Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Matters of Divinity - The Angels of Original Dungeons & Dragons As Well As Advanced Dungeons & Dragons

Its about ten thirty at night & its after work, I've been doing a lot of thinking tonight about The Dragon magazine. I grew up playing original Dungeons & Dragons as well as  Advanced Dungeons & Dragons during the height of the Satanic Panic. The whole nine yards of my soul being up for grabs,suicide, & the whole cloth gamit  was shrieked on various television programs, religious phamplets,etc. during the whole of the late Seventies,  Eighties, & Nineties. To this day there's always some loony in the backwater New England  towns & cities that I live in whose still brings the Satanic Panic up when I mention Dungeons & Dragons. Actually it was D&D that got me into theology in the first place but that's another blog post.
Now over the past couple of months I've been delving into the gods, D&D divinity, mythology, etc. in both Dragon magazine & its earlier incarnation in The Dragon. But angels have been a part of the grand game going all the way back to Dragon issue #6 with John  Sulliven's 'Angel of Death' article; "DEATH ANGELS are highly intelligent and speak all languages telepathically. They act either as Oracles, warning a being or party of death; or they represent Death itself, being under a mission to kill a particular person or creature. When killed, DEATH ANGELS vanish entirely, leaving no remains whatsoever. DEATH ANGELS have the abilities of teleportation, as well as flying with their golden wings. Their teleport has no chance of failure, but they can not teleport out of melee. Everytime a DEATH ANGEL hits with its scythe, their opponent must save vs. Death with a -3 on their saving throw. Should the individual save, they lose one point of constitution, which can only be given back by a clerical ‘Restoration’ or a Healer ‘Energy’ spell."
Just incase you haven't gotten the point here angels in Dungeons & Dragons are nasty customers & never to be messed with. The angel of Death is neutral & very dangerous in the article. The first real mention & solid information  about angels that we get for original Dungeons & Dragons is in The Dragon issue 17 "MESSENGERS OF GOD: ANGELS IN DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS" by Stephen H. Dorneman;" In Eldritch Wizardry, Gygax and Blume have given nefarious Dungeon Masters a plethora of immensely evil, incredibly powerful supernatural beings, the demons. A worthwhile and logical addition to Dungeons and Dragons, and just the thing for trashing that arrogant twelfth-level’s castle. From Gods, Demi-Gods and Heroes a DM can draw for purposes of divine intervention that practically omnipotent being particularly suited to his or her universe. But something is still lacking in this panoply of other-worldly creatures. There is a need for beings powerful, yet not omnipotent, who would be in the service of the good gods. And so, in keeping with the Judeo-Christian tradition of D&D, propose the creation of a new class of supernatural beings, Angels. Angels, unlike demons, should only appear on Earth with a particular mission, a manifestation of a god’s will."
 "In response to prayer (with a base 1% per cleric’s level chance of response), if summoned by various holy artifacts, as guards for certain holy shrines or relics, or at the whim of the gods. Although the classical celestial hierarchy has nine members, the Chronicle of Bishop Matthews in Rudigore records the appearance on Earth of only four types of angels. All the types seem to be physically weaker than their demonic counterparts, though each is endowed with a number of magical abilities, many especial to a particular type. Abilities common to all the angels are: Teleportation (no chance of error), Continual Light (of varying degree), Bless, Fear and Detect Evil. All angels can speak any human tongue as well as Speak With Dead. The very presence of an angel turns undead as a Patriarch. Angels are immune to psionic attack and to the Finger of Death. "

These angels were savage, deadly, & complete instruments of their creator's will. They would stand in stark contrast to the infernal creations coming up in issue #20 of The Dragon;"A New Look at Witches in D&D; GenCon Photo Album; Imperium Clarifications & Addenda; D&D Death Stats; Mythos of Polynesia in D&D; Demonology in D&D; Demonic Possession in D&D"

 Once we get to The Dragon issue #35 the fallen angel meter gets cranked to eleven & the knob falls off with the 'Politics of Hell' by Alex Von Thorn. We get the following introduction; 'The following article cannot be considered the official doctrine of either Advanced Dungeons and Dragons or the Roman Catholic Church. However, it is compatible with AD&D, and except for the parts about Asmodeus it is not in conflict with works on demonology as generally accepted by Catholic exorcists, thus enjoying tacit approval by the Church. However, this article does not have a nihil obstat; much of it is original, and it approaches the subject from a different angle than a religious tract would and should not be considered as such. The rise of Asmodeus is not documented in any major text on demonology, but very little original work on the subject has been done since the Middle Ages, so it is possible that the situation has changed. Perhaps Mr. Gygax has more accurate sources of information'

We get intoduced to the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons creator myth, then  AD&D Satan, Astaroth, & Belial. Now before anyone goes flying off of the handle here this material is in keeping with Dante's Inferno, John Milton's Paradise Lost,etc. Needless to say that to combat this roving band of fallen angels you need a source of celestial good & some higher powered divine help. 

