to it, Gandalf – one of the Istari, and one of the most powerful mages in the world…”

He’s an Istari. They don’t bear ANY resemblance to D&D wizards, other than a handful of spell effects (all of which are used as spell-like abilities, with no hint of him having learned them at Hogwarts); they have a similar name, and that is where the resemblance begins and ends.

Except, of course, that Tolkien’s work was among the inspirations for the original game – which led to a dispute with the Tolkien estate over the inclusion of Hobbits, Ents, extremely recognizable Rangers, Gandalf’s stunt with the flaming acorns, and a variety of other intellectual properties. The Tolkien Estate forced TSR to change a lot of names. In fact, we can quote one segment from an interview with Gygax that mentioned the topic… (The full interview can be found at theonering.net).

(Interviewer) “Do you enjoy the works of JRR Tolkien? If so, How did he influence your work?”

(Gary Gygax) “Oh-oh! I am going to be in trouble from the get-go! I loved THE HOBBIT, read it once to myself, then about three or four times aloud to my children.

As a Swords & Sorcery novel fan from way back–I read my first Conan yarn about 1948, was a fan and collector of the pulp SF and fantasy magazines since 1950, I was not as enamored of The Trilogy as were most of my contemporaries. While I loved Bombadil, the Nazgul too, the story was too slow-paced for me.

How did it influence the D&D game? Whoa, plenty, of course. Just about all the players were huge JRRT fans, and so they insisted that I put as much Tolkien-influence material into the game as possible. Anyone reading this that recalls the original D&D game will know that there were Balrogs, Ents, and Hobbits in it. Later those were removed, and new, non-JRRT things substituted–Balor demons, Treants, and Halflings.

Indeed, who can doubt the excellence of Tolkien’s writing? So of course it had a strong impact on A/D&D games. A look at my recommended fantasy books reading list in the back of the original DUNGEON MASTERS GUILD will show a long list of other influential fantasy authors, though.”

So that tells us where the relationship begins. Lets compare. Tolkien’s Istari studied differing fields of magic (EG: such as Sauroman studing the Rings of Power, The Silmarillion page 362), and learned things about them. They used components and tools (acorns, existing fires, staves, words of power) in working their magic. They could not work without components – as per Gandalf’s being unable to burn snow.

Now lets check the System Reference Document under “Spell-Like Abilities”:

A spell-like ability has no verbal, somatic, or material component, nor does it require a focus or have an XP cost. The user activates it mentally.

Ah. There we have it. Tolkien’s “wizards” may have had some spell-like abilities, but many of their magical powers were definitely not spell-like abilities.

Lets see about the “resemblance”… Tolkien’s “Wizards” were old, they were scholars of magic and other lore, they learned new things about magic, they invoked magic through words and components, and they had a limited reserve of magical power (thus we have Gandalf being fatigued after using a Word of Power to try and hold a door closed against the Balrog). Yep. Sounds like a pretty throughly stereotypical “Wizard” to me – and that’s a stereotype that goes back LONG before Gygax OR Tolkien.

Or to say that Keebler elves and Santa’s elves are obviously the exact same thing as D&D elves.

Ah, a classic (and totally irrelevant) strawman argument. I generally don’t find it necessary to invent silly statements and try to assign them to someone with an opposing viewpoint. I also decline to engage in partial quoting out of context. That’s why your complete post is quoted in this answer, with each piece in order, and with each item answered.

I mean, rating an angelic being who fights with a sword on his coincidental similarity to a D&D mage (who are not known for being physically supernatural immortal beings or for using swords)? Really?

Lets see now… the article doesn’t rate anything except his spellcasting in comparison to a mage. Instead it evaluates all of his displayed abilities, including his swordfighting – but by d20 standards there’s no avoiding the fact that his magic was not so good. Sauroman trapped Gandalf by locking him on a rooftop. Evidently Gandalf had no Gate, Teleport, Fly, or even Feather Fall spell. He couldn’t conjure himself a rope. He couldn’t polymorph himself and fly away. Instead, when he had urgent things to do, he… waited around until he could talk a giant eagle into giving him a lift.

Now that’s clever, and evocative, and a wonderful bit of fantasy – but in d20 terms it says that he wasn’t all that much of a spellcaster.

As far as using a sword goes… plenty of D&D wizards used swords, even in first edition. Even if you didn’t dual or multi-class, if you found a really good sword it was well worth taking that -4 non-proficiency penalty.

“Longevity” (fairly easy to achieve) is not at all the same as “immortality” (which Gandalf quite obviously did not have – except as every spirit had it).

