Monday, August 13, 2018

OSR Commentary - A Very Hellish Take On The Lich For Your Old School Campaigns

I've been thinking about 'The Divine Comedy' which for me is one of the seminal & cornerstone  works of Dungeons & Dragons. "The Divine Comedy (Italian: Divina Commedia [diˈviːna komˈmɛːdja]) is a long narrative poem by Dante Alighieri, begun c. 1308 and completed in 1320, a year before his death in 1321 The Divine Comedy (Italian: Divina Commedia [diˈviːna komˈmɛːdja]) is a long narrative poem by Dante Alighieri, begun c. 1308 and completed in 1320, a year before his death in 1321. It is widely considered to be the preeminent work in Italian literature[1] and one of the greatest works of world literature"

Artwork from the official Dungeons & Dragons coloring book with artwork by Greg Irons (Illustrator) whose artwork is great in this book! Love this version of the lich.

So what does the Divine Comedy have to do with lichdom?! Well a bit of everything in the original Dungeons & Dragons rules the lich was quote, " lich introduced in its first supplement, Greyhawk (1975).[2] It is described as a skeletal monster that was formerly either a magic-user or a cleric in life. The lich was further developed in Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry (1976)."'
The soul of any priest, wizard,bishop,etc  is destine for Hell & to gain the occult or supernatural wisdom of those who came from before end of the age of mythology & legend takes some very cunning means. Lichdom is one such route. Since Dragon Magazine #75 with Ed Greenwood's article 'The Nine Hells' the planes of Hell have always been a bit static. But Dante added in the planes of  Perdition  & Purgatory respectively which puts a whole different spin on the alignment issue. For me being a young player & playing in an old school  campaign with mythological focused this was a big thing. The plane of Perdition  had undead, demons, devils, fallen angels, & lich kingdoms. Purgatory had angels, demons, & devils just waiting to kill off  PC's stupid enough to make the quest to claim the souls of their friends for resurrection by the spider goddess cults.

But we're really given a wide variety of options in the Seventies through Nineties when the varieties & options on liches  were expanded. 'In AD&D 1st edition, the lich appears in the first edition Monster Manual (1977),[3] where it is described as having been created with the use of powerful and arcane magic, formerly ultra powerful magic-users now non-human and non-living."
"Len Lakofka's article "Blueprint For a Lich," in Dragon #26 (1979), describes a formula for transforming a spellcaster into a lich." "The D&D Basic Set included its own version of the lich, in the D&D Master Rules (1985), in the "Master DM's Book".[7] It was also later featured in the D&D Rules Cyclopedia (1991).[8]"

Its not simply Hell nipping at the heels of clergy  & wizards. The race for wizards to gain lichdom makes perfect sense especially if you begin seeing the price of magick in Dungeons & Dragons & Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition. All of those wonderful magic items have a price & are completely dangerous for a wizard to create. The sheer cost of those items on the wizard's age, health,etc. are all within the rules that no one uses especially in AD&D first edition. Lichs help to spread magic practices far & wide in the world as they can. Because they often enslave hordes of wizards to help in the production of magick items,relics, & more. for their own exploration of  'the Other World'.

Could the AD&D Hells, evil planes, & the Abyss merely be the smaller stages of  Dante's 'Inferno?' I think that these planes also include Perdition & Purgatory. The Underworld connects up with both planes respectively. And where are souls of these various liches in the Inferno? They're roasting uncomfortably in the tombs of the Sixth circle. Quests for certain witches, wizards, etc. are going to be some of the most dangerous & difficult that a group of players can undertake. Note that this whole campaign commentary is very Europecentric & its supposed to be. After all its using one of the classic pieces of Dante Alighieri's 14th-century epic poem Divine Comedy  as its background.

Ten Unexpected Occult & Dangerous
Supernatural Adventure Connections to a Dantian Lichdom
  1. A lich hires the PC 's to journey into the Otherworld & retrieve a magic item of legendary importance. A rival lich has other plans however as another party of adventurers comes to call. The powers of Hell watch from the background taking bets on the outcome.
  2. Death is not mocked & hires the PC's to assassinate a lich but the kingdom is actually growing & prosperous under the rule of this undead king. 
  3. The Scholomance is taking on pupil & one of the party's wizards is up for recommendation by the local lich. Can the PC's save the soul of their friend & get rich in the process?
  4. A succubus hires the PC's to break the soul of a lich out from Hell so it can come back  part of minor plot of Hell. 
  5. A minor relic is secreted on Earth & only a lich knows its significance to key member of the local church. How good are the PC's bargaining skills? 
  6. The Devil willing to cut a deal with the PC's for the soul of a very nasty lich but the gods have other plans & it looks like a trip into the Underworld might be on the books. 
  7. The party is hired to take letter to minor official in a local village. What they actually have is a diabolical contract for the soul of said official from Hell. He's been murdered & only the powers of a local seer ( the lich) can help find the murder. 
  8. A damned soul has escaped Hell & a group of demonic bounty hunters is on his trail. He's heading straight for the local powerful prince of the undead. But now the party has to deal with the other things coming out of Hell.
  9. The ten treasures of Zeus have been stolen by a lich in his quest for godhood but the unholy imbalance has caused a local dragon to awaken! Now the PC's have to find a powerful relic & stop this monster from waking up! 
  10. One of the PC's is the perfect soul vessel for a lich to transfer his essence into it. The Devil has other plans for the party.

All artwork is used without permission, this is not an attempt to violate the copyright or trademark of these works. All artwork is the trademark of the owners. All commentary is the copyright & trademark of Dark Corner productions.

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