Tuesday, September 24, 2019

OSR Commentary - My Time Encountering Heward's Mystical Organ

My history as a player of original Dungeons & Dragons is well known but not my misgiving encounters with an infamous artifact of Eldritch Wizardry. Let's get a bit of background & history on Eldritch Wizardry;" Eldritch Wizardry was written by Gary Gygax and Brian Blume and published by TSR in 1976 as a sixty-page digest-sized book, and was the third supplement to the original D&D rules.[4] The supplement was part of the continued expansion of D&D in 1976, which also included Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes and Swords & Spells.
Now I've been looking deeply into some of the more infamous & slightly 'Science Fantasy' flavored
artifacts for my upcomingGodbound rpg campaign.
But looking through Eldritch Wizardry has given me flash backs to the Fall of '86.
 In the wastes of Greyhawk we ran into  Heward’s Mystical Organ. "Heward's Mystical Organ is a a massive, immobile pipe organ
 as tall as a cathedral. It is an 
artifact of tremendous power and great danger"
But I digress.

If there's one S.O.B. that as a player of Dungeons & Dragons & Advanced Dungeons & Dragons to run across in my forty years of playing the grand game to have run across its Heward. Yes that Heward who was a favorite of my uncle. My uncle was former retired RAF pilot & friend of my father's. He was from the United Kingdom who had married an American. A lovely lady & whose children have since scattered to the four wind. Both my uncle & aunt were instrumental in my education over the decades. Alas they have since departed but they both had a naught invincible love of music & this spelled my PC's doom.
We had been tracking our campaign's villain across the wastes of Greyhawk why? Because
an eldery old bard/wizard type had given his location after the villain had bought a map.
That man was Heward, Heward is a powerful quisi diety in Greyhawk & the patron god of bards.
He's descriped as thus; Heward appears as a human male of uncertain age—both youthful and elderly at once. He is lively, athletic, strong, and quick, with rosy cheeks and a wrinkled forehead. His bald head is offset by a small beard and luxurious mustache of sandy-brown. He tends to dress either shabbily, or in fine garb which is long out of style. However, if he wishes to go unnoticed, Heward can appear quite nondescript. He seldom carries weapons or wears armor. He often carries pitch pipes and tuning forks, which aid him in his travels to other planes." My wizard didn't like the S.O.B. from the start & it cemented my life long hatred of D&D bards even back then. Why was he important? Because Heward has a long & twisted some would say illustrous history with Gary Gygax's realm of Greyhawk;
"Heward was a member of Zagig Yragerne's Company of Seven. He was among the adventurers who helped imprison Iuz. Heward is distantly related to both Zagig and Mordenkainen, and often visits the latter. Although he is most often alone, he can occasionally be found in the company of CelestianFharlanghnKeoghtom, Mordenkainen, Murlynd, or Zagyg."
We caught up with the villain 'Lumay The King of  Musicans & Necromancers' someplace just outside of Heward's  laboratory in hills just outside one of the former Elven capitals according to my notes from the Fall of '86. There was a twelve level dungeon that dated from the Age of Elves that Heward had taken the place  over. That's where we encountered Heward's Mystical Organ! . My uncle's design of the organ was based on; "Heward's Mystical Organ appeared in Eldritch Wizardry (1976). A later expansion describing its powers apeared in A Working Design for Heward's Mystical Organ (or, "Play it Again, Sam")Dragon Magazine #29 (Sep 1979), p.43."We didn't make it outta that dungeon & it was a total party wide when our bard misplayed the organ to thwart the villain! 
Later on in my friend DM Steve's game the coven of bards belonging to Heward would contact our party again & go after the Heward's organ but this time we'd run smack into Odd House; "Heward's eccentric dwelling is said to be extradimensional in nature, far, far bigger inside than it appears from outside, and a nexus between many alternate worlds, planes, and times. He once dwelled in a building in Greyhawk City's Thieves Quarter known as Odd House or "Hew's Place", but hasn't lived there in many years. It still retains portals to other planes, however. He currently explores the planes from a variety of homes and strongholds across the multiverse."  We trekked back to the dungeon holding Heward's Mystic Organ again in second edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons;" Heward's Mystical Organ appeared in the Dungeon Master's Guide (1989) and revised Dungeon Master's Guide (1995).[1]. It appears in the Book of Artifacts (1993), p.38-41." 

The Fatal & Friends Website has an excellent break down & commentary on the 2nd edition AD&D Book of artifacts version of the Organ of Heward;

"There’s one more artifact that I want to cover before covering magic item creation and then sealing this book in a trap-filled tomb to be forgotten. It’s Heward’s Mystical Organ, another artifact that can trace its origins to Mystical Energies. Like Lum’s Machine, the Organ is an immobile artifact that’s always housed in a cathedral-like building, “not necessarily the same one each time.” The cabinet of this pipe organ has three sets of keys-one of ivory and obsidian, one of jade and lapis, and the third of steel and brass. Each set of keys has nine ivory stops, or 27 in total. Nine rosewood petals complete the cabinet. The organ’s pipes are made of silver and gold, with the tallest reaching almost three stories in height.