Rating all of Gandalf’s abilities on his vague coincidental similarity to a D&D spellcaster would be like watching Equilibrium and declaring that Cleric John Preston must be a low level cleric, since he never casts spells, or watching a movie about Batman and concluding that since bats have 1 hit dice, and that he is called Batman and not Dire Batman, he must be a level 1 character.

Ah, more strawmen. First up, we’ve already disposed of that “coincidence” theory. Far more importantly, this also demonstrates rather neatly that you either didn’t bother to actually read the article you’re complaining about or that you didn’t understand it – or you’d have noticed that this is an Eclipse Classless writeup (not a Wizard) that does quite well with a sword and is using druidical or clerical magic with a modified spell list – which is a far better match to the abilities Gandalf actually displayed in the books.

That’s the result of cataloging the abilities Gandalf displayed in the original source material. He would indeed make a lousy d20 wizard – which is why he has not been built as one. Are there any abilities which have been left out? You’re quite welcome to provide the relevant quote and page number (those vary between editions, but are often helpful in locating the right section anyway).

You’re actually inadvertently correct on the next bit! “Cleric John Preston” has no “Cleric Levels”. What he calls himself is quite irrelevant; he’s not a spellcaster, he’s living in a world with no apparent magic, and he pretty certainly can’t channel positive energy to turn the undead. He’s not a d20 Cleric, he’d be a modern-setting d20 combat oriented character.

Perhaps sadly, buying all the abilities that Gandalf displayed in the source material only required eight levels worth of character points. It’s not that the character was “rated at level eight”. It’s that building a character who could do everything that Gandalf could do only required eight levels worth of points. Arguing about classes is irrelevant.

The bit about Batman… is derived entirely from your notion that the name given to something is important and the strawman argument that I should think it is. Here’s a hint; I don’t think that what you label something changes what it is. I know a car mechanic named “Jesus” (spanish spelling, and not uncommon). Does that mean that I should assume that he repairs engines by calling for miracles?

We also know that Gandalf was definitely holding back whenever he was using magic near a human, at any rate. Although the motive Istari have for holding back is different, even in D&D, a high level character would likely let his companions fight their own battles whenever possible, just like Gandalf — for one thing, they’d need the XP more than him, and for another, that draws a lot of attention.

I fear that all I can recall along those lines is a statement that the Istari were not permitted to oppose Sauron power to power. Can you actually provide a quote and a page number where it says that Gandalf didn’t use his full power against Sauroman’s army? Or the dweller in the pool? Or the Witch-King? Or, for that matter, the Balrog?

His evidence that balrogs are only level 8?

“Various elven heroes took them out, and at times the elves fought them by the swarm. They were lesser foes than dragons, although they were ‘cloaked in darkness and terrifying’.”

“Since he turned out to be level eight, it seems reasonable that his apparently near-equal opponent should also be level eight.”

He neglects to mention that at least two of these elven heroes were appropriate challengers to a being that is definitely on par with a Physical God of Greek myth (and Valar definitely seem to fulfill the exact role that the usual godly pantheon in other “campaigns” do), Morgoth, who could do things like will entire volcanic mountain ranges into being (to use as his FENCE) and whose blows hit so hard that they shattered the earth right down to the MAGMA below.

Seriously, what kind of damage is that? If any level 15 character you know can make entire volcanic mountain ranges spring up, please, link me to your character build. If any power attacker before level 20 can shatter the earth on a MISS right down to the lava, please, link em to your character build.

Ah, here you are missing a few things. Morgoth started off as the second most powerful entity in the cosmos – right after Tolkien’s stand-in for “Omnipotent Creator”. In the beginning, Melkor alone was a match for most of the Vala put together.

Fortunately for our heroic elves, in Tolkien’s writings, evil inevitably decayed and weakened.

“And Arien Morgoth feared with a great fear, but dared not come nigh her, having indeed no longer the power; for as he grew in malice, and sent forth from himself the evil that he conceived in lies and creatures of wickedness, his might passed into them and was dispersed, and he himself became ever more bound to the earth, unwilling to issue from his dark strongholds.”

-The Silmarillion, page 113.

Arien was a Maia. Of course, the Balrogs were also Maia. Morgoth was afraid of a minor member of a host that he once opposed singlehanded.