So let's contrast this with The Dragon issue #35 which gave us 'Angels' by William Fawcett & the writer goes into some background details; "AD&D. Though the information it contains is based on both religious literature and theological speculations, it is not intended to be representative of any religion’s actual beliefs. Its sources also include popular fiction such as Dante’s Inferno and Milton’s Paradise Lost. * * * There exists in AD&D a multitude of Evil spirits, including Devils and Demons of all sorts. Through these spirits, the powers of evil are able to act on many levels in many places simultaneously. Missing is the counterpart of the Devils to represent and protect Good. These messengers of goodness are often referred to as Angels. Angels will appear much more rarely than will devils or demons. This is primarily because, while the powers of Evil or Chaos are anxious to interfere at every opportunity, the powers of God are concerned with men developing goodness within themselves and by their own efforts. Angels are therefore less often participants in the struggle than they are messengers carrying needed information and inspiration. In most earthly affairs they are more like coaches than star players. This is to not say that they never take an active role in the conflict, for they are known to have done so before, especially in cases where their fallen brethren (Devils) are involved. The Angel as it is commonly pictured today is the product of a concept which has been evolving throughout most of the history of monotheism. When Amenhotep IV (Akhnaton) tried to replace Egyptian pantheism with a belief in one supreme deity, he was left with the problem of what to do with the other gods. Many of these gods had faithful (and powerful) followers who would resent having their god(s) eliminated by decree of the Pharaoh. Akhnaton’s solution was to demote the other deities from complete godhood to a lesser status as powerful beings in the service of the one god. A similar, and more permanent, fate overtook the Persian deities when the prophet Zoroaster (sixth century B.C.) declared that AhuraMazda was the supreme deity. During Zoroaster’s years of preaching, he found it impossible to completely eradicate belief in the older, traditional deities. Eventually the prophet began referring to them as “beneficent immortals” or condemning them as “demons.” The Angels of the early Hebrew religion drew upon the many different concepts of lesser deities to which they were exposed. These included not only the lesser gods of Persia, but also the Egyptian Kas and the Mesopotamian Genii. As with all of these predecessors, they were the intermediary between the one god and man. In the Book of Enoch (which is not part of the official Old Testament), some Angels were referred to as “watchers.” These Angels were designated to look after man, but some could not resist attempting to change what had been created. So, landing first on Mount Hermon they spread out among the lands of men. They then proceeded to teach men all sorts of “forbidden” knowledge and have sons borne by human wives. These sons were literally giants; they caused immense problems, and eventually men begged the other angels for help. They then had the Supreme Deity intervene. The “watchers” were forced to watch as their children slaughtered each other and then were cast into pits and covered with rocks (until the Judgement Day, when they shall be thrown into the “abyss of fire”). Enoch becomes involved when they ask him to intercede for them, but he is refused."
The article does a pretty brief & to the point of getting into the nitty gritty of the angelic hosts & really not playing favorites with the Western religions of Christanity, Judiusm, etc. But the angels themselves are absolute terrors at the AD&D table top level;
"The Cherubim The Cherubim are the first angels to be mentioned in the Bible (Genesis 3:22), guarding with a flaming sword the tree of Life in Eden. Their griffin-like form is often used in early Hebrew religious sculpture. They are the “flame of whirling swords” and are the guardians and protectors of Good’s greatest treasures. The Ruling Princes of the Cherubim are: Gabriel, Cherubiel, Ophaniel, Raphael, Uriel, Zophiel (and originally Satan). Frequency: Very rare Number: 1 Armor class: -5 Move: 12/30 H.D.: 166 Hit Points Number of Attacks: 1 Damage: With fiery sword, 12-34 (10 + 2d12) Special Attacks: Listed below Special Defenses: +3 or better to hit Magic resistance: 85% Intelligence: Genius Alignment: Lawful Good Size: Large (12’ tall)"
The article concludes in five pages with a very brief & too the point overview of the angel hosts but concludes with  the following;"Angels can be easily included in most campaigns. They can be viewed as serving the concept of Good, Love or whatever and definitely are not limited to use only in a Christian, quasi-Christian, or even pre-Christian theology. They can be as accessible as you desire, so long as their role and purposes are remembered. They do have a respect for men’s free will and will let a fool act foolishly if he disregards their warnings. Using Angels can greatly expand the scope of opponents and the activities of an Evil Player Character. They should be treated as the Good counterpart of Devils or Demons, as described in AD&D, and are considerably less powerful than is often portrayed today. Do not also forget to include the hatred that the fallen Angels have for their stillblessed bretheren and those who assist them. Having such a powerful friend can create powerful enemies. Angels in the Middle Ages were also often the inspiration of Quests"

Later these angels would become celestials & go through various incarnations much more papable to the masses for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual II as well as the various Planescape versions. It wouldn't be until Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 days when Necromancer Games now a part of Frog God Games would reach back to early days of Dragon magazine to create OGL D20 versions of  these angels in the various Tomes of Horror lines. These all tie directly into those early articles from The Dragon magazine under the editorial hand of Tim Kask.

Today for the OSR these articles present a set of alternative rules & settings that might find new life in a game of Dungeon Crawl Classics or another retroclone. They present a fascinating look into a series of mostly forgotten setting & cosmology for original Dungeons & Dragons as well as Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. 

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