Heward was the Patron of Bards, who lived during the ascendancy of humans as the elves faded to the background. Early humans apparently weren’t interested in music, so Heward set out to change that by building a magic organ. The Organ was wildly successful and made everything wonderful, so of course a few deities decided to fuck things up. These gods convinced the mice of Heward’s hall to gnaw on the Organ’s pipes. The next time Heward played the organ it gave harpies and sirens their special abilities. Heward was of course pissed, and so he played one last song to curse the mice into being lowly and meek. And then Heward and his Organ disappeared.

The suggested campaign use for the Organ is very similar to the Machine of Lum the Mad-a party needs the Organ to produce a certain effect, they need to discover the musical sheet, then they have to find the Organ itself, and play the tune. The major difference is that by the artifact’s nature, this artifact works best with a Bard in the part, a class that a PC had a miniscule chance of rolling the requirements for in 2nd edition if they used method 1 of rolling attributes.

Like the Machine, the description of the Organ’s powers is more focused on how to use it than what it can do. There are at least 23 powers of the Organ, each requiring a separate song. No, these powers aren’t actually detailed, but at least the suggested random power tables are provided. To use a power, not only must the song be played flawlessly (an unmodified proficiency check) but the stops must be set appropriately. There are 27 stops, labeled A to Z with the last one marked “!”. Stops can be set from 1 to 8, with 1 being the the default. The ! stop is especially important, as setting it incorrectly automatically triggers the curse. Otherwise, if any of the other stops are incorrect or the proficiency check is failed, the DM needs to roll a d10. On a 1-7, nothing happens, on an 8-9 the artifact curse is triggered, and on a 10 there is a random effect.

These are the suggested tables for a DM to select the Organ’s powers, but the DM can always come up with his or her own. In fact, a lot of the powers that can come from these result are pretty lackluster for the effort involved, so a DM is better off making his own.

Personal Enhancements: 16, 8, 12, 11, 16
  • 8: Regenerate 2 of the user’s hit points per turn
  • 11: Cast lasting breath at will
  • 12: Provide the user with a permanent +1 bonus to saving throw rolls
Abjurations: 3, 5, 16, 6, 12, 2
  • 3: Cast banishment by touch (1/week)
  • 5: Cast dismissal upon any planar creature by touch (1/week)
  • 6: Cast dispel evil/dispel good (1/day)
  • 12: Cast lower resistance (7/day)
  • 16: Have repel insects in a 10’ radius constantly in effect while the artifact is in hand
Enchantment/Charm: 3, 15, 11, 7, 20, 17
  • 3: Cast charm monster (1/day)
  • 7: Cast command (7/day)
  • 11: Cast emotion (1/day)
  • 15: Cast geas by touch. The mission must relate to the goals of the artifact, if any (1/month)
  • 17: Cast hypnotism (1/day)
  • 20: Cast suggestion (3/day)
Cataclysms: 9, 11, 10
  • 9: Strike the area of effect with an earthquake spell
  • 10: Rain a fire storm down upon the area of effect for 2d6 rounds
  • 11: Flood the entire area of effect, destroying buildings and fields. All living creatures unable to fly risk drowning in the rushing water. The water recedes to safe levels in 1d6 hours but remain covering land for 2d20 days.
Conjuration: 5, 17, 15
  • 5: Cast call lightning (1/week)
  • 15: Summon an invisible stalker (1/week)
  • 17: Inscribe a symbol of the user’s choice (1/week)

I guess you’re expected to make a song for every power, even if you never plan to use them

If the curse is triggered from playing poorly, then all those within the hall containing the Organ must save vs death at -4. Those who fail go mad forever, unable to tolerate any sound but unable to bear silence either. They lose all class abilities “and are controlled by the referee”. This madness can only be cured with wish. There’s also a risk that a character play the Organ too well. If the organist rolls a 1 or less on the proficiency check, at the end of the song he or she is instantly struck by melancholia, knowing their performance will never likely be matched. Anyone listening must make a Wisdom check or come to the same conclusion. Stricken characters have no motivation to do anything and will waste away. No word on whether this effect can be reversed.

As for the songs themselves, the DM is encouraged to make their own list of tunes based on their own tastes in musics, and it’s suggested to play the tune “on a stereo” at the climactic performance. That’s my favorite part of this artifact, and I could see myself including it not just in a D&D campaign, but any roleplaying game where a world-changing Organ is plausible. At the very least it would rank up there with the greatest effort taken to Rickroll a group of people. "
We got set up to take a fall from the cult of Heward & my wizard was lost across the multiverse after nearly blasting the head of the cult off the face of Greyhawk. There was a tripple cross on the part of the cult's head & I got the brunt of it. Our party's actions were noticed by Heward himself & neutral good my ass, he had a personal vendetta against our party. Every bar, two bit brothel,etc. which had a bard meant that we had our heels dogged at every turn by that quisi deity & did job after job to get back into his 'good graces'. And Heward's Mystical Organ is still out there in that dungeon & its still a giant danger on Greyhawk as well as any of the alternative versions of it strung across the planes. The organ is dangerous as Hell to any god or demigod that has the misfortune of running across it. Even god level PC's should have shape in take of breath if they even hear rumors of  Heward's Mystical Organ! 

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