He’d gone a long way downhill, long before Fingolfin

Now, the passage you’re probably thinking of is on page 180 of my copy of the Silmarillion in “Of the ruin of Beleriand”. It states that

Then Morgoth hurled aloft Grond, the Hammer of the Underworld, and swung it down like a bolt of thunder. But Fingolfin sprang aside, and Grond rent a mighty pit in the earth, whence smoke and fire darted. Many times Morgoth essayed to smite him…

Hm. I don’t actually see anything there about magma or cracking the planetary crust. Even discounting the possibility that Grond is a +1 Flaming Hammer with some odd special ability that tries to drop it’s target into an instant pit (or better, which is very likely; it is a quasi-deities primary weapon after all), have you ever tried making fire with flint and steel? If you strike a massive metal object against earth and stone hard enough you’ll get smoke, sparks, and even fire if there’s anything at all to burn (such as grass or dry dirt with some organic content) or if you hit hard enough to reduce some rock to a molten state.

Just as importantly, evidently the “mighty pit” was not so large that Fingolfin couldn’t leap aside – and we know that Fingolfin didn’t have any super-leaping powers or he wouldn’t have had to walk the rest of the time. So; Morgoth’s blows were not up to impacts like the one that formed Meteor Crater – and that impact did not punch through the planetary crust, although it created plenty of magma as kinetic energy transformed to heat.

Of course, if it had punched through the planetary crust there would (after some delay for travel time) have been a full-scale explosive volcanic eruption covering miles – which isn’t mentioned.

As for character builds that can do silly amounts of damage or make mountain ranges at low level… Try googling “Pun-Pun” or “Hulking Hurler” or any of dozens of other optimized builds. In fact it’s harder to do that sort of thing in Eclipse than in basic d20 – but you can. There are some examples (including the powers you need to purchase to be Morgoth) up on the site here.

Of course, Fingolfin was NOT an “appropriate challenger”. He lost. Badly. He did do some points of damage – but there’s no indication that the wounds he inflicted were more than painful annoyances, and he got pulverized when he got hit. All this is telling us is that – in melee – Morgoth had a powerful weapon and bad aim. That’s not too surprising since he wasn’t a melee combatant and (in Eclipse) probably never bought any base attack bonus.

Your entire argument thus comes down to “I think these two elves must have been high level”. You think that because they fought Melkor/Morgoth and did some damage before being pulverized.

Lets see… fifth or sixth level combat character in melee against a noncombat fifteenth level character.

Yep. That’s about the outcome I’d expect.

Lets check reality; Look at olympic records versus physical DC ratings. Look at the difficulty of doing original research. Almost everyone who has ever lived can be accurately represented in d20 at or below level three. There might be a few who’d require level four – but I wouldn’t count on it.

Level six is literally superhuman.

In addition, he says “they were lesser foes than dragons,” a statement not well represented by the lore. There were dragons more powerful than the typical balor, but the reverse is also true.

Ah, by “The Lore”. Lets take a quick look at the Silmarillion then. That is, after all, the only place where we’ll find information to compare lots of Dragons and Balrogs.

Page 229: Here we have Balrogs and Dragons both on the field. Glaurung split two elvish armies – and it’s noted that, if it hadn’t been for the intervention of the dwarves (who managed to wound Glaurung) the dragons would have exterminated the Noldor.

At that same battle it took Gothmog, Lord of Balrogs, and another Balrog attacking from behind, to take down King Fingon.

Hm. Group of dragons versus two elvish armies – including Fingon. Elves need rescue – but it takes two Balrogs, including probably the most powerful one ever, to take down Fingon on his own.

Page 291: Balrogs and Dragons at the fall of Gondolin. Gothmog Lord of Balrogs and the Elven King kill each other. Dragons destroy the city.

Page 292: Glorfindel and a Balrog both die in a fight and a fall from a height.

Page 302: The War of Wrath. The Host of the Valar annihilates the Balrogs in a single line – “The Balrogs were destroyed, save some few that fled and hid”. The Dragons are then unleashed, and the Host of the Valar – which just casually destroyed the Balrogs – is driven back. There is battle in the air “all the day and through a dark night of doubt”. The hosts of the Valar prevailed only with the rising of the sun.

That’s the last appearance of Balrogs in the book. Dragons, however, are mentioned several times more. Evidently quite a few got away and didn’t need to hide.

I really can’t find anything that says that Balrogs are really in the same class as Dragons. Could “The Lore” perhaps provide a page number and reference?

Basically the argument in this complaint is entirely circular; “I’m sure that some of these characters were high level, so the others must also have been of high level!”.

Well, I agree; they were – at levels five to eight – of fabulously high level for a realistic world. In magic-rich worlds, where incredible superhuman abilities are all too common, they really wouldn’t stand out